This week we have started essentia tutorial at MTG. We run it on a linux virtual machine with ubuntu, and compile it from the source. We either use ipython or ipython notebook with pylab environment. It has quite nice tools for extracting features out of audio recordings. I will yet to explore its details. It will be announced as free GPL for sharing in a few months after some more contributions and testing, research with it from within MTG. website: http://www.mtg.upf.edu/technologies/essentia.
As part of CompMusic we are organizing two concerts of Indian Art Music, one on June 19th on Carnatic music, with Vignesh Ishwar, from IITM, and another on June 21st on Hindustani music, with Kaustuv Kanti Ganguli, from IITB. Each concert will be preceded by a Lecture Demonstration.
This is perhaps my first most complete experience of Hindustani music. It was much better than listening to recordings. I was able to read some of the tala and raga charts and map some scales and tala cycles. I especially appreciate the 2-3-2-3 cycles, Jhaptal, which is really inconspicuous because the melody is quite fluid, but if you pay attention you can catch the cycle. Also Kaustuv Kanti Ganguli played a little hand powered organ, which was amazing. This guy is a genius-both a high achieving vocalist and a engineer working on audio signal processing.
What strikes me the most is the contrast of the situation of traditional music in China and in other cultures that we study at CompMusic, such as Indian. We have no problem to recruit from India, or Turkey, highly skilled professional or semi-professional level musicians who have greatest passion for their traditional music and at the same time are able to carry this passion into their professional career as a researcher in sound computing and MIR. In China, the prospect is pretty sad because not only we can barely find this kind of double talent, but the general number of people who are interested in traditional music is very low. Every traditional art form, almost, are marginalized and is no longer relevant to most people's modern life. Seeing the most beautiful and unique traditions of Hindustani music, I cannot help but feel that how sad would it be if every country you go (like China), people are all playing pop, rock, jazz, and classical music from the West and there is nothing unique to see at all. It's a great loss.
One of my favorite pieces at the SCL concert, the sounds of all sorts of cultures in Barcelona. Listen at: http://justeluis.wix.com/sound-of-culture, listen to the 'COMPOSICIÓN FINAL'.
This is one of the coolest and most creative concerts i've been to. I enjoyed it so much primarily because of its resonance with my passion for sound, sound experience, and sound editing and creative sonic experience in music with technology and techniques form audio signal processing. This is just so me. I adore the idea of creating musical works based on a sound experience perspective that is extracted from and integrated into our daily experience--we don't normally realize how important sound is in our life, and how amazing that fact is. That is, us human beings take great pleasure and great utilization from the sound of everything (or some things...). Why is that? Why is our brain's pleasure got stimulated just by some mechanical vibrations; and how does it make sense out of these chaotic signals? These are the fundamental puzzles that motivated my interest in auditory perception and music/language processing in the first place, and the best embodiment of this in music is seen in this concert. Website contains individual project links and their use of sound materials from FREESOUND (concert website: http://soundcreationlab.hol.es | Phonos website: http://phonos.upf.edu/node/728?language=en)
Today I was in the Museo Picasso in Barcelona, 10 minutes from where I live. These are my favorite drawings:
We edited and updated the Chinese version of the CompMusic website!Some translation and html editing are done yesterday and this week.
中文版為中國音樂愛好者提供瞭解最新計算機音樂處理的技術，以更好的利用現代信息技術欣賞和理解音樂。網站地址：http://compmusic.upf.edu/zh-hans , 或在英文主頁上點擊右上角語言選擇。目前我們在陸續更新更多的網頁。
I have discovered the perfect exercise for me: beach walking.
Beach walking is to walk bare footed on the sand of the beach, near the water or not. Bare foot and the sand provides two layers of obstacles that you do not get while walking on a plane ground; this ensures that you need extra energy to balance your body at every step, at the same time you have a lot of fun. I feel that it is kind of like climbing a mountain, where you also need to maintain your balance by doing extra work. The sand is ideally irregular shaped and thick, so there are three folds of extra obstacles: first, the vertical ups and downs; second, the sand near ocean often forms a slope, sometimes pretty steep, so it's literally feeling like climbing a mountain; third, the irregular distribution of the small stones in the sand makes you do extra work, either to try not hurt your feet by applying appropriate amount of pressure, or by zigzagging and find a comfortable spot.
We normally operate under the assumption that music is not comparable. Those that are in the musical canons, at least, in classical tradition, from Bach to Beethoven, Mozart to Schubert, Haydn to Mendelssohn, Brahms to Debussy, Chopin to Rachmaninoff, etc., each has their own way of writing great music. But subjectively, most of us admit that their is a rank in our preference as to who is a little bit greater, and I have discussed at length why Bach is among the rarest and greatest among composers. Beethoven is by no means cut short by that comment, though.
Pianist Andres Schiff made a series of lectures on the Beethoven piano sonatas. These are really great lectures with his virtuosic demos and deep insights. He maintains that the reason that Beethoven is a little bit greater than his followers, such as Schubert and Schumann, at least in Sonata writing, is that Beethoven consistently writes brilliant final movement of sonatas whereas they sometimes fall down in the works of others. To me, that is true to a great extent; but what I value Beethoven the most is his creativity, vision, unique character, strength, and a perfect combination of advances in techniques and in harmonic and musical languages.
I attended several concerts at UPF by the orquestra de cambra de la UPF, with pianist Pilar Guarne. She plays Mozart piano concerto no.13 with relative ease, but struggles a lot with the Chopin's Grand Polonaise Brilliente in E-flat Major. I can feel that Chopin is so much more difficult to implement physically in her playing. When I got home, I watched Yundi Li playing the Chopin piece, alongside Lang Lang, and I finally was able to answer the age old question: which one is a little bit greater?
Yundi Li was the winner of the prestigious International Chopin Piano Competition, and Lang Lang is a rather versatile pianist with a fantastic career globally. I used to think that once you reached that level of technique, you cannot really distinguish who is a little better, because a pianist who is able to mark himself musically (instead of technically), such as Glenn Gould and V.Horowitz, is rather rare. But this time I see that Lang Lang is a little bit superior than Yundi Li. Li played the piece without orchestral accompaniment. His playing is mostly sensitive and smooth, with great touch, but I can feel that he is not 100% at ease, and he did make occasional mistakes. But Lang Lang on the other hand, played with great ease, as if this piece if a toy piece for him. Indeed, that is a sure thing to expect when you see him handle Rachmaninoff concerti with such elegance and technical fluency. Chopin is an order of magnitude less complex.
Alas, I'm glad we had some answers.