Thursday, July 14, 2011

The difference between a song writer and a composer.

When I was still in school I wrote this, for some reason I never posted it.
I am working on the last section of the unfortunate side, but it is taking a lot longer than I thought it would.

A composer wants to redefine what music is.
A songwriter wants to show you what music is to them.

I had a conversation with my Composition teacher about how I feel like the classical world has isolated itself from culture and is now irrelevant to everyday people.
She told me that composers didn’t do it on purpose, that new ideas had to come forth because it is what composers need to do. Composers need to be creative, they need to constantly be growing or else they are just doing what everyone else has already done.

Perhaps my definition is wrong, but as I am sitting in class I am thinking about this composer we are talking about named Oliver Messiaen. Messiaen made an entirely new music language that he wrote a book about. Fred, the teacher for the class went into some detail about some aspects of his language, he had a very specific form that he consistently wrote for.

I believe that being creative for the sake of being creative is meaningless, but I also believe that refusing to try anything new in any art form is meaningless. Art in my opinion needs to be a strong balance of the two.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The unfortunate side of Capitalism and the Arts (part 2)

Hi everyone,

Sorry it took me so long to post, Jackie and I went camping for the fourth with my sister Kim, and brother in law Chris... Anywho...

At that point I was very naive (obviously) but was onto something...

The way the music industry works:

Bands flood the music scene, playing local shows, recording demo CDs all in the hopes that a label will sign them on.

For the lucky few that “make it” they sign a contract that gives them maybe a dollar (probably less) for selling a record that sells for 15-20$. In the midst of signing that lovely contract you as a musician give all of your copyrights of your music to the label. That means, you no longer own the music that you wrote! It now belongs to a label.

        If you don’t believe me consider the Beatles, Paul McCartney lost the rights to over 200 songs after a bidding war with         Michael Jackson. While McCartney still earned royalties, he had no say on who used the songs for what purpose (which is         probably why we heard gettin better on GE Commercials in the early Milli).

From this point the Label then gives the band a huge loan 75,000$+. The band is then put in a studio, and meet this new guy who says he is the producer. The producer then tells you why your music is bad (which isn’t always a bad thing) he changes lyrics, changes song structure, song meaning, but keep in mind, his goal is not to make a timeless record, his goal is to make an album that will sell, and to make that album sell fast.

Remember earlier how I pointed out that the band will make a dollar off of a record sale? Where does the rest of that money go? According to this website 24% of that money goes to the retailer, and 63% of it goes to the label... and 13% goes to the band (which I couldn’t find it’s sources, but I can’t imagine that it is far off). Wait a minute....! The label gets almost 2/3’s of all the money made off of record sales? (No wonder they are pissed off about Pirating) Lets think about this. The band takes out a loan to pay for recording a record that they don’t get much say in. In return the label owns all of the rights to the record, and makes 2/3’s of the profit off of the album. Does this remind anyone else of the mob? Back in the days when they charged business owners fees to protect them, and if they didn’t pay the fees they would torch their buildings. What other business practice has policy like this? Can you imagine buying a car only to have the dealership take the car and use it whenever they want to, and then when you decide to sell it, the dealership takes 2/3’s of the money you made from it?

Remember that giant loan? That loan pays for the record being recorded, it pays for the producer, it pays for all of your food, it pays for the music video for your single off the album and it pays for your personal gear.

Once the album is done it is time for you to promote it: hello life on the road. 7-10 months a year spent touring. This usually broken up, so good luck finding a job that is ok with you leaving for months at a time.

Playing concerts is typically where a lot of bands pull in their money, mostly from selling merch, but also from ticket sales. At this point the band members are making payments on the loan, and trying to make a living off of what is left over.

Let’s Recap: (for fun replace the words
Band with business owner,
with mafia,
with business,
and Record with protect)

Band signs up with label.

Band gives all rights of music to label.

Band takes out giant loan from label to pay to record music that the band has no rights to.

Band dies in crack house owned by the label

So really why would anyone want to get signed with a label? Ever? Seriously?

I will wrap this up in Part 3

Monday, July 4, 2011

The unfortunate side of Capitalism and the Arts (part 1)

I remember when I was a kid, and everyone I knew thought that being signed to a label was the best thing that could ever happen to a musician. The idea of American Idol was a dream come true to so many. My mom and sisters always said that I had a great singing voice and were waiting for the day that I would be “discovered”.

Back in those days I was hopefully waiting for the same thing. The idea of being what Miley Cyrus, or Justing Bieber are today was the big break I was looking for. I remember wandering around grocery stores, and shopping malls singing loud, so that someone would hear my voice and make me famous. When I was in eighth grade my voice began to change and I was terrified that my good singing voice went away mostly because of this moment from the Simpsons

The next time I was interested in music was when I was 17, I began to play guitar (that is a different story). When I picked it up again my sisters and mom were ready for me to jump into the American Idol scene, and even worse the Christian version of it... By then I knew that I didn’t want that for myself, I wasn’t sure why, but I knew then that my idols, Billy Corgen, and Jeremy Enigk wouldn’t be caught dead on those shows... So I resolved myself to get good at guitar, and based on talent alone I would get “discovered.”

My freshman year in college I was reading through lyrics from either Kid A, or OK Computer, and I read something that said “lyrics reprinted with kind permission from our label.” Being a mediocre guitarist, a less than inspired song-writer, and just plain bad lyricist, I was outraged (seriously my lyrics were bad). The idea that a label had to give me permission to print lyrics on the jacket of my CD was blasphemous ( I didn’t know they were bad).

By the end of my freshman year I had written and recorded my first song,

and I realized that labels didn’t only own your lyrics, they owned the recording, and the entire musical idea. I did this entire song by myself, and the idea of some unknown machine taking it from me made me weep (literally, I was a pothead back then and would cry a lot).

I was still convinced that I needed a label to discover me, but since my song was so good (I thought) they would just have to sign me and give me all the rights to my music (HA)!

I will have to continue this on Wednesday.... Happy Fourth n such.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Music from this Semester

This last semester was a great one for me for several reasons, but firstly because I got three recordings from this semester! (the player for them is at the bottom of this post (the player won't display the song titles, but I put them in the order that the player will play them))

Death of Death Reading this was my reading of my senior project, my wind ensemble piece. This is the project that I literally spent over a thousand hours writing. Honestly I think it took so long because everything takes me a long time... I mean I have several songs that I have spent over a year writing out on my guitar... and they still aren’t done. Regardless, this piece and recording were ultimately the culmination of my degree. The conductor, Dr. Kish, thinks he is funny apparently...

Glow Reading, I also posted this piece on this blog when it was beginning. This was my first choral piece which was set to a text I wrote. I have had several complaints about the text by people, but I have also had several people tell me that they love the text... Which is pretty funny. I have never considered that I would one day be the center of a love/hate argument, but it is what it is, I suppose. I feel like this piece can also use some work, I feel like it has some pacing issues, and I could quiet the arguments that people make about the text. There is one line that states “grace us with your putrid stank” that seems to be the line that really sets others off.

Your Wildest Dream is a piano piece that was performed by my friend Margo. She performed it in my schools Monday recital class and did a great job. The piece is built off of a synthetic scale, so in a literal way it is atonal, but there is definitely a tonal center that you can hear. But it follows no normal rules (ie using I-V7-I). This piece was supposed to be a short score for orchestrating a six-eight instrument work, but I ended up liking it more as a piano piece. It is actually the piece that I am talking about three posts earlier. I didn’t realize that until I began to write this out. I feel like I could create more pieces using this scale, and make this a suite.

Just so I can make you mad... or so you can love me
here is the text:

Oh fire of tires
Burn in defiance
To rain
Blasphemy snow
Whose purpose is to make you dry
Grace us with your putrid stank
That makes eyes water and lungs
Other fires sway to the will of anyone or anything
But I say Glow!
Let the world see, know, feel, who you are
Let the world feel, know, see, the weight of who you are

My composition teacher Cherise Leiter gave me some advice for Putrid Stank, she said to change the context of the word to offend less people. So stink stink stank. I think that it is a pretty good idea. (but she still liked it the way that it was)

Friday, July 1, 2011

A New Summer, a New life.

I just finished my BM in music composition. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. My last semester I had 10 credit hours because of a mistake I made in registering for a class, but holy crap I am so glad I only had 10. I easily spent over a thousand hours on composing my senior project, which was a wind ensemble piece, that ended up being about six and a half minutes long. After hearing the piece read through it changed my life, I honestly felt like my DNA changed. It was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. I feel like the piece could still use some work, but I haven’t buckled down and worked on it yet. I am honestly excited to though. It is weird, I always feel like starting to compose is a slow process that feels more like someone or something is dying, but after about an hour it is a raging storm that engulfs you, and holds you prisoner. Consuming every thought, demanding the respect and precedence that sailing through a tropical storm commands

It is not easy to be married when a monkey like that is on your back, mostly for your spouse. Jackie would be talking to me, and notice a blank stare come across my face. She would see the milk I put in the pantry and the cereal box I set in the washing machine. In normal life I felt like a complete moron, but before my score I felt like... what did I feel like? A god? A warrior? I felt I became who I have believed myself to be my whole life. As if, I have always tried to be who I think I am, but before my score, there was no trying. I just was.

With the finishing of my degree, a new chapter in our lives unfolds. Jackie and I are moving to Illinois in August. Right now we live in a scummy 2 room duplex, that we are subletting from a couple that left the place nice and filthy for us. We wanted to stay in Colorado for the summer to enjoy the mountains before we left.

I am working on a few pieces right now, one of which I collaborated with Emily Fox. She wrote a poem that I am setting to a choir, I like the direction the piece is going. I am meeting with her today to talk about it. She hasn’t heard anything from it so I hope she likes it.