Monthly Archives: May 2013

Random Borrowing #19: Photographer in Paris

A photography book by a guy called Brassai was today’s random acquisition. The book is “The Eye of Paris”, a bit of an artist profile from this period in his career.



A random page had this photo,


and some text.ParisRandom2

The random page talks about letter writing as an interesting view of a person at a particular time in a particular culture. Most of the page is a fairly aimless ramble, but talking about letters as a medium that  “once completed, cannot be revised”. It is different from artistic performances or artifacts that are truly transient, which is vanishingly rare nowadays, with the incredible recording technologies available.

Perhaps the best musical example of some that “once completed, cannot be revised”, is a live musical performance. Combine this with musical composition, and we get improvisation, which is real time composition.

I read a fascinating book on The Improvising Mind a while back, and it changed the way I look at practicing music, and the way I encourage my kids to practice music. One the interesting things that people who practice improvisation do, is to play a given tune in different keys to get a better feel for the tonal structure of the music. I’ve been encouraging my son, Max, to play simple tunes starting on a different note, in a key that he knows the scale for. He’s enjoying that.

Another technique to practice is to modify the tune in small ways. It’s harder to get the kids to be comfortable mucking around with the tunes. It certainly isn’t something I would have considered when I was their age.





Random Borrowing #18: PR

Today’s Random Borrowing excursion yielded a book about PR.


I selected a random page. This particular random page is all about “The Learning Organisation”. My initial reaction to reading it was to dismiss it outright because it is full of buzzwords and “management speak”; it writes about people as objects rather than people. Ironically, the point of the section is that in order to get the most out your employees you should embrace their personal development and make sure everyone has a personal development plan. This is aimed at self-fulfilment of each employee; in other words treating them as people.

This very blog post is part of my “Random Borrowing” project, my own self education project about the composition of music. It is my own little project of self-fulfilment. One of the issues with self education, especially in such a vast field as music, is that I lack the skills to know what it is that I lack the skills in and hence should be learning.

Currently, I’m following a “learn by doing” approach mixed with some random exploration, which is good fun and I’ve learned a whole array of things that I didn’t know before. However, I fear that there are many unknown unknowns. I suspect that there are big areas of musical knowledge that I don’t realise that I don’t know.

There are a few ways I can try to remedy this. A few options are:

  • Find some fairly exhaustive syllabus of musical knowledge and learn it all.
    • Music encyclopedia / Wikipedia music articles
    • Composition course syllabus
  • Get one of these exhaustive lists and randomly select something to study. (The Random Borrowing project  is a bit like this. I randomly chose items from the library and find a link between them and music composition)

I can always just do stuff that seems interesting and see where it leads. The risk is that I may end up disappearing down a rabbit hole and “waste” time. Perhaps this is a better way to go anyway. It’s sort of what I’m doing anyway.

Another idea is to find a teacher that can guide me, listen to what I’ve already done and magically determine what I need to learn next. This would be much more structured, and also require that I spend more time than I do at the moment. Time is one thing that there never seems to be enough of.

Music Creation Apps for the iPad

I’m currently digging around the internet for apps that I can create music with on the iPad. It is nice to be able to use the iPad for making things. I’ve had a really good experience with Procreate and Inkpad, so I thought I’d re-examine what’s out there for making music and make a list of things to check out. I’ve got the Animoog app for iPhone, which I’m contemplating upgrading to the iPad version, but I thought I’d see what’s out there first.

Here’s a list. Now to cherry pick it…

  • Wizdom Music Morphwiz – looks a little like an idea I had for making an app…
  • iceGear cassini – cheap, technical synth app
  • iceGear argon – even cheaper mono synth
  • 4Pockets Aurora sound studio – grid based sequencer, might be interesting
  • Yamaha TNR-I – a grid thing, might interesting to look into a bit more
  • Retronyms Tabletop (free) – have to check it out since it’s free
  • BeepStreet Impaktor – percussion synth, might be useful
  • Korg iElectribe – another percussion synth 4 track
  • Korg IMS-20 – analog synth with cables everywhere
  • Apple Garage Band – might check out, it’s cheap. I think my laptop has a version built in.
  • Animoog, of course.

An interesting app that lets apps interact in Audiobus. I don’t need it yet, but it is good to know it exists.

Another list.

  • Figure looks very interesting for knocking out ideas.
  • Animoog and Korg got another mention

Since, my immediate use for this kind of thing is knocking out some ideas, I might start with Figure; it’s a whole dollar.

Yet another list.

  • Impacktor, again. Looks like it samples whatever surface you sit the device on. Interesting
  • CP 1919 looks interesting too, some fluid physics involved.
  • Garage Band, and Figure got mentioned again

Another list mentioned Scape, by Brian Eno et. al. it looks like you make an image and that is converted to music.

I should also check out NOTION, a notation app for the iPad. It might be easier to use on the iPad than the mobile website version of Noteflight.

Random Borrowing #17: Politics

The next random item from the library is a book that I would normally run away from very fast. It is Open Australia by Lindsay Tanner. Lindsay Tanner was a fairly high level politician in the Australian Labour Party.


This book appears to be the result of a few days of literary diarrhea on his holidays.  LabourBackIt is a rambling outline of his political philosophy, I guess. Hence, his ability to get high profile politicians to put quotes on the back cover of his book. I wonder who would willingly read this kind of stuff.

Anyway, I picked a random page and tried to extract what his point was, which was difficult because he’s a politician. In summary:

  1. Politicians seem to only know about the opinions of a very small minority of people.
  2. Education about the nitty gritty politics of government is good.
  3. Governments are moving from exercising power via command to exercising it through negotiation and persuasion.

So I can try to map this to music:

  1. people professionally involved in the music business or in music education are most definitely a small minority compared to the vast majority of consumers of music.
  2. education about the types of music in popular culture could be useful in allowing composers to be more relevant to their audience.
  3. Music is written and performed in a very different way nowadays than in bygone eras. Computers allow anyone to write, record, mix, use samples, apply sophisticated effects in a way that only top studios could do a few decades ago.

Contemplating this made me examine my own process for writing music. By this, I mean the entire process from conception to the production of a sound file. I made a couple of charts. This is an incomplete summary of what I have done. It doesn’t include what I will do in the future though. It is definitely a “work in progress”.

The first diagram is an outline of the mecahnics of how I compose. The end result is notation entered into Noteflight, an online music notation program.Composing


After I have a composition notated, it’s time to make a sound file that sounds better than the audio output of the Noteflight software.

Making a Recording

Here, the final out is really a project in Reaper, the DAW that I use. The final-final output is an mp3 that I upload to Soundcloud.

Each of these little block can be expanded on a lot. Especially, the Reaper part. Even the “Room” can be experimented with, using different recording locations with interesting reverb.





Radio National has a show called “All in the Mind“. It’s got some interesting interviews. My wife sends me ones that I might find interesting. So I thought I’d go through the archives make a list of episodes that jumped out at me, for one reason or another. I might want to check these out later.

That’ll do for now. I haven’t looked at anything prior to 2006.

Jolly Ninja Logo

I recently bought an awesome iPad app, Procreate. This is a really powerful drawing application. It is the same one that Bryan Konietzko, uses. He is one of the Co-creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Korra. My two favourite animated series; ever.

I thought it would cool to make a logo for this very web site. The name “Jolly Ninja” is just a weird combination of words that I used for the name of a robot I made in the programming game “Robocode” many years ago. I still like it.

So here’s my very amateur effort.

Jolly Ninja 2013-05-12