SuperCollider, Middletown Remix and Raspberry Pi

At work, I've been speaking with people involved with Middletown Remix. As part of the project, I met with Ron Kuivila, who teaches electronic music at Wesleyan. His biography on Wikipedia mentioned SuperCollider, "an environment and programming language for real time audio synthesis and algorithmic composition". So, last night, I downloaded Supercollider and started playing with it.

I downloaded the Mac OSX universal image version 3.6.2 and started it up. It comes with documentation built in and it was fairly easy to get started. On my Mac, I had to use Shift-Return to kick off snippets of code. The server didn't appear as described in the documentation, but using s.boot; did the trick. The instructions saying to use Cmd-. to stop the sound weren't exactly clear. That's the command key and the period key.

Once I got that far, things started to come together really nicely, and I had my computer making some interesting sounds. Another bit of documentation that I found very interesting was How to Program in SuperCollider. It explained PBind which gave me the ability to play some tunes.

It took a little bit of remembering music theory, to get a scale that sounds half way decent.

\freq, Pseq([ 1/1, 9/8, 5/4, 4/3, 3/2, 5/3, 15/8, 2 ] * 440, 5),
\dur, Prand([0.2, 0.4, 0.3], inf)

The next subject it looks like I need to explore is SynthDefs.

With all of this coming together, the next obvious question was, what other devices could I run SuperCollider on? There is a great blog post on SuperCollider on the Raspberry Pi. I plugged in my Raspberry Pi, loaded the SuperCollider program on it and tried to get it to run. It seemed to run okay, but the instructions talked about using Overtone to control the SuperCollider server, and I haven't gotten that far. Nor have I done anything with Synths yet, which is what I read about in the SuperCollider 3 Server Tutorial.

It does seem like an exciting project would be to use a large number of Raspberry Pi's running SuperCollider, and perhaps some sensors to make them react to what is going on around them. This could be used to create a sound installation, perhaps similar to what Ron spoke about with his rainforest installation.

I also started playing with SuperCollider for Android. I got it to start and make a sound, but not do anything subsequent. Their page, How to control SC Android remotely didn't seem to work with my Android. and server remained listed as inactive. However, using the same commands to my Raspberry Pi, I did manage to get indication that the Raspberry Pi SuperCollider server is running properly.

That pretty much captures where I am with SuperCollider, Middletown Remix and Raspberry Pi this morning. It's time to get about my chores. If've you're playing with SuperCollider and/or Raspberry Pi, let me know what your up to.

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Halley's Comet

It is a beautiful autumnal evening and a great night to watch for shooting stars. The annual Orionid meteor show peaks this evening. I love meteor showers and often stay up to watch them. I've thought about what to wish on a shooting star this evening, perhaps something about the election, but then, I thought back to the story of the Orionid meteor showers.

They are formed from the dust that Halley's Comet left in its wake the last time it passed by in 1986. This summer, at Falcon Ridge, I heard a great band called Gathering time. Their song, Halley's Comet, was one of my favorites.

It was 1985, when Halley's comet came in view
and if I didn't see it then, it'd be a long, long wait I knew,
I lived in a college town where street lights made stars hard to see
To see it well, I'd have to walk
Unto the school observatory
Though it was often on my mind,
I somehow never found the time
and it had all but vanished when
I knew I'd missed my chances then…

The song goes on to talk about living in Brooklyn, and missing chances to visit the World Trade Center or reconnect with a friend who died on 9/11.

It is a beautiful song about missed opportunities, and a reminder to seize the day.

Halley's comet won't be back until I am over 100, but every year, we get the opportunity to catch glimpses of its remnant streaking across the sky in the Orionid Meteor Showers.

Will I see shooting stars tonight? if so, will my wishes on shooting stars come to pass? I'll need to seize the day, and try to make my dreams come true.

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2012 #frff Emerging Artists Preview

Well, Wednesday morning, I pack up the car and head to Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. It is an annual trip that the whole family greatly enjoys. For me, one of the high points is the Emerging Artists Showcase. Friday afternoon, two dozen emerging performers get ten minutes each to show off their stuff.

Each year, I try to find the list of performers ahead of time, listen to their music, and share some comments. It seems like each year, I get more and more busy, and have less and less time to really review each group. That said, here's the list.

I used that list to create a Spotify Playlist. I've been listening to the performers, and here are some of them, organized approximately by how much I like them.

Jarrod Dickenson (Facebook, Twitter: @jarroddickenson) is probably the top of my list.

Jon Brooks (Facebook, Twitter: @jonbrooksmusic) comes in second.

Gathering Time (Facebook) comes in third. I really liked their song Halley's Comet.

The problem then becomes that I like just about all of the performers, and it becomes hard to choose between different groups. Burning Bridget Cleary (Facebook) is a lot of fun to listen too and the story of Bridget Cleary is fascinating.

I also really liked Kate Klim (Facebook). Her music is really clear and crisp with interesting lyrics. Kamikaze Love is really good.

One band I had heard before is Poor Old Shine (Facebook). They played at Middnight on Main last year. Also, very enjoyable.

Three performers grouped together next, Julie Christensen, Miles to Dayton (Facebook, Twitter: @milestodayton) and Ryan Tennis (Facebook, Twitter: @rytennis). Each of them are enjoyable, and if I had more time to listen more closely, I might have one or another as a favorite. I believe some of these performers will be at various events up on the hill before Falcon Ridge officially starts, and these performances on the hill are really fun.

The next group includes Cary Cooper (Facebook, Twitter: @carycooper), Jim Hayes, Kevin Neidig (Facebook), Rebecca Pronsky (Facebook, Twitter: @rebeccapronsky) and sorcha. They were all okay, but by the time I get to this group, they all start to blend together. I'll probably have similar problems after a couple hours on the hill on Friday.

Honor Finnegan (Facebook), Heather Maloney (Facebook, Twitter: @maloneymusic), Sweet Talk Radio (Facebook), Sarah Blacker (Facebook, Twitter: @sarahblacker), Brad Cole (Facebook) and Dan Charness (Facebook, Twitter: @dancharness) didn't grab me on the first listen. However, as I've listened to some of them more, they've started to grow on me.

I couldn't easily find enough music from Chris Kokesh (Facebook), Steve Chizmadia (Facebook), The Marrieds (Facebook, Twitter: @themarrieds), or The YaYas to form an opinion.

So, there's a quick view of what I'm looking forward to in the Emerging Artists Showcase at Falcon Ridge. What are you looking forward to?

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#frff Gospel Wake Up Call

It was a beautiful sunny summer Sunday morning. I sat in the pew at Grace and St. Peter's church and looked at the alter. Flowers in their vases sat on the green cloth of the alter, flanked by candles. Church services always seem to have a different pace to them in the summer time. More relax, laid back.

As I sat quietly on the wooden pew I thought about where I would be a week hence. Weather permitting, I would be sitting on a hill in New York State, listening to the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Gospel Wake Up Call. It is an important part of the trip to Falcon Ridge. Some years, they've actually had Gospel, and it has been amazing. Other years, it has been more ecumenical or even irreverent. In many ways, there is a deep spirituality, without the trappings of certain religious traditions, or embracing many traditions.

The Kennedy's have often sung "Stand" there:

Allah, Buddha, Yahweh, Jesus, Brahma
People get ready there's a train a coming

or Tracy Grammer and friends sing Dave Carter's great song celebrating evolution from a spiritual perspective:

This is my home, this is my only home
This is the only sacred ground that i have ever known
And should in stray in the dark night alone
Rock me goddess in the gentle arms of eden

What will Eddie from Ohio, Brother Sun and Girlyman have to offer next week? What other performers will find their way onto the stage to join them?

Falcon Ridge is starting soon and other than some of the logistics of setting up camp, I'm so ready.

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School's Illusions

It's been a busy few days, and I'm behind on my blogging, but I did get a chance to write the following post this evening, which I've also shared at the Bethwood Patch.

As I scanned Facebook this evening, I found a picture that one of my elementary school classmates posted of her first grade class. I was in a different class, but I recognized many names of long time dear friends. It was a grainy black and white picture of the kids standing on the school steps.

One person commented, "Everyone looks so cute! Remember when girls couldn't wear pants to school? I think we were in 5th or 6th grade when this rule changed." It was a different time and a different town. A small town of less than ten thousand, where a lot of college professors lived. It was a town that helped shape who I am today.

Then, I stumbled across some pictures of a friend that I got to know right after college. We went to the same church in New York City, a church where many of the young parishioners went on to become priests. For some, it was a fairly quick journey, for others it took many years. My friend was one who took a longer, more circuitous route to the priesthood. She was up in Hartford celebrating the Ordination to the Sacred Order of Deacons where another friend from church in New York was being ordained.

The pictures of the bishops and the ordinands in their fresh scrubbed faces, most likely just out of divinity school added to my rosy thoughts about education.

All of this set an interesting contrast to my experiences Monday night when I went to the Amity Board of Education meeting. I went to speak about my opposition to using police dogs to search students for drugs. Yes, there were drugs at my high school thirty five years ago, and I'm sure there are drugs at Amity, but somehow, the experiences were radically different.

High school is a very difficult time for many people. My high school classmates have shared reflections back on those days, "the tears and fears and feeling proud, to say I love you right out loud" at a school dance. "The moons and Junes and circus clouds." Yes, I sang "Both Sides Now" with my school chorus.

In many ways, the public comments at the Amity Board of Education focused on keeping our children safe from drugs, their right to go to a drug free school, where school policies were not considered a joke, and where there wasn't peer pressure to try drugs. The other side of the public comment focused on the students civil rights to not be subject to unwarranted searches, and the efficacy on using police dogs to curb drug use at the high school.

If I honestly believed that using police dogs would prevent drugs from being at the school, would cause students not to view school policies as a joke, and would eliminate the peer pressure to use drugs, that I'm sure exists at Amity today, like it did at my high school thirty five years ago, I might be more inclined to support the opinion of those that would like to see broader use of police dogs at the school. However, I don't believe that would be the result, if anything, I fear the opposite result. Students will still find ways to use drugs. They will still heap scorn on school polices, and they will still pressure classmates to engage in dangerous and illegal activities.

Yet returning to Both Sides Now, it's school's illusions I recall. I remember best, things like singing in the choir, playing in the band, being in musicals. I never was particularly talented, but I had the chance to participate in something beautiful, something bigger than myself.

My high school always had students going to All State for one reason or another. I had some incredibly talented friends and classmates, and that is what I'm most happy to remember. The Amity Board of Education meeting started off recognizing great teachers, and incredibly talented students at the high school. It ended with the board voting to approve setting aside money for building a black box theatre at the school. It struck me that those who pushed hardest to expand the use of police dogs at the school were also the ones who showed the most resistance to supporting the black box theatre. Perhaps, this too, reflects both sides of school.

I savor my positive memories of high school, the school's illusions of talent young students with a great life ahead of them, as opposed to a view of students as suspected drug users on the road to ruin. I hope our school board remembers this part of high school and seeks positive ways to help the students reach their dreams, whether they need help with substance abuse issues, or hitting the high note on Broadway.

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