Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ocarina Christmas Carol 4 - a New Year's song

This one's been in my head lately and was really easy to do, especially because I have piano music for it and didn't have to copy it out of a hymnal, like I did the first two. No, it's not a Christmas song, but it still fits the time of year, and I love the words. So, Auld Lang Syne.

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New Year's was more exciting for me when I was little because I would try really hard to stay up late. Now I'm more conscious of the passing of time New Year's symbolizes and what it means for my future. I pray this new year of mine be dedicated to God, because I certainly can't do this on my own. To those of you looking forward to the new year, resolving, trying -- good for you. But for old time's sake, think of the past. Think of the things God has done for you. Think of old friends. And think of how they affect your future.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Creative Projects/Scrivener Review

Home for the holidays means lots of relaxing time for me. I've been in a comfortable sleepy haze which has mostly been spent playing Mario Kart with my brother and visiting friends. Still, I've made room for ocarina practice and finished an ongoing art project. Before I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to be an artist. Interestingly, both these prospective professions were sparked by excellent teachers.

Now I have professors, and though I admire many of them, I'm largely on my own to decide what to do with my career. I'm supposed to be an adult now, after all. I love practicing music. I love drawing. And I love writing. Though I don't doubt that I want to be a writer, I'm starting to worry that my other creative projects might be taking my attention away from writing. It's something I need to practice more than music. It's something for which I need to make long-term goals.

Over my extended family Christmas, I talked to my NaNoWriMo-loving cousin about my novel. It made me realize just how much I love the ideas in my story. Since then, I've been thinking "Hm. I really need to start working on revision." But thinking isn't doing.

Last month, I downloaded the free trial of Scrivener, writing software aimed at breaking down big projects into small pieces. Since the tutorial takes about two hours, I didn't manage to get through it until we started the long drive back to Iowa. Scrivener is a major sponsor of NaNoWriMo, and one of the "winner goodies," at least in past years, is a discount on the software, which is already cheaper for students. My conclusion after going through it was that I'm not ready for Scrivener yet. I'm not at the point in revising where I can start writing scene-by-scene. But once I am ready, I'm getting it.

Scrivener has a ton of features useful for different styles of writing. One writer probably won't use all of them, but there's something for everybody. You can tag different sections by topic or character and then pull out only those sections. You can outline. You can attach different documents to notecards that contain summaries or to-do lists and see what work you have left to do at a glance. You can have documents inside folders which themselves contain text. If you're creative, you can use any number of the tools to work for you. For me, I'd probably have separate documents for all the major scenes in the outline view and then have to-do lists for each of the scenes in the notecard view. I'm particularly intrigued by the ability to track different sections by topics, keywords, or characters -- beasically, whatever you want to tag.

Or you can keep it simple. Outline, write scene-by-scene. Breaking it down is really what it's all about. It appears flexible enough to work not just for novels, but research papers, nonfiction, and other lengthy writing projects.

The only thing I was disappointed in was that the feature for taking notes on different documents just wasn't big or flexible enough for me, which is why I take written notes anyway when typing a story. I need the freedom to write all over the page, draw arrows to things and underline things without having to think about dragging boxes around or formatting. Having to do this by hand is okay by me, though.

If you're interested, I recommend getting the free trial and running the tutorial; after going through it, you'll know what features are good for you and whether or not you want to give it a try for real.

But like I said, I'm not there yet. Today is the day I start revising. I'm reading my novel through for the first time and taking notes on what needs to be done. I'll see what I need to do from there.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ocarina Christmas Carol 3

This week I wanted to do something that would be a little trickier and particularly suited to the ocarina. I thought Fum, Fum, Fum would sound good on such a flutey little instrument.

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I tweaked a few things the second time around to make it a little different. I've also been experimenting with my brand new four hole pendant ocarina from Songbird Ocarinas. It was a Christmas gift, and I'm delighted with it. I'm not confident enough with the new fingering system yet to try this song in it, though.

Being home is very relaxing. I've been baking, visiting friends, and doing a little more Christmas shopping than I'd have liked... but now it's Christmas. It's another day with the family -- and that's all I need.

Merry Christmas -- for real this time!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ocarina Christmas Carol 2

This weekend I'm at my grandparent's house, getting ready to enjoy extended family Christmas. Recorded from my grandma's office, here is Away in a Manger, two versions in fact.

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I'm proud to say that I didn't need nearly as many takes to get a decent version of this one, though I was interrupted by my mother asking me to look up the Alton Brown recipe for standing rib roast (Alton Brown's Good Eats is one of my favorite things ever).

Though I'm really excited to see all my family, I'm still in Indiana, and I can't wait to get back home to Iowa. In the meantime, I'm enjoying myself, despite the fact that people in Ft. Wayne are crazy drivers. So soon -- home! Until then, merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ocarina Christmas Carol 1

As promised, here's my first Christmas song on my ocarina.

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Even though it's pretty easy, I could still tell I was improving as I practiced. When I walked back from the music building where I recorded it, the ocarina came off its neck strap and fell on the sidewalk. I was momentarily terrified, but the glaze only chipped a bit. Thank goodness it's sturdy!

I haven't really done a post about writing in a while. I'm trying to get started on revising this year's NaNovel, which is something I've never done before. Last summer I gave a halfhearted attempt at revising last year's NaNovel, and I didn't get very far. Right now, I'm testing out Scrivener, some pretty interesting writing software I think might work for me. Expect posts on that soon. In the meantime, I wish you a merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Music and Goals

This is our last weekend for performances of A Christmas Carol. Our last show is tomorrow afternoon, and I'm sure I'll be both happy and sad it's over. I'll miss the community of it, but now I might have time for community in some other things.

NaNoWriMo is also over, which takes one big chunk of work out of my life. Finals are two weeks away, but right now, I've got some room to think about things and plan.

I've realized lately what goals can do in a person's life. Deadlines have become significant to me through NaNoWriMo and the warnings of my writing professor ("'Deadline' is a literal, not a figurative, term. It means 'pass this line, and you're dead.'"), but goals are a way of putting deadlines with some positive connotations in your life. It means something you've wanted to accomplish is finished. It means you've improved yourself or your skills.

To that effect, there's something I've been working on lately. I love music. I have a decent voice and I play flute, but I've always wanted to play piano. I started practicing by myself in high school, but I think I've improved a lot with the free access to practice rooms here. It may not be Billy Joel's Dublinesque, (which I will be able to play before I die!) but this is a song I've been practicing for some time. It's A Day Without Rain, by Enya, not without some mistakes. I also need to get out of the habit of looking at my hands, but I'm happy with what I've accomplished.

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So, with setting music goals in mind, I've got another idea. I own an ocarina which I don't play very often. (Yes, they exist outside the realm of Hyrule.) In light of the Christmas season, I plan to learn a new Christmas carol every week and post it here to the blog. I still need to pick what songs I'm going to do, but I'm excited to have a new goal and to be working toward something.