Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Life and Works of Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach was one of many Johanns in his family. His parents died when he was an older kid, leaving him to be raised by older siblings. He was a musical genius fairly early on and he knew it. He had 20 kids and bounced around a few esteemed musical jobs before settling in Leipzig.

I had always thought of him as a "Lepzig guy". However, it appears here that he was primarily the "family man" there. A lot of his more wild years and creative output happened earlier in his career where he worked in other cities in Germany. During his time, he seemed to be well renowned as an accomplished musician, yet not nearly venerated the way he is today. He managed to keep incredibly busy, teaching, performing and composing, while also having a large family. Here he is portrayed as a boisterous man, capable of having a good time, yet fairly socially inept. He would tutor individual students while writing great works for others. He has a produced a very significant output. However, there are some works credited to him that may not actually be his. (He kept notebooks of music for others that included some of his own work as well as those of others.

What would Bach be like today? Perhaps a David Byrne or Peter Gabriel? Or maybe a Yo-Yo Ma? Nah. He'd probably just be a pop-punk musician that incorporates some Organ with his guitar.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Praise of Folly

In Praise of Folly uses humor to present a scathing critique of 16th century society. Erasmus personifies "folly" and notes how well she is respected by people. Folly does not need a whole lot of additional praise because people give her so much respect. Erasmus is at his best when he carries things to their absurdity. (We all must be fools, because we were the offspring of people that were foolish enough to get married.)

The first part is the best. Closer to the end he starts to get more critical of the church and society. However, even in his "serious" sections, some of the dark humor remains.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Converting Overdrive WMA to MP3

I love to listen to audiobooks on my Android phone. My local library has a bunch to check out. Most are in MP3 format. With those, I run them through some SOX scripts to speed them up (and reduce their size.) WMA files are a different story.

There are a few options:
1) Transfer to iPhone, then use a program to pull the files off the phone. (sort of works, but requires an iPhone)
2) Use a tool to DRM from WMA and another to convert to MP3. (Looked at it, but the tools either look sketchy or require Windows XP)
3) Burn to CD and rip. (Some software automates this with virtual cds, but there is a mixture of shareware, sketchiness and convoluted here.)
4) Record the file as you play it.

I opted for 4. This also had the bonus of including the speedup step in one fell swoop.

First, I updated my sound drivers to try to get "stereo mix". However, now it was called "Rec. Playback". I had to right click on the volume task bar icon to bring up "recording devices. Then right click in empty area to "show disabled devices". Then enable RecPlayback. It still didn't say it worked (even when I set it as default.) But Audacity seemed to work, so I was happy.

Install Audacity http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
(To export MP3 files, you will need to install LAME. When you export for the first time, it will give a link to download. On my system, the file was placed in: C:\Program Files (x86)\Lame For Audacity)

In Audacity, under Preferences, select default sample rate of 11025 Hz under Quality.
Under devices, select the appropriate input stream (Microsoft Sound Mapper - Input) and change to 1 Channel. (Mono)

Adjust volume to a comfortable level. (I set it fairly low.) Plug in headphones so you don't hear it.

Go to Overdrive or Windows Media. On the "Play Speed" time icon, select Fast 2X Normal (or whatever speed sounds good for the book.)

Go to Audacity and hit record.

Go to Overdrive and hit play.

Make sure you so some output on the Audacity screen. Stop both. Play audacity output and verify that it sounds ok.

Now delete the audacity project and start over.

Let it run overnight (or however long it needs to go to finish playing it all.)

In the morning, stop Audacity if it is done.

Now tweak the audacity project.

If there is a bug chunk of silence at the end, delete that. (Select the range then Edit->Delete)

Normalize the volume: (Select All, then Effect->Normalize)

To split into smaller tracks, you can find silence (Analyze-Silence Finder) This may take some tweaking. I used 1.5 dB, 1 second and .5 seconds for the values.

File->Export Multiple
Select Split Files based on labels and check "Include audio before first label"
Use MP3. Options: 32Kbps, Joint Stereo. For naming, pick one method that works well. (I use numbering after prefix)
Click Export and then the tag screen will appear. Enter the info.
If you don't mind having all tracks have the name "S", just click ok a bunch of times.
It pays to upload to a single folder.

Now the folder of tracks can be uploaded to the phone and enjoyed.