Twenty

Something I made for Rachael on our 20th wedding anniversary.

• 3 min read

Twenty years ago today in the year 2000, back when I was a young 21 years old I married Rachael.

We started dating five years prior and as such we've experienced the majority of our lives together. I'm eternally grateful for all the support and love she has given me through the years.

While we were dating all the way back in 1996, Rachael wrote me a song as a gift.

On our twentieth wedding anniversary I'd like to do the same in return*.

I'm not a musician and only a few months ago started to play the piano again after learning briefly through primary school and tinkering around for a handful of years in the early 2000s on a permanently out-of-tune upright. My recent piano education is limited to this 9-step program, although I've only made it to step 7.

This is the first time I've composed anything beyond 4 or so bars in a high-school music class. Music theory was never a strong subject for me back in primary school and I'm (unreasonably) terrified of trying to compose something as a non-musician for a musician.

It's really simple however I'm glad I managed to put something (anything really) together, even if it's a bit rubbish. It got to yesterday and I was yet to record anything and still had no idea how I was going to film it, capture the key data or how I was going to visualise it. I started at 9am to try and get a clean run through and was still trying at 2:30pm, at which point my home studio credits ran out and it was time for the kids school pickup. The video I've put here is the last run through that I had time to do and it's still quite bad (I was quite sore/tired by this point and the tempo on this run is a fair bit faster than it was at 9am). Maybe I'll work on a better version some time in the future.

Also thank you to the handful of people that knew I was doing this and not ruining the surprise. I played parts of this for some people a week or two ago (before I had even finished it) and I was so nervous playing I could barely get notes out. It was quite bad, so thank you for not laughing at me (well technically they might have been, or about to but Rachael walked in the front door and I had to abruptly stop playing).

A few others knew I wanted to do this many months ago and managed to not mention it to Rachael, so thank you as well - especially Isabella.

And with that here it is, albeit with slightly fewer nerves this time (but still plenty of them).

For Rachael with love always.

(* Fisher Price My First Compositionā„¢. Lyrics not included. Ages 4+. BPA free. Consult your doctor if crying symptoms persist.)


Because maybe someone will be interested in the tech details (and why wouldn't I ruin something possibly romantic with some cold nerd tech stuff):

  • The piano is a Kawai Novus NV10.
  • The sampling is from the Garritan CFX Concert Grand - a Yamaha CFX recorded in Abbey Road Studio One. The profile I'm using is a custom setup on the Classic (Full) mic perspective.
  • The video is from a Canon 5D MkIII + Canon EF 24-70 @ 24mm f/4.0 on a tripod sitting on top of the piano šŸ˜±. The fallboard was removed to be able to see the keys and a lot of post-processing is done to make it look like the camera is directly above them without too much distortion.
  • The visualisation comes from this utility. I ended up exporting around 60000 PNG images and merging them into a video with ffmpeg.

Basically MIDI was captured on the piano, audio generated on a laptop, 24p video from the camera and a 60fps visualisation video from the MIDI data were all synced (with much pain) back at my desktop.