Music for Darwin 200

I have entered a piece of music into Myriad’s 21st Sample Tunes Friendly Contest. This year’s theme is "Evolution", in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. The closing date of the contest if May 31, so if you’d like to enter, too, there’s still time.

There’s quite a lot of hullabaloo re Darwin this year, being an anniversary and all. Actually there are two anniversaries. Not only was he born 200 years ago, his book On the Origin of Species first appeared 150 years ago. Hence there are special editions of magazines, Darwin-themed conferences, documentaries, all kinds of special events, and so on and so forth. Most of these can be tracked via The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online, one of the most useful sites on the web.

Anyway, back to the contest. The name of my contribution is "Natural selection: a prelude to evolution". You can see the score here, where you can also listen to it by clicking the play button. In order to do so, however, you must first install the (free and unobstrusive) Myriad Music Plug-In.

The piece is performed by digitally simulated instruments. There’s a flute, a grand piano, an acoustic guitar, a cello, and three percussion instruments (maracas, cabasa, triangle). I suppose that makes it a quintet, as you would need five people to perform it. The melody and its various permutations, although not entirely original, turned out quite satisfactory. The percussions tap out a deceptively irregular rythm, which may sound odd at first. But it’s not entirely random. If you listen carefully, you can hear a kind of "intelligent design" underlying it. (No, I’m not a loony creationist.) In fact, the rythm is based on a quote from Darwin himself, namely "I have called this principle … Natural Selection" (fr. Origin of Species, 1859) — hence the title of the piece. I know this last bit sounds as if it doesn’t make any sense, but trust me, it does.

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Fake Rock

Believe it or not, but I have just released an album! Woohoo! I’m an indie artist! You never expected that, did you? Ha!

John Miaou

The album is called Fake Rock and appears under my anagrammatic nom-de-plum, John Miaou. It’s wholly instrumental, save some simulated choir bits. Indeed, all sounds on the album are digital simulations of real instruments, which accounts for the album title. Guitars, keyboards, piano, accordion, trumpet, flute, cello, bass, cymbals, timpanis, and so on, are all fake. I suppose I could have gone for pure electronic sounds only, but I didn’t. Maybe I will on the next album.

The advantage of using simulations is that you don’t have to deal with moody musicians and egos — other than your own, of course. The album is thus also unfiltered by performers’ interpretations, and contains pure compositions. It is music per se subsistere. Or should that be per se esse? Or just per se? Why not music a se? I never could get Latin right.

Anyway, just so there’s no doubt about it, it’s a darned good album. At least I had endless fun making it, although a certain amount of agony was involved, too. But hey, all good art comes from suffering and pain.

Fake Rock clocks in at roughly 40 minutes (classic vinyl length!) and contains twelve tracks:

• Two purple minutes (MIDI version)
• Duh Duh
• Suite 3122, pt. 1 : Verona
• Suite 3122, pt. 2 : Milano
• Suite 3122, pt. 3 : Genoa
• Suite 3122, pt. 4 : Roma
• Street smart
• Four bars
• Piano walk
• Walking guitar
• Will I ever hear from you again?
• Frantic Christmas

The music was composed and created using Melody Assistant, an impressively versatile music programme sold by Myriad Software, which I strongly recommend to anyone interested in making their own music. The finished album was subsequently self-published via TuneCore, a US-based service offering digital distribution to, well, anyone. It’s especially useful to all unsigned fringe artists, indie acts, amateur musicians, home composers, and unsignable musical riff-raff like me!

The Fake Rock album, or any of its individual tracks, can be purchased through iTunes if you live in Europe or the US. It’s not yet available elsewhere, unfortunately.