The WX5 as a MIDI input device

To date, my time with the WX5 MIDI wind controller has focused on the performance aspect. Last night I had a opportunity to explore some new territory. 

I have always enjoyed producing arrangements of music for use by students or my woodwind quintet.  One of the time consuming tasks that a music arranger or composer needs to deal with is data entry into notation software. There are a variety of methods to accomplish the data input: mouse, step time recording (one note at a time via a MIDI instrument), real time MIDI input, scanning (& following copyright requirements!), pitch recognition or use a public domain MIDI file. 

The mouse and step time entry methods are the most time consuming, but also the most accurate. This is of course cumbersome when working on a large score. The real time MIDI input method is much faster if you can achieve a level of accuracy that keeps the data clean up minimized. I have done lots of music entry with a MIDI keyboard, but certainly as an experienced clarinetist, being able to enter data through the WX5 would be even more efficient. 

I set out to do a little experimentation with the WX5 and Finale, a music notation package licensed for use in Ontario publicly funded school boards. The setup is fairly standard based on past experience with MIDI keyboard devices. (Note: references to this in the WX5 manual are sketchy).

Basic Setup

MIDI connection: Plug the WX5 into the MIDI in port on the MIDI device connected to your computer. In my case, I used a Roland USB module.

Software Setup: Use the MIDI set up function in the notation software (Finale in this case) to identify the ‘MIDI in’ device

Score setup: Prepare the music layout to receive the data. For this example, I used a single treble clef but you could just as easily work with a full music score. 

Set the recording parameters: 1. Set the tempo (beats per minute) 2. Set the number of ‘count in’ bars. 3. Set the quantizing. Quantizing is the music version of rounding off. Generally you set this to match the smallest note value in your piece. In my example, I set quantizing to an eighth note.

That’s it – you are ready to play data directly into the music software in real time. As an aside, I was pleasantly surprised to find the the WX5 sends dual data streams, so you can hear the sound form the VL70m module while sending the MIDI data to the software. Notational input depends on accuracy, so choosing a suitable tempo to maximize your results is important and easily done with a little experimenting. 

By way of example, I used the WX5 in  input the melody below into the Finale notation software. 

midi input sample

Now I am off and running with new scoring tools for arranging and composing!

~ Mark

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Strategic Planning for 21st Century Learning

A typical Sunday morning for me includes catching up on blog reading, and this one was no different. While the reading is always interesting, what intrigues me is the way in which things link together and stimulate new thinking about things. Topics today made me think back to comments I made in a presentation to our trustees as part of my technology strategy update. 

There are many things you could do with technology in education. The real question is: what are the right things? Choices and decisions have to land on some key areas including: impact on student learning, investing in the future and a key one in my mind – sustainability and supportability in terms of both human and financial resources. This last point can not be overlooked, as I believe it is the fundamental reason many initiatives/projects fail. A final area looks at focus vs fragmentation. It is not possible to do everything, do it well, support it and sustain it. Strategic planning is about doing the right things for the long haul. 

Here are a few highlights from recent reading.

Angela Maiers – Mission to Transform
David Warlick – Teaching and Technology
Doug Peterson – A Plan Needed (netbooks, cloud computing)
Howard Rheingold – Attention Literacy
Will Richardson – If Every Student Had a Computer

The content covered in these articles embraces many of the significant issues in K-12 education today: technology available to every student, netbooks, cloud computing, student learning, literacy in the 21st century and teacher training (changing instructional practices). From my perspective as a K-12 CIO, these articles are all right on the money. I will throw IT infrastructure planning into the mix.

How do we best move ahead? Based on the validity of each of these key areas, none can be ignored – each one needs to be addressed. I believe the key to success and system level strength, is to work at these areas with an eye to alignment. Achieving major successes in some of these areas while others are excluded will not yield the best overall results. I believe the answer lies in alignment – the ability to drive each of these areas forward in a planned way at the same time. We are having these discussions in our Board. I am impressed with the dialogue, thinking and collaborative approach to date. It is early in the process, but I believe we are solidly headed in the right direction. We will keep dialoguing, learning and collaborating about best to move forward. I will continue to share thinking, dialogue and questions.

In the meantime, more thinking and learning to do.

~ Mark

Technology Supports Creativity

As I worked with the WX5 midi wind instrument this week, I was reflecting on the powerful change and impact that has occurred in the Arts with the use of technology. This impact includes professionals, amateurs and students.

I will date myself here, but I clearly remember those early pieces of music software – Deluxe Music Construction Set for the Commodore computers, Calkwalk for DOS in the early PC days, the Atari notator software …. Those programs were innovative and ahead of their time in many respects, but certainly light years away from where we are at now with online music stores, web based publishing, music videos,  satellite radio, mp3 players, powerful software available to home studios and education settings and of course, many professional level packages too. 

Use of traditional music skills is fully embraced with the new technologies, but one of the powerful changes that this technology has provided is bringing music creation to ‘the masses’ in a new way. Music is much easier to create and manipulate, whether you can read music or not. Graphical representations of music are sufficient to manipulate music on the fly. Loop based technologies used as the building blocks of your own creation allow you to work with no barriers in your way. Once familiar with a particular software package, you are off and running with your creative adventure. You can hear instantly what your creation sounds like, and start to manipulate it to your liking. In addition to music creation, these new powerful tools lend themselves nicely to teaching some of the formal aspects of music including form, structure, texture and balance to name a few. 

Earlier this year, I became aware of the work of Zoe Keating which I shared with my Facebook friends at the time. Upon further reflection though, I thought is was appropriate to mention Zoe’s work here, as she really uses technology to facilitate her creative processes and resulting performances and recordings. Zoe is a cellist, classically training, who creates music through a live recording and multi tracking session. The new age music created is stunning in many ways. I was really struck by the role technology plays in the creative and live performance process. Powerful to say the least. 

The links below will connect you to Zoe and her amazing creative process.
Avant-garde Cellist Zoe Keating (commentary and music)
Performance of Tetrishead
Performance of Escape Artist
Zoe Keating’s Website

Enjoy the creativity!

~ Mark

Virtualizing with OSX

I started down the path of virtualizing operating systems on my MacBook Pro with two interests in mind. First, how can I more effectively test out software, configurations etc. with a more streamlined approach, less gear (did I really say that?) and more mobility. Secondly, figuring out the best way to set up a laptop for my daughter (see earlier post).

My initial work was with Parallels 4.0. Based on my experience, it is certainly fair to say that I only achieved a moderate level of success (see earlier post). I had good success with Ubuntu Linux desktop and netbook versions, but to date, I have not achieved the results I needs in the Windows environment. Keeping my original goals in tact, it was time to change directions. I purchased a copy of VMWare Fusion to work with.

Based on the information posted on each vendor’s website, it was really difficult to make an initial selection. Each vendor predictably promotes the virtues of their own package and states their benefits relative to competing products. I was initially drawn towards Parallels based on performance stats. My decision to purchase VMWare Fusion turned out to be a good move.

An online purchase, download and install had me up and running quickly. In one days work, I had two major successes. First, I purchased a new copy of Windows Vista Ultimate, followed the VMWare new install process without any hitches. Vista loaded and ran fine, downloaded and installed the necessary patches and updates and I was operational – perfect!

I was interested in the product’s ability to import other virtualized systems and decided to give this a try. I was able able to import my ‘disabled’ XP OS from Parallels in fairly quick order. Best of all, VMWare Fusion picked up where Parallels got stuck and allowed me to download and install all of the necessary service packs and security patches. At this point, my XP OS is operational. I have a little more work to do with USB drivers – almost there.

Based on my personal experience, I would certainly recommend VMWare Fusion as an excellent product that delivers as advertised. I do plan to learn more about some of the advanced features as well.

Off to spend time in my newly virtualized space:-)

~ Mark

Links: Points of Interest

Sometimes you have to take a step back and really appreciate what is happening with the web 2.0 interactive tools. Every day people publish new information, articles, personal thoughts and observations and these are all at your fingertips to find. Wow! It was really not all that long ago that this was not possible. Talk about a great opportunity for life long learning.

Today I am sharing a few of the interesting sites I found this week through web searches, Facebook, Twitter and cruising the blogosphere. Enjoy!

1. Looking to host your own wiki setup on your own server?
One option available is at MediaWiki

2. A collection of SMART Board Resources: Quakertown

3. A collection of resources relevant to educational technology
integration: Web 2.0 Guru

4. Online OCR: Free, no registration, no email addresses recorded,
just upload your PDF, JPG, GIF, TIFF or BMP image files and convert! Free OCR

5. Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the day
– resources to support teaching ESL, EFL and ELL. Larry Ferlazzo

6. CBC News Release: CRTC to release new rules for IPS’s re internet bandwidth throttling: see article

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On the watch: Skype is releasing a client for iPhone & iPod touch. It appears to be available on the US iTunes store, but not available in Canada yet, at least as of yesterday.

~ Mark

Leadership Perspective: Reading and Reflections

From my July 14th blog post … I am reading What I Learned From Frogs in Texas by Jim Carroll which I picked up at the Leading Learning conference in May 2009. The first section of the book captured my interest with a couple of insightful thoughts. First, the notion of ‘aggressive indecision’ and secondly ‘lost momentum’…

I have finished reading the book and thought I would share a few comments. The core message in the book challenges us to look at the preparing for change and the future with the right approaches. While many of the examples are business oriented, it is not much of a stretch to see how these ideas can be mapped to many of our educational systems.

Every organization, business or educational, needs a strong long term plan to maintain strength, vibrance and critical function in today’s rapidly changing world. The long term plan must be clearly stated, sustainable, achievable and good for the long haul. There is nothing strategic about a plan that keeps changing every few weeks or months.

Highlights and Challenges

Culture – what is the culture of your organization? Do you have a culture that embraces change and explores new opportunities? Or perhaps you are stuck with indecision – no momentum, or perhaps the avoidance of decision making all together. Is risk taking minimized to the point of ineffectiveness?

Innovation – is critical to the future success of any organization. My translation to an educational setting: invest in strategies that keep enrollment up, produce meaningful results in student learning, prepare students (and staff) for the future and find efficiencies.

Gen Y workers/students – this group of people is used to change, and used to multitasking. After all, as Jim points out, they have lived through through 5 generations of gaming technology already. How do provide for them in a business environment? How do we keep them engaged and focused on their work? AND, before we get there, how do we keep them fully engaged in a learning setting? Big questions!, and important ones looking ahead to future success. Based on trends, the Gen Y group is poised to be a more mobile and transient work force where the focus will be more strategic than tactical.

Leadership – Organizations must sift through the management and/or/vs. leadership question. Bottom line – forward thinking leadership is critical for success. No organization can stay the same in today’s world and remain equally effective.

Lastly, tying back to organizational culture, it is important to make decisions. This is the way in which leadership teams send the signal about moving ahead, and is part of fostering a culture of innovation.

I found the book to be well worth the read. Jim made a lot of solid points which were illustrated with excellent examples. It certainly stimulated me to keep thinking about how to keep improving my skills as a leader and having a positive positive and future focused impact on my organization.

Enjoy the reading and thinking!

~ Mark

Web Brings Solar Eclipse ‘Alive’

I have always been fascinated with the eclipses. A major eclipse will happen tomorrow (July 22nd, 2009) and will be notable due to the length of time the event will take.  These eclipse events have become more tangible, and I would argue personalized, with the advances of web based technologies.  In particular, our ability to broadcast live events through streaming technologies is a significant step forward in bringing significant events to our global community.

I have pulled together a few links related to the eclipse event this week. I hope the web enhances your solar eclipse experience!

Backgrounder Mr. Eclipse

NASA TSE 2009

Wikipedia Article

Facebook repost from Mashable

Enjoy the eclipse!

~ Mark

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