Dia Tónico

A frequência com que canções de embalar me assaltam o espírito é quase preocupante.

Este “Dia Tónico”, dedicado à minha filha, começou a insinuar-se há uns dias, numa viagem de regresso de Paredes de Coura, onde estive com muitas crianças. Vai por isso para todas elas, para quem partilhou essa experiência comigo e para uma bebé muito simpática, chamada Ana Luísa.

Música para bébés – Mobile

Ao contrário do que algumas pessoas possam pensar, não é nada complicado conciliar as convicções de músico experimental com a condição de pai dum bébé, musicalmente falando. É claro que me irrita que todas as caixas de música e brinquedos musicais tenham todas as mesmas 3 ou 4 melodias e não acredito que as sonoridades, padrões rítmicos, melodias e estruturas harmónicas escolhidas sejam as únicas capazes de estimular e agradar aos ouvidos de bébés recém-nascidos ou crianças pequenas. Tenho até sérias dúvidas sobre os efeitos que um certo efeito de “afunilamento” nas escolhas musicais dos pais, alegadamente em benefício do bébé, têm sobre o seu desenvolvimento.

A diversidade de estímulos é importante, desde que se compreendam as especificidades fisiológicas do bébé, ajustando intensidades e sendo criterioso nas escolhas. Mas a música para os bébés não devia precisar de ser “exclusiva”. Não precisa.

Ainda assim, em 2001 ou 2002, a propósito do nascimento dum bébé dum casal amigo (meus professores no Conservatório de Música em Aveiro), compus uma primeira peça a pensar neste universo da “música para bébés”. Chamei-lhe Mobile, porque na altura criei uma animação simples, em Flash, com polígonos coloridos em movimentos aleatórios.

Esta é, para já, a peça mais convencional duma playlist que estou a preparar para a Maria e que partilharei como podcast (as peças de minha autoria). Que vos parece?

Routine Check: Traição / Betrayal

english below

As últimas 2 semanas têm sido frenéticas, por isso, não pude cumprir as minhas próprias regras. Mas, enquanto tento arranjar tempo para criar mais material novo e exclusivo, publico aqui o tema principal da minha última banda sonora, Adúlteros Desorientados, uma peça do Visões Úteis. Faz sentido, como forma de “traição” ao podcast, não é?

Agradeço que ouçam e comentem.
E que estejam atentos às próximas apresentações da peça.

My last 2 weeks have been hectic, so I had to bend my own rules. But while I struggle for more time to create brand new and exclusive material, I’ll publish the main theme from my last soundtrack, Adúlteros Desorientados, a play by Visões Úteis. It fits perfectly with this sort of podcast betrayal, I guess.

Please enjoy and comment.
I’ll keep you posted aboutr future presentations of the play.

Routine Check: RC#20080309 – 7/8 Jam

I’m very happy for being able to keep up with my weekly routine, and for sharing a wide range of musical material, but after 2 weeks of pure electronics, I felt it was time to go back to my roots: saxophone playing.

I had this simple structure built over a 7/8 bar in the back of my brain for a while now, and as I started playing with it, I felt the need to get all 3 saxophones (alto, tenor and soprano) out of their cases and play with them.

As usual, there’s not much editing or production put into this: I just recorded voive over voice in single takes, and made the metronome “click” audible. So you can hear 5 background voices (2 alto, 1 tenos, 2 soprano) and 3 solo voices (1 alto, 1 tenor and 1 soprano) over the metronome “clicking” through the “odd” 7/8 bar.

It’s quite simple and I enjoyed doing it deeply.
I hope you can relate to my enjoyment.

My only regret, in this kind of experiments, is playing alone. I believe this piece, in particular, is something that could really work out great with a lot of players giving their input.

Routine Check: RC#20080305 – Pi Day Variation 1

Pi Day CountdownPi Day is celebrated worldwide every March, 14 (3.14 in American date format) and there are a lot of reasons to celebrate such an amazing mathematical entity. And there are also many ways to celebrate it.

I’ve been asked to design some form of musical representation and/or celebration of Pi to be used at local schools by a couple of Math teachers (my mother and one of her colleagues) and I’ve been doing several experiments with Pure Data (the perfect tool for Math and Music relations).
The basic principles I’m using are simple.
Pi is an irrational number, meaning it will continue infinitely without repeating, so you can read it as a non repeating sequence of all 10 digits (0, 1, 2, 3 , 4, 5 ,6, 7, 8, 9). If you map every digit (0, 1, 2, 3 , 4, 5 ,6, 7, 8, 9) to a specific musical note or sound you can have Pure Data “playing” Pi, simply by reading each digit at a time.
You can choose a long sequence, such as one million digits of Pi and feed it to any sort of synth or sample player and you’ll have a musical or sonic representation of that infinite non repeating sequence.

For the sake of musical interest and not to “scare” general public, I’ve chosen to map each digit to a note on the major pentatonic scale (the “Chinese” effect of playing the black keys of the piano), since it guarantees a certain overall harmony and the possibility of overlapping several series without dissonance. I’ve used a 2 octave range to have all 10 digits matching a different pitch and then I’ve established a pulse to have rhythmic regularity. This way Pure Data fetches the million digits of Pi and plays them, one at a a time. The mapping makes every digit send a MIDI note that gets converted to frequency (this way I can rearrange the scale at any time) and made audible through a simple modular synth, with amplitude and frequency modulation, that might resemble some metallic percussion. A discrete envelope filter and a noise generator to give it some color and the basis is done. That’s the faster sequence you hear on this track, but you’ll also notice a second, slower one. That’s because I wanted to add something, so I’ve added a second layer where Pure Data is also reading and playing Pi, also with the same pitch mapping, but 4 times slower and with a simpler sine wave. The pentatonic comes in handy here, and the end result has a “scaling” effect also relevant in the Mathematical context: if you use different approaches to the “meaning” of the sequence, you can find pretty much anything embedded into it— your name, your phone number, your ID number (check this Portuguese site).

The result at any stage can be interesting, in my opinion, and I’ll be making different variations of the original Pure Data patch available to anyone interested. For this Routine Check podcast episode I’ve decided to take a third period (a more structural thing) and add a small “suspension” every minute or so, and then end it with a slight twist (you’ll have to hear it).

If you want to use this sample in your own Pi Day celebration, feel free (feedback and credits are welcomed). But if you want a “broader” experience, I can send you the Pure Data patch with instructions. You’ll be able to study and alter it, and you’ll have a working example, where the digits show up in sequence, and the apparent patterns are not only audible, but visible.

Special thanks to Miguel Cardoso, for his help with Pure Data and my mother Rosa Amélia Martins, for the mathematical input.

Post-Scriptum: have you noticed that Pi Day and Pure Data share the same initials?

Routine Check: RC#20080226 – Pure Data sketch

I had to make a big effort to keep up with the weekly routine, so this episode is a bit late.

And it’s a completely different thing, since it’s built entirely over experiences made with Pure Data, after the workshop I attended this past weekend.

Pure Data is an amazing tool and it will take me a long time before I can start making really interesting things, musically, but this Routine Check series is about exercises and sketches, so it seemed right to post this “odd” construction.

You can hear a “chaos machine”, that I started building before the workshop and that “looks” like this:

Pure Data - chaos machine by João Martins

And a simple synth module, with Frequency and Amplitude Modulation and MIDI controls:

Synth module with AM and FM and Midi controls

The possibilities are endless and I have some interesting challenges ahead.

A special thank you goes to Miguel Cardoso, responsible for the workshop at Maus Hábitos.

Routine Check: RC#20080217 – Wind Studies

As promised, here’s the second episode of this weekly series.

I’ve called it “Wind Studies”, as it’s an exercise about orchestral wind instruments and the act of playing them, although it features only the Akai EWI4000S, that I borrowed from my dear friend João Figueiredo.
This is what it looks like:

Akai EWI 4000S

It looks like a high-velocity train, but it’s an “electric wind instrument”, meaning it’s a MIDI wind controller developed specifically for wind instrument players: it uses breath control and a fingering mechanism similar to saxophones, clarinets, flutes and the like. The built-in sound module is quite interesting, but for this piece I’ve used SampleTank XL, instead.

The structure is simple:

  • one “spinal chord” voiced by french horn, with a large sync’ed delay applied
  • one bass texture, voiced by Miroslav Vitous‘ hornwind section (available in SampleTank XL)
  • one solo line, voiced by clarinet

Everything is pure MIDI data, played by me on the EWI and voiced in SampleTank. The performance was recorded, sequenced and produced (barely) in my usual DAW, ProTools LE.

Despite appearances (and Michael Brecker’s endorsement), playing the EWI and playing the saxophone are tremendously different activities. And that’s good. What it also means, as far as I’m concerned, is that there’s a lot of technical study to be done, still.

But it’s a great alternative to MIDI keyboards, when I’m “sketching”.

I hope you enjoy this one. I did.

Routine Check: RC#20080209 – Conversation

I’ll present my new podcast series in English, as it might have a broader audience than the blog posts.

The generic title of the series is Routine Check, and all future episodes, in this series, will have that and the date on its title. Unlike previous podcast episodes, this new series features music that has no other purpose but to be shown here and impose some sort of discipline in my music work. Hence the name, Routine Check.

As a composer-performer deeply involved with free improvisation and experimental work, I’ve noticed a growing disproportion between the musical ideas that drive me and the situations where I can expose or explore them. My laziness and lack of discipline as made me lost all sort of routines, even with instrumental practices and other “mechanical” work, that starts to take its toll.

That’s why I’ve decided to impose myself a no-less-than-weekly routine of sketching and experimenting with some of the musical ideas going around me and recording something around 10 minutes long, with the simplest available tools and no non-musical work.

The first episode of the series consists of a double solo on tenor saxophone. Both solos were recorded in single takes and have no editing. The setup is basic: 1 dynamic microphone feeding ProTools LE through my Digi002, with no effects applied. The first solo, panning a little to the left, is completely free, and works as a structure. The second solo, panning a little to the right, was recorded over the first one.

This pseudo-duo technique is a familiar one, to me. And today, it seemed right.

Enjoy!

Electroplex

Cartaz de Adúlteros DesorientadosNo momento em que decidi o rumo a dar ao podcast que tão irregularmente tenho mantido por aqui (estejam atentos), e a meio da temporada de Adúlteros Desorientados na Serv’Artes— que anunciei aqui—, e já que actualizei a minha lista de músicas no MySpace, também, pareceu-me boa ideia “oferecer” aos leitores do blog este excerto da minha última banda sonora.

O título, inexplicável, como quase sempre, é Electroplex.

Juntamente com o cartaz da peça, aqui ao lado, pode ser que sirva de estímulo adicional para quem estiver a pensar ir ver a peça no Porto (na Serv’Artes é às terças-feiras, até 25 de Março) ou em Guimarães (lá estaremos no dia 23 de Fevereiro, no Centro Cultural Vila Flor) ou noutros locais e datas que iremos anunciando.

Mas se não gostarem da música, não a usem como desculpa para não irem! ;)

Quanto ao futuro deste podcast, darei mais notícias durante o fim de semana.

Explica-me… o Natal

Porque não quero chegar ao fim do ano sem voltar a publicar alguma coisa no podcast e porque todos os outros projectos estão demasiado atrasados na pós-produção… e porque esta altura do ano é usada normalmente para balanços… e porque o Natal é e será sempre um mistério, para mim…

Abraço Vivo - F.R.I.C.S.Este é o início duma faixa do CD-R Abraço Vivo, da Fanfarra Recreativa e Improvisada Colher de Sopa – F.R.I.C.S. que, a posteriori, foi batizada como “Explica-me O Que É Que Eu Fiz“. O título reflecte a melancolia lírica deste meu início a solo no sax soprano, provavelmente, mas, mais do que isso, ilustra o carácter inexplicável e irrepetível da improvisação livre. Ainda agora, ao ouvir esta introdução a solo peço que me expliquem o que é que eu fiz e porque é que me deixaram assim, a solo e quase sem rede durante tanto tempo.

Momentos destes são raros, por definição, mesmo que sejam cada vez mais frequentes com o amadurecimento como músico e o fortalecimento das cumplicidades.

A recuperação e partilha deste excerto tão “misterioso” como “lírico” é uma forma de vos desejar a todos o Natal que quiserem.

E, quem sabe, serve como chamariz para os concertos em Lisboa e no Porto. onde até poderão comprar a vossa própria cópia do CD. Que dizem?

Abraço Vivo!