Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Man vs Machine

I created a MIDI file to analyze a 1972 performance of Dave Brubeck Quartet. The song is the world-famous "Take Five", the tune that I took as a model for my irregular music. The spirit is simple, a complex rhythm does not have to sound difficult or even bizarre. It can sound astonishingly simple and pleasing. The result really is a timeless masterpiece.

Creating a MIDI file to mimic a real performance is definitely not possible with today's technology. Even the same human performer cannot repeat the performance exactly. It shows that music is more than just melody, rhythm, and harmony, all of which can be repeated or copied with almost surgical precision.

The precision, in fact, is one thing that separate us from machines. The subtlety of human-made imperfection in the intonation, rhythmic, or non-ideal timbre, is the thing that created the charm of a live music performance. Software synthesizers came up with solutions that basically try to put random imperfections at the MIDI output. However, the result is still unsatisfactory. There is something more than mere random imperfection.

The MIDI-generated music, with random dynamics variation and "swing" feel:

Take Five Synth.mp3

And the real performance by Dave Brubeck Quartet, for comparison

Take Five 72.mp3

Monday, March 2, 2009


Boehm, the inventor of the flute, was known as a very fine flutist, composer, scientist, and a master silversmith.

Being a flutist, a composer, and a scientist already, I decided to take up the one last required skill, metal smithing.

So I made a trip to Kotagede, Yogyakarta with a friend of mine, Himawan, to learn this ancient craft in Studio76 under the guidance of Mr. Agus, a local silversmith. Kotagede is the center of Indonesian silver art, home to hundreds of craftsmen, located at the southern part of Yogyakarta. The first one from the left was a mobius ring made by Himawan. The other two are mine, a G-clef liontin and a ring.

So, while we're there, we decided to visit some architectural jewels of the city. The Tamansari Water Park (former residence of Mataram's Kings), the Kraton Yogya (current residence), and the megalitics structure scattered throughout the city, especially the Sewu Temple, Prambanan Temple, and the Ratu Boko Complex. We didn't have enough time to visit the famous Borobudur which is out of range of the city bus. The tour is completed by a trip to Dagadu (T-shirt factory) and a Batik gallery, and of course, "Gudek" for lunch.