Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Designing Logos

Hello, readers!

As some of you know, it's been a rough week because of unforeseen tragedy (the death of a friend and the hospitalization of my grandmother).  It feels a bit strange to blog in spite of all of this, but in the interests of sticking to deadlines, I'm going to go ahead and provide a weekly update on Songs of the Victorians and Augmented Notes.

This week's goal was to learn more about design and to create drafts of logos for both projects. As I'm essentially a complete neophyte when it comes to design, I had to learn how to use some image editing programs. I investigated various free programs recommended to me by generous twitter users, but I decided to focus my time on the tried-and-true Photoshop and on Inkscape.  With the help of Jeremy Boggs and Eric Johnson of Scholars' Lab, I learned some basic Photoshop manipulation, including how to warp text.  I'd also like to recognize two others who assisted me with this process:  my friend and colleague Rebecca Levy taught me of the glories of the "clone stamp" tool to erase text, and my husband, Dan Lepage, showed me how to use Inkscape for vector graphics.

For the logos themselves, I knew that I wanted each design to reflect the style and purpose of the site. For example, Songs of the Victorians is an archive and scholarly tool for discussing parlor and art song settings of Victorian poems, so I wanted its logo to echo the aesthetics of such music. Since Victorian sheet music covers are extremely recognizable, I designed my draft of both the logo and the "coming soon" homepage to look like the cover of Michael William Balfe's "Come into the Garden, Maud" (one of the songs in the archive).  I took the scan of the cover and used Photoshop's clone stamp tool to delete the pre-existing text, and then tried to find good fonts that matched the original image.  I highly recommend "What the Font" if you ever need to find a font: users can upload an image and then the site identifies the fonts that most closely resemble those in the image.  I also used "Fontsquirrel" to find less specialized fonts.

Once I had all the components, I added my own text into the image.  I've included the original image so you can see the actual sheet music cover next to my own rendition of it.

Balfe's original
My version

Once I finalize the design, I'll use the full image as my "coming soon" page: expect a version of it at songsofthevictorians.com soon!

Since that image is sadly much too large to be a reasonable logo, I'm only going to use the portion of it included below:


For Augmented Notes, I knew that I wanted to emphasize the pun of the title: the scholarly portion of my project "augments" the analytical text with musical excerpts (or notes), and in music, the term "augmented" refers both to major or perfect intervals raised by a half-step and to a note whose value is lengthened (as with a dotted quarter note).  I tried to make this pun visually as well in two ways: first, by augmenting, or making bigger, the first letter of each word, and second, by placing the project's title on a musical staff and by representing two of the letters as musical notes.  I'm currently trying to decide between six variations on this theme, but the one below is my favorite so far:

All these images are still works in progress, so I'd welcome any feedback on ways to improve them even more.

This post is dedicated to Josh Endo.  http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/theithacajournal/obituary.aspx?n=joshua-endo&pid=162619121  Josh, we'll miss you.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Announcing Augmented Notes!

Hi, readers!

It's been an exciting week for the development of Songs of the Victorians and its corollary project, Augmented Notes!  

First, though, here's some background on Songs of the Victorians for those of you want a summary of the links I posted last week: it's an archive of parlor and art song settings of Victorian poems that I'm building in conjunction with my dissertation.  It contains four songs:  Michael William Balfe's "Come into the Garden, Maud" and Sir Arthur Somervell's "Come into the Garden, Maud" (both based on Alfred Lord Tennyson's monodrama, Maud), Sir Arthur Sullivan's version of Adelaide Procter's "A Lost Chord," and Caroline Norton's "Juanita." It includes high resolution images of the first edition printings of each song as well as an audio file.  It also has a scholarly component in which each song includes an analysis of the song's interpretation of the poem, with excerpts of the phrases I discuss to support my argument.  Users can click on the excerpts to play them, and the score is highlighted in time with the music so that everyone, regardless of their ability to follow a score, can follow the thread of my argument.

Augmented Notes is a new project I'm working on, which I actually haven't written about or announced in public yet: I'm developing a tool that will help scholars build their own sites like Songs of the Victorians!  Users will upload jpegs of the scores they want to use, an audio file (in mp3 and ogg formats), and an mei file (an xml markup for music, rather akin to tei) that records the measure bounds of the song in question.  They can then go through a simple process of inputting measure times (clicking the "save" button at the end of every measure) and selecting the desired excerpts, and Augmented Notes will output the javascript, css, and html files necessary for their very own site.  I hope this tool will help other scholars work on the interdisciplinary projects they have in mind.

So far, I'm still on schedule for both projects:  I've built most of Songs of the Victorians, which I'm now converting to a Flask application, and I've built the time selector and excerpt selector page for Augmented Notes.  I also purchased domain names for both tools (songsofthevictorians.com and augmentednotes.com), although I haven't put any content there yet. The most exciting news of the week is that I've now received the scans of the final score I needed, and permission from the British record label Hyperion Records (http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/) to use audio files of the songs from their cds free of charge!  This news means that I can push forward the release date of Songs of the Victorians earlier than originally planned:  I hope to unveil a preview of my site, using Caroline Norton's "Juanita" as an example, by the end of February/beginning of March in conjunction with a paper I'm presenting at INCS (http://incs2013.nines.org/), the Interdisciplinary Nineteenth Century Studies conference, held in Charlottesville in mid-March.  Stay tuned for an actual release date!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Song of Myself

Hello, World!

After a few years of silence on this site (interspersed with the occasional remark on nines.org and praxis.scholarslab.org), I'm actually going to jump feet first into this strange world of blogging.  In case any of my currently non-existent readers want to know who I am and why I'm taking up cyberspace in the blogosphere, I'll quickly introduce myself:
I'm a 5th year PhD candidate in English at the University of Virginia, and I specialize in Victorian poetry, digital humanities, sound studies (with an emphasis on the connections between music and literature), and feminism.  I've been affiliated with NINES and the Scholars' Lab, and I'm currently working on a digital project called "Songs of the Victorians," a hypermedia archive and scholarly tool to facilitate my interdisciplinary interests in the connections between music and poetry, and you can read more about it here.

Click here if you want to read my blog posts from the Scholars' Lab last year when I and a group of five other graduate students built Prism, a tool for "crowd-sourcing interpretation" that produces visualizations to help spur "aesthetic provocation."

I plan to use this blog to talk about updates to my digital projects and advice about programming, but the occasional entry may address BBC adaptations of Victorian literature, adventures in teaching, and difficulties involved in figuring out how to discuss music for non-musical audiences.

Thanks for reading!