Sunday, January 10, 2021
Another project (at another domain) is dominating my time just now, so
updates on the Transcriptions etc. will be slow for a spell. There is email.
Saturday, January 9, 2021

Three successive albums from the 1980s by Québécois metal band Voivod, which are now a vital part of modern musical history. Incidentally, Voivod are still active, and won a 2019 Juno for best metal album. I value each of these three albums over (the largely retrospective-pastiche) The Wake that finally won, though it too is one of their best. Kudos especially to Denis Bélanger, the original singer, with a superb instinctive microtonal style, who still has his voice in spite of albums like those pictured here!

Voivod box sets R KT DH.
Denis D'Amour

The deluxe box-set reissues of these early Voivod classics go for about £15 each (not sold here).

Unfortunately the principal composer, Denis (‘Piggy’) D’Amour, succumbed to cancer in 2005. Dan (‘Chewy’) Mongrain now fills Piggy’s shoes as composer and guitarist (though the original bassist, ‘Blacky’, who used to co-write with Piggy, was still in the band and writing up until The Wake—nice timing to be ejected). The new bassist ‘Rocky’ also brings something fresh and kindred. Anyhow, I think the next album will be more musically innovative.

Piggy's art was to avoid cliché (as opposed to sublimating or ridiculing it), without leaving you feeling like anything was avoided—if anything, you feel that you've heard something even more essential / canonical / natural than the familiar musical clichés. If that's a true impression of his music, then it's bound to be a rare gift. But probably a good way forward for Voivod is edgier experimentation, maybe in a slightly jazz direction (but still heavy)? ... I'm not sure. Incorporating D’Amour’s characteristic harmonies and progressions of course, but conquering new ground stylistically? I hope and trust there will be another album.

Why not reconcile with Jean-Yves, work up a production integrating a troupe of dancers, and take that on a cruise! It would be great fun, and your fans would love it.

Friday, January 8, 2021

I’ve uncovered and scanned one of my first compositions, Poem, WoO 1995b, a solo piano impression of a poem my grandmother wrote. (WoO is the standard abbreviation for “without opus number”.) It was written in autumn of 1995, and performed at a public concert of new music the next summer. I have no piano these days, but a guitar transcription feels possible.

A poem of Baba Mary's.

Apologies for the smudges, though I think most were there when she gave it to me. The music describes a butterfly’s adventures on a day of spirited weather, changeable breezes, rain and sun vying together in sunshower, and after, the peace, the patient fanning of the wings, the dripping leaves and bright, warm sunshine upon the dank earth, and a graceful tumbling flight into the glow. I did write down the meaning of the poem at the time (regrettably I have but little Ukrainian language, though my concern for Ukraine is rising):   “A wee tiny butterfly is happily flying from one blossom to another, looking for nourishment. Rain comes and her wings get heavy. She crawls under a leaf and waits for the sun. When the sun shines she’ll fly again.” (I believe the original is intended in a gender-neutral way. In Ukrainian, which has grammatical gender, butterfly is always masculine, just as in French. I chose feminine pronouns since ‘her’ sounds prettier than ‘his’ or ‘its’. And we can imagine Baba’s spirit fluttering into the heavens.)

My grandmother was quite frail when she wrote the poem, as you can tell from her handwriting. She was a devout Christian, and the poem is probably meant allegorically. I am anti-Christian, in the sense that I positively dislike Abrahamic religion (and have been subjected to enough of it to make the judgement), but I never expressed that view to her or disrespected her beliefs—not to condemn anyone who has been less discreet!

And an extra treat for members, a scan of the first draft.
Thursday, December 31, 2020

It’s important to maintain luthier-built instruments at a good humidity (about 50% ± 5% RH), which can be quite different from ambient. In Canada the problem is worst in winter, when indoor RH can drop below 30% with the dry frozen air and the dessicating effect of heating systems. I made this sponge-in-open-bag bespoke humidifier (wet sponge, squeeze out excess water, dry hands and bag [for sake of luthier’s label], then stuff it between 3rd and 4th strings, dumping it into the lower bout). When it dries out, dampen it again. If it isn’t getting crusty-dry after about five days, the guitar probably doesn’t want more water, and the bag should be removed.

humidifier view 1 magnesium chloride hexahydrate
hygrometer in bag
hygrometer out of bag

magnesium chloride hexahydrate
magnesium chloride hexahydrate

I don’t believe this humidifier changes the sound when sitting in the bottom of the lower bout (except as the desired result of hydration). Even if it touches the soundboard, it will be at the very edge—a node in every acoustical mode of the top. I do try to keep the bag in the top lower bout (i.e. the area under your arm when playing) at least half the time while the guitar is in the case, rather than having it always in the bottom lower bout as when playing. Probably it would be no problem if it always stayed in the same place.

To remove it, I hold the guitar soundhole-down, peeking up into it and shaking the bag+sponge until it sits in the soundhole against the underside of the strings, where (while holding the neck firmly with the other hand!) I can grab it from between the third and fourth strings. You could also shake the guitar soundhole-up on your lap, getting the bag under the soundhole, then loosen one or both strings to reach through and grab ahold.

I prefer the “cellulose” sponges; and for this use I peeled off the scrubber layer. The sponges come infused with biocide, which you can wash out, or leave in for good measure. I’m using the sponge technique because I find the winter dryness too great to depend on a small humidifier capsule, let alone the flat hydration packs. But, to know the actual humidity levels, what you want is a hygrometer (humidity meter).

The hygrometer I got is an inexpensive mechanical unit intended for cigar humidors. It’s a good idea to calibrate, even if the device is digital, or expensive. You may need to make mental adjustments, depending on the calibration features of your hygrometer. This one allows adjusting one reference point, via a screw in the back. Well-damp table salt in a sealed container will achieve 75% RH. I like to calibrate at least at two points, so I got some magnesium chloride hexahydrate (a common bath salt), which achieves about 33% RH when damped and enclosed. One photo tries to illustrate proper salt dampness: damp enough to be a single clumped mass, slushy perhaps, but not so wet as to spread out in a liquid soup. In the MgCl2·6H2O case, the crystal masses should be broken up to expose more area, and will probably not need much water added to achieve the target consistency. The lower reading was quite far off (42% instead of 33%), but this unit was not marketed for low-humidity conditions. So when I read 60%, the actual RH is about where I want it; and a 50% reading means actual RH is around 40%, which is lower than desired. Nor was it marketed for portability (humidors usually getting a gentler ride than an instrument case), so we shall see how it holds its calibration. I noticed it also reads 42% sitting on my desk, even when tapped occasionally, so I really have my doubts and will be looking for another, probably digital hygrometer as a second opinion...
Sunday, December 6, 2020

Now there are over a dozen complete Transcriptions published and available.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Liszt Eglogue, long overdue, is now available for free download. As of this date, there are three free transcriptions, and six other complete transcriptions available for purchase.

Monday, July 27, 2020

I finally changed my guitar strings! This is news-worthy since I had been using the original, used strings on this used classical guitar, and had played thousands of hours on them. (I expect they only lasted this long because I use a lot of alternative tunings.) Today I noticed serious intonation problems on the fourth string, and my hand was forced...

Thursday, July 23, 2020

There is a new free work on the Transcriptions page, namely the first section of the Andante sostenuto from Schubert’s D.960 B-flat sonata. While not a complete movement, this famous 42-measure incipit stands well on its own.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Work on the Transcriptions has recommenced in full earnest. I am committed to making at least one free complete transcription available before then end of this month. Most of the work is on the tablature typesetting software (which I’m writing). The Tablature Guide PDF is also now available, though it’s still work in progress...

July 30, 2018

Looks like this page was not maintained.

Anyhow, I made it to Haworth for the bicentenary! Here’s the “Brontë Waterfall”
and a couple other shots nearby, photographed on Emily’s birthday.

“Brontë Waterfall”
Approaching Sladen Beck
Haworth Moor, typical flora

Wednesday evening, Jan 24, 2018

Today I created the poem pages, which present the original texts of the poems, offer a memorisation aid version (first characters of words, and punctuation), and link to locations of the holograph manuscripts, most (though not all) of which unfortunately require payment to a museum to actually see.

The poem pages can be accessed from the score-browser, the works page, and anywhere else
you see the icon.

I created an envelope icon mailto and put it as mailto link in the footer.