Posts Tagged music

Making beautiful music

I recently played trumpet in a carol service.  I hadn’t played the descants before, but there was an added complication for one of the carols—I only had the descant in concert pitch.  Since I stand a much better chance of playing the right notes when reading a B♭-pitch score, I decided to try my hand at typesetting the carol myself.

I installed LilyPond and downloaded a public domain source file of the carol.  It compiled easily and produced this score:

Sheet music generated from online, public domain LilyPond source

Sheet music generated from online, public domain LilyPond source

Several of the notes were different from my version, so I corrected those and added a descant [obscured for copyright reasons].  I also found out how to add the tails-up, tails-down notation common when printing two parts on one staff.  Then I added musical phrasing and some lyrics.  I had to play about with the layout settings quite a bit to make it fit on one page.  I was very pleased with the end result:

Sheet music after I added (obscured) descant, corrected melody, changed the harmony and layout, and added lyrics and phrasing.

Sheet music after I added (obscured) descant, corrected melody, changed the harmony and layout, and added lyrics and phrasing.

Finally, with the addition of five “transpose” statements—one for each part and one for the descant—and a change of clef from bass to treble, I produced the sheet music for B♭ instruments:

Sheet music transposed for trumpet using LilyPond's transpose directive

Sheet music transposed for trumpet using LilyPond's transpose directive

I am very impressed with LilyPond.  I am now installing Ubuntu to have a go at using Rosegarden, a GUI for editing music.  I might be able to compile it on DarwinPorts and run it on Mac OS X, but it seems simpler to get it running on a Linux VM.

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Never do I ever want to hear another word

I sometimes wonder what it must be like to find the conversation of your friends intolerably dull. Why else would you take them where normal conversation is made impossible by the volume of the music? I refer, of course, to those many bars and pubs where blaring, tinny pop dribbles incessantly from the speakers.

In contrast, there are some venues where people go to enjoy the music. There is a pub near my home that hosts a range of bands. Some of them even appeal to my eclectic taste. It also hosts DJs for events that carry on until the small hours. The music can be almost hypnotic, and there is clearly skill and artistry in good mixing. Since I am not a fan of this scene, I find it irritating that the walls and spaces between the pub and my bedroom fail to filter the lowest bass notes. I often lie awake at night musing on the deafening effects of being in the same room as the speakers that are delivering these beats through the pub’s specially sound-proofed walls to my flat, nearly a hundred yards away.

Are the punters unwitting victims of a loudness-obsessed culture that must surely damage their hearing? I used to pity them their obsession, thinking we might one day see a series of lawsuits against the entertainers for inflicting this damage, much like the tobacco cases still raging today. Surely no-one would self-harm in this way without reason?

Well, now I know better. In Sheffield, at least, the risks are well advertised—far in advance of any legislation to mandate it. With names like “Tinnitus”, and a website called “My Ears Are Bleeding” no-one is left in ignorance. Far from fighting shy of the worrying truth, the culture seems to revel in it.

In conclusion, I am left to assume that the club culture is actually for the hardcore [no pun intended] pessimists. It’s not just that their current life is so dull they need to drown out the audio: they want to make sure it is turned off permanently. Perhaps I should try not to lose sleep over it.

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