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 Forum index » Discussion » Composition
What is written music and why is it more serious?
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play



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2005 2:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Or perhaps the artist wants to confuse and confound the audience, or those in the audience who would be confused and confounded by free-form experimentation. As a listener, I like to be jolted. It's one of the functions of art to temporarily move us to another vantage point and that can sometimes (and sometimes has to be) jarring.

Quote:

Anyway,a lot of the weird noises you hear these days are in fact mature works built upon a tradition.


Good point. What makes them "weird" is an attitude of the listener, not necessarily anything never-before-heard in the music. From my point of view, pop music, and pop culture is about as bizarre as it gets but it's the daily diet for a lot of people.
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dmosc



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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2005 11:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I see a lot of your points and understand why one could disagree with me sure, but I see these conseptual differences as the major stumbling blocks between electronic music and a mainstream audience, not nessisarily the instrumentation and structural changes.

I'm not asking you to make britnay spears with your synths guys, I just think it would help a great many to be focused on the emotion/direction of a piece.

Jazz has improv but it is mostly because the player is capable of composing, in what is traditionally a VERY simple structure with fixed rules, on the fly and does so to remove stumbling blocks in the emotional conveyance of ideas. Generally, I think without even more stringent rules than a standard composition, improv and dynamic elemets are better suited to the studio than the concert hall.

From talking with mosc on this, I am learning that some take this as rather offensive. I can see the argument that you like being supprised as an audience and prefer to get as far as you can from something somebody else has made famous but I'm really pretty open minded folks. I mean, if you can't sell me, 99% of the people are going to think ur nuts.

Also, maybe it's a bit of a risk/reward thing. If you really try to come up with something different and inventive rather than compose in the same sytle as others, maybe your sucesses will be harder to come by but when you do have them, they will be more unique and valuable.

It's not like studio compositional exploration has no value! You can't expect to sit down and write a symphony worth it's salt the first try.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2005 1:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

dmosc wrote:
I see a lot of your points and understand why one could disagree with me sure, but I see these conseptual differences as the major stumbling blocks between electronic music and a mainstream audience, not nessisarily the instrumentation and structural changes.


I don't know, I just make funny sounds and there is nothing I can do about it :-)

But you had some good points in this thread like :

dmosc wrote:
I still think limits are a welcome thing.
and
Quote:
I just think it would help a great many to be focused on the emotion/direction of a piece.


I tend to forget such things and go into the technical stuff easily, but I do see their value for making the funnies sound more like music.

Jan.
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chuck



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 28, 2005 9:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Perhaps if there is some kind of notation of music (whether we can read it or not) then that speaks to some people as a proof of the artistic intention. That sounds lame to say it that way... but I know from years of jazz playing that the general listening population (and some fine musicians too) don't trust the jazz improvizer with skill beyond some tricks learned from Jamie Aebersold recordings. Whether it takes more skill to play a classical concerto or to blow through a string of ii v7 changes is grist for many mills yet to come.

John Cage's skill as a composer may well be in his ability to see what could be possible rather than to predetermine an event. If his concept is notated, then people who can't share his vision can at least be sure that there is (was) a vision.

In other words, music notation is (for many) a validation of the art. In some extreme cases the validation is so necessary that music can only be perceived in terms of notation.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 28, 2005 9:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Good points, Chuck. Did you ever see John Cage's book Notations?
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chuck



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 28, 2005 9:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I just went 'shopping' for that. Its out of print and cheapest copy I could find was over $100.

Time to check the public library!

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 28, 2005 10:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Yes, it's worth a trip to the library for that one. It's spectacular and quite enlightening. Even if you never create music notation yourself, it will change the way you think about music just looking at some of those scores.
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dmosc



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 28, 2005 1:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

great points chuck
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rbedgar



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PostPosted: Sat Jan 14, 2006 4:46 pm    Post subject: Notation(s)
Subject description: Some thoughts
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I've recently joined E-M.C, and just read through this abandoned string. Here's a few thoughts, for anyone's amusement.

For those who know south Indian music, you probably know this, or know it better than I do. Feel free to add any corrections!

About five years ago my digital media company hired a south Indian woman to help us code. Discovering we were both musicians, we started getting together regularly to play.

Shuba and her older brother Purna had been raised in India studying in the carnatic tradition: Shuba in voice and veena (a south Indian instrument somewhat like a sitar but often without resonant strings, and without movable frets), and Purna in mridangam (a two-headed drum, similar in purpose to a tabla, but a "drier" sound).

We met weekly for almost six months before we tried to focus on playing together, or composing together. We didn't share the most basic concepts: what was a note? a pitch? a beat? If I counted time my numbers would be evenly spaced, if they counted time they'd be counting something else...but not what I'd call "beats". And what was a composition? A song? A raga? I thought I knew something about Indian music...I knew far, far less than I thought (I still do).

I learned some about their notation system, and at the same time, how they taught their instruments. Notation for the mridangam is often called out. But to teach a new phrase, Purna would notate it for students. The notation indicated sequences of a hit on the drum, specifying the finger and place on a specific drum head, along with some other specific behaviors. But duration was not clearly specified. The teacher chanted the phrase (or sequence of phrases), had the student copy the phrases, then had the student chant the phrases, and THEN had the student play the phrases on the mridangam. Additional information on "musicality" and playing with other musicians was added as the student progressed.

The veena required a different notation system. This was based on a two-octave notation system, with note names similar to our "do-re-mi" system.

As most of you probably know, their musical structures include "ragas", which are primarily scales (specified for both up and down the octave), but that include other attributes such as turns (not all descending scales simply descend, for instance, some have notes that may only be played if preceded by a certain note, etc.).

The rules for carnatic music are deep and wide, of course. But to play with Purna and Shuba, and to get some idea of what they were doing, we had to learn enough of each other's traditions so we knew what each other were talking about. A raga isn't just a key, and vice versa. That melodic phrase is part of the raga, not the song. This is a rest, you don't have them in your notation (it's like having no "zero").

Sorry for the long entry, but some things that have been interesting for me are:

- the differences in notations among the instrumentation.
- the reliance on acoustic memories for passing down songs and drum phrases.
- Ravi Shankar's admonition to Purna: "You must write down everything!". I would have never imagined that Shankar would have said that--a measure of how much I didn't know, and an indication of how much I still don't know.
- The absolute relationship between instrument design and music composition. There is no harmonic structure in carnatic music. The veena melodies is played primarily up and down the strings, and only secondarily across them. A guitar, on the other hand, is played across the strings, begging for harmonies.
- The usefullness of the western notation system's ability to encode specific durations and rests.

Anyway, we've been playing together for six years now. Sometimes we start with a raga or south Indian song, and I add harmonies, and we all compose in sections. Sometimes we start with a western song or piece and Shuba picks one or more ragas to use for it, and Purna selects drum phrases that work with and against the time signature. And I've taught Shuba some chords on her veena. They've helped me learn how to count out some of the Indian rhythms.

I guess the reason I'm putting this here is because, in some meaningful way, I believe that learning another musical tradition is a different way of experimenting with music, and this is a path I've found that helped me examine questions like "does notation make music more serious?" or "what happens if you improvise without previously defined structures?". Dunno if I've answered those quesitons for myself, but it helped me shake up my examination of them a bit.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 14, 2006 8:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Excellent post, Robert. Thanks.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2006 2:03 am    Post subject: Re: Notation(s)
Subject description: Some thoughts
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rbedgar wrote:
learning another musical tradition is a different way of experimenting with music

somehow I am doing the same coming from my jazz background and studying avant-garde electronic music. it's a completely different ball park.
excellent post btw Very Happy

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 2:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

hi,

thanks for your thought-provoking comments so far.

imo, if music is about the joy of experiencing music, then notation is, perhaps, about giving others the oppurtunity to participate and experience the joy of music written by someone else. similar to reading a poem or a novel...

'serious' might then be interpreted in the sense of something being valid and just(ified), non?

in my experience the more information and insights i have on a musical piece, e.g. the music of john cage, the more rewarding the experience has been.

make a joyful noise!

eike
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 3:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

noodulator wrote:
'serious' might then be interpreted in the sense of something being valid and just(ified), non?


Yes, possibly and it is vague.
I guess there are two ways to look at this.
The listener/critic will judge "written" music to be more justified and arty than something "hacked" together in the studio. Does this make much sense? Not really. It can be argued that writing music the "old fashioned way" results in more interesting music or "better" music, but then this doesn´t really hold water if you really think about it.

From the composer´s it is all about making music anyway. In some cases "writing" using pen and paper will be the best way to start the compositional process. Whatever works will do just fine. That being said, choosing to tune the process in a way that will benefit the music is a craft in itself and I don´t think there is only valid one universal method of doing this. For instance, it isn´t always the case that a composer will want to write the music that comes out of the least demanding process. YMMV.

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Kookoo



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PostPosted: Sun Mar 05, 2006 8:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Programming is mostly a science and partially an art. The art of programming just happens to come through in a medium that only other programmers can really understand. One web browser is the same as another to a user, but to a programmer (looking at the source code), they could be as different as night and day. One codebase could be "boring", "messy", "trite", "uninspiring", or even "infuriating" and the other could be "imaginative", "calming", or "like water".

Music is a mostly an art and partially a science. The science of music just happens to come through in a medium that only other musicians can really understand. One "sad-sounding" composition is the same as another to a listener, but to a musician (analyzing the structure), they could be as different as night and day. One composition could be "rigid", "complex", "well-defined", "traditional", or even "experimental" and the other could be "sloppy", "poorly structured", "repetitive", "disharmonious", or "derivative".


The extent of my formal musical education is three years of playing viola in middle school, so in some ways this conversation is a bit over my head. Please forgive me if that leads me to any pretentious opinions. Unfortunately, it also means that the only authority I can speak from is my own perspective. Notwithstanding my barrier to comprehending traditional "seriousness" in music (i.e. as dmosc justifiably describes it), this topic has been on my mind a lot lately as I have been considering leaving my programming career of almost 10 years, at least temporarily, to pursue my love of making music. The closer I get to actually following this flight of fancy, the more I start to question whether I would be an idiot to do it - exactly because I don't have a solid grasp of the traditional framework that most "serious" musicians seem to. I have nightmares about being put on the spot to collaborate with other musicians only to be exposed as a hack.

I'm having many thoughts... here we go Smile

I love music because of its ability to incite emotion in other people, and I really would like to hone any skills that I have to the point that I can intentionally inspire a specific or general kind of emotion in listeners. In that sense, I consider my pursuit "serious" and "worthwhile", but my method is far from what I consider "serious". So, then, does my serious intent redeem my amateur, crayon-like, wheel-reinventing methods of composition? Does any of that really matter if you find my music moving or thought-provoking? Or do most of you require some sort of "musician's music" aspect in order to derive satisfaction from a given composition?

About 17 years ago I got into computer programming because I loved it. There were a host of related environmental and psychological factors, too, but for whatever reason I did (and still do) just plain *love* to program. I never went to college, but I spent more or less every waking minute reading books, writing code, and experimenting (ding ding). I didn't have any other programmers to talk to, at all, until I got my first paying programming job in 1998, and so back then I felt a lot of the same anxiety about "seriousness" that I do now about music. How do you know if you're a "real" programmer or just a hack when you've never been to a single class? As it turns out I did pretty well. The only thing that's turned me from an amateur programmer to a "serious" programmer (i.e. "software engineer") is experience. That experience has brought with it an understanding of most of the central concepts and practices that are taught in school, but I like to think (and have been told as much by peers) that I have a different perspective on the same fundamentals since they were adapted as tools to augment and direct my mental process after I'd already invented my own, rather than having my mental process constructed by "serious" teachers and "serious" programmers writing "serious" textbooks.

In truth, though, much of my invented mental programming process has been replaced over the years by more traditional and serious engineering processes because, well... they're more completely thought out and, thus, more useful. This is somewhat analogous to dmosc's comments about accepting limitations. It may *seem* like there's new ground to be broken in thinking about musical composition a different way, when in fact people have been trying it for centuries and have gotten nowhere. Why not start from what "works" and try to refine it -- add detail and refine -- rather than abandon large chunks of it and try to do something "different"? Well, for me the answer is ... where's the fun in that? I like to start over. And if you end up in the same place that somebody else did 500 years before you... at least you now understand why they got there.

I think it's interesting to point out that there are (at least) two kinds of experimentation: for the benefit of the artist and for the benefit of the art. It's easy to think that "experimental" music is pretentious if you assume that the experimenters are trying to defy or extend the artform itself. But, really, I think most experimental musicians of any genre (including non-genres) are trying to defy and extend their own artistic methods, and not "the artform". I've always thought of experimental music as more of a "musician's music" because of this - other musicians who want to be challenged in a more abstract and fundamental way are attracted to it (i.e. "self-expression through nonsensical rhythmic structures" versus "self-expression through minute variations in bowing style"). But maybe I'm just being pretentious Razz
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xbeemer



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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 9:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Not pretentious. If anything, its opposite, very...perhaps even painfully, sincere. I also am a self taught programmer and (more or less) musician, and your post hit a chord within me. Also, perhaps - and only because you asked - I may have some helpful insight for you. Perhaps.

But first let me express my amazement at this board and my gratitute to mosc for starting it. He suggested in his gentle way some 2 years ago that I might find it a good place. Unfortunately I'm far more susceptable to a 2x4 upside the head than a gentle suggestion, and I didn't take the time I should have to read many of the posts, so I missed out on 2 years of excellent dialog with kindred musical spirits.

What amazes me is that contentious subjects such as this can be discussed and disagreed on in such a gentle way that the subject continues being discussed, and does not devolve into turf and ego. Frankly, I didn't know this was possible on a BBS. Maybe it's because musicians know how to play together, maybe it's the board leadershop. Probably both. In any event, very refreshing.

So I've now read all of this thread as well as a few others, and much of what I might have contributed has been said and probably better. I've only one thing to add that I don't think has been brought up:

Instead of thinking of scored music as serious, it is probably more useful to consider why you would want to put it to score:

1. For group play.
2. Because you *want* your music to be interpreted.
3. Someone heard your music and would like to perform it.
4. This is how you are prefer to compose your music.

None of these have anything to do with being serious or not. Or rather, as has been said, "serious" is an attitute that may or may not be brought into the mix.

As a practical matter, other than the last, you can omit the paper or software score and just create your music however you will. Then if the other reasons to go to score become important, you can do so retroactively using technology to go from the MIDI or even perhaps (perhaps not yet, I haven't tried) from the audio.

This has happened with a few of my pieces, where someone wants to perform a piece in an ensemble, and do I have a score I am willing to provide? Since my music is algorithmic and the software produces a MIDI stream that can be captured into a MIDI file, I can always say "yes" and use a scoring package like Sibelius to generate the score after the fact. It turns out that the musicians appreciate having *both* the written score and the original live recording. Duh!

So while I understand the issue elektro80 has brought up in this thread - my number noodling composing style is very similar to his - my take is that it is a difference without a distinction, and we non score writers can write music as serious as anyone. Maybe even more so because we are out in the fronteer taking arrows in the ass.
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xbeemer



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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 11:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Kookoo I've been down a very similar road both in programming and in music. The difference is that I am an old fart in my 60s and long ago lost any insecurity about my background in both. It's not so much that I miraculously became super confident, it's more that being self taught has turned out to be an asset, not a liability, and eventually I caught on to this.

I'm going to be a bit self indulgent here and give some personal anecdotes. I apologize to everyone in advance, and promise not to make a habit of it.

In the 60's I had a Crown 4-channel recorder, a Tandenberg half track and 4 Tandengberg playback machines, that I used, along with a splicing block, to create music concrete. Then synthesizers came along. I started with an Arp 2600 and 2 panels of Arp 2500 modules, and did some of the earliest synth music for the Miami Planetarium. What I'm trying to establish is that I was serous, a total electronic music geek; but I was also entirely self taught and isolated. I earned my living as an immunohematologist, which is why I could afford all that equipment back when it was really serious money.

Eventually I caught on to the fact that I was happy in the basement making electronic music, unhappy pretty much everywhere else. So I took the leap, left the straight job (and the wife and 2 car garage but that's another story), and headed for music school. I tried the big schools like Mahattan and couldn't get in the door because I didn't play an instrument or even read music. So I ended up in a small college in South Florida who's audition was show me the money.

I dilligently composed harmony in the style of Bach for two semesters. Then an instrument was required, so I brought in tapes I had made of my (now quite harmonic) pieces created on the Arps. This was rejected out of hand, I had to study a "real" instrument or I couldn't go on.

They acted threatened by the very concept of electronic music. This is no longer true as MIDI composing tools and GM synths are part of every music school today. But in the mid 70s, in South Florida, the concept made them very twitchy.

By then I knew there were some music schools that would probably take a broader view of what an instrument might be. But I concluded that really serious music study had a not so good effect on some - not all - people, which was to make them rigid and reluctant to expand beyond the chops they had worked so hard to acquire. I knew people like my hero Subotnick were classically trained, but I did not have the confidence that I would emerge from music school with my edge for exploring new sonic realms intact. It started looking a lot like when they take the dog to the vet and say it's in his best interest. Uh-huh.

But I also felt that if I was serious about a career in music, I really needed to be serious about getting some, um, serious training. Eventually I discovered the "basement arts" program at the School of the Art Instute of Chicago, where they had literlly stacks of cool modular gear, both Sandin video synths and various audio synths. And they liked my tapes and notes and whatnot enough to let me into the Master's program.

This worked because, although I didn't learn musical theory - which no doubt would have been useful - I learned a lot about making art in general.

And I learned Computers. To be precise, I taught computers. To this day, although I've taught several college level computer programming courses, I've never actually taken a course myself. I'm not against the idea, it just didn't work out that way.

What happened was that one of my professors - Sonia Sheridan, who founded the Generative Systems school that eventually spread into the culture as blendo and PhotoShop image manipulation - had a grant to start a computer lab, and she asked me to set it up over the summer and teach how to use them come fall (I was one of her TAs). This was the early days of microcomputers, and the only way to reasonably get a lab set up on the budget we had was to build them from kits. I told her that I was confident that I could build the things because I had built a lot of DIY synth and audio gear, but I shouldn't teach them because I knew nothing about programming. She gave me this Yoda-like smile and said, "Oh, but you will learn."

The only thing these microcomputers had memory for originally was assembler and a dumb little Basic interpreter from this guy in Seattle named Bill Gates. But it was enough to hook up the synths to a parallel port and control them.

After I graduated I got a job at Atari, who hired me not because I was a programmer but because I could program assembly and had an MFA, and they wanted an artist-programmer for the next gen consoles that would have expanded graphics chips.

After a couple years at Atari, I started a year long project for Cromemco to develop a paint program for thier Super Dazzler. Actually it was supposed to be a port of an animation program I had done for their Dazzler, started while I was in art school, and sort of progressively added to in my spare time. But what they liked about the program was the graphics editor, so that was the gig.

If you're still with me, finally I am getting to the point I wanted to make all along....

Roger Mellon the co-owner and CEO of Cromemco had told me they were coming out with a memory board that could expand the Z80 64K memory address space, by swapping the addresses of several boards in and out. Sort of like Program change and Bank change. He said the memory boards were the best money makers and he wanted me to use as much memory as I could legitimately justify.

So over that year I wrote a 4 MB assembly language program that would swap parts of itself in and out as needed. I had no computer background to speak of, but I had been building and using modular synths for years. So I patterned it as a software rack and software modules that fit into the rack slots, and it worked just great. For two or three years it was one of the main money makers at Cromemco, and it bought me a year of full salary consulting to maintain it, but required no maintenance beyond adding some device drivers. During this year I wrote what would become the Lumena paint program that I eventually founded a company on.

OK, the point is this:

After the program was finished, Cromemco sent me on a dog and pony show around the country, where I met up with Alvy Ray Smith and some other "real" programmers from the wonderful (but sadly killed for lack of funding) ant animation project at NYIT. When I told them that the program was 4MB of hand coded assembly, they didn't believe me until I showed the 3-inch readout. They said, "You can't write a stable assembly language program that size." My response was, "Well I was too ignorant to know any better, so I did it anyway."

Sorry to be so long winded, I couldn't figure any other way of telling this, and I think it's relevant to KooKoo's current dilemma.

KooKoo, the answer is, do both. Most music is computer based now days, in one way or another. Being self taught, if you are really, really smart (and everyone who bothers to participate in this forum clearly is), is not an inferior approach, it's just a different approach, with different strengths and weakness.

I have some specific ideas you may find interesting, but I've run on far too long here. Email me if you like: johndunn@algoart.com
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 1:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Xbeemer = John Dunn... Very Happy

These last posts have been great. Very interesting. My life's story is somewhat similar. In those early days computers were very attractive to people who could teach themselves complicated technology.

Anway, the most important this is what does the music sound like. Hope you guys can post some stuff no matter what technology or methodology is used. As for seriousness, if someone has been writing music for many years - they are serious.

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seraph
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 1:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

xbeemer wrote:
"Well I was too ignorant to know any better, so I did it anyway."

excellent story Very Happy thanks welcome

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The man that hath no music in himself, nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds, is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils; the motions of his spirit are dull as night and his affections dark as Erebus: Let no such man be trusted. - W. Shakespeare
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seraph
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 2:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

John
I think you should edit your profile adding your website:
http://algoart.com/
too bad your applications do not run under Mac OSX Crying or Very sad

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The man that hath no music in himself, nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds, is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils; the motions of his spirit are dull as night and his affections dark as Erebus: Let no such man be trusted. - W. Shakespeare
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elektro80
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 2:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

seraph wrote:
too bad your applications do not run under Mac OSX Crying or Very sad


Crying or Very sad

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 4:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Kookoo, xbeemer,

thanks for those excellent articles!. Of course, the rest of you guys are doing excellent writing too Smile - But the latest writings of Kookoo & xbeemer hit me on a very personal level. You must be my long lost brothers or something hello welcome You managed to word things that I've been wondering about myself. There's hope for us all - very inspirational!

DJ
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