The national anthems process

So i’m a little behind in some of my project work because of Hurricane Isaac, but i’ve started the process of listening to all of the national anthems i was able to get a hold of for my wind ensemble commission. It took me a little while to decide what and how i wanted to go about the listening process. It went something like this:

  1. Download all of the national anthem MP3s as is available on The Navy Band website.
  2. Have one of my friends create a script to rename all of the files (because the files were all named the country of the national anthem) into a random 1 to 5 digit number.
  3. Put all of the mp3s into a playlist on my iPhone, listen to them whenever i get a chance on shuffle. Make notes on interesting things by file number via a note in Evernote.

I opted to rename the anthems to random numbers and have someone else do the randomizing because i wanted to be able to listen to and evaluate the music without bias as to where the music originates from or what it represents. Clearly there were a few national anthems that i recognized (US, UK, Canada, France, for example), but for the most part I have no idea what i’m actually listening to.

After having spent probably a few hours listening to the playlist (i’m not sure if i’ve actually gotten through all of the anthems since i’ve had to start the shuffle over at times) and mostly passively (as background as opposed to paying attention), i think i’ve come to the conclusion that my original idea of having all of the national anthems get their spotlight isn’t going to work. Although the piece is going to have a medley sort of feel to it by default, i still want it to be feel more compositional than cut-and-paste-medley.

So what i’m working out in my brain now is making it a little more “Ivesian” for lack of a better made up word – i want to mash anthems together, but in a complementary way as opposed to a clashy way. I may also take some anthem themes and stretch them out rhythmically to provide some sort of slow moving bass line or something, and maybe do some other “masking” to give some of the anthems a unique sort of feel, but without losing the integrity of the anthem itself (so i’m not planning on playing any of them backwards or doing set inversions or silly things like that).

I still have several days of constant listening before i’m going to take some serious notes, and then a few days of listening after that to see if i can start to get a feel for the shape of the piece. That’s really the key – how to take the key material in my head and give the piece a big picture shape and form – once i have that, all of the details can be filled in pretty easily and/or get morphed. If after all of that i can’t get a feel of the big picture shape, i’ll probably go back to the drawing board.

Wind Ensemble Commission Possibilities

So recently I got commissioned to write a wind ensemble piece for the Xavier University Symphonic Winds. While i’ve been going a little batsnuts with marching band season rapidly approaching, i’ve been mulling in my head what the piece is going to be about.

The first idea i had was to steal one of my favorite sections of an old orchestra piece i did for an orchestra composition class in my grad school days because it’s a pretty great section and find a way to expand on it. That’s still the backup plan. But the second and now primary idea that i’m going with is a piece that i’ve been thinking about for the past four or five years now, which is a “anthems of the world” kind of piece, as in i want to incorporate all of the known current national anthems of the world into a huge fused hybrid that’s meant to arrive at some sense of global unity.

The potential backfiring of doing a piece like that is that it’s a pretty big undertaking. If this website is comprehensive as it seems, there are 212 national anthems that exist, and to find a way to journey across all 212 in an eight to ten minute piece that’s due by January 1st when i haven’t written a large ensemble piece in almost a decade seems like i could be biting off more than i can chew. i don’t want to suddenly have to cancel my Christmas vacation plans because, say, i still don’t know how to incorporate the Senegal national anthem into the piece and i don’t want to exclude them because then they could take me hostage or something.

It all boils down to timing. After my two long weeks of band camp are over, i basically have four months to write the piece. Is that enough time? Probably. Is it enough time on top of my full time job, the WSOP satellite event in early December and potentially writing a winter show for Hermiston that would be due around the same time? Maybe.

The one compositional stumbling block that i’ve already been trying to address in my head is how to end the piece. Is there an anthem that can serve as the Big Ending, one anthem that can serve as a climax over any other? As a citizen of the United States i could use that as an obvious answer, but this piece is meant to transcend any personal sense of patriotism i may have; the idea is that no nation is more important than any other, we are all one globe and one world. In that sense, creating an ending climax that resembles *any* of the 212 anthems is problematic, so chances are the music will have to be original and maybe derivative.

The other compositional challenge is how to fuse the anthems together in a way that can ensure that all of the anthems have some time in the spotlight. It’s easy enough to use some of the anthems as background material and i’d probably rely heavily upon that to give the piece depth, but to have an anthem *only* exist in the background is also counter to the philosophy of the piece.

Probably what the plan will be is to stick all of the anthems into a playlist and listen to them ad nauseum for the two weeks following band camp. Next would be to spend a day in a very quiet room or at a park or go on a walk or something and let the ideas buzz of their own accord around in my head, and then spend the next day with staff paper, a pencil with a very big eraser, and a computer, and see what manages to come out. If what comes out seems promising, i move forward with the piece. If what comes out seems strained and difficult and stupid, i start over.

hangouts on air crazy idea

So thanks to my brother, i was able to obtain a token for Google Hangouts on Air for the Tulane University Marching Band g+ Page. Earlier tonight i was doing some test driving and noticed again that there was roughly a 5-10 second delay between the live broadcast and what would get broadcast publicly.

So okay, now here’s what i want to do:

1. Start a Hangouts on Air broadcast in Room A on computer A. Something that’s roughly 5-10 seconds in length.
2. Quickly move Hangouts on Air broadcasting set up to Room B that has computer B in it that is broadcasting the Hangout publicly.
3. Train Computer A’s camera on Computer B’s screen, and feed in the audio of Computer B into Computer A. So now the live broadcast is picking up the 5-1o second delayed thing that i had done earlier – which will recursively add upon itself both in video and audio format ad infinitum.

I wonder what would happen.