Autopilot Scores

An autopilot, says Wikipedia, is a system used to control the path of an aircraft, car, marine craft or spacecraft without requiring constant manual control by a human operator. Autopilots do not replace human operators. Instead, the autopilot assists the operator’s control of the vehicle, allowing the operator to focus on broader aspects of operations (for example, monitoring the trajectory, weather and on-board systems).

In that spirit, I’ve long wanted to produce ‘autopilot full scores’: that is, full scores of orchestral or choral works which have controls that allow swift and accurate navigation by the reader through the score, without requiring constant manual (and maniacal) page-turning whenever a repeat or a jump is called for. They won’t replace the reader’s intervention completely, but they should be able to let the reader focus on more important things than mere score navigation -like, the spectacular nature of the orchestration being employed by the composer or the economy with which the composer achieves a particular effect or other. [...] 

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“Automated” Music Score Navigation

In a mad fit of recent birthday spending, I decided to shell out rather more than I’d intended on a new Android tablet -the one you can see at the left. It’s a “Chuwi HiPad Plus”, which isn’t a name you’re likely to find tripping off the lips of many any time soon, I think! It is, however, readily available from Amazon UK.

The reason for the purchase? Well: I like listening to my music whilst following along with a full score. I have a bookcase full of such orchestral and operatic scores, and I find that seeing the music as you listen to it very helpful for drawing your attention to this or that nuance of orchestration. Trouble is, orchestral scores are fiendishly expensive to buy new… which is why I’ve long made a habit of trying to buy them second-hand when possible! Even el-cheapo second-hand scores, however, have a tendency to be very big and very heavy, and not something that’s trivially easy to hold whilst listening to music in your favourite comfy chair! [...] 

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Target Achieved!

Back on 5th November, I wrote about how I was steadily listening to more and more of my previously-unplayed (in Giocoso, at least!) recordings. With some graphing and a line or two of best-fit, I predicted I might get to the 50%-unplayed mark by about “December 3rd or 4th” -though with some uncertainties around Benjamin Britten Day and the ever-constant acquisition of new recordings, maybe causing that date to blow out a bit.

Well, the graph at the left tells you the original prediction was fairly accurate after all: the 50% unplayed/50% played mark was finally achieved late on November 30th. [...] 

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Happy Benjamin Britten Day!

The thumbnail at the left will tell those in the know where I have spent the past day: it’s the beach at Aldeburgh, in Suffolk. It was the home of Benjamin Britten and his partner Peter Pears for about 20 years from the late 1950s on.

The reason for the visit now? Well, today is 22nd November, which is St. Cecilia’s Day (Cecilia being the Patron Saint of Music). It also happens to be Benjamin Britten’s birthday! Coincidence? I think not!! [...] 

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Where we’re at…

I thought maybe a ‘year in review’ as regards to listening to music might be in order. It has been almost a year since I wrote and started using the ‘Absolutely Baching Music Player’ or AMP, beginning on January 9th 2021. On June 1st, AMP was superseded by Giocoso. But, using one or the other, I’ve been playing my music in more-or-less randomised form for the best part of a year.

I say ‘more or less’, because -by means of Giocoso’s run-time switches- I’ve been tweaking and influencing what ‘random’ means. For example, when I started playing things in Giocoso on 1st June, it turned out that some 87% of my music collection was listed as having not been played in either player. That is, AMP or Giocoso between them only had records of having played a mere 13% of my music collection. [...] 

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A Musical Guessing Game?

I don’t know about you, but if I tune into the radio randomly as a piece of classical music is playing, I then like to test myself and see if I can guess the composer of the piece before the announcer returns to give away the crucial information. I’ll maybe even try guessing the name of the piece, if I’m feeling particularly confident. Once or twice, I’ve even gone for a guess as to who the conductor or soloist might be: those ones usually don’t pan out so well, but I’m pretty good with composers and not so bad at the piece-names.

Anyway: I’ve been using Giocoso since June 2021 (and AMP for six months before that) to play all my classical music and thus have built up a ‘listening history’ of some 6000+ recordings in just over 9 months, as you can see from the bottom of my ‘all time graphs’ listening history page. And since Giocoso says I’ve listened to all those pieces of music, I ought to be able to recognise them when I hear selections from them again, right? [...] 

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Another Giocoso Update

Just when I thought I’d got away with not having to do lots of updates to Giocoso, I found another bug in the Stats report. This time, it’s a really silly one, based on a flawed piece of selection logic in the program’s code.

The short version is: the Stats report was computing the number of things that have yet to be played by looking for composition names known to exist, but which haven’t yet been recorded as played. That *almost* works (because we’re talking about the ‘extended composition name’, which therefore includes the actual composition name, plus the ‘significant artist’ making the recording, plus the year of recording… so that combo is fairly unique). But it’s not perfect, under edge cases I won’t bore you with. [...] 

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Giocoso – A New Randomising FLAC Player

Today, I’m announcing the initial release of Giocoso, the randomising FLAC player for Linux, which is a replacement for my old AMP program. Giocoso is built on much the same code-base as AMP, but with quite a few changes. The most significant differences between Giocoso and AMP are, probably:

  • AMP scrobbled by default and had to be told not to; Giocoso does not scrobble by default, and has to be told to do so if it’s required.
  • AMP scrobbling required the installation and running of a separate ‘amp-scrobbler’ script. Giocoso uses no external functionality to scrobble: it’s all built-in to the main program.
  • AMP had acquired a bunch of ‘statistical overrides’ (such as ––levelup, ––xlevelup and ––xxlevelup); those are now gone from Giocoso.
  • AMP could only apply ––minduration and ––maxduration filters after selecting something to play. This could result in a significant pause before stumbling across something randomly selected that happened to have the correct duration. Giocoso now knows the durations of pieces from the get-go, so duration-based selections are done successfully within fractions of a second.
  • AMP only displayed album art; when Giocoso displays album art, it adds a ‘caption’ to it, with its text derived from the ALBUM tag of the music being played: the album art can therefore now visually provide you with all information about what, precisely, is being played.

There are lots of other differences, detailed in Appendix A of Giocoso’s User Manual, which is available for download on Giocoso’s new product page[...] 

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Progress…

May has been a month of progress on something I made a New Year’s resolution to do (but then put off for four months!): catalogue the enormous pile of ripped CD files I’ve built up over the past year or so. Click on the graph at the left and you’ll see how I’ve done: I started the month with 485.1GB of music files sitting in the ‘temporary’ area of my hard disk (which has been pretty permanent for at least 2 years now!), in the form of 10,007 individual FLAC files. As of this afternoon, I’m down to 13.6GB and just 625 files. Most of that is a ‘collected works of Messiaen’ box set, which will take ages to catalogue and tag-up properly, because French is slow to type, what with all its accents (but maybe not as slow as German. And definitely way faster than Czech!)

Undertaking all this cataloguing has meant using my own CCDT tagging program, of course. As a result, I decided to make a couple of little changes to CCDT. The important one is a new run-time switch, called ––namereplace. Run CCDT with that in the launching command and CCDT changes the way it handles music files that already have a track title tag. [...] 

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CPU Shenannigans

Fresh from my war with a new mini PC (which I lost, you’ll recall), I remained determined to do something to upgrade my old workstation-class desktop PC. I bought it second-hand a few years ago: it’s a Dell Precision T3610, which is a bit of a monster, and was originally constructed (I think) in around 2012 or 2013: its warranty says it started in February 2014 and expired in February 2017, so it’s somewhere in that ball-park.

It shipped with a Xeon E5-1620 v2 CPU CPU, which was launched in the third quarter of 2013, so that also helps date the machine. That CPU has (inevitably, as far as Intel was concerned back then!) 4 cores and thus 8 threads when hyperthreading was enabled. Nothing too remarkable, but not exactly shabby, either. I think when I bought it, it came with 16GB of RAM: I soon bumped that up to 96GB. So, it’s not memory constrained either! It also shipped with an Nvidia Quadro K4000, which was cutting edge at the time, but has long since been eclipsed by newer graphics cards: since I don’t play games beyond Solitaire, however, I don’t particularly care how out-of-date my graphics capabilities are! [...] 

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