Lichtenbergian goals from 2015

Hi there!  I’ve been busy getting A Christmas Carol on its feet, so apologies all round for the lack of fabulously interesting content around here.  But now the Lichtenbergian Annual Meeting1 is upon us and I must take a look back to see how well I’ve done on my goals for this past year.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

Seven Dreams

Nada.  After I finished Dream One last year, I was waiting on my librettist, C. Scott Wilkerson, to provide more text for our opera (based on his play Seven Dreams of Falling, a retelling of the Icarus myth).  Alas, he’s been caught up in finishing his PhD, so I twiddled my thumbs.  There were some abortive attempts to set the opening and ending of Dream Three since I knew what it was going to be, but I failed utterly to crack that nut.

3 Old Men

Check.  My goal was to expand the camp, which we did but not in the way I originally intended.  As documented here, I constructed fabric “walls” to go over the tent stakes of the labyrinth, replacing the yellow rope and improving its looks quite some.  We also added some really cool new Old Men to the camp, one of whom brought fire art to the entire concept.

Five Easier Pieces

Done! I can check it off my list, where it has been for at least two years.

Christmas Carol

My goals for Christmas Carol for this year were a) finding an affordable software music sequencer that works like the old EZ•Vision sequencer did; b) learning to use it; and c) completely rescoring Christmas Carol again with a full orchestral accompaniment.  And d) directing the show.  I did it all and infinitely more.


It remained a back burner project.

design & construction of labyrinths

Not a major goal to begin with, I designed two labyrinths for “clients” that ended up being unnecessary.  Still, a pleasant diversion.

general work habits

This one was a success—I re-established a daily routine that worked for me and actually was more productive than the short list above would indicate. The principles of Lichtenbergianism teach us that having goals is important even especially if they only serve to provide reference points to avoid, and that’s what happened here.


Lichtenbergian goals for 2016—let’s see what comes out of my mouth at the Meeting.


1 For those just joining us, the Lichtenbergian Society is my group of friends who support each other in their willingness to procrastinate their way to creative success.

Easier Piece #5: another update

Soooo close…

The end is particularly wonky, but I can’t decide if it’s dazzlingly kaleidoscopic or just inept.

Easier Piece #5 (12/17/15): mp3

update:  Oops, I finished it.  (Minor futzing, and a tweak to the ending.)

Originally, I intended the piece to be a nocturne, a dreamy quiet  finish to the five pieces, and definitely more Arvo Pärt than it turned out to be.  Oh well.  I suppose I could make it Six Easier Pieces, but then I’d have to put it on next year’s Lichtenbergian goals.  Not going to happen.

I’ve left a lot of the articulation of the moving parts to the pianist, although there are a couple of deliberate staccatos in there that anyone who plays this should feel free to ignore.

Now, are these pieces actually easier to play?  Compared to Six Fugues (no preludes) they are, but are they in fact objectively five easier pieces?  Someone who can actually play should play them and tell me.  #playdalesmusic

Five Easier Pieces: No. 5 (Sonatine) | score [pdf] | mp3

Five Easier Pieces, an abortive attempt

I don’t know when I became averse to posting my abortive attempts, but I think it’s true that I have.  I’d like to be generous and say that it’s because I like to surprise and delight my readers with a finished product, but the truth is probably closer to the fact that when what I’m working on is a deliberately “simpler” piano piece that will probably be only two minutes long, I don’t want anyone to know how ineptly I struggle with hacking my way through it.

I’ve whined before about not being able to play the piano and how it hampers my growth/expertise as a composer, and never has that been more true than with these bagatelles.  (Another whine: my USB keyboard is extremely unreliable inside Finale, and today even playback volume became quirky.  There’s an upgrade, but I can’t apply it until Christmas Carol is over in case it borks everything, which is what happened several upgrades ago.)

Oh well.

Here’s “Easier Piece #5” as of today: mp3 (only about 30 seconds of music; the rest is blank measures that I will fill up.  With genius.)

<ETA> Here’s what I like about the piece so far: I like the way that the moving parts feel as if they are not bound by a specific meter.  It sounds like it’s trying to be a waltz, but the bass line won’t cooperate.  I like the almost clichéd fillip at the end of the main melody.  I like the potential of the second theme, and the work I’ve done on the piece since posting this morning leads me to believe that it will end up as a sonata allegro.  More later.

Five Easier Pieces: Stuck again

Stuck in the tango.  No sign of improvement.  We are at 6 on the Lyles Scale of Compositional Agony, with no relief in sight.

So instead of actually working on it, I have downloaded the trial version of Ableton Live, a piece of music software that I have been assured by several people will be the tool I need to create an orchestral performance track for Christmas Carol.

It has been more than 15 years since I had to tinker with such software, and back then—pre-Mac OS X days, even—the software I used was simple and straightforward.  But in the intervening years, the consumer end of such things has dropped off and the pros have taken over.  If you don’t know what I mean, look at the following screenshots from Live:

Click on it to get a full view.

No, really, click on it.


It has two “views,” Arrangement and Session.  At this point—I just installed the thing—I don’t even know which one is which.  Here’s the other one:

Click on this one too.

Oy, also too.  ::sigh::

Cover me, I’m going in.  Updates as I surface.

10:10 am: I may have a clue.  In the second image above—that’s the Session view—each of the little colored boxes is a loop of some kind, either a beatbox or riff or some other kids-these-days item.  The columns are all using the same instrument to create the clips.  The rows are called “scenes,” and that’s where you combine/recombine all your whomp-whomp bits.  (That’s a technical term.)

So, for my purposes… We’ll use “Marley’s Departure” as our test case.  Here’s a score so you can follow along at home.  We have one measure of nervous diddling about, then two measures that repeat while the cast plays a scene about Scrooge seeing a ton of spirits like Marley hovering about the London streets, and then a final measure that we jump to when we reach the cue “…and lost the power forever!”

Here’s what I think will work: I go in, export each section as a clip.   Then I’ll have three scenes in Live, each one with one clip.  Hm… now I’m hazy.  Will someone have to “play” the piece live, i.e., click on scenes 1-2-3 in order (they loop until you click on the next one)—or can I line them up in the Arrangement view, loop the second one, then whoever’s in charge of the computer clicks some kind of NEXT button to skip to the third one?

Step one is to export those three audio clips from Finale.  Back in a moment.

11:00 am: Problems:

  • Each clip seems to have two seconds of silence at the end.  I think that’s a Finale export preference thing and should be easily fixable.
  • I figured out how to add the folder of exported .aiff files to the “browser” of Live—although you can drag-and-drop directly from the Finder, but when I drag them into the Arrangement timeline, there is no sound.
  • Clicking on each clip in the browser previews the clip, i.e., plays it, but again, dragging it to the timeline produces no sound.
  • If I drag a clip in Session view, I can click the Solo button and there is sound, but it’s muddy and clicky—which is not the case if I preview it in the browser.
  • The User Manual is of no assistance in this issue.

Five Easier Pieces: No. 4, a start

The fourth Easier Piece is a tango.  Why not?

Here’s what I came up with so far this morning:

Easier Piece No. 4 (Tango) | mp3

I’m exploring the power of repeats.

One thing I will decide as I go along is how long it should be.  It might be nice to have an extremely short, langorous dance—or we could really go for it with a passionate central section that steps up our game.  Comments are welcome.

Five Easier Pieces: No. 3

I think I’ve finished the third Easier Piece.  There’s still some slippery/bare harmonies in there, probably caused by parallel fifths/octaves but I’m not going to go check right now.  Let’s consider it done unless my theory teacher raps me across my knuckles.1

Five Easier Pieces: No. 3 (Étude Héroïque) | score [pdf] | mp3


1 The joke is on the universe, since it has never provided me with a theory teacher despite my specific requests that it do so.

Five Easier Pieces: Stuck

As is not unusual, I am stuck with a piece, in this case the third abortive attempt at one of the Five Easier Pieces.  Some really nice bits, especially the transition to the major key, but then it starts to wander, and I have no idea on how to end it.

I don’t know why, but recently I have avoided sharing my works-in-progress.  I don’t know why; it used to be my stock in trade to whine about how little I was accomplishing.  Perhaps it was better when I did, and so I’m sharing now.

No score, but here’s the mp3: abortive attempt #3

In which I get serious or something

We spent this past weekend in Asheville, NC, and I have to recommend it highly.  Great food, fabulous art, and a kick in my creative pants!

One of the most fun things we did was to go to a bar/club called Lex 18, at which a DJ spins electroswing on Friday nights.  Do you not know what electroswing is?

Here you go:

Or here:

Or here:

You’re welcome.

The dance floor was filled with young persons who knew what they were doing, and it was fabulous.  (We also danced, for the record.)

Anyway, we visited studios and galleries and ate fantastic meals, and I’ve been inspired to get back to work.

Before heading up to Asheville, we went to Athens to hear Peter Schickele in concert.  He is now 80 and in a wheelchair, but his music has lost none of its charm, wit, or éclat.  It made me want to get home and produce music of my own.  For a change.

So this morning I sat down and got back to work on Five Easier Pieces, which has been on my plate for several years now.  I actually started a new file and played with some motifs, but when I went to save the file I found that I had a small flock of abortive attempts, so I opened those to see if there was anything worth looking at.

Lo! and also behold! most of them were actually pretty good, so I set aside this morning’s work and picked up two of them and filled them out.

And so, I present to you…

Five Easier Pieces (a companion to, and a partial apology for, Six Preludes (no fugues))

I.  No. 1 (Invention) | score [pdf] | mp3

II.  No. 2 (Waltz) | score [pdf] | mp3

There will be further reportage on the Asheville venture.