Heart! We Will Forget Him anthologized by Inside View Press

Sing Into Your Sixties… And Beyond!

Soprano Sangeetha Rayapati has included my setting of Emily Dickinson’s Heart! We will forget him! for soprano and piano as part of her vocal pedagogy textbook recently made available by Inside View Press.

Here is the description of the textbook from their web site:

A manual and anthology for group and individual voice instruction

Original Edition (ISBN: 978-0-9755307-7-1) 220 pages

Sangeetha Rayapati, DMA


Sing Into Your Sixties… And Beyond breaks new ground in the pedagogic literature for singing. While information about the aging voice is plentiful in the disciplines of speech language pathology and audiology, few resources have been available that focus on voice training for mature singers—despite the fact that a major demographic shift is about to occur in our nation! Dr. Rayapati’s background in anatomy, physiology, and psychology, ranging from nurse’s training to her graduate specialization in voice pedagogy, makes her the perfect person to fill this void. In addition to her experience with aging singers as a conductor and chorister, she has provided voice instruction in group and one-on-one settings to people of all ages. These experiences helped her create this ideal new user’s manual for senior-singers: Sing Into Your Sixties… And Beyond!

Equally well-suited to singers and singing teachers, the volume is divided into three main sections. It begins with a manual for singers, Fundamental Vocal Principles: Anatomy, Physiology, and Vocal Techniques, which provides clear and concise descriptions of the challenges often faced by older singers, along with specific exercises to help maintain the best possible singing voice. It concludes with a teacher’s guide, designed to help both teacher and student come to a deeper understanding of the aging process and its impact on the voice. Between these pillars comes an extensive anthology of songs. Nearly 50 musical selections, custom picked with the interests and abilities of senior singers in mind, provide exceptional motivation to keep singing!

Folk and Traditional Songs without Accompaniment
Aamulla varhain (Finnish)
Ajde Jano (Serbian)
Alouette, gentil Alouette (French)
Iskat me, mamo (Bulgarian)
Nuz my sdais krzescijani (Polish)
Sikon (Greek)
Tin Tin Tini Mini Hanm (Turkish)
This Land was made for You and Me (American, by Woodie Guthrie)
This Little Light of Mine (American)
Folk and Traditional Songs with Piano Accompaniment
Auld Lang Syne (Old Scotch Air)
The Blue Alsatian Mountains (Stephen Adams)
The Last Rose of Summer (Thomas Moore)
The Loreley (F. Silcher)
Oh dear! What can the matter be? (Traditional)
Oh, Shenandoah (David Horace Davies)
Sing Ivy (Traditional, arr. Holst)
Slumber my Darling (Stephen Foster)
The Storm (John Hullah)
There’s Music in the Air (George F. Root)
From the Great American Songbook
Ain’t Misbehavin (Thomas “Fats” Waller)
Cry Me a River (Arthur Hamilton)
Don’t Get Around Much Anymore (Duke Ellington)
My Funny Valentine (Richard Rogers)
Sacred Solos
Ah, Holy Jesus (Richard Walters)
I Wonder as I Wander (David Horace Davies)
The Lord is my Shepherd (Robert Leaf)
O Holy Night (Adolphe Adam)
Pie Jesu (Gabriel Fauré)
Simple Gifts (David Horace Davies)
Sacred Duets & Trios
Befiehl dem Herrn deine Wege! (Max Reger)
Commit Thy Ways to the Lord (Max Reger)
Jesus Lover of my Soul (David Horace Davies)
Laudate Dominum (Lorenzo Perosi)
Magnificat (Peter Benoit)
Out of Your Sleep Arise and Wake (R. Mather)
Puer Natus in Bethlehem (Josef Rheinberger)
Secular Solos
An die Musik (Franz Schubert)
Finding Home (Ricky Ian Gordon)
Three Emily Dickinson Songs (Charles B. Griffin)
Waiting (William Campbell)
What can we poor Females do (Henry Purcell)
Secular Duets & Trios
Erano I capei d’oro (Alessandro Kirschner)
Mägdlein auf die Weise gingen (Anton Rubsenstein)
My Dearest, My Fairest (Henry Purcell)
Wanderers Nachtlied (Anton Rubenstein)

Generative Music – Part I – Tiction

One of the reasons you’ve been seeing posts from me lately about the graphic arts software programs Inkscape and Processing is because I’m in the planning stages of a multi-movement, electroacoustic, multi-media work that I will write for a flute quartet based in Rīga (and possibly a second group in Göteborg). In any case, I chose as my inspirational starting point the subject of Emergence, the study of how complexity arises in various kinds of systems.

I’ve gotten a hold of various books on subtopics of the subject, such as Steven Johnson’s Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life, Scientific American’s collection of articles, Understanding Artificial Intelligence, James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds, which I first heard about when listening to the podcast of one of my favorite radio programs, the one for WNYC’s Radiolab.

One of the movements I’m planning will involve projection of an animated, graphic ‘score’ that will be realized/performed by the audience in real-time, accompanied by electronics and the flute quartet. I’ve put myself on the learning curves of both Inkscape and Processing in order to prepare those scores. I’ll talk about my plans for that in another post.

Along the lines of artificial intelligence, I thought I’d try to survey what’s happening with computer assisted (or generated) composition currently, whether algorithmic or not. If I could define the kind of activity going on in this regard right now, I’d break it down into two categories, each with sub-categories: those that require knowing or learning code (such as LISP, see for example, Peter Siebel’s Practical Common LISP, also available at Amazon) and those that are principally driven through a GUI (Graphical User Interface). The subcategories for each of those are FLOSS or FOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software) vs. Commercial.

I want to talk about my experiences, early impressions, difficulties, or whatever else comes up:
1.) because it will help me process my own thoughts;
2.) if I overcome some technical hurdle (and boy, do they seem to have a way of persistently appearing) I might as well share my solution to save the next poor soul some time, and;
3.) to the extent that it’s offered, receive the wisdom and/or expertise of anyone who comes upon what I’m writing and wants to share.

tiction_topSo that brings me to Tiction, a quite beautiful, freeware “nodal music sequencer,” created by Hans Kuder with Processing. I downloaded the program, and followed the brief instructions at the website. Tiction doesn’t generate sound on its own, so needs to be connected to an external MIDI keyboard or an internal software synth.

There are basically three menus in Tiction:
1.) The Help menu, which is basically a list of keyboard shortcuts for setting up the nodal network, N to create a node, C to connect it to the next one, etc. It’s very straightforward.
2.) The Options menu, which allows you to choose 16 specific pitches according to their corresponding MIDI note number, with a default setting of a C major scale/diatonic collection, the MIDI In/Out connections, sync parameters, the ‘bar brightness’ and ‘do physical actions on trigger’
3.) The Edit menu (reached by selecting a node and typing E, which allows you to select specific parameters for the highlighted node, including MIDI channel, physical actions (such as jiggle, attract, repel), and velocity, among other things.

I first connected it to my external MIDI keyboard via my typical Core Audio MIDI Setup in Mac OS X, selecting it from the Options menu. I created several nodes, connected them, and fired it up. Right away, Tiction made some interesting music, with compelling visuals to go with it. The default behavior dictates that the network of nodes you’ve created drift around the screen, and depending where the network is drifting along the X/Y axis, it will affect the register that is sounded as well as affect the velocity. What that means is that the default mode is really rather musical. Set certain nodes to attract or repel, and the activity on the screen and the music generated become more agitated. Change the pitch collection and its potential broadens again.

I was so excited, I began thinking that it would be great to look into Screencasting software so that I could make a video of Tiction doing its thing and project it for the audience. I would record MIDI into say, three or four MIDI channels in Logic, add, edit, or modify material as I saw fit, and voilá! One movement done! Since there will be a choreographer and some dancers as part of the project, I thought this would make a perfect accompaniment.

Picture 1 I then wanted to try running Tiction through Apple’s Logic, and here I wound up hitting several hurdles, some that were solvable and some that I haven’t been able to yet. First, running Tiction into Logic requires using the IAC (Inter-Application Communication) Bus that comes by default with Audio MIDI Setup in OS X. At first it didn’t work. I tried it with Midipipe. Still no. Since Tiction was made with Processing and since Processing requires conversion into Java, AND since, evidently, there is some lack of support from Apple with Java, I thought the problem may reside within the Java extensions folder. Looking through the (not particularly current) message board at the Tiction website, I decided to buy Mandolane MIDI SPI, thinking it was a long-shot, but since it was cheap, well, okay, and it was. A long shot, that is. Still no. But on the right track. Turns out the only extension necessary is: mmj (because since OS X 10.4.8 Apple no longer supports some java MIDI packages). Download mmj and copy both mmj.jar and libmmj.jnilib into /Library/Java/Extensions.

Finally! I get Logic and Tiction talking to each other. But another head (or 3) grew on the hydra:

1.) I can’t set the nodes to play on different MIDI channels. Whenever I hit “E” and edit the MIDI channel number, no matter what number I enter, it always resets itself to channel 1 as soon as I hit “E” again to exit the editor.
2.) I’m having the same “note off” issues that others reported in earlier versions of the software.
3.) I can record MIDI data into Logic from Tiction, but I can’t get their metronomes to sync up. If I select anything other than “Use Internal Clock” in Tiction, it refuses to play for me.

So, it’s not yet necessarily at the deal-breaker stage for me. Though it would be some work, I could still realign the MIDI data to proper bars and beats to deal with the sync issue. (I don’t know if there’s some clock drift over time or not that might make that more complicated than I think). I could re-orchestrate the MIDI data to whatever channels I want after the fact, though that would be time-consuming, and probably less organic than being able to do it directly from the original. I suppose I could make the MIDI ‘note off’ problem a feature rather than a problem, especially if I choose to involve the flute quartet in some interesting, crunchy way against the held tones. (I could also manually shorten other groups of notes that didn’t turn off.

I posted this issue on the Tiction website. If I get an answer that solves it, I’ll report back. Otherwise, anybody out there already run into and solve this problem?
September 21, update: Problem #1 is solved, with help from Hans Kuder. When changing the MIDI channel in the individual node’s Edit menu, you must use the ENTER key for the change to take effect. The other half of the issue, on the Logic side, is that it is necessary to go to File>Project Settings>Recording and check “Auto Demix by Channel if Multitrack Recording.”
Note Off and Sync issues remain.
February 15, 2010, update: I’ve been meaning to say for a while, that Tiction’s website was down for a while, but now it’s back up. But anyway, Tiction broke under Snow Leopard. Hans Kuder is a ware of the problem and is looking into it. Check his website periodically for an update. I noticed that another, simpler program called MIDI Game of Life, which is also Java-based broke under Snow Leopard too.

Solving an Inkscape Effect Problem with “Path to Pattern” on Mac OS X 10.5.8

CompassI’m new to Inkscape and have been trying a small handful of tutorials I’ve found online. In the middle of a compass-making tutorial, while trying to use “Path to Pattern Effect”, I ran into the following wall:

The fantastic lxml wrapper for libxml2 is required by inkex.py and therefore this extension. Please download and install the latest version from http://cheeseshop.python.org/pypi/lxml/, or install it through your package manager by a command like: sudo apt-get install python-lxml

Confession: I missed the Open Source boat, more or less. I have no taste for code. I consider myself fluent on my Mac, but Java, Python, Terminal, it’s all, well, not exactly Greek to me, but it is rather foreign. At the same time, I see that more and more people are obtaining a certain fluency in these languages, and I also understand that there’s considerable overlap from one to another, so that what one learns of a particular code language is like a dialect of another. One advantage of being an American expat in this regard is that I’ve become adept at listening to a conversation in a foreign language (in my case, Latvian) and picking up the gist of it even though I may lose the details.

As I said, I’m new to Inkscape. I’m working on a multi-movement, electroacoustic multimedia piece, and have decided that for one of the movements, one of the things I want to try is to use Inkscape and Processing to create an animated graphic score to be projected before the audience as the musicians read it.

I spent most of the day working on fixing this problem. And there were plenty of forum posts about this issue, but the only one I found that seems to have resolved it suggested an upgrade to the development version of Inkscape (0.47), but that alone did not do the trick for me. So here’s the sum total of everything I did that DID work for me, plus how I would do it now, knowing what I do know.

Inkscape. First of all, looking at the contents of the Inkscape application (Control-Click on Inkscape.app/Show Package Contents/Contents/Resources), I could see that the extensions Inkscape was looking for were not present. I upgraded to Inkscape development ver. 0.47. The necessary extensions were not there either. Strike one.

Python. Maybe since the extension is related to Python (or at least that’s what I thought), I need to upgrade Python? Upgraded to Python 3.1. No change. Clearly, I don’t know what I’m doing.

X11. At some point, somewhere, I read that I should upgrade X11 (necessary for Inkscape to run on a Mac) to X-Quartz 2.4.0. No change. Sigh. Hit the desk.

Macports. Somewhere along the line, I stumble upon Macports. “The MacPorts Project is an open-source community initiative to design an easy-to-use system for compiling, installing, and upgrading either command-line, X11 or Aqua based open-source software on the Mac OS X operating system. To that end we provide the command-line driven MacPorts software package under a BSD License, and through it easy access to thousands of ports that greatly simplify the task of compiling and installing open-source software on your Mac.” Sounds good to me! I install version 1.8, and follow the guide for the first three chapters. I poke around, am able to look at ports, find Python lxml and libxml2 ports but am getting an error (I forget now what it was, but I googled it at the time and didn’t feel particularly enlightened) when I try to install. Back to the guide. By Chapter 4 I feel lost.

Porticus. Again, somewhere along the line I discover Porticus, “a Cocoa GUI (Graphical User Interface) for the MacPorts package manager. MacPorts provides ready to build open-source software packages modified to compile and run on Mac OS X. The MacPorts project provides a TCL command line tool to manage installation, update and activation of the port packages. Porticus provides a GUI front-end to this tool.” Now we’re talking! No code! I try it, find the find Python lxml and libxml2 ports but am still getting an error. For some reason, because I was given the error not in Terminal but in Porticus, I don’t feel so stupid.

Back to Macports.org, this time to the FAQ page, because I can’t believe what they’re calling a guide over there is guiding anyone. There, I read: “You need to install Xcode. Ensure you include both X11SDK and Unix Development. Some ports need newer versions of Xcode than that which ships with the OS, and will fail to install due to that requirement. Xcode is not updated via Software Update, you have to download it manually. To do so, go to http://connect.apple.com/ and log in with your ADC information (the free online account is enough to get access to Xcode). Once you log in, go to Downloads, then select Developer Tools on the right section under Downloads. You can then search for Xcode (there are quite a few versions available, make sure to get the latest for your OS version).”

Sure enough, I do a search on my Mac, and don’t find X11SDK. I head over to Apple Development and download and install Xcode 3.1. If you do the basic install, you get the Unix Development package automatically. I manually installed X11SDK, which is part of the same .dmg file.

I go back to Porticus and try installing the ports again. Voilà! 12 ports show up (the necessary ports and their dependencies). I fire up Inkscape again, and finally, FINALLY! No error message! It worked!

So, if I had to do it again, I would start by going directly to the ADC site and get Xcode. Download Macports if you don’t have it. I realized after the fact that if I had followed the instructions here, I would not have needed Porticus.

This all may become quite moot if you upgrade to Snow Leopard. I don’t know yet. My Snow Leopard disc is in the mail. But if you do, Xcode 3.2 is already at the ADC site for Snow Leopard. In any case, enjoy the stupid compass.

Back to our regularly scheduled program…

Wow, it’s been a month since my last post. But I’ve got good reasons, being on the road for most of the time since Christmas. I welcomed in the New Year in Switzerland. We were there for an expensive week of bears, fondue, mountains, markets, churches and art. We went to Lucerne, Bern, Interlaken and Zurich. Beautiful country. Efficient rail system. Friendly people. Did I mention expensive? So expensive, getting the check is like a twice-daily ice-water bath. Brr.

After a two day stop in Riga, I headed for New York for two weeks, where I enjoyed a performance of a song cycle of mine for high voice, clarinet and piano called The Far Field, attended the Chamber Music America Conference in Manhattan, went to a good friend’s wedding, and also managed to squeeze in some business and shopping errands between visits to friends and family.

The Far Field performance was special for me, as it’s one of those pieces of mine that I have always felt especially close to, yet it isn’t performed much. Sort of like that awkward kid with a heart of gold that sits off to the left somewhere in third grade and you know can grow up to be somebody if people just give her a chance. It’s a big piece, about 22 minutes long, a setting of a difficult poem by Theodore Roethke that basically looks death in the face and comes to accept it as a beautiful and necessary thing. You can read the poem here. Soprano Melissa Fogarty, did a really great job with it. The whole occasion was doubly special because Melissa and I were also friends in high school together. We had a mini high school reunion of five after the performance at a local lounge together with the other musicians, Chris Cullen and Laura Barger.

Anyway, one of the errands I ran while in New York will allow me to segue back to my narrative about Latvia. Actually, I’m just going to do the reverse: jump back to Latvia and then tie it back to New York.

One of the friends I’ve made in Liepaja is Oleksiy Demchenko, the third trumpet player in the Liepaja Symphony. Helping our friendship along is the fact that he studied in Holland and thus speaks English fluently. And since he is originally from Kiev, we also share something of the outsider status.

If Oleksiy kind of has ADD. He has a million ideas and lots of energy but little mind for details or organization or follow-through. He manages occasionally to get things done in spite of himself in a place like Liepaja because 1.) Latvians don’t typically take initiative but hey, want to be entertained as much as the next guy, and 2.) They are too shy to tell him to go to hell when they find themselves suddenly doing more work than they anticipated.

Back in July, Oleksiy managed to get a little money for him and three other musicians to form a quartet called Četri Vēji (Four Winds, in this case trumpet, clarinet, saxophone and bassoon), and to pay me a little something to write them a new piece. It was for a festival of music and art with a theme of water, so I wrote an 8 minute piece inspired by the Stevie Smith poem Not Waving But Drowning. I wasn’t there for the performance, but the musicians raved about the piece.

A week or so later, I got a call from Oleksiy. A freighter ship had destroyed the 100 year-old swing bridge that connects Karosta with the rest of the City of Liepaja. BridgeKarosta (Navy harbour) is a northern neighborhood occupying one third of Liepaja city, and by way of analogy sort of plays the same role to Liepaja that Brooklyn plays to New York. And for the residents of Karosta, it was as if the Brooklyn Bridge had just been destroyed. Well, maybe not. The Karosta Channel Bridge was not beautiful and was in awful disrepair, but its destruction cut off one of only two connections to the rest of the city, now forcing every commuter to a newer, longer route. It was big news, and many people were affected by it.

Karosta was the western-most military base of the USSR during the Soviet occupation. Many streets and houses of Karosta are now empty, as the population dropped from roughly 25 -30,000 in 1994, to approximately 7,000 living there today. Its architecture reflects an interaction between tsarist Russian elegance, epitomized by a gorgeous orthodox cathedral visible at a fair distance, and soviet militarism, epitomized by the graceless rows of abandoned concrete housing blocks.

It is a Russian tradition that a memorial service is performed 40 days after a death. And Oleksiy had the idea that he wanted to organize a sort of public art multimedia Requiem for this bridge. Which meant my composing the music, and I’m still not sure why I agreed to it, but I did. I guess it appealed to my occasional campy side. I’m going to tell my campy side to shut up next time. A videographer gathered footage, while I wrote a 13-minute piece for 11 musicians from the Liepaja Symphony to go with it.

Did I mention the A.D.D.? I had a little more than 2 weeks to do it, as not all the musicians were secured right away. I compensated by cannibalizing Monteverdi, as the brass were to be placed originally on the other side of the bridge, and I wanted to get something equivalent to his polychoral stuff while cutting down on the actual amount of music I needed to write. The deadline loomed large and fast, and I suggested putting off the performance, but Oleksiy was determined to pull it off. I told him that he needed to buckle down and get all his organizational ducks in a row, especially given all that work I was doing out of friendship. And he did.

All except get a conductor, which at the last minute fell to me. That shouldn’t be a problem, but it is. Conducting frightens me. I’ve done it a few times anyway, conducting a handful of choral premieres in New York from time to time. But I’ve never felt comfortable with it, partly from lack of experience, but also because the two times I ever studied conducting were lackluster experiences at best.

When I was an undergraduate at Queens College in the late eighties, the professor who taught conducting that semester was, frankly, half blind. Maybe more than half. Seriously. I’m not trying to be disrespectful. He simply had an ailment that was getting past him and he should have retired by then but hadn’t yet. He had enlarged copies of the music and couldn’t see three feet away, best I could tell. Glass lenses as thick as a sponge. I was probably nineteen or twenty years old and didn’t care that I wasn’t learning much. I happily skated through with a completely undeserved A-. I have no idea how he determined my grade.

Fast forward to graduate school in Minnesota. My roommate was also a composer in the program, and he got the idea that we should put together an independent study witht the orchestra conductor called “Conducting for Composers”. Knowing that it was time to take my medicine, I signed up too. There were at least seven of us. Now this guy wasn’t blind. But he did become invisible. Meaning, we all met twice, as far as I can remember. The first session he talked about how he had to practice conducting underwater as a student, how that helped with gesture. Cool. The second session he showed us a picture of himself with Aaron Copland. Cool. Then I think he went out of town and I can’t for the life of me remember another session.

Fast forward again back to Liepaja. Maybe now you understand my trepidation, standing in front of this group of professional musicians. I’m not claiming total stupidity. I’ve been watching conductors for years and can tell a good one when I see one, and have picked up a few things by observing them. I stole my mother’s car when I was 15 and drove it perfectly, never having taken a lesson, never having been behind the wheel. I learned what I needed to know just by watching her drive. I made it through the rehearsals (two) and performance without (I think) coming off as a complete hack, and for one small minute, I’d felt like I’d understood something I hadn’t understood before. There was one passage, where I got a rush, that sense of driving the orchestra, of playing it rather than following it, and I realized something viscerally in that instant why conductors are attracted to the profession.

About 100 or more local residents and a television crew showed up by car, on foot or bicycle for the outdoor, nighttime screening and performance. Conducting

There are many reasons why I came to Liepaja, and one of them was to have a place where I could do a personal and creative reassessment of myself, as a person, a composer and as a musician. A few months ago I surfed to the website of the European American Musical Alliance, which offers amongst its programs a month-long summer conducting workshop in Paris. One of the errands I ran while in New York a few weeks ago was to put in my application for this program. Wish me luck.