The Swedish and EU flags were made from the first two official Inkscape tutorials.

I gave myself the Andy Warhol treatment following this tutorial.

The chrome letter effect was made by following a video tutorial over at youtube.

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I’m new to Inkscape and have been trying a small handful of tutorials I’ve found online. In the middle of a compass-making tutorial, while trying to use “Path to Pattern Effect”, I ran into the following wall:

The fantastic lxml wrapper for libxml2 is required by inkex.py and therefore this extension. Please download and install the latest version from http://cheeseshop.python.org/pypi/lxml/, or install it through your package manager by a command like: sudo apt-get install python-lxml

Confession: I missed the Open Source boat, more or less. I have no taste for code. I consider myself fluent on my Mac, but Java, Python, Terminal, it’s all, well, not exactly Greek to me, but it is rather foreign. At the same time, I see that more and more people are obtaining a certain fluency in these languages, and I also understand that there’s considerable overlap from one to another, so that what one learns of a particular code language is like a dialect of another. One advantage of being an American expat in this regard is that I’ve become adept at listening to a conversation in a foreign language (in my case, Latvian) and picking up the gist of it even though I may lose the details.

As I said, I’m new to Inkscape. I’m working on a multi-movement, electroacoustic multimedia piece, and have decided that for one of the movements one of the things I want to try is use Inkscape and Processing to create an animated graphic score to be projected before the audience that the musicians will also read.

I spent most of the day working on fixing this problem. And there were plenty of forum posts about this issue, but the only one I found that seems to have resolved it suggested an upgrade to the development version of Inkscape (0.47), but that alone did not do the trick for me. So here’s the sum total of everything I did that DID work for me, plus how I would do it now, knowing what I do know.

Inkscape. First of all, looking at the contents of the Inkscape application (Control-Click on Inkscape.app/Show Package Contents/Contents/Resources), I could see that the extensions Inkscape was looking for were not present. I upgraded to Inkscape development ver. 0.47. The necessary extensions were not there either. Strike one.

Python. Maybe since the extension is related to Python (or at least that what I thought), I need to upgrade Python? Upgraded to Python 3.1. No change. Clearly, I don’t know what I’m doing.

X11. At some point, somewhere, I read that I should upgrade X11 (necessary for Inkscape to run on a Mac) to X-Quartz 2.4.0. No change. Sigh. Hit the desk.

Macports. Somewhere along the line, I stumble upon Macports. “The MacPorts Project is an open-source community initiative to design an easy-to-use system for compiling, installing, and upgrading either command-line, X11 or Aqua based open-source software on the Mac OS X operating system. To that end we provide the command-line driven MacPorts software package under a BSD License, and through it easy access to thousands of ports that greatly simplify the task of compiling and installing open-source software on your Mac.” Sounds good to me! I install version 1.8, and follow the guide for the first three chapters. I poke around, am able to look at ports, find Python lxml and libxml2 ports but am getting an error (I forget now what it was, but I googled it at the time and didn’t feel particularly enlightened) when I try to install. Back to the guide. By Chapter 4 I feel lost.

Porticus. Again, somewhere along the line I discover Porticus, “a Cocoa GUI (Graphical User Interface) for the MacPorts package manager. MacPorts provides ready to build open-source software packages modified to compile and run on Mac OS X. The MacPorts project provides a TCL command line tool to manage installation, update and activation of the port packages. Porticus provides a GUI front-end to this tool.” Now we’re talking! No code! I try it, find the find Python lxml and libxml2 ports but am still getting an error. For some reason, because I was given the error not in Terminal but in Porticus, I don’t feel so stupid.

Back to Macports.org, this time to the FAQ page, because I can’t believe what they’re calling a guide over there is guiding anyone. There, I read: “You need to install Xcode. Ensure you include both X11SDK and Unix Development. Some ports need newer versions of Xcode than that which ships with the OS, and will fail to install due to that requirement. Xcode is not updated via Software Update, you have to download it manually. To do so, go to http://connect.apple.com/ and log in with your ADC information (the free online account is enough to get access to Xcode). Once you log in, go to Downloads, then select Developer Tools on the right section under Downloads. You can then search for Xcode (there are quite a few versions available, make sure to get the latest for your OS version).”

Sure enough, I do a search on my Mac, and don’t find X11SDK. I head over to Apple Development and download and install Xcode 3.1. If you do the basic install, you get the Unix Development package automatically. I manually installed X11SDK, which is part of the same .dmg file.

I go back to Porticus and try installing the ports again. Voilà! 12 ports show up (the necessary ports and their dependencies). I fire up Inkscape again, and finally, FINALLY! No error message! It worked!

So, if I had to do it again, I would start by going directly to the ADC site and get Xcode. Download Macports if you don’t have it. I realized after the fact that if I had followed the instructions here, I would not have needed Porticus.

This all may become quite moot if you upgrade to Snow Leopard. I don’t know yet. My Snow Leopard disc is in the mail. But if you do, Xcode 3.2 is already at the ADC site for Snow Leopard. In any case, enjoy the stupid compass.

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This is not a new debate among us composers, not at all, and like the differences between Apple and PC users, the typical user of either Sibelius or Finale has rarely wanted to bother jumping on the other learning curve after having mastered the program they use. But this has been a year of stepping on learning curves for me.

I’ve been a Finale user for a LONG time, since grad school back in Minnesota. After some failed experiments with SCORE (anyone remember that?) in the early 1990s on an IBM 386 (or those?) I drifted over to Apple and to Finale, and began using Finale for my own work and as a a semi-pro copyist while still working on my thesis (around 1994). There is, by the way, a freeware notation program that, at first glance, seems reminiscent of score, called Lilypond. Anyway, I’ve gone through many incarnations of Finale. Or perhaps I should say only a few. There have been a woefully small handful of significant upgrades in the decade since they started doing annual upgrades of their software (the introduction of Smart Shapes comes to mind), and I would typically let a year or more go by in between upgrades before purchasing one myself. The most recent break was between Finale 2006 and now Finale 2010. For which I completely regret dropping $200. Not to mention because of the added shipping cost to Latvia (which is a completely different but regularly maddening story). In the four years that passed by, they managed to move several menu items or tools to unfamiliar places, and beyond that, I fail to see much difference between them. There are a handful of minor improvements, to be sure, as with the Rehearsal Markings, for example. But nothing that made me have that “cool!” moment.

In fact, one day when I spent quite some time hunting down some tool that had been moved, in frustration I went to Sibelius’ website, and there I had that “cool!” moment. I was impressed with two things in particular: self-adjusting graphic elements and integration with Rewire. I purchased the competitive upgrade of Sibelius 6 for Finale users and await my copy of the software and extra manual as I write (I had to have it shipped to my Dad in North Carolina who will in turn ship it to me).

In Finale, one spends a great deal of time simply moving stuff around. Actually, control over the look of crescendos and decrescendos had been better in earlier versions of Finale. But the incorporation of Rewire into Sibelius was really the deciding factor.

One of the things I had been avoiding for quite some time was engagement with technology. I used Finale, and that was it. The big advances in digital audio were just ramping up as I was just leaving grad school, and most of the work I did in the Analog and Digital sequence at the U of Mn quickly became dated anyway.

But during the past couple of years I have been working up my familiarity with several programs (some with more success than others). So much so that I recently attempted, for the first time, an electroacoustic piece. I used Apple’s Logic 8 Express and Propellerhead’s Reason 4.0 to make the electronic score, and used Finale (without Rewire) to create a notated trumpet part.

The process of composing the trumpet part would have been quite simplified if Finale had Rewire, since Reason already slaves easily to Logic. But as it stood, I would 1.) write some of the trumpet part, notate it in Finale, 2.) save the Finale file as a MIDI file, 3.) import the MIDI file into Reason, 4.) assign a sound to the imported MIDI data, in this case a Combinator trumpet patch, 5.) check how the trumpet part gibed with everything else, 6.) delete the MIDI data in Reason, 7.) make changes to the trumpet part in Finale, and go back to step #2.

Since my next commission is for another electroacoustic piece, this time with flute quartet, I decided to use all that time I would spend navigating around Finale’s shortcomings to learning Sibelius instead.

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I haven’t written a proper blog entry in quite some time, for several reasons.

I changed my website to a blog format back in 2005/6 so I could relate my experiences as an American expat living in Latvia, and for about a year or so I was able to write about my experiences here with a kind of virtual (pun intended) anonymity, partially shielded by my writing in English and partially shielded by my outsider status here in Latvia. I wasn’t a known commodity, and was thus below many local radars. My audience (such as it is) was American. Or at least in my mind it was. But over time, I realized that sure enough, people here in Latvia were reading my commentaries. And those that discovered it and could read English were of course willing to translate for others if it seemed appropriate. I said nothing particularly scathing (well, maybe a little, but never personal), but I was still trying to write honestly. As time passed and I’d had good professional experiences as well as bad ones, I began to feel constrained against writing about the warts.

Here’s an SAT style analogy for you: The New Music community in New York is to archipelago as The New Music community in Latvia is to Melrose Place.

Reason number two: Since I moved here, I got remarried and had two kids. Nothing takes time away from things that feel even a little bit peripheral than that.

Anyway, I say all that to say this: I have a big project involving lots of tech stuff in the works, where I’d like to open up the process a little bit and also benefit from the experience of others who may care to share their advice or guidance. I’ll leave the actual beginning of that topic to the the next entry. Until then.

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cdahl
Mezzo Soprano Christina Dahl, along with pianist Thomas Buur, will give the Danish premiere of my So, We’ll Go No More a-Roving, a setting of a text by Lord Byron, on Tuesday, September 8 at 7PM at the Kulturcenter Kongensgade 111 in Fredericia, Denmark.

I met and worked with Christina this July in Norberg, Sweden at the Networking Camp for Composers and Musicians (see my earlier post, Nätverksläger för tonsättare och musiker at KlackbergsgÃ¥rden, in Norberg, Sweden, July 27-August 1).

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The following reviews are of the San José Chamber Orchestra’s performance of my Weaving Olden Dances: Concerto for Chamber Orchestra that took place at Le Petit Trianon Theater (72 N. 5th Street) in downtown San José, California on Saturday August 29, at 8PM and Sunday August 30, at 7PM.

NEW WORK, OLD DANCES, ELVIRA’S CONCERTO
By Paul Hertelendy
artssf.com, the independent observer of San Francisco Bay Area music and dance
Week of Aug. 31-Sept. 7, 2009
Vol. 12, No. 5
Read the full review here.

The clever idea of a commissioning consortium enables several groups around the country (and not just one) to present a new work om concert. The San José Chamber Orchestra opened its season with the West Coast premiere of New Yorker Charles Griffin’s “Weaving Olden Dances,” part of a merry-go-round taking the dances to four different venues spanning both coasts. It’s a big 31-minute, four-movement work of modern sounds laid over traditional forms—a well-made piece avoiding the expected clichés.

Griffin, 41, enters skillfully into disparate realms. An agitated timpani opening suggests an action movie, giving way to a perpetual-motion ostinato that the composers says was inspired by the gamelan. The Pavane section that follows is lovely, escapist romanticism soaring skyward. The third movement is the most overtly dance-like, with the orchestra parroting the broad strums of the flamenco guitar running through modes as well as the beat of the zapateado dance—a latino tap dance without the tap shoes. The finale, after Irish models, is a joyous noise rushing to a climax. The format idea is derived from the dance suites so prevalent 300 years ago.

There were various solos within this concerto for orchestra, none more notable nor more praiseworthy than on viola (Eleanor Angel) and cello (Lucinda Breed Lenicheck).

Altogether, “Weaving Olden Dances” is an effective work with definite audience appeal. And Music Director Barbara Day Turner led it with high energy, nuance and consistency.

A MODEL OF DIVERSITY: SAN JOSÉ CHAMBER ORCHESTRA OPENER
By Gary Lemco
The Classical Music Guide Online
Read the full review here.

The musical surprise came in the form of Griffin’s four-movement Concerto for Chamber Orchestra, which might be a distant cousin of pieces like Cowell’s Persian Set. A sort of Baroque dance-suite, the music opened with a Trance Overture, in the manner of the gamelan orchestra of Bali, percussive, chiming, clangorous, brash, and declamatory. Long pedal points punctuated the interlocking rhythmic impulses. Some might have thought this music composed by Villa-Lobos. The second movement, Pavane, sounded like a medieval “chest” or “consort” of instruments, utilizing a concertante violin to intone a 13th-century cantus firmus called Novus Miles Sequitur. The third movement, Tierra de luz, Cielo de Tierra, enjoyed a concertante cello opening. The music became quite syncopated, often touching upon the world of Ginastera”˜s Estancia ballet. At its climax, the music became a fugue in flamenco style. The last movement, Weaving Olden Dances, began with a viola that lisped in Irish accents, inviting us to a fierce gigue or reel that incorporates Sean Nos and Appalachian dance elements, allusions to the music for Braveheart and Aaron Copland. Almost every member of the orchestra had a virtuoso, solo run or riff to offer the color of his contribution. Eclectic it was certainly-so even Bartok may have had a hand in it-ending with something like a sea-shanty in Technicolor. But, that it was a successful vehicle for Turner and her SJCO there could be no doubt.

JON NAKAMATSU AND MOZART’S PIANO CONCERTO NO. 21 – A HEAVENLY PAIRING
By Richard Scheinin
San José Mercury News
Read the full review here.

The bulk of the program’s first half was devoted to a new work by Charles B. Griffin, a native New Yorker who lives in Latvia. A nomadic, international sensibility informs his “Weaving Olden Dances: Concerto for Chamber Orchestra,” which draws inspiration from Indonesian, French, flamenco and Irish/Appalachian dance forms.

Commissioned by a consortium of American orchestras (including the San Jose Chamber Orchestra), the work unfolds in four movements.
The first echoes the jig-sawed structure and rhythms of the Balinese gamelan; its highlight is a sinuous and long-lined solo for violin (Cynthia Baehr, here), composed in the manner of Lou Harrison. The second movement, a Pavane, built from a 13th century hymn, is lushly elegiac. The final movements, respectively, draw on flamenco and Celtic melodies – rhythm-charged, but remarkably generic, as if inspired by World Music 101 classes.
Hats off to Day Turner (who has devoted much of her career to performing music of living composers) and the orchestra’s many soloists (i.e. Bruce Foster, such an expressive clarinetist) for giving this piece a shot.

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SJCO

The San José Chamber Orchestra’s Season Opening Concerts will feature pianist Jon Nakamatsu playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto #21 in C major, and the West Coast premiere of my Weaving Olden Dances: Concerto for Chamber Orchestra.

These performances, led by conductor Barbara Day Turner, are part of a series of performances by various American chamber orchestras who co-commissioned the piece. The concerts will take place at Le Petit Trianon Theater (72 N. 5th Street) in downtown San José, California on Saturday August 29, at 8PM and Sunday August 30, at 7PM.

Ticket prices are $30-$45 ($10 students) and can be ordered on line at: www.sjcotickets.org

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flyeri_karodzinni
Commissioned by Liepājas Osta (The Port of Liepāja) to commemorate the reconstruction and reopening of the Karosta Swing Bridge, Between Islands, a new electroacoustic work for trumpet will be performed by Olexijs Demchenko and me on August 28 at the site of the Karosta Bridge as the two parts of the swing bridge are reconnected for the first time in two years. The performance will take place at 6:30, following a 5PM processional from Rozu Laukums in the Liepāja city center to the bridge site.

The bridge is a uniquely designed swing bridge, and was completely destroyed by a ship two years ago, just short of what would have been the bridge’s 100th anniversary, and destroying the main access-way between the main city of Liepāja and the district of Karosta (the Naval Port in the region during the Soviet Era).

Between Islands is scored for Bb Trumpet and both prerecorded and live electronics. The prerecorded electronics were created or manipulated with Apple’s Logic and Propellerhead’s Reason software programs, and I will process the audio signal from the trumpet in real time using Korg’s Kaoss Pad 3.

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norberg
At a conference in Helsinki in October 2008, I met Swedish composer Martin Larsson, who told me about a pilot project he was running in Norberg, Sweden with guitarist Patrik Karlsson called Networking Camp for Composers and Musicians, a 5-day intensive workshop where 5 composers and approximately 25 musicians come together. The composers each write a new piece every day for some combination of musicians, followed by an evening performance of the works and a final concert some months later in VästerÃ¥s Concert Hall. Geared toward post-graduate professionals and not limited to contemporary classical music, it’s an opportunity to explore, to simplify, to step out of one’s comfort zone, and to expand one’s network.

I invited Martin and Patrik to come to Latvia and speak to members of the Latvian Composers Union about the possibility of expanding this project so that participants could apply from throughout the Baltics and Scandinavia with the goal that the camp would next take place in Latvia, with me as the local administrator. We successfully applied to Kulturkontakt Nord for €10,000 to hold the camp outside Liepāja, Latvia in the summer of 2010.

This July I will go to Sweden as a composer participant so I can experience the camp first-hand. All the better to administrate next year, my dear.

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GastesiBezerraDuo The Piano Duo Gastesi-Bezerra will perform the entirety of my suite of pieces for piano four-hands From the Faraway Nearby, inspired by paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe in Brazil in July.

On July 18, the duo returns to the beautiful Pinacoteca Benedicto Calixto in Santos under the auspices of the Centro de Expansão Cultural. The program will also include Mozart’s Variations in G Major, Edino Krieger’s Sonata, Mendelssohn’s Variations in B-Flat Major, Debussy’s Petite Suite and and a new work by Dinah Menezes.

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