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Music

Music files generated using the Apple-Macintosh GarageBand sequencer

These .mp3 files can be played by clicking on the underlined link or downloaded with a right-click (control-click on the Macintosh). They were produced using the GarageBand music-sequencer program that comes with a Macintosh computer, which generates sounds in response to MIDI commands entered from an electric-piano keyboard or via a computer mouse. Each musical note can be displayed as a horizontal bar on the computer screen and adjusted in pitch, loudness and duration, much as a live performer would do. Each "track" of notes is assigned to a single instrument and there can be many tracks. The program comes with a range of electronic sounds, which can be supplemented by others purchased on CD as Jam Packs. Most of the ones used here are Orchestral Sounds from Jam Pack No. 4. Some instruments (e.g. organ) are realistic while others (e.g. strings) can sound metallic and required careful handling.

So with these imperfect sounds, why spend time to produce music that is readily available in professional recordings? For me, it's mainly the fun of being able to "play" all the instruments in a symphony orchestra without taking a single music lesson. Computer techniques allow the technical and artistic aspects of music making to be separated, so that anyone with basic computer skills can aspire to be a musician. The process also provides an opportunity to study music scores and composing techniques in detail.

Unlike sound recordings, midi files are easily edited, to change the phrasing or assign a different instrument to a particular track for example. You repeat this until the result sounds acceptable, much like practicing an instrument or rehearsing a choir or orchestra. However, only the bad bits need to be re-engineered, so the process is more like movie-making than live performance. At any stage, the midi file can be converted to a sound file (such as mp3) or written to CD.

The first group of pieces below were put together during the winter of 2008-2009 and made into a CD: "From Bach to Janacek". Those in the lower half of the list are intended for a second CD. To provide comments or request information, please email regerton@ualberta.ca

Richard Strauss: Sunrise (1'26", 1.9 MB). 
This is the opening four pages of the tone poem Also Sprach Zarathustra, first performed in 1896. The rising three notes (C-G-C, first heard on the trumpet) are meant to represent Nature. Over 40 different instruments are playing towards the end of this short segment, which became part of the soundtrack for the Stanley Kubrick film "2001: A Space Odyssey".

Georges Bizet: Habenera (2'10", 2.1 MB). 
This Habanera is from Act 1 of Georges Bizet's Carmen, which was first performed on 3 March 1875. Bizet died 3 months later, on the night of its 31st performance, wounded by the initial criticism and unaware that his creation might become the most popular of all operas. The song is a lament on the waywardness of love; as Carmen herself says: "Love is a gypsy child, He has never known a law; Though you don't love me, I love you, and if I love you, then beware ! " Maria Callas being unavailable, the role of Carmen is played here by an English horn.

George Gershwin: Someone to Watch Over Me (2'17", 2.2 MB). 
Taken from Gershwin's 1926 musical Oh, Kay! In this song, Kay pines for a man who will act as her loving protector, as in "There's a somebody I'm longing to see, I hope that he turns out to be, Someone who'll watch over me ".

Jerome Kern: Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man (2'31", 2.4 MB). 
From the Pantry Scene in Act One of Jerome Kern's 1927 musical Show Boat. Introduced as an example of a negro melody (coon song!) with syncopated rhythm and flattened 3rd, 5th and 7th "blue" notes, it is a very different kind of love song, celebrating the old-fashioned virtue of loyalty to a wayward husband. As in: "When he goes away, Dat's a rainy day, But when he comes back dat day is fine, Can't help lovin' dat man of mine ! " This version was based on the piano score, with a few extra trimmings borrowed from the Robert Russell Bennett orchestration.

Bohuslav Martinu: Columbine Dances (2'25", 2.3 MB). 
This is the first of 14 charming piano miniatures called Puppets, written by the Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu and set here for whirly (an ancient Dervish instrument), electronic piano and celesta.

Anatol Liadov: Music Box (1'59", 1.8 MB). 
This is the Russian composer Liadov's Musical Snuffbox, composed for piano in 1893 and later orchestrated. The score describes it as a Valse-Badinage (badinage = banter) and the tempo marking isAutomaticamente. As an approximation to the true snuffbox sound, it is performed here on a glockenspiel.

Alexander Borodin:In the Steppes of Central Asia (6'24", 5.9 MB). 
Dedicated to Franz Liszt, inventor of the orchestral tone poem, it was given its first performance in St. Petersburg in 1880, with Rimsky-Korsakov conducting. According to the composer it represents an Asian caravan of soldiers, horses and camels approaching in the desert, then receding into the distance. Its two themes, Russian and oriental, are introduced separately on various instruments but eventually intermingle.

Leos Janacek: Sinfonietta (first movement) (2'10", 2.1 MB). 
This fanfare is the opening movement of a Sinfonietta by the Moravian composer Leos Janacek. Commissioned for an open-air gymnastic contest, this work was originally intended to consist entirely of brass fanfares but ended up as a five-movement orchestral piece of great originality. Like most of Janacek's finest music, it was written towards the end of his life; the composer was 71 years old at the time of its first performance in 1926. The Fanfare is scored for nine trumpets, three bass trumpets, tuba and timpani.

W.A. Mozart: Gigue in G major (2'10", 2.1 MB). 
This keyboard piece by Mozart is transcribed here for alternating harps and woodwind. Tchaikovsky used the same composition as the opening movement of his orchestral Suite No.4 (Mozartiana).

J.S. Bach: Gigue from Partita No.1 (1'02", 1.0 MB). 
This is the final ebullient movement of Bach's keyboard Partita No.1, with the treble melody, answering bass and middle continuo part given to three different kinds of piano.

J.S. Bach: Prelude No. 1 (2'41",2.5 MB). 
The first of Eight Short Preludes and Fugues for organ, it consists of two sections, each repeated. The right-hand, left-hand and pedal parts of the organ score are here assigned to marimba, vibraphone and electronic bass.

J.S. Bach: Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring from Cantata No. 147 (2'51",2.6 MB). 
Jesu Joy is a chorale from Bach's Cantata No. 147, but with the violin, viola and soprano lines given to flute, principal and pedal stops of a cathedral organ. The first-violin part is written with triplet phrasing while the second violin plays a skipping (dotted-crotchet + quaver) pattern, and I tried to enure that this contrast can be heard in the recording.

J.S. Bach: Toccata and Fugue in D minor for organ (7'51",7.3 MB). 
Although one of the most famous organ pieces, there seems to be doubt about whether this piece was originally written for organ and even if it was actually composed by J.S. Bach. Organ music is relatively simple to program electronically because there are no dynamics (degrees of loudness) between individual notes; any artistic expression comes from the timing.

J.S. Bach: Nun Komm', der Heiden Heiland (BWV 559) for organ (3'10",3.0 MB). 
This is one of three pieces of the same title among the Eighteen Choral Preludes for organ. The melody is based on an advent hymn; it appears in the 4th measure and is assigned to a Principal stop, but fragments of it appear later in the Flute register.


Percy Grainger: "The Duke of Marlborough" Fanfare (1'49", 2.1 MB) 
Grainger was put in charge of US army bands during WW2 and this piece is his comment on warfare. The first half is meant to represent the decorum and chivalry of old-style combat, the second part the indiscriminate savagery of modern warfare. Based on an English folksong, the score contains many changes of meter (time signature), something that is not accommodated by GarageBand, so the midi file was assembled using LogicPro software.

Camille Saint-Saens: The Aquarium (1'20", 1.4 MB) 
This is the seventh of fourteen movements making up The Carnival of the Animals, composed by Saint-Saens while vacationing in Austria in 1886. Fearing it would harm his reputation as a serious composer, he suppressed performance of the work during his lifetime, allowing only the 13th movement (The Swan) to be performed during his lifetime.

Edvard Grieg: March of the Dwarfs (3'18", 3.1 MB) 
This Dance of the Dwarfs (or Trolls) is from Grieg's Op.54 Lyric Pieces, originally written for piano.

Arcangelo Corelli: Corrente (0'57", 0.9 MB) 
Taken from Concerto Grosso No. 9 and played here by trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone and tuba.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Procession of the Nobles from Mlada (5'10",7.5 MB). 
Mlada is an opera-ballet completed by Rimsky-Korsakov in 1890, after collapse of the original plan in which four Russian composers (Borodin, Cui, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov) were to each contribute one Act. Requiring a huge number of performers, it is rarely performed outside Russia - unfortunate since it contains some wonderful music. This Procession of the Nobles is unusual in having timpani play (on three occasions) part of the melody.

Hector Berlioz: Entrance into Carthage from The Trojans (1'36", 1.5 MB) 
Composed for symphony orchestra and opera chorus but this is my organ version.

Percy Grainger: Colonial Song for organ (4'43", 5.4 MB) 
Grainger transcribed for organ (by Orvis Ross): something of a rarity! Despite being designated by Sir Thomas Beecham as "vulgar" and "the worst orchestral piece of modern times", its original instrumental setting (sometimes with voices) is one of the best things that Grainger wrote. Titled Sentimental No.1, it expresses his nostalgia for his native Australia. After its mixed reception, Grainger never produced any more "Sentimentals".

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Bach-18CP-NkdhH1-organ.mp3
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Bach-8Prel1-vibes.mp3
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Bach-Gigue.mp3
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