Friday, April 29, 2011

Dream Theater's New Drummer

Dream Theater has found a new drummer. They also found an entertaining way to tell the world and play the suspense for all it was worth, and I have to admit I enjoyed it. They held auditions for 7 of the worlds greatest rock drummers, and they videotaped it. Then by way of announcement they released the video in 3 installment throughout the past week. I've been watching each video as it comes out, but decided to wait until the final installment and official announcement before posting this.

Unfortunately embedding has been disabled for two of the 3 videos, but I made a playlist of them which you can watch via this link:

After watching the videos, it was clear to me that DT made the best choice for them. Technical abilities aside (as all the drummers were pretty amazing) it was clear that Mike Mangini definitely gelled with the band. Looking forward to what they come up with together! As I watched Mangini play the DT audition I was reminded of Christian Vander of Magma--which of course is a big compliment. Mike has played in Extreme, Steve Vai, and on several of James Labrie's solo albums. He is a friend of Mike Portnoy's. He also teaches at the Berkeley School of Music, where Dream Theater had its beginnings over 25 years ago. What a perfect fit for the band.

I just found a really fun video of Mike playing on Discovery Channel's "Time Warp" program. It features some interview, some great solos, and some entertaining slow-motion footage. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

MusicRacer: Another Unique way to Experience Music

I've recently spent some time looking for music visualizers; this is my second post on the topic, and I've found another software project that holds real promise.

Music Racer is a FREE simple shooter game with a musical twist, in which you move a spaceship back and forth on a track to pick up bonus points and avoid negative points. What makes it fascinating is that the placement of the point items and even the design of the track on which you race is based on music of your choice. You select any song on your computer (supports MP3, OGG, FLAC, WAV; AAC and WMA not supported due to DRM issues) using the built in media browser, and the program analyzes the audio data and generates a track. I contacted the developers on their Facebook page for more detail on how the track is created, and here is their response:
The track generation is deterministic. Curves are generated from the stereo offset, slope from the average number of beats. So the track and beats will always be the same for a particular song.
The game offers 3 play modes that effect the placement of bonus point items. "Catch All" offers only positive point markers and you try to catch them all. "Points" has positive markers that you collect and negative red markers that you avoid. My favorite is "Hold Speed" mode, which offers only positive point markers, but if you miss several in a row the whole track, including the music, slows down! You'll hear your favorite music go more and more flat and slow as you miss markers, if you're not careful--but all is not lost, as picking up markers raises the speed and pitch back up to regular levels.

The bonus point items that you collect coincide with beats in the song--or for music without much of a beat, with the peaks in the audio signal. The color of the bonus items is determined as follows (again from the developers):
That's a combination of beat intensity and angle of the curve. It isn't very obvious, but we didn't want to use any random numbers so the track will always be the same. 
Other options include mouse sensitivity, separate music and sound effect controls, difficulty control, and display settings. Some of these settings are only accessible during gameplay by pressing the ESC key.

It's a fun concept, and as it's a free game it's well worth your time to check it out. You've never PLAYED (literally) your music like this before!

Available for both Mac & Windows.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Polynomial: Space of the Music

It's an awesome 3D-fractal-generated-music-visualizer-space-shooter-game! I love music visualizers. I find watching attractive color displays animating in synch with my music to be very enjoyable. I also love fractal artwork; the beauty of complex math is amazing to witness. Put these things together with a bit of 3D space shoot-em-up and you have The Polynomial.

The actual gameplay is optional; I often prefer to turn off the black packman bad guys and just fly around the beautiful scenery. It's also a fractal editor; you can tweak parameters and generate and save your own unique 3D ITS fractal plots -- and fly through them as they animate to your music.

The free demo is fully functional with no nags, but only has a few predesigned arenas and it doesn't support MP3. You can still generate your own fractals, but you can't save them.

For only $8 you can have it animate fractal visuals with tunes of your choice, and it comes with some very nice saved fractals, or arenas, to play in.

You can buy it through the third party deployment platform "Steam," but I prefer to go directly to the developer's website:

Available for Mac, Windows, and various other OS.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Luca Zabbini - "Spring Comes Early" - Composition for piano

Barock Project's Luca Zabbini has recently posted a recording of a new composition on Youtube. It's audio only, but is quite beautiful. The recording features Zabbini on piano accompanied by a synth orchestra.

If you enjoy it, see my other video posts about the Barock Project:
Barock Project
Barock Project Revisited

Khachaturian's Toccata

I've loved this piece ever since I first heard my sister play it years ago when we were at college together. She recently discovered this beautiful performance and recording of the piece and shared the link with me. Well worth watching.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Revisiting an old favorite: Yes "Gates"

Every once in a while I listen to the band Yes again to remind me of why they're my favorite band. I've listened to them so much in the past that I don't listen to them as much any more--but so far I've always had no trouble remembering! Still my favorite.

Today I listened to the Relayer album--twice--as I drove to Dallas Oregon and back for a consulting appointment. I've never heard any other band take melodic themes and weave them together in such a way; usually we only find this sort of thematic development in classical music. The album contains three pieces of music: The 20 minute epic "The Gates of Delirium" which deals with the pointlessness of war, as well and the two 10 minute pieces "Sound Chaser" and "To Be Over." What incredible music!

A few years ago Yes released a wonderful DVD entitled "Yes Symphonic Live." It features most of the classic line-up, with the exception of the keyboardist slot, which is more than adequately covered by a young keyboardist by the name of Tom Brislin. As the title indicates, the band is backed up for the entire concert by a symphony orchestra. It's one of my favorite music DVDs.

So here is "The Gates of Delirium" taken from the DVD. It's 24 minutes, split across 3 youtube videos, presented here in a playlist. As you listen to it, imagine two groups of people, tensions rising, then breaking out into a battle, the battle reaching its climax, and then the quiet aftermath in which we reflect on what just transpired and think, "Soon, oh soon the light..." Just amazing.

If you enjoy it, please get the DVD, it's truly wonderful.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fool's PDQ Bach Day

What better to share on April 1st than some PDQ Bach? Along with Itzhak Perlman, John Williams and the Boston Pops.