March 02, 2009

First Interlude (Ahmad) for Vibraphone & Organ: Score & MIDI-playback

Mrs Whiting Smith (here pictured to the left, after solving the Case of the Lost Head Pot) called me today at around 1:30pm, when I was waiting in the car outside of my house-mate's favorite thrift store (also Sarah Palin's favorite, by no means not coincidental), if I could supply more music for her joint percussion & organ recital this Friday. Apparently, it was supposed to be an hour long, not the thirty-five minutes they originally supposed, & I am their favorite underemployed composer who can supply pieces for free within a several hour notice.

Let it be known I arranged this piece & had score & parts posted on the web, like, four hours later.

Here is my explanation of the piece in an e-mail to Mrs Whiting Smith:

fromJ____ Welsch
toB_____ Anne Whiting Smith,
David S____
dateMon, Mar 2, 2009 at 6:48 PM

Bonnie & David,
Okay, that piece is about three minutes long. It's an arrangement of the first interlude from the piano sonata I wrote for Mr Holt, which was based on a section from a motet I wrote my senior year of college (called Ahmad). I like the orchestration of it for vibes & organ...

The motet had text adapted from the Sura An-Najm [the star, 53:1-18] in the Qur'an, adapted from the "meanings" by Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall (which is the most King James-y version of the Qur'an - there's no such things as a "translation", because the Qur'an is only in Arabic) - - anyway, I wrote the text from lines 11 thru 18, the original lyrics, into the score, because I thought Bonnie would like it. It's considered the most mystical section of the Qur'an, describing the prophet's reception of the prophecy. (Ironically, the few lines that immediately follow are the famous "satanic verses", cause of much consternation.) You can just call the piece "First Interlude" if you program it, for sensitive church audiences. In shia, Islamic law, it's illegal to set the Qur'an to music, so I was a bit concerned when I wrote that motet that I would be stoned to death. My piece was received with great indifference by the sheikhs.

Okay, my roommate & I are about to run off to an animal rights lexure. Let me know if there's any problems with the score or confusion or whatever, or about the other piece.
Bonnie, the little 'e' in the measures 4 & 8 is for your vibes without the low 'e', which is ideal.
David, are those fast footworks, like, ridiculous, or normal? I don't really know how to write for organ. Perhaps I'm being over-cautious.


I uploaded the score & vibe part into a Picasa (google) photo album, which I'll post a slideshow of here. There's some errors, it's just a first draft.

This time round, I'll take the risk of posting an mp3 of a MIDI playback of the piece.

A cautionary disclaimer about MIDI playbacks, especially intended for those listeners unfamiliar with the genre:
This is a ROBOT whacking out the notes from a computer file, performed using the cheesiest phoney-sounding 1990s synthesizer sounds (my beloved Yamaha PSR-500m, which was bought at Cosco for a few hundred dollars back in the day, has taken a few dives off of its stand, had its circuit board RE-SOLDERED by my retired computer-engineer of a father, & can still produce a lovely robot MIDI playback if I ask it nicely, here in the year 2009.)
"Ahmad" is not necessarily an un-cheezy piece of music. However, the robot version will sound especially bad, & duplicate any inherent corniness, combined with a heartless lack of human expression & mindless adherence to tempo & rhythm. I supply the MIDI version to give a sneak peek of the piece, help a future performer get a gist of the piece, & for the fun of all. At age 14, listening to MIDI playbacks on the very same synthesizer of my teenage compositions, a neighbor accused my work of sounding like "video game music". I'm not offended this year by that criticism as I was as an upstart. I felt vindicated when, a few years ago, I heard NPR play a MIDI playback of sections of John Adams' not-yet-then-performed-or-recorded opera Doctor Atomic, which were beautiful, & used nicer technology than I can afford; & amazing that an NPR news piece can use robots to illustrate an article about a piece of music still in progress. It also helped assuage some hangups I've had since highschool, when I was one of the first composers notating using early PC software, that I'm somehow faking it, using technology as an impure aid. (I mean, no one would blink if they found out that Tony Morrison used Microsoft Word, right?) Since then, I've learned that several of America's greatest living pre-computer composers, John Adams (born 1947) & Steve Reich (born 1936), now use a similar process as myself - notating onto computer software & using robots to hear what they're writing while they're writing, & after it's completed to assist the performers learning the piece. Okay, I didn't intend to write so much of a rant, but me & MIDI playbacks go wayback, & now we're alive in the middle of the Age of the Blogosphere, I'm proud to arrange a piece & post a score & a demo mp3 in the same day.


pele said...

MIDIlicious! Post a recording of the live version later. (BTw, solder has an Elle between the Oh and the Dee.)

ß. Andrigon said...

Thanks for the spell check, that's why I tend to avoid ranting on the blogs, it ups the chances of typo & of overblown sentiment.