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Gopher's diary

Music, holiday, brevity :blah:
As for the first, I'm giving up music for 2 years. I can't write in these conditions, so in about 2 years I should have a new house and a mortgage and hopefully better conditions, or at least thats the plan. If conditions are same or worse, maybe I'll call it a day and sell up.

On the bright side, I'm going to Madeira tomorrow. Woohoo!
DateWednesday 20 Sep. 2006 (7:51)

01/06/06 - All good things come to an end :eyes:
...was the title of the last of the ST:TNG episodes, and feels strangely appropriate for my musical side position, which I'll come back to.

Work is slow to average; I could do with more cluster computers so that I can get these test cases run and debugged so I can finish writing that bloody journal paper (most has already been written - just add results). Given that running the damned thing on my own desktop at uni will take about a month for a single simulation isn't really good at all, since thats only a medium mesh case; a high mesh case will take 2^3 times longer. Still, the quote for the new 32-CPU cluster came back. £17000 for 2.0GHz dual-cpu dual-core rackmounts, £15,000 for 1.8GHz spec. Not bad for eight units. They are sorely needed, along with the aircon unit and an electrician's analysis of the power routing in the cluster room. More shit for me to do.

I tried writing music the other day. I actually started after watching Poirot - I love that noir-esque theme music, though the piano in the final bars is a bit uninspired. Either way, I had the idea of using a clarinet to do something smooth but mysterious... all that quickly faded as I waited 2 minutes for Cubase to load the template up, which I had accidentally propagated with instruments. After clearing that out back to it's natural state, I couldn't be arsed. After loading up my JT3K-5 track, I made a new 8-bar sequence (after spending 20 minutes trying to find a replacement for that awfully thin violin ensemble) and that was pretty much it. I can't stand to write this shit any more.

I'll turn 24 within the next week. That means that I would have been writing music for 9 years. 9 years, 40 finished tracks. Everywhere I see people with 3 years experience already hitting double that tally. Still, I don't define myself in terms of track numbers - I've always been a quality over quantity person, all things in moderation. Decent track length is nice - I prefer something from 4 minutes plus, simply because you can't introduce an idea, develop it, and then have closure in anything less without it feeling somewhat cut-off. I'm not saying you can't, I just don't prefer it that way. But, I digress; I don't even know where I'm going with this blog.

People still want me to write stuff. Some people, particularly the very few people who actually know me better from IRC or RL, want me to write. Write a track, cover something, diverge into trance... whatever.
All good things come to an end.
I don't want to write music anymore. It doesn't appeal to me. I've blown over two thousand pounds of my own money developing my own stuff, technique, and equipment, and I don't want to write anymore. Cubase, EWQL, it's all shit. Waiting 2 minutes for anything to load up takes the ideas out of your head; struggling with inhuman samples which never have the sound you want rids you of your enthusiasm, motivation, and everything else. I'm not going to kill myself to write another track. I'd dearly love to finish JT3K-5,6 7 and 8 which I have planned since late 2004 and tacked onto a post-it note that has been stuck on the side of my monitor for the last 2 years, but it's not worth the effort. JT3K-4 alone took 3 months. That wasn't just 3-months of idling; after getting back from France, I tried loading up cubase at least once every day and playing with it. For 40 days, nothing much happened - a change in automation here, a single changed note there, every time I got more depressed that it wouldn't see closure. You can imagine how happy I was to get the fucking thing finished - it remains, next to Farakhan, possibly the best work I've ever done. And, believe it or not, I still don't think it's that good.
The tracks I look upon fondly are all tracked. CoF and RTN9 were probably my musical pinnacle, and those are three years old. I had problems back then but I guess they are in the "same but different" category - they were there and I overcame them, give or take some compromises. And, when finished, I walked away, having made people happy, but felt happy myself at the same time.
I can still make people happy with music. I'm sufficiently 1337 to do that. But, I won't make myself happy. I always strive to improve upon myself - the perfectionist attitude. I've got to the point where I've hit a plateau. I think I've hit the top of Everest. What do you do when you hit the summit? You descend.
I write music in the same way I draw; I elucidated on it earlier - quality over quantity. The way I draw kind of gives some hints as to my methods - Sure, the perspective may look screwed up, but there is so much detail to it. The same with my music. I concentrate on detail rather than knowing how to do it properly. Combine that with a perfectionist attitude and you get the law of diminishing returns.

Before 2000, I had played the piano for about... hell, must have been almost a decade. I started because I had pushy parents, but eventually I built up a taste for it (only thing that really got me was being fed classical literature; a bit more jazz would have been nice) and did okay. I defined myself a set of ambitions, I achieved those ambitions. In 2000 I went to uni, and pretty much stopped learning the piano. Now in 2006, having achieved my ambitions for playing the piano back in 2000, I can't play any more. My skills have disintegrated slowly over the years, and without proper practice or any inclination to do so, my pianistic skills have atrophied pretty bad. But why do I bring up piano now? Well, I 've definied my own goals in music composition. One of them was totally unrealistic, and I don't ever see myself completing that one (I made a similar one with the piano) but more or less I've done as well as I could have for the rest. So, again, I've reached the summit. All good things come to an end. Time to descend.

I'm not sure if I'll ever write another note. I have to be frank here - being at CTG has definitely not helped me develop myself as a composer. Sure, having a community to fill the gap where TiS dropped off and Modplug crashed is okay, but... Well, CTG - Cute Trance Girls (you can't ignore where this place started, people) and here I am writing what they understand to be classical. Everyone here uses what I consider to be "pro" tools. I've been thrust into a place I really don't belong. I occupy a little niche which is seldom travelled unless I spam. I'm not very proud, and I try not to be arrogant, and I don't like spamming. If I was a trance or house artist, things would have been different. But I'm not going to change my stripes just due to peer pressure. I don't even like that shit. So, here I am. Stuck somewhere in the no-mans land between a load of different cliques, clans and other poor suckers like myself.

I know this has sounded very negative. I suppose most goodbyes usually are. I'd probably feel liberated after having completed this rant and having got it off my chest - my own life isn't really set up so I can rant to someone in RL. But, is it really that bad? I don't think so. I've sorted my life out (was there ever anything really wrong with it?)... or rather my future is a bit more clear. I know where I'm going, roughly. I like my day job. I get paid. I may not like my locale, but at least I'm not in the US getting shot, or in Africa dying of thirst/hunger/AIDS/misc disease here. Life ain't too bad. My house mortgage fund is growing slowly.

I'll leave the realm of composition with a heavy heart, feeling that I have unfinished business. Like m0d/redheat, I might be back after a while. I might not. I'll probably hang around here just because it's something to do whilst I wait a few more weeks for stuff to finish at work and the infrastructure here is great, even if the people aren't. Really, I don't like to frown upon a community that has been so accommodating, but, well, I've never been that happy here, especially recently. It's become a bit of a warzone with some childish bullshit to top it off. Given what I've seen on the boards, it's not really a music community - it's just a community where people happen to write music.

But yeah, I should stop slagging stuff off and go to sleep. I probably haven't done myself any favours, but... I no longer give the slightest damn.

Hell, I'll be surprised if anyone reads this.
DateThursday 01 Jun. 2006 (22:34)

Revelations, challenges :blah:
Hi guys, whilst I was washing the dishes I think I had a revelation of sorts.

First of all, let me get this straight. 95% of the time, I am sick to death of trying to write music. I don't want to do it, and if it ever works, the results are usually shit.

Today happens to be inside one of those 5% days. Whilst scrubbing the plates, I managed to make up a good melody with a good impression of how a particular orchestral suite should sound. I want to write this, but if it wasn't for three problems:
1) I've had a new hard-drive recently, and this has entailed the removal of a windows partition. I work with a dual boot system, but unfortunately they are both on the same HD, and I have no spare slots. So, my equipment hasn't been installed yet.
2) These ideas are like dreams; I kept it going until I finished washing up, at which point my mind turned to the next task - I needed a shower. At that point, all memory of that tune that I just summoned out of thin air was gone - just like waking up from a dream.
3) I don't know how to sequence what I want.

Problem 1 is in essence a short term problem. I'll sort it out by the weekend. 2 is also something that is entirely normal. I've been making shit up in my head for years; whilst walking to the bus stop, being in the shower, or doing the dishes, or just staring into space. One thing I don't lack is ideas.

So, that just leaves number 3. But, I hear you cry, "you used to be so good at it!" (I don't mean to sound self important :) . Yeah, thats true, so I'm going to go back to the beginning to explain my problem.

I'm an ex-tracker. Those days were simple. You had 32 channels, and two decent string ensemble instruments out of a 400mb library. I knew those things inside out. Consequently, actually writing the tune wasn't the problem - I had to wait for ideas, and from that I had to build up motivation. That and the fact that I wasn't writing anything too amazing and my targets weren't that high meant that there was no pressure. Still, 32 channels with no NNA is easy to max out - by 2002 I was yearning for something better, and I got it, and that kicked off a pretty successful year in 2004 (in 2003 I was tracking, and wrote about 7-8 tracks, of which most of you won't even have heard about). Still, edirol was good, but not good enough, and thats where the problem starts.
In 2005 I spent about two grand of pounds getting what is now EWQLSOGP (East West Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra Gold Pro - yes, it's a bloody long acronym!), as well as my decent beginner's monitors. Problem is, now I'm writing for an orchestra. Let me go into this a bit further.

When tracking, I had 2 strings ensembles (1 for lead and 1 for support, swapping whenever variation was needed) 1 French Horn, 1 "brass" ensemble, a woodwind instrument, and various percussion. With Edirol, the samples were sufficiently lo-fi for me to continue this method of composition with only minor changes - now I had space for more instruments, up until the point where my CPU maxed out. Realism of composition arrangement wasn't big in my list of "must do's" back then.

With EWQL, however, there is a slight problem. Where once I only had to deal with 2 string ensembles, I now have: violin ensemble (18 and 11 player) patches; Viola ensemble patches; violoncello and double bass patches. All of a sudden, correct compositional arrangement isn't just important - it's pre-requisite. Now, I'm in a bit of a quandry. I know how to make something sound good using shit tools, but I'm no orchestral composer. I don't know whats the correct mix of violins, violas, cellos or double bass, and if you don't get that right, it sounds shit. For the most part, they are also monophonic. However, certain note intervals can be played as a chord due to the lie of the strings. Exactly what those are I don't know.
Basically, I don't know what the hell I'm doing any more. I managed to luck out with two or three tracks, but thats it. Each failed attempt decreases confidence and increases contempt for not being able to do what I want as freely as I did before. One analogy is what would Mozart have done if he didn't know how to play a piano? He'd have been full of ideas, but without that rather important part, he would not be able to make the apparently wonderful music that he did. I'm in a similar position and there is only one way out: learn.

I could go back to tracking, or I could go back to Edirol. Still, with £1500 worth of equipment, that seems a rather backward move. My Fantom-S is another matter entirely. Crux of the matter is that I'm going to have to learn to walk all over again. Whether a tune pops out whilst I do that is just luck. I probably won't be able to write a tune for the music disc in the same way that I wasn't able to write the intro and outro for Nifflas' mas3 game. I have ideas, but I don't currently have the capabilities to get my ideas into the computer, which is pretty damned useless.

Well, if you read this far, thanks for bearing with me. I ask you not to suggest what I should do in your humble opinion, or be apologetic - you got no reason to be sorry, you're doing pretty fine work. Just keep doing what you're doing, and I'll do the same, and at some point we'll meet up and kick arse again.

DateWednesday 04 Jan. 2006 (22:34)

16/09/2005 - Writing for an orchestra :blah:
16/09/2005 - Writing for an orchestra, Part 1

I figured this would be a cool place to keep a log of my escapades that I can mirror on my HP if this ever comes work (and if it doesn't, I can neatly shuffle it under the carpet :) .

I had another visit to the Music Centre today, 3rd time... no, fourth time counting that time in 2003, since I started uni in 2000. I had a (very) brief chat to a nice chap on the admin side of things, and when I said that I wasn't looking about playing he knew what I was talking about. The good thing that I tell is that when I mentioned the possibility of contributing something outside of a performing capacity, he didn't seem to surprised (perhaps only at the timing) so I get the feeling that it's not *that* unusual. I think he even mentioned that they get it sometimes from their undergrad students, so I can just slot in there.

Being as afraid of rejection or outright failure as anyone else (possibly more so, as a testament to my pair of grey hairs) I can only see this in good light, I suppose. I mean, they haven't said "No" yet.

Only problem was, being still out of term (which I wish I was too) there wasn't anyone there to have a proper chat to; result: Come back when term starts, which is about 3 weeks time.

At least I have time to actually write something and figure all this out.
DateFriday 16 Sep. 2005 (10:17)

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