Thursday, September 20, 2012

No news today? Read on, dear reader...

The one function that TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if there were.

David Brinkley

To divide one's life by years is of course to tumble into a trap set by our own arithmetic. The calendar consents to carry on its dull wall-existence by the arbitrary timetables we have drawn up in consultation with those permanent commuters, Earth and Sun. But we, unlike trees, need grow no annual rings.

Clifton Fadiman

Welcome to a new year! Changes abound on the AMIS web site! The first of the changes are these four buttons found on the homepage:

Subscribe to Latest News
Clicking on that link sends a message to your computer whereby you subscribe to the AMIS RSS feed. The AMIS news feed was created on 2009. Every change is the website gets announced in the feed. You have to set up on your local computer - Google Reader, Outlook or Mixtab to take advantage of it. Think of it - any change in the web site, you will be notified automatically! There is a link at the end of it for “More reading...” that links to the web site for further information. An example is located on the right hand side of the page under the heading "AMIS Latest News Feed". "HeinSite" has a news feed as well as many others on the web.

Subscribe to the AMIS Calendar
Clicking on the link will make your calendar sync with the AMIS calendar. Once again, you need an application like iCal, Calendar, or Outlook that’s local to you computer that displays calendars. On the latest operating system for the Mac “Mountain Lion”, you can set reminders that pop up on your desktop for events.

AMIS Alumni Group on Facebook
AMIS Music Educators Group on Facebook
AMIS can be found on Facebook! Like it or not, 2.0 is the social web and an important part of  AMIS is to advance the education of young people and their teachers in global issues and cultural diversity through the performance and study of music. What a fantastic way to to supercharge this process.

More changes are in store for the AMIS web site. Like Topsy, the web site has “growed and growed”. A team of designers is as we speak redesigning the web site to have a new look and feel and a more integrated look. Tim Germann, Georgia Bassett, Dick Bassett and I met over the summer with the web designers to give the essence of AMIS. We’re all excited to see what the designers come up with.

So Happy New Year! Hold on to you hats! Once again I leave you with the immortal words of Robert Zimmerman, “For the times, they are a-changin’”.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Life on the "Hi Cs" - Part 2

For me, singing together and making music together is a fundamental human experience, and I love the idea that technology can bring people together from all over the world and still participate in this transcending experience.
Eric Whitacre,
Quoted in "Collaborative Creation and Crowdsourcing in the Music Industry" by Nathaniel Whittemore

In previous articles the subject has been explored under the general heading of "The High 'Cs'"; Communication, Creation and Collaborating. It turns out that the alliteration was not original and is common practice in Web 2.0 writings, extending the list to Creating, Contributing, Communicating, Connecting, Collaborating and Curating.

You may notice an unfamiliar word in the title of the source of the quote - Crowdsourcing. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines it as:
the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers
You perhaps know of Eric Whitacre's "virtual choir". In the words of Nathaniel Whittemore:
...Eric Whitacre—known for pushing the boundaries of classical and choral music—created a choir entirely online. Recording and posting a video of him silently conducting one of his choral pieces and sharing the sheet music for all the vocal parts, he put out the call for singers from around the world to perform the pieces solo and on video.
In other words, he took the steps of Creating the work, Communicating his wishes to "bring people together from all over the world" and Connecting them in Collaboration, through the video of his conducting, and finally Curating in the video on YouTube. Just as on a pop song, tracks are recorded and mixed in a variety of studios around the world. The players need not meet - their studio is virtual.

The singers sent in their virtual performance on video. That right, video. One chance for a "take". Whitacre had 185 voices. Scottie Haines mixed 243 tracks of individual "one part on a track" sound. The video was a success - here's Whitacre's reaction:
When I saw the finished video for the first time I actually teared up. The intimacy of all the faces, the sound of the singing, the obvious poetic symbolism about our shared humanity and our need to connect; all of it completely overwhelmed me. And it must be said that a lot of the credit for its beauty should go to Scottie Haines, who spent untold hours editing and polishing the video. (BTW, Scottie and I ... only met once in the ‘real world’, unlike 99% of the Virtual Choir, whom I’ve never ‘met’).

The Virtual Choir was a success. Virtual Choir 3 was released the second of April, 2012, and 4 is on the way.

Virtual stores, virtual music, samples, tracks, stems - where do I start? Read. Explore Soundcloud, a virtual studio-online community complete with the opportunity to form groups and work on projects. Explore - make mistakes and learn from them. Most of all, encourage your students to audition for AMIS Festivals. There, unlike Whitacre, you have the chance to meet the students and the teachers and make music with them - live and interactive. To have a common purpose of making the music live and breathe. The feeling of that experience is moving in its own right.

“The High ‘Cs’” have another member in the music world - Challenge. Strive to make the most musical audition that was ever recorded. Give it a try - record the audition. It was Wayne Gretzky that said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Have a restful and challenging summer!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

New Ideas, Simple Solutions, and Memory to the Rescue

I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.
John Cage

For every complex problem there’s a simple solution, and it’s wrong.
Umberto Eco

Welcome to the end of “AMIS Updates” for this time. Chances are your started reading at the front cover, leafed through the articles selecting something to read in a little while, something to read much later, and something that grabbed your interest and your read it right now.

Your read with interest: “Yes, that's the exact problem I've been having!” or “I never thought of that approach!” or “That's a new piece by my favourite composer!”. The magazine article enlightened you or extended your knowledge. You have reached the back page, your expectations heightened – “What whimsy has he come up with?”

I draw your attention to the excerpt from the Apple press release below:

GarageBand Now Available for iPhone and iPod touch Users
CUPERTINO, California—November 1, 2011—Apple today announced that GarageBand, its breakthrough music creation app, is now available for iPhone and iPod touch users. Introduced earlier this year on iPad, GarageBand uses Apple’s revolutionary Multi-Touch interface to make it easy for anyone to create and record their own songs, even if they’ve never played an instrument before….

Pricing & Availability
GarageBand 1.1 for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch is available on the App Store for £2.99 to new users, or as a free update for existing GarageBand for iPad customers. GarageBand is a universal app that runs on iPad, iPad 2, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPod touch (3rd & 4th generation).

GarageBand was already on the iPad. £2.99 - and you get to sync with your desktop app, E-mail your song, and save your creation to iTunes. Eight track recorder, guitar amp simulations and smart instruments are included. User-friendly in the extreme, access for the novice user is amazing.

For the desktop/laptop user, MacRumours on the 8 of December reported, "Following our report from earlier today regarding Apple having discontinued the boxed versions of Logic Studio and Express, Logic Pro 9 and MainStage 2 have now appeared for sale in the Mac App Store." Price cuts were outstanding - $199.99 for Logic Pro and even more amazing $29.99 for MainStage. You'll have to allow for the Internet while you are loading the complete libraries of sounds.

Logic Pro is the professional digital audio workstation (DAW) for the Mac. The "go to" application for countless engineers and producers. MainStage is an application for live performances. Once you have a Mac laptop, and MIDI controller keyboard with USB interface, you have a killer keyboard sound - and more! To quote:

MainStage 2 lets you take your Mac to the stage with a full-screen live interface, unmatched hardware control, and a massive collection of plug-ins and sounds. 

The ultimate live rig 

Perform live with 120 instrument and effect plug-ins or work with your Audio Units plug-ins 

- Import settings from Logic Pro and GarageBand to bring your studio sound to the stage
- Combine instruments and live audio, such as keyboard and vocals, in a single patch 

- Seamlessly switch between patches without stopping sound output or cutting off held notes
- Design rich keyboard patches using splits and layers

Mac laptop users: run, don't walk to take advantage of this great deal on MainStage. No more multi-keyboard to lug, only keyboard, Mac and an amp. While you're at it, consider Logic Pro.

‘Hang on,’ I hear you say. ‘What about Eco's quote?’

Ah, there's the rub. For every simple solution there's a simple answer as well. "You mileage may vary." (YMMV) For harpsichord sounds, grand piano or harp sounds as an additional instrument as a part of an ensemble, for sure - I've used it. For incredibly busy music making with fast changes, your only option is mutli-keyboard rig with grand piano, Fender Rhodes, Clavinet, Yamaha Motif and a Nord Stage 2. But I'll bet if you mapped the performance out, you could get away the grand piano and MainStage. Yes, YMMV.

Until next time, dear readers, I leave you pondering your options with the ultimate quote of performance.

The older I get, the better I was.
Van Dyke Parks, reported by Tom Nolan in the cd booklet with “Smile”