Showing posts from 2013

Blowing in a bottle: getting the frequencies

Following up the conversion from video to sound file , let's go further in our guess at how much Rico Loop drinks. We are going to look at the nature of the sounds produced at each step of Rico Loop's video, using the signal's power spectrum. With Audacity , we get a power spectrum this way: select a portion of the sound in the menu Analyze , choose Plot Spectrum... To illustrate this post, I show, at the left of the power spectrum, the spectrogram with the sound snippet selected. First interesting pitch, at 0:19: We see that the pitch results from a very isolated peak in the spectrum. Here, the frequency is 512 Hz.   At 0:23, we read 417 Hz.     The three following peaks are: 350 Hz at 0:40, 290 Hz at 0:53, and 235 Hz at 1:02. Try you own analysis, for instance with Audacity, or with another sound analysis tool. Now, you should be able to find out how much Rico Loops drinks at each step.

Electroclarinet 5 - score

Looking for the studio album? Visit Electroclarinet 5 is a composition for A clarinet & live electronics, written in homage to Igor Stravinsky . I completed the clarinet part on May 11th, 2013. The score is built around four (circled) motives directly inspired by Stravinsky's works: the Three Pieces for Clarinet solo and the Piano-Rag-Music . Electroclarinet 5: the clarinet part (click to enlarge) The performer plays around the score, following paths of her/his choice. Routes from one basic motif to another are either written (circle), or to be improvised (on black lines). When the clarinetist adventures outside the box (black arrows), s/he starts again from any place in the score (including from another place outside the box). The live electronics part uses advanced playing mode recognition to adapt sound processing to the clarinetist’s improvisation and interpretation. More on that later!

Blowing in a bottle: from youtube to sound file

Remember: in the Fall, I invited you to solve a science of sound problem . In Rico Loop's video , the aim is to find out how much he drinks in between the moments when he blows different pitches in the bottle. A first step toward solving the problem consists in getting a sound file out of the youtube video ; then you will be ready to analyze the sound. Of course, you can use any kind of "youtube to mp3" software, but I want to show you a more general approach: using audio routing software . Although it requires a little more effort, you will then be able to record any audio coming out of any piece of software in your computer into a sound file. Here is the idea: Internal audio routing software The two open source options most used by musicians are: Jack , a flexible audio connection kit, available for Mac, Windows, Linux, and more operating systems! Soundflower , only available for Mac. There are plenty of resources online to learn how to use these tools, so I'm

Nigritella nigra... first page

Clarinetist Donald Oehler just contacted me to ask a few details about my composition for clarinet & string quartet Nigritella nigra . As I said in my 2007 blog post, this piece was really my first "classical music" composition. Here is the manuscript of the quiet first page. It reminds me of the small room I was living in at the time, in Annecy . Donald Oehler is a Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is building a catalog of works for clarinet and string quartet: I am looking forward to seeing this catalog released! Speaking of catalogs, I was surprised to see Nigritella nigra mentioned in the International Clarinet Association score collection at the University of Maryland . A surprise, and an honor!

Clarinet : the multiphonic glissando sound

Colin, a composer from Tours in France, just left a question on the French version of this blog. He is asking how I would notate clarinet multiphonics, especially the clarinet multiphonic & glissando documented with a clarinet multiphonic sonogram video and related fingerings . For the record, Colin posted the question on the French page: Multiphonique en série & glissando : les doigtés . First, Colin, thank you for your interest and for the question. Let's look at the first two parts of the video. Multiphonic series The part from 0:00 to 0:16 in the video was inspired by a series in E. Michael Richards’s book The clarinet of the twenty-first century , page 158. It corresponds to excerpt #2 on this page from E. Michael Richard's web site . Note that for the youtube video, I did not choose the exact same fingerings: you'll have to check the pitches, but you get the idea for the notation. Multiphonic & glissando This one, starting at 0:19, is a personal crea

When two harps get electric

Duo Descofar is made of Nikolaz Cadoret (one of the founders of the RRRR jam sessions ) and Alice Sori, two great harpists. After touring with their show Finis Terrae , they are ready to record a 1st album. Support creative artists These artists are bringing electricity to the harp: they use a carefully chosen set of guitar pedals to realize their musical ideas. Support creative artists, and do what I just did: buy the upcoming Descofar Duo 1st album on KissKissBankBank ! In case you don't know this service, KissKissBankBank is the French Kickstarter .

RRRR Jam #5 this Saturday

After the September improv session Saint-Malo street , you are invited: tomorrow, jam at the Au Coin d’la Rue solidarity space in Recouvrance, Brest, France. More info on Au coin d'la Rue's web site . Friends will be playing sax, electric harp, voice, and unexpected sound objects; I might play contrabass clarinet & basset horn, we shall see. Hope to see you there - with your instrument / dancers, actors & other artists welcome too!

Musical encounter with Douglas R. Ewart

A couple of pictures from last week's concert with the Brest conservatoire's jazz orchestra and Chicago musician Douglas R. Ewart . The concert took place on October 20th, it was part of the fantastic Atlantique Jazz Festival . The jazz orchestra at the conservatoire is led by two great jazz musicians: trumpeter Philippe Champion and saxophonist Krystian Sarrau . The Brest conservatory 2013 jazz band Red Hills started with an improvised clarinet & flute duet Singer extraordinaire Zalie Bellacicco rendered the text beautifully At the end of the day, Douglas seemed pretty happy with the concert I was thrilled to share this musical moment with all of the musicians. Red Hills , the composition we performed, was inspired by mountains in Douglas Ewart's native Jamaica.

Eventide : changing a H8000FW battery

Eventide are well known for their harmonizers. The term Harmonizer was actually registered as a trademark by Eventide in 1976. The H8000FW is the latest rack harmonizer version (first one was the 1975 H910). The biggest problem in the design of this sound processing unit is that an internal battery is necessary for user memory to, well, keep user presets in memory. When you change the battery, all user presets are deleted (because of course, you want to change the battery when the unit is NOT powered!) Good news : the operating system and factory presets will still be there after a user memory reset. After backing-up user presets on a card (and copying everything on a computer & back-up hard drive, of course), I changed the dying battery. Here are a couple of pictures: Tricky: you have to carefully remove the Firewire/ADAT extension card to get to the battery. You have to be very careful too when you put the card back in place. If you want to change the battery in a H8000, H

Improv rue Saint-Malo

On September 14th, during the Journées du patrimoine , we met with professors from the Brest conservatory in Rue Saint-Malo . The non-profit organization Vivre la rue had organized a nice festival there. Many thanks to saxophonist Xavier, who took a few shot with his phone. Here they are, featuring Nikolaz Cadoret (electro-acoustic harp & live electronics), François Lucas (biniou, oboe, and other instruments), Stéphane Sordet (saxophone) - I was playing clarinet & live electronics.

Back 2 School Science of Sound Contest

Announcement, announcement! I invite you to participate in a back2school contest - a musical & scientific one! The question In the following video, artist Rico Loop is beat-boxing and playing bass, melodica, as well as a water bottle . The question is: How much water does Rico Loop drink each time he changes pitch? At 0:19, he blows a pitch without looping it. Then, he loops sounds at 0:23, 0:40, 0:53, and 1:02, when he's done drinking. So, you are looking for 4 quantities of water. You may give your answers as proportions instead of absolute values. Prize I will be offering a special prize to the person coming up with the best answer - and explanations, of course! Please, e-mail me your answers, or post a comment. I'm going to give a few hints in the next couple of weeks... Stay tuned.

Dave Liebman & the Dudley House Jazz Bands

My friend Michael Heller , a great musician whom I met at the Harvard Music Department , led in 2011-2012 an exciting year with the Dudley House Jazz Band. I already told you about his 2010 project around Mary Lou Williams' music ; he went further in 2011-12 when he invited Dave Liebman and Lewis Porter to perform with the band in Paine Hall. Michael released videos of the concert. Here is a favorite, Hiroshima Memorial : Creation Creation lied at the core of this artistic project, with improvisation, creative arrangements, and the world première of a concerto for Dave Liebman and symphonic orchestra, composed by Lewis Porter in what we could call the Third Stream tradition of mixing genres. An excerpt from the program, where composer Lewis Porter presents his Liebman concerto .

88 pianos in the city

For the third consecutive year, Sing for Hope is making music available in the city of New York by placing 88 pianos in parks & public spaces. This operation is a great way to get everyone engaged with the arts: the pianos are designed / re-designed by artists, musicians come and give impromptu concerts, and essential point: yes, you can play the piano! picture from the Sing for Hope galleries Today, June 16th, is the last day of the 2013 edition: all of the pianos are meeting outside Lincoln Center, then will be donated to schools, healthcare centers & community organizations. Most important: the pianos will continue to bring people together throughout the year through performances, workshops, and more. See more picture on this New York Times Slideshow .

Relative première

After the anagrams & first sketch for the composition Relative , here is the score: Axelle and Théophile, two singers at the Montbéliard Conservatory, are performing the piece this Saturday afternoon. During the rehearsal yesterday night, I liked a lot how they seamlessly integrated the "live electronics" and the singing. This miniature constitutes a small part of their exam recital: I wish them all the best.


Picture by leniners I'm thrilled to let you know that, after spending wonderful time at the Montbéliard Conservatory , I just took a new position at the Brest Conservatory. Read here a short welcome interview (French only). Bretagne is filled with inspiring landscapes. Last week-end, I walked around the Kermorvan peninsula: Picture by y.caradec

Great ballet school in Alsace

Maria Guerrero studied at the Royal Ballet School in London , then had a career as a dancer, a choreographer, and a maître de ballet. I have been delighted to study ballet at her school, the Ballet Studio Guerrero , since October 2010. She is a great ballet teacher, anchored in the tradition, both very demanding and respectful with all students. The show At the end of April, Maria organized a show at La Coupole , a beautiful theater house in Saint-Louis, France. Dancing on a professionally equipped stage is such a fundamental experience for all dancers: it's necessary from a pedagogical point of view, and it is a lot of fun as well. Here is an excerpt of a piece Maria Guerrero choreographed for this show: Widgets

Relative... la vérité

Relative is the short piece I composed for mezzo soprano, tenor, and live electronics . In the previous post, I told you the lyrics were based on anagrams (in French). Here they are: Mezzo-soprano: Relative      Tenor: La vérité ("the truth") Tenor: La courbure de l'espace-temps ("the curvature of space-time")      Mezzo-soprano: Superbe spectacle de l'amour These letter permutations come from a great short book of anagrams (in French), mixing poetry and fascination for science: By the way, I also used the permutations in the text as a basis to compose the sung melodies...

Miniature for mezzo soprano, tenor, and live electronics

I was thrilled when Isabelle Jost, singer and professor at the Montbéliard conservatory, came up with a composition project for students of hers. To collaborate with colleagues who are great artists is among the missions and the pleasures of working in a dynamic pedagogical team. I just finished a draft of a very short piece for mezzo & tenor: they are going to perform it at their final recital this year, along with classical and romantic style. Live electronics are performed by the singers themselves, using Roland VE-20 vocal processors . Here is the score draft: The lyrics come from two anagrams, in French. Will you find them?

Composer Gabriele Vanoni at the Ircam cursus concert

Composer Gabriele Vanoni has been a friend of mine since his arrival at the Harvard Music Department . He has been spending the year in Paris, taking part in the selective Ircam Cursus . Gabriele wrote a new piece for mezzo soprano & live electronics: Don . The world premiere is taking place on April 13th at Ircam in Paris. Entrance is free, but make sure you get in touch with Ircam to reserve. CF8FTJEMEG7D

Hybrid artistic objects in Villeurbanne

PaaLabRes is a Laboratoire de recherche en actes sur des pratiques artistiques nomades et transversales - a lab in active research on nomad and transversal artistic activities. They are organizing a very exciting expo in Villeurbanne, at the Maison du Livre, de l'Image et du Son , today and tomorrow. All of the musicians involved in this project are great open-minded artists who love to collaborate and share their knowledge and experiences. One of the most exciting part of the expo is taking place this Saturday, March 16th, at 10:30 am. It consists in 3 labs open to visitors, who are going to create hybrid artistic objects: poésie sonore (sonorous poetry) with Jean-Charles François geste partitions et musiques sur des objets du quotidien (gesture scores and musics about everyday life objects) with clarinetist Pascal Pariaud la pâte à modeler le sonore (et réciproquement) (sound modeling clay - and vice versa) with Nicolas Sidoroff - as I already told you on this blog, compos

Fall readings

At the end of 2011, I was reading about physical computing and micro-controllers . Last fall, the two most important books I read were about different topics: the first was Louis Gerstner's Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?: Leading a Great Enterprise through Dramatic Change the second was Carol Dwek's Mindset: The New Psychology of Success Making elephants dance Lou Gerstner acted as the CEO of IBM from 1993 to 2001. His memoir is very interesting, with large scale stories, but also details that, for him, made a difference. A quote from the book: Execution is really the critical part of a successful strategy. Getting it done, getting it done right, getting it done better that the next person is far more important than dreaming up new visions of the future. The growth mindset This book will be useful to most people reading it, especially to anyone interested in education. The thesis is very clear, thus very memorable. After reading this book, you will remember the di

Electroclarinet 2 - contrabass clarinet & live electronics

Looking for the studio album? Visit I already mentioned Electroclarinet 2 on this blog; this composition for contrabass clarinet & live electronics is an homage to Debussy's Cello sonata . An audio excerpt is now available (link to Bandcamp: Electroclarinet 2 ) Electroclarinet 2 by Jean-Francois Charles For more information on the live electronic processing, check these earlier posts: Live sound processing in Electroclarinet 2 - part 1 Live sound processing in Electroclarinet 2 - part 2

Problems about the science of music & sound

The problem book, companion to Why You Hear What You Hear , is out. The pdf is available as a free download from . The book is organized to mirror the structure of Why You Hear What You Hear (link to amazon): Sound Itself Analyzing Sound Making Sound Musical Instruments Psychoacoustics & Music Soundspaces If you are interested in music, sound, and acoustics, I hope you are going to enjoy having a look. Would you guess which piano is the biggest, given samples from three different instruments?

The Science of Music & Sound

In 2010, I had the honor of working for Prof. Eric Heller at Harvard University, for his class The Physics of Music & Sound . Today, I am thrilled to let you know that his book about the science of music & sound is out: Why You Hear What You Hear: An Experiential Approach to Sound, Music, and Psychoacoustics . Use the "Look inside" function on amazon to explore the table of contents, from Sound Itself to Musical Instruments , Psychoacoustics & Music , and much more. A sample chapter is available from the book website: .