Category Archives: Music

Sounds Like a Job for Perl

In which I write a continuous build system for bagpipe music using Perl and a Makefile.

The problem: the band has sheet music that everyone is supposed to memorize, the membership is geographically dispersed and not everyone can make it to every practice, and during practices and workshops and after competitions the music can get edited to reflect feedback and (one hopes) improve the performance. How do we distribute the music to everyone?

Continue reading

It Could Be Better

A long time ago, my housemate (who is one of the only people who reads this – Hi, Kurt!) had this great explanation for why his homework wouldn’t compile: “It was perfect, so I fixed it.” Man, that so describes every programmer I’ve ever worked with. (Incidentally and orthogonal to the point of this post, I suspect that this attribute of programmers coupled with the increase in the global number of active programmers accounts for so much of the frustration I experience with software nowadays.)

Continue reading

Nonrandom Thoughts on a Holiday Afternoon

Oh, lots of things going through my head. No real coherence to speak of, though.

Let’s see,

Victor / Victoria

Before I ever moved out of my parents’ house, I saw the movie, “Victor / Victoria” and took to heart an exchange that doesn’t even make it to the quotes section on IMDB. There’s this bit early on where Robert Preston challenges Julie Andrews with, “Name me one thing a man can do that a woman can’t,” and she responds, “Peeing standing up,” but he’s not flustered; he says there’s no reason a man can’t pee sitting down.

And you know what? If you pee sitting down, there’s no splashing that spatters all over the rim of the toilet bowl and when it’s time to clean the bathroom, it’s an easier job. If the mark of genius is laziness, I’m fucking brilliant. You know what else? My wife loves that our bathroom isn’t spattered with urine. She’s called this out, specifically, contrasting me with other men of her acquaintance.

Lesson for so-called incels: if you were less objectionable, people wouldn’t mind hanging out with you. It’s not them, it’s you.

Also: solve the whole seat up / seat down debate: lid down. Dunked by Miss Manners, y’all! I’m telling you, other people matter.

Slack Integrations

I’ve been keeping my bagpipe music as ABC files for years. Because I’m a curmudgeon and I hate all the WYSIWYG score editing software in the world, but still. Anyway, when I joined a band, I started transcribing that music to ABC, too, and now I’ve got the job of being the music librarian. It turns out that there are several good reasons to use ABC instead of CelticPipes or whatever, not least of which is that a text file is an excellent candidate for inclusion in a git repository.

Anyway, I’ve been asked by several people if I could email them or otherwise let them know when the music has been updated in our band folder on Box. Sure, I can. Get on our Slack group and join the music channel and you’ll see a notice every time someone commits a change to the tunes, and every time the PDF files get rebuilt.

80s Nostalgia

I don’t care what Ernest Cline says, the 80s sucked. For the most part, those of us who remember them fondly at all do so because the 70s sucked even more. Even so, not everything was horrible. Amidst the shitshow that is late December 2018, there are a few bright lights from the 80s that still make me happy. Among these is X.

Minor Lesson Today

I know that a lot of people use BWW for writing bagpipe music. But I’m cheap, and I use a Mac, and I tried the demo versions of the music notation software my teacher and bandmates use and I hate them (the programs). Iconoclast that I am, I have chosen to transcribe all my music using ABC notation.

The neat thing about this, for me, is that the files are easily editable with any plain ol’ text editor and there’s an easy command line toolchain for converting the ABC files to PDF. The thing I learned today is that the key matters, not just for the signature at the beginning of a line, but for the way grace notes are rendered.

It’s true that the great highland bagpipe is tuned more-or-less in the key of D, and some modern scores are even written that way. However, when you use that key notation in the ABC file, grace notes are written as being tied to the following melody note, whereas if you note the key as ‘HP’ then the grace notes are unadorned, as pipers are wont to expect. This behavior can be overridden with the format directive:

 %%graceslurs false

If I Were Better, I’d Be Good

As I put my pipes away from this morning’s practice, feeling wrung-out and self-critical, I panted, “Well, if I didn’t suck I’d be pretty good!”

I thought about all the evenings when the Badb had been skimming through her viola practice, not really paying attention to her playing just in a rush to get it done. We’d tell her to stop, go back and play the tune’s properly. She didn’t get to be done until she’d played at least one of them right. She’d sulk and then, obediently, go back and play it again with intention and get it right. She feels proud of her playing ability now, and I am proud of her for doing the work. She has every reason to feel proud of herself.

Whenever I play, I’m trying to listen to what I’m actually playing and compare it to what I want to be playing. Sometimes I have these flashes where the tune I wish I were playing is note-for-note superimposed on the tune I’m actually playing and it feels amazing. Today, though, I was a long way off from that. I need to do a lot of work with the chanter and playing carefully and with intention. The really hard part is that after half an hour of steady blowing I feel dizzy. I want to go back and play the tunes properly but I just can’t drive the reeds. I’m falling short.

I’ve got to walk a line between being too easy on myself and being unreasonably hard. Sure, I need to take better care of myself. Yes, I have a lot going on here, and yes, only an hour ago I was so hungry I was prepared to eat tortilla chips and dirt for breakfast (I made a big sandwich instead, don’t worry). So, okay, I was practicing with probably really low blood sugar and energy reserves, but still. I aspire to be able to pick up the pipes, tune them, and be able to deliver my competition tunes in a passable rendition even if I’ve only just gotten out of the car after a two hour drive, having gotten up an hour early. I had to do that once last year, and I’d like to be able to acquit myself well if the need should arise again. Emergency bagpiping is a thing.

So, after knocking out a few urgent chores, I’m going to have to spend some more time on the big pipes and at least an hour on the practice chanter. In this family, we try to have some compassion for failure but we don’t lower our standards.