Saturday, February 18, 2006

Trumpet Songs 1

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This is a work in progress...

I recently began work on creating a brass quintet from samples made by the University of Iowa Electronic Music Studios. These are terrific mono samples, with 44 kHz examples for every semi-tone in the instrument's range.

I downloaded the samples for many instuments, and then went through the time consuming process of finding loop points in the samples, and tuning them. I used a program called Awave Studio, which has an automated tool for finding loop points and adjusting the tuning. With the 44 kHz samples from Iowa, it takes about 20 minutes per sample to find an optimum loop point. If anyone knows a faster method, I'd love to hear it. The Awave Studio's tuning is poor, because the program often assumes that an overtone is the loudest note, and it attempts to adjust the pitch of the note based on the overtone instead of the fundamental. I had to use a trial and error approach to tuning the samples.

I'm just starting the composition process with today's entry, a short example of two similar chord progressions. The first:

  • G 3/2 Minor
  • F 4/3 Major
  • E 6/5 Subminor
  • D 12/11 Subminor
  • G 3/2 Subminor
and the other one:
  • G 3/2 Subminor
  • F 4/3 Supermajor
  • E 7/6 Minor
  • D 8/7 Major
  • G 3/2 Minor

A few definitions: Based on the overtone series, Major is 4:5:6; Subminor is 6:7:9. Based on the undertone series, Minor is 1/(6:5:4); Supermajor is 1/(9:7:6). There is a nice geometric symmetry in those four chords. The subminor and the supermajor have a real bite to them, while the major and the minor are sweet. I like the idea of wringing a major out of the undertone series, and a minor out of the overtone series. The chords are taken from a quote by Kyle Gann on a column in the Village Voice, talking about Philip Glass:

What's less often acknowledged is that, amid all the reams of three-against-two and G minor-F-E-flat-D chord progressions, clich├ęs rendered painful by lifelong repetition, he continues to occasionally turn out amazing, advanced, original pieces of music.

They are nice chords, as chords go. But I prefer their microtonal forms.

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