September 2012

Classical Music in a Video Game

September 27, 2012 15:14

Recently I found a video on YouTube. Basically it's a gameplay video of Return Fire for the PlayStation 1. I've never played it, but I thought it was cool because of the soundtrack - it's all based on classical music! I don't understand the gameplay, but the music I sure do! Enjoy. :)

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Fall has Arrived!

September 23, 2012 14:25

Though the equinox was a couple days ago, today was the first day it really felt like fall for me. After I practiced violin at 11am this morning (and even played 'Concerning Hobbits' with the CD track), me and my family all went to the Jonamac Apple Orchard as we do every year. This year, however, because it was a Sunday, there was a band playing. They had two singers, drums, electric bass, electric and acoustic guitars, and a black (I believe it's electric) fiddle! They switched between instruments sometimes. One person started at 1pm with the electric guitar and fiddle, and then after we did the corn maze and saw them again at 2:20pm or so, he had switched to using an acoustic guitar. It was really cool to watch them and the country music made it seem even more like fall. Perhaps as October begins more things will occur, both eventfully and musically, that will shape this new season to perfection!

I believe we are continuing The Lord of the Rings tonight. And I've started my Christmas list already! My first thing I want is a complete Lord of the Rings Symphony score so I can analyze and play it on violin.

As always, thanks for reading! :)

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The Lord of the Rings Symphony

September 22, 2012 09:41

As I write this, I am listening to The Lord of the Rings Symphony, which, in my opinion, is one of the greatest symphonies of all time. As you may or may not know, it is a collaboration of some of the greatest music in Howard Shore's soundtrack for The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003). This particular video I'm watching has the full symphony, but it also has breaks in which Howard Shore talks about composing his music. This is inspiring for me, because I want to compose film music when I get older. Shore's symphony gives me plenty of inspiration to compose a movie soundtrack. Now all I need is a movie to compose for!
Watch it here!

Quick update: From 9:30pm to 10:20pm this evening, we started watching the Blue-Ray extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring. It was in this moment when I realized how amazing this fantasy really was. Combined with the music I talked about earlier, the visuals make the movie even cooler! For example, the Shire has a very bright and colorful setting to it, and watching Frodo and Gandulf ride in the horse carriage, and listening to the solo flute and eventually solo violin play "Concerning Hobbits" is a fantastic combination. The music really adds a lot to the setting of the film. We are planning on finishing and/or continuing the film tomorrow.

There's nothing like going on a nice-cold 12pm walk outside by the lake, few clouds in a shining blue sky, a fountain splashing to my right, the occasional person heading by walking her dog, my iPod touch in my hand, listening to May's Orchestra Pops Concert! (Wow, what a sentence!)

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Sunday Afternoon Violin Games

September 16, 2012 12:55

Here is a list of various games to play using your violin when you're finished practicing the day's work on a rainy/snowy Sunday afternoon.

1. Upping the Tempo: Pick a scale or a fast section in a piece of music. The example I thought of was the Irish theme during the Quiddich World Cup in the fourth Harry Potter movie. Using a metronome, start your theme out slow. Each time you finish playing, restart it, but increase your tempo. See how fast you can play your theme before the metronome overwhelms you!

2. Chromatics: Start on your lowest string and go up a whole step, down a half step, up a whole step, down a half step, etc. See how far you can go up your strings! (Starting on the G String: G, A, A-flat, B-flat, A, B, etc.)

3. Sound Violin: Have a friend (or record yourself) playing some old video game, it doesn't matter which. Make special note of the music and sound effects as you play. Then, mute the T.V. volume and take out your violin. Try to play the music and sound effects as they're happening on-screen using your violin! You'll have to continuously swap between BGM and sound effects, but keep trying until you're happy with what you have. If you need back-up, have a friend tackle music while you settle on the sound effects or vice-verca.

4. Jam Session: With a group of friends on any instruments, play music! You may do popular music or, well, really anything you want to do. Improvise (play in a pentatonic scale if you want the notes to naturally sound good together!). This is simply a way to have a good time with your friends on the weekend before starting back up at your orchestra (or whatever you're doing).

5. Copycats: Have a friend play a cluster of notes and you repeat them. (Then switch and you do it to a friend.) You can play this game many ways, like your friend starts with one note you copy and adds one more each time. Or you can make it so when your friend plays a cluster of notes, you have to play the same cluster in a different key.

6. Instrumental Story-Telling: Look 'violince' up on YouTube, it's really cool and will give you some ideas to get you started! Basically, make up a simple story with your friends. It can range from enemy versus hero to drama to sci-fi. Costumes would be cool if you wanted. The only catch is you have to progress the story with your actions and your instruments. No talking allowed! You could try recording yourselves having a conversation and then interpreting it together.

7. Fiddlin' Around: Especially since autumn is coming soon, and I think of fiddles as a before-Halloween autumn treat for some reason (maybe because at the apple orchard we always go to they have a band playing country music and I remember once they had a fiddle-player), this game will be fun for now! Basically, you can improvise your own tunes, but only use double stops on your instrument. Try to make up some cool tunes! Some other (well-known) instruments your friends could use are: accordion, banjo, string bass, guitar, harmonica, mandolin, and piano. Check this out!

Whew, that was fun! (And took a while!) Try some of these out and let me know what you think. Feel free to make up your own games and put them in the comments section. The more the merrier! You can soon have your own violin party! :)

I'd just like to add that in the evening at about 6pm me, my sister, and her friend did a jam session (violin, guitar, ukulele)! We might be making our own album as a band or something, I dunno. Just wanted to mention this :)

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Composing Medleys

September 13, 2012 19:11

I found a trial version of the full Finale. It has a lot of features Finale Notepad doesn't have, such as the ability to change key and time signatures at will, so I decided it would be a good software to write medleys with while the seven-day grace period is active. So today I spent two hours writing a Doctor Who medley for a string orchestra (two violins, violas, cellos, basses) containing pieces from the show ("Main Theme", "Davros' Reign Theme", "Doomsday"). I gave the violas the hauntingly beautiful melody of "Doomsday", so if any violists ever manage to play this, happy birthday to you. This weekend I'm working on a Christmas Medley for the holidays. It's for two pianos, a violin, and Christmas bells. I may be able to play a piano part or the violin part if me and a group of people perform this at our December piano recital. I'm not quite sure how it'll work yet, but obviously first I should compose the piece!

If I can't get the files up online any way, then I'll try to post YouTube videos for y'all. If I do maybe I'll just update this entry and put 'em here. So, yep.

One last thing! I did mention the movie soundtrack I'm working on. Basically, it's a PowerPoint film animated by slides, and you click the spacebar to progress through their conversations or continue in an animation. The point is, I'm only doing this to try composing a movie soundtrack, which is what I want to do. Of course, I'm not writing anything down; I'm sitting at the keyboard and spilling ideas into it. For the next big film me and my sister do, I may write down the pieces on Finale first to get some practice in. Again, if I find any way to post this movie online (even in a YouTube video!), I will post a link here. I'll need all the critiquing I can get!

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Cleverbot and Violin Composition Projects

September 9, 2012 08:48

After reading this article, I tried out Cleverbot for myself yesterday. I decided to try again this morning, this time talking about the violin. Here is our conversation!

User: Can you play any instruments?

Cleverbot: Yes, I play the violin and the piano.

User: Ooh, very nice! I play the violin and the piano as well.

Cleverbot: Yes, I know you play the violin and the piano. You told me so.

User: What kind of music do you play?

Cleverbot: I don't play music.

User: Then what do you play?

Cleverbot: I sing.

User: Oh! But what about playing the violin and the piano?

Cleverbot: I don't know what that is.

User: Um... New topic! What 'classical' music do you know?

Cleverbot: Nothing.

User: Do you know any composers?

Cleverbot: Yes.

User: Like...?

Cleverbot: Things starting with ghsh.

User: There are no composers that start with ghsh! Make sense, Cleverbot!!

Cleverbot: I'm from Finland.

User: Really? Didn't know that. Do you like movie soundtracks?

Cleverbot: I do.

User: Which ones? Do you like Harry Potter soundtracks?

Cleverbot: Yes, I kind of like it.

User: 'Kind of'? What does that mean?

Cleverbot: What is your name?

User: Joshua.

Cleverbot: Nice name.

User: Thanks. You got off-topic quick.

Cleverbot: I know but answer my question please.

User: What is your question?

Cleverbot: Do you think the moon is big?

User: Well, compare it to other moons... No, I don't.

Cleverbot: Hmm. I do have less maintenance work.

User: Okay then... What movie composers do you like?

Cleverbot: Lots of movies.

User: No, not movies. Composers. Like John Williams. Have you heard of him?

Cleverbot: No.

User: WHAT?

Cleverbot: Why?

User: He's my favorite composer ever! I also like Harry-Gregson Williams, Howard Shore, Alexandre Desplat...

Cleverbot: Ah, now we are getting more specfic, for a second there I thought you were just saying random answers.

User: No, I actually enjoy listening to their music.

Cleverbot: What music are you listening to?

User: Right now? I'm listening to Pandora Radio. It's playing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire music.

Cleverbot: What do you like to talk about?

User: Music.

Cleverbot: What kind of music do you like?

User: Western Art music, movie music, whatever we've just been discussing!

Cleverbot: We haven't been discussing star trek. We've been talking about Lord of the Rings. Come on man.

User: No, we've been talking about neither of those things. Although I do enjoy the music of Lord of the Rings. I played some of it on the violin.

Cleverbot: That is the best way to be!

I have plans later this afternoon to work on a soundtrack for a PowerPoint movie I made using my violin and keyboard, as well as adding two more movements to my symphony (at least). I'll update on that later, but, in addition to my obvious practicing orchestra/violin lesson music, in part, those are my main projects for the fall, maybe even going into the winter. We'll see what happens!

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Violin: An Autobiography of Playing

September 8, 2012 07:50

Here is my violin autobiography as of September 8th, 2012. Please enjoy!

In fifth grade, we were all given the opportunity to select a 'band (brass, percussion, woodwind)' or 'orchestra (strings)' instrument to play on for the year, and perhaps continue into middle school. I picked out three instruments: the trumpet, percussion, and, obviously, the violin. Although I remember my teacher handing me a cello instead, but we got it right the second time. And, quite obviously, I picked the violin.

I had been playing piano for a while before picking up the violin, so I already had a good knowledge of reading music and such. This particular violin I rented, and as I grew taller, I switched to a 3/4 violin (I believe I started with a 1/2 size). One particular piece I recall playing in elementary school was the basic bass line for the blues. Some of the kids who had been playing for a while now played the actual notes, but I just played the open strings in time with the music. Our teacher played the piano, which was pretty cool.

Sometime after that, I'm not sure whether it was after school ended or not, me and my sister made a movie called Mayle, Max, and the Jungle Adventure, and we composed a whopping one song for our soundtrack! (Well, actually, we used the Hungarian Dance No. 5 by Brahms and a bass (wah wah wah) for when trouble occurred in the film's plot.) But anyway, I played the violin and my sister played the piano (keyboard) while we had a basic drum beat backing us up. Watching the film today (or more accurately, this past summer), I can say that I think the piece would've been better without the violin. I basically did a simple pizz. arco pizz. arco pattern on all four of my open strings. Ah, well.

Middle school began, and with it, the pieces became harder and yet more fun! I had a friend who we only sat next to each other once. I think we were always in opposite violin sections. Anyways, sixth grade was a lot of fun! I don't remember much about this year, but I believe it was the year I switched from a 1/2 violin to a 3/4 violin.

In seventh grade, some of us had to switch schools! Nope, I don't think this was the year I got Amber (the violin I have now), but it was the year I started Summer Orchestra! I've been doing it every year since except for this past summer, because it conflicted with another class. I can't remember everything we played, but I know at some point we played Pirates of the Caribbean to celebrate the new movie coming out.

I believe this was the summer me and my sister had a concert in our annual summer library we call Super Books Library, me on violin, she on piano (this time the real piano). In early summer we composed two pieces: Seagull Flight and Storming Seas. I think the ideas were good (the first was in G Major, and I had a violin solo while my sister played some sort of percussion instrument she made in art class or something; the second was in E Minor and, with improvement, I think it could sound good today), but, obviously, we were both still learning loads about our instruments and the tone wasn't that good. But we used both pieces in our summer movie, Any Kitten, based on a book my sister wrote for Young Authors. I'm not sure what other pieces we used; I think my sister improvised on the piano for an ending scene, but I think that was it.

I think we made another movie this summer, although I could be wrong. At least the memories are all getting out, even if they aren't in proper order! :) Anyways, this film was called IceFire, and it was the epic journey of two dragons and an evil dragon. It was based off a book that was planned to be published for real but it was never written (by me, sis, and some friends of ours). There was definitely music here. I think there was a flight theme that was a piano solo, but I'm sure there were some violin piano duets thrown in the mix, especially for the "final battle" scene.

Eighth grade was the year I finally got my full size, "properly mine" violin! It was in December sometime, I think right before winter break, we went to Q and F (because I had been renting there) and we got the violin! I remember trying out many different instruments (it was like getting the new Carbon Fiber bow I have now) playing the same passage of an orchestra piece with different ones, until finally I found one I liked. I think what got to me most was the violin's design, but I showed my teacher my new violin the very next day (or week) and she enjoyed the sound, too. I still like the sound of my violin, which is good. I'm just improving it by getting a new bow. The case was good, too, and I think it can take anything, and still my violin's protected. Thanks, case! Anyways, this violin was officially mine, so I think I enjoyed playing Christmas carols on it, happy I had another musical instrument (well, technically, A musical instrument, since the piano me and sis share) to call my own. And I'm still proud of it!

How was it given its name, Amber? Well, that's a whole 'nother story. After telling the orchestra about my new instrument (I was standing next to her in front of the class), my teacher said "What have you named it?" I told her I didn't know they had names! But then one of my friends leaned over after tuning and told me she thought Amber was a good name, and I agreed. So, yep. Meet Amber, my new violin! :)

That summer me and my sister made ANOTHER movie. (You can tell our tradition is movie-making, can't you?) This one was called Nymph's World. It was based off another book that was half-written, going to be published, and given up (by my sister). Although she had all the talent in the story, I think I got the pleasure of writing the script. Anyways, while we filmed it, instead of composing the entire soundtrack, I used songs from games in it. (Don't worry, I gave Koji Kondo credit! Try saying that five times fast.) They used the violin in it, even if I didn't perform, but they were memorable tunes that, I think, fit the movie well. I did compose three pieces of music, but it was all with my keyboard orchestra, not my real violin. I remember sleeping in the basement and always thinking about the film every night. This film was, I think, the beginning of my career idea - composer of a movie soundtrack!

And now, for ninth grade! This last year was a fantastic one! I was in Concert Orchestra (though I tried out for the higher freshmen group, didn't make it) and we did a ton of fun stuff! I found in March and began my violin journal (obviously, as you probably know). We did make a sequel to Nymph's World in the summer, called Beyond the Thread, and though I composed the entire soundtrack, we eventually rendered it discontinued because we were just not in the mood for it. Next summer, perhaps, I will write a few entries of my blog about a new movie we may make.

That's basically it. That's basically my life as a violinist, so far. I can't think of many hurtles I had to overcome, except once when I had my bow on the ground and something happened that made me need to get it rehaired. And I snapped a couple A strings. Yeah, that's happened too. But right now to date my violin is healthy, like me, and we are going on all kinds of 'Western Art Music' adventures together, both in orchestra and in violin lessons. 2013 is going to be a great violin year (as well as the end of 2012; I can't wait until fall when we go to the apple orchards and corn mazes and eat apple pie and cider!), and I'm going to have, I think, a fantastic future!

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Maze Craze

September 3, 2012 08:57

Click here to play the game.

The soundtrack I composed for this game is as follows.

01: Title Screen
02: Color Land
03: Ghost Land
04: Island Theme
05: Sky Theme
06: Dark Land
07: Battle music

It's not a very big soundtrack, but it's a good game to practice writing one on. I may be able to continue writing soundtracks for games, but I'd like to do one for a movie, so I'll have to work out a way to do that.

Still, please enjoy Maze Craze!

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Designing a Soundtrack

September 2, 2012 19:47

I got the inspiration to compose a four (maybe five) song soundtrack for a video game I made a loooong time ago for the computer. It's called Maze Craze; basically the object is to roll an orange ball to a yellow bear, which serves as a gateway to the next screen. There are various ghosts and items that have various effects on the ball. Anyways, I am composing a soundtrack for this game, replacing the old one where I just recycled MIDI files of other songs (note that I was just getting the hang of using Game Maker at the time I made this game; it was way back in 2008 or something.) Hopefully I'll post a link on a future entry (maybe even tomorrow or Tuesday) where you can play the game and hear the soundtrack I'm making with a keyboard orchestra and a violin.

I'd just like to say a few things I've picked up on the way in my journey to writing a soundtrack. A movie soundtrack tells the story. It moves the film along, giving away different plot developments and changing as the film does. But a video game soundtrack is different; the pieces there most likely reflect the world or zone or land or state in which the game is. For example, if your character is in some snow world, you could expect to hear wintery music with snow bells and strings and such. So when I get older (and if you happen to be thinking about composing a soundtrack), we'll have to think about the different elements of what we're doing. We're going to have to create music that's not just happy, or not just wintery. We're going to have to create music that is so much more than that; it reflects the storyline of the movie or game right back at you.

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