April 15, 2014
April 9, 2014
April 8, 2014
“Ten world-class soloists put costly Stradivarius violins and new, cheaper ones to a blind scientific test. The results may seem off-key to musicians and collectors, but the new instruments won handily. When the lights were dimmed and the musicians donned dark glasses, the soloists’ top choice out of a dozen old and new violins tested was by far a new one. So was the second choice, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Of the six old violins tested, five were by made by the famous Stradivari family in the 17th and 18th centuries. The newer violins were about 100 times cheaper, said study co-author Joseph Curtin, a Michigan violin maker. But the Strads and other older Italian violins have long been considered superior, even almost magical. The idea was to unlock ‘the secrets of Stradivari,’ the study said.”
April 3, 2014
The Amen beat and its repercussions for copyright. A really interesting 18:00 piece if you have time for it.
March 23, 2014
A few years ago I embarked on a self-imposed assignment to write a short piano and orchestra piece in the style of Mozart. Why? No real reason other than to scratch an artistic itch. I’ve always adored the piano concerti of Mozart ever since I studied K.488 in A Major in college at Baylor twenty five years ago. I wrote a pretty extensive term paper on K. 488 and once I got my head inside it, loved it even more. It’s playful, joyful, and lighthearted. At times serious and at times childlike. Everything I love about music.
So I set out to use the style and general form of the concerto and compose something completely original, but in only one movement (hence “concertino instead of concerto“. It’s a “mini-concerto”). The form doesn’t prevent me from adding a second and third movement someday (which I’m increasingly being pulled into, I think), but it also lets it just stand on its own without structurally needing anything else.
The piece sat fallow on my hard drive for years until my friend Scott recently sent me something he had written. This encouraged me to revive the piece and complete it. It has completely taken over my life this past week. I probably spent 30-40 hours writing it and another 25 hours getting the score in shape and then recording each of the individual parts using my high end Logic East/West orchestral samples. It’s not as easy as just playing the parts in, however. When you hear, say, the oboe part shift from long held notes to short staccato to more emphatic phrases you’re actually hearing a subtle layering of many different oboe samples, each crossfaded (sometimes on a note-by-note basis) to get as authentic an oboe sound as MIDI instruments can currently achieve. Multiply that for all the instruments and you get an idea for the amount of tweaking involved. It would be a lot easier to have a live orchestra play it, but this way I’m able to do it for basically free (well, with only time invested) instead of paying the thousands of dollars it would cost to hire an orchestra.
So here, friends, is the result. My Concertino #1 for Piano. This YouTube video includes the score so you can follow along (full screen recommended. Also hi-def selected in the bottom right corner). It can be quite revealing to see what the music is doing as it winds around and inside of itself on its journey.
I’m very proud of this little five minute piece. I hope you like it.
Dedicated to my wife and best friend, because have you met her?
March 19, 2014
My friend Scott recently sent me an original composition for Drum Corps that he’s been working on. Really great stuff and I was impressed with his ability to handle the various sonorities of that type of group so adeptly. In listening to his piece I was reminded of an old exercise I put myself through about 15 years ago. I set out to write a piece in the style of Mozart but allow myself some freedom when it came to harmonies. I haven’t listened to it in a decade and a half. It’s been sitting as a Finale file on my hard drive since then. Well, as a result of another insomnia night last night and very early morning, I broke open that file and re-listened to it and I have to say I’m very happy with the results. Of course, that was with Finale playing it in all its computerish glory. Identical note velocities, exact rhythm, absolutely abysmal musicality etc. No “human” feel to it at all. But still, I’m really happy with the raw material.
So I’ve decided to format and print the thing (currently around 800 measures) and have a go at playing each part into Logic using vastly updated and more professional sounds. I’d like to get it all nice sounding and post it to YouTube or here on the blog. Anybody interested and I’ll send you a PDF of the score. Just a fun little piece I did over a few days that I feel like I should actually get out into the world.
February 25, 2014
February 16, 2014
Meet The Sound System So Loud, It Can Kill You: “Housed in the ESTEC Test centre, a bunker in the Netherlands, the enormous contraption shoots nitrogen through its enormous horn speaker and produces enough noise to permanently deafen anyone foolish enough to hear it. The ESA also claims that no human can survive listening to the sound produced when Leaf is turned up to its maximum volume.”
January 23, 2014
“Classical music has been circling the drain for years, of course. There’s little doubt as to the causes: the fingernail grip of old music in a culture that venerates the new; new classical music that, in the words of Kingsley Amis, has about as much chance of public acceptance as pedophilia; formats like opera that are extraordinarily expensive to stage; and an audience that remains overwhelmingly old and white in an America that’s increasingly neither. Don’t forget the attacks on arts education, the Internet-driven democratization of cultural opinion, and the classical trappings—fancy clothes, incomprehensible program notes, an omerta-caliber code of audience silence—that never sit quite right in the homeland of popular culture.”
January 6, 2014
Everything you always wanted to know about music theory. Well, at least everything you’re probably ever going to need. In Theory V in college we got into Shenkerian Analysis and other 20th century arcana that I’ve always thought of as an unnecessary analysis imposed from the outside. Outside of extended theory classes and dead 20th Century composers, not too many people still use that silliness. Gratefully forgotten.
Still, the YouTube classes listed above are a great place to start if you want a clear and step-by-step introduction to real music theory. It goes fairly deep, too– probably covers 99.9% of popular, non-symphonic/movie music nowadays.
Plus, it’s narrated in a dulcet British accent, so there’s that.
December 13, 2013
“ACMS Gift Boutique Still looking for that perfect stocking stuffer? Or maybe a special way to commemorate that perfect performance? Stop by our brand new gift boutique and see what magic catches your eye! Handmade by a local Austin artist specifically for the Armstrong Community Music School, these items feature genuine Czech crystal, laser engravings, and birch wood. All proceeds benefit ACMS programs.”
Erin and I have been working on these items for her work for a couple of months and are proud to finally introduce them! They’ve been a big hit at her school.
December 6, 2013
December 1, 2013
Kim Strassel: Piano Sonata in FTC Minor – WSJ.com: “With a dozen employees and a $2 million budget, the group doesn’t have ‘the resources to fight the federal government,’ Mr. Ingle says. The board immediately removed the provision from its code, but the MTNA staff still had to devote months compiling thousands of documents demanded by the agency, some going back 20 years: reports, the organization’s magazines, everything Mr. Ingle had ever written that touched on the code. Mr. Ingle estimates he has spent ‘hundreds upon hundreds’ of hours since March complying with this federal colonoscopy…..
While this abuse of power has received no national attention, it has riled the music community. Brian Majeski, the editor of the journal Music Trades, lambasted the FTC in a December editorial, noting that “a consumer watchdog that sees piano teachers as a threat either has too much time on its hands, or badly misplaced priorities.” “
read the whole thing
November 22, 2013
In The Heat Of The Foundry, Steinway Piano ‘Hearts’ Are Made : NPR: “Hensley and Houseman guide the ladle, suspended from a system of overhead beams, out to the foundry floor, where the plate molds are lined up. The molds are made of chemically treated sand, which hardens quickly around a form that is then removed, leaving a hollow space inside. The ladle hovers over each mold in turn and tilts. A stream appears and descends into a hole left in the sand. The iron is more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and incandescent, a luminous yellow-orange.”
September 24, 2013
Why is it that when you’re self employed the work comes in these strange waves? I’ve been doing this for over 20 years now and I’ve noticed that I either have very little to do or I’m bursting at the seams with work. And it’s not just the same kind of work. Between arranging, writing original music, woodworking projects, audio editing gigs, and now a huge transcription project (reconnecting with my old friend and musician Kurt Kaiser).
It’s feast and famine but for now at least my mother and father will be happy that we won’t be going hungry for a while.
September 22, 2013
Rick Robinson: What You Should Have Been Looking At While Miley Was Twerking: “Someday in the not-too-distant future, a music writer will author a coffee table book entitled August, 2013, remembering this moment in time as pivotal in the history of pop culture. Glossy pictures of a misunderstood female performer will adorn slick pages filled with lofty praise in tribute to the shift she caused in the paradigm of performance art.
The book will not be about Miley Cyrus’s twerking (for us old rockers, read: dry humping), or what she did with a foam index finger at the annual MTV Music Awards. Instead, the book will highlight the life and horrendous death of singer Hyon Sung-wol.
A South Korean Newspaper reported that this week North Korea’s communist dictator, Kim Jong-un, executed a dozen members of the Unhasu Orchestra – including Jong-un’s former girlfriend, singer Hyon Sung-wol – as their relatives and musicians from three other pop bands were forced to watch. Following the firing squad, the on-lookers were all sent to concentration camps.
Didn’t catch that story on Entertainment Tonight?
Which is why the public’s obsession with Miley Cyrus’ twerking instead of Hyon Sung-wol’s assassination may say more about us than it does about the teen idol formerly known to Disney Channel viewers as Hannah Montana.”
Read the whole thing
September 19, 2013
I’m working on an arrangement (really a transcription) of one of these and loving the heck out of it. So much detail and nuance. It’s taken me a couple of hours already this morning and I’m only about 6 measures in. Love it!
August 30, 2013
August 29, 2013
“Miley’s just doing what she likely suspects she needs to do in her business: Shock people. She’s grown up watching, say, Britney writhe with a snake on the very same awards show, so it’s hard to blame her if she’s surprised by the universally negative reaction. She’s doing what she thought we wanted.
The problem, this time, is that our society feels like it knows her, knows her backstory, knows she’s someone’s daughter, and isn’t able to forget it. Other women, like the ones on stage with Miley, the ones no one is complaining about? Well, we can sexualize them, reduce them to toys lacking a story, but this girl? We know her dad!
Kids don’t need more kids. They know plenty of them. Kids need adults, actual adults, adults adult enough to reject a culture that is so bored, so dead, that it can only feel alive if given one more jolt, one more shock. And it’s hard to shock, anymore, but Miley hit that mark.”
Glad I missed the performance. Sad that we continue down this well-trod road. Read the whole post at the link above. It’s worth it.
August 26, 2013
“We are the Culture of Death, the Culture of Nothingness. Miley Cyrus is but one small consequence of it. Go onto a college campus on any Friday night and you’ll find thousands of other consequences behaving in a fashion pretty similar to Miley’s VMA performance. Every once in a while we catch a glance of ourselves in the mirror and recoil in horror because, as it turns out, being a society without any sense of discipline, decency, character, and self respect, really isn’t as cool as we might have imagined.
I’m not trying to turn the Miley Cyrus molehill into a proverbial mountain, but I am saying last night’s horror show didn’t happen in a vacuum. We are generally an oversexed, amoral civilization, and this is the sort of spectacle that sort of civilization produces. Pretty simple. People often seem troubled when a young woman acts so sexually desperate, but then many of those same folks will lash out with mockery and derision anytime someone suggests — GASP! — self control as an alternative. “
Read the whole thing.