I Was an Adult Today!
09 January 2017 22:13 EST under
Hello from my brand-new Chromebook! Half a Christmas bonus and a large handful of what-the-Hell-do-I-get-Dave-for-Christmas-oh-God-it's-December-twenty-fourth-does-Amazon-do-free-same-day-shipping-on-gift-cards gift cards later, I found myself with a non-trivial amount of Amazon fundage, so I went ahead and got myself an Acer R13 Chromebook.
I'd been considering upgrading my wheezing, dying old laptop for awhile now -- it's got a broken fan and the BIOS thermometer just says "Sperm Annihilation" instead of an actual temperature -- and I wanted something a little smaller, a lot lighter, and substantially less likely to render me sterile. Mission accomplished! It also converts into a tablet, so it'll be great for streaming: I can put it right next to my iPad and monitor Twitch chat and my request queue much more easily.
I can't play games on it, but the only game I played on my laptop anymore was Guild Wars 2, and increasingly infrequently, anyway. I can't do my day-job on it, either, because we're a Microsoft shop and I need Visual Studio and SQL Server Management Studio, but, in the event that I need to work away from home, I'll just bust out the ol' Ball Microwaver. I'm going to use Crouton to install Linux on the Chromebook it so that I can easily do development work on the website as well as use MuseScore to notate my arrangements.
Speaking of arrangements: I only worked five hours today, and then I sat down at the piano for another five and finished one up! Felt really good to get back to it. That's three down now in a suite of Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow arrangements I started way too long ago. One day at a time...
In a single semicolon-separated list of independent clauses: 2016 was shit (except when it wasn't); set smarter goals; get a preview of my plans for 2017.
Uh, hey. It's been, what, like six months? Seven? I'd way we're marginally overdue for a little State of the Union address. If you want the short version...the good: I'm alive and well, I have my piano back, and I'm definitely returning to streaming at some point; the bad: the piano took forever to come back, work sucks right now, and it's been keeping me from doing the things I want to do pretty hard for a few months now. If you want the long version, read on.
Dear God, it's been over two months. With the piano gone, I've really just fallen off the face of the Earth, I guess. I don't think too many people actually read my blog, but I know a couple of you check in from time to time, so here's a little update.
Hello, my adoring fans!
The piano is still in the shop, and work is going well. I got some photos from the technician the other day, which was nice. I think it's going to take him longer than two months to finish the work, which annoys me a little bit (apparently it didn't get in until March 29), but if I come out of this with a great-sounding and great-feeling instrument, all will be well in the end (except my bank account (rip)).
I've been doing some more arranging, at least. I finished my second The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time suite, which is based on the set of six ocarina pieces that I didn't use for my first suite of arrangements from that game. Whereas the pieces on which the first set was based all had very musically descriptive titles ("The Prelude of Light," "The Nocture of Shadow," "The Minuet of Forest," etc.), almost everything in this new set was super-generic, so I had some real freedom with it. Here's the mapping of the in-game tracks to my arrangements:
- Song of Time -> Fugue and Chorale of Time
- Saria's Song -> Saria's Scherzo
- Epona's Song -> Epona's Pastorale
- Sun's Song -> Sun's Waltz
- Zelda's Lullaby -> Zelda's Nocturne and Zelda's Music Box
- Song of Storms -> Toccata of Storms
Zelda's Lullaby got two different arrangements because, a.) eponymous, and, b.) it's the only one not named "Something's Song" or "Song of Something," so it felt special. Seven pieces total, a bit over twenty minutes. Probably harder than the first suite, but still not too hard -- late-intermediate/early-advanced territory. It has -- maybe unsurprisingly, given the nature of the game itself -- a real focus on shifting time signatures (except in Sun's Waltz).
I'm in the middle of a new suite right now: some classic Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow tunes! I'm doing all of the "town" themes and will call the completed suite "A Tour of Kanto" or something. It'll be another seven-piece suite and I've finished two so far. It's harder than either of the Zelda suites, but still easier than the Final Fantasy stuff I've done.
Other than that, I don't have much for you, people. Work is work, I try to write at least a little music every day, and in the evenings I just chill with Kate. I miss the piano and I miss streaming. I'm growing increasingly uninterested in my day-job. Not really in a productivity loss kind of way, more just in a "I don't care about this anymore" kind of way. Probably more related to the fact that the stuff I've been working on recently is extremely tedious than it is the fact that I'm bored of the job itself. I'd love to be able to make the piano-streaming thing actually produce income, but I think that dream's a long way off.
I play a decent bit of Heroes of the Storm and Guild Wars 2 these days, so if you play either of those and want to hit me up and catch up while watching me get tilted, please do! I'm Brokofiev#1654 on Battle.net and my main GW2 character is Frédéric Fropin.
If you're a stream regular, you've probably noticed my absence for the past two weeks. Long story short (and I should've written this sooner), I'm taking a little hiatus. I love streaming, but it gets tiring -- followers trickle in every single time I'm online, which is great, but concurrent viewership sits totally stagnant. My regulars are fantastic, and I love you, and I'm definitely coming back, so don't worry. I just need to do a little more to promote viewership.
The piano is ready to be shipped out to have its action rebuilt, so I'm focusing really hard on composing and (soon) practicing, so that I can start recording the day it gets shipped back. My second The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time suite is just about finished (halfway through the seventh and final piece); once that's done, I'll have two short (45 minutes) albums' worth of music to record and get out there.
Rainwave, an online video game music radio, has a great community of people with whom I spend a lot of time in the site's IRC channel, and they have a "standing request" for my recordings once they're made, so I'll also get immediate exposure via their Covers channel, which I'm really excited about.
Things I need to do before I return:
- Buy a freaking mic for my voice already
- Touch up my stream page on Twitch so that it actually looks nice (image headers, offline photo, actual schedule, etc.)
- Record some stuff
- Make a Bandcamp page or something
So, long story short, yes, I will absolutely be back! Thanks again to the great support so many of you have shown me.
Sometimes I listen to YouTube and just let "autoplay" do its thing and take me where it will. This morning I moved quite randomly from Kapustin into Prokofiev and this started playing:
Update: turns out the video was deleted, so, uh, no more video.
Within a handful of seconds I knew I was listening to a fake piano, and the video description confirmed it. It's very faithful to the score, the "pedaling" is handled well, the voicing is great, but it just sounds bad almost immediately. Why?
The answer has nothing to do with the VST, actually. The video above uses Synthogy's Ivory piano, which, if you do a quick YouTube search, can sound really fantastic. Largely indistinguishable from a real piano, frankly. No, the answer has everything to do with performance. It's quite obvious that these short works were sequenced note-by-note:
- Every time a chord comes up, every note of it sounds at the exact same instant.
- Rhythms are way too perfect. Every note of a certain type (e.g., sixteenth note/semiquaver) is that exact duration every single time, down to the microsecond.
- The pulse is rigidly metronomic (largely because of the previous point).
- Crescendos, diminuendos, accelerandos, ritardandos, etc. occur perfectly linearly.
All of this unnaturally perfect stuff combines into a performance that sounds, well, wholly unnatural. Even the best pianists in the world do not hit every note in their chords at the same microsecond, or play a "perfect" run in terms of absolutely equal note durations. It's not possible. But the sum of these tiny imperfections is what makes a performance sound human.
Now, that said, maybe the example above isn't the best: I'm sure there's more that can be done to make the VST itself sound better, but the real point is that its immediately jarring sound comes from the nature of the "performance" itself, and that's why even high-end fake pianos frequently sound like garbage.
(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1943)
This third-best-selling book of all time, ostensibly a children's story, is a short, pleasantly illustrated (by the author himself, no less) tale about the fantastic interplanetary travel of a young prince.
In reality, it is the most goddamn fucking French existential-crisis shit that's ever been written and once you're done with it you feel like someone has punched a little hole in your heart with a little heart-hole-punchy device. Everyone is awful, life turns us all into monsters, friendship can only end in disappointment, and your inner child is going to die no matter how hard you try to stop it.
9/10: There's nothing bad to say about this book; it's just really soul-crushingly French. It's short and easy to read and you'll be done in two sittings at most. I give it a nine because while it's perfect for what it is, it is still a short book accessible to children, so it lacks a lot of the depth that I generally look for in a book.
High point: makes you pretty much hate all of humanity.
Low point: makes you pretty much hate all of humanity.
(Frank Herbert, 1965)
Every semi-likable character dies for no reason so that the eminently forgettable ones can do eminently forgettable things, but you won't even care because the scope and depth of the creation and description of the eponymous planet and its native people are staggering.
After I read the book, I read its appendices, and it truly says something about how incredible a world Frank Herbert has created when "The Ecology of Dune" and "The Religion of Dune" end up being more interesting than the actual narrative itself -- and that is not to say that the narrative is bad, because it is not.
Just a caveat: if you've never read it before (I hadn't), you will need to read it again (I haven't yet) because the first hundred pages will make little to no sense at all, contextually.
8/10: The only world I can think of that surpasses Arrakis in terms of history and depth is Middle-Earth. What higher praise can be given?
High points: the appendices, shockingly. Also when Muad'dib does away with Fremen barbarism. I guess there are some dope knife-fights, too.
Low point: Paul and Jessica devoting paragraphs of analysis to every single line spoken by the other. It's fucking exhausting.
(Haruki Murakami, 1985)
A man known only by his profession as a "Calcutec," whose consciousness has been altered to allow him to mentally apply a truly unbreakable encryption to data, has a shocking fate revealed to him while savage thugs seek the information in his head. Meanwhile, at the End of the World, an unnamed man whose shadow has been forcibly removed begins his new life reading old dreams from the skulls of dead unicorn-like beasts.
...yeah. I know.
Every bit as zany as it sounds, the novel comprises two stories that inexorably converge amidst the surreal landscapes and bizarre sexuality that only Murakami can create. At its core, it's a novel about the nature of consciousness and its role as a timeless, self-contained universe. It's fast-paced, funny, thought-provoking, and even manages to tug the old heartstrings a bit.
9/10: this may be my favorite Murakami novel. It's the perfect length, moves along at a good clip, is unwaveringly bizarre, and doesn't contain a single unlikable character.
High points: the Calcutec complaining repeatedly about his door to the men who broke it down; the discovery of music at the End of the World.
Low point: when the librarian is reading book/encyclopedia passages about unicorns to the Calcutec, it's a real snooze-fest.
(Haruki Murakami, 1987)
College student Toru Watanabe gives monosyllabic responses to exceedingly long-winded stories told by the women in his life while somehow-critically-acclaimed descriptions of late-1960s Japanese culture remain little more than characters' mental footnotes. After some 250 pages of this, roughly 50 pages' worth of interesting story progression occurs. Ultimately, it's a story about love, loss, depression, isolation, emotional dependence, and discovering one's sexuality, rendered completely unengaging by its flat, relentlessly stoic protagonist. That said, Murakami's sentences, imagery, symbolism, and in-your-face sexual acts are as wonderful as ever.
6/10: worth reading, but, for me, not a quintessential Murakami novel because of the extremely slow pace of the first three-quarters of the book and the lack of Murakami's staple surrealism and mystery.
High point: Reiko telling her story.
Low point: barely mentioning the cultural upheaval exemplified by the student protests against the educational-industrial complex while dedicating an almost unreal amount of words to a dying old man's being fed nori-wrapped cucumbers dipped in soy sauce.