School Musical

For the past two weeks, I’ve been helping out at my school for the musical that they do each year. Every year at the high school the drama department comes up with a new story to perform for the community before the winter break. I was helping out with sound and lights for the show this year, so I got to see a lot of what goes on behind the production.

From what I could tell, the actual scriptwriting, dance choreography, and acting practice were done over the course of a few months before the actual rehearsals. Before our first rehearsal, we had to set up the stage and some stationary props. Since the acting was scripted for a stage that was larger than normal, we had to bring out some risers and wooden platforms to clamp and drill to the school’s original stage. We also brought in some rental equipment from the music store down the street because we needed a lot of microphones for the actors.

After setting up all of the equipment we had our first rehearsal over the weekend, and the main thing that we did was deciding who was going to be in charge of what during the show. We also discussed with the drama teacher about what kind of lighting and backdrops she wanted for each scene. I was eventually put in charge of changing the backdrops for each scene. The job itself isn’t too hard since all I do is press button to change a slide on the projector. However, I was told that is was important and I had to remember the cues to for when to switch the backdrop. New students like me weren’t put in charge of anything too difficult or important such as working the sound or light boards because that was left for the senior students.

The next few days were spent actually going through the entire show in order to make sure that everyone knew what was going to happen for the day of performances. This gave us time to make notes on our own individual scripts for whatever we needed to do at specific times. Additionally, we were informed that we needed to make the show shorter for the elementary schools that would be coming in to watch during school hours. This caused a bit of trouble because we had to make sure we knew which part of the script to change to in order to cut certain parts out.

Fortunately, we didn’t have too many problems during our actual performances except for a few things that went wrong such as microphone feedback, actors missing them cues, and curtains not closing on time. I’d say the worst part about being part of the tech crew was that we had to come in pretty early in order to set everything up and we also had to sit through the show over five times. Apparently, it’s been a running joke that the tech crew memorizes some of the lines and choreography by the end of all the shows. You also end up getting all the musical numbers stuck in your head for a while.

In terms of the actual show’s quality, I’d say it was alright, but it definitely could’ve been better. I personally think that the show was a bit too long, and we should’ve had more time to work with the drama department before the actual showings. Additionally, the drama teacher wanted to make a speech at the end of the last show which she didn’t mention anything about until 15 minutes before the end. It ended up with a lot of microphone feedback and she ended up using one the actor’s microphones, so it could’ve been avoided in the first place anyways.

Overall, working on the show was pretty fun since I got to learn a bunch of new things and talk to some new people. The show was actually a slightly altered version of The Greatest Showman, but what I found interesting was that the actors in the drama department were singing the songs differently from the originals. In the end, it turned out okay and the school definitely put in a lot of time, effort, and expensive equipment for the show’s production.

TSO Rehearsal Field Trip

Yesterday, my school’s music department took a field trip to downtown Toronto’s Roy Thompson Hall in order to listen to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra rehearse for one of their upcoming shows later in the evening. We also got a chance to ask a few questions for their bass clarinet specialist Miles Jaques and walk around downtown on our own for about an hour or so.

In order to make it on time for the rehearsal, we had to get to school early in order for the bus to get us there on time. The bus ride was around an hour-long, and I think being on a bus with the music department kids is different from other bus rides I’ve been on. Specifically, the band kids because on the way to and back from downtown all you could hear throughout the ride was them singing from the back.

Once we made it to the Roy Thompson Hall we took a group picture and then immediately went inside to get a rundown on the rehearsal schedule and what we’d be listening to. I didn’t get a look at the actual physical program for that night’s show, but all the four pieces they performed were composed within the 20th to 21st century if I remember correctly.

When listening to the rehearse we got the chance to see how the conductor gives notes to certain sections and how the whole orchestra works. Additionally, we moved around the auditorium between pieces in order to get a better look at the different sections of the orchestra. In terms of their playing, you can definitely that they are all professional musicians that have been playing for a long time.

Between the second and third performances was when we got a chance to ask questions for Miles Jaques. He has been playing for the TSO for around two years and has been playing the clarinet since he was twelve years old. We learned a bit about his background, how he got into professional music, what he does in his spare time, and what type of music he listens to outside of classical music.

After all the performances were finished we had a little over an hour to go wherever we wanted around downtown in order to eat lunch, so my friend and I went on Yelp to find places nearby to eat. We found a ramen place called Hakata Ikkousha Ramen which was pretty close by so we went there to eat. I think that compared to the ramen places in Richmond Hill it was a lot better. Once we finished, we had some extra time so we walked around the Metro Centre area before going back to our meeting place.

Overall, I had a lot of fun yesterday especially since I didn’t even have to do any work once I got back to my last period class because we were pretty much at the end of our unit. The rehearsal, question and answer session, and food was a fun way for me to end my week.

Nature Music Update

It’s been a while since I’ve started working on the music for some nature videos that I wrote about a few weeks ago. Last time was when it was about halfway done, but now it’s almost finished and there’s a few more things that I added.

Since the main ideas for the first two sections which are the fall leaves and raindrops are done, I had to figure out what I wanted to do for the last two sections which are a short timelapse of a town in winter and another timelapse of a flower blooming. Our entire project is only around a minute long so each section is around 15 seconds long which means I didn’t really have too much time to work with.

For the town timelapse I ended up writing out a mellow strings section for double bass, cello, and viola since that’s what I was kind of feeling at the moment. It went pretty well, but there were a few harmonies that my teacher pointed out that I fixed later. I also carried over the arpeggiated piano from the previous raindrops section and I think it went well with changing the texture between sections. Right now the section is pretty much considered finished, but I’m thinking about adding a high melody part later if it fits in.

After working on the town timelapse, we realized that our video for the blooming flower was actually really short. Since we liked the strings section from earlier, we decided to carry it over instead of writing something completely new. I think this was a good choice because it wouldn’t really make sense to add an entirely new element in the last 5-10 seconds of the project. We still haven’t really finished it though because although we’re using the same instruments, we felt like the feeling of the music had to change. The idea was decided just yesterday so I’m still trying to figure that part out within the following week.

Overall the project is almost done, but I’m still thinking of adding a few more layers in certain areas. I think that most of the sections sound pretty good individually. I’m mostly worried about how the transitions seem to flow since a lot of the transitions I’ve had in the past have been pretty bad. Other than that, I think the project has been going really smoothly.

Bring Your Kids To Work Day

Last Wednesday was Bring Your Kids to Work Day in Ontario and I got to visit one of my Uncle’s workplaces for a tour. The main point of BYKW day was so that grade 9 students would be able to experience working. It also allows high schools to have the opportunity to open up the grade 9 classes for tours for elementary schools.

Since my dad started working from home, I ended up going to one of my uncle’s workplace. He works at one of Mondelez’s Cadbury plants where they mainly produce chocolate. The people at Mondelez managed to set up a kind of schedule so that the whole day would be organized for us. I actually ended up arriving there early so I spent around an hour going around with my uncle until the other kids arrived.

There ended up only being around a dozen kids altogether and so we all watched the same safety instruction video that showed us all the rules and instructions to follow within the facility. After the video, we did an activity where we had to find some defects with certain candies, and then they explained to us why it’s important that all of their products have to follow certain guidelines. We spent a lot of time in a conference room where different departments of the plant came in to explain what they do and how they got to their current position. There was also a university student doing a coop program that told us a bit about coop programs in general and how beneficial they can be.

After a few presentations from different departments, we got to eat lunch which was some pizza, and then once we finished, they took us down to take a look at the machines that actually make the chocolate. It was pretty loud inside, but I was surprised that you can’t really hear much of it from the office floors. The amount of money that Mondelez invests in their plants was also quite interesting because it seems like they are trying to have a lot of up to date equipment even if it costs a lot to install.

We also took a visit to the president’s office where the original plant president used to work, and we also learned about the history of the plant facility itself. Additionally, they taught us how their marketing strategies have changed in the past and which ones worked and which ones didn’t. The last part of the day was a few more presentations from some other departments and then we were finished.

Once we left Mondelez gave us a lot of their different products from different brands that they own like Oreos, Chips Ahoy, Triscuits, and Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate. There were all kinds of different flavours of cookies and chocolates. What surprised me was that a lot of gum was included which I didn’t know they produced.

Overall, I think that the Mondelez plant tour was quite interesting. It was fun to see all of their machines and the history, but the presentations were kind of boring. Some of the presenters didn’t know how to use the programs they were presenting on which was kind of funny since I think most of the kids including myself knew what they were doing wrong, but nobody really said anything. I ended up leaving with a bunch of snacks though so it was like trick or treating for me without actually having to go trick or treating.

CS:GO Restriction On Keys

A few days ago Valve announced on the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive blog that any new keys bought after this recent update will no longer have the ability to be traded or sold. This new change has sparked a lot of controversy about the game and its future.

The keys that Valve talks about, are apart of the game’s weapon skin system. In CS:GO there are cosmetic skins that you can get when they randomly drop throughout games, or you can buy a key for around two to three dollars and open a case that will give you a random skin. These skins are then tradable or sellable for different things depending on their value. Keys were one of the few items that had a relatively stable price between players, so oftentimes, when trades were made, keys were used to measure an item’s value.

However, a few weeks ago there was a crash in the value of the Argentina peso and people were able to buy keys for a much lower price than usual. A majority of people think that this is the reason why the change was made because Valve lost a lot of money during the time of the crash.

Fortunately, any keys that people have that were before the update will still be able to be traded and sold. However, this also means that tradable and sellable keys have risen in value and are now limited. Some people have been talking about how the game’s popularity will die out since skin trading has been such a large part of the game, and keys were an important asset to the trading community.

After a few days, some alternatives that have come up are using other items that are tradable through Steam. However, I don’t think trading will be the same, and with rumors of Riot Game releasing their new game Project A; it might be possible that CS:GO will lose a portion of its player base.

Overall, I myself am not really affected by this new update since I’ve never really been too involved with trading, but a lot of other people have been. Even if CS:GO loses some of its player base, the skill group I’m in has the majority of players in it, so I don’t think new queue times will be an issue.

Attempting To Write Heist Music

Last weekend, my mom asked me to write some background music for a video that she made that starred our family’s cat Darci. The video showed Darci stealing something off of a dresser and playing with it after, and she specifically wanted a suspenseful feeling during the heist and happy music when she was playing with whatever Darci stole.

I first looked at some references for heist music from movie soundtracks and tried to find some similarities that I could use. After I kind of got the general idea of what I wanted it to sound like, I put some things together in Logic using the software instruments that were already there. I used a piano, strings, guitar, trumpet, drums, and synth for the entire thing. A low droning synth or ambient sound was something that most of the movie soundtracks had in them, so I went through some of the things that Logic had in its sound library until I found something that sounded similar.

Another thing that was quite common was a piano intro playing a bassline over some quick hi-hats which wasn’t too hard to put together. Later when things started to buildup I added a heavier drum beat with Logic’s “drummer” feature and the rest of the instruments. Since it was something I wanted to finish pretty fast, I didn’t really focus on the chords and what harmonies worked well together. I kind of ended up just putting in a bunch of random notes until they sounded okay.

The one thing that I had a lot of trouble with was the transition from suspense to cheerful since transitions have always been something that I’m really bad at writing. In my opinion, the transition sounded like it was from a video game where you beat the boss and a short victory jingle played. I used the exact same instruments from the previous part because I wasn’t trying to make it any more complicated than it was.

I also ended up using the feature that my theory teacher showed me and put the video inside Logic as I was working on the music. It helped with knowing when the transition should start, but because I had the video inside along with the music, I had some trouble figuring out how to export the whole thing.

Overall, it was a fun little thing that I threw together in around two hours, but it was interesting to try and write something in a specific theme that I’ve never tried before. In the future, I might try and do something else in a different style but spend a bit more time working on it.

Counter Strike: Global Offensive Update

Yesterday, Valve released a new update that quite a few people have been talking about. It includes the release of a new Cache remake that has been highly anticipated in the past month. Additionally, there was the release of the new CS20 weapon case and sticker capsules to celebrate Counter Strike’s twenty-year anniversary.

At first, it was speculated that these two additions were going to take place along with a new operation. Operations are pretty big events in Counter Strike where there are all sorts of missions to complete in order to get certain rewards. The last operation was Operation Wildfire which was over three years ago. A lot of people were hopeful for a new operation since the past few updates have been improving the CPU bot intelligence. Rumors started spreading about how it was to help plan for the future operation which never came.

Nonetheless, we still got a somewhat new map depending on how you look at it and a new case as well. The new Cache is almost identical to the old version. The main differences are the new striking visuals and a new window that was added to the Counter-Terrorists’ Z or “connector”. It allows the Counter-Terrorists to have an additional way to contest the middle area of the map which was previously a little bit easier for the Terrorists to control. Another change that is most likely going to influence gameplay is the reduced height of the wall between the truck and quad positions. It makes it possible now to throw grenades from truck towards the A site giving the Counter-Terrorists an easier time on a post plant retake.

The new CS20 weapon case has introduced a new knife except it’s not exactly new. In the 1.6 version of Counter Strike there was only one knife known as the “classic knife” and it had a very unique liquid looking pattern on the edge of the blade. Not only has the classic knife been added to Global Offensive, but there are also the Global Offensive variants that the classic knife can also come in such as Case Hardened, Fade, and etc. Some current listings for the classic knife go up to over a thousand dollars.

Overall I think a lot of people are excited about this new update, and I’ve already seen several videos on YouTube of people opening up the new cases. Additionally, I think the community will be working hard on finding new grenade line ups and tricks on the new Cache which will be interesting to learn.

Concert Field Trip

A couple of days ago my school’s music department made a field trip to go watch a free concert performance at the Four Seasons Centre. We went to listen to a Debussy sonata for flute, harp, and viola, and we also got to hang around downtown for a little while before the show started.

When we made it into downtown we had around 45 minutes to go wherever we wanted downtown as long as we made it back in time for the show. My friends and I went to the Tim Hortons Innovation CafĂ© which was around a five-minute walk away. I think it was just a tiny bit bigger than a regular Tim Hortons, but the atmosphere felt a lot different. We ate some breakfast food there and got some of the special Dream Donuts and Timbits that were around twice the price of regular donuts. To me, it feels kind of out of place being in downtown with lots of noise with lots of people coming in and out. I would’ve preferred if there were fewer people there since there was a pretty big line, and I feel like it kind of ruined the calm interior.

For the actual performance the instruments there was a flutist, harpist, and violist. I think it was an interesting collection of instruments but I still think they sounded pretty good together. Out of all the pieces in the program, I couldn’t recognize a single one of them. After the performance, you could take pictures with the performers and chat since it wasn’t really a big concert. The day after, one of my classmates said he thought the flutist was “too windy”, and I kind of understood what he meant because even though there weren’t any microphones and we were sitting at the very top row we could still hear her breath in very loudly a lot of the time.

We got back to the school with a few minutes left in our second last period, so I went back to my math class that was taking a test that I would take the next day. It sounded like it was a really hard test, but when I took the test I didn’t really find it all that difficult although I still can’t say since I haven’t gotten it graded yet. The rest of the day proceeded as normal although we only had to attend our last class.

Overall, I think it was nice to get out of school and hang out downtown with some friends. The performance was also nice for being entirely free. We only paid for bus transportation to get downtown, so getting to watch professional musicians for free was really cool.

Kurtzpel

A few weeks ago I started playing a new game called Kurtzpel. The game had been out for quite a while already, and some of my friends had already played it before. I didn’t really feel like playing it before but wanted to try playing a new game. Since it was free, I downloaded the game and started playing.

Kurtzpel is an MMORPG and a mix of PvE and PvP. There is a storyline to the game, but I don’t really think it’s too interesting. You start out by watching a cutscene that talks about the main story and then you go into creating your character. The game doesn’t really make the character creation system very clear because you have to choose a “personality” and the personality you choose affects the way your character idles and talks. I didn’t know this at first, and now my character doesn’t really look the way I want them to. Additionally, you don’t get access to certain facial features unless you use a rebirth ticket to recreate your character.

After character creation, you go on a short tutorial that teaches you how attacking works and a few skills that you can use for two of the “karmas”. The game has a few different karmas, but karmas are pretty much just different types of weapons. Each weapon has different skills and combos that you can use. Your character can have two different karmas equipped at once, and they’ll be able to switch between them mid-game. For now, I’ve just been playing with the sword and bow karmas since I haven’t really tried using the other ones yet.

The PvE system seems pretty repetitive from what I’ve seen in the game so far. Since I’ve started there are the same enemies for each area of the map. Each time you defeat them you can move onto a harder difficulty of that enemy. After defeating an enemy there’s a chance for an NPC to appear after your battle. You have a few conversation options, you click a few of them, and then they disappear and you go back to the main world. Depending on how your conversation went with the NPC you’ll gain a certain amount of progression points for that specific NPC. Different NPCs have different skills for karmas that you can unlock at certain stages of your point progression.

PvP is a 2v2 co-op system where you are queued with another person and fight against two other people. The strategies and skills you use in PvP are much different than in PvE since their attack sets and movement are a lot different. I think that PvP is a lot more interesting than the PvE because there are a lot more different things that can happen there.

Usually, you want to have unlocked a few skills before you play PvP, but you can also upgrade your armor and karmas. Compared to other games where you can buy or find better weapons and armor, every piece of weaponry and armor in the game is the same. The only difference is the level, and certain pieces of armor can give small boosts in certain areas such as movement speed, but those boosts can also be changed depending on the player’s choice. Essentially, it doesn’t really matter what type of gear you have unless you want your character to look cooler.

Overall, I’ve had a bit of fun playing the game, but I feel like the PvE side is lacking a bit. It feels quite repetitive, and I think that if they added more interesting dungeons where the further you go the harder the enemies become until you reach the final boss would make the game a lot cooler. I like the idea of having all of the equipment the same because in other games you can just pay a load of money to get really overpowered items and there’d be no point in spending time to improve your gear though. However, for a free to play game I think it has a lot of great content to be explored.

New Nature Music Project

The last music project I was working on with my music teacher was the song that we started working on a while ago. Around a couple of weeks ago, we pretty much finished the whole song and I just need to fix a few minor things, but now my music teacher suggested starting something new.

After the song was finished, my music teacher mentioned how much time it took for us to finish it and said that he wanted to try making something a little bit faster. The new project is taking around a minute or so of nature B roll footage and writing music to fit the different settings’ themes.

To start, we took a few free stock videos from YouTube, and he showed me how we can upload videos into Logic Pro and work with it alongside the music. The next thing we did was work on what kind of feeling we wanted for the first setting. Our first setting is a tree in autumn with the leaves falling. We went with an open tuning for this project since it gives the chords a larger feeling that standard. The first week was just making a simple melody and layering the chords we chose. We had a set of main acoustic chords and also a set of high chords that we each record twice in order to be able to pan them from one ear to the other.

Next, we started thinking about our following setting which is a closeup angle of raindrops falling on the ground. I thought that this would be a good opportunity to use the harmonics of the open tuning so we went with those. After coming up with a repeatable section, we started thinking of ideas to fill other areas of the frequency spectrum since harmonics are quite high. In the end, we decided a palm-muted sort of baseline would fit well by contrasting the harmonics.

We’ve actually left around a bar or so of space in between the two settings that we haven’t written yet since we want to get down the main ideas of each individual setting first. Eventually, the plan is to go back and write some transitions since the feel of each setting is pretty different.

Overall we’re still working on the rain setting so far and still have two other sections to go, but it shouldn’t take as long as the other song did. I think that working with the video helps with coming up with some more original ideas that all fit into a certain theme.