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Wednesday, 7 March 2012
Ah, so THAT'S what that is called...

Sometime in the past, I think I mentioned having borrowed a short musical phrase from a nondescript 1990s love song which I used in Dai Sakusen! and Freshmen 4 Ever. Dai Sakusen came first, of course -- I started work on it as an experiment after I heard the nondescript song on the radio at a Chinese restaurant. Now, by "nondescript", I guess I mean "unknown". That is, I had been looking for its title since I heard it back in 1996 (I was 8 years old at the time).
Well, thanks to 21st-century music recognition technology (namely SoundHound for Android), I was finally able to discover the song's title at the grocery store the other week.
Perhaps you're familiar with the 1996 Donna Lewis album, Now in a Minute. The song is track #3: "I Love You Always Forever".

Now that I know what it is, I can cover it. SPUDS is an all-inclusive cover band, rather like Devo themselves -- covering folk tunes, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Nine Inch Nails, and all that, and all that. Not to say they're a cover band, but you get the idea, yeah?
Anyway, I think this song could go very easily into a techno or dream-trance application. Fortunately, it's not terribly complex and I've already got most of what I can remember of it solidly placed on the keyboard. I don't know if I'll keep the lyrics or not... they're not unisex like Devo lyrics, so I would need a female guest vocallist in the band... which brings up another issue that isn't worth mentioning here. Anyway, we'll see how it goes, eh?

Until next time...

Posted by jsebastianperry at 22:23 CST
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Wednesday, 29 February 2012
New songs

Since my last entry, I've written four songs for that Devo cover-band I was talking about. I mean, Devo alone is fine, but what is the purpose of having a band if all you do is cover? Anyway, along with straight covers, we would also do "mutated" (remixed) covers, and original songs. Here are examples of each.

Wild About U (original)
This is an original song I wrote specifically for the band.

Good Riddance (Green Day)
This is an example of mutation. It's Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time of your Life)", but rearranged into skater rock. (I guess the proper term is "punk rock", but who cares, eh?)

That's Good (Devo)
This is just a straight cover of Devo's "That's Good" with no new stuff at all. The only major difference between our performing this and Devo's performing it is that it's different people with a different setup.

Incidentally, I've decided on "SPUDS" as a name for the band. To distinguish it from other Devo cover-bands by that name, this one is an acronym (for what, though, is top-secret).

So, that's what I've been doing instead of working on the next album.

"Wild About U", Copyright © 2012 SebasTECH, Ltd. All rights reserved.
All MIDI files created by J Sebastian Perry.

Posted by jsebastianperry at 22:02 CST
Updated: Thursday, 1 March 2012 00:34 CST
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Tuesday, 24 January 2012
A new plan

First, I'd like to say something about the last entry. I'm not retracting anything and I meant everything that I said... but, perhaps I'm taking it a bit too personally. When I wrote it, I felt as though the government had made an attack against me, as an individual (not as an individual among many, just as me). While I don't take back anything I wrote, I will say that, perhaps, I'm not seeing SOPA's place in the grand scheme. There was life before computers and the internet. Composers and other people managed to get along just fine for centuries before the internet. If the grim predictions everyone's making about SOPA come true, then we'll just have to go back to 20th-century ways of doing business -- frankly, I would prefer to get my music from a record shop again. Anyway, the point is that, whether it gets passed or not, it isn't a big deal. I'm not going to say any more about it here -- if you have questions, you can ask.

Right. Moving onwardly...

You may or may not be aware of a band called "Devo". They've been around since 1973 and they released their ninth studio album, called Something for Everybody, in 2010. Sure, they're from a bit before my time (okay, more than a decade and a half before my time), but these are some of the most underrated musicians in the history of music! If you get the chance, you ought to look them up on YouTube.
Anyway, I've recently made an attempt to arrange some of their work for string orchestra... however, the way I was going about it (essentially transcribing their music and slightly re-arranging it in my own style) was making me able to play some of the songs myself. And, since I can carry a tune rather well, I thought it might be an interesting idea to form a Devo cover band. I've written an original song for it in their style already and am working on a second. It's still very much in the planning stage, this idea, but I'll put up an example of the sort of thing we would do on my YouTube channel soon.

So again, the last last thing I'll ever say about last entry here:
Be stiff, spuds. Remember to take time out for fun and don't get stuck in a loop again.

Posted by jsebastianperry at 21:53 CST
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Thursday, 19 January 2012
SOPA: Stupid Online Persecution Act

Before I go into this, I'd like to point out the irony. All yesterday, whilst my homepage was down in protest of SOPA, the nature of my website called for Google AdSense to display an advert for a blatant music and video piracy service. That's just Google for you.

Now, for those who are unaware, the Stop Online Piracy Act (abbreviated, SOPA) is a bill going through the United States Congress whose name makes it sound like its primary function is to end the online proliferation of piracy of music, films, videogames, and any other copyrighted material (like photos, novels, illustrations, and artwork). At face value, this is a good idea. However, if one examines the wording of the bill (which some other people who are much more well-versed in politics than I am have looked into extensively at this point), one would find that it is phrased vaguely enough to ultimately permit the censorship of American websites. The slogan which people like myself have adopted is, "Don't Censor the Web". Some people have posited that the United States' internet presence will decrease exponentially if the bill is passed. Others liken a post-SOPA America to China, Iran, or some other country who prefers to control their online image.

"Well, isn't this a bit dramatised?" Not at all. The fundamental nature of SOPA's inner workings is that someone has but to make a complaint about a website to the authorities and that website will be shut down and its webmaster will be fined. To that effect, websites such as YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia, Flickr, Photobucket, Webshots, and possibly thousands of others would either be scared into self-policing user content or would shut down of their own volition to avoid a potential fine.

It's interesting, this. In music, we use the term "fine" (pron. "FI-ney") to denote the end of a song, because in Italian it translates to "the end". However, in one of its several English definitions, to "fine" is to charge money for an infraction of a rule or a law.
Under SOPA, the fear of fines will be fine of the Internet. Yes, I know, it's a bad joke. SOPA is also a bad joke.

But, I'm a composer, so this can't possibly affect me, right? An anomalous experience I had with Pangaea is a good example of how it CAN and WILL happen to me.
A few months ago, either a computer algorithm or a fellow composer who also composed a song called Pangaea called out my song on YouTube. I was notified by the website that the copyright status of my song was in dispute and if I could correct the problem. Under SOPA, I would not have been notified until YouTube had already deleted the video and blocked my IP address. Despite the fact that, to the best of my certain knowledge, my Pangaea is 100% original and entirely of my own composition, I would have been disallowed from posting any new material to YouTube because of what was, quite probably, a computer glitch. I would have needed to spend thousands of dollars in attorney fees just to get my privileges back. I don't have thousands of dollars. I only have a couple of hundred. Does the term, "starving artist", mean anything to the government? Doubtful. They'd just say I should get a "real job" and quit spending the taxpayers' money.
In this way, I and thousands of other small business owners would be unable to do business online. Say, for example, someone creates an account to sell some stuff. Say he was a clerk at a record store in the early 1980s and was allowed to take home fifty unsold copies of Devo's New Traditionalists when the store ended business. He's had them stored away in the attic, still shrinkwrapped and in playable condition for all these years and now he wants to sell them as collectibles. A snitchy type brings this to the attention of Warner Music Group who still holds the rights to the album. When the seller refuses WMG's demand for its "deserved" 75% share of the profits from the unsold records, they call him out on infringement. Under SOPA, Amazon would be required to terminate his account and block his IP address.

Another thing which is worrysome is that the bill does not clearly define "copyright infringement". In fact, by some interpretations, it allows anyone with an issue about a small thing to claim infringement of intellectual property when, in fact, no such infringement is taking place. Say I call President George W. Bush a retarded cowboy whose dyslexia made him declare war on the wrong country and had to pay for his mistake by mooching billions of dollars from American taxpayers, sending the nation into a certain death spiral. Someone else, perhaps Mr. "Mission Accomplished" himself, could take offence at that and call me out on intellectual property infringement. Under SOPA, that kind of thing would be all that is needed for my website to be taken down. No investigation would take place to see if the claim was legitimate... strike that. No investigation could take place because of SOPA's inherent unenforceability. Who's going to get paid to follow up on all of these claims? No one. It's a waste of money and Congress knows it. A conspiracy theorist would claim that Congress just wants an excuse to turn America into a police state.

Of course, as a fellow blogger put it, "You know how American politics work. There's a secret meeting in the men's room, money is exchanged, hands are shaken, and hey-presto! here's a new law to tack onto the constitution."

The point is, despite its good intentions, SOPA will only serve to curtail our most fundamental human liberty: freedom of speech. Even though my homepage is back up, the fight isn't over until the bill is voted down. Contact your local representative and remind them that SOPA isn't just unconstitutional, it's philosophically unsound.

Posted by jsebastianperry at 00:01 CST
Updated: Wednesday, 18 January 2012 19:54 CST
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Thursday, 10 November 2011
Rediscovering the violin

It's been some time since my last post, has it not? Almost a month! In fact, if I'd waited 'til tomorrow, it would have been exactly one month since my last entry! Incidentally, tomorrow is 11 November 2011. Abbreviate it and you've got 11/11/11. Ah, triple numbers! This is the second-to-last time we'll have triple numbers in the 21st century, you know! But, this isn't a math blog. Onward to other things!

Right. So, a few months ago, much to my dismay, I discovered I had all but forgotten how to play the violin. I'd been spending so much time on the piano keyboard, I had neglected my formal training and, as a result, sounded like a first-year violin student when I got back to it.
But, as I seem to have an unusual quantity of free time, considering where I am right now, I've decided to get back to the violin. Especially as I didn't have access to a piano or synthesiser for the first couple of months, I rather needed something to play.

At this point, I think I've returned to the experience level I had when I quit the instrument in 2007. In fact, I may have surpassed it slightly -- back then, I couldn't do fourth-position (moving your first finger up to the fourth note position on a string - this is usually done on the highest string to reach notes above the normal playing range), but now I use it routinely. Mostly just as a substitute for playing an open string (playing the fourth note position on any string produces the same tone as the open string above it).
I've learnt the value of playing the fourth position, inasmuch as it allows you to play vibrato, which you can't do on an open string; and that playing an open string will quickly betray the fact that your violin may not be precisely in tune, especially when playing with accompaniment whose instruments are in tune (like a computer or synthesiser).

Anyway, enough violin technique lecture. The real reason I'm writing this is because I've learnt a few new songs. Familiar songs that the other students here would recognise. The one I'm most keen on at the moment is Green Day's Good Riddance (subtitle, "Time of Your Life"). It was composed when Super Mario 64 was new (1996), but it still gets a decent amount of use, on the radio and in corporate playlists for department stores mostly. You'll hear it as underscore to a television programme every now and then, too.
Good Riddance, for me anyway, is a jolly nice "cheat" song. That is, it's written in an easy violin key, so it makes me sound better than I actually am.

Even though YouTube is replete with footage of people covering this and other songs on their violins and guitars and things, I might practise a bit more and add my own contribution to the pile.
All of these new songs I'm learning is opening up new avenues for new age covers. I've got a decent handle on Devo's Whip It on the keyboard, as well as Diane Warren's Faith of the Heart (the Enterprise cover, that is) and a couple of other ones. If nothing else, school has taught me new music that I can use in a cover album.

Posted by jsebastianperry at 14:37 CST
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Tuesday, 11 October 2011
Techno and New Age: You wouldn't think they'd work together...

Updated Wednesday, 12 October 2011 

I've deleted the entry from yesterday, Tuesday, October 11th, as I've changed my mind about something I said there.

I said, principally, that I had finished a new song and would debut it here when it had been completely finished. However, in retrospect, I've decided not to release this song to the public for personal reasons.

Thank you for understanding.

Posted by jsebastianperry at 00:01 CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 12 October 2011 18:14 CDT
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Thursday, 6 October 2011
Sim Mod Con available on YouTube

Until I can get 'round to doing my next album, I thought it would be a jolly nice idea if I put my last one up on YouTube. Frankly, I had been considering doing that for a while, but I kept being thwarted by the idea that I needed an original music video for each of the 20 tracks, just like all my other singles (City Sunset, Mario 64 ragtime, those things). I decided to take a leaf from the music pirates' book and just use the front cover-art of the album, with the track number and title superimposed over it, as the only visual. Surprisingly, it worked rather well, I think.

Have a look, why don't you?

Posted by jsebastianperry at 15:11 CDT
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Saturday, 1 October 2011
Another Tetris "Music A" arrangement

It's quite catchy, that Russian folk tune, isn't it? So much, in fact, that I'm presently working on another arrangement of it, only this time in the style of a Soviet state orchestra. I mean, it had to happen sometime, right? It is a Russian song, after all.
At the moment, it's mostly strings: violins and cellos. However, there are also tubular bells and a male chorus. Though, I had forgotten just how pathetic the General MIDI chorus sound is, so I'll probably assign a different instrument to that track on release, then reassign the chorus on the Fantom X.

Of course, I am tens of miles away from my synthesiser at the moment, which is rather unfortunate. Still... all these arrangements I'm doing -- Tetris, Mario, Crash Dummies -- I could easily do a game music cover for my next album. Of course, that would mean that my other idea, the piano music for children, would need to get pushed back to album #6.

Anyway, I'll post the MIDI for the newest Korobeiniki arrangement when it's finished.
After that, I may sequence my ragtime cover of the Mario 64 theme and arrange it for orchestra (somewhat un-Joplinian, but I seem to have a plethora of free time lately, so why not, eh?).

Posted by jsebastianperry at 21:45 CDT
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Thursday, 15 September 2011
Samaya izvestnaya russkaya pesnya kogda-libo.
Now Playing: Flute Concerto in C Minor
Topic: Game Music

"Please to be waiting momentarily, comrade," you say, looking at the title rather strangely. That is, of course, Russian for "the most famous Russian song ever."

I refer to the one song that's ever come from the former socialist powerhouse that nearly everyone in the world has heard: a folk-tune called Korobeiniki, best known for its role as "Music A" from Tetris. Rather than compose entirely new music, the game's Soviet creator decided (not unexpectedly) to use an existing folk-song as his tetrominoes-based puzzle game's background score.
Until very recently, I was only vaguely aware of the tune, but from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, where it serves as an alternate song for the "Luigi's Mansion" stage. Sure I had played Tetris, but only on my mobile and only on silent mode (my old mobile phone's sound chip was total rubbish).
Fast-forward to a couple of weeks ago, where my suite-mate (the bloke who lived in the dorm room on the other side of the vestibule) requested I find it for him on, calling it his favourite piece of game music ever. Oddly enough, I discovered that Tetris has been released on nearly every console ever made, but was most popular on Game Boy -'s section for which, I might add, was where I found the song he requested. It stuck in my head then and has not left since.

So, yesterday, I found myself out of homework to do and bored out of my very wits. So, I opened NoteWorthy Composer and started to rearrange the song. After just shy of an hour, I ended up with this.

Flute Concerto in C Minor (Tetris Music A)
At first, I considered writing it in the style of a Russian balalaika ensemble... however, that was before I discovered (through Wikipedia) that the song was a Russian folk-tune. I figured the balalaika had probably been done.
Frankly, there's not much that one can do with the song. When I was at home for Labour Day weekend, I found that, unlike the uber-versatile "Above Ground" from Super Mario Bros., "Music A" can really only be turned into A. a Soviet state march, B. a polka, or C. arcade music and still sound halfway-decent. Sure, it's in common time and can be superimposed over most of the Fantom X's default rhythm sets, it just doesn't sound right.
In comparison, I've done "Above Ground" as a waltz, a polka, hard rock, death metal, techno, reggae, swing, jazz, bluegrass, new age with strings, new age with piano, and ragtime.
However, I found that, with the slightly percussive harp behind the flute, one can turn "Music A" into a respectable (if short) Beethoven-esque concerto.
If the song sounds familiar... like something I've already written, consider listening to this, then Murder Mystery. The violin section taking over the melody from the flute is very much a tactic I used there, too.

So, there's that. It's not an original song, necessarily, but it's installment #2 of my "college period" pieces.

Posted by jsebastianperry at 16:16 CDT
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Monday, 29 August 2011

Ah, speech synthesis... it can give voices to those with throat cancer, read webpages for the visually-impaired, and put established singers out of work. Wait... what?

Enter Vocaloid, a set of lyric synthesisers by Yamaha Corporation. Using the same general principle behind normal speech synthesis, Vocaloid can passibly duplicate any lyrics in any key range, using an impossibly large set of phonemes and syllables. In fact, as its primary usage is in the genre of techno, where every instrument is synthesised, it can become difficult to tell which singers are acoustic and which are Vocaloid. At some points, you can easily be fooled into thinking that a Vocaloid is simply a human using AutoTune.
However, trained ears can distinctly tell acoustics from synthesisers... Vocaloid cannot produce any vocal effects, such as hoarseness, whispering, and shouting during playback. It also cannot "speak" (that is, to deliver speech without music). Nevertheless, the programme remains very popular with techno composers in Japan and Europe (and the United States to a certain extent). YouTube is replete with anime Vocaloid techno and the programme's "mascot", Hatsune Miku, is just as recognisable in Japan as the Mario Brothers.

However, what does this prolific synthesiser say about the people who use it? Where is the talent in composing lyrics that you want a synthesiser to sing? Of course, consider that, in techno (a genre about which I, admittedly, know very little) the objective is to write music that is fully synthesised. Before the popularity of Vocaloid, one way this was done was simply to digitally change the pitch of a human voice or to use a VOCODER. However, the latter provided very little variety beyond the standard "singing robot" and, with the former, it is possible to pitch-shift too much, causing entire syllables to be lost in translation, curtailing the composer's freedom in writing high or low notes. Vocaloid, being based on human speech, provides the composer complete freedom to write whatever he desires -- it will be sung properly (though a certain degree of shifting is occasionally required). Also, it isn't a VOCODER, meaning the composer can abandon the "singing robot" archetype.

Beyond techno, however, I don't see what future Vocaloid can possibly have. Its lack of vocal effects or even dynamics (volume-changing ability) makes it unsuitable for opera or musicals... its Japanese-language basis makes it unsuitable for most varieties of hip-hop... its melodic sound makes it unsuitable for rock. The only hope Vocaloid has is if '90s pop is ever revived, with its somewhat haphazard melange of '80s synthpop, rock, and R&B. The Spice Girls and Britney Spears would have been prime targets for replacement, had Vocaloid been around then.

Still, it's good I'm a composer, not a singer. This programme's existence foreshadows the obsolescence of the live performer.

Posted by jsebastianperry at 12:02 CDT
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Saturday, 27 August 2011
Change is inevitable
Now Playing: I Choose You!
Topic: Original Music

I'll say one thing for college so far... it does tend to change one's perception of music. At any given time, skater rock, R&B, techno, and new age can all be heard playing in the corridors of the dormitory. Radios, stereos, computers, and mobile phones are the typical devices upon which said music is played... however, I have also discovered a new medium for which music is composed: Flash games.

For those who don't know (or don't care, like I did), there are numerous gaming websites that specialise in providing free or almost-free games made by people using the animation programme, Flash. In most cases, the creator of the game does not write the music for it, as well. That can be said of the professional game studios, too -- Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka didn't write the music for Super Mario Bros. in between level designs... Nintendo assigned Koji Kondo to write the music and do nothing else on the project.
Often, the music for Flash games is not on the same bombastic level as the soundtrack for, say, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or Super Mario Galaxy. In fact, most Flash games don't use more than a thirty-second loop of a song, original or otherwise, for the duration of gameplay. For example, I recently became aware of a game on Facebook called, sugar, sugar, wherein the object is to direct granules of sugar into a coffee cup. That's the whole game. Oh, there are numerous different ways to do it, ways involving inverting gravity and directing sugar through colour-filters, but the game itself is based completely on that premise. Music-wise, it's a lyricless R&B loop lasting, perhaps, forty-five seconds.

Simple, yes? I thought so. However, as my next song is not entirely completed, I decided that I would put up one that I wrote quite a while back but couldn't find anything to do with it. It is this.

I Choose You! (TSN version)
As the title implies, the song is based very much on the work of Junichi Masuda, particularly from the Pokémon series. It isn't suitable for an album because it loops (one of two songs I wrote that do that -- the other being The Junkyard).

Another thing I discovered is that there is an uncannily high demand for techno songs involving the Vocaloid lyric synthesiser, which I shall talk about next time. Until then...

Posted by jsebastianperry at 10:17 CDT
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Tuesday, 23 August 2011
Eight Two Three
Now Playing: One Two Three
Topic: Original Music

In an unfortunate lack of foresight on my part, I made all of these grand plans for album #5... right before I moved far, far away from my Fantom X. If you've been following the Thirty-Second Note since the beginning, you'll remember my mentioning that I might be going to college to learn music theory ('cos what's a composer without credentials, right?). Well, that "might" turned into a "shall", so here I am, writing this entry from my dorm room at college. At the moment, I'm about 75 miles away from my Fantom X, making any work on the "Child's Play" idea impossible.

Fortunately, I do still have NoteWorthy Composer. So, to that end, I've decided to write music in my spare time (music historians may refer to this as my "College Period").
Here is the first one I've finished.

One Two Three
This, like City Sunset, Dai Sakusen, and Freshmen 4 Ever is an example of me being a lazy composer. The entire piece is based on loops -- that is, short sections of two or four bars copied and pasted together ad nauseam. Each part is like that. Also, each part introduces itself four bars after the previous introduction (the vibraphone comes in four bars after the piano, the harp comes in four bars after the vibraphone, et cetera).

With any luck at all, there will be more TSN-exclusive songs in the near future. All I have to do is write them.

Posted by jsebastianperry at 17:56 CDT
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Friday, 12 August 2011
"Child's Play": Not just a bad '80s horror film anymore!
Topic: Original Music

I know I said that, since album #4 was all about The Sims, album #5 might be all about SimCity, but I've decided to table that idea for the moment. Here's a new idea for album numéro cinq...

Piano renditions of...
  -the Super Mario Bros aboveground theme
  -the Super Mario 64 main theme
  -Linus & Lucy (a new-age arrangement)
  -Oh, Good Grief! (another new-age arrangement)
  -the Winnie-the-Pooh theme
  -The Sims main theme
  -Go, Speed Racer, Go!
  -the Inspector Gadget theme
  -the end-credits theme to Wallace & Gromit
  -some kind of song from the Walt Disney Company
  -and a few original JSP improvs an album specifically geared toward children. I think it could work, this idea.

To be totally honest, I've already begun planning this album under the tentative title of "Child's Play" (uber-tentative, let's say, as there's also a slasher film from the '80s by that title). At first glance, a typical artistic reaction would be, "man, that's some expensive licensing!" And, you'd be right about that. However, there do exist certain precedents for declaring them all under Fair Use. For example, there's an album released by a non-Disney company called Heigh-Ho Mozart and another called Bibbidi-Bobbidi Bach, both of which contain numerous arrangements of Disney songs in the style of as many classical and Baroque composers. I'm doing essentially the same thing -- making piano arrangements of all those songs.

Anyway, in the time it's taken me to type this, I've decided on "I Won't Say (I'm In Love)" by Alan Menken from Disney's Hercules (sometimes known as "Meg's Song" for the character who sings it) as the obligatory children's CD Disney song. After all, action themes like the title songs to Inspector Gadget and Speed Racer and the Nintendo themes rather skew the target demographic to boys between the ages of 5-13. So, in order to maintain gender equality, the album will split more or less in this fashion...

Aboveground from Super Mario Bros.
Go, Speed Racer, Go!
Theme to Inspector Gadget
At least one JSP improv

The Neighbourhood from The Sims
Birabuto & Muda Kingdom from Super Mario Land
Meg's Song from Hercules
At least one JSP improv

Linus & Lucy
Oh, Good Grief! from A Boy Named Charlie Brown
Theme to Winnie-the-Pooh
Kakariko Village from Ocarina of Time
Clock Town from Majora's Mask
End Credits from Wallace & Gromit
Super Mario Bros. Aboveground Theme Waltz Arrangement
Super Mario 64 Main Theme Ragtime Arrangement

So, all of that amounts to approximately 45-65 minutes of music, depending on how much I rush or drag. You'll also notice that the Super Mario 64 Main Theme Ragtime Arrangement from the YouTube video of the same title is going into the album. However, I'm not totally satisfied with the way I performed the YouTube version -- I've learnt to do it better since the last recording -- so, I'll record a new, more-suitable-for-a-curriculum-vitae version, which I may use to replace the current audio track on the video.

You'll also notice that there isn't a single instance of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, Mary Had A Little Lamb, Frere Jacques, or any other tiresome cliche of a nursery rhyme in the track list. Who, adult or child, wants to waste their time listening to another pianist playing one of those? What pianist worth their salt would want to add another rendition of such onto the pile, anyway?

Well, that turned out strangely, didn't it?
Anyway, that's the plan for album #5. I'll probably do SimCity for album #6.

Posted by jsebastianperry at 15:59 CDT
Updated: Friday, 12 August 2011 17:23 CDT
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Thursday, 4 August 2011
The Super Mario 64 Main Theme Ragtime Arrangement: a text commentary
Now Playing: Might want to have the YouTube video handy
Topic: Game Music

I haven't written anything recently, so I thought I would talk about one of the more popular videos on my YouTube channel. As of this posting, Super Mario 64 Main Theme - Ragtime Arrangement has been viewed 75 times, putting it in second place as far as total views are concerned.

In fact, if one might change the subject slightly, the video that has the most views of any other on my channel is Teen Girl Squad (Rhythm Core Alpha), with, like, 147 views. I've seen videos of people competently using the DSiWare app, Rhythm Core Alpha, to make techno loops and stuff that actually sounds good. I didn't set out to duplicate TBC's Teen Girl Squad background theme -- I just happened to come across the right notes, so I stuck them into RCA, attached my DSi to my computer, and recorded the playback. The only reason it's on YouTube is actually because I happen to have the AhnbergHand typeface (which Strong Bad's handwriting font) and that I wanted an excuse to kill one of the characters myself (Cheerleader is the easiest to draw in Paint). So, that's the story behind my most viewed video.

Back on task.
So, the first ten seconds of the video (which may be too long, actually) features an old-timey title card. The font used is ITC Benguiat, because it looked better than any of the other serifed fonts I tried. All that is important is in the large type. "The 'Super Mario 64 Main Theme', From Composer KOJI KONDO, As Performed By J SEBASTIAN PERRY". The rest of the text is an Easter Egg. According to the card, the film was directed by one Chas. A. M. Oldtimer III. "Chas. A. M." is a reference to Charles Martinet, the voice of Mario (which is ironic, as Mario would not have needed a voice in the Silent era, of course). "Oldtimer" is just what it sounds like -- the video is meant to seem old-timey.
Also, the "photographer" is one H.B. Slatipac. This is actually an inside joke. During rehearsal of a school play in my sophomore year of high school, I improvised a name for myself backstage: "H. Balthasar Slatipac". The "H" I decided later stood for "Hirohito".
The "Westmore-Berman Radio Company" is a reference to Michael Westmore and Rick Berman, the makeup designer and executive producer, respectively, on Star Trek: The Next Generation through Star Trek: Enterprise. Back in the old days, radio broadcasting companies would produce films because they had the most money, I suppose. "Radcliffe-McSpleen Motion Pictures, Inc." is a reference to another improvised name. Whenever we had to do a video project or PowerPoint presentation in school, I would always credit "Nigel Radcliffe" with directing or producing the feature. "McSpleen" is just my alter-ego, Spiny McSpleen. I seemed to remember reading somewhere that Philadelphia was the old Hollywood. I might be wrong. I probably am. But, there it is.
The copyright date of "19X6" (pronounced "nineteen exty six") is a reference to Stinkoman 20X6 from I decided I preferred it to "1936", which would also have referenced, but the Old-Timey "The Homestar Runner" toons.
All Things Considered is the title of a programme on NPR that I rather like to listen to.
"Please wait as the splines are reticulated" is a reference to SimCity and The Sims, where the nonsense message "Reticulating Splines" would appear whilst the game was loading. This message is totally out of place on an old-timey title card, wouldn't you say?

Since the entire arrangement is based on the style of Scott Joplin, the ragtime pianist, I thought it would be appropriate to replace Koji Kondo's introductory sting with the first few bars of The Entertainer. This worked especially well, since I couldn't figure out a way to make Kondo-san's intro sufficiently ragtimey.
I was having a bit of difficulty playing the intro. The original idea was to play it on two octaves, but I couldn't do it without hitting bad notes or too many notes at once, so I took the lazy man's route and played only one octave. Since I wasn't too convinced that I could play The Entertainer and then the Mario 64 theme directly thereafter, I left out the intro and just played the Mario 64 bit. Actually, I played the intro last and just grafted it onto the front of the waveform.

If you're actually watching the video and not just listening to it, you might notice that there's very little change in the heads-up display at the top of the screen. Four Marios, 20 stars. That's because I took most of the pictures all at once and didn't care to keep ducking in and out of save files to do it. So, that's why that is.

I know that I'm not supposed to point out mistakes (that was lesson #1 in my orchestra class at middle-school: "when you perform solo, don't point out your mistakes"), but I will admit -- there are places I could have performed the song better. Specifically at 0:56, as I'm wrapping up a repeat of the motif. Still, it just goes to prove that a real person, not a computer, is playing the song live.

At 1:27, you may notice that Mario is shaded more darkly. The same is true of the image at 1:37. This is because, the picture is not actually of Mario, but of Luigi (you may have noticed the "L" on his cap at 1:37). Well, more specifically, these are two shots of a costume recolour GameShark code I made. I figured that, since they're all in greyscale, there was no reason to omit them.
Also at 1:37, there's a very un-Joplinian glissando (that's what that cacophony of downward-facing notes is: a glissando). I had to take the liberty of applying a purely Kondo-esque technique to Joplin's style. Another glissando (but upward this time) can be heard at 1:47, as well.

And, that's all that's particularly interesting about my second-most-viewed video.
That's all for today. Tune in next time when I talk about... er... well... something else.

Posted by jsebastianperry at 01:36 CDT
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Tuesday, 31 May 2011
And, so begins album #5
Now Playing: Terrania
Topic: Original Music

You know, I've really got to find a place to sell all of this music. I've got three decent albums with about 45 minutes of music on each and not a single way to make any money from it. Amazon? iTunes? Indie record shop? Well, it's not relevant at the moment.

As we speak, I'm making preparations for album #5. Its title? Who knows at this point. However, since album #4 was all The Sims, perhaps album #5 could be all SimCity?
After all, the first song I've written for this new album (whose score I just finished yesterday) was rather inspired by SimCity Societies. Its tentative title is "Terrania", but that could change once I'm totally done with it.
See, "Terrania" is similar to Freshmen 4 Ever, in that I will perform the melody line myself. However, where Freshmen had a scored melody line (which I thought was interesting at the time, but ultimately decided not to use), "Terrania" does not. Now, although I say "Terrania's" melody will be entirely improvisational, it may turn out that I end up writing a melody anyway. That happens sometimes. Since stuff doesn't always take on the first go, and I may end up improvising something really nifty, I may write it down so I can play it the same way again.

If I do decide to go the all-SimCity route, I'll put in Pangaea again, as well as City Sunset and The Paved Frontier, as those were all inspired by SimCity 3000 and 4.
So, even now, with only one new song and three old ones, it's already amounted to nearly 20 minutes'-worth of music! Fancy that, eh? But, then, Pangaea is rather on the long side, so if I do the SimCity thing, I'll probably end up pruning it some.

So, perchance to listen, yes?
Terrania (TSN version)
This version of the MIDI score has been edited for time and repetition. I took out two loops of the synth/vibraphone bit at the beginning and some in the middle as well. With the soprano saxophone that I plan to improvise with, it makes that section less repetitive than the score actually is, but just listening to the score without the melody, one has difficulty staying awake.

Posted by jsebastianperry at 22:29 CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 22 June 2011 17:39 CDT
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Sunday, 29 May 2011
Album #4 is finished!
Now Playing: Sim Mod Con
Topic: Original Music

Cor blimey, look at that! A fourth album by this obscure English composer! Who'd've thought it? I was utterly surprised when I found I had enough material for one album, never mind four!
Of course, this newest album just sort of appeared one day -- no planning had gone into it, no test cover-art made to see how a particular title would look on a store shelf. It, literally, just happened.

See, one day, I decided I was tired of The Sims 2's sprightly synthesised soundtrack (oo, hey, an alliteration!), questioning why Team Mutato chose a fully-scored route over Jerry Martin's somewhat cheatist path which was taken for Build Mode. Like I mentioned in a previous entry, The Sims Classic's Build Mode score was nifty! I liked how Jerry, Kirk, and Robi could just sit down at a piano and play whatever, then put that whatever into the game as finished music.
I was rather surprised that nothing similar was done for The Sims 2. After all, I've seen Mark Mothersbaugh improvise on his organ-synthesiser with the skill of a seasoned stage-performer (probably from all those openers Devo did for better-known musicians). Nevertheless, to each his own, I suppose. I was still tired of the same old music.
So I decided to try something. I connected up my computer to my Fantom X6 like I do and I used my "Improv Piano" voice (really just Roland's "Ultimate Grand" with some different reverb settings), thought of a house I'd built in The Sims Classic once, and improvised a theme for it. After I was done, I put the finished product into The Sims 2 for testing -- I figured if I didn't notice it right away whilst I was building brick retaining walls around Demosthenes Trevelyan's flowerbeds, I could consider the test successful.

That was in 2009. Since then, I've done Sims-related improvs on a fairly regular basis, finally ending up with a grand total of 20 pieces of piano music (more, I might add, than there was in The Sims Classic's Build Mode by, like, 14 MP3 files), or just shy of an hour in total.

So, hence the title, "Sim Mod Con". In keeping with tradition, Sim Mod Con is also the title of a song on the album. "Mod-con" is short, of course, for "modern convenience". "Sim" just seemed to fit, being a three-letter word and all, making for a simple trisyllabic title.

I'd do more writing, but my computer seems to be overheating at the moment, so I'll leave you with a sample from the album. The title track, in fact.
Sim Mod Con (TSN version)

Posted by jsebastianperry at 17:46 CDT
Updated: Saturday, 30 July 2011 11:19 CDT
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Friday, 27 May 2011
What's in a name? Well, a "J", for one thing...
Topic: Music Composers

This is just my current run of luck, isn't it? As it turns out, there's another new age musician (perhaps a composer, also) by the name of "Sebastian Perry". I don't know precisely how long he's been doing music for a record label, but suffice it to say, an explanation is required.

First, as I said in a previous post, to blatantly copy someone else is equivalent to cheating. I don't do that. My name, J Sebastian Perry, is an abbreviation of my full name, Jeffrey Allan Sebastian Perry. The "J", of course, stands for "Jeffrey" (or "Jeff"... I'll answer to either).
This is in contrast to Sebastian Perry, whose full name seems to be represented in his sobriquet.

So, to that effect, whilst I won't be totally changing my own stage-name (you can still make out all of your cheques to "J Sebastian Perry"), I may also go by the following names in the ending credits to something...

J Sebastian (just dropping the "Perry" altogether)
J.S. Perry (referencing "J.S. Bach")
Jeffrey A Perry (just dropping the "Sebastian" altogether)
Yoshin Okesu (my videogame composer name -- "Okesu" is a shortening of okesutora, "orchestra"; "Yoshin" is "Yoshi" and shinsu, "synth")

So, again, J Sebastian Perry and Sebastian Perry are two different people.

I mean, there's Mark Wahlberg, the cinema actor, and there's Mark A. Walberg, the television host. Jerry Seinfeld and Jake Steinfeld. Leonard Nimoy and... er... Harrison Ford?

Posted by jsebastianperry at 10:20 CDT
Updated: Saturday, 30 July 2011 11:20 CDT
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Monday, 2 May 2011
Re: Pangaea -- Copyrighted material?
Topic: Original Music

I recently discovered that someone (or, more likely, some computer algorithm) on YouTube has made a claim that some sort of content in Pangaea is under an existing copyright. Of all the things on my channel to dispute, it wants to dispute my original song, Pangaea? Not the Rhythm Core Alpha version of the Teen Girl Squad theme? Not the Super Mario 64 Main Theme ragtime arrangement?

Admittedly, I may be making a mountain from an anthill. I'm relatively new to YouTube and it is entirely possible that mistakes of this kind are made all the time. If it was a computer algorithm equipped with machine learning AI, there's a rather good chance that somewhere in the high 80 per cents of videos are misidentified for some reason.
Then, there's the fact that Pangaea on YouTube is comprised of three fundamental parts: the visuals, the audio, and the title. If it was a real, actual person who made the claim, it could be because they are also a new-age composer with a song called Pangaea. Or, they could have a song called, I don't know... Ffarflugnahrben, or something, that they performed with the Fantom X's "Xtragalactic" voice.

Let's face it... there are only so many combinations of notes that one can squeeze out of the 12-note scale. Furthermore, there are only so many synthesisers and so many contrived instrument voices in the world. Even though we, as composers, like to think that we're composing entirely original music... really, there's no such thing. In all the years people have been writing in the five-line staff, a good 90% of all conventional note combinations have been used. Then, with so many schools of thought regarding new age music, the Experimental genre is using up all of the unconventional notations, as well.
And, of course, new age songs of this type are frequently given expansive, ethereal, or extraterrestrial names. "Pangaea" is one such word which is, has been, and will be used in that regard.

Regardless of the previous paragraph, I do believe that, to the best of my certain knowledge, the audio track in Pangaea -- all songs called that, written by all composers ever -- is a completely new, 100% original contrivance of my/our own brain(s). I did not set out, with malice aforethought, to infringe upon the copyrights of a fellow composer, as to do so would be considered less of art, more of cheating.

Of course, some AI somewhere may find it objectionable that I used Microsoft Word gradient effects for the visuals. I did cheat there.

Maybe I was just looking for something new to write about. Who knows?

Posted by jsebastianperry at 13:16 CDT
Updated: Saturday, 30 July 2011 11:28 CDT
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Friday, 22 April 2011
Now that I've finished the Pangaea video...
Now Playing: Nothing this time
Topic: Original Music

It took me several months, but I finally did find a way to visually represent Pangaea on YouTube. One rather has to have at least an animated GIF or something -- after all, YouTube is primarily a video site.
So, anyway, now that it's all done, all the visuals are synched to the chord changes and the finished product is on YouTube, I'm considering that it may be, perhaps, just a bit too long. Without visuals, the song takes 8:40-something to play to completion. Whilst this kind of thing is good for relaxation CDs, where you're intentionally trying to get an effect out of it, I don't really think it works on the Internet. Not in a video, anyway. One goes to YouTube to be entertained quickly... it's this dratted McSociety of ours. Get your jollies in 60 seconds or less or it's on us.
Nevertheless, Pangaea may need trimming down for an online audience. Four minutes would be the second-longest video I've ever released... but nine?! That's not ideal.

It's early enough, I could remove the existing video, cut out some of it, and put it back up without anyone noticing. On the other hand, it seems somewhat unfair not to allow people to hear the whole song all at once. I suppose I could wait and see what people have to say about it. If the consensus amongst the viewers is that it's just too long and clunky for YouTube, I'll make a new rendition.

The thing about Pangaea, the song, is that it's versatile in this way. Since not much happens in it, I can cut bits out or even slice off the entire back half without anyone really conciously realising it.
The way I wrote it, one plays through the song from bar one to bar 19 in the major key, then goes back to the beginning and plays the whole thing again in minor. I could easily remove the da capo al fine and have the score end at bar 19, playing either major or minor the whole way through.
Nothing else could change. Note lengths, note values, and instrumentation would remain the same. All you have to do is change three ingredients and you have a whole different recipe. I don't want to set out with the objective of cutting Pangaea down and end up with a different song. It would still be the same relaxation piece... just a bit shorter.

Anyway, that's what I have to say on the matter.

Posted by jsebastianperry at 00:52 CDT
Updated: Saturday, 30 July 2011 11:28 CDT
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Thursday, 21 April 2011
Visual issues solved: "Pangaea" video is a go
Now Playing: Nothing this time
Topic: Original Music

In my inaugural entry to The Thirty-Second Note, I was complaining about how I had no way to visually represent my blatantly new-age relaxation piece, Pangaea, on YouTube. However, I believe I have hit upon the solution.
As I'm re-acquainting myself with Windows Movie Maker (the last time I used it extensively was in sophomore year of high school... nigh on seven years ago), I'm discovering that there are a great deal of visual transition effects which, when used properly, can be used as a substitute for actual skill. To that end, I've decided to go ahead with one of my rejected ideas: Microsoft Word gradient effects. The gradients in Word 2010 are much more micromanage-y than in previous versions, allowing one to add so-called "gradient stops" -- that is, user-defined additions of new colour to the gradient.
Using these effects, I've made 21 representations of what Pangaea might look like, if music could be seen. They're loosely based on periods in Earth's development, since the song is about the formation of the World as we know it. It starts with fire, transitions through charred cinders, dirt, water, and grass, and ends with Pangaea, itself: a combination of all of the above. The final cels look somewhat like a blurry landscape: water on the bottom, grass in the centre, the sky on top.
The cels change in synchronisation with the chords. Each time a new chord is heard, a different cel displays... well, almost each time. I rather ran out of visuals, so I had to stretch a few out a couple of chords. Speaking as an amateur filmmaker, I tried to create a sort of artificial synesthesia with the visuals, tying them in with the music. However, speaking as a professional composer, I would encourage you to not focus on the visual aspect of the video so much. The colourful stuff is just a formality -- a transmitter, if you like, for Pangaea, the song. It lasts nearly nine minutes, so just defocus and let your mind wander -- that's what one does with meditative songs like this anyway, right?

Now that I've got Pangaea squared away, I should rather like to come up with something else along the same lines. Synthesiser, new age chords (maybe fifths... fifths are good), meditative, long-ish. Something like that. Fortunately, one of the many positive aspects of the Roland Fantom X series is that it contains quite a lengthy list of synthpads... I'm sure I can find something.

In any case, Pangaea is on YouTube right now. It's the huge, great video in the centre of my channel page.
Why not have a look, eh?

Posted by jsebastianperry at 09:39 CDT
Updated: Saturday, 30 July 2011 11:27 CDT
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