John Carollo definitely wins points for his creative speculation regarding my sudden fetish for PVC pipes! Well, truth be told, that picture really didn't paint the whole situation - i actually had to make several more trips since, so the actual tally of pipes and sundry equipment is much higher than initially indicated...
In any case, here's what the prototypes are starting to shape up as:
My goal is to have a 9 foot by 7 foot rear projection screen for my visual recital shows (well, at least for the venues that have the space to accommodate such a screen). Here's another view from the rear:
Oh, i should explain some of the items in these pictures:
Following the advice of another website that showcased a home made screen, i used a metal plumbing bar to serve as a straight edge for the top of the screen projection material.
Given the size of this frame, putting it all together single-handedly is turning out to be quite a bear! The most difficult part is attaching the heavy metal bar that straddles the top of the frame to ensure a straight top edge for the screen. To that end, i created a "jig", a special extra 'tool' that helps to hold up the metal bar while i'm attaching it to each end of the frame sides.
Here's a front view of the projection frame:
...and here's another side view:
(yes, yes, i know - the Christmas lights are still up...sigh...)
These pictures are actually a few days old - earlier today i tried testing some white opaque 6 mil plastic tarp as rear projection screen material. Even though the tarp itself doesn't look like much, the projected image really comes through nice and clear! To obtain the full screen size, the projector will need to be situated about 19 feet back from the screen area. The idea is to use clamps to secure the screen material to the metal bar, then other clamps to secure a set of black 6 mil plastic tarps to serve as a projection hood, cutting down on light bleed from behind.
All pvc pipes have now been labeled and disassembled, ready for delivery. When i get a chance, i'll try to draw up some more detailed diagrams with measurements and details of the pipe connectors. Here's hoping this crazy new setup works!
Walter Cosand sent me the link to this fascinating video, demonstrating a prototype MacBook converted to a Tablet computer, complete with Wacom digitizer pen and eraser:
It should be pointed out that the ModBook is NOT made by Apple, but by a 3rd party company called Axiotron. Each ModBook will be custom made to order, as they are essentially modifications of existing Macbook hardware (albeit, very, very nice modifications!)
The Inkwell handwriting applet seems pretty impressive, but i can't help feeling that as nice as this mod looks that there will remain some serious handicaps for 'real' usage. Once thing i'm noticing right off the bat is that the Modbook seems to only operate in landscape mode - not the most comfortable position for handheld operation, certainly not for music score reading unless you like your scores to appear reeeeeaaallllly tiny....Windows XP tablet version (and from Tuesday on, Vista) has ink handling and recognition really down pat in so many ways. It'll really take nothing short of Apple diving in directly to make the Mac Tablet comparable. Hopefully, enough interest will be generated from this modification to make Apple take a serious second look at this potential market...
Share the Music - Donate your New and Used Musical Instruments
Just received this email from our local High School and wanted to pass this along to my readers:
Eastern High School is collecting donations of new and used musical instruments in support of their Share the Music project. Share the Music is a charitable program that collects musical instruments and distributes them to schools for use by students who otherwise could not afford them.
Share the Music was created by Austin Kase, a senior at Eastern, and is sponsored by the Eastern High School Tri-M Music Honor Society, advised by Mrs. Gail Posey.
Share the Music is asking for your support by donating any new or used instruments that you may have that are no longer wanted. Anyone interested in donating may contact Austin Kase (856-772-2181), Katherine Corson (856-767-0474), or Kristen Lockwood (856-772-2356), or, if preferred, may contact Austin Kase at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My latest excursion to Home Depot had me wandering up and down the plumbing aisle trying to make heads and tails of the world of PVC pipes. I managed to get help from a tired-looking salesperson who looked at me with a mixture of mild annoyance and total confusion when i tried to describe to him what i had in mind, gesticulating with my hands and drawing crude diagrams on my Samsung i730 Pocket PC phone (Pocket Word has a simple drawing feature built in). At first, he shook his head and dismissed it as being well nigh impossible...but then rethinking my design, he actually came around and thought it could work...maybe...
Thanks to him, we were able to hunt down all the various PVC pipe fittings and connectors, as well as cutting a galvanized steel pipe to size. That turned out to be the most difficult part to work out...well, without a guarantee that it will work in the end...
Quick stops to other departments assisted with some google searches on my Opera PDA browser helped me to confirm that another component i came across could actually be feasible...
Three guesses as to what craziness i'm dreaming up in my head now? Well, we'll see if it actually comes together tomorrow morning...
An Eye and an Ear in my Pocket - Micromemo and my DSC-T7
The best benefit to having your electronics small is that they become very companionable, finding ways to actually impact your life in helpful ways. The Micromemo Digital Audio recorder for the video iPod from XtremeMac suddenly makes it very easy to record just about anything at any time, giving the serious musician a much needed 'virtual mirror' in which to assess his or her craft. Now, pair that with an extremely pocket-able digital camera like my old, trusty Sony DSC-T7, and you suddenly produce happy moments that sound sweeter like this bit of spontaneity:
January 23, 07
Creating a Flash Banner for the Visual Recital
Check this out - i'm playing around with Flash to create a new animated banner for the Visual Recital site. Let me know what you think -
I'll try to design a variety of these banners in different sizes, but i think this is a pretty good first run! BTW, it took me a while to figure out, but i managed to make the entire movie hyperlinked - click on the flash movie to jump to VisualRecital.com! A great little tutorial on this technique can be found at Kirupa.com.
Survival Tool: MicroMemo Audio Recorder for my iPod
Shafts of sunlight breaking through the clouds to reveal a sacred moment...a spotlight piercing through the darkness to bathe a singular point of attention...yes, those hokey visual cues are the parodies of dramatic film, theater, and Simpsons cartoons, but i actually had one of those moments in 'real life' a few weeks ago...
We were taking the kids out to eat at one of our favorite local restaurants, P.F. Chang's in the Promenade (a swanky retail development that is designed like an attractive - well, promenade, a delightful outdoor walking space threaded creatively through high-end shops and restaurants). The waiting line was ridiculous - almost 2 hours to kill before we could be served, giving us the perfect excuse to wander among the stores. For some reason, i had never taken close notice of the shops before, assuming they were mainly expensive clothing and boutique shops, but like the proverbial "Bat-Signal" a ray of light grabbed my attention, something i couldn't believe i had missed in all the times i had driven by that shopping development -
...the Silver-White Logo of the Apple Store. Cue choir music.
Like a moth drawn to a flame, like a mouse to peanut butter, like...ok, ok, i'm writing gibberish even before i've had my first cup of coffee! Point was, the store was all shiny joy, oohing and aahh-ing at the beautiful powerbooks and iPod accessories - in fact, the very first item i laid eyes on in the store was the MicroMemo Digital Audio Recorder microphone by XtremeMac for the Video iPod:
Yes, you guessed it - i heard voices calling to me from that little microphone, so how could i resist? Don't get me wrong - i LOVE my Samson C01U USB microphone for higher-end recordings (good enough for podcasts and web posts, though not CD-quality), but this little gadget looked to be the perfect thing for quick, spot recordings and immediate review for rehearsals, lessons and the like.
With the Astral auditions and a number of new works i had to learn very, very quickly, this microphone proved its worth handily. Operation is a snap, although it seems to be a bit quirky on my iPod - i have to attach it, turn it on, remove it because the iPod can't seem to recognize that it was just given a new appendage, then re-attach the microphone before the iPod 'wakes up' and happily accepts its new coupling. Eccentricity aside, the sound quality is much better than i expected from such a small device. Even though the microphone is omnidirectional, it's nice to be able to pull the head away from the iPod to minimize any hum from the sound of the iPod's disk drive spinning. Recordings are made either in 44 kHz or 22 kHz WAV file formats and are automatically labeled as date and time files.
For getting familiar with new repertoire very quickly and reviewing lesson materials, this little device is turning out to be convenient and incredibly useful. You're not going to get glorious audio appropriate for CD publishing, but that's not the point - you will get decent audio to get a good enough sense of what needs work and enough details to make out the various musical parameters.
Here's a sample of one recording from a rehearsal with Guitarist Issac Bustos in uncompressed WAV 22kHz format, playing the first movement cadenza from the Tedesco Guitar Concerto:
Still lots of work left to be done, but i thought it would be fun to share a little preview of the new Visual Recital subsite. www.VisualRecital.com previously just redirected to HughSung.com, but now that i've been able to develop a library of promotional materials (video clips, photographs, posters, etc. - oh, and a nice logo to boot!) it makes sense to set up a dedicated site to promote the concept.
Sticking with the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality, you'll notice that i'm using the same blog template for the Visual Recital site. The trickiest part was getting the subsite to render its own color scheme independent of the "father site" - if anyone is really interested, let me know and i'll post the technical specs of how i managed to work it around. I have absolutely loved the dynamic content and the design flexibility of the blog format, so i wanted to translate that into creating a resource for presenters (and fans!) to not only pull up the standard retinue of publicity materials like bios and pictures, but also to have a reason to return to the site as new content gets developed (and blogged about), more composers get featured and involved, and other musicians can get a backstage look at my internet marketing adventures.
Here's my laundry list of things to be done to the new subsite:
Simplify the sidebar menus - most of the sundry lists and sidebar widgets will be removed and replaced with basic links to promo materials and media files. I may develop a dedicated list linking other musicians and visual artists who are doing similar work to mine
Post and Link Promo materials - didn't i just say that? Well, forgive me for thinking aloud - i'll dedicate a few posts to stuff for presenters, like videos in various formats, the newly developed poster (samples and blank templates), and (hopefully soon) some nice animated GIF banners if anyone is interested in putting some eye candy on their own sites! Just for fun, i may even look into developing AIM chat buddy icons...
Technical Specs - these will be diagrams for stage presenters who need to see how the equipment is set up, everything from the dual Tablet PC's on the piano to the digital projector and screen setups. As i get around to visiting different venues, i hope to post pictures to illustrate how each stage works. I'm also thinking seriously about developing my own rear-projection screen - most likely to be built with a pvc pipe frame and Tyvek home wrap with a black rear drop cloth to cut ambient light and focus the projection...sketches and development pictures to be posted as this new project comes together...
Dedicated Podcast Series - i'm just putting this idea up for mulling...might be too redundant to do, but i might set up a small series of podcasts (video and audio) as subscribe-able promo for new and upcoming shows. Interviews with featured composers, backstage tech setup videos, how-to's, screencast tutorials...that sort of stuff...maybe...
As the Visual Recital and Hugh Sung sites are both working within the same blog structure, you'll still see a lot of overlap, particularly with the shared visitor counter and the links to the Upcoming Concert schedule (yes, yes, i'll update that one soon...) Again, VisualRecital.com will primarily be the promotional media vehicle, but with a blog flavor to keep the material from getting stale (as happens far, far too often with artists' websites). The best thing that could happen would be for other art musicians to pick up the concept and start developing their own shows! Nothing less than a new revolution in the live art music experience for today's audiences...
I'll post a holler once the site is cleaned up and tidy for a nice lil' housewarming party! (more)
Scary Good: The Bose Q3 Noise-Cancelling Headphones
I'm a very predictable creature of habit. Drag me through a brain-numbing week of work, i will look for the carrot of appeasement - usually in the form of a nice shiny new toy. The object of desire for quite some time has been the Bose QuietComfort 3 Acoustic Noise-Cancelling Headphones:
I first laid eyes - er, ears - on these puppies in the Philadelphia Airport on my way to Brazil. The smiling sales representative was only too happy to accommodate my look of wonder, another willing victim of the massive marketing campaign waged via enormous posters of the Q3 all over the terminal. Airports are noisy places to begin with, but he started explaining that he would play a CD simulating the sound of an airplane interior during flight and then ask me to activate the Q3 headphones once they were snugly resting over my ears. As soon as the switch came on, i felt like i was in the middle of a hermetically sealed vacuum room - i saw the lips of the sales rep moving, but no sound was passing through the headphones! It was even more amusing to see the twinkle of his eye and the amused smirk crawling up his lip as he saw my proverbial jaw drop to the ground...
Ok, i exaggerate...slightly...but it was a pretty impressive demonstration!! The level of noise reduction was so dramatic as to be startling - really brings to mind the term "deafening silence". I know, i know, i sound like a paid endorsement...but it really took every ounce of willpower not to fork over my wallet to buy a pair of Q3's right then and there!
Somehow i resisted and made my way through my various plane and train trips with my old Philips noise-canceling headphones (which sound like a joke now, offering little more than a slight bass cut from the ambient soundscape). Well, after the week of punishment and the "Hugh Sung diet", the ol' wallet felt fat enough to indulge in the Q3.
I tried the Q2, the older ear-surrounding model, but i noticed a distinctive buzz within the ear cup. The Q3 by nature of their direct ear contact seem to naturally block a significant amount of ambient sound just from the physical proximity. Once the puppies are activated, it's like cotton balls have been shoved into your ears, the silencing effect is that distinctive. Since i'm a daily train commuter (via that train system marvel PATCO), the Q3 have been absolutely fabulous in giving me a quieter, more restful ride to and from work. I can't wait to try them out on my next plane trip...
At the risk of joining ranks with those email inbox-clogging spammers, i've designed and distributed my first HTML email advertisement for my next upcoming Visual Recital at the Darlington Arts Center. This turned out to be more difficult than i had imagined - posting web pages on a server is one thing, but finding a friendly way to distribute HTML content is an entirely different matter!
Anandgraves.com has the best article for creating HTML mailers - very helpful advice on formatting, design, coding and software considerations.
I'm lucky to have a copy of Dreamweaver to make HTML page creation a breeze, but apparently there are other WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) HTML coders out there, most of them free (Anandgraves.com lists several in the article), so it shouldn't be hard to create content. The thing to keep in mind is that HTML mailers are basically an extension of one's website - all the images in the message are actually pulled in from a specific directory you create from your site. Keeping image files small is a crucial design factor to making sure your recipients don't have to watch grass grow while waiting for your message to load (or more likely just delete the message outright).
The tricky thing turns out to be the distribution of said HTML mail. Outlook 2003 doesn't (apparently) have an easy way to directly code HTML into email messages. I tried looking at PHPMailer, but pardon me - even I have a limit when it comes to deciphering code, and when the ratio of effort to learn to ease of execution leaves something to be desired, i immediately defect to searching for an easier alternative.
That "easy" alternative (relatively speaking) turns out to be Thunderbird, the open-source email client made by the same goodwilled folks who gave us Firefox (my hands down web browser of choice). Setting up Thunderbird to talk nicely to Gmail turned out to be more of a pain than i expected. Fortunately, once the deed was done, the ease of inserting HTML text made all that effort worthwhile.
If you'd like to see the direct HTML mailer file, click here.
By all means, if you'd like me to mail you a copy, drop me a line and i'll send one off to you so that you can forward it to all your friends!
Someone suggested i create a mailing list, i assume with some sort of signup form...yes, yes, that'll get added to my "to do" list...
Thank you all so much for your feedback and suggestions for my Visual Recital logo design! It's been really interesting to see how nearly unanimous folks have been panning the first design and favoring the second - building on that (and getting re-acquainted with working that 10-year old Corel Draw 7 program!) i've come up with this latest version, cleaned up and hopefully good enough to meet everyone's approval:
Hm...i think i need some outside help here...
Kyungmi thought my minimalist logo design was a bit "cold" and suggested i try something a little more calligraphic - i guess she prefers the 'romance' of the classical recital experience. Here's another version, first black on white:
and now white on black:
Thoughts? Opnions? I personally like the 'modernistic' look of yesterday's design, but i'll certainly take into consideration strong responses either way - do drop me a line if you like one or the other, or if you think i should start from scratch again!
I've been mulling over a logo design for the Visual Recital concept for quite some time - i started with some basic sketches and doodles, playing around with ways to integrate the initials "V R" into a catchy semi-symmetrical design:
I tried playing around with some Logo design program demos like AAA Logo and Logo Design Studio, but those types of programs seem to be limited to manipulations of pre-fabricated clip art and text fonts. I then turned to my old (10 year old, to be exact) graphic CAD program, Corel Draw 7, a vector-based graphic design program from the mid 90's - still running just fine on my old desktop, albeit a bit miffed for being kept in digital mothballs for so long i'm sure!
Here's what i eventually came up with:
The Darlington Arts Center in Boothwyn, PA has invited me to give a master class this coming Saturday and a performance of my Visual Recital the following Saturday (Feb. 3, 7 pm). They asked for some pictures to help advertise the recital - i promptly sent over the photos i received from the festival in Recife, but it turns out that the resolution is too low to make adequate flyers. Solution? Play around with Art Rage 2:
Art Rage 2 has a fantastic image tracing feature that automatically selects the corresponding color for the palette. It took a little getting used to, but i think it lends a nice 'artsy' feel to the final image, which is a composite of 3 photos - here's the photo i used as the primary image model:
What marketing campaign would be complete without a catchy slogan? I'm sure professional marketers will get a real laugh at my pedestrian attempts at their craft, but this is what i came up with for a sample promotional poster, complete with slogan and logo (click on the image for the original size):
I'd love to get some feedback on this - i might try another version of the painting, as i'm not crazy about the 'lightning forks' and really want to get another shot at rendering my face better...but i'd still welcome any and all suggestions!
I'm blogging this from a 7:38 am NJ Transit train heading to Philadelphia, thereupon to Baltimore. Today's itinerary is the first of a 3-day recording session with violinist Victor Danchenko. We'll be commiting to digital posterity the violin and piano sonatas by Dmitri Shostakovich and Cesar Franck. After three intense days of Astral Artists audition accompaniments (AAAA) the brain is tired, the fingers are sore, and the body is wired from overdoses of caffeine and Advil and underdoses of sleep...that being said, the week has been going relatively well. I'll use the train time to catch up on more blogs and backstage tidbits from the recording sessions. Onward we go...
The Christmas and New Year's holidays saw me gaining the typical weight of mirth - about 5 pounds, in my case. I'm sure the supermarket tabloids are filled with New Year's resolution diets, so i thought i'd offer one of my own - although i'm very reluctant to actually recommend it, as it involves - well - insane amounts of work and stress.
Today, for example, will probably end up being a 2-pounder (loss, that is), given the insanity of my schedule. Here goes:
7 am - leave for work
8 am - arrive, cram in paperwork
9:00 am - rehearsal
10:00 am - rehearsal
11:00 am - rehearsal
12:00 pm - leave for Astral auditions at Rock Hall, Temple University - hopefully grab a quick bite to eat
1:30 pm - begin Astral audition accompaniments
4:00 pm - finish Astral audition accompaniments, return to Curtis
5:00 pm - cram in paperwork, possibly a quick bite to eat
6:00 pm - rehearsal
7:00 pm - rehearsal
8:00 pm - rehearsal
9:00 pm - rehearsal
10:00 pm - rehearsal
11:00 pm - head home, prepare for next day which repeats and ends around midnight...
The diet is even more effective when you forget to eat meals...again, highly NOT recommended for anyone to actually embark on...trust me, i think it's better to keep the gains of your holiday mirth...sigh...
Music Meets Tech #21: Visual Recital Demo: "Vernacular Dance No. 1" by Charles B. Griffin
The Visual Recital is a new approach to integrating visuals with live music where the musician controls the digitized visualizations directly as an enhancement of the musical performance. Charles B. Griffin's "Vernacular Dance No. 1" is featured in this Visual Recital Demo podcast, which was filmed at Field Concert Hall in The Curtis Institute of Music.
This video performance is being presented both as a Windows-compatible WMV file (approximately 43 MB) and as an iPod-compatible Video Podcast. Running time is appoximately 5 minutes.
January 03, 07
Music Meets Tech #20: Visual Recital Demo - "Watery Abstractions" by John Carollo
The Visual Recital is a new approach to integrating visuals with live music where the musician controls the digitized visualizations directly as an enhancement of the musical performance. John Carollo's prelude "Watery Abstractions" is featured in this Visual Recital Demo podcast, which was filmed at Field Concert Hall in The Curtis Institute of Music.
This video performance is being presented both as a Windows-compatible WMV file (approximately 20 MB) and as an iPod-compatible Video Podcast. Running time is appoximately 2:48 minutes.
Thank you for visiting this site! I hope you'll find this to be a friendly place to learn about and discuss the fascinating technologies available for the Classical Musician. A great place to get started is with the ongoing "Getting Started" series. Remember, the worst questions are the ones you never ask, so feel free to email me!