wirelyre's recent activity

  1. Comment on Classical pièce: Aleksandr Borodin — String Quartet No. 2 in ~music

    wirelyre
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    I have a few pieces like that too, almost too precious to listen to. I'm sort of avoiding recordings of Brahms Symphony No. 4, because I got such a vivid sound picture from the score, and I want...

    I have a few pieces like that too, almost too precious to listen to.

    I'm sort of avoiding recordings of Brahms Symphony No. 4, because I got such a vivid sound picture from the score, and I want to dignify that with a live performance.

  2. Comment on Classical pièce: Aleksandr Borodin — String Quartet No. 2 in ~music

    wirelyre
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    Aleksandr Borodin (1833–1887) is a key figure in Russian classical music. He and his contemporaries worked very hard to create a "Russian sound" somewhat distinct from the well-established...

    Aleksandr Borodin (1833–1887) is a key figure in Russian classical music. He and his contemporaries worked very hard to create a "Russian sound" somewhat distinct from the well-established structures of Western Europe. In particular, they borrowed heavily from the melodic and harmonic conventions of Russian folk music.

    This quartet is firmly in that category. The flow of the melodies and the almost carefree treatment of harmony is characteristic of the Russian classical sound.

    However, the movement structure (allegro/scherzo/andante/finale) comes straight from Western Europe. The movements are each basically in sonata form as well: just a few themes, introduced at the front, tied together in the middle, and then separated again in different keys at the end. I especially want to point out the first movement, where the exposition ends at a unison "A" [2:45] (the movement is in D); when that point is reached again in the recapitulation, the unison is a "D" [8:15].

    Transliterating people's names is not a science. His name was actually spelled "Александр Порфирьевич Бородин". "Aleksandr" as I've given above is a pretty conservative transliteration, but you'll often see "Alexander", both of which I think independently derived from Greek. The only fair way to decide what to write is first by tracing who made the original transliteration (in this case Russian publishing houses publishing to Europe), and weighing that against accuracy and modern practice. After all, "Aleksandr" is hardly scarier than "Szymanowski".

    1 vote
  3. Comment on Fortnightly Programming Q&A Thread in ~comp

    wirelyre
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    Another option — Ben Eater is producing videos about building a 6502 computer (like from a microprocessor, wires, and resistors), and is selling kits for following along. Either buying the kits or...

    Another option — Ben Eater is producing videos about building a 6502 computer (like from a microprocessor, wires, and resistors), and is selling kits for following along. Either buying the kits or sourcing the parts yourself is going to be expensive, but depending on how much time and energy you want to invest, it might very well be worthwhile!

    1 vote
  4. Comment on What programming/technical projects have you been working on? in ~comp

    wirelyre
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    Thanks for explaining, I think I can sort of imagine what you're doing now. I hope you will share more in the future!

    Thanks for explaining, I think I can sort of imagine what you're doing now.

    I hope you will share more in the future!

    1 vote
  5. Comment on What programming/technical projects have you been working on? in ~comp

    wirelyre
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    Something like a calculus for entity-component-systems? What sort of logic or properties are you trying to get out of the formalization?

    Something like a calculus for entity-component-systems?

    What sort of logic or properties are you trying to get out of the formalization?

    3 votes
  6. Comment on Fortnightly Programming Q&A Thread in ~comp

    wirelyre
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    The reason I ask is that without a machine (real or virtual) to target, one with a screen you can write to, it's going to be hard to even play around. At least that was my experience with a Z80...

    The reason I ask is that without a machine (real or virtual) to target, one with a screen you can write to, it's going to be hard to even play around. At least that was my experience with a Z80 many years ago.

    Unfortunately I don't know much about modern 6502 tools, but maybe I can help anyway!

    I see this emulator for 6502 computers, which looks active. I expect putting things on the screen and debugging to be about equally hard on those.

    Another option might be to target the NES/Famicom, although from what I've read that's probably going to be harder — see here for an overview. I think there's a pretty active development scene though. In particular I see this repository which has some useful links; and this project, whose author is regularly streaming its development on Twitch!

    For completeness I should mention that writing assembly for modern systems is much more straightforward. For instance, you can write a program in RISC-V assembly, compile it with LLVM, and then run it directly on Linux with QEMU. Incidentally, if you do that, I'd recommend the book Computer Organization and Design (Patterson and Hennessy) for more on CPUs. You might find it useful background, depending on your interests.

    Sorry, having all of these options probably didn't help much. Hopefully something focused enough to work on piques your interest!

    2 votes
  7. Comment on Fortnightly Programming Q&A Thread in ~comp

    wirelyre
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    Do you have a particular project or machine in mind?

    Do you have a particular project or machine in mind?

    2 votes
  8. Comment on Classical entrée: Dohnányi Ernő — Serenade, Op. 10 (for string trio), Mvt. 2: Romanza [3:40] in ~music

    wirelyre
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    Thank you for listening and reading!

    Thank you for listening and reading!

    1 vote
  9. Comment on Classical entrée: Dohnányi Ernő — Serenade, Op. 10 (for string trio), Mvt. 2: Romanza [3:40] in ~music

    wirelyre
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    Dohnányi Ernő (1877–1960) was a Hungarian pianist and composer. He was particularly well known as a young performing pianist. His musical style was pretty well rooted in late Romanticism (think...

    Dohnányi Ernő (1877­–1960) was a Hungarian pianist and composer. He was particularly well known as a young performing pianist. His musical style was pretty well rooted in late Romanticism (think Brahms, Rachmaninov).

    String trios are a bit less popular than string quartets, which is a shame because trios strike a great balance between fullness and agility. Most trios (like this one) are written for violin/viola/cello, but there are all sorts of much less common combinations.

    This movement is very simple and sweet. It's somewhat ambiguously set in C Mixolydian, which sounds a little bit "softer" than major. There's just a single core phrase, first heard in the viola [2:12], then the violin [4:10], then one more time incompletely in the violin [5:20].

    1 vote
  10. Comment on Classical pièce: Nikolai Kapustin — Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 54 in ~music

    wirelyre
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    Paired with this étude. Both of these pieces have tight forms, which I think flatter Kapustin's writing. This piece is a pretty classical four-movement sonata: one movement in sonata form, a...

    Paired with this étude.

    Both of these pieces have tight forms, which I think flatter Kapustin's writing. This piece is a pretty classical four-movement sonata: one movement in sonata form, a scherzo movement, a slow movement, and a faster movement. I'll spend a little time taking apart the first movement.

    My music teachers told me that the sonata form is in three parts: exposition, development, and recapitulation. That's misleading — a sonata form is the story of two musical themes, introduced separately, then allowed to mingle and grow; when they finally are separated again, they sound more similar than different, more familiar to each other and the audience.*

    * This analysis only works on a minority of sonatas, but the spirit is there throughout the genre.


    The first subject [0:04] opens with an insistent yet simple melody over a driving rhythmic bass line. As is typical for the form, the tonic key is very pronounced. We also meet a secondary motif [0:23] before the primary theme returns [0:32]. This motif will appear throughout the movement, but not nearly as prominently as the two main themes.

    The second subject [0:53] is very jaunty and playful. By the form, it's in a different key and contrasts with the first subject. Traditionally, the second subject is slower or more subdued. Already Kapustin starts taking the themes apart, isolating the bass in the second subject [0:56] as connective material as the exposition ends.

    The exposition ends with a closing theme [1:25] that I find absolutely stunning. I love how it builds, how it flows, how it suspends [1:44]… and then releases.

    I could literally talk about this all day, but I won't. I'll just leave a few markers for the rest of the movement. First off, the exposition repeats [2:05]. I used to get annoyed by sonatas that do that. But this is kind of a remnant of before audio recordings were invented. And if you want to engage with the music like this, hearing the themes distinctly throughout the movement, you'll probably need to hear them a second time to make sure you've got a handle on them.

    The development starts at [3:57], with almost too many uses and tweaks to the themes to mention. He starts teasing the end of the development section [5:48] with the repeated notes that took us back to the first subject — then returns to the theme that was going on — back and forth to the repeated notes… until the secondary motif [6:22] takes us back to the primary subject, and the recapitulation begins. The second subject [7:11] is now in the tonic key, brighter than before, meshing smoothly with the first subject. The closing theme [7:43] has likewise changed key. In the coda, the movements motifs appear abstractly [8:36] one by one, until the movement ends [9:29] with a flourish.

    3 votes
  11. Comment on Classical entrée: Nikolai Kapustin ― Eight Concert Études, No. 6. "Pastorale" [2:30] in ~music

    wirelyre
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    Nikolai Kapustin (1937–) started classical piano when he was very young. During his time at the Moscow Conservatory and long after, he performed as a jazz pianist in big bands. This piece, as many...

    Nikolai Kapustin (1937–) started classical piano when he was very young. During his time at the Moscow Conservatory and long after, he performed as a jazz pianist in big bands.

    This piece, as many of his compositions, is heavily influenced by jazz harmony and melodic and rhythmic figures. But in naming this set "Eight Concert Études", he is explicitly evoking a classical genre: that of the étude, or technical study.

    Historically, most études work a single well-defined technical challenge. These études are a bit different because they don't really have a focus. You might say they're just "hard" :-). In that respect they're more "concert piece" than "étude".

    Besides being an absolute blast to listen to, I think this is one of Kapustin's cleanest and most well-constructed pieces. Its form is crystal clear: a primary theme [13:40] and a secondary theme [14:14], alternating, each with variations, until the coda [15:51] wraps it all up. It's all so economical, not a beat wasted ― yet the themes are explored so completely that it feels like it couldn't possibly run any longer.

    1 vote
  12. Comment on Classical entrée: Nikolai Kapustin ― Eight Concert Études, No. 6. "Pastorale" [2:30] in ~music

    wirelyre
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    This is an idea I've had for a while about sharing classical music! I think it can be really hard to get into classical music because the pieces are so long. If you aren't already immersed in the...

    This is an idea I've had for a while about sharing classical music!

    I think it can be really hard to get into classical music because the pieces are so long. If you aren't already immersed in the genre, finding something you like can be boring or frustrating.

    So I thought I'd try a series of posts:

    • Near the beginning of the week, a short piece (ideally around 3 minutes) ― an entrée.
    • Near the end of the week, a longer piece that's stylistically or thematically related ― a pièce de résistance.

    The idea is that if you like the shorter work, you'll probably be interested in the longer one too. Even if you don't, maybe the entrée will make the main course more palatable!

    I think I'll try this for a few weeks, then based on the response I'll decide whether to continue.

    If anyone has a better metaphor than "entrée/pièce de résistance" please tell me. My first idea was "wine/meal", but it's not as catchy.

    2 votes
  13. Comment on The mysterious origins of an uncrackable video game - Atari 2600 game Entombed in ~games.game_design

    wirelyre
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    The linked paper is waaaay more interesting and detailed. The motivating context of early video games as digital artefacts is much clearer. In Section 3 they actually explain the code. There's a...

    The linked paper is waaaay more interesting and detailed. The motivating context of early video games as digital artefacts is much clearer. In Section 3 they actually explain the code. There's a much weaker conclusion than the article implies:

    Our conclusion is that the table values were manually chosen, or manually tuned, by the maze algorithm designer.

    Great. So much for "a mystery bit of code they couldn't explain", whose logic "has been lost forever". Might as well give up analyzing Ulysses because of a missing page in the manuscript. 🙄

    They also discuss the PRNG (pseudo-random number generator), which contains a small bug ― this bug is present in a few other contemporary games, which suggests that they're related. Who was the original author of the PRNG? How did the code get into these games? These are interesting archaeological questions.

    11 votes
  14. Comment on What are you confused by? in ~talk

    wirelyre
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    It's a fundamental tension between scales and harmony. If you divide an octave into a major triad (which sounds nice because the overtones match up close to the notes), a natural question is how...

    It's a fundamental tension between scales and harmony.

    If you divide an octave into a major triad (which sounds nice because the overtones match up close to the notes), a natural question is how to place a tone between the first and second note of the triad.

    2   * X (this is the octave on top of the triad)
    3/2 * X
    5/4 * X
            <--- what goes here?
    X Hz, fundamental
    

    Basically we're looking for a smooth way to cover that gap. So we can invent a new note halfway between them. (Math challenge: what is halfway between X and 5/4*X? Use a geometric mean.) We can call the interval a tone.

    But if you run the 3/2*X twice, producing 9/4*X, you'll notice that it's extraordinarily close to an octave above the new note.

    And if you divide the tone into two (semitones), you'll find that 3/2*X is extraordinarily close to a semitone plus a tone above 5/4*X.

    In principle, you don't really have to do all the math or even name this stuff. You can just tune your lyre to the triad and then sing whatever you want over top. But as soon as you want to treat anything other than X as a fundamental harmony for even a second, you're back in the weeds.

    We call the difference between two very close pitches a "comma", and we name these commas by how they are constructed. For example, a "syntonic comma" is the difference between going up 3/2 four times, then down 2 twice; and simply taking 5/4.


    Most of Western music theory admits that note names are not exact descriptors of pitch. A lot of the tradition has centered around the qualities of various keys when set in a particular tuning system.

    Maybe you've heard of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier? "Well temperament" is a method of minimizing commas on a keyboard instrument. It turns out you actually can tune a harpsichord to eliminate certain commas ― as long as you don't play certain other harmonies. But within well temperament, each key becomes usable, yet distinctly coloured.

    This is all complicated by the fact that you can name any pitch anything you want, and it's fine as long as you're not playing with anyone else. So 18th-century organs tended to name A somewhere around 415Hz, but a contemporary horn might well name A at 280Hz. And families of instruments, like clarinets, were not usually made so that the smaller ones are an octave above the larger ones.

    These differences have carried through today. Although we've standardized "concert pitch" at A=440Hz, when a trumpet plays an A they actually play 415Hz, unless they pick up a second instrument next to them and play that instead, in which case 440Hz comes out. Horns play A=293Hz or sometimes 147Hz! Regular size clarinets come in two variants, and bass clarinets represent a third.


    It all comes down to "octave equivalence", the psychoacoustical/cultural phenomenon that notes an octave apart are "basically the same note". If that's true for a listener, then repeating an interval until it exceeds an octave will produce commas ― unless the interval is irrational.

    If you want to divide an octave exactly, the Western tradition has long tended to a solution. Simply use exactly 12 equal-sized intervals (so 440, 440·2¹⁄₁₂, 440·2²⁄₁₂, ..., 880). We call that sequence a "chromatic scale".

    Reducing the gamut of tones to just 12 octave-equivalent ones has some very important effects. Notably, we gain something called "enharmonic equivalence".

    Where previously we had seven tones within a scale (hence octave, the eighth tone on top), and to make notes in the middle we would "sharpen" or "flatten" them (a development of the 17th century), now all of those sharp and flat notes become just one of twelve, irrespective of how you might want to write them (thus indicating something else about their place in a scale or chord).

    The musical developments around 12-tone chromaticism crystallized into the serialist movement, notably represented by Arnold Schoenberg.


    So it seems like there are dozens of entirely different musical systems?! And they use common terminology?!!?

    That's right. I think this is where people tend to get tripped up, because people don't usually explain the differences very clearly.

    There is the idea of scales, walking up and down by steps. Melodies are built on scales. (Theory: how big are steps?)

    There is the idea of harmony, building chords on top of a pitch. (Theory: how far apart are the tones in a chord?)

    There is the idea of harmonic progression, how certain harmonies "lead toward" other ones. (Theory: which harmonies lead toward which?)

    There are the common names for notes, A and B flat and all that, and the names of the notes indicate the quality of the scales and chords built from them. (Theory: what are the names of those qualities? How are they distinguished?)

    There is 12-tone equal temperament, which uses those names only as a convenience to the reader, but which really represents another kind of musical system entirely.

    Finally, there's the mind of the performer, who can comfortably treat anything as "I need to play this note, but then lean high/low based on the harmony/style".

    6 votes
  15. Comment on Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 (From the New World) in ~music

    wirelyre
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    Scores ― I recommend the SNKLHU edition. If you prefer a reduced score, the Paul Juon arrangement is pretty good. I love this piece! It was the first movement of a symphony I ever played with a...

    Scores ― I recommend the SNKLHU edition. If you prefer a reduced score, the Paul Juon arrangement is pretty good.

    I love this piece! It was the first movement of a symphony I ever played with a full orchestra, so it's really special to me. That major section in the middle (6:44) gets me all tingly; it's so broad and warm and deep.

    Nice choice of recording, @Kuromantis.

    2 votes
  16. Comment on Do you use Linux for music production? What software and tools do you use? in ~creative

    wirelyre
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    One of my main hobbies is making scores from recordings. I use MuseScore to enter notes and edit the bars. Then I manually make LilyPond files, proofread them on screen to match the MuseScore...

    One of my main hobbies is making scores from recordings. I use MuseScore to enter notes and edit the bars. Then I manually make LilyPond files, proofread them on screen to match the MuseScore scores, and finally print them out to make final edits.

    LilyPond produces gorgeous scores with dead consistent notation, but in my experience it's not pleasant to use unless you've already got a sheet to copy from. Also there aren't built-in functions to, for example, "make this section all staccato" or "put octaves above these notes". You can write those manually in Scheme, but I haven't been bothered to learn the interface.

    For some other projects I use MilkyTracker and SunVox to produce audio. My requirements are basically "start putting in notes as fast as possible" which fits those programs really well.

    I've got my eye on Orca to explore in the future.

    4 votes