Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Satie Redux

During the lazy days of last summer, I had the idea that Satie's iconic Gymnopédie No. 1 has such a lovely, non-directional quality that it might work played in some sort of indeterminate fashion. I posted a version in which its phrases are played in reverse order, and I posted a zipped folder of audio files that could be shuffled in iTunes to create a "Randomnopédie." I also tried to create an online random phrase player, but I couldn't get truly gapless playback from track to track, which meant that the tiny little silences between each phrase destroyed the sense of continuity necessary to make the illusion of a single performance believable. [I also performed a live version, with phrases generated randomly on the spot on a big screen, back in my September MMmusing Recital - that performance, complete with minor technical snafu, can be viewed here.]

However, after discovering the multimedia programming possibilities of Scratch, I realized I could finally design the Randomnopédie player of my lazy summer dreams. I think it works really well. I created a little "buffering" script [you can see inside the player here]  by entering the exact length of each of the 20 phrases and having the next phrase start just 1/10 of a second before each current phrase ends; that takes care of the troublesome gaps. I also decided to constrain the random possibilities just a bit to avoid having a phrase repeat itself. Since phrases 11-20 are almost exact repeats of 1-10 (with some important little changes in 18-20), I decided also to avoid having, say, 14 follow 4 or 6 follow 16, since this essentially results in a phrase repetition. (If you'd like to experience the "full random," go here.) The result can be experienced here, or by clicking on the image below:

You'll note that this site allows you to see the full score, with phrases numbered. (I'm proud of the fact that my score has the phrases organized in parallel, so it's easy to see how 5 relates to 15, etc.) Also, you can choose to hit the space bar to fade things out slowly and then see the order in which you heard the phrases played. Or, you can hit the "A" key (once the program has been started) to get the phrases to play in the "right" order - if there is such a thing. Unfortunately, Scratch is flash-based, so it won't work on iPads and the like. Always good to have another problem to fix for the future.

I have another way of re-hearing this music in the works, so stay tuned. It'll be up in a day or the meantime, let the Randomnopédie player slow things down for you and think about the lazy summer days that are coming...

UPDATE: New, live performance of "backwards" version is now available here.

UPDATE 2: New (not yet blogged) measure-by-measure randomizer is now available here.

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