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base a Theme and Variations suite on my phone number

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Todd GehmanRationalization

Okay, on the face of it, this looks like a pretty pointless goal. But I’m not kidding. It’s more about the means than the end. By doing this, I want to:

  • explore whether melodic themes sampled somewhat randomly can inspire interesting exercises
  • brush up on the formal composition skills I acquired while squandering all that time and money in college
  • write and record some short tunes to use on my answering machine
  • win the bet I made to some friends that “I swear I like my phone number so much I’m going to write songs based on it”
  • test drive the rival music notation software for the Mac (to which I just switched 6 months ago)

I’ve already written one rhythmic thing in 7/8 at the piano and learned after transcribing the thing fastidiously that neither Finale’s nor Sibelius’s demo version allows scores to be saved or printed. Thank you, print screen! Next I learned that Finale’s Notepad, the only free notation software that allows saving, can’t do seven-beat signatures. Ack. Next I wrote a brief breezy thing for string quartet and learned that the violin sample on the FREE version of Finale, cheesy as it is, is far better than that on the demo version of Sibelius. Sibelius seems to get better reviews from a variety of sources, so I’m assuming their real version has tolerable samples. Then I started on a canon for piano and remembered that strict canons are painful to write, but a good kind of painful. I’ll slog through.

Anyway, I had no idea before I started this project that web technologies like that employed on sibeliusmusic.com exist. Any amateur who uses their software can write and upload a score to that site, and any browser with the free Scorch plugin can play their compositions, directly from the sheet music, right in their browser. Amateur composers have everything from solo piano Airs to full symphonies there. (They have a rock and pop section too, but its exactly as bad as I thought it would be…even worse through Scorch’s crappy samples.)

Maybe MIDI has provided this capacity for years, and there are similar sites everywhere, but I’ve just caught on. I must say, it’s oddly inspiring to see so many amateur composers sharing their work like this, especially because so many of them want to rip off Chopin by writing a Nocturne, just like I do. But not with a damn phone number theme, that’d be sacrilege. 9 years ago


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