Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

General MIDI

Early this week I read that a small music label in Germany is assembling a compilation of pieces done in General MIDI. I like working in general MIDI, the odd array of computer instructions for how to play songs, using a preset list of instruments worked out by people setting up industry conventions.

General MIDI is seen by some as quaint, akin to the harpsichord, or perhaps the Victrola. But I find it invigorating to try to eke interesting sounds from the pre-patterned voices. I pulled out the freeware music notation program I use the most lately, Anvil Studio, to give it a try (although I have paid the munificent sum of twenty dollars to enable it to use VST synthesizer plug-ins, wonderful things that hobbyists make like Heathkits and post at KVR Audio for appreciative hobby musicians).

The rules of this compilation were simple. Everything had to be in General MIDI--no outside synthesizer sounds, no samples from other music, and so forth. My challenge was to do song-writing rather than the sound mangling that seems to win me "fans" on these days.

I read music,and have a rudimentary understanding of musical concepts. I have nearly graduated from a self-study course purchased at the used bookstore entitled "Music Composition for Dummies". I took years upon years of piano lessons, frustrating, no doubt, passionate pianists who taught the instrument in the small town in which I grew up. I made up for a lack of aptitude with a lack of practice, achieving a nearly unbeatable combination of lack of coordination and lack of concentrated effort.

When I write mroe traditional melodic music, I find myself writing in slow, structured chords. Perhaps it is a throwback to junior choir practice, and songs played on a Hammond organ. Perhaps I think in pretty passages of somnolent sound.

In any event, over two days I created three minutes and thirty seconds of General MIDI music. The piece is entitled "Bois D'Arc", which is, no doubt, French for something like "spirit of the world" (or, as google reports,
arc of wood"). This song is played by six MIDI voices, all ocarina or Shaukachi or whistle-like things.

I like about MIDI that it is so compact, as compared to an mp3. This is because MIDI is more like a set of instructions to a synthesizer for a soundcard, I suppose, than like a song. I posted the MIDI file of "Bois d'Arc" off to the music label, using this really cool device called electronic mail.

Last night I got a very nice note, advising me that my piece would be used for the compilation, and asking if I would mind being paid in the form of two copies. I am a poet. I do not mind being paid in copies. I wrote back my enthusiatic thanks.

I never take stock in creative releases until they occur, but it sounds as if early next year I'll be on some sort of CD.

Meanwhile, I took my MIDI of "Bois d'Arc", changeds its tempo, changed all the MIDI instruments to synthesized strings,
added a track of crowings saying, as crows are wont to do, the repeated word "caw", and added a spoken word track of a fellow pondering the imponderables. I placed the result, "If You", up at ccmixter. I don't like the synthstrings version as well as I like the original version, but it was fun to use it to make a remix.

I also started my newest DiSfish release, Personal Mountains, setting forth one original piece and one remix of a piece by my internet friend Fabien Claudel. I will keep on adding untli I have eighteen pieces or so. I want to do an EP for another project, however, as I work this up.

Right now I'm downloading an EP by the kind fellow who wrote me last night, as the yahoo netaudio group once again suggested a great record label, Earlab, and, by chance, he has releases there. I love free, Creative Commons music.

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