I love trees almost as much as I love the poet William Carlos Williams, so I set three of his poems about trees to music. They were recorded at 'Orphean Sculptures', with tenor Peter DeSimone, flautist Ritchie Gonzales, cellist Jeannot Mahia, and me on piano and percussion. To the left is a photo of some trees that I took in the woods in Georgia. I like to imagine that these dendrites belong properly to neurons, not trees. The score is now available
Trees of W. C. W.
The sculptor, Ralph G Brown III, is interested in creating sculptures and putting them in inaccessible locations, like underground or underwater. He then takes SONAR or RADAR images of the sculpture and uses the data to create new works of art. I turned two of his sonar images into music and, in collaboration with the physicist Daniel Cellucci, I turned one of his radar images into an animation that generates its own music. The two songs are both an aural representation of this below sonar image. The video superimposes Schrodinger's equation and a radar image of a triangular sculpture buried in earth.
"Schubert Songs" is an album of unusual guitar transcriptions of High German lied by the romantic master. I made the transcriptions and played guitars on the recordings, and Peter DeSimone sang. The recordings were made in my now-defunct Santa Barbara studio, 'Orphean Sculptures'. The complete album is available on archive.org. Below are a few samples from the album. "Gretchen" was one of my favorites to play: I played the right hand of the piano part exclusively on the 'g' string of the guitar by using both hands on the fretboard. The image here is a depiction of the story of "Das Erlkonig" by Albert Sterner. Incase you are interested in behind-the-scenes stuff, this and this are candid photos a technician took of me recording the bass parts to "Das Erlkonig" (the second one corresponds to the words "Erlkonig hat mir ein leids getan").
Misogyny of Eros is ballet for which I wrote the music and scenario. It has 10 movements and a running time of about 55 minutes. The 200 page score calls for 10 dancers and a medium sized orchestra featuring alto flute and 3 auxiliary percussionists. The score comes in 3 large files: pt. 1, pt. 2, pt. 3.
The ballet explores the tantalizing extent of desire. Movements alternate between dances which depict the situations that give rise to various categories of desire, and those which depict the imaginary fulfillment of that desire, as seen through the mind of the protagonist. As the story unfolds, the distinction between desire and imaginary fulfillment becomes increasingly blurred as the protagonist becomes increasingly inebriated.
Below is a duet in which protagonist, Aguapo, imagines meeting his idealized lover, Jenifer. He is represented by 5 timpani and she by 5 roto-toms. The thematic material is an accelerating heartbeat, which is played in many different interlocking patterns as the nature of their interaction evolves (hint: listen with headphones).
My most profitable audio application, called Halo Harp is an electronic musical instrument that makes it easy to play chords that was commissioned by Alchemusic. At its core is a cutting-edge real-time synthesis engine. There are three versions, one runs on the iPhone OS, one runs on OSX, and was written in Objective-C, and the other is written in Supercollider. Halo Harp was pulled from iTunes last year by the company that commissioned it, but below is an original composition for Halo Harp by Andrew Halladay, and a video of Schubert's "Meeres Stille" played on Halo Harp by me, and sung by Peter DeSimone.
MKComposer.m is a software model of the composer Michael Krzyzaniak's brain. It reads music, learns about that music through observation, and composes new music based on what it has learned. MKComposer reduces the problem of composing to the more simple problem of composing counterpoint, which, in turn, can be reduced to the more simple problem of just composing the next note. The software uses a neural network to analyze existing music and learn what the next note is in a variety of contexts, and then uses that information to create its own context, and just compose. More information, including source code, a paper outlining preliminary findings is on MKComposer's website. A byproduct of this project is MKMIDIFile, which is a very useful Objective-C class that creates, parses and manipulates MIDI files.
Horas De Verano
Horas De Verano is my first album. It was originally written for solo 7-string guitar and voice, but on the album the voice part is played by a second guitar (both parts played by me). It is based on a cycle of poems by Federico Garcia Lorca with the same name. The album, like the poetry, comprises 7 songs, each describing a different hour of a summer evening. The album can be purchased on iTunes. Additionally, the complete score is now available:
[Horas de Verano]
I also painted the album cover, although it is actually a depiction of a poem by Giuseppe Ungaretti called "Notte di Maggio" (May Night). Below are previews of a couple of songs.
"Hard as Steel" is a drama with music. The plot is based on the true events of the mining town of Ludlow, Colorado during the early part of the twentieth century. It follows two fictious lovers on opposite sides of a heated labor debate through a real-life strike that ended in a massacre. Hard As Steel runs about two hours, and is scored continuously for orchestra, chorus, and soloists. I wrote the music, and Dianne Brooks wrote the libretto. One of my favorite characters is Ruby, an African American contralto whose husband works in the mine, and whose voice provides entertainment for the corrupt management's parties. The first song below is a lullaby she sings to her son during the harrowing events leading up to the massacre (the voice on the recording is mine), and the second is a song she sings at a company party. More information, complete orchestral and vocal scores, MIDI recordings of everything, and more can be found on Hard As Steel's website.
Beach Dream is a piece of music I wrote that depicts a night spent on the beach during winter. The first movement describes scorpio rising low over the water. The second represents shallow sleep, and the third is the annoying sounds of morning. During the period when I wrote this, I also painted the above picture, which was not intended to be related, but in retrospect I see that it is.
Many composition departments offer audio synthesis classes, but there is no textbook on the subject, and certainly none that is abreast modern technology. Even the internet, which tends to be saturated with detailed computer-related information, offers little in the way of creating sound on a sample-by-sample level. Therefore I have begun writing an online text on the subject myself. It uses simple language to explain the physics and mathematics behind various types of synthesis, and shows, in very simple ANSI C, how to create sounds one sample at a time. A byproduct of the text is MKAIFF, which is a simple and powerful ANSI C pseudo-class that turns a generic array of audio samples into an AIFF file for playback (and does many other types of computational jiu-jitsu on AIFF files). The incomplete text can be viewed on its own site, which also contains MKAIFF.
A few years ago, I was sleeping in a broken couch in the corner of a dilapidated hut that I reluctantly called 'home', when I was suddenly awakened, unable to breathe. I tried to take in air, but was impeded by my larynx, which had unexpectedly convulsed shut. I went from deep sleep to standing in under a second, and ran to the bathroom in the hopes that the steam from the shower would help. With all my might I found that I could force just a tiny bit of air into my lungs, which created a sound like a screeching pterodactyl as the air passed my closed voice-box. For several minutes I remained in the echoing tub, convulsing, trying to breathe, and quite certain that I would die.
Breathe is a piece of music for flute, toms, and computer that attempts to capture that psychological experience. It represents the noises I heard through my ears, as well as the sounds that came only from inside during those moments. The score is now available here:
The music was recorded at Orphean Sculptures in Santa Barbara, California, with Richie Gonzales on flute and Michael Krzyzaniak on toms and computer.
A Manual of Ground Bass for the 20th Century Vocal accompanist is a little piece I wrote a long time ago. It has never been recorded, but the score is available. [A Manual of Ground Bass]
I am often reluctant to offer proof that I can play the piano, guitar, or sing. Here, however, is documented proof of all three, in the form of video. The first is me playing ragtime piano on new years eve with Peter DeSimone. The second is me singing a piece I wrote for men's vocal quartet called "Rotten Peaches". The poetry, which I also wrote, describes the word "goodbye" falling from someone's mouth like a piece of half-chewed fruit dribbling back out. The third is a video of me playing the prelude to Wagner's opera "Die Walkure" on my baby, the 7-string Ibanez. The final is me playing the Aria from Bach's Goldberg Variations on piano in the Dancz Center for New Music at the University of Georgia.
A piece I wrote for an Arp 2500 and undisclosed random objects found around the Dancz New Music Center at UGA. Under 100 ARP 2500s were ever sold, and the one in this recording has serial number 003. Recorded on 8-track magnetic tape.
Two Songs I wrote with poetry by Giuseppe Ungaretti, from a cycle of 6 total. Performed at a concert held by the Salon Boulder of Contemporary Music, of which I was a founding officer. Brett Beckman, Organ; Andrew Halladay, Tenor; Me, Piano; Steven Snethcamp, Recording Engineer.
The second of a cycle of 2 songs that I wrote for soprano Sarah Kirsch. Doesn't her decrescendo on a high 'g' sound great? Sarah Kirsch, Soprano; Bill Munson, Piano; Original Italian language poetry by me.
Here is a lecture I gave on digital musical interfaces for a class in the Digital Culture program at Arizona State University. In an anonymus survey, the students were asked to name one thing they like about the class. Of 19 total responses, two were
"love having michael in the class" and "mike's lectures and listening exercises/facilitated discussion"