House of Reminiscence Comments - 08 March 2020

Time for me to talk about a new musical track I made. This track I want to talk about is one I am very proud to finally show the world now. It is called “House of Reminiscence” and is a musical score I composed last year for my friend Doobes’ fan-made world “Veelay Tsahvahn” for Myst Online URU Live. Veelay is a memorial age (worlds are called ages in the game universe) dedicated to all the people in the community that died over the years. The age pays a tribute to them and tells some of their stories. Yesterday marked the release of that world to the public. You can visit and explore it on Gehn Shard.

Naturally, when Doobes asked me if I would like to write music for it, I accepted. The concepts sounded great and he gave me a WIP copy of the age to visit it for inspiration. And inspire me it did! Even that earlier version of it impressed me and gave me some musical ideas as I walked through it. I took in the atmosphere and spirit for a while, then fired up my little home studio and got to work. The challenging part about it was to find a compromise in sating my needs for having some memorizable tune and a bit of an “epic character” but at the same time making sure it won’t annoy a player being in the age for a while. I had to make it long and build slowly because nobody wants to hear something like a two-minute theme on repeat in such a place. Besides, the music should do justice to all the people we want to remember without being too distracting from the experience, let alone annoying.

With the images of the age in my head and always trying to make something that captures the soul of it and blends with it musically, I worked out what I want the song to be. When a player first enters the world, they don’t know the place yet so as they start wandering around and explore, the music should not distract but be more of a more quiet background track. First, I started with that soft synth and the slow but emotional theme played by strings. Something reminiscent. This is a tribute to the dead so I chose a minor scale. However, the melody should not just sound sad but also convey hope and all the positive memories we have of people we lost.

As the music progresses after the first time the theme is heard, a horn picks up the tune and the strings evolve to create a chord progression. Then, of course, I had to bring in the Duduk. It’s such a lovely instrument, a traditional Armenian ethnic woodwind instrument that is used to great effect in the D’ni music of MYST and URU. In a way, we all have come to associate it with the D’ni by now. While a real Duduk still sounds much better, I think the one I have in my virtual instrument collection was sufficient enough to make use of it for this score. The duduk plays another melody alongside the theme to create some new blend until the song reaches the four minute half-time mark and goes quiet again.

Veelay is built around a structure with stairs that lead you the “peak of the age”, the top of the building where books with the names of the dead and their backgrounds are stored. While the final version has an amazing promenade along the water (my favorite part of the age now) that did not exist in the version I first visited, the entire world is basically driving you up those stairs. As you go higher and higher, feelings get more intense and I wanted to represent this driving force of the age design in my music. Ultimately, I wanted the entire song to build up from a soft sad mood to something more majestic and this is what happens in the second half of the song.

With only soft synths keeping up a harmony, there is a short “break of wonder and mystery” created mostly by vibraphones and pizzicato strings, trying to capture the aspect of curiosity and exploration. Then, percussive instruments start to kick in. Now, drums and staccato strings playing a simple three-note tune (that the vibraphones teased before) set a beat for the music. If the character of the age design itself hasn’t forced you up those stairs already, I wanted to make this soft beat my “siren’s call” that makes you go up there.

After several bars of that beat and a repetition with the vibraphones coming back in the song enters a bridge that diverges from the chord progression that has dominated the song so far. The Duduk is back with a solo melody full of pitch bends and drives “the beat” forward to something new. Finally, it all comes together and the main theme is heard with the full range of elements we have seen before. The full orchestra plays, including a very soft choir. Now, for the first time, the Duduk is playing the theme tune. I went for a little trick here that I think worked out really well: In the first part the horn played the theme and the duduk the second melody - now those two changed roles. The horn plays the second tune, more in the background but essential to give it some majestic flavor. When the percussion ends and leaves only the synth it all began with, the circle closes and the song is over.

As I worked on this composition and arrangement, I think I was so in the flow that I completed the entire 8-minute track in about two days. I sent it to Doobes and he loved it and as quickly as it had begun my contribution to the age was complete.

It has been a while but, yesterday, I could finally be there for the unveiling of the final version of the age and the release to the public on Gehn Shard. I think there was a peak of 40 players at the same time exploring the age. I was blown away by how much Doobes, and of course everyone else involved with conceptual and technical aspects, had improved and extended it since the first version I saw. Exploring it with everyone else was a special moment. I also got a lot of positive feedback for the music which tells me I did something right and makes me so proud in the end.

I am happy I got this chance and took it, but what makes me happy the most is that I could play my little part in creating a special legacy for all the souls this world is dedicated to.


Before ending the post, I want to add that I also uploaded some music I made for the Prismatic Imperium, an Elite: Dangerous player group, in a playlist. The piano sheet for my arrangement of Kaydeen’s theme has been added to the music page on my site here as well.

Travel Report: Stockholm Comments - 27 August 2019

Hej allihopa,

for a friend’s german photography website einhunderstel.eu, I wrote a guest article about my trip to Stockholm. Here, I decided to release an English version of that text.

In June, a couple of weeks ago, I was in Stockholm, the beautiful capital of Sweden, for a few days. Why there? Everyone who knows me might know that I am a Madeira fan and that I was on the Portuguese island a couple of times already. Here and there I faced confusion when I said I wanted to go to Stockholm.

The reason for my trip - which, by the way, was my first trip alone without friends or family - was a Sweden-hype that as captured me over a year ago. Actually, everything just started as an experiment. In April 2018, I found the language portal Duolingo on the Internet and, since languages have always fascinated me, I wanted to see how good the site is for learning. When I was 13-14 years old, I tried to teach myself Portuguese. It showed good results at first and I understood grammar rather quickly. However, it failed due to a lack of regular use and confrontation with new vocabulary. Could Duolingo solve that problem? They only had Portuguese in the Brasilian version, so I wanted it to be a Scandinavian language. Since I already counted a couple of Swedish bands among my favorites and was most likely to know Swedes on the Internet, I decided to learn Swedish.

Stockholm

What shall I say, now that I write these lines, I have a streak of 458 days of Swedish on Duolingo. I practiced every day and with all lessons done, I’m just repeating practice mode, by now. I read the news, listen to the radio, and watch movies and series, all in Swedish. Speaking verbally myself is still a bit rough but I dare to consider my experiment a success. It’s a lot of fun and I never would have expected to stay at it for so long.

Naturally, with the language came the Sweden-hype mentioned above and I realized, man, you have to go there! So where to start if not in the capital city? June 2019, here I go!

Stockholm Gamla Stan

There were some things I already knew beforehand. For example that Swedes are very digitized. I had statements from several Swedes that they haven’t used cash in years. So in order not to sit on cash in a foreign currency, I decided not to change anything. Instead, I wanted to pay everything with my phone, if necessary with my debit card, during my six days.

My outward journey was already mostly digital. Train ticket on my phone, flight was checked in online with easyjet. To my surprise, nobody even wanted to see my passport at the Berlin Tegel airport. Unfortunately, the summer holidays had just begun in my home area and the airport was overrun with people. At the security check, I spent over an hour in the queue (that I could only hope would actually end where I expected it to). Everything went fine and on schedule though. With Stockholm not being too far away, in a bit over an hour it feels like you land barely after liftoff.

The weather was perfect. After the heat of 35C in Berlin, about 23C with sun and a few clouds during my time in Stockholm were very comfortable, and also very photogenic.

Stockholm

At the airport already, Sweden captured me as a magical digital country. At first, I stumbled around looking for a place to get bus tickets from the Arlanda Airport into the Stockholm City center, but then I decided to just pull out my phone and, within two minutes, I had a valid ticket as a QR code on my display. Got to the bus, scanned my ticket, and off we went. On the bus, there was free WiFi… Of course… And a display showing infos about the route, current position, and estimated time of arrival. Maybe nothing too special, but at that point, I already never wanted to return to Germany.

My time of arrival was roughly around the rush hour, so congested roads and for some reason they were also constructions everywhere, making even the highway only use one track for some time. The last few hundred meters took fifteen minutes with all the traffic. I looked out of the window and noticed cyclists and e-scooters shoot through the small gap between the bus and a construction fence. Only in the following days did I realize that this high traffic was only noticeable at the time I arrived. Other than that, my impression of Stockholm was actually very unmotorized. Even on what I determined to be main streets cars came only every now and then and not rarely did I wonder why they had traffic lights at all. The most impressive part of the traffic were the bicycles and e-scooters mentioned before. Stockholm and Göteborg (ehem, I mean Gothenburg) both have the London system of a toll when you drive into the city. Everywhere you look, there are cycleways. For e-scooters I saw four different providers - all with the concept: check an app for the closest one, register with your phone, and then it charges an up-front price followed by a minutely rate.

From the bus terminal - yes, it’s actually like a train station with gates to the busses - it took around a quarter of an hour walk along the main street to my hotel. The location was a great selection because I was almost in the center of the city and I could get anywhere by walking. I also got myself the Stockholm Pass before I left home - in my case another QR code that gives me 72 hours of access (starting with the first time I use it) to a lot of museums, sightseeing tours, as well as Hop-On-Hop-Off lines. Subway tickets were not necessary for me.

After my check-in at the hotel, I did not have any big plans for the evening of my arrival day. I just walked around the area and along the nearby riverside quays.

Stockholm

On the next day, I headed for the island of Djurgården. Stockholm consists of many central districts on islands. This is one of them and not far from my hotel. You can find a lot of green areas, parks, and museums. At first, I decided to visit the Vasa museum. It was surprisingly fascinating and I spent more time than I had expected there. The Vasa vessel shows how close success and failure can lie together. Back in its time in the sixteenth century, it was the biggest and most impressive warship, but, due to a construction error, it sank after just a couple hundred meters on its maiden voyage. After more than 300 years on the ground underwater, it was recovered, exhibited, and is now maintained, all with great effort.

Stockholm Vasa

After that I went into the nearby Viking museum, onward to get a snack - that I naturally paid for with my phone too -, and for the rest of the day into the “open air museum” Skansen. You can definitely spend a lot of time there. Skansen offers everything that is typical for Sweden in the form of a park: many traditional houses from different areas, several compounds for Nordic animals, gardens, and old craftsmanship buildings. Everything can be visited to learn more. For children, there are playgrounds, small amusement park attractions, and a petting zoo. The “aquarium” is another little zoo within Skansen that also has non-nordic animals. Furthermore, there is a big stage for events like Allsång (a big music sing-a-long event in the summer). Skansen is absolutely worth a visit and a great place to spend some time at.

Stockholm Skansen

The next day was Midsommarafton. Midsummer is an important holiday in Sweden. The national holiday, Midsommardagen, is always a Saturday around the summer solstice and the Friday before is Midsommarafton, on which many people already have a day off and most of the celebrations seem to take place. Skansen had a special midsummer program on those days. Some museums were closed. My personal plan for the day was to visit the old town - Gamla Stan.

The central districts of Stockholm are all somewhat unique. In the North, there is Norrmalm with the city center and big shopping malls making for a busy impression. To the East, one can find Östermalm, which has higher-class accomodations with buildings that are partially from an era of military officer quarters. The prominent riverside quay and bridge to Djurgården can be found here as well. In the West, you can get to the island of Kungsholmen, on which the famous Stadshus is located. South of the city center, there is the small island of Gamla Stan. It has a very medieval charm, small and tight alleyways, the royal palace, and a whole lot of tourists. Finally, in the South there is Södermalm, which offers a wonderful mix of old and new. Towards the north river, a lot of it is located on heights with beautiful views.

So, on the third day, I went to Gamla Stan first and explored the nice alleyways. The Nobel museum was closed because of midsummer but the different churches were open. I also visited the royal apartments in the palace and missed the changing of the guard, which I could only hear while still inside.

Stockholm Gamla Stan

In the afternoon, I went further south onto the island of Södermalm, where I could observe midsummer celebration crowds. “Mosebacketerassen” was full with people including children celebrating a special entertainment show with music and dance. I did not dare to explore the terrace myself because of the big amount of people streaming into the area that day.

Stockholm Södermalm

Later in the evening, I participated in a sightseeing trip with a bus around the city until I arrived at the royal park. Exploring randomly, I arrived at the St. Jacob’s church and noticed that an organ concert started two minutes earlier. So, I quietly sneaked into the church, got a seat, and listened to the sounds of the organ for about 45 minutes. I even recognized one of the pieces from another version. (By the way, even donations in the church appear to work digitally in Sweden.)

The fourth day was the last one on which I could still use my 72-hour Stockholm Pass, so I started the day with a boat trip and looked at the different city districts from the water.

Stockholm

After the interesting boat trip, I landed on Djurgården once again and went to the Nordic Museum. There are several different exhibitions around nordic topics: fashion, furniture, the Sami people, holidays, jewelry, and toys (even dollhouses). A certainly interesting and diverse visit and less “dull historical” than I expected.

Then, I walked through the great park areas around Skansen, which are all accessible for free and easy to get lost in. You can quickly notice the closeness to nature in Sweden that the Stockholm people are also very proud of. It felt hardly like a big city anymore out there.

Stockholm Djurgården

Going to the west of the city with yet another bus tour, I visited the famous Stadshus around the evening and then started walking back through the city center towards my hotel.

Stockholms Stadshus

Even without a valid Pass it turns out one can see a lot in Stockholm. On the fifth day, I went into the Historic Museum, which is completely free to visit. It was one of the most interesting museums and also something to recommend. There are exhibitions about the history of Sweden, baroque art (with a focus on altars - might have been a special seasonal exhibition but I never saw so many altars in one place before), prehistory, a treasury, as well as a “meta exhibition” about the influence of museums and our own perceptions on historical research and interpretation.

On foot, I strolled onward to the - after the holidays very busy - city center and its malls. Later, arriving in Gamla Stan again, I saw a Norwegian girls’ choir perform a little surprise concert on a plaza.

Stockholm Gamla Stan

I spent the afternoon on Södermalm again. There, I visited Mosebacketerassen, this time without crowds, and explored the beauty of the district. It quickly became my favorite one.

Stockholm Södermalm

As quickly as my trip had begun it also ended and my departure day was there. I had to deal with a bit of a plane delay but nothing bad and, all in all, everything went fine. I found it a bit difficult to depart this lovely city and the heatwave and crowds in Berlin were also not the greatest welcome back highlight.

Summary? My trip to Stockholm was a lot of fun. My goals like only paying with my phone worked perfectly and my impression of Sweden was at least as awesome as expected. The language was something I only had to speak sporadically but it allowed me to read and hear additional information everywhere. Furthermore, I was regularly messaging with a Swede from Gothenburg, who could answer many cultural questions, explain observations or provide more inside information. From him, I also learned a bit about the Midsummer festival.

I can absolutely imagine going there again. Maybe a trip to Gothenburg will also appear on my agenda at some point in the future…

And here you can see my full photo collection:

Stockholm 2019

New Album - Seraphim Comments - 21 December 2018

Today marks the release of my new full album Seraphim: The Ufumuk Invasion - now available on several popular digital platforms. It is my first concept album and a soundtrack to an original science fiction universe. This time, it is not just the music but I also created a free digital companion booklet that outlines the story behind it. The amazing Keith “Tweek” Lord even contributed some special artworks for it. I hope you enjoy it!

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Digital Booklet (PDF)
About the end of ShadowCraft Comments - 31 July 2018

With World of Warcraft Patch 8.0 being live, the ShadowCraft team has made the bittersweet decision to discontinue the webapp. Rfeann has posted a great article about it on Ravenholdt. My full personal statement is here:

I still feel like a child in terms of being on the ShadowCraft team. I already knew and used the tool for a long time but, in early 2017, following Fierydemise’s call for help was what got me started on contributing to the Rogue TC community. Working on the ShadowCraft engine has been fun and I did a bit of work to get outdated parts of it somewhat up-to-speed with the current state of the specs ingame. Outlaw had already been regarded as unsupported because of certain difficulties and time-issues to model the randomness and cooldown reduction elements of it. At least, I wanted to do my part in keeping the other two specs alive.

Since I joined the team, Aeriwen and Tamen have done an amazing job of rewriting the whole ShadowCraft UI with modern react-technology. It was an admirable effort that I was able to follow up on as they progressed. During that time, I got more involved all around the Rogue/TC community and by now am one of the main maintainers for the Rogue module in SimulationCraft, doing a lot of the implementations since 7.2.5, as well as a developer for HeroDamage. Fighting on all these fronts has made me shift priorities and, unfortunately, ShadowCraft suffered from that. I preferred to focus on the accuracy of SimC and helping with frontline research there. Since ShadowCraft got its great new UI, I feel like I did it injustice by not delivering as good an engine it deserved and I am very sorry for that.

The Rogue specs have evolved a lot over the years. Increased complexity made formulations harder while the advantages of simulations and easier simulation access (e.g. via Raidbots) made SimC even more popular. ShadowCraft became mostly a job of updating it to match research already done elsewhere and to match simulations. Ultimately, the end of ShadowCraft comes and is based on both, issues of time-management and priorities. I am glad to have been part of this team of awesome people, even if only for a fraction of its lifetime. I am sure we all keep ShadowCraft in our memory as it will always have its prominent place in the history of Rogue theorycrafting and tools.

The Great Traverse Out Now Comments - 25 May 2018

My first full album “The Great Traverse” is now available on several popular digital platforms. It features new original songs as well as updated versions of previously released singles. It is quite a ride through over an hour of what I have come up with over the last couple of years. I hope you enjoy it.

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