Music: Student Etudes

This is a scratchpad page for experiments and student etudes.  Very much a work in progress.

July 2017 – Experiment: Seasons v1

click HERE (and wait a bit for a big mp4 to buffer) for a film-score experiment, set to Marcie’s 2016 slide show about our Prairie Haven restoration.  This is exploring 3 themes (all major-key, hopeful, uplifting, etc.).  Also exploring long-evolution of the arrangement.

I’d play it at low volume — it’s intended to sit in the background, not be the main event.

August 2016 – Etude: Gimme That 1 — video delay demo

click HERE for a Max patch that suffered a lot from video delay.  We were discussing the puzzler in a thread and I threw this together based on my “Gimme That 1” patch (which I haven’t posted here yet).

Summer 2017 – Hans Zimmer – Masterclass

November 2017 – “Romantic Comedy Challenge”

We were provided instructions and a voice track (narration and character-dialog) by an imaginary director who is looking for a score for a new romantic comedy.  Pretty darn cool challenge.  This one stretched me pretty hard in a bunch of directions.

Click HERE for a more detailed blog post explaining what I did.

Some fun!  Here’s the link to the 2 minute trailer.


Sept 2017 – “Landscape Challenge”

We were provided pictures of landscapes and asked to compose a story in music to go with it.  I chose this urban landscape.  The young heroine finds herself awakening to an urban landscape completely devoid of urban sounds.  The director gets a quick run through of the soundscape (crows, coyotes, water, all recorded here at Prairie Haven) and then goes through an awakening as her memory and consciousness return.  This dissolves into her plucky resolute theme with another run through of various colors for the director to choose from.  Here’s the scene she sees as she opens her eyes…

and here’s the sound track

Winter 2016: Kadenze – Reinventing the Piano (Princeton)

This class took a look at how a piano can be redefined, given today’s technology.  BIG conversation about scales, tuning, temperament and articulation.

December 2016 – Final project

I decided to build a piano that could follow a blues chord progression and always have it Just tuned.  Just tuning sounds really sweet when certain chords are played, and terrible for others (unlike equal-temperament, which is equally out of tune across the whole keyboard).

Here’s a link to my writeup: Final Project Worksheet

Here’s a link to my demo:

October 2016 – Etude: Prepared guitar

This walk through a “prepared” guitar (for an assignment where we were supposed to prepare a piano, but I didn’t have one available).

Here’s a link to the explanation (this describes the preparations and is pretty important for understanding the demo): Sampled Piano Etude ““ October 2016

And here’s a demo.


Summer 2016: Kadenze – Online Jamming and Concert Technology (Stanford)

This class taught us how to hook up the bits and pieces needed in order to jam live with other musicians over the ‘net.  We recorded a few sessions as we went and here they are.

Note that these are heard from my point of view, so the person I’m jamming with is delayed just a bit.  We traded our recordings when we were done and were often surprised at how different they felt.  But I was pretty pleased that we could interact at all.

Etude 1: Jamming with Scott Oshiro (based in Washington DC)

Summer 2015: Kadenze – Sound Production in Ableton Live for Musicians and Artists (CalArts)

Session 1 – Introduction to Ableton Live – a hello-world first-use of Ableton Live, 12-bar of course


Session 3 – Levels and Panning – “A minute with the rhythm section” – learning about mixing and balance, especially in the percussion section


Session 4 – Sculpting Frequencies: Equalization – “Jammin’ with the guitar player” – played along with the guitar track that was provided for an ear-training exercise.


Session 5 – Reverb and Space – I got ticked off at the super-picky ear-training exercise in this session.  So I did this version of Wipeout with reverb turned up to 11 and a big-band second verse.


Session 6 – Compression and Dynamics – This is just here to remind me to go back and repeat this session some time.  I ran out of time and crashed through this to meet the submission deadline.  Listen for compression and dynamics toggling on and off.


Session 7 – Slicing and Dicing: Sampling in Live – Learned about the sampler, built a minute of loops you’ll probably recognize


Final Project – “Bomb-train, waiting” is a sound design that incorporates two recordings I made at the time this project was due.  One of the sounds of the idling engines of a mile-long train carrying highly flammable fracked crude oil through our community on its way to a refinery, the other a recording of morning sounds at our farm (that’s all the birds). A group of us who have been successful at stopping the mining of frac-sand (a crucial ingredient for the oil fracking process) were riding bikes by that train. I decided to make a small sonic-landscape commentary as my final project.  Dark, atonal, abstract, quite different than the other etudes for this course.