Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Microstation Minstrels

The Launch

    So, this Wednesday I did not have to scoot downtown after my afternoon nap to buy a new flapper,  or drain valve, for the toilet. A week ago we were set to film some keyboard method, but the bathroom emergency blew that intention out the window, and it looked like my hope of getting some of the scheme out to the children and other beginners of the universe before Christmas was not going to be fulfilled. A household primarily given over to the prayer life simply cannot get creative just any old time it feels like it. It's not easy to find a time slot that works as well as Wednesday afternoon. Oh, well. Patience, jackass, patience, as the old joke says. And anyway there was still some consolidating to do with the busted triads, as I call them, which are turning out to be the most mellifluous and meaningful "arpeggio" studies I have ever seen and heard. It's taken 23 years to get there, but the journey was worth the trouble. Just imagine being able to contemplate the Trinity and practice your scales and harmonies at the same time. On this earth, you don't get much closer to heaven. But there were no surprises today, and at two p.m. I was summoned to the studio by Madame Producer/Director, and everything went reasonably smoothly for a beginning.
    There's nothing like arpeggios or indeed any kind of harmony on the first episode of Microstation Minstrels. Just the D mode, mode one, in its 11 note range, in four segments, with some historical chatter by myself, the first words of which actually came to me as I was walking back up the hill with the new flapper in my pocket. (Two days later I bought a back up. There is no negotiating with a malfunctioning toilet.)  MT, of course, valiantly, oversaw the raconteur and handled all the controls. I realized recently that on and off, she and I have worked together in a variety of performances for 40 years. We always wondered about a time when we would record the old Bluemantle Trio, but never thought about putting the music scheme on the Net until this summer, when Garry Waldie told me he would film the keyboard segments and send them privately, on YouTube, to a journalist at the Vancouver Sun, my old employer. Thus the spark of the ultimate connection was born, and the ultimate technoklutz realized he'd have to acquire some sophistication with the audio-visual aspects of cyber world. Then came the equipment I have mentioned before, some trial runs, and finally, this afternoon.
    And then the good clean fun of sending the message to family, friends, selected media, and even a well-placed soul in the American film business.

Friday, December 13, 2013

King Korg

    The Korg microstation is now in place, picked up from the music store this morning while I was at Tim's, watching him growing so nimble with the numbers that he is now charging into solfa. The ladies handled the purchase, and the list of instructions that are the sort of items I have hitherto studiously avoided, happy to leave the technical side of things to those better qualified to deal with it. And it was Marianne of course, not I, who handled installing the device in the studio.
    Until I actually have to come to grips with something, I very often make mistakes about the thing. Margaret Mitchell, I got it into my head at some point long ago after I had seen the movie of Gone With the Wind, was a spinster school teacher. (She was in fact a married woman, and a veteran journalist, as I discovered after I researched her history in the course of draughting songs for an opera based on her novel.))  And the first time I ran into the Korg name, some eight years ago when I bought an little electronic tuner, I picked up the idea that it was Swedish. Not so, as everyone but me has always known; it's a name from Japan, made up from the first letters of the founders of the company in 1962, the year I learned, as a classroom teacher, that there had come into middle school math classes a system for reorganizing the numerals so they could be used for the simple on/off calculators at the heart of computer technology. Arithmetic when I was a child had been all about base 10, suddenly it was just as interested, in some cases more so, in base 2.
    So now we have a recording and film studio, compared to the normal facilities of the industry at its grandest, about the size of a microchip. But you know what they say about small packages. And it's that time of the year, when the Infinite came down as a very small package indeed, considering what He really was.
    For once in my pitta/vata determined life, I'm not in a hurry to put the Korg into the ultimate performance mode. Experiment and research, trial and error, rehearsals in blue jeans and street shoes, yes; but the final version of the opening presentation on YouTube is waiting on a number of factors, probably some of them not even known to me.
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    For example, since I wrote the above, Tim has acquired a determination to start mastering Gregorian, now that he can read a bass staff as well as waltz around the modes via the numbers. So he and I together will start charting, beginning with the Kyrie from Mass VIII. We have our choice of melody lines. The Parish Book of Chant has it in old notation, in Mode V. Adoremus contains a three voice version in C - a single line of melody with two voice intervals in the bass staff - and Achille Bragers Vatican Kyriale, carries the ball with four voices, in Eflat. As Tim is not a little adroit with the numbers, we'll ramble about in all three, perhaps transposing as low as A, just to have the exercise of growling a bit, pretending we're Tibetan Buddhist monks.
    But that will be for horsing around and general exercise. The serious work, as we're both only STUDENTS of composition, will be to create an entire first harmony of thirds and fourths only. That, of course, will be done in C, inasmuch as C is most normal pitch for that Kyrie.
    The other surprise, which happened on the same day as Tim announced his new ambition, was that of running into someone, from the very heart of the ordinary music education establishment, who has expressed an initial interest in learning more about my ideas.