MusicReader Mac OS X version + Windows v. 2.3 + AirTurn = Happy Musicians ;)
The developers of my new music reading program of choice, MusicReader, has just announced the release of their latest version upgrades for Mac OS X and v. 2.3 for Windows. I can already attest to the improved inking capabilities for the Windows version, as well as a number of under-the-hood fixes and other improvements. In addition, the MusicReader store is now offering the AirTurn line of wireless page turner products! Pretty cool, eh?
You can view a short 3 minute video review of MusicReader here:
My new favorite feature of MusicReader is its ability to zoom the music to half a page at a time while retaining the ability to turn pages without staff overruns or clipping. I gave my first public performance this past Saturday night using the half-page view on my ordinary, non-tablet HP laptop together with my AirTurn page turner, and i have to say it was a revelatory experience both for myself and the audience! I've been blessed with excellent vision, but even my eyes were soooo much happier to not have to squint so much to see the notes (and my teeny weeny eyes don't leave much room for squinting! LOL!)
Working past programming glitches (one of which involved me nearly breaking the entire online storefront from poking around the css templates like a curious cat!), banking and shipping snafus (the shipping option in the store is still a little wonky - as a result, we're putting a flat $7.50 rate for all orders this week), we somehow managed to squeak in the launch of our new store at www.AirTurn.com officially last night.
AirTurn's mission is to create and market technologies that enhance the study, practice, and performance of music. Our first product is something we actually developed ourselves from scratch: a wireless page-turning transmitter, the AT-104!
If you'll recall from my 1st anniversary video, i did a basic overview of Tablet PC's for musicians. One major pitfall was the fact that - at the time - there weren't any really decent page turning pedal options available. The ones i was using at the time were built with noisy reed switches that gave an audible click each time you pressed them, making them difficult to use in recording sessions:
I've been dreaming about decent wireless page turning pedals for quite some time, but the results were disappointing to say the least. I could never have imagined that one day i'd be actually involved in developing my own models!
As regular readers of this blog know, i've been a paperless musician in practice and performance, having used Tablet PC's as my primary music reader/library device for several years now - since 2002, to be exact (yeow! That long already?? My, how time flies!!). During that whole time i've been involved with various quests for the perfect page turning pedal - everything from my old 3-button X-Keys programmable pedal -
Here's a quick 1 minute overview of the AT-104 wireless page turning transmitter. The beautiful thing about this device is the fact that it's plug-and-play - no software to install (and carefully program and disengage when not in use, unlike the software needed for the Delcom Engineering pedal - a nightmare to deal with if you ever accidentally removed the USB cable without shutting the driver down first!) and wireless in operation (no need to lug around and uncoil an unsightly cable next to the piano in performance! YES!!):
In addition to its simplicity, the AT-104 is very flexible to configure. You can actually attach a variety of footswitches and pedals, giving you the option to have either a single or double pedal setup for uni or bi-directional page turns. We have an account with Roland to offer 3 types of pedals that can be bundled with the AT-104. You can also see a ">list of compatible pedals from other manufacturers on our website.
Two fascinating articles point to fascinating and imaginative applications of technologies from opposite ends of the spectrum - low and high. Wired magazine online profiles Volker Bertelman and his Hauschka project, a young pianist who performs on prepared pianos with both an eclectic mix of old and new technologies (that Ebow has me really, really fascinated!!) John Cage, naturally, would've been...well, referenced, at the very least, as he already is in the article. Kinda funny to see how digital programmers (like Pianoteq) on the one hand are trying to sound more like acoustic pianos, while pianists like Mr. Bertelman are trying to make their pianos sound more synthesized!
The New York Times writes about the YouTube Symphony project, where folks will be able to contribute their video renditions of orchestral parts from a commissioned work by Tan Dun leading to a final video mashup performance of jury-selected entries. The second part of the project involves an interesting twist on the traditional orchestra audition process, where video submissions will be judged by members of various major orchestras leading to an all-expense paid trip by Google for a Carnegie Hall performance under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas.
Bold, imaginative, exciting - it's heartening to hear that classical music can find such a powerful venue to encourage fresh discoveries and new collaborations, and that "traditional" instruments can continue to re-invent themselves in cool ways!
Yes, i did a double take too when i read the description of this video file, but once you see this, it makes perfect - almost simplistic - sense! I love how Scoble makes mention of how useful this webcam software technology could be for conductors to turn pages (might be a bit harder for pianists and other instrumentalists - maybe it could learn to recognize us sticking our tongues out at the page?)
After struggling with guilt over enjoying all of our Prague photos floating across our Vista screensaver (gorgeously done, by the way - not EVERYTHING about Vista is bad;) i finally broke down and started to look into online photo sharing sites to make the sharing of happiness easier.
I've used Flickr for a few pictures, but frankly it looks pretty plain jane as a presentation tool. One other concern with "freebie" photo sites comes from the possibility that pictures could be deleted at a moment's notice (extreme circumstances, granted, but it's possible). Another concern is the limiting factor of upload quotas and size restrictions.
I've decided to go with SmugMug, a photo site that seems to have the approval of Walt Mossberg from the Wall Street Journal. The only freebie option is an initial 14-day trial; basic service costs around $40 for unlimited photo uploads and ad-free presentations. I'm going with the power user account for about $60, which allows for more editing options as well as the ability to upload DVD-quality video files - again, with an unlimited amount of storage space!
I want to blog - i really do! But guilt has me working on way-overdue projects first before i can allow myself to indulge in unplugging the data-dam in my brain. In the meantime, i'll leave you with some videos that i managed to post up to YouTube in a jiffy, mainly because i didn't have a separate audio track to synchronize, but also due to my experiments with the Vista version of Windows Movie Maker. Nothing to really write home about, but the transition effects are nice enough and it "does the job" of slapping video together in a semi-presentable format.
From Wallenstein Castle in Prague, during my Music Technology lecture demonstration, i present to you these videos showcasing the expressive capabilities of the Pianoteq" virtual piano program:
Here's a neat comparison pitting the Pianoteq program back to back with a Petrof concert grand:
Again, my apologies for the mediocre audio quality, due to using only the Canon GL2's embedded microphone. I've since realized that i need to invest in a high quality, portable XLR microphone input solution (which i have - details and review coming soon!).
Many thanks to the Music Bridges International Organization for inviting me to participate in such a lovely festival! I'm still waiting for the audio tracks to put together clips from the other two days of performances, so be sure to stay tuned for more video from Prague.
For a guy who is as much into technology as i am, i can be surprisingly daff when it comes to jumping on board certain bandwagons. I'm sure y'all have seen the "dati-pation" (*kaff kaff* - er, data + consti...you get the drift) that's been plaguing this blog, simply due to having WAY too much to write about, but unfortunately not enough time, energy, or inspiration to actually put finger to keyboard (concert trip to Prague, recital in Bermuda, the joys of my new Sager 9262 laptop, all the amazing goodies i've been acquiring to beef up my video studio...sigh...) I've known about Twitter for some time, but simply didn't find the Web 2.0 micro-blog idea all that appealing. Funny thing is, i've been trying to find exactly that, but in a more "formal" format for use with my new VX6800 WiMo PDA Phone from Verizon (why aren't there any decent blogging programs for Windows Mobile phones?) It took this article by Greg Sandow to convince me that Twitter was the way to go (or at least, to give it a good whirl).
Could Twitter become the "data-mucil" to help me get back into the blogger's swing? Find out as you start tracking me below and along the sidebar to the right!
As if one blog weren't enough for this crazy pianist, eh?
With the launch of my new blog, The Prosperous Musician, i wanted to set up a new RSS (really simple syndication) feed to make it easier for folks to either subscribe to updates by email, or to insert the feed into their favorite blog reader (i'm currently using iGoogle.com). Nucleus CMS, my current blog content management system of choice, has been a wonderfully robust system overall - i've particularly enjoyed its capability to create and manage multiple blogs simultaneously (see: www.visualrecital.com). As for my RSS feeds, i've been a longtime user of Feedburner, but aside from my main blog here, i never got around to figuring out how to correctly set up multiple RSS feeds.
Fortunately, the support forums at Nucleus came to the rescue, as they almost always do - turns out i needed to submit the following tag to differentiate the separate blogs:
Problem was, where in the world could i find - or create - the blogid=#?
Turns out, Nucleus already provides blog id's - you just have to know where to find them:
By hovering your mouse over the little globe thingy next to each blog name, the tip should pop up giving you the blogid followed by a number - THAT'S the tag you need to use to identify the unique feed. Without the blogid, i assume blog #1 will get the nod for the default feed.
Fortunately, for those of you using free online blogging services like Wordpress.com or Blogger.com, the setup for your Feedburner feeds isn't nearly so aggravating, so i hope this little bit of under-the-hood techno-jargon doesn't scare you from setting up your own blogs!
Best temp job i've had in years - i'm a regular pianist for the Philadelphia Orchestra's auditions and conductor rehearsals, but this is the first time i've actually worked on stage as part of the subscription concert series. This is definitely being chalked up to "learning experience" - Monday's rehearsals saw me flubbing and floundering most of my entrances in the Bartok and particularly in the "Mercury" movement from the Holst, making me a prime target to become the conductor's pinata. Carmina didn't require nearly so much careful coordination with its simplistic, repetitious melodies.
"The Miraculous Mandarin", my foot...that work should be called "The Masochistic Mandarin" instead. Bartok, simply put, is a meanie.
Nevertheless, i'm having a blast, and my tablet pc is still turning out to be a life-saver. I found that scanning miniature scores is much better than full sized scores, since the smaller book format lends itself to closer spacing of the staves and a larger note font in general.
As i mentioned in my previous post, i have an aversion to orchestral tacet counting. The Bartok in particular requires exceptional coordination with the clarinet solos and several other poly-rhythmic tricksy entrances. I absolutely love being able to use my tablet pc's highlighting capabilities within PDF Annotator to quickly see my part buried amidst all the others, as well as creative fingering and beat markings to help me keep on track.
Despite Monday's shaky start, i think yesterday's rehearsal went much better overall. I found myself in a bit of a Goldilocks moment: Monday's pinata beating said that i was too soft. Tuesday's pinata beating said i was too loud. As Luis Biava put it, after cooking the steak too well-done and then too rare, it's now time to aim for "medium". LOL - he's so great!
Sorry for the brevity of this post and its scattered composition - i have to hurry and snarf the rest of my breakfast and take a shower before driving the kids to school and heading out to the orchestra's morning rehearsal. Here are some pictures from my temporary life with the Orchestra:
Our "Debt Free" video on YouTube has been getting a lot of play and attracting a wonderful batch of comments! One commenter mentioned that she saw the video aired on "The Dave Ramsey Show" on the Fox Business Network sometime last week after (according to this person) Dave himself showed the video to his wife Sharon and she told him to air it, saying that it was the funniest thing she had ever seen (or something to that effect)!
Can anyone confirm this? That would be so cool if this were actually true!
What i want for Christmas...a Wii-mote VR Head Tracking System
This had me bouncing up and down in my chair like a giddy schoolboy, even dragging my poor wife out of bed to behold this amazing spectacle of video game possibilities:
Johnny Chung Lee is my new idol, what with his amazing output of creative immediate-impact geekiness like the $14 steadycam...i want to be just like him when i grow up! I have to reiterate his plea to Nintendo Wii programmers to MAKE SOME GAMES WITH HIS VR HEAD-TRACKING SYSTEM!!! (even though i don't personally own a Wii...yet...)
Robot Violinist: the result of too many Rodes etudes?
Robina needs to work a bit on her bow changes, but nevertheless an impressive computational/mechanistic achievement! Now instead of telling students that their playing is a bit "stiff and robotic", i'll just mention that they sound like a Toyota...
Funny...looks like she plays vibrato the same way that i did when i tried to learn the violin as a kid - instead of rotating the finger pad forwards and backwards, i would just lift my finger up and down for a "pseudo" vibrato...
The steep rise in gas prices last year turned me into an avid PATCO rider. The trains themselves are older models that run just fine, but the fare collection system hasn't aged nearly as well - old-fashioned magnetic swipe cards that frequently get rendered useless by accidental proximity to electronic gadgets (like my Curtis optical ID/entrance card) and antiquated ticket dispensing machines that require you to feed the coins with the care and precision of a skee ball match. Having ridden the uber-efficient train systems in Korea several years ago and envying the way most riders just tapped an open turnstile with smart cards tucked in outer wallet pockets made me wonder time and again why we didn't have a similar system here in the ol' US of A. Well, now that wait finally seems to be over.
Cards can be purchased at the Broadway Transportation Center in Camden. The folks there were very helpful and even gave a personal demonstration on how to use the new ticket dispensing machines which can either give you 3-day paper magnet passes, or can be used to 'recharge' your Freedom smart card. I opted for the automatic withdrawal from my debit card, which will recharge the card in $30 increments (or more, if you decide) once the card's balance reaches $5.
No more penny arcade ticket machines, no more change dispensers that spit my old dollar bills back out, no more waiting in long queues for 10-ride tickets at the human ticket window (only open at certain hours of the day) - my Freedom card has me actually excited to ride the train now!
Well, whattaya know! i was sitting in my hotel room at Skidmore College the other day channel surfing when i came across the TV version of NPR's "From the Top", the PBS show featuring Classical Music kids and hosted by pianist Christopher O'Riley. I had heard the show on the radio a number of times, but never realized that there was a televised version, taped in front of a live audience at Carnegie Hall. So anyways, i'm watching the show and noticing that the music on Christopher's piano is awfully thin...and bright...and there's a funny cable snaking under the piano...
Whoa! Looks like Christopher is using a Toshiba convertible Tablet PC (my best guess, given the color scheme and button layout) with the screen flipped around - note the double-page layout in portrait mode, allowing him to see two pages at a time instead of the single-page portrait mode that i use with my Fujitsu slate model. I'm curious about the pedal system he's using to turn the pages - i'll see if i can email him about that. Anywho, the Tablet PC is certainly much more aesthetically pleasing for the camera than having to flip pages by yourself (as you can see one of the young pianists doing in the above video) or having a huge wall of paper scores as in this other video of Christopher playing Elliott Smith:
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!