Upcoming Events – Ireland, Germany

I’m happy to announce to two upcoming events:

On Friday, March 9th, I will be presenting a lecture at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth entitled “On the design of blue”, a presentation on my music software blue, demonstrating the software as well as discussing the ideas and thoughts that influenced its design. More information is available here.

On Thursday, March 22nd, from 3:30pm-4:15pm, I will be presenting a demonstration of my music software blue at the 5th International Linux Audio Conference in Berlin. More information about the demonstration is available here.

If you are in the area and will be attending either presentation, I will be looking forward to meeting you!

Thanks,
Steven

Notes on Change

It’s snowing outside, a dim light, the sky gray… walking outside, the temperature was a little below 0 C though it felt warm relative to the -15 C a few days earlier.  It’s interesting how perception changes, for when it first hit 0 C it surely felt “cold”, but after getting accustomed to it it felt just “normal”.  When the temperature further dropped it felt “cold” again, though now that it is 0 C again it feels “warm”…

When change happens gradually and at a constant rate it doesn’t seem so different, just at some point you look at before and after and realize it has indeed changed.  Sort of like if you gently decelerate a car by braking at a constant level it feels just fine but when you brake suddenly it is quite jarring…

Stockhausen once discussed interest in music as a result not in change itself but the rate of change; that was an idea I found very interesting at the time and still do.  I remember a time when I was living in New York and attending a number of new music concerts and found that a number of pieces had flat moments in them. Even though the lines were very active and changing rapidly in a very complex rhythm, the change was constant and held too long for my taste and I lost interest in the pieces…

In music by Webern and Feldman, change occurs but on a different scale. I find that the relative degree of change to be quite large compared to music which has a lot of motion but little change in proportion to other material.  That is something I think is often overlooked in Feldman, how much things really *do* change when you look at it at the right scale…

I remember when I wrote “Four Quarters” a long time ago that there was a flat point.  In the original it went from 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 quarters and then back.  I later read something by Xenakis talking about perception of density as not being linear but logarithmic, which influenced me to change the progression from 1 to 2 to 4 and back.  I think it made a big difference…

I am as fascinated by the I-Ching as I have ever been, yet feel as though I understand as little of it as I did before even coming across it.  Yet, even in the study of digrams (a part of the meditation in creating Etude), I felt there were many lessons in those four symbols of change.  How many lessons there are in thinking of the hexagrams, all possessing qualities unto themselves and differing qualities when in context to the other hexagrams…

In the end though, when one steps away from it all at a great distance, there is a great balance between all of the myriad changes… one of the greatest ideas I had learned when studying and observing Macrobiotics was the idea of “dynamic homeostasis”, that things were ever changing yet always in balance…

Understanding Ideas, Same But Different

The process of working on the current piece has been incredibly interesting to me as I am employing scripts for the first time to help analyze and understand the material I am working with.  I remember back in college I used to analyze my material in a very similar way though mostly by hand.  Then for some time I either worked out ideas mostly in my head or vaguely on paper.  Now I find myself working in ways familiar to me from my earlier days as a composer, this time though with slightly different tools.

Same but different.

I am finding these tools that I have built for myself to be very useful indeed, instantly doing the things I used to do by hand but with much quicker feedback and less margin for error. I find myself fascinated with the information I am seeing; I think this may very well become integrated into my composing process into the future…

Winter in Warsaw, Breakfast at Wedel

Today I woke up and peered outside to see a gentle soft snow coming down. The thermometer read -10 C, a little chillier than it has been. We had decided a couple days ago to wake up and get out of the apartment a little early today to go have breakfast at the Wedel Chocolate Shop in the city center, one of our favorite places to have breakfast here in Warsaw. The landscape white, we walked briskly in the cold air and on the softened ground until arriving to the lovely shop.

With only three breakfast options, we ordered our usuals(the Sniadania Jana for myself, and the Sniadania Karola for Lisa) and listening to the caribbean music in the background, enjoyed another lovely breakfast there: hot chocolates and orange juice, rolls, smoked cheese, tasty jams and chocolate sauce, croissants, and danishes amongst a couple other things. The rooms elegantly done, the service incredibly kind, and the music at a volume to make things comfortable but distant enough to easily hold a conversation.

Afterwards we went to do a little shopping and then proceeded to go home to do some work. It had stopped snowing but had felt colder for it, a small breeze at this temperature chilling our face, feet, and hands. Home now, the thermometer now reads -12 C, the sun beginning to leave for the day.

I had expected weather like this when we got back in the beginning January but it seems to have only gotten started the past two weeks(though, it was about this cold for a couple weeks in November). At night, the skies have had a pinkish color and radiate throughout the night, never feeling quite dark enough to fall asleep to. I haven’t gotten out much the past couple of weeks and I imagine that I won’t be out much as long as the weather remains like this. Cozy and warm inside the apartment, it’s nice to look out and ponder during breaks from working away…

Manila, Philippines

The past week I traveled to the Philippines to help out one of my brother’s best friend’s family to do some Flash and web programming consultation for their company. Never having been to the Philippines, I didn’t know really what to expect nor did I do much research before going as I imagined most of my time would be there to help out on programming and work for the company.I arrived on Wednesday morning and the first couple of days were mostly getting to know the business, the company, and the code behind the software. It was neat getting to meet everyone and to be involved in work like this after taking a lot of time away from it. I also found that everyone there was very friendly and kind, which made it easy to get involved and comfortable to work.

The first few days we worked but in the evenings we went out around town, playing pool, drinking at bars and clubs, and just having a good time at night while working during the day. After the first few days I got to working a lot with the head development guy at the company, spending a lot of late nights working out code and software architecture, up until the very last night on Tuesday. Although we didn’t get to finish everything, I think a lot of good work was done and that they’ll do well with what we worked on together moving forward.

Most of our time was spent in the office or at the apartment, both right in the middle of the financial district of Manila, so I know that I did not have too many chances to observe and understand a great deal of life in the Philippines in the short trip. There were a few things though that I wanted to note down here to remember for the future:

  • Manila is a very big city, or really a number of cities all connected. I think that something similar would be New York but without the rivers separating the boroughs, as if it just a large continuous city. It was amazing when we were driving around to just feel the city surrounding us, going on and on.
  • The weather is quite warm there, being a tropical climate. It was nice to leave the cold of Warsaw for a week of wearing just a t-shirt to walk around in!
  • The population was much larger than I expected, and apparently one of the largest resources of the Philippines is workers. I remember noticing that 7-11’s and Starbuck’s and many other places employed security guards that would also open the door and greet you when you entered and left the store. Taking a taxi is very cheap (well, relatively to what I am used to from America and Europe) and I think it is not uncommon for people to employ housekeepers (live-in as well) to cook and clean, as well as drivers to drive you around.
  • People are generally very respectful of others, and they would often refer to people as “Sir” or “Ma’am” when talking to them and always appending “Mr.” and “Ms.” or “Mrs.” to everyone when talking about them in the third person. This was the case at least with the service at restaurants and bars as well as the employees of the company I was at.
  • Paying for a service was quite cheap compared to the costs of similar services in America or Europe. The cost of goods themselves were generally about the same or perhaps slightly cheaper I thought.
  • I found it interesting that men would court women for a long time before even going out on a date (six months to a year I think was not uncommon). In a way though, I think that culturally that creates a sense of romance and preserves something that seems to have been lost in human relationships in some Western cultures.
  • The male culture there seemed much more effeminate than other cultures I’ve been in.
  • The culture seemed to be not so much of an angry culture… that’s a bit hard to explain, but I found it was nice that it seemed that people would rather laugh away problems or just take things that happens just to be what they are rather than to stew on troubles. Perhaps it’s the warm weather or the mostly Catholic population or maybe it was just the culture, but I found it refreshing to be in a much more positive environment.

So for my first time to the Philippines I left with a very good impression of Manila and its people. The trip was short and filled with a lot of good hard work and enjoyable time with good people in the down time. It was a great pleasure to have met the people I did (whose kindness and hospitality were exceptional) and I will remember this trip very fondly.