Fragments of a Bohlen-Pierce Composition (Pt 11)

The piece is due this Friday, and of course, that means my computer had to die yesterday.

*shakes fist at deadline gremlins*

So I lost 5 hours of composing time. The good news is that I have a backup computer. It runs a bit slower, but I can move forward.

I appended another fragment to my outline. This section is inspired by two sources. The first is Mozart’s Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. I’ve had this piece on my mind ever since playing the “Lost in Nightmares” expansion mission for Resident Evil 5. The second is Khachaturian’s Gayane Ballet Suite, though it’s influence is perhaps subtle.

Have you ever seen Connections? I’m about to make a few.

The Gayane Ballet Suite was used in the film 2001: a space odyssey. The author, Arthur C. Clarke, “was the first to propose geostationary communications satellites.” John Pierce, of the Bohlen-Pierce scale, “arrived at the (same) idea independently and may have been the first to discuss unmanned communications satellites. ” (source)

Also in 2001, we hear HAL sing the tune Daisy Bell as he is dying. The film’s director, Stanley Kubrick, was visiting with Pierce at Bell Labs to get a sense of what a telephone booth in space would look like. Pierce used this opportunity to show him the computer music program, which included a synthetic vocal arrangement of Daisy Bell by Max Mathews, the father of computer music. Here’s a video of Mathews telling the story; Dr. Richard Boulanger is also in it.

Stanley Kubrick passed away on March 7th of 1999. The first day of the Bohlen-Pierce conference starts on March 7th. I originally heard of Kubrick’s passing around the corner and down the street from where Monday night’s event takes place. I was at a gathering at Elaine Walker‘s apartment, who has been a composer of Bohlen-Pierce music for years, and is presenting both music and a lecture at the Symposium.

Download: fragments_11.csd

Csound Vs. Music V — FIGHT! Pt. 1

The Technology of Computer Music Mathews

Csound is a direct descendant of the Music-N series of computer music languages developed by Max V. Mathews.  One could make the case that all digital synthesizers are descendants, or at least distant cousins, of Music-N.  Comparing and contrasting Csound with Music V, the similarities are glaringly obvious.

I own a copy of the 1981 edition of Max Mathews’ The Technology of Computer Music. The original was released in 1969 — that’s 40 years ago.  I’ve read it cover to cover.  I’ve translated some of the examples to Csound.  Much of the knowledge contained in that little red hardcover book is still relevant today.

I thought it would be fun to compare and contrast the two languages.  Here is The Simplest Orchestra example from pages 44-46:


1	INS 0 1 ;
2	OSC P5 P6 B2 F2 P30 ;
3	OUT B2 B1 ;
4	END ;
5	GEN 0 1 2 0 0 .999 50 .999 205 -.999 306 -.999 461 0 511 ;
6	NOT 0 1 .50 125 8.45 ;
7	NOT .75 1 .17 250 8.45 ;
8	NOT 1.00 1 .50 500 8.45 ;
9	NOT 1.75 1 .17 1000 8.93 ;
10	NOT 2.00 1 .95 2000 10.04 ;
11	NOT 3.00 1 .95 1000 8.45 ;
12	NOT 4.00 1 .50 500 8.93 ;
13	NOT 4.75 1 .17 500 8.93 ;
14	NOT 5.00 1 .50 700 8.93 ;
15	NOT 5.75 1 .17 1000 13.39 ;
16	NOT 6.00 1 1.95 2000 12.65 ;
17	TER 8.00 ;

A loose translation into Csound looks something like this:

<CsoundSynthesizer>
<CsInstruments>
sr     = 44100
kr     = 44100
ksmps  = 1
nchnls = 1

instr 1	
	a2 oscil p4, cpspch(p5), 2
	out a2 * 16
endin
</CsInstruments>
<CsScore>
f2 0 512 -7 0 50 0.999 155 0.999 101 -0.999 155 -0.999 50 0

i 1 0    0.50  125 8.04
i 1 0.75 0.17  250 8.04
i 1 1.00 0.50  500 8.04
i 1 1.75 0.17 1000 8.05
i 1 2.00 0.95 2000 8.07
i 1 3.00 0.95 1000 8.04
i 1 4.00 0.50  500 8.05
i 1 4.75 0.17  500 8.05
i 1 5.00 0.50  700 8.05
i 1 5.75 0.17 1000 9.00
i 1 6.00 1.95 2000 8.11
e 8
</CsScore>
</CsoundSynthesizer>

I’ll spend the next few blogs breaking down these examples, discussing the many differences and similarities, in hopes that we can learn something about our digital synthesis roots.  In the meantime, you can download this Csound file to listen for yourself: Csound_Vs_MusicV_pt1.csd