Year 2 Semester 1 Portfolio!
This has been a hectic, often stressful, but nonetheless rewarding and exceptionally productive year for me so far. I’m continuously taking my music and other creations to new levels – elsewhere in the world, even – and have been putting my name and brand out as much as possible – certainly the Personal Management Skills lectures I attended have helped me become mindful of that.
Here’s downloads to everything I’ve done over this last semester:
Hit the button below for the full folio.
2nd Year Semester 1 Portfolio
Student Number: 10350995
- Techniques of Composition
- Short pieces: “Measures in a Bottle”
- 7-10 minute piece: “Indeed”
- Performance Lab (Ecuatorial 3)
- “Natureal II”
- Sound Recording
- “Along for the Ride”
- Collaboration with WA Screen Academy: “Vision”
- Collaboration with others: Adventures of Square soundtrack
Techniques of Composition
Short pieces: “Measures in a Bottle”
My suite of 30-second pieces using various compositional techniques.
1. “Defaced”[audio http://jimmy.the-powerhouse.net/MP3/Uni/Year%202%20Sem%201/Defaced.wav]
Only notes used are A C D E and F (in varying octaves), spelling the word “defaced” each time, with each iteration using a different rhythm.
2. “Unlucky”[audio http://jimmy.the-powerhouse.net/MP3/Uni/Year%202%20Sem%201/Unlucky.wav]
Composed in 13/16. Countermelody is the same as main melody but with every 13th note removed.
3. “Seven”[audio http://jimmy.the-powerhouse.net/MP3/Uni/Year%202%20Sem%201/Seven.wav]
Microtonal piece. Disguises the slow detuning of the lower note’s piano with a higher note. Interval starts at minor seventh, then becomes octave.
4. “Trite”[audio http://jimmy.the-powerhouse.net/MP3/Uni/Year%202%20Sem%201/Trite.wav]
Only intervals are tritones, although the three pianos all start on a different note. The result is something of an octatonic melody.
5. “♥”[audio http://jimmy.the-powerhouse.net/MP3/Uni/Year%202%20Sem%201/Heart.wav]
The phrase “I LOVE YOU.” is spelt on a piano roll. The letters are at the height of an octave.
6. “Ice”[audio http://jimmy.the-powerhouse.net/MP3/Uni/Year%202%20Sem%201/Ice.wav]
Isorhythmic/polyrhythmic piece. Notes of main melody follow a 4/4 pattern while the rhythm is in 5/4. Drums remain in 4/4 throughout.
7. “3.201”[audio http://jimmy.the-powerhouse.net/MP3/Uni/Year%202%20Sem%201/3.201.wav]
Found system piece. Created using [the decorative bars in ECU lecture hall 3.201].
- Red bars use standard tuning.
- Yellow bars are tuned up one quarter-tone.
- Blue bars are tuned down one quarter-tone.
8. “Slowing Up”[audio http://jimmy.the-powerhouse.net/MP3/Uni/Year%202%20Sem%201/Slowing%20Up.wav]
Polytempo piece. Two piano phrases playing the same melody are sped up and slowed down over 30 seconds. Piece ends as it began.
9. “Palindrome/Emordnilap”[audio http://jimmy.the-powerhouse.net/MP3/Uni/Year%202%20Sem%201/Palindrome-Emordnilap.wav]
Non-retrogradable piece. Aside from the final note, this piece is mirrored along the ninth bar.
10. “Polly”[audio http://jimmy.the-powerhouse.net/MP3/Uni/Year%202%20Sem%201/Polly.wav]
Polytempo piece, as in Steve Reich’s “Piano Phase”. Piano 1 plays at a consistent tempo while Piano 2 accelerates in tempo slowly to put the melody out of phase with itself.
11. “Killermeters”[audio http://jimmy.the-powerhouse.net/MP3/Uni/Year%202%20Sem%201/Killermeters.wav]
Features metric modulation.
12. “Connect Four”[audio http://jimmy.the-powerhouse.net/MP3/Uni/Year%202%20Sem%201/Connect%204.wav]
Created using [this] result of a game of Connect Four.
The music represents the conflict between red and black here – the in-tune piano and the detuned electric piano fight with one another in a bid to create a complete D7 chord. Black makes a valiant effort in bar 8, but red triumphs in bar 9 with a complete version of the chord. Black almost comes to the same chord in the final bar, missing the A, although its meshing with red playing an A in the penultimate bar brings the two amicably together in a kind of “complete” harmony (albeit a begrudging one due to their conflicting tunings).
13. “Pi”[audio http://jimmy.the-powerhouse.net/MP3/Uni/Year%202%20Sem%201/Pi.wav]
A 30-second piece built on pi.
- Key is C major.
- Melody is based on the first 30 digits of pi. (3.141592653589793238462643383279)
- Chord is determined by the decimals: 1 = I, 2 = ii, etc. 8 = i, 9 = II, 0 = III
- Bass note determined by the preceding digit’s factors: one factor = root position, two factors = first inversion (6), three factors = second inversion (64), four factors = third inversion (2), chord becomes 7th. So 1 = root, 2 = second, 3 = second, 4 = third, 8 = octave.
- Suspensions are used if preceding digit is 4 more (4-3 suspension) or 8 more (8-7 suspension).
14. “Maze”[audio http://jimmy.the-powerhouse.net/MP3/Uni/Year%202%20Sem%201/Maze.wav]
Using [this] solved maze, I created a system for devising a piece that follows the path of the maze to the exit.
In theory this system could be applied to any maze solution, and the starting key and tempo are up to the composer/performer. Turnings in the solution indicate a new bar, and will move the key signature of the piece in that direction (clockwise or counter-clockwise) on the circle of fifths. The number of cells moved forward until the next turning indicates how many beats are in that bar. The melody in each bar is determined by the direction moved – north and west are up, south and east are down. The tonic note of the current key is played in the bass at the beginning of each new bar to assist and counterpoint the constant motion of the melody.
This system guarantees that the piece ends on either a perfect or interrupted cadence, and hence brings a sense of completion and resolution to the music.
This piece might be my favourite of the suite on account of the success of the system, and of its rhythmic ambiguity and constantly modulating key giving it an uncertain, claustrophobic feel that is finally resolved at the very end of the piece. My choice of using the marimba and vibraphone also give the piece a certain strange, “puzzling” element.
15. “Faze”[audio http://jimmy.the-powerhouse.net/MP3/Uni/Year%202%20Sem%201/Faze.wav]
The ostinato melody, played on two instruments simultaneously, becomes a kind of countermelody to itself when one of the instruments falls out of phase. (1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 becomes 2-3-4-5-6-7-8-1, etc.) As the melody is simply 8 quavers, by the ninth bar the melody is in phase again.
16. “Degradation”[audio http://jimmy.the-powerhouse.net/MP3/Uni/Year%202%20Sem%201/Degradation.wav]
Result of an MP3-to-MIDI converter’s interpretation of a 10-second sample of music, put through the converter once, then a second time. The converter appears to detect harmonics in the piano melody played.
17. “UD+BTF” (Upside Down and Back To Front)[audio http://jimmy.the-powerhouse.net/MP3/Uni/Year%202%20Sem%201/UD+BTF.wav]
Plays a simple two-bar melody, then a retrograde, then an inversion, then a retrograde inversion of said melody – each variation of the melody is played four times.
18. “Possible”[audio http://jimmy.the-powerhouse.net/MP3/Uni/Year%202%20Sem%201/Possible.wav]
Plays a sequence of rapid chords, each different by a semitone, that rises by a semitone with each iteration. The resulting progression creates a constantly rising line of semitones. Somewhat similar to the Shepard tone, in that every transposition leads almost seamlessly to the next, although this progression definitely has an end point.
19. “Streams”[audio http://jimmy.the-powerhouse.net/MP3/Uni/Year%202%20Sem%201/Streams.wav]
Plays a complex melody that spans two octaves, then three, then four. The rhythmic ambiguity means that the listener should pick up on certain “streams” of notes contained within – at least two with the repeated D bass note, but also another two across all the octaves used.
20. “But Why”[audio http://jimmy.the-powerhouse.net/MP3/Uni/Year%202%20Sem%201/But%20Why.wav]
I put a 20-second sample of white noise into the MIDI-to-MP3 converter I used for “Degradation”.
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My piece exploring texture and notation, for two marimbas, percussion, and electronics. Inspired by Terry Riley’s “In C”, Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians”, Philip Glass’s “minimalist” works, and Hans Zimmer and James Howard’s “Why So Serious?” suite for The Dark Knight. The piece is based mainly around two notes, D and E, similar to Zimmer and Howard’s 9-minute suite.
I believe the piece can be classed as minimalist, as it revolves around the use of small, bite-sized phrases that overlay and create rhythmic and melodic ambiguity.
The piece is not played traditionally – in section A, each phrase may be repeated an arbitrary number of times and in any order the marimba players desire, and additionally they may play an octave higher or lower, although for maximum tonal compatibility, the players should reside within the same general area as the other. The players can duck out at any time if they wish, although silence should not be sustained for too long, and particularly towards the middle of the piece, players should refrain from bowing out.
Marimba 1 opens the piece and “guides” Marimba 2.
The transition between sections A and B is signalled by a long silence from both marimba players to allow the electronics and other percussion to reign for a short while. Marimba 2 will then “count in” section B with further section A material, and Marimba 1 will then play material from section B. Section B‘s material differs in that clefs are not provided on the score, though the contour of a melody is, which permits the player to choose any key they wish to play in, and vary it between repetitions of the patterns. Later in this section, material loses its timing altogether with just noteheads provided.
The result is an extremely chaotic and at times almost completley random-sounding track, but with plenty of opportunity for very sweet harmonies.
Performance Lab (Ecuatorial 3)
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Created in the same vein as the first “Natureal” – an ethereal, feel-calm piece with similar homage to Marconi Union’s “Weightless, Part 1”, this piece uses the notation of still images of powerful natural phenomena to evoke certain feelings of awe and shock in both the player and audience. It is for electronics and for live instrumentation – any electronic device that can run PowerPoint presentations can view the score and play the electronic backing track, and it is using these stimuli that the performer improvises on his or her instrument. The backing track has a tonal centre of D minor Dorian, but the performer is encouraged to stray from it in order to best musically represent the images.
[Here] is the notation PowerPoint file (audio included, hence the filesize).
While I have recordings of the performances played at this semester’s Sound Spectrum, I unfortunately do not have a recording of my piece with Lila’s performance. With only a few pointers from me as to how to interpret the piece musically with the grand piano, and a single run-through during sound check on the day of performance, she did as great a job as I expected her to. She made chaotic sweeping motions to represent the rushing wind and water, delicate high notes for the ice and snow, and staccato “blocky” sounds lower down for the earthen rocks.
“Along for the Ride”
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For Lee Buddle’s studio assignment, I chose to pair up with Jonathan Maltman and Ben Fillingham in order to record a cover of a Dream Theater song. We ended up choosing this particular song, as we were all familiar with it (it being on their latest album) and it was a relatively simple song. Still, the song is very rhythmically diverse and quite difficult to play exactly, so I was happy to let my players take creative liberties to make it easier for ourselves – after all, it wasn’t our faithfulness to the original song, or even our performances, that we were to be graded on.
This assignment certainly pushed my boundaries – I was in the studio quite a lot, an environment I’m not in nearly enough and so am very quickly overwhelmed by everything that goes on within it throughout a recording process. Working with ProTools is something I can’t say I’ll get used to soon, but I’m hoping I’ll get the opportunity to do so next semester.
The finished track is pleasing to me, at least. My performance in most areas is satisfactory, although I still dislike hearing my singing voice. There are perhaps only one or two areas where the wrong notes are played or sung. Using ProTools to move and cut up clips was very cumbersome for me for some reason, so in places things are out of place or out of time, and I wasn’t able to fix these with my limited studio time and patience.
I notice the mix distorting in a couple of areas, but I was positive I wasn’t seeing any redlining on the console during the mixdown, only a red light showing up in ProTools. I couldn’t locate the source of the distortion, though. The resulting sound seems to be non-intrusive though (to my ears, at least), and particularly towards the end it does not seem to be obvious.
Collaboration with WA Screen Academy: “Vision”
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I was contacted again by Shelby Shaw and Briege Whitehead of the WA Screen Academy asking if I could write 2 or 3 pieces for their film project “Constable Care”. Due to time constraints and the business of that week (composition concert week), I only had time to create one such piece, but I am nonetheless satisfied with it, and feedback from the filmmakers confirmed the piece fit their expectations.
I wrote a piece called “Vision“, to be played in a nightclub scene in the film. Previous works relating to this project include last semester’s “[Compulsion]” and “[Thunderbolt]“, also written for the same variety of scene.
Collaboration with others: ‘The Adventures of Square’ soundtrack
I am continuing to work on my video game, [The Adventures of Square], with my indie game dev team Bigbrik Games. Now into development of the second episode of the game which takes place on a cheesy moon. All of these tracks were written with this setting in mind.
These four tracks are all in collaboration with Xaser “Xaser” Acheron. (That’s the closest I have to his actual name.)
Since the beginning of the year, I have been composing in my spare time with the goal of getting the speed at which I compose to its optimal. The result of this has been many tracks that I’ve completed with the help of my friends Jerry Mickle and Gus Knezevich, who have repeatedly challenged me to “MIDI battles” wherein we set ourselves a time limit of 25-30 minutes and create 2-5 pieces each within that timelimit, using General MIDI. We are allowed to return to these works and refine them afterwards, and so far I have only found a couple of attempts to be difficult to salvage – the rest are all streamable on [my BandCamp page] as the below two albums of MIDI music – the former album was actually started in mid-2013, but the latter I have done completely in 2015, and is also (I believe) a more diverse and satisfying listen.
I am working on a third 30in30, and as of writing this, I have created 17 tracks for it. I fully expect to be done by the end of the year, or possibly even as soon as next semester.
I applied to the Revel-8 Festival, and am currently waiting for a video file to be delivered via Dropbox. I expect to have received the file near the end of June, and will have a week to write the piece.
I am continuing to work on The Adventures of Square with my team, will likely write a great deal more music for the game, and will hopefully be attending QuakeCon in Dallas, TX, over the semester break, where we will be able to showcase the game to a potentially huge audience. Very exciting.
So here’s to Semester 2!