Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gonna need a bigger ipod...

When I was a kid taking piano lessons and starting to write small pieces I remember talking to an adult who was a bit less excited about music.  "Eventually we'll run out of new songs altogether.  There are only so many notes, and only so long of a piece that people can tolerate. Musicians copy each other a lot already."  I was initially shocked by this, but as much as I disliked it, it seemed to make sense.  I began to wonder how much music was really left to be found.  Was this really true, or just an assertion based on general musical disinterest?

Knowing a little more math than I did then, I can think about the question a bit differently now.  Here's my shot at figuring out how many songs there are to be found:

First of all, I'll be using simple counting techniques that that most people learn in middle or high school.  Nothing fancy.  For example: if a person rolls two six-sided dice (with different numbers/characters on each face of each die) the number of possible combinations is equal to:
  6 x 6 = 36
Add another die with unique characters and you just multiply by 6 again.  Simple.

Well, we can put some limits on what constitutes a musical piece.  To keep things manageable, we'll limit the length of a piece to 3 minutes.  Also, we'll cut out sounds above 20kHz, since that's beyond the range of human hearing.  For resolution we'll use 16 bits, since that's good enough for CDs.  We'll only handle mono stuff; the second channel added by stereo may inflate the numbers artificially.

So we'll find the total number of unique mono CD quality recordings that fit within 3 minutes.  Each bit can be one of 2 possibilities (a 1 or a zero), so our base will be 2.

2^(16 bits per sample x 44,100 samples per second x 3 minutes x 60 seconds per minute)

2^127008000 = 2^(1.27 x 10^8) = 10^(38234000)

Okay, so take a 2 and double it more than 100 million times.  That's a lot of twos.  Or 10 raised to the 38 millionth power, if you prefer.  But what does it mean?  It means that there are that many different 3 minute songs that you could record at CD quality.  It would take about 25 billion years to play them all back one after the other (unless I've made a mistake in my arithmetic, which is very possible).  Right now, though, the difference between one unique song and the next could be the addition or omission of the slightest pop or crackle, or delaying everything by a fraction of a second, or any of a number of other trivial changes.  

So, let's try a more constrained estimate based on musical principles.  We'll look for the number of unique melodies that exist.  We'll limit the possibilities to 8 measures of 4/4 with the equal tempered chromatic notes over 2 octave (25 notes).  The fastest note that we'll allow is a sixteenth note.  Let's see what we get:

25^(16 notes per measure x 8 measures)
10^(128 x log10(25))

Okay, so now we have a lot of tens, but not NEARLY as many as the 3-minute songs that we counted earlier.  Again, this time we weren't counting full songs, but melodies, which some might consider the basis of a song.  So, how much is 10^179?  Well, wikipedia is telling me that there are 10^80 atoms in the known universe.  That means that if each atom in the universe were actually a portal to another universe of equal size, each of the atoms in each of the universes would have their own 8-bar melody, and there would still be a lot left over.

So, if there are any readers that I haven't yet scared away with math, here is today's piece of music recorded over the Thanksgiving holiday:

Penta gone by are.kay.more

Sunday, November 6, 2011


So, having a family complicates the "how to fill an ipod with music" problem. I like to have it play at random in the car or while we clean the house, but I'd rather not have my 6-year-old singing along with "She's got leeeeeegggggss!", or worse yet: "Get one the scene! Like a sex machine!" To remedy this problem, I had a couple of options: 1) remove all rock, blues, and R&B music from my ipod OR 2) Gently edit the music to make it more family friendly.

I didn't like option 1 because I LOVE old R&B and blues. I'm drawn to it, probably because I'm completely incapable of producing it, coming from a comfortable middle-class upbringing. So I decided to explore the other option...

Upon trying option number 2, I figured out that my hand is incapable of the subtle editing that would be required. Simply gating out the work "sex" from the chorus of James Brown's "Get up" proved pretty jarring. So, some of you may recall last year when I decided to go ahead and destroy the song entirely.

This week I decided to give a Marvin Gaye tune the business. I didn't find a good place for a guitar solo or a polka band, like I gave to Mr. Brown, but I did manage to drop nearly all of the cheesy house remix tricks that I know.

Technical Healing by are.kay.more

Monday, October 10, 2011


Do you remember way back before you were married when you lived with a bunch of guys in an apartment and one of them used to sing "Monday is the best, you can wear your butt!" all of the time? And do you remember how that used to get stuck in your head, looped for hours at a time? And then, maybe the person who got the song stuck in your head in the first place would suddenly start clapping inhumanly loudly and giggle when you winced in pain? And then, maybe you would find the neighbor's underwear mixed in with your laundry and you would never actually get around to returning it because you could never think of an appropriate way to do it, and because you're not really sure which neighbor it may have been anyway? Well, here at Reeree's music factory we certainly remember those days. We used to wonder what the instrumental parts were like to the "Monday is the best" song. Was it really even a song at all, or maybe just some college's football cheer, or an ancient druid chant, or a grade school mnemonic device?

The wondering drove me into a frenzy. After years of suffering, my only hope to avoid more loss of sleep or productivity was to record the song myself, allowing it to take shape and drift out of my head into the internets where it could find others to afflict. My children helped me in my quest, providing the vocals that I was too shy to deliver. I contributed synthesizer, drum machine, vibraphone, electric guitar, bass guitar, and sampled string parts.

Hope you enjoy the tune. And have a very happy Monday!

MondayIsTheBest by are.kay.more

Monday, September 12, 2011

Back again, with less coherence

Finally got a little track put together during baby naps on my night shift.  When I don't have something significant to express, but still want to play with sounds, I often play little "what if" games.  This time I wanted to try a buzzy analog synthesizer bass line with my lap steel and some jangly electric guitar.  A drum machine and some Rhodes electric piano got thrown in for good measure.  It was nice to play a bit, but it will be nice to sleep a bit, too, before the kids get up for school.

Get fat, honky cat by are.kay.more

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

family portrait

I've long wanted to take the time to write and record and album of music.  For years that never really happened.  I would record snippets here and there, but technical shortfalls and other obligations kept it from ever becoming a reality.  Another problem was focus.  Since music is a release for me, I typically sit down and play whatever I feel like, instead of putting together the complimentary and coherent ideas that and album should have.

A couple of things have changed over the last year and a half.  For one, we planned to have a baby and have done much associated with preparing for Lucy's arrival.  This meant it was easier to focus on one theme more often, because it was always on my mind.  Second, my equipment and my proficiency with it has slowly continued to improve, allowing me to take on slightly more ambitious musical projects.

The result is a small five song album (or EP, I guess) called family portrait.  All of the songs but the last one have been posted here before.  The fifth song "for my valentine" was recorded while I was in Arizona for a work trip while Sarah was at home pregnant.  Too shy to sing out in the hotel room, I drove a few miles outside of town and recorded alongside the highway.  You can hear cars passing by every now and again.  To present the song collection, Sarah and I put together album art, as shown below.  In the next week or so I hope to burn disks and print cases to send to family. 

...and the back:

And, of course, the actual music:

family portrait by are.kay.more

The disks sent to family will have the uncompressed and remastered versions of the songs (I've learned a bit more about mastering over the last year :) ).  The ones posted on Soundcloud are mp3's.  Also, the version of Lucy's Lullaby on the disks will have the ukulele solo replaced by a lovely violin solo played by our good friend Treesa Gold. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Safe and sound

Sarah and Lucy are back home.  Sarah's mother has been an angel helping with everything from grocery shopping, to diapers, to postpartum sisterhood.  It's hard to watch the woman you love go through so much physical and emotional pain without being able to do much to help.  Knowing that this time was coming, I wrote and recorded another song for Sarah and our baby.

And the song is here:

Delivery by are.kay.more

For those expecting goofy text and wild electronic music, don't worry, those days will come again.  Right now I've got mushy feelings to get out.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

For Lucy

Tomorrow afternoon, Lucia Day Moore will be born.  This song is for her.  This has been the only pregnancy during which I haven't been in school, so I've had more time to think about how I feel and to try to capture it.  I love my sweet family and am excited to hold a brand new baby again and feel her sleep in my arms.

Lucy, you will have a busy day tomorrow.  But know that you are loved, relax, and sleep.

Lucy's Lullaby by are.kay.more

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Book of Feynman

So in a recent interview, Matt Parker and Trey Stone admitted that their first attempt at a broadway musical was based on the epic story of 19th and 20th century physicists trying to reach beyond the framework that Newton had built a couple of hundred years before. While some of their initial work on the theme was promising, their manager encouraged them to pursue instead a theme that would allow for more racial, religious, and sexual jokes. The result was 21st century news and theater gold. But let's take a peek at what could have been:

The Book of Feynman by are.kay.more


Monday, June 27, 2011

Dr. Whatsit

My sister and wife have gotten hooked on a silly British show about a hipster who travels through time in a phone booth.  Now, the opening theme features a theremin, which I can appreciate, but the show itself is an odd mix of sci fi and humor.  I watch it with them sometimes, just to make fun of it, of course...I don't actually like it...I've got far more important things to do with my didn't really think I liked it, did you?

Well, at Sarah's request, I've played around with the Dr. Who theme a bit tonight.  theremin and synthesized strings have been replaced with Hammond organ and lapsteel.  Enjoy:

Dr Whatsit by are.kay.more

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Turtle Power

In the beginning of Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, he recounts the story of a scientist who gave a public lecture on astronomy.  He described the basic orbits of the heavenly bodies in our solar system.  After he finished lecture, an old woman disputed the truthfulness of his presentation, noting that the world rides, in actuality, on the back of a giant turtle.  In response the scientist asked, "What is the tortoise standing on?"  The old woman said, "You're very clever, young man, very clever, but it's turtles all the way down!"

And, here is the above-mentioned picture of me playing steel guitar today:

Turtles all the way down by are.kay.more

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cute and fuzzy and flat, for easy shipping

So, this is the word part.

This is a blog, so there's really no getting out of the word part.

As much as I would like to skip the word part altogether tonight, it is necessary for context.  With the wordishly presented context, the listener can be prepared for the musical moment to come.  Without the words, and the context they give, there could be some amount of mental or emotional jarring if one were to jump right into the musical piece unprepared.  

That said, I wanted to improvise a bit on the piano tonight.  Early in college one of my favorite things was to sit in a practice room for a couple of hours and play through branches of ideas on the piano.  I improvised a bit with piano and synth, and then added a couple more layers, including percussion on a guitar body.  Don't be fooled by the name, this is original, even though there's a Mozart aria from the Magic Flute by the same name ("Klage des derjenige K├Ątzchen zerquetscht").

Lament of the kitty crusher by are.kay.more

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

it's Wednesday night, the conditions are perfect...

This week my family is gone to Memphis while I'm staying home to work.  The prospect of free time is usually exciting, but I always end up missing them as soon as they leave.  It's working out, though, and Sarah and the kids are getting some good grand parent time while I try to get some work projects wrapped up before the baby comes. 

This piece has strange instrumentation: two bass guitars, a ukulele, piano, drum samples (electronic drums), and a pencil scraped against a pen.   It reminds me a bit of my family, though.  It starts out with a single instrument alone and others join one by one as time passes.  It's short, but pleasant.  Enjoy:

Family Tree by are.kay.more

Saturday, May 28, 2011

[Insert post name here]

So, it always seems like I've just posted something, but the weeks get away from me.  There have been a few little musical projects that I've stopped and started during May, but none have reached a state suitable for posting.  For now they go into the massive folder of half-done projects that I'll sort through in a couple of months on an evening when the muses are particularly distant.

Tonight I've got another new song to post.  Everyone gets overwhelmed and confused from time to time, and while it's not a good feeling to wallow in, it is humbling.  It's a pleasing thought to imagine a life with a clear path always in front of me, but I think the reality would be disappointing.  This song was an attempt to convert those thoughts to ones and zeros, suitable for storage and transmission.

It really is amazing that we manage to live as long as we do.  A vast number of mechanical, chemical, electrical, and thermal conditions must be preserved to keep our bodies ticking.  And a significant chunk of our time is taken up by things that our bodies tell us we need to do to continue the process.  But then, what are we to do with the time and energy that remains?  Good things, right?  But that's quite hard for us to figure out on our own.  So many of the initial conditions that help determine the ultimate effects of our actions are unknown to us. 

So, here's the song that resulted from that soup of thought.  The annoying distorted glissing with delay in the background is slide guitar.  What?  You haven't tried that before?  Well, you've got to eat it all if you want dessert.  And that's final.

Enormity by are.kay.more

There are rougher edges on this one than I typically like to leave, but I'd hate to have a month go by with only one post.  Maybe I'll apply fixes later and upload an improved version in the future.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it

Any of you who follow my blog know that it impacts not only your life, but the lives of many others. There are in fact, three dedicated followers to this blog, proudly listed on the right sidebar. It is for them and for the faceless masses that I must continue to produce sounds. In case there are any naysayers out there that think that Bono and I can't change the world with music, here are some graphs to prove my point:

There you have it.  Collected by Google herself.

Oh wait, that one doesn't have the axis label.  Here you go:

Impressive, eh?  But wait, there's more.  It's not just the job seekers that I care about, it's the eaters, too.  Or, more correctly, the eat-seekers, since not everyone is able to acquire food to eat successfully.  See for yourself:

Now you're asking, how do I ensure that people do virtuous and effective things with the energy provided by the food from oprahsfavoritedeathmetal?  Easy: a worldwide network of cameras feeding information about everyone's actions back to a central positronic brain that controls us all like puppets.

Here's a list of other things that have taken place since (and likely because of) the beginning of Uncle Reeree's Music Blog:
-Mimi got an A in Calculus
-the World Cup
-Somebody in England got married
-the Olympics
-the government decided shutting down was a bad idea
-no world-crushing meteors
-India beat Pakistan in cricket

We will stop there.  Point made.  In some small way, the sounds that flow out of the internet and into your ear buds are the butterfly wings that continue to stave off eminent destruction.  The inadvertent twitch of your rump as you listen to "Rumble and Bounce" just made somebody decide to get a smoothie instead of raiding a peasant village.  So, carry on, my children.  Your work is as important as mine.

Brownie recipe found during monkey brain vivisection by are.kay.more

Monday, April 18, 2011

Gone postal

Sorry guys, but this one is even less than half done, but I think that's how it's going to stay. I mostly want to push the last post farther down the blog's page. I liked it, but it's too depressing to stay on top for long.

This one is a very incomplete cover of the song Brand New Colony by the Postal Service. They're an excellent electronic band from the 2000's. I wondered what one of they're songs, which are typically heavy on drum machines and synthesizers, would sound like with only piano and vocals. In the end I allowed myself to process the different parts, but all of the sounds other than the vocals come from the piano.

It was fun, but some bad recording technique on my part means that it would be difficult to extend. Here it goes:

Brand New Colony Cover by are.kay.more

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dark side of the Reeree

Professional musicians who play original music have to build a style and a brand. If they put out a track that achieves success, fans will expect similar elements in the musician's future works. If a musician breaks to abruptly from the brand that they've built, listeners feel betrayed and angry. I would bet, for instance, that if Weird Al released a sappy love song, his house would get torched.

As a guy making music in the dining room while his family sleeps, I am in a different situation. I can play whatever I like, without having to cater to any external expectations. It's often rewarding to make something beautiful or humorous, but sometimes it's interesting to explore darker emotions. So, tonight I present a cover of a Steely Dan song called "Do It Again." Be warned: it's a real downer of a song. It had been stuck in my head recently, though, and I wanted to try to record something unsettling and torturous. I used a portable recorded to collect sounds of things hitting our ceiling fan and played with it a bit. Also in the mix are guitar, bass, and synthesizer. Let me know what you think:

Do It Again by are.kay.more

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Where there's a will, there's a dead guy

...or at least someone who's going to be dead. Or maybe there's a lawyer? Hmmmm. This is not working out too well so far.

Some music has a purpose: emotional, political, or religious. Some music serves as a catalyst to lend power to other art forms, as movie sound tracks do. Other music just keeps me awake when I'm driving a van full of sleeping kids back from some adventure out of town. Each week people gather in churches around the world and sing hymns, some hundreds of years old. Each weekend trios in play new music in bars and cafes, while people look for other people who look better in the dark. National anthems are sung at sporting events for fans who came to see something else instead.

In almost every case music seems to be an over-elaborate waste. Not to say that the music is bad, but why have any at all? Other arts make sense. Literature can be used as a tool to record history, to analyze arguments, or to explore situations not fit for real-world application. Some aspects of visual arts allow for recording and expressing things that may be cumbersome to capture with language alone. Even engineers use drawings to specify mechanical parts. The culinary arts leverage our need to sustain ourselves physically. But what does music do? What does it help us do that we couldn't do otherwise? How does it help us to more effectively live or reproduce?

I have no idea. Moreover, I have no idea why I put time into it. In a life already packed with responsibilities, I still feel a need to carve out part of my time, our living space, and our finances to make music. The cost can be measured, but not the benefit. At the same time, I don't feel cheated. I don't want more from music than it has provided me. Perhaps it is the part of me that will keep engineering from making me completely inhuman. It will remind me that there are unquantifiables that are worthwhile. As long as music gives me goosebumps when there's no good reason to feel anything, I'll know that there's some magic to be sought and found.

So, with that, here's a short piece. Enjoy.

Rumble & Bounce by are.kay.more

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pop goes the synthesizer

Sorry guys. Things got pretty crazy there for a couple of months. For some reason, Sarah's body thinks that turning itself inside out is an important part of making a baby, and it always take a while to convince it otherwise. She's doing much, much better now, though. Thank you, everyone, for your help and well wishes.

I'm still not finding time to play music much, but here's one that I wrote and recorded last year but never posted. So much of what I end up noodling around with ends up as minor key instrumental stuff, that I thought it would be fun to write kind of a bouncy carefree song. I also wanted to see if I could shoe-horn a bassoon line and some recorder (y'know, the little flute things) in the mix somewhere.

Please disregard the 30 seconds of silence at the end. I was having issues rendering from the recording software...

Eskimos by are.kay.more

P.S. I mixed it on my $20 headphones, which means that it sounds great on THEM, but it seems to be growly and distorted on most other speakers I've tried. Maybe I'll spring for some proper studio reference monitor speakers one day .