July 28th, 2004


Musical stuff ...

Last night instead of going to bed, I fiddled with making music to match the fully animated title sequence for Federica Giulietti's cartoon series concept Angelina. She has the animation up on that page (in the Promo section) currently with Beethoven music over it, but the beats don't match the animation of course. The animation originally was made to match to the theme of the Beetlejuice cartoon.

So I wrote something that fits the animation equally. She loves it, and said she'll work on adding the appropriate sound effects and matching it all up. The first note of music should begin right as Angelina's paw hits the ground. Anyway, you can hear what I did here -- an MP3 of the MIDI file, to ensure that it sounds the way I hear it locally (given the number of different instruments playing):

Newer file here now, with Shadow's laugh (which I recorded myself), some bat sound effects and a percussion track which really adds a lot to the music and animation. Also I re-did the voices so they're now smoothly gliding through the chromatic lines -- sounds like one long "whoooooaaaaa" note now instead of a chromatic scale.


Also on the MIDI front, I have a newer sequencer and now can send SysEx commands. I know now how to make my Yamaha SYXG50 SoftSynthesizer to emulate Roland TG300B for compatibility with most Roland-compatible sound cards and the extra instruments available. So I went to town on some MIDI files that needed work.

One of them is music from Kiki's Delivery Service. An old MIDI file I had was produced for the Roland MT-32 sound module, before the General MIDI standard. As a result, when playing on a modern MIDI device, you got weird things like a brass section sound playing the mandolin part...

So, I re-mapped all the instruments correctly, using my own old MT-32 sound module and the DVD of the film to figure out what part should be what instrument. Of course, General MIDI doesn't include a mandolin, so this does require a Roland GS-compatible wavetable device (any Soundblaster AWE/Live/Audigy will do, plus I include SysEx commands to make a Yamaha SoftSynthesizer use the Roland GS instrument map). Without that support, you may not hear the mandolin and 12-string guitar sounds, or they will be played by steel guitar. Also you may not hear the castanets at the end in the percussion track. If your MIDI device doesn't obey Expression controls, all the swells and most instrument volume levels will be way off too... but most modern computers should have a decent GS or Yamaha compatible synth in them, so give it a try:


The original MT-32 rendition of this file was made by someone in Japan, but as the name and everything was in SJIS encoding within the MIDI file, I can't read it. It's an old file -- before the wonders of Unicode!

So, on the better-instruments kick, I discovered that "Acoustic Piano 4", as a subset of "Honky-Tonk Piano", made a much better saloon-piano sound, plus a subset of the Tuba sound made a brassier tuba, and a better drumkit ... well, it really brought this MIDI file of Bag of Rags to life. I don't remember who had sent me this file in email years ago. It's a fun rendition of a fun piece, and now sounds even better, at least on my computer's Yamaha SoftSynthesizer:


Alas, even the expanded instrument map doesn't include a banjo-ukulele, so my old strum.mid example of tap-strumming on a banjo-ukulele still has to use a banjo sound, but I found that changing it to the "Muted Banjo" made it sound much more like a banjo-ukulele:


And hey! The expanded instruments include a Hawaiian `ukulele, so I modified the strum to use that (if your device doesn't support these sounds, you'll hear a nylon string guitar here):


In these strums, the strings are actually played in their correct order as they would sound when strummed by a right-handed `ukulele player. So, in theory, I could use this as a basis for any chord, just by changing the notes to match whatever order the strings would be played for a given chord, and thus successfully include an `ukulele part in a MIDI file some time... The real challenge would be in using the banjo-ukulele tap-strumming MIDI file to produce a reasonable banjuke solo part, for doing a George Formby song or something! Maybe someday ...

ooh I forgot one...

I went to town on this one -- most of the instruments are part of the extended instrument set. This will still sound OK on a General MIDI device, but on the XG (and presumably on any GS-compatible wavetable), it really comes alive. I'm using three different pipe organ sounds, for the two manuals and the pedals; two different versions of slow-strings (neither of which is the default bank), for the melody and countermelody; and a slow-attack violin for the solo.

I've long believed this to be the most beautiful piece of music ever composed.


It's by Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni. You've no doubt heard it used in various places before.

Like the Kiki's Delivery Service file, I did not make this MIDI file, but modified its instrument registration (well, for Kiki I also corrected the tempo) to support instrument sounds beyond the antiquated General MIDI standard.