Analytical Engine programme notes

The text for this work is an excerpt from Ada Lovelace’s notes on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, the first general purpose computer, designed in the nineteenth century but never built. Ada Lovelace is often called the first programmer, due to the example instructions included in her notes, which were published in 1843. While people debate whether she actually designed programs rather than merely documenting and explaining clearly the nature of the analytical engine, she was certainly a visionary in terms of the capability of the engine. This quote predicts algorithmic composition of music.

While the quote is about using computers to generate music, the setting here is not really algorithmic. The premise of the work is the hypothetical situation in which the first eight harmonics (comprising the notes A, C#, E and a slightly flat G) are discovered before  melody. The first section builds the chord based on the harmonics on A. This section concludes with some modulations based on the fifth above the fundamental (the third harmonic), and finally collapsing the harmonics into a smaller range in what sounds like a perfect cadence involving a dominant seventh chord taking the music back to the original key of A.

The second section commences with the notes of the dominant seventh, then, as these notes are rather limited for the creation of melodies, the harmonics of the dominant are added to the scale and to the musical texture. This creates a scale consisting of A, B, C#, a slightly flat D, E, a slightly flat G, G#, A.

The third section attempts to create a melody over a chord sequence made of the major and minor triads available in the key created by the harmonics as described.

The fourth section takes its inspiration from the sound of the working models of Babbage’s Difference Engine, while the bass walks through a scale-like melody. This is immediately followed by a fugue-like fragment, leading to the reprise of the initial theme.

(An approximate rendition of The Analytical Engine, composed by Alexandra L. Uitdenbogerd can be heard on soundcloud. Sheet music is available from the composer.)

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Album Launch

My album launch has been scheduled to occur on Saturday 25th October at 7pm at Hares and Hyenas bookstore in Fitzroy.

This gig is a joint gig with RMIT Occasional Choral Society (ROCS) and Queermance Writers Festival, and promises to be a very entertaining variety show.

I’ll be performing a couple of the ballads from my album at the electric piano, a few of my a cappella compositions using a looper, plus a few things that aren’t on my albums.  In particular, to suit the cabaret style event and the general theme of “impeccably questionable taste”, it is a rare chance to hear several of my catches in one night.  These are rounds with hidden messages that are revealed when all parts are heard together and certain syllables are emphasised.  I’ve also written a song on the Queermance theme especially for the gig.

When I’m not doing my solo stuff I’ll be singing with (and occasionally accompanying) various ensemble groups doing songs from musicals as well as a couple of madrigals.  Listen out for the surprise madrigal!

A selection of songs from my albums that I won’t be performing on the night will be heard during the intervals.

There will be a raffle on the night with some amazing prizes, including a $300 corset.

I hope you can make it!

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More info available at the Facebook event.

On the Rocks album is a reality

After nearly 7 years in the making, my third album is finally a physical reality.  It contains 20 tracks that are my usual range of diversity: a cappella to electronic, with quite a few ballads this time.  This is the first album to use acoustic instruments.  On two tracks I play the recorder, in one case multi-tracked to about 6 tracks (My Anchor).  In another I have a saxaphone solo by Trent Howard in the song Scared. Samples of some of his takes are used in two other songs: Too Far and Tiny Blade.  Katherine Sivieng features as a vocalist in one of the bonus tracks (Song for Ben).  The wonderful album cover was designed by Brenden James.  Some of his photography can be seen on YouTubeDarren McKinty (aka Xaeja, aka Dags) gave lots of help sprucing up the audio quality.  If you want to hire a sound engineer “up Upwey way”, then I heartily recommend him.  Mastered by Crystal Mastering.

I don’t have digital distribution yet, but if you want to hear some of the album drafts, you can find them on SoundCloud.  Some have changed dramatically for the album – particularly Drowning.  The Too Far album draft is used in my video.

The first CD sale was on Sunday.  So it begins…