Greetings, CBC listeners!

O Canada!
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I recently sent a link to this blog to Tom Allen, who hosts the morning show Music and Company on CBC Radio 2. McDoc and I really enjoy his witty, off-the-wall commentary and funny stories he tells in between classical pieces. In fact, my clock radio is tuned to CBC 2, so I wake up to his show every morning.

I pressed snooze too many times this morning, though, because I missed it when he mentioned the blog to his listeners! Dang it! But that’s the way it goes when you’re a decadent, bohemian arty type. If I had to pick five words to describe myself, they might just be “So not a morning person.”

Anyway, my great thanks to Tom for the shout-out, and a hearty welcome to readers from Canada (and my fellow Americans who dig CBC radio!). I hope this is the beginning of a beautiful international friendship! 😀

UPDATE: Tom Allen threw me in his Junk Drawer! And it’s a great honor! 😉

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    Theremin Concerto Sneak Preview!

    ther-entr.jpgThe première of my Concerto for Theremin and Chamber Orchestra (“Theremin Concerto” for short) by Theremin player Scott Paulson and the San Diego Chamber Orchestra is exactly 2 weeks from today! So I thought this would be a good time to post a little excerpt from my not-quite-bona-fide, deep-fried, naugahyde, MIDI-fied version (with apologies) …which I’ve been told is pretty good, actually.

    Of course, when real humans play it on real instruments, it’ll sound muuuuch better! 😀

    The concert is getting some good advance media coverage — stay tuned for links and specifics. And of course, if you’re in the San Diego area (and, let’s face it, at this time of year, who wouldn’t want to be?), step right up and get your tickets here! I’m told that their Friday night performances tend to sell out, so don’t delay!

    The excerpt, by the way, is from the opening section of the piece, right where the theremin enters. The clip is about 45 seconds long — that’s 50% more preview than iTunes gives you! Do I take care of my peeps, or what?! 😉

    Click to play:

    I can’t wait to hear the real thing!

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    The Fascinating Life of a Music Copyist, Part 4

    Thus far we’ve concerned ourselves with the preparation of a pretty score, a thing of beauty that will be a joy forever, suitable for publication as a coffee-table book, not to mention indispensable to the conductor. Now, what about the people who really matter, the lifeblood, heart and soul, and worker bees of the orchestra — the players?!

    You could try handing a full score to each player, but pretty soon you’d have wind and brass players shooting poison darts at you through their mouthpieces, and string players using their bows for shooting arrows instead of making strings vibrate. And you don’t even want to think about the kind of blunt trauma the percussion section could inflict… composition can be dangerous! 😉

    Fortunately, your music notation program will create perfectly formatted, camera-ready individual parts with the click of a mouse!

    And if you believe that, Mr. Readmore and I have a bridge to sell you. 😛
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    The Fascinating Life of a Music Copyist, Part 3

    Trouble in Paradise…

    Even for a perfectionist/OCD type like me, the extent of the tinkering involved in moving a score toward the desired ideal of music-visual beauty can be daunting. (Funny to think that there really is a visual aspect to music, innit?) Fasten your seatbelts — here are some examples from my adventures in music notation troubleshooting!

    Finale gives you two different ways of viewing your music on the computer screen: Page View, where you see it exactly as it will print out (after you’ve moved heaven and earth to make it pretty) and Scroll View, where the music stretches in an endless horizontal stream past the virtual boundary of your computer window. Scroll View is the most hassle-free mode to use while you’re entering notes; later on when you change to Page View, you get to pay the piper by dealing with all the picky formatting issues that inevitably come up.

    Here’s the opening of my Theremin Concerto in Scroll View:thcto-open-scroll-ul.jpg

    Looks pretty good, but it doesn’t allow for the page breaks that you need if you want to have an actual score to hand to a conductor. So let’s switch to Page View and see what the first couple pages look like.

    Mr. Readmore has lots to show you! (non-high-speed users beware: photo heavy post ahead!)
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    Your Questions Answered, vol. 1

    Alto2 asks:

    Um, Lucy, can you please ’splain what is a THEREMIN??? Why is it being featured on this program?

    How remiss of me not to explain that important detail! I’m gonna answer these questions in reverse order, though, because the answer to #2 is short and sweet:

    Why Theremin? Why not? 😉

    More seriously, though — my good friend Scott Paulson, multi-instrumentalist, sound artist and all-around music impresario extraordinaire, plays the Theremin — that’s the main reason. His “legit” gig is playing oboe in the San Diego Chamber Orchestra, and while planning the current season, the conductor asked the orchestra members if any of them had any novel and interesting musical angles they’d like to include in the season. Scott suggested a Theremin concerto, and why not commission a living composer, while you’re at it? That was my lucky day! (I’m also shouldering the epic responsibility of being the only female composer on the orchestra’s season. This, sadly, is not an unusual state of affairs. Give it 50 or 100 years though — we’re taking over, watch out! 😛 )

    So, what is this thing called Theremin, anyway?

    The Theremin is an early electronic instrument named for its inventor, the Russian physicist Léon Theremin, whose colorful and intrigue-filled life has been engagingly chronicled in the 1994 documentary Theremin – An Electronic Odyssey. The instrument uses two radio frequency oscillators to produce its sound: one controls volume and the other controls pitch. The volume and pitch are determined by the position of the player’s hands in relation to two corresponding antennae. Thus, it is the only instrument that you play without actually touching it. Which ain’t exactly easy!

    To the chagrin of many serious theremin players, the instrument is best known for its novelty and sci-fi applications; it has appeared in many film and television scores as the signal for when the aliens arrive or some other bizarre thing happens — The Day the Earth Stood Still is a classic example. Rock musicians have made use of it as well; Jimmy Page plays it in the live version of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” for the film The Song Remains the Same. And the easiest way for most people to imagine what it sounds like is to think of the undulating line in the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations,” although that’s actually a Theremin-inspired instrument called an Electro-Theremin, a.k.a. Tannerin, which produces a similar sound but is played by sliding the fingers along a ribbon-like sensor — a slightly easier technique.

    There seems to be some confusion as to whether the theme music from the original Star Trek series uses the Theremin or a woman’s voice. Sources I found indicate that it’s a voice singing that haunting melody ;), but it does sound really good on Theremin.

    While writing my concerto, I decided to split the different between its “serious music” adherents and the novelty/sci-fi references that most people are familiar with. As Scott likes to say, it can be as beautiful and expressive as a cello (or the human voice, for that matter), so I gave it a chance to shine in that way. But I wasn’t about to pass up an opportunity to be a goofball as well and exploit its campy, humorous potential… life’s too short! 😀

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    Clefs of Speed

    We interrupt this informative series about the production of a purty music score for the following fight-to-the-death pay-per-view event!

    Okay, you smart alecks out there. It’s a treble clef throw down!

    Well, not exactly. I’m not actually challenging anyone to a clef-drawing competition, but since two of you commented on my comment about my treble-clef short-cut method, I thought I’d have a little fun with the idea.

    I mentioned that my handwritten treble clefs look like hastily written 6’s, because I don’t want to take the time to do 2 pencil strokes, and was contacted by two individuals, at least one of whom is of highly questionable moral character 😉 , who claim to be able to write a neat, proper, America-loving treble clef in one stroke. Perhaps this is the sort of thing they have in mind:

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    Not bad. Requires a bit of effort and concentration to negotiate those loops and turns, though.

    Click Mr. Readmore if you’re ready to rumble!
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    The Fascinating Life of a Music Copyist, Part 2

    In case you missed it, here’s Part 1!

    I was actually pretty far ahead of the game when it came time to prepare my score, because I had been composing more or less straight into Finale all along. I used to compose on paper 100% and enter the music into the computer when I was done, but nowadays I’m going directly into the computer more and more. When I was an undergrad, one of my professors recommended against writing at the computer; he reasoned that fiddling with the program’s functions and commands interfered with focusing on composing. And given the clunkiness of the software back in the days of yore, he had a point. But I don’t think it’s true anymore. I think it’s getting to be like writing text; are there any writers today who would dream of writing by hand and typing into the computer later on? Only if they were stranded on a desert island without their laptops, I bet! 😉

    Of course this means that the digitally-oriented composer is of necessity chained to the computer… but we certainly have plenty of company in that regard!

    I do still sketch a few things out, mostly at the beginning, but also at several points along the way. Here’s part of a page of my chicken scratchings, where I was working out a chord progression:

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    By the way, those little doodles that look like 6’s are my shorthand version of a treble clef. I can’t be bothered with something that takes two pencil strokes where one would do, people! 😛 Here’s a proper treble clef, though, just to assuage any offended eyeballs:

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    Ah, that’s better! 😉

    Follow Mr. Readmore for even prettier pictures!
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