Posts Tagged recording

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, 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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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?

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.

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.

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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Forms and Formulae: The Numbers Are Not Enough

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 third 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 ‘Some Fundamental Mathematical Definitions’ and the poetic form is air, which is a kind of song.

This song covers the first few sections of the article, about the development of the various number sets (Natural numbers [which I learnt as not including zero], whole numbers [including zero], integers, rational numbers, real numbers, and complex numbers) and finally a little abstract algebra. I’ve made a recording of it [direct mp3 link] using my robot choir and some instruments in GarageBand. I didn’t follow all the suggestions relating to airs, but one hallmark of an air is ‘illustrative musical devices highlighting specific words’, and I went overboard on that, illustrating each set using the background music. Airs are typically accompanied by a lute or other plucked instrument, but I used a piano instead, to highlight the word ‘Peano‘ in the first line.

[1 2 3]
You can play the Peano axioms.
Your successor will never fail.
But if you ain’t got nothing you ain’t got enough
so you start lower down the scale.

[0 1 2]
Well you’ve now got zero problems.
You can count on every fact.
You can add without an end, but exceed your subtrahend
or you’ll find you can’t subtract.

[-1 0 1]
So you add in the minus integers.
Zero gains another side.
You can add and take away, but not conquer all the way
’cause you can’t always divide.

[⅕,⅓, ¼]
Now your system is highly rational,
no division you can’t deal.
But no matter what you do, you can’t find the root of two
though you know that it must be real.

[ɸ, e, π]
So you fill all the gaps with irrationals.
You have a solid number line.
Solve absurdities at will but you’re out of square roots still
when you start with a minus sign.

So you use your imagination.
You take the square of your mind’s i.
Your calculations never stall, but you wonder if that’s all
that this complex plane can fly.

[triangles, snares, cats]
The operations work on all numbers,
but is that all they can do?
They apply to other things; now you’ve groups and fields and rings
to apply that structure to.

This took longer than my last Forms and Formulae, due to the recording. I made several improvements to my robot choir (an app I wrote one weekend to get my Mac to sing for me) including fixing a silly bug which had thrown the timing of my previous recordings off. I’ve also been taking music lessons over Skype with John Anealio, and I used a few of the things I learnt for this; if you know a bit of music theory you might notice a few music theory puns in there.

It’s not especially funny overall, but I mentioned when I called into Dementia Radio last night that I would submit it to the FuMP Sideshow, so I will. [Edit: and here it is!] Another thing that came up were these Tom Lehrer songs about mathematics, which the host was not aware of. They were some of the first Tom Lehrer songs I heard, and definitely worth a listen if you like Tom Lehrer, maths, or both. I found them in 2005 while looking to replace some pirated Tom Lehrer songs I’d accidentally deleted before listening to them (I did eventually buy all of Tom Lehrer’s albums) and in that same search I came across the MASSIVE database of maths and science songs, which led me to Jonathan Coulton and so many other musicians and friends.

One of those other musicians was Monty Harper, and the first tune I came up with was very similar to the verses of his Silly Song. I changed some parts to make it less similar, but mostly I just made it more repetitive and annoying.  Dammit, Jim, I’m a poet, not a musician.

The article in the Princeton Companion to Mathematics was actually very long, and I haven’t finished reading it yet. Assuming I do get to the next article instead of writing something about the latter parts of this one, the next Forms and Formulae will be an alba (a dawn song about adulterous love!) about the goals of mathematical research. That should be fun. It will probably take a while, since it’s another song. Also, I will be busy next week at the 13th International Conference on the Short Story in English. I will be reading a story on the Thursday afternoon; probably a slightly revised version of Valet de cœur.

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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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Seven of Hearts: mp<3 (Half-Assed Rapper Version)

IFRemember that poem I wrote about heart-drive based music players, which I said I imagined as a rap? Well, here’s a recording of me ‘rapping’ it (now with new cover art.)

I wore my MC Frontalot glasses while recording it in case they would imbue me with talent. It’s probably still terrible, but I don’t care if you laugh at me or with me, as long as you laugh.

According to The Burning Hell, apart from all the rabbit, chicken, worm or artificial hearts, inside every one of us there also beats the hearts of a mother, a father, a trapper, a cult leader, a comedian, and an amateur rapper. The hearts of a mother and father in me went into cardiac arrest when they saw what parenthood was like (to quote the same song again, where would I find the time to build my compound, my comedy career, my empire of rhyme?) but maybe the hearts of a trapper, cult leader, comedian and amateur rapper still beat in me. In fact, they’re probably quite easy to beat.

It’s pretty light on instrumental stuff, because every time I tried to add something I realised that I’m not very good at making things line up with beats properly, and I was probably making things worse. This is a clear sign that I am a half-assed rapper and should stick to normal poetry, but I’m not going to cudgel my brains about it. Edit, one day later: You know what? I bet you could do better than I could. Here, have a remix kit consisting of all of the parts not already linked from this post or easy to find on the internet, plus a different version of ‘Copy Protected!’. Most of the backing tracks I did use are there more for pun value than anything else: some heart beats, the omnichord track (cheesy panning added by me) and artificial heartbeat sampler track from Jonathan Coulton’s Artificial Heart, the start of Worm Quartet’s I Want To Be Taken Seriously As An Artist (when I start talking about worms) and of course, Devo Spice’s Earworm at the end. My robot choir sang the ‘copy protected!’ part in the Trinoids voice. I would apologise to the artists whose sounds I used in this monstrosity, but when you release music under a Creative Commons license, you have to be prepared to face the consequences. This is also my second song-like-thing in a row containing a Wilhelm scream. Perhaps I should include one in every song; my terrible music screams, so you don’t have to! If Possible Oscar can include Wilhelm screams in songs, so can I.

Fill their briefcase with cut out hearts bloody 400Am I being too self-deprecating? The ad at the beginning just happened to come out at 30 seconds, which I think is a standard length for an ad, so that was nice. Also, I quite like the ending; the intro of that song happens to loop quite nicely at the right length for my words. I hope you get it stuck in your head.

I set the artist name to Angelastic, because rappers never seem to go by their real names, and the song is quite gelastic. I’ll probably submit it to The FuMP sideshow, because I’ve always wanted to submit something to that, but it was difficult because I don’t normally sing when people can hear me, and most of what my robot choir has sung so far isn’t really suitable. Edit: I submitted it.

One thing I discovered while recording this was that I have great difficulty pronouncing the word ‘earthworm’ quickly without making some kind of weird flap or trill sound between the r and the th. That’ll teach me for pitying the unpronounced r’s enough as a kid to adopt a rhotic accent.

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Three of Hearts: Phirmanator: The Sara Chicazul Chronicles

Three of hearts with ALICE, Sara, a die and a robotBack in late February, my friend  Alice sent an email asking people to cover The Doubleclicks’ Nerdy Birthday Song for Sara Chicazul, who had a birthday on JoCo Cruise Crazy 2 but not on JoCo Cruise Crazy 3. The idea was to put up one per day, so that she could experience the thrill and horror (previously reserved for Mike Phirman) of having a birthday every day. A lot of people did. I don’t usually sing anything more melodic than Chicken Monkey Duck when people can hear me, so I figured I’d dust off my robot choir (a little program I wrote to take text and a tune played on my MIDI keyboard, and turn it into TUNE commands to make the built-in Mac speech synthesis sing) and record a cover that way. It took a fair bit of dusting off, what with a new version of XCode and of the MIDI framework I used, and I think the metaphorical dust mites gave me cold-like symptoms, which is why I haven’t posted anything for a while. Anyway, today I finally recorded a cover, and here it is. Given that the third thing I ever recorded using my robot choir was my Macs singing Happy Birthday to the London Science Museum, I think I may as well rename my robot choir to ‘The Phirmanator’.

This recording starts off with just the Victoria voice singing, then at the first ‘you’re getting older’, Vicki joins in. I have a cameo saying ‘everybody!’ and then Agnes joins in and all three voices get a gospel choir effect. I added Zarvox (an intentionally robotic voice) at the end, partly because I thought it would be funny, and partly because Vicki sounds awful holding that ‘all’ note and I wanted to make up for her being so much quieter in that part. I noticed part of the way through that I’d used the wrong notes in a few places, so I fixed those, but there are probably others. I don’t know how to make music; I just know how to turn MIDI notes into frequencies. Also, I can barely even play my rainstick, let alone a stringed instrument, so it’s a robocoppella. I timed everything to synch up with the original song, and it sounds kind of nice if you play both together. By itself, well… it sounds like autotune became sentient and killed all the human singers.

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Video: Mac singing Still Alive

The weirdest thing happened yesterday. I was using Ayu, my as-yet-unnamed MacBook Pro, and suddenly Axis, my old PowerBook G4 booted and started singing Still Alive, the theme to the game Portal. I really should stop naming my Macs; I hear it makes them sentient.

Okay, that’s not really what happened. Actually, a couple of weekends ago, all three of the parties I had been invited to (yeah, I don’t understand how I got this social life either; just believe me) were cancelled or too difficult to get to, so I used my unexpected free time to do something I’d wanted to do for ages: get my Mac to sing Still Alive. You might remember that one weekend way back when I had an excuse to avoid being social, I wrote a parody of Still Alive, and a program to get my Mac to sing it using the TUNE input to the built-in speech synthesiser. Back then, I had to enter the notes and durations to sing one by one, and it was too tedious to do the whole song.

Read the rest of this entry »

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V Day’s over, because it has to be.

Isn’t it though? The title of this post is an homage to Jonathan Coulton’s song ‘Summer’s Over‘, about things (or in his case, Things) ending because they have to. As Valentine’s Day was ending in my time zone, I recorded a video of my poem about love ending because it has to. It’s Love Letters, from my own Thing a Week. This poem also serves as a mnemonic, should you ever forget the alphabet.

I also added a stanza to Chemistry, a funnier love poem, so that I could participate in the Valentine’s Day challenge over at Fictionaut. Here’s the revised version. I would have liked to record a video of that one, but I didn’t have all the props I needed. Perhaps another time.

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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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