Career, music, Research, Uncategorized

Mozzarimba

Today’s assignment was to create a piece of music using a MIDI file, and I probably did everything the most difficult way it could possibly be done. Maybe I was excited. Maybe I thought things would snap together and shape itself into something beautiful, like a shiny magnetic sculpture.

Turns out it was quite messy, like an old Magna-Doodle.

I’m going to walk you through the process (at least the steps I remember), so you might perhaps not make the same mistakes I did. My goal was to try and create MIDI files to then import into something cohesive in Soundtrap.

I was so, so excited to try Groove Pizza. This is a super cool web app, where you can manipulate drum beats. I loved the “Bembe” pattern.

This pattern is divided into 12 subdivisions, so I thought perhaps a 12/8 feel?

All the drum sounds used were empty, conga-like sounds. I liked the idea of something soft since all of the drum kits I’ve explored in Soundtrap so far feel splashy to me.

Above is the Bembe pattern from the app. I figured that could serve as a fine foundation. Next, I thought, I’ll create a different pattern for a “B” section.

Here I had one sound subdivide in 3, one in 4, and one in 6.

And, since I was making beats, I thought I’d create a 2-measure fill to punctuate different sections.

Left is measure 1, and right is measure 2 with more notes that would lead to the next section.

I downloaded all 3 patterns as MIDI files. Next I went into the Song Maker app in Chrome Music Lab to create a melody. I thought I’d make something simple, so I stuck with something fairly pentatonic and slow.

I started with the lower line, downloaded that on its own, then added a higher harmony part.

I downloaded that as a MIDI. Yay, this is easy! Now just to import into Soundtrap…

Wait, my work laptop doesn’t support MIDI files??? Okay, how about my desktop.

Hmm….Something doesn’t look quite right…

I was fairly certain, when I downloaded the MIDI files, that they were either the same length or maybe one was twice as long. Like, even. Those don’t look even.

It took me a long time to figure out how to make the beatmaker conducive to triplet-feel patterns. I still don’t think I really did it. I figured out how to get it into 3/4, but the drum pattern really didn’t end up the way it sounded in Groove Pizza. I’m not sure putting it in 3/4 really did anything except adjust the length of the other loops I added.

Nevertheless, I just had to finish something. So in honor of Groove Pizza and my apparent affinity for the marimba sound, I give you Mozzarimba.

Maybe things not fitting together sounds good sometimes?
Uncategorized

Shark Bait – The Musical

Well well well, if it isn’t the random blog I established 5 years ago. Here I am again.

My co-teacher introduced me to the miracle that is Soundtrap a few months ago, and I’ve been having fun exploring music composition in that way. My hope is that, with my new position teaching 7th grade general music in a possibly remote or hybrid situation, my students can forge an outlet to explore loops, creating bass lines and beats, and so much more.

I wanted to create something with a jazzy feel, so in the loop library I clicked “Jazz,” and the loop “Marimba Cheesy Dance” caught my eye. It very much had a I-iv-V-type chord progression, which made finding a fitting bass line a challenge. I altered the notes of the “Montuno 2” loop to make sure it fit the chords. I added “Organ – Kingston 6” for texture in the beginning and throughout.

The “Bedroom Chill Lofi Guitar” loop added both some beachy guitar licks and a hollow-sounding drum beat. I used the Beat Generator to create and tweak contrasting drum patterns throughout.

Even though, in theory, I’d imagine some teachers advise starting with just drums or bass, or a foundation of one thing and adding more things later, I enjoy working in a more linear fashion. I say this because I added the SFX layers in the beginning, not sure of where they’d lead or how they’d come back. I think that’s part of the fun. I ended up reversing some of the SFX loops to create tension and release into new sections.

“Is this a legitimate form of musical creativity?” Of course it is. What is music for, anyway? Looking at these blocks of sound, it reminds me of looking at a score.

Loops are a great way to get students started with composition. The fact that the composer can alter notes in existing loops helps. Everything is customizable, but like jazz or anything else creative, working within a given limit (in this case, a pre-made loop) can produce amazing results.

Oh yeah, why’s it called Shark Bait? Well, whose life is worry free? Even a day at the beach isn’t free of possible danger.

Stay out of treble,

Stephanie

shoulder, Uncategorized

Shoulder Status: After 11 Weeks

Hey friends!!!

(Whoa, Stephanie, 3 exclamation marks? Really?) Sure, why not?

I’m doing well. Still on leave, more about that later. Here’s an update on my shoulder and life.

Shoulder

Last week was very rough on me in terms of pain. Starting last Tuesday the 20th, I had this active soreness in my shoulder and arm for 6 days straight.

My doctor’s appointment was on the 22nd, and he was going to release me to go back to work this week. I told him I couldn’t possibly. There are multiple situations in my job every day where I have to lift something out of my trunk, carry something awkward while opening a heavy door, contort myself in a weird position to reach something, or arrange furniture.

So he extended my leave until April 15th. He said that, when I’m feeling strong enough, I can just let him know and he’ll release me.

That made me feel better in terms of my shoulder but sad about work. I don’t think it will really take me until April 15th to finally be strong enough…but it could.

I explained that situation to my PT on Tuesday of this week and they changed my exercises a little. I did fewer exercises, but more reps. 4 sets of 10 of everything instead of 3 sets of 10.

I wasn’t too sore from that, but today they added seated rows, pull-downs (is that what they’re called?) and WALL PUSH-UPS.

Wall push-ups are freaking brutal. The push-up motion was my main source of pain before the surgery, because of where my injury was. But it doesn’t feel so obviously wrong like it did before. Now it just feels like I’m weak but can build strength in this part of my body.

And I have official homework now – I have to do the rotator cuff strengthening exercises and wall push-ups every day.

YAY.

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Me: Time for band practice! No, not that kind of band…

I know for sure I’m going to be sore for a few days. My therapist said that’s to be expected, and I should keep doing the best I can.

Getting Stuff Done

I made another chore chart for the past two weeks, and will make a new one today. It’s working! I’ve been building good cleaning habits.

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The stuff on the left side is what should be done every day. The stuff on the right side is not as necessary, but I still want to track it.

Assessment for this round? Pretty good. I didn’t get much done last week because I was in so much pain, I truly just sat around and watched YouTube videos.

I got some REALLY big projects done. I actually cleared my desk so I can now use it as a functioning work space.

It’s far from where I want it to eventually be, but this is a huge step in the right direction.

I cleaned my car. Like I mentioned in My Messy Mindset, someday I’ll be a person to whom nobody will ever mention my car’s cleanliness. But because it being clean is such a contrast to what it’s often been, on Sunday a friend of mine did say, “Wait…is this your car?”

I’ve posted a lot of giveaway stuff on the Facebook marketplace. It’s been good but I’ve learned it’s best to just put a few items up at a time. Too many and I lose track of who claimed what.

BUT, I made $48 and got rid of stuff.

I didn’t practice trumpet very much last week because of the pain. I only blogged once in two weeks, whoops. And I only stretched my legs once.

Overall, though, this is helping me get stuff done. For my next chart I’m going to include the different shoulder exercises, and new projects. 🙂

Trash Walks

I am amazed that there continues to be new trash on my neighborhood streets only days after I do a sweep through.

Some student at a nearby high school left a full Styrofoam coffee cup of something on an electrical box, and I chose not to pick it up out of spite. If that person walked by there once, they should have to walk by there again and face the ugliness of that terrible choice.

That is not big of me, but it’s too ridiculous of a thing for me to pick up without it staying there for several days. Teenagers need to learn to clean up their own gross messes.

Here is what I’ve decided about picking up trash: For everything my house uses that comes in a plastic bag, that plastic bag will be repurposed to pick up trash on the sidewalks.

We’ve been pretty good about using our own containers to buy in bulk, but there are still some things that are very hard to find plastic-free where we live. Like bread – I could live without spongy sliced bread in my life, but my sweet husband cannot. So that packaging goes toward picking up trash as a compromise.

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Yesterday’s Bounty

YouTube

I’ve been inspired by a handful of YouTube channels lately. Admittedly, they are mostly lifestyle-related channels – sustainable living, minimalism, veganism. But it got me thinking.

I have a lot to share in my world, too. And maybe it would help me take a more disciplined approach to my music practice and songwriting if I had an obligation to post to a channel. Maybe I would be more inclined to make my work the best it could be.

So I revived my old YouTube Channel. I wanted to change the name but I guess it won’t let me. I’ll have Original Mondays, Windy Wednesdays, and Freestyle Fridays.

On Original Mondays, I will perform a song I wrote. Songwriting used to be an important creative outlet for me in college. I love writing songs because it juxtaposes poetry (economy of words) and sound organization – you can choose which words will have the most impact based on where you put them in the song.

I haven’t been disciplined in songwriting the way I’d like to be, so I thought this could give me a push. Also, I can share the songs I wrote years ago that still hold up in my mind today.

Windy Wednesdays will be a wind instrument feature. Right now, it will most likely feature a trumpet solo or etude. Again, I’m hoping this will be motivation for me to practice and polish a piece and deliver it to my best ability.

Freestyle Fridays will be a space for me to discuss all sorts of things. They can include the things I’ve discussed in here, like teaching strategies or musicianship strategies, or they can be something fun. I’m thinking of making one with tips for beginning chamber music players.

This is all new and in the making. I don’t expect my videos to be incredibly popular for a long while. They will be more for my own betterment.

What kinds of videos would you like to see from me?

Stephy

For the next part of the saga, click here.

Uncategorized

Zero Waste Achievements: One Month In

Transitioning to a new way of living can be challenging sometimes. I wanted to take this blog post to celebrate the successes Brian and I have had in terms of reducing the trash we produce.

I will be upfront about where I am in this right now. I’m still in the “Use what you have” phase. I’m also in the “My husband thinks some of these changes are really extreme because he’s never seen anyone do something like this” phase.

I have a distinct advantage as an alumna of Humboldt State. I was never going to be the extreme one there.

Where was I before? I’ve been carrying a reusable water bottle with me my whole adulthood (13 years). I’ve used reusable shopping bags for almost as long – long before you had to pay for a bag in California. Before moving to Santa Maria (3 years ago) I was a frequenter of grocery store bulk sections. I still used plastic bags for those, but I very often re-used the same plastic bags until I deemed them gross.

Before living in Santa Maria, I frequented the local farmers’ markets. Like, maybe I went 2 or more times per month. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but I supplemented my fruits and veggies with ones from the Co-Op (in Humboldt) and New Frontiers (in Solvang). Those stores both sourced from local organic farmers. There aren’t a lot of stores like that here, but there are farmers’ markets.

Being in a bigger place was new to me and I truly got sucked into the consumer culture. Everything is so easy to come by – especially because my job here pays a lot more than anything else I’d ever known. I literally had more money than I knew what to do with. (I am very, very aware that this is the exception of people my age and not the norm.)

I stopped shopping at thrift stores when I got my current job, because now I could afford new clothes. My good work friends, 10 years older than me, became my shopping buddies with a congruent mission of building a greater professional wardrobe. 2017 was a year of buying lots of pretty pieces for work.

That just about sums up where I was. Now I’m going to discuss the small changes I have made so far.

Groceries

I do not mind using old plastic containers to buy stuff in bulk and to store food. Brian loves peanut butter filled pretzels from Costco, and they come in a giant container. I’ve been filling it with fig bars from the bulk bins. I’ve been filling an old hummus container with beans, and a Trader Joe’s cardboard oatmeal canister with steel cut oats.

With using containers, it’s important to get a weight at the register beforehand. Both times I’ve done this the kids at the registers were unfamiliar with this process. It’s okay, they’ll learn. When I finish at the store, I write down what the weight of the container was so I don’t have to have it weighed a second time.

I also use a pen or Sharpie to scribble out the scan code/ISBN. That way the register doesn’t accidentally mark it.

Brian has a food scale at his parents’ house. We plan to use that to weigh our containers at home.

Instead of getting spinach in a plastic clam shell, we’ve been buying it in tied bunches. This is something that takes a little more work to prepare, but it’s cheaper and you waste so much less. It only takes about 10-15 minutes to wash the whole bunch, tear off the stems, and lay the leaves out to dry. I’ve been saving the stems for other purposes.

I use breathable cloth bags to store my produce as I shop. I might start making more of my bags out of exercise shirts so they don’t add to the weight.

Clothes

One month in, I have succeeded in my goal of not buying any new clothes this year. I’m really still on my surgery T-shirt rotation. I’ve been wearing the same 12 or so shirts on rotation for the past 8 weeks. I typically put jeans or pants in the hamper after about 4 wears. If they don’t smell bad, they’re not dirty yet.

The exception is for workout clothes. It has been quite warm this California winter, with highs around 75-80 nearly every day for several weeks. So if I’m active outside, and start getting sweaty, yes, I’ll put those in the dirty clothes.

On the Go

I went to a thrift store and got 4 spoons, forks, and knives. I wrapped each set with a cloth napkin and now Brian and I each have a pair of reusable silverware sets in our cars.

I love going out to sushi, so I got a set of reusable metal chopsticks for the sushi place we like. They were really nice when we asked for no straw in our water, so I think they’ll understand if we bring our own chopsticks.

Again, I’ve always been pretty good at bringing my water bottle with me, but now I’m a little more diligent.

Household

Our whole garbage story has changed since we got a compost tumbler. One month’s worth of organic scraps doesn’t even fill up half of this thing! I’m looking forward to a very fertile garden this year.

We received two sets of nice, simple cotton napkins as wedding presents. We set up a little wicker basket in the dining room for used napkins.

We’ll use the same napkins for 2 or 3 days. Wiping your face on a piece of cloth once doesn’t make it completely soiled. Those things are big!

I also use (unused) napkins to make cashew cream for my coffee, since I bought a nut milk bag, used it once and misplaced it forever. A napkin is basically the same thing.

I got my bathroom mirror spotless using only a sheet of newspaper and a tiny bit of water.

I un-signed up for junk mail a few weeks ago. I guess it takes awhile to go away. I’m still getting all sorts of stupid stuff every day. I wrote a “No junk mail or coupons” note for my mailbox.

I also unsubscribed to all of my subscription boxes. I felt a little tricked by social media, into thinking those things were cool. In fact, they were all just wasteful. I don’t need a whole box of random stuff every month or every few months.

In that same vein, Brian and I have committed to each only making one Amazon order per month. Whatever thing we might need, we’ll let it sit in the cart until it’s time. I also contacted Amazon customer service and requested they don’t pack the plastic bubbles in my packaging anymore. They happily complied.

It might be because I have more time on disability, but I’m much more inclined lately to keep things tidy. The huge exception to this is my desk, which has just been a giant pile since it was moved last summer. Someday I’ll work on this, and it will take an hour, and I’ll be like, “Why did I procrastinate doing that for so long?”

Pets

This one is really hard. We have two cats and a dog. One cat uses a litter box, and one does not. Our solution at the time was that the other cat would use puppy training pads instead. Those create a huge amount of waste. And I really hate them.

So we are exploring other options. One thing I would like to try is to make reusable pads out of thrift store towels. My challenge has been finding something liquid-proof that can also be tough enough to withstand kitty claws. I’ve been looking for a used shower curtain liner, a vinyl tablecloth or place mats.

For our doggy poo bags, we are still using what we have and probably will be for several more months. I also use these bags to pick up trash as I walk the dog.

I don’t know that we can get good pet food package-free. So we do the Costco thing and buy in large quantities there.

Personal

I’ve had a bad habit in the past few years, and that’s been to give up on a shampoo before I’ve used it all and switch to another shampoo. My bathroom cupboard yielded about 5  shampoo/conditioner sets.

This is stopping this year. I’m not working and my hair is short and untreated – I will use all of this shampoo before going forward with anything else.

I learned that the deodorant I love in bar form also comes in a glass jar! So I don’t have to be a crazy make-your-own-deodorant person.

I did, just today, make my own tooth powder. I used this recipe.

I’m using the face products I have. Honestly, this will take a long time. I have a lot of unused stuff. When it’s used I won’t replace it. Unless it’s sunscreen, I don’t see a huge need.