F# Minor: Brought to You by Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy and Randy

It turns out that “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne is in F# minor. What?! (See Ozzy and his hardworking guitarist Randy Rhoads above). Here it is confirmed on MusicNotes.com.  Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about F# minor:

Very few symphonies are written in this key, Haydn’s Farewell Symphony being one famous example. George Frederick Bristow and Dora Pejačević also wrote symphonies in this key.

The few concerti written in this key are usually premiere concerti written for the composer himself to play, including Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Scriabin’s Piano Concerto, Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto No. 1, Vieuxtemps’s Violin Concerto No. 2, and Koussevitzky’s Double Bass Concerto.

In addition to the Farewell Symphony, Haydn’s Piano Trio No. 40 (Hob. XV:26) and String Quartet Op. 50, No. 4 are in F-sharp minor.

Mozart’s only composition in this key is the second movement to his Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major.

And, of course, Crazy Train.

Below are two video renditions.

Dusting off My Saxophone

Zoot the Muppet

When I was in junior high school, my parents bought me a lovely alto saxophone and I started playing in the junior high and then high school bands. Mostly it was a lot of honking and such, but I had fun. I tried playing a little more in college but quickly gave up on that. I essentially put my horn away more than 20 years ago.

Then, for Christmas last year, Jacque (you know, my wife) took my horn to a repair person. Over the decades it had become torqued (a natural thing for saxophones to do, what with all the holes on one side) and essentially unplayable. It got completely disassembled, straightened out, tightened up, and made fabulous all over again!

A few months after that, I decided that I needed to take lessons again. And so, on 29 May 2013, at 2:00 PM, I met with David Hall – the same man who resurrected my horn – and recommenced my musical training.

The good news is that I could actually play a little. I could even get a reasonable tone out of it. Woo hoo! And now, I could say much more, but I have to go practice.

MMJ4M 05: Interactive Ear Training

Chapter 05 of VJ Manzo‘s book Max/MSP/Jitter for Music is about constructing an application for ear training with musical intervals. I have separate screenshots for each of the twelve steps in this exercise but I’ve condensed them into a single video below.


  • Max/MSP/Jitter for Music, Ch. 05: Interactive Ear Training (12 exercises)
  • Patches can be downloaded from http://db.tt/GBYLb0vY (Dead Link)
  • UPDATED LINK: Patches can now be downloaded from http://j.mp/1iy19Xl

MMJ4M 04: Scales and Chords

After a long, long time, I’m back and working on Max/MSP/Jitter. (I’ve got to get these incompletes finished!) I started chapter 4 of VJ Manzo‘s excellent book Max/MSP/Jitter for Music over a year ago and just finished it today. What’s funny  is how much my interests have changed since then – I’m much more interested in Max for music now than in using it just as a stepping stone to Jitter and data visualization. My goal is also to start using Max/MSP to work with my saxophone, as well as Ableton Live. Many, many good things.

Anyhow, that’s Chapter 04: Scales and Chords for now. Screenshots are above, YouTube links are below.


  • Max/MSP/Jitter for Music, Ch. 04: Scales and Chords (21 exercises)
  • Patches can be downloaded from http://db.tt/GBYLb0vY (Dead Link)
  • UPDATED LINK: Patches can now be downloaded from http://j.mp/1iy19Xl

Wub Wub Wub

Okay, so I discovered dance music a few months ago. I’ve got my big headphones on and I’m listening to very loud dubstep. To quote Lyle Lovett (in another context), “that doesn’t make me a shallow person, does it?”

You don’t really have to answer that question, you know.

MMJ4M 03: Math and Music

I’m going cross-eyed now that I’ve finally finished working through the fourteen thousand exercises in Chapter 03 of VJ Manzo‘s book Max/MSP/Jitter for Music. (Well, it felt like fourteen thousand. And, as VJ may drop in on this post, I’d like to emphasize that it’s an excellent book and very thorough. I think I just tried to do too many at one go.) Anyhow, after an extended break to work on other pressing matters (like an academic job application), it’s nice to be back into things. I can tell that Max has many, many more things in store for me.

That being said, here’s my progress report in pictures and video.


  • Max/MSP/Jitter for Music, Ch. 3: Math and Music (15 exercises)
  • Patches can be downloaded from http://db.tt/GBYLb0vY (Dead Link)
  • UPDATED LINK: Patches can now be downloaded from http://j.mp/1iy19Xl

In Praise of Multitaskers

I’m listening right now to “Central Park in the Dark” by Charles Ives. And while he may not have been a multitasker in the purest sense, I love Ives because he was phenomenally successful in his music (even though much of it was never performed while he was alive) and in his day job as — of all things — an insurance agent. (In fact, I understand that Ives’ work in estate planning is taught to this day.) Nice to see the analytical and artistical (a neologism in the spirit of Ogden Nash) coexisting so nicely. I’ve always admired his music so much because he was just too enthusiastic to be restricted by things like harmony and time signatures — a joyful, exuberant cacophony. (See, especially, the “orchestral raspberry” at the bombastic end of his Symphony No. 2. You can see and hear Leonard Bernstein conducting this piece on YouTube right here. The fun begins at 11:30 (where the brass come in) and peaks at the very end, at 12:38. Whee!)

And, while we’re at it, it looks like Ives was also an accomplished athlete, having been the team captain and pitcher for the Hopkins Grammar School baseball team:

Way to go, Charles!