Two of Clubs: Pretender

This was inspired by my lack of time and Jeff MacDougall’s experiment with FourTrack.

Here‘s a recording of it sung by my Mac.

It’s getting far too close to the end,
I’ve got to write my weekly thing,
but I used up half the weekend
trying to teach my Mac to sing.

So I’ll do a Jeff MacDougall,
and I’ll write a hasty song.
I’ll get all my notes from Google,
and they’ll probably sound all wrong.

But there’s not a thing that I own
that could run FourTrack
’cause I don’t have an iPhone,
but I have a Mac


and I’ve got a MIDI keyboard
that I don’t know how to play.
I don’t know what on Earth’s a C chord,
But I can code C anyway.

I can’t even read a stave, man,
and I don’t know how to sing.
I’m a two of clubs, a caveman
who’s pretending to be king.

This was produced using a modified version of the software I wrote to sing Still Point Five. Entering all the notes and durations for that proved to be tedious, and I never really found the time to do it. So I bought a cheap MIDI keyboard, and added a MIDI interface to the program, with much help from the source code of Snoize MIDI Monitor. Now I just have to play a tune on the keyboard, enter the text, press a few buttons, fine-tune the pronunciation if necessary, and it creates the TUNE file. I can then get my Mac to speak that from any text field, or use the ‘Text to Audio file’ Automator action to save it as a sound file. It’s pretty neat.

I wrote most of the MIDI interface on Saturday afternoon, and there are still one or two flaws in it, so I had to fine-tune the TUNE file a bit. But it’s a whole lot easier than it was when I had to enter note names and durations by hand.

The reason I spent Saturday writing the MIDI interface to this program rather than writing a proper Thing was that I wanted to at least finish a cover of the normal ‘Still Alive’ in time to make a video of it for Jonathan Coulton day. If I hadn’t been making Christmas cookies with friends all day, I might have managed it, but as it was I barely had time to iron out some bugs in the software and write this Thing before midnight. I’ll be in Zurich tomorrow so I won’t be able to work on it. Anyway, the cookies are great, so delicious and moist. Can you blame me?

If you have a Mac, and you want to try out the song in different voices, or maybe experiment with changing the tune, here’s the TUNE file. Just open it up in just about any application (it’s just a text file), go to the Edit menu, Speech submenu, and choose ‘Start Speaking’. You can change the voice used in Speech panel of the System Preferences. Let me know if you discover any voices it sounds better in, or any other improvements. I only tried it with Victoria (which is what the mp3 uses) and Vicki.

It should be clear from the song that I do not claim to have any musical talent. I don’t know where I got that tune from. It seemed like I thought of it myself, but most likely I inadvertently copied it from somewhere. If I didn’t, it probably isn’t very good. I plan to use this software to make up for my lack of musical talent, by getting it to sing the poems-with-tunes I’ve written. Eventually, I’ll tidy it up enough to release it and its source code, but for now I don’t think it’s ready for public consumption.

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  1. #1 by Jeff MacDougall on December 1, 2008 - 1:10 pm

    I think this is the first time I’ve been referenced in someones lyrics. It truly is an honor. And it’s a cute song too! I’m very impressed that you could write a piece of software to do this. I can barely get my blog to do what I want.


  2. #2 by Angela Brett on December 2, 2008 - 12:57 am

    Well, I think this is the first time that somebody I have referenced in a Thing has commented on it, so that’s also an honour. May I suggest that if you want to be referenced in more lyrics, you change your name to something easier to rhyme? I considered ‘majestic moog’ll’ which would have been perfect if your name had been Jess, but couldn’t think how to continue it, and I am not aware of ‘Moog’ being used as a generic term for synthesisers (or indeed, MIDI controllers hooked up to computers which then produce text files from the MIDI signals) anyway.

    By the way, I can’t always get my blog to do what I want either.


  3. #3 by Jeff MacDougall on December 2, 2008 - 7:22 am

    I thought about changing it… but instead I just figured if I waited long enough, the world would start inventing words that rhymed with my name. Just as well that you didn’t use “moog” anyway because the guys name (moog) is pronounced (M-oh-g). Only us keyboard geeks know that… so don’t feel bad.


  4. #4 by William Brett on December 2, 2008 - 10:54 am

    Ah, what would the inimitable Douglas Adams say?
    I hope you shall be putting on the recipe for the cookies. I have been having great progress trying to reproduce and redesign old fashioned ships biscuit recently and cookies would go well at my next tea party. 🙂


  5. #5 by Angela Brett on December 2, 2008 - 2:43 pm

    I wonder whether I can use block quotes in comments.

    I just figured if I waited long enough, the world would start inventing words that rhymed with my name.

    Now here’s a man to whom internet superstardom will not come as a surprise.

    I guess my mispronunciation of Moog would have further reinforced the deep and profound message of the song, which is that I don’t know anything about music, but it’s probably considered offensive to rhyme a keyboard geek’s name with a mispronunciation of Moog, so it’s a good thing I didn’t.

    Ah, what would the inimitable Douglas Adams say?

    I would try to imitate what he’d say, but he’s inimitable. I’m more interested in what Stephen Hawking would say (and how he would say it) if he found out that I have enabled him to sing along to Les Horribles Cernettes or Arthur Roberts or whoever it is that Lucasian Professors of Mathematics sing along to these days. Perhaps he would just say, ‘give me my pudding.’ [hey Jeff, since you’re ‘here’, is there a page about A Brief History of Pudding I could link to which is a little more informative than ‘This content is available for $0.00‘ a little more direct than Song Fu, but a little less here-is-a-random-free-mp3-from-somebody-or-other-who-does-not-want-to-attract-traffic-to-his-website-where-they-would-have-the-opportunity-to-pay-for-it-and-also-find-other-music than a direct mp3 link? Like maybe a lyrics page with links to the other stuff?]

    In the end I didn’t actually make any cookies myself, I was waiting for lonely eggwhites which never materialised. But multiple kinds of christmas cookies were made by other people, so I’ll pester them for the recipes and get back to you. Some of the best ones used confiture de lait, which I doubt you’ll be able to find over there.

    Edit: I just remembered that this is a writing blog. If I put up a recipe for cookies, it will have to be in poem form. You can surely understand that I’m reluctant to introduce wookiees into a poem just for the sake of rhyme, so you might have to wait.

    Another edit: The cookies would end up too Chewie if I did that.


  6. #6 by Angela Brett on December 3, 2008 - 5:42 pm

    Ah, now I see what you may or may not have been getting at. The inimitable Douglas Adams would say something along the lines of, ‘I am rarely happier than when spending an entire day programming my computer to perform automatically a task that it would otherwise take me a good forty-two seconds to do by hand’


  7. #7 by William Brett on December 4, 2008 - 4:15 am

    He said forty-two seconds? I never noticed.
    I look forward to any attempt you may make to rhyme a recipe and suggest you use an alternate language for it.
    (just describing the ‘cooking cache’ could be exciting if you can find a way to sing it) My longtime favorite for that sort of thing is “Die Eier Von Satan” which I first heard inserted into a tape alongside “Flash Gordon”


  8. #8 by Angela Brett on December 4, 2008 - 9:06 am

    He said ten seconds, but it just so happens that this song is 42 seconds long, so it would have taken me 42 seconds.


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