July 2014

Summer Musical Performances!

July 29, 2014 13:53

This morning, we had our final dress rehearsal for Shrek the Musical - the cast with full costumes on-set, and, of course, the Pit. At yesterday's rehearsal, I was missing some of the cues, but I got those today. I'm feeling quite good about opening night tomorrow. We have six performances Wednesday through Saturday. It's been tiring, playing violin for two hours almost straight, but it feels fairly normal now, which is good, because maybe I'll be able to have longer practice sessions - especially since I'm going to have to be working on my violin concerto. (By the way, I'm almost finished with the whole piece; I've changed the ending and extended several sections, but I think I'll be done soon, and I may put the MIDI on YouTube to share.)

On Sunday (the 27th), I spent some time orchestrating music for a racing game I might make for a Christmas present this holiday season. (It's a long way away, I know, but hear me out!) One track is an original piece for a course I'll design myself; the other track is an arrangement of music from Super Mario Kart for the Super Nintendo. I thought, in light of what Mario Kart 8 did, I could write and record as many instruments as possible to give the game's soundtrack a live feel. The violin has a lot of the melody for both pieces, and I've also included prominent guitar and piano parts. In addition, the Mario Kart track has a ton of percussion, so I'm hoping my percussion friend will be willing to help and will have fun playing it in the future. I'll probably work and mention more on this later in the year, but I just wanted to bring it up now real quick.

Sorry for not having any 'intelligent insights', I guess you could say, or articles that discuss various approaches to the violin and music (it's been mostly updates and such). However, I do hope you're enjoying reading about my violin and musical life all the same. :P

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The Solo Violin in Mario Kart 8 (2014)!

July 16, 2014 11:14

I just got back from this morning's rehearsal for Shrek the Musical (playing violin, obviously)! It's a lot of fun, but musicals sometimes involve a lot of counting and some tricky rhythms, but I'm working on it when I practice in my own time. Also, on Sunday morning, I watched a documentary on Stravinsky, whom I'm now becoming somewhat obsessed with, and I've been working on a giant orchestral work sort of with his style in mind - particularly with "The Rite of Spring" and, possibly towards the end of the piece, with the finale of his "Firebird Suite" - and, from three days of work I've gotten eight minutes of music done! So yeah. Maybe more on that when I finish. :)

Anyways, this morning before heading to rehearsal I had the idea to talk about the soundtrack to Mario Kart 8 for the Nintendo Wii U, which is a fantastic game not only because its art style is gorgeous, but also because this is the first Mario Kart game with live musicians recording its soundtrack. While the soundtrack does contain a lot of "big band" brass and electric guitar stuff, there are also various tracks that feature a solo violin, and I thought I'd talk about some of those pieces in this article, since I've sort of grown up with Mario Kart since 2008 and really enjoyed hearing some of the MIDI renditions of the past trashed for live music. Just many reasons why music is better live! :) Anyways, hope you enjoy!

Sweet Sweet Canyon - In this track, the violin follows and plays off an accordion - which in this case, both instruments are able to sound like each other in a way. The percussion section is very light, allowing for these instruments to stand out as they play off each other. It's a very sweet course and the violin gives it a very nostalgic feel, as if one were going to eat apple pie and hot chocolate and cookies. Yum!
Listen to "Sweet Sweet Canyon"

Bone Dry Dunes - In 2011, I wrote my first string orchestra piece called "Desert Winds". My point is, I've always been fascinated by the augmented second used in a lot of "desert" music. The violin here follows a very modal scale with that augmented second, as well as has small turns that add to the desert feel. The instruments in the background add to the desert tone as well, making the music sound like a desert... and me like a broken record.
Listen to "Bone Dry Dunes"

Twisted Mansion - This is a very spooky course, and violin here sometimes follows the melody of the synthesizer, but also just adds as a background tone. There isn't much use of effects I would call "Halloweeny", like glissandos or sul ponticello, but the melody is creepy enough that hearing the tone of the violin allows it to work.

Listen to "Twisted Mansion"

Shy Guy Falls - This one sounds really cool! The flute is what begins the adventure through this track, and the violin comes in later, playing off the flutes and also playing on its own with a countryesque melody of sorts. The banjo helps create the country feel of the rapids and a grand adventure in this track.
Listen to "Shy Guy Falls"

Cloudtop Cruise - This one doesn't use one violin, but I wanted to mention it because it has the orchestral feel of Super Mario Galaxy - and even uses a melody in the violin section towards the end. It's one of the most orchestral tracks in the score, and sounds quite grand and epic for that reason.

N64 Yoshi Valley - I'd used the MIDI rendition of this track before in my old 2008 video games, and hearing it live - with a real violin playing now - sent shivers down my spine! It's a very country tune, with the violin playing a bouncy tune, then backing off to let the steel drum take over for a bit. I really like how for this track, the performer (probably) did a little improv at the end, which allowed the piece to be a little different than it was in the past.
Listen to "N64 Yoshi Valley"

Wii Moo Moo Meadows - This was my sister's favorite track when we played that game, I remember, and the violin has another country feel, with the main melody leading up to a couple of turns and ornaments. It's a short melody, which is repeated twice, doubled with synthesizer, and then more improv where the violin strays from the original melody and glissandos up to the last two notes of the piece. It's another unique take on a past melody from the Mario Kart series, and it's really cool to hear orchestrated versions of these older games.
Listen to "Wii Moo Moo Meadows"

There are more violin moments as these, but I just picked some of my favorites. And of course, the whole soundtrack is great, even without the violin, so give it a listen. I read somewhere that the main reason they wanted live music was to back the beautiful HD graphics they'd put in the game. I don't own a Wii U, but I've played it four times now and it's been a ton of fun each time, especially when my musical ear turns on and starts to sing in happiness. Now time to learn all these tracks by ear... :)

Oh, and for the record, my favorite character in the Mario Kart games is Koopa Troopa. :)

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Shrek the Musical - Music and Stories

July 1, 2014 20:10

I've had three rehearsals for Shrek the Musical. The pit orchestra is more like a chamber group - there are only two violins, and the rest of the instruments are percussion, drum-sets, two keyboards with different channels of instruments, and then winds and brass. In playing one of the violin parts, I have 116 pages of music to learn and practice! In those three rehearsals, two last week, one this week, we've sightread most of the book, and at home I've been marking fingerings. It's a lot of fun to play in a musical - to tell a story through literally music, as I've mentioned in past entries. Maybe when playing with the actors (our performances start at the end of July and beginning of August), it will inspire me even more with writing music for cinema, since it's not THAT different from theatre...

I've also been starting to slowly orchestrate the piano part of my violin concerto, where I tell the story of "Little Snow-White", Grimm's Tales, as well as continuing to plow through my Doctor Who suite for full orchestra. Additionally, I've been obsessing over the Animal Crossing movie. I've finally found a site where I can watch it, so I've been trying to see just how Kazumi Totaka uses his video game music, orchestrating it effectively, in a cinematic sense.

It's really cool what music adds to stories, and in telling two stories with composition (the Doctor Who one I actually wrote), one story through performance on violin, and one story through listening and analysis, I'm going to be able to have a lot of ideas if we still are able to do a film in August.

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More entries: June 2014

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