I've just finished the first of what Erik Satie calls Sketches and Teasings of a Big Wooden Man. It's a humoresque waltz that parodies the classical waltzes of the 18th century. Satie has cleverly hidden a famous Mozart theme in the piece. Can you find it? I've put the PDF, MIDI, and LilyPond files here.
As those of you who know me know, I am a Satie fan. His works range from the sublime to the ridiculous. He was a very strange guy and he wrote some strange music, some of which I have been transcribing with the LilyPond engraving tool.
In Satie's later works, he eschews some basic composition traditions such as time signatures, key signatures, and bar lines. This can make engraving the music a bit of a challenge as you are not always sure where the beginning of a bar is or what the count is. On the lighter side, Satie give the performer odd musical directions such as "Get Out" and "Apparent" and "Out Doors". On top of this are sometimes texts telling a story, almost like Peter and the Wolf, although Satie strictly forbade he performers from reciting the text.
I have finished the suite called Chapitres Tournés en Tous Sens which I translate as "Chapters turned in every direction," but any French speakers are welcome to improve. The suite has three movements: Celle qui parle trop (The one who talks too much), Le porteur de grosses pierres (The carrier of large stones), and Regrets des Enfermés (Janas et Latude), (Regrests of the Shut-ins [Janas and Latude]). (The fingerings in "Celle" are mine, not Satie's.)
After each movement I have translated Satie's texts as best I could. They at least give you an idea of what's going on. The LilyPond files (text files that end in "ly), the MIDI files, and the PDFs are freely available. Copy them, print them, even change them as long as you keep an attribution to me. And enjoy the quirkiness of Erik Satie!
All files are available here on Google Drive.
I just finished transcribing one of my favorite Scarlatti Sonatas, K491 in D. It starts with a stately, classical sound, with some interesting key changes. Then rips off into cascading broken arpeggios in both hands.
Scarlatti wrote over 500 keyboard sonatas so it can be hard to find the best ones.
You can download the letter sized PDF of the score here. Print, perform, and share it all you want. You only have to give credit where credit is due. If you're interested, the MIDI file and the LilyPond source file are also available.
I was finishing up a lesson with a seven-year-old when he started playing a melody.
I asked him if this was something he had composed. "Well, I wrote the song but I didn't write the notes."
"Where did you get the notes from?", I asked.
"Pi". Then he played it again, saying the numbers.
And now I know pi to eleven places!
I was mentioned in a blog about Mutopia Project. The Mutopia Project is a site of free sheet music -- both free as in cost and free as in you can freely use it. Volunteers use LilyPond to engrave the sheet music as PDFs and create MIDI files.
Over the last months I've been working on more complicated pieces such as Debussy's Prelude 2 (L117), written mostly on a whole tone scale. When I run into trouble I can post a message to the LilyPond users mailing list and ask for help. I sure needed help for the second prelude! Here's what it looks like so far. I still has some tweaking to do.
My Dad used to say, "There's no better bargain than sheet music." Well, now it's an even better bargain! It sure feels good to be a part of bringing music to people. Maybe it's not world peace, but it's peaceful.
It's been a while since I've composed a piece. I usually compose for the band I'm in and I haven't been in a band until recently. Even then, I like to settle in and get the "flavor" of what the band plays and in what style.
My band (Oomblik) plays all originals, so it's even harder to characterize the style -- I usually say "progressive rock", but there's a bit of jazz in it too. Since jazz is in my background, I think I bring that out a bit.
The song was called Newton, then Newton's Apple, then Newton's Apple Sauce. I band member wants it to be Knuten's Apple Sauce, but I nixed that.
You can find the sheet music and an MP3 (actually an m4a) at the URL link below. It was the band's second time playing the song, so it's still pretty rough, and there isn't a good ending yet.
I've arranged am intermediate level jazz arrangement of How High the Moon. It was created with LilyPond, a free, text based music engraver. You can find the PDF here. You will also find an "ly" file -- that's the LilyPond source file. The "mid" file is a MIDI file of the arrangement, also created by LilyPond. Most computers will play it automatically if you open it.
The licensing of the PDF is For Educational Purposes Only, which means feel free to use it with your students or for yourself, but don't sell it.
Concerto for Piano and Mime will be playing November 7th at the Portland ComedySportz Theater on Kearny between 19th and 20th Avenues. We play seven of eight "movements" based on suggestions from the audience. I play piano and the actors mime and dance their impressions of it. It's all improvised before your eyes (and ears). It starts at 10:00 but if you come at 8:00 you can see a full ComedySportz tournament and stay for Concerto.
For more information and ticket sales, see portlandcomedy.com.
Some of you may be old enough to remember the "band tape", a cassette tape recording of a rehearsal. But now we have the Internet, so the band tape is digital and on its own web page.
Checkout these (very rough) rehearsal "tapes" of the new band I'm in, Oomblik:
Being in a band again is a lot of fun. I've had to adjust my technique a little after playing alone for so long. It made me think about musicians who want to get into a band but don't know how or think they're not good enough. Here are some thoughts.
Am I good enough to play in a band? Probably yes. There are bands for all sorts of skill levels out there. Ideally you want to be in a band where everyone is just a little better than you -- but of course the band wants you to be a little bit better than them.
I've never been in a band. What should I do? The biggest thing about going from solo playing to a band is rhythm. You have to get used to playing in time and if you make a mistake, do go back, just keep playing! You can develop this skill be playing to a metronome or with prerecorded songs. Pick a song you like and put it on the stereo. Play with the song, keeping in time. Try not playing exactly what the recording plays. Have fun.
How do I find a band? Ask friends. Go to a music store and ask there. Look in Craig's List. Go to your local community college music department and take a class. Post your wants on social media.
Here are some other thoughts about band etiquette:
Have the right gear. Don't go into a band audition with a little home keyboard with built-in speakers. Go to a music store and get some pro equipment. Yes, they want to sell you something, but most places will get you the gear you need at your level. Be prepared to spend $500 or more.
Come to rehearsals and gigs on time. No one likes a "flake." People usually set rehearsal in their precious free time so don't waste it. Even if the other members can start without you, this makes it harder to feel like a team.
Skip the drugs and alcohol. Don't come to rehearsal or gigs high or drunk. Playing good music takes all your abilities. If you really think you can play high, try recording yourself.
Come to rehearsals/gigs prepared. People really appreciate it when you have learned your parts and are ready to play. Practice on your own time to get your "chops" up to speed.
If you find a band or another musician around your level of expertise and you follow some common sense rules, you will be playing in no time!