Archive for category Things To Listen To

Why I Perform at Open Mics (now a rap song!)


Open MicA few weeks ago Alfred Ladylike was a featured act at a special edition of Open Phil, an open mic I perform at regularly. She heard me perform my poem/rap ‘Why I Perform at Open Mics‘. Last week she performed in Vienna again, and we spent an evening at my place with a bottle of wine and a collection of fart noises (a combination I fartily recommend) producing this recording of it:

Feel free to download it! If there is interest, I could also put up a karaoke track so you can perform it at your own open mics. The backing track is Galaxy by Free Rap Beats | Hip-Hop Instrumentals. Sound effects are all from freesound.org, by IFartInUrGeneralDirection and others.

It will be featured on The FuMP Sideshow tomorrow. If you like funny songs, raps and occasional sketches, I recommend subscribing to The FuMP (a podcast which publishes a couple of free comedy songs every week) and The FuMP Sideshow (more of the same, but generally by more amateur-level comedy songwriters, like me. Given that this one was produced by an actual professional, perhaps I could have submitted it to the main FuMP, but I’m not that sure of my sh💩t yet.)

I thought about adding a donation button (mainly because WordPress told me I could) but I have some decent freelance work right now so I’d feel weird about asking for donations. Maybe buy something if you really want to encourage me. And if you really like this track’s production value, head to Alfred Ladylike’s or her band Donut Heart’s bandcamp, and throw a dollar in her general direction.

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Better (Robot-to-Human version)


I’ve been thinking of getting my robot choir (an app I wrote to make my Mac’s speech synthesis sing) to sing Jonathan Coulton covers for a while, but as many of his songs involve robots, singing them with a robot voice forces a change of perspective. I rewrote Better to be from the perspective of a robot whose partner is becoming human, rather than a human whose partner is becoming a robot. Here‘s a rough recording of it using the Trinoids voice and the karaoke file for the song:

Here are the lyrics:

Where did we go?
When was the moment that we came unplugged?
I think I know.
In fact I am sure ’cause I’ve had your chips bugged.

I remember the first big surprise,
the day you came home with your infant-bred eyes.
I looked inside them and lased you a note
but your return signal was smoke.

But it’s not smoke, it’s fire,
and your burning desire
to turn into something
that I don’t require.
You used to be OK
and I liked you that way,
but I don’t think that I like you better.
No I don’t think that I like you better.

Started out small:
some lungs and a heart and your lasers unwired.
Now you’re just six feet tall.
Even when fully charged your organics get tired.
And I’m tired of the evenings I spend
making small talk with your new human friends
and their stupid insistence on blocking my lasers
when they know I know the three laws.

And you climbed the wrong way out
of the uncanny gorge.
You went from bad data
to bad Geordi La Forge.
You used to be OK
and I liked you that way,
but I don’t think that I like you better.
No I don’t think that I like you better.

So that’s how it goes.
Tap my interface once if you still understand.
No data flows.
Wait, are your digits just five on your hand?
I can tell by your insider art
There’s more than a pump in your chimpanzee heart.
I tried to reason, but something’s gone wrong.
Why am I singing a song?

Well, I like to think different, but it’s not quite the same.
If this is a trojan, I know who to blame.
You used to be flawless; now you’re F-ing lawless,
and I don’t think that I like you better.
No I don’t think that I like you better.

Some lines stay close to the original when I perhaps should have struck out and gone with something completely different. If you have any suggestions, let me know; the beauty of robots is I can change the words and make a new recording in seconds.

The tune is based on Spektugalo’s UltraStar file for that song. I had to make some changes to the robot choir to handle the one-beat gaps between notes, and I made a few tweaks to timing after that, which probably messed up more than they fixed. When I started writing this parody, I assumed I had the source tracks of the original song to work with, but it turns out that song is not on JoCo Looks Back, so all I have is the karaoke version with some backing vocals. I’ve turned the volume of my vocals way up, both so they’re easier to understand and to obscure the backing vocals more when the lyrics are not the same. Consider this a demo.

Now that I have the tune done, I’ll probably record the original song and my entitled hipster parody of it soon. Maybe not too soon, though; I have a cruise to go on!

On the subject of cruises, I’ve just had some copies of my They Might Not Be Giants poster printed, and I’ll bring them with me on JoCo Cruise Crazy. If you are going on the cruise (or will just be in the area the night before) and you would like to buy one from me for less than it would cost through Zazzle, let me know and I’ll make sure I bring one for you. I can’t sell them on board the ship due to the cruise line needing a cut, but I can do so at the hotel before the cruise, the cruise port or airport after, or we can work out some kind of trade involving upcharged food or drink on the ship. They are A3 sized (just a tiny bit smaller than 11×17 inches) and printed beautifully on 300gsm silk-coated paper.

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Recording: Te Harinui


When Europeans colonised New Zealand, they brought not only mammals to drive many of the native birds to extinction, but also their religion to exterminate the native theodiversity. This began with Reverend Samuel Marsden on Christmas Day 1814, and there is a Christmas carol about it called Te Harinui. Since it just turned Christmas day about an hour ago in New Zealand, here‘s a recording of Te Harinui I just made.

It’s sung by the voice Vicki from my robot choir (an app I wrote to make my Mac sing using the built-in speech synthesis.) It has a couple of little glitches, and I couldn’t get it to pronounce the Māori words exactly right, but otherwise, I think this is the best Vicki has ever sounded. Usually I switch to Victoria because Vicki’s singing sounds weird. I made a couple of tweaks to the time allocated to consonants, and I think they helped. I used the music in the New Zealand Folk Song page, with a few small changes to the ‘glad tidings’ line to make it sound more like how I remember it.

You can see the effect of widespread hemispherism in the fact that the song opens by saying it isn’t snowy, as if being snowy were the default state and any deviation from it must be called out.

Now, I must get some good Christmas sleep.

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Shit Your Inner Voice Says (a song)


I am learning about four-part harmonies, so I wrote and recorded [mp3] a short song about self-confidence and poop. Anyone with a head and a butt should understand; understand also that I do not condone headbutting buttheads. These are four voices that might accumulate in one’s head as a child grows up and vacillates between self-confidence and self-doubt.

Here are the lyrics:

Soprano: Look how in-control my bowel is. Clearly I know where my towel is.
Alto: What if all I do is shit? How do they put up with it?
Tenor: Push and push and I’ll improve. Know my shit, my bowel will move.
Bass: Everyone poops.

All: If everyone poops…

Soprano & Tenor: Maybe I’m no better than them.
Alto & Bass: Maybe I’m no worse than them.

All: Maybe I am just as good.

It is sung by my robot choir (a program I wrote to make my Mac sing using the built-in speech synthesis), with the voice Princess as the soprano, Victoria as alto, Fred as tenor and Ralph as the bass, unless I’ve misunderstood how the parts are named or which octaves they were meant to be singing in, which is entirely likely after one half-hour lesson on the topic.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m doing music lessons with John Anealio over the internet. A couple of weeks ago I decided I wanted to learn about harmonies. We picked out some chords and random and then decided which notes each voice would sing from them. I checked out what they sounded like using instruments in GarageBand, then I decided I may as well write some words with it, with each voice singing the same sequence of notes over and over. I remember thinking about making them conflicting inner voices, but I’m not sure what made me decide that those inner voices were full of shit. Of course, I can’t tell whether this song is shit, good shit, horse shit, or the shit; when it comes to music, I’m still figuring out how not to soil myself. But it’s about poop, so it ought to entertain someone.

One of these days I’ll find a more convenient way to host podcasts so that I actually bother to put things like this on mine.

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Forms and Formulae: Self-Avoiding Walk


A picture of the Sun peeking over the spine of The Princeton Companion to Mathematics as it rests on top of The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry & PoeticsThis is the fourth in a series called ‘Forms and Formulae‘ in which I write about articles in the Princeton Companion to Mathematics using poetic forms covered by articles in the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. This post’s mathematics article is entitled ‘The General Goals of Mathematical Research‘ and the poetic form is alba, which is a kind of song; I recorded it [direct mp3 link] using my robot choir and some newfound musical knowledge, and there are many notes on that after the lyrics below.

Here are some extracts from the article on the alba, explaining the features that I ended up using:

A dawn song about adulterous love, expressing one or both lovers’ regret over the coming of dawn after a night of love. A third voice, a watchman, may announce the coming of dawn and the need for the lovers to separate. An Occitan alba may contain a dialogue (or serial monologues) between lover and beloved or a lover and the watchman or a combination of monologue with a brief narrative intro.

The alba has no fixed metrical form, but in Occitan each stanza usually ends with a refrain that contains the word alba.

…the arrival of dawn signaled by light and bird’s song…

The watchman plays an important role as mediator between the two symbolic worlds of night (illicit love in an enclosed space) and day (courtly society, lauzengiers or evil gossips or enemies of love)

I based the song on section 8.3 of the article, entitled ‘Illegal Calculations‘. In retrospect, using the word alba in each refrain (are these even refrains?) doesn’t make much sense, since I’m not writing in Occitan, and the casual listener will not know that alba means ‘dawn’ in Occitan. But hey, it kind of rhymes with the start of ‘self-avoiding walk‘. How can I not rhyme an obscure foreign word with an obscure mathematical concept?

Introduction:
Mathematicians struggle even today to learn about the average distance between the endpoints of a self-avoiding walk. French physicist Pierre-Gilles de Gennes found answers by transforming the problem into a question about something called the n-vector model when the n is zero. But since this implies vectors with zero dimensions, mathematicians reject the approach as non-rigorous. Here we find that zero waking up next to its cherished n-vector model after a night of illicit osculation.

Zero:
I am just a zero; I am hardly worth a mention.
I null your vector model figure, discarding your dimension,
and every night I’m here with you I fear the break of day,
when day breaks our veneer of proof, and we must go away.

Here by your side
till alba warns the clock.
Fear’s why I hide
in a self-avoiding walk.

N-vector model:
Let the transformations of De Gennes show your place.
Never let them say we’re a degenerate case.
When I’m plus-two-n there’s just too many ways to move,
But you’re my sweetest nothing and we’ve got nothing to prove.

Here by your side
till alba warms the clock.
Fear can’t divide;
it’s a self-avoiding walk.

Watchman:
The sun has come; your jig is up. It’s time for peer review.
You think your secret union has engendered something new.
You thought you would both find a proof, but is it you’re confusing
The sorta almost kinda-truths the physicists are using?

That’s not rigorous,
says alba’s voice in shock.
All but meaningless
to the self-avoiding walk.

Zero and N-vector model together:
If you say that our results don’t matter,
then go straight to find a better path.
For as long as you insult our data,
Is it wrong to say you’re really math?

Hey there, Rigorous
at alba poised in shock,
you are just like us,
in a self-avoiding walk.

All voices are built-in Mac text-to-speech voices, some singing thanks to my robot choir (a program I wrote to make the Mac sing the tunes and lyrics I enter, which still needs a lot of work to be ready for anyone else to use.) Older voices tend to sound better when singing than the newer ones, and many new voices don’t respond to the singing commands at all, particularly those with non-US accents. So for the introduction I took the opportunity to use a couple of those non-US voices. These are the voices used:

Introduction: Tessa (South African English) and, since I also can’t fine-tune Tessa’s pronunciation of ‘Pierre-Gilles de Genne’, Virginie (French from France)

Zero: Junior

N-vector Model: Kathy

Watchman: Trinoids

Most of the bird noises come from the end of Jonathan Coulton’s ‘Blue Sunny Day‘, and I can use them because they’re either Creative Commons licensed or owned by the birds. The two peacock noises are from a recording by junglebunny. Free Birds!

As I mentioned, I’ve been learning about songwriting from John Anealio, and since the Forms and Formulae project sometimes requires me to write songs, I’m putting the new knowledge into practice sooner than I expected. This song uses several musical things I’ve never tried before, which is quite exciting, but it also means I probably didn’t do them very well, because there’s only so much I can learn in a couple of months of half-hour weekly lessons. I welcome friendly criticism and advice. The new things are: Read the rest of this entry »

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A Song For Angelastic to Sing With Worm Quartet


Me saying 'Hi, ShoEboX! Will you sing with me?' and ShoEboX replying, 'Sure! I have a blender right here. Pull down your pants!'When you’ve let what is left of your pride go,
let your own song beset the FuMP sideshow! — Brush Up On Parody

Remember that parody I wrote of ‘A Song for Worm Quartet to Sing With TV’s Kyle’? Well, I recorded myself singing it. Sorry! It’s coming up to my birthday, so it’s time for me to embarrass myself publicly again.

You can thank ShoEboX of Worm Quartet for providing probably the only part of this that sounds good (the backing track) and also blame him for encouraging me. When I first emailed to ask about it, he played his part perfectly by not responding, and I recorded said lack of response for use in the song. When I actually met him at MarsCon 2014 and reminded him about it, he kindly and foolishly sent me the backing track. Some blame also falls on DJ Particle for singing (also at MarsCon) a song encouraging people to submit to the FuMP sideshow. This should appear on the sideshow around May 31, and I’m pretty sure it’ll be my best sideshow ever; it has twice the worms of my only other attempt, and one fewer html-parser-destroying character in the title.

I also met TV’s Kyle at MarsCon, and I understand why ShoEboX found his sideburns so compelling. In a world of musicians controlled by sentient beards of dubious alignment, TV’s Kyle is leading the resistance; he will not allow his binate bristly battalions to collude, not by the hair on his chinny chin chin. I forgot to ask him if he consented to [not] appearing in this track, though. Sorry, Kyle!

The lyrics I wrote originally had noticeably fewer nipples than the average Worm Quartet song, so I replaced ‘nebulae’ with ‘nipple gas’. It has similar consonants and constituents, so I don’t think this change affects either the form or function significantly. I also attempted to actually make my voice audible rather than covering it up as much as possible with the backing track, since after all, if people are going to endure my singing, they may as well at least hear what the words are. It’s difficult to record all of those words clearly, and to the right tune, and then overdose on testosterone and expect it to still be comprehensible. Here are the current lyrics: Read the rest of this entry »

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Five of Spades: Options


Note: This is a song-like thing. Here is an mp3 of my Mac singing it to approximately the right tune, just so you can get the same tune in your head that I had in mine when I wrote it.

Feel free to make your own recording of it with human vocals and actual music if you wish. I make no claim of being musical, and I probably accidentally copied the tune from something. Sosumi.

If I can’t have this, then I’ll have that
If I can’t have a dog, I’ll have a cat
If I don’t like today there’s always tomorrow
If I can’t be Superman, I’m Bizarro
If I can’t have coffee I’ll have tea
If I can’t have a pool I’ll have the sea
If I can’t have chocolate, I’ll have cakes
If I can’t have cities, I’ll have lakes
But if I can’t have you there are no good fakes
So I’ll be very sad.

Well you can’t always get what you think that you want
But you can get something that’s just as nice
It is not very likely the thing that you crave
Will be the only thing that will suffice

If I can’t have Mars I’ll take the moon
If I can’t be first I’ll be there soon
If I can’t have shuttles, I’ll have Soyuz
If I can’t fly from you I’ll fly for youse
If I can’t have Skylab I’ll have Mir
If I can’t leave Earth then I’ll stay here
If there’s no zigazig I want all your base
If there’s no E.T. I’ll take the human race
But if I can’t have you there’s an empty space
And I’ll be very sad.

Well you can’t always get what you think that you want
But you can always want what you’ve got
It is not very likely the thing that you crave
Will be the only thing to hit the spot

If I can’t have ATLAS there’s CMS
If I can’t find the Higgs I’ll make another guess
If I can’t prove that, I’ll become a believer
If I can’t go to PAX I won’t be a reaver
If I can’t write songs then I’ll still write Things
and if my voice sounds bad my computer sings
If I can’t have Hexley, I’ll have Tux
If I can’t have a princess, I’ll have ducks
But if I can’t have you then that just sucks
And I’ll be very sad

Well you can’t always get what you think that you want
But you can always rehypothesise
It is not very likely the answer you seek
Is the only one that satisfies

If I can’t have some things I’ll have others
If I can’t have sisters I’ll have brothers
If I can’t have rhythm I’ll have rhyme
If I can’t have space then I’ll have time
If I can’t have proof then I’ll have trust
If I can’t make love then I’ll take lust
If I can’t have lovers, I’ll have nudes
And if I can’t have ladies, I’ll have dudes
But I can’t have you so we’ll have feuds
’cause I am very sad

Well you can’t always get with the person you like
but you can always find someone new
It is not very likely the one that you want
Will be the only one that’s meant for you

Well, they say there are plenty more fish in the sea
Though I don’t think they mean that literally
And while I can’t seem to stop the overfishing
I always can be careful what I’m wishing

‘Cause if I can’t be linked then I’ll be free
If I can’t have you there’s another three
And if I can’t have them then I’ll have me
And you’ll be very sad.
But you can deal with that:
Just find another lad.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Recording: Why?


Here is a very rough robot choir recording of Why? a song I wrote during Writing Cards and Letters which looks at 24 different Queens of Hearts and asks of each the titular question. It might make more sense if you read the original post.

I didn’t have much time this week, what with editing We’re Having a Party until Tuesday, and meetings all Sunday. In fact, technically I’d already finished We’re Having a Party this week and didn’t need to release anything else this week for the ‘The Last Six Months’ thing. But I did anyway, because I said I would. I’d like to fine-tune it a bit more, improve the pronunciation, add some instruments, and then make a video, but I’ll do that some other week. This version is so rough I don’t think I’ll even put it on the podcast yet.

For the video of this song, I’ll just show the cards for the ‘why?’ lines, but I might need some help drawing pictures for the rest, taking each three-line ‘answering’ verse as one picture… e.g. a picture of somebody suave (e.g. wearing a top hat) not shutting his eyes to a free-falling turd for the appropriate verse. If you can draw something for one of the verses, please do, and I’ll credit you in the eventual video.

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The Future Soon, Cyborg Remix


Here’s a remix I made of Jonathan Coulton’s song, ‘The Future Soon’. For much of the song, it’s identical to the original, but Jonathan’s singing is replaced by two different Mac voices at appropriate places in the song, so that he sounds more and more robotic. It starts with Alex, the most recent, and presumably most high-quality, voice. Alex sounds a bit silly singing this high; in retrospect, perhaps I should have used ‘The Future Soon in C’ instead. This changes to Trinoids, an intentionally robotic-sounding voice which has been around at least since I got my first Mac 15 years ago. Being an older voice, Trinoids sings a little out of time, so I had to do a fair bit of fiddling to get it to sing at the right speed.
Last December, Spektagulo released UltraStar files for 25 Jonathan Coulton songs. UltraStar is a karaoke game similar to SingStar, and the song files for it give lyrics and the notes and timing that you’re supposed to sing them with. I pretty much immediately recognized these as a potential input for my robot choir, and soon afterwards had my robots singing along to UltraStar files reasonably well. I was still puzzled by part of the format, though, and couldn’t get UltraStar to run on my PowerBook in order to experiment with the song editor. I could get it to sing the songs recognizably, but the pauses between lines were all wrong. So I let it go for a while.
Now I have a MacBook Pro which can run both UltraStar and UltraStar deluxe, and I found some actual documentation on the UltraStar file format. I was at a LAN party last weekend, so I had the whole night to do whatever I felt like on my Mac, and this is what I felt like doing. The documentation basically told me I could ignore the extra numbers that were confusing me, but whichever way I looked at it, the pauses between lines were about twice as long as they should have been. I ended up concluding that UltraStar must interpret the timing differently when there’s no singing, and resigned myself to adjusting the timing manually. Not a problem: I had all night.

Here’s a remix I made of Jonathan Coulton‘s song, ‘The Future Soon‘, with the help of my robot choir.

For much of the song, it’s identical to the original, but Jonathan’s singing is replaced by two different MacInTalk voices at appropriate places in the song, so that he sounds more and more robotic. It starts with Alex, the newest and presumably highest-quality voice. Alex sounds a bit silly singing this high; in retrospect, perhaps I should have used the version of The Future Soon that Rob Gonzo transposed into the key of C instead.

Alex then passes the mic to Trinoids, an intentionally robotic-sounding voice which has been around at least since I got my first Mac 15 years ago. Being an old-timer, Trinoids sings a little out of time (technically speaking, it’s a MacInTalk 2 voice, and doesn’t seem to fully respect the TUNE commands), so I had to do a fair bit of post-synthesis fiddling to get it to sing at the right speed. Apart from that, since many people are annoyed by the beeps in the original, I updated them to the ’90s equivalent.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Two Macs singing happy birthday to the London Science Museum


A few days ago I got a shiny new MacBook Pro. I’m usually monomacous, so it’s the first time in four years that I’ve had two Macs at the same time. This had me wondering what to do with them, and one of the first ideas was to have them sing a duet. Of course, it’s easy enough to get a single Mac to sing something twice in different voices and then edit them together (as I did with You’ve gotta be happy), but with two Macs I could make a somewhat interesting video. A friend of mine suggested it would be good to do a round, and I agreed.

While I was still thinking about which round to get them to sing, I saw a link to this article, showing a video of three robots humming happy birthday to the London Science Museum. They’re a lot more sophisticated than my own ‘robot choir’, having actually learnt to sing together, but nonetheless I decided to get my Macs to sing it too. Here is the result:

It was easy enough; a short song with music available. I think I spent the most time deciding on appropriate desktop pictures for my Macs to wear on stage. The other challenge was tapping ‘Start Speaking’ at the same time on both computers. As you can hear, I didn’t quite manage it the first time around. I could have done it automatically, with a script starting it on both computers at a given time, but then the video would have been essentially two unchanging computer screens with some singing in the background. This is a ‘live’ performance, and dalrymples are obligatory.

Audio of the successful attempt will soon be available on the podcast.

Update: You can now make your own Mac sing this.

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