Sunday, June 12, 2016

Rudimentary what?

If a lathe can build a lathe, it makes total sense that there are scads of people upgrading their cheap T962 reflow ovens (used to solder surface mount components)....with new circuit boards filled with surface mount components. (Well, the first thing I printed with a borrowed M3D 3d printer was a spool holder for itself).

I'm already unhappy with some aspects of my new board. I plan to drop down to 0805 chip size, for instance, and (having carefully read the Design Rules at OSHPark) narrower traces packed closer together. I can probably shrink the board by half! But I'll wait before I change anything. I expect to learn quite a bit when I solder up the first prototypes, and more when I try to program them and put them in Holocron kits.

Already I have grand dreams, of course. Given one of various audio chips and a socket for micro-SD, I could actually make a "talking" holocron. And of course if some of the ideas on the new board pan out, I'll be one step closer to actually having the DuckLite marketable. Oh, yes. And back to Wraith Stone as well (already I'm wondering...can I do capacitive touch sensing if it is hung around my neck?)

Also burned a CD for dad. He probably knows very well that video games passed the chip-tunes barrier roughly the time they stopped using vector graphics. But I'm not putting together a "greatest hits." The original conversation was about amateur covers, so I've tried to pack in a good spectrum of skill levels and a variety of approaches, from people recording themselves on a camera phone messing around on the piano in their front room, to professional-level production numbers like the work of Lindsey Stirling.

The first video I saw from Lindsey, she did a nice cover on violin of themes from the Zelda series. The production values really raised the bar; exceptional recording and mixing and professional-level backing tracks that are almost seamless. And the video is of her traipsing in gorgeous scenery, with her violin and with equally gorgeous outfits based on characters from the game. But what really nails it is how lively she is, sawing away at her violin, leaping about, all with this fantastic grin on her face.

Oh, yes, and there was one of those Oh My God moments. You know how it is when you've just learned about something new, something you are just getting into, something you want to share your excitement of with friends? And you open the wrong door and suddenly there's this massive conference room absolutely jammed by people who are into the same thing and know it more deeply and more expertly and are more passionate about it than you will ever be.

Yeah, all of this discovery of amateur covers of music from video games has been like that. Well, I knew they were out there. I didn't realize just how many, how good they really were, and how popular they are. The moment that really informed me was a video from a concert of game music (with a professional orchestra and band) at the Symphony Hall in Boston.

So soloist steps up and starts singing. Giant cheer as the crowd recognizes the number ("Still Alive," of course, from the breakout hit Portal). But that's not the worst. They start singing along. A huge, symphony-hall sized audience, and every one was a better fan than I'll ever be. I recognize the tune. They know all the words.

(There's another moment in the same video that perhaps needs some setting up. The lyric is "Maybe Black Mesa? That was a joke, haha, fat chance." Well, the soloist stepped back and let the audience sing that part. And I can't help thinking that there was a certain bitter humor in their voices. Because "Black Mesa" is the location of the first game in the Half-Life series, games created by the same company who made Portal, and the long-awaited third and final game of that series is now considered by fans to be the gaming industry's greatest piece of vaporware. "Haha, fat chance," all right. There is no longer a "maybe" about Black Mesa.)

So anyhow. Tried to select a number of piano covers, and made a conscious effort to bring back some of the same themes (in the way a concerto might) by showing off different covers of material from the same games. And I tried to focus in on games I've played myself but not only aren't there a lot of offerings there but that would leave off some of the great stuff like Skyrim, the Final Fantasy series, and of course Zelda. And I shuffled and shuffled to get a good flow, building up tension and relieving it, contrasting styles while maintaining certain continuities to help one track follow another.

Tried, too, to include some of the contexting. To show the penetration of game music into church choirs and high school marching bands, the intense fan interest, the stature of acoustic instruments and vocalists and life performance and the cross-cultural world community (as contrast the possible stereotype of nerdy white guys tinkering up music tracks in MIDI). And show too the social networking, the recording and collaboration and jam sessions that take place through the online world.

What I really wish is a little more space than a CD. I have five hours of the stuff already on my hard disk (I auditioned twice that many before making even that selection, and that's barely a quarter of what turned up in my rather basic searches). But then, dad will probably turn off around the middle of the second track anyhow.

So now I just need to find the Ukulele music I promised...

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