stevenpiziks: (Harp)
I found a channel on Pandora: Epic Soundtracks.  Yay!  Soundtracks make good writing music for me--I usually can't write to music that has words because the singer's words distract me from my own words.  I don't like a lot of classical, and I hate jazz, so that doesn't leave a lot of wordless options open.  Movie music is a good alternative.

I found the Epic Soundtracks channel by accident and tried it.  The channel's music leans toward bombastic, clearly stuff that played in the background of action scenes in movies like THE DARK KNIGHT or THE ART OF WAR.  What I discovered is that, since my work leans toward action/adventure, the music works well to keep me on track.  And since I don't know most of it off-hand, I don't end up stopping to listen to it.

So we'll return to this channel quite a lot.
stevenpiziks: (Music)
One of Aran's favorite songs is Bach's "Little" fugue in G minor.  We were leaving his piano lesson when he mentioned this (again), and I started humming it.

"No!" he admonished.  "It's in G, not C."

"Oh," I said, chastened.  "Give me a G, then."

He sang one, and I started back in again.

"You're off," he said.

I tried again, paying more attention to the flats.

"That's better," he said, and then he joined in when the second part of the fugue began.  We got a good piece of the way through it before the laughing got in the way.
stevenpiziks: (Harp)
I was working in the kitchen and singing to myself when Aran walked in and interrupted.  "That's good," he said, "except that song's supposed to be in E."

"Oh," I said, properly admonished.  "Sing an E for me."

He did, and I started over.

"That's better," he said, and walked back out.

No Way!

Jun. 21st, 2010 09:14 pm
stevenpiziks: (Harp)
The secret is out. The Fairy Godmother in SHREK 2 says to the piano player, "C-minor! Put it in C-minor!" but when the guy sweeps into a lounge version of "Holding Out for a Hero," he actually plays in G-minor. This from an indignant Aran.
stevenpiziks: (Harp)
Yesterday was Aran's first ever piano recital.  His piano teacher held it in the great room of a nursing home, which allowed the residents to come and hear the music, too, and ensured the recital was well-attended.  My mother and her friend Gene were there, as were Kala's parents.  Aran was third in the lineup.  He seemed a little nervous but was coping well.  When I asked him how he felt, he said, "I'm a little excited."  First up was [livejournal.com profile] sazettel 's son, who played excellently.  Then came a little girl, and then Aran:



He played without a mistake, bowed, and sat back down.  Ta da!

Afterward, my mother very nicely took us all out to dinner.  Aran's stomach started feeling yucky, though, and we wondered if it was a remnant from when he was sick before, or something else.  Kala and I suspect it was post-performance shakes.  The meal was really good, though, and we ended up sitting in the restaurant and talking for quite a while.
stevenpiziks: (Harp)
Mackie hit a point at which he hated practicing violin.  He hated practicing, he hated playing, he hated everything to do with violin.  I kept my voice even and patient, but a couple of times I did have to give him a time out during practice sessions because he got bratty.  On Saturday, I had him practice again.  He's supposed to be bowing now instead of just plucking, but he resists because he can't play perfectly.  I explain to him that he has to practice to get better, but it's not sinking in.

At any rate, I brought him inside from playing with his friends so he could practice before bath and bedtime, and he fought me again.  I ignore the protests and walked him through his practicing.  Then I handed him his bow and told him to try the songs with it.  He resisted and I stayed firm.  He needed to try, and he needed to try now.

So he did.  And he played a recognizable song.  "Good!" I said.  "Very good.  Now try it again."  And, to his own surprise, he did it again.  I had him bow each of his songs three times.  He got excited and showed Kala.  On Sunday, he got out his violin and played on his own.
stevenpiziks: (Hypnotoad)
Still can't do it. I still can't take Justin Bieber seriously. Come back when your voice changes, kid.
stevenpiziks: (Harp)
I was overseeing Mackie at violin practice today.  When he was finished (we've achieved 230 bowholds), I took his violin and studied it for a bit.  Okay, he puts his fingers here and here.  Three spots per string, plus an open note, which meant four notes per string.  Each string is one fifth higher than the one preceding it, which means an open string will be one note higher than depressing the next string over in the low position.  Got it.
 
I picked up his bow, and played "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."
 
Ohhh, Mackie was mad at me.
stevenpiziks: (Music)
Maksim's violin teacher won't let him play on the violin until he's completed 500 proper bow holds.  (You have to hold the bow in a certain way, you see.)  Mackie found this greatly upsetting at first, but I've been working with him and showing him that each hold only takes a few seconds.  I left his bow out on the music stand near the family room and told him any time he walks past, he should do a few bow holds.

He's up to 175 now.  He's starting to see that it's an attainable goal, so he's shooting for it.

I've also been teaching him the rudiments of rhythm.  I know his teacher is supposed to go over that with him, but it seems foolish to leave everything to a single half-hour lesson when I can get him a jump on a lot of stuff at home.
stevenpiziks: (Harp)
Mackie is learning to hold the violin, hold his bow, and pluck the strings.  He's also learning rudiments of music.  Yesterday when he was practicing, he wanted to know what the notes were, and I showed him some of it.  That was when I realized I didn't really know where to start.  I play several instruments and am an experience teacher, but I'm not trained in music pedagogy.  I finally went through the idea of a music scale with him, the idea that you start with A, run through G and start over again and stuff like that.  (He'd gotten a little of this with his teacher so far.)

That was very weird.  I really don't know how to teach basic musical concepts.  I think I could do it better in front of a piano, where there's a visual reference, but with a violin, I was lost.
stevenpiziks: (Harp)
Today was V-Day.  I picked up Mackie and Aran after school and headed over to Shar Music.  Maksim was incredibly excited.  We headed into the store.  Violins of all types and sizes line the walls, and there's a whole roomful of cellos and basses.  I'd measured Mackie last night and told the clerk that the charts put him up for a 1/4-sized violin.  The clerk gave him one, but was of the opinion that Mackie wasn't ready for that size yet.  But the next size down was way too small.  But then the clerk found another size in between that was Just Right.

The clerk tuned it--Aran announced each note and pointed out that the tuning fork was an A--and put everything into the case.  I signed the rental agreement (half the money goes toward purchase credit, if we later end up buying one), and we were set.

Mackie was so thrilled!  "I have my own instrument now!" he crowed as we left.  "Can I play it in the car?"

When we got home, he set about experimenting with it.  He's very much looking forward to starting lessons officially on Sunday.  If he stays with it, in a short time we'll have a string trio--harp, piano, and fiddle.



stevenpiziks: (Harp)
In the car:

ME: Don't you want to sing?

MAKSIM: No, I like to sing with my hands.
stevenpiziks: (Harp)
I'm hunting another music teacher, this time for Mackie.

Last spring, Mackie made noises about wanting to learn the violin.  I listened, but remained wary.  Mackie's attention span was poor, and he picked up new "hobbies" and set them aside quickly.  He also showed no real desire for music.  He didn't listen to it much, he didn't try to make it on any of the numerous musical instruments we have in the house, he never sang.  He did like to listen to it in the car, but only sometimes.  So I put him off.  After a couple of weeks, he stopped talking about it much, though every once in a while he might mention it.

Lately, he'd started talking about music lessons again.  He started pestering me to ask if Aran's piano teacher could teach him too, or if I could use Aran's first lesson books to teach him piano.  He pounded at the keys, "practicing" every day.  At one point, he persuaded me to sit down at the keyboard with him and show him some of the notes with Aran's flashcards.  He picked up the notes fairly quickly.

At this point I was seriously considering asking Aran's teacher about lessons for him when Mackie said, "How long do you have to play piano before you can play violin?"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"I mean, do you have to play piano six weeks or ten weeks and then you can play the violin?"

Oh!  He saw the piano as a stepping stone to playing the violin.

So now I'm hunting for a violin teacher that a) we can afford, and b) teaches fairly close by.

And we have to rent an instrument, too.
stevenpiziks: (Autism)
New music freaks Aran out--it's often a struggle to get him to learn a new piece, and he often goes into a full autistic meltdown over mid-song key changes.  No lie!  He hits the key change, and just freaks.

And yet, he loves to transpose music on the fly.  One song that he just hated because "It's so hard!" he finally mastered. Just today he sat at the piano and played it, watching me out of the corner of his eye as he did so.

"Did you hear me play that?" he said.  "It's in C instead of G."

"Pretty good, " I said.  "Did your piano teacher tell you to do that?"

"No," he said.  "I did it because I wanted to."

Oddly, this was the song that has a key change in it.

Sheesh.
stevenpiziks: (Harp)
I'm obviously not a pre-teen or a teenaged girl.  But when a boy whose voice hasn't changed yet sings a romantic song, all I can do is laugh.  A guy who sings soprano can't do love songs.  Justin Bieber, are listening?

That is all.

So Geeked

Aug. 1st, 2009 12:46 am
stevenpiziks: (Harp)

So I'm working on a steampunk novel set in London in 1850.  Music plays an important part.  We have mad scientists and zobmies (oh yes, you can't avoid them).  We also have the square root of two.

The square root of 2 is an irrational number.  It can't exist, but it does.  The sides of an right triange prove it.  The square of side a plus the square of side b equals the square of side c.  If you can square a number, you can get its square root.  So if a=1 and b=1 on our triangle, what is c?  That's right: 2.  1 squared + 1 squared = 2.  Very nice.

If you can have 2 as the result of a square, you must be able to get its square root.  So what's the square root of two?  There isn't one.  But there must be one, since you can measure the distance of the hypoteneuse that produced it--or can you?  Irrantional number!

The square root of 2 is the symbol adopted by the Third Ward, which is the clandestine Britich agnecy that hunts down mad scientists before they go too far and set off those doomsday devices they love so much.  The Third Ward shouldn't exist, but does.

One mad scientist remains at large, and the Third Ward -must- find her.  She taunts them, sends them messages wtih music playing in the background.  (Mad scientists love music.)  One of the characters who has perfecdt pitch realizes that the jarring chord everyone thinks is there to provide atmoshpere is actually a tritone clue.

A tritone is an augmented fourth or diminished fifth (C to F#, for examle), and is displeasing to most ears.  The mad genius plays a chord: G#, B, a rest, and D.

If you convert the notes to their freqency numbers in Hertz, you get 51, 39, 0, and 9.  Convert those to coordinate readings, and you get  51°30'N, 00°09'W--the coordinates for Hyde Park in London.

Oh yes--G# to D is a tritone.  The frequency ratio of a tritone is the square root of two, and it's the only tone to have an irrational number as its frequency ratio.

The mad genius is toying with our heroes by encoding the coordinates of his hidden lab in an annoying song--and hiding the lab right in the middle of London.

Will they find our mad genius in time . . . ?

I spent 45 minutes figuring all this out. 

I'm such a geek.
 
stevenpiziks: (Music)
Every year I tell myself I'm going to go to the Saline Celtic Festival, and every year I end up not going.  This year, I said, "Dammit, I'm going!"

According to the web site, several workshops were scheduled for Friday evening, including one for playing in an ensemble group and another for playing the Irish pennywhistle.  This in addition to various bands.  Saturday, the main day, was filled with activities, ranging from jousts to haggis hurling to maypoles to dance workshops.  And, of course, music, music, music.

Aran has been on a big knights 'n' dragons kick lately, and it occurred to me that he would like the festival, too, but not until Saturday, when there's more going on.  Also, he and I haven't done anything together as just the two of us in a long time (unless you count piano lessons).  I told him about the festival, and he was eager to go.

Anyway, tonight I put Corey in the car and drove down to Saline--just me, since Aran wouldn't be big on the workshops.  The weather was balmy and perfect, completely unlike the usual hot, muggy destruction we usually get in July.  Found the park with little trouble, found parking with rather more trouble, slung Corey over my shoulder, and headed down.

At the entry table, I said I was interested in both the ensemble and whistle workshops, but it turned out all the workshops took place at the same time, so I chose the ensemble one.  Paid the fee, and the woman directed me to one of the large canvas tents that dotted the park.  "If no one's there," she said, "come back.  They may have moved it because we didn't get as many people as we'd hoped."

There was indeed no one there, so I came back to the registration table.  There I found four or five other people who were also waiting for the ensemble workshop.  And then I saw . . .

. . . them.

One of the canvas-enclosed stages showed a trio of people, and they had harps.  Since the ensemble workshop didn't seem to be in any hurry to start, I said, "I'm going to wander over there for a look."

The people at the harp stage were scheduled to give an event--a combination concert and "this is how harps work" sort of thing.  But there weren't many people in the audience, so everyone was just chatting instead.  They saw my harp case.

"What kind of harp do you have?" asked one of the women.

"Dusty Strings," I said.

"Well, come up and join us!" she said.

The event turned into a combination jam session/workshop/shop talk thing that went on for over 90 minutes.  The four of us compared notes and threw together a quick performance of "Greensleeves" and "Sheebeg, Sheemore."  More people came.  We swapped harps around.  Harpers love doing this because different harps have different feels and different sounds, so it's interesting hearing how your music comes out on someone else's instrument.  It's also interesting hearing someone else play your harp because you never hear your own playing, just like you never really hear your own voice--the tone sounds different from the audience than from behind the harp.  It was great fun!

I never did make it to the other workshop.

Once the harps wound down, I wandered about the festival.  It was very quiet and uncrowded--Friday is a very light day.  The main stage ran a couple of really good Celtic bands and one lousy one.  (Lousy because I hate so-called Celtic rock. It sounds dumb no matter how you do it.  In my humble opinion.)

And then home.  Tomorrow I return with Aran.  We'll see how he likes it.

stevenpiziks: (Harp)
After a holiday hiatus, Aran has returned to piano lessons.  I took him over today.  It went very well.  Aran played some of his previous songs as if there'd been no gap.  I told his teacher about his ability to call out the key of songs he hadn't heard since before he learned to read music, and she both laughed and cheered.  Now he has =three= new songs to learn.

And he's working on a SPONGBOB SQUAREPANTS script.
stevenpiziks: (Music)
While we were decorating, we played Christmas songs on the stereo.  Aran took to calling out what key the next song would be in, as in, "They're going to sing in E-flat."

Last year at this time, Aran didn't know key signatures.  What this means is that Aran's music memory is such that he can think of a song he's heard from before he learned how music works and name the key BEFORE he actually hears the key again.

Apparently somewhere in his head is stored every song he's ever heard.  He can access it and play it in his head so accurately that his perfect pitch kicks in and allows him to name the key properly, even though he hasn't listened to the song since he learned what a key actually is.

This is getting scary . . .

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