Friday, December 30, 2011

Tops of 2011

This by far has been the most shocking year of my life.

There are so many new things, and major mile stones that mark this year, so I want to list off my tops of 2011

Favorite Album

        Bon Iver
                Bon Iver

                I discovered this album sometime in June and listened to it for almost four months straight. The whole thing is so                 creative and the album really feels incomplete when you listen to just one song. It really wasn’t a contest for me this                 year, this album was easily my favorite.

Honorable mention:

                Ghosts Upon the Earth

                If Bon Iver wouldn’t have released their self titled album, this might have been a favorite of the year. It is chilling, and                 sobering, but also magical, and alive.

Favorite moment

        Like I said a lot happened this year... I don’t have one favorite moment.

                Writing a wind ensemble piece and hearing it read through

                Graduating from College

                The moment Jackie and I walked through the door of our home.

Favorite Composer

        Johannes Brahms

                I have been listening to his symphonies, his requiem, his lied, and his piano pieces, I can’t get enough of his music.                 He was truly a master.

Favorite Video game

                The Skyward Sword

                It is funny that I even have a video game section considering that I think they are a huge waste of time, but anyone                 who knew me in my youth knows that I couldn’t get enough Zelda. The newest game was really creative, and a lot of                 fun to play. It is only thanks to Bryan Throckmorton that I was able to play, he has graciously loaned me his wii for                 the time being.

Saddest moment

        Leaving Denver

                By far leaving Denver was on of the hardest things I have done. I really miss my Denver friends, I started to name all                 of you but it took a really long time, so I stopped. But just know that if you are a Denver Friend, I miss you.

Favorite TV Show


                I watched a lot of TV shows this year, and nothing quite does it for me like Dexter does. Breaking Bad was great, But                 I don’t care as much about the Characters as I do Dexter.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Sorry it has taken me so long to write this post, We have moved out of Grandma’s and now live in our own home! Yay!

In my last post, I made a joke about my teacher shrieking in terror because I said that I write in Sibelius.

For those of you that don’t know, Sibelius is notation software. There are two major notation software programs out there, Sibelius and Finale, both of which basically do the same thing. Composers will argue back and forth why whichever one is better. I don’t really care about that so that is all I am going to say about it.

The point of this post is to discuss something entirely different.

There is a major debate among composers about notation software and whether or not it should be used when writing. Some composition schools won’t allow students to use the software, and consequently some students won’t go to those schools.

To be completely honest I wouldn’t go to one of those schools. I don’t know if I know how to write without software... It is kind of embarrassing but I am completely dependent on it. I can sketch out ideas on pen and paper, but writing an entire piece without playback is something that I can’t even begin to fathom.

For those of you that don’t know, Sibelius and Finale do MIDI playback for you as you write. Which means that you get immediate results and don’t need to try and plunk out the notes on the piano.

I see problems with this method of writing... First of all our composition forefathers did not have have playback, yet were able to write symphonies, opera’s, concerto’s, and everything else without the handy use of it all being played back.

While the MIDI is helpful, it is also misleading. I might be hearing my oboe part too loud in my playback, so I write it quieter than other instruments, but in fact the oboe is already a quiet instrument, so it can easily get drowned out. The problem being that the playback is dishonest in how loud an instrument is, or what it actually sounds like, and unfortunately I respond to this misleading information.

The next point and probably most worrisome of writing in the software is writing by ear... Using the playback to write means I am writing with my ears, rather than my mind. This is the point I think about the most. It is the point that scares me the most. I can’t help but wonder how much writing like that hurts me as a composer.

I wonder about that because several composers that I respect and admire do not use software.

We had a guest speaker one semester that doesn’t use anything but a pencil, staff paper and his kitchen table (not even a piano). He played a string quartet for us, and it was fascinating! Beautiful! Interesting!

I admire that skill.

Beethoven wrote his entire 9th symphony whilst completely deaf! This is the same kind of skill. One that is, I believe a true mastery.

I can’t help but wonder about it though.

The creative process is so different for each individual, and I wonder how much of that skill can be attributed to his creative process, and how much is plain... practice... or craft for a lack of better words.

For some composers, the music is just in their heads, and they have to get it out. For some (like myself) there is no music in there, but it is playing with something, like a piano, or a guitar, or a computer that pushes my musical imagination which drives my creative process.

So I am not sure that writing like that would even work for me... But I am not against trying it. I can’t even begin to fathom if it will even work, but I know I will be stronger on the other side.

The best way for me to handle it I suppose, is to just do it, and come at it with no expectations.

It will probably be a while before I try to write that way, but I am vowing to try it.

Maybe a year of writing with no instruments, and no computer... I’ll definitely need to start small

Maybe in 2013...

That’s all for now.

Merry Christmas Friends.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Some exciting news in my life:

Jackie and I are buying a house!
I have a part-time temporary job!
I am starting a new piece!
I am obsessed with power-tools...

Back to the blog...

I recently joined the American Composers Forum and am so excited about this resource! It is an online community for composers and people who want to get in contact with composers.

Their is an entire section called “opportunities” which lists information ranging from composer residencies, to job openings, to competitions. It is seriously incredible!

I read a blog post, or an interview (I don’t remember) by Eric Whitacre who encouraged composers to enter as many competitions as they can. He specifically pointed out (several times) that you will not win, but that they are a great way to motivate yourself to get pieces done.I have decided to take him up on his advice and start entering competitions.

Right now I am aiming at a January 17th deadline for a 3-5 player, string +/- piano work. I am trying to hit several birds with with this bow... (pun intended(please laugh, I am so desperate)) By that I mean, I am going to try and submit the same piece for several different competitions.

As I looked at my calendar, I realized that I had to say no to a lot of competitions that I wanted enter, because of time. Especially considering that it often takes me three times longer to finish a work than I expect it to, and ten times longer than the average composer.

I am also submitting a few past scores to other competitions, which is nice because those don’t require much of me: except revisions (as needed), and mailing (which is some times a total pain in the ass).

With all of that said I came across a competition that wants the composer to compose a work in 60 minutes. They control this by releasing the instrumentation an hour before the scores are due... Which is awesome! It sounds like a really exciting challenge, but I can’t help but think that it would be really easy to cheat... I mean I can write out a motive, harmonize it, and then when they release the instrumentation, just orchestrate it (which still might take longer than an hour(especially if they are really strange instruments that no one has ever heard of (like a Portuguese thiamin rod (Who in the Hell knows how to write for that?!)))).

Regardless, I am going to try and write for that competition, and if any of my composer friends want info on it just let me know.

I am going to upload my string score as it progresses... I think... It is kinda freaky to upload WIP (Works in Progress (that is for you Geoff Munnerlyn (you definitely are not smart enough to get that acronym))) on the web first of all because the ideas can easily be stolen... and second of all because they are WIP... I often get excited about the smallest victory in a piece that no one but me even notices...

Lastly, I work mostly in Sibelius *Loud screaming sound* (that noise you just heard was my comp teacher screaming in sheer terror, and rage) and found that much of my work isn’t documented, as I progress. All that I really got at the end was the finished score, which is sad because I can’t see my progress, my mindset, wrong turns, and neither can anyone else. I began using versions in Sibelius which is really handy, I save it every morning before I start working (if I remember). I am writing this mostly for the historians that look back on my writing, and wish they could see my process.

That’s all for today...

Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 5, 2011


For those of you that don’t know, I am unemployed right now, and have been since August. With my plethora of free time, I have decided to live my life the way I want to. I try to compose at least two hours every day, and with that try to practice piano at least an hour.

I am reading a biography about Brahms right now and came across a section that demonstrated a major difference between Brahms and Schumann; Schumann tended to depend on inspiration to write, while Brahms depended on the craft of writing.

One of my teachers in school talked about composing as a craft, and the concept was really foreign to me. I remember asking him what that meant, and he answered by telling me, “regardless of what style, instruments, or mood you are in, you should be able to write.”

Another teacher once told me that writing is my instrument, and I need to practice every day.

I hated these ideas at first! They seemed totally counterintuitive to the creative process, especially because you can not force creativity!

But slowly, as I began to write more and more, it hit me that composing isn’t always about creating, in fact it rarely is. It is often about structure, voicing, playability, editing, dissecting, pacing, cutting, rejecting, reworking, etc... When it comes down to it, composing has to be more than just inspiration, because so much of it can’t be handled by inspiration.

I think now that I am forcing myself to write everyday, regardless of how inspired I feel or how excited I am to work on a piece, my approach to writing has changed. I see the repetitive habits that “inspiration” submits, and the lack of problem solving skills that it brings to the table.

I think this is why a lot of bands can only make 2-3 good albums. A lot of song writers “wait for a song to come to them” and are “only inspired in the morning.” This mind set is lazy, and eventually stops working. A bands fresh new sound loses it’s shimmer, and the said band has to either find a new sound, or just keep doing the same thing over and over again. Unfortunately for a lot of bands the pursuit of a new sound is fruitless, and I would venture to say (in my unexperienced opinion) this is because of inspiration vs craft.

When I think about craft I think about a black smith: how he heats and bashes, and bashes! As composers we should work on our pieces with the same degree of ferociousness. And yet our tools must be even stronger! If a black smiths tools are weaker than his project, then the project and the tools will be ruined.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What a great time to be a musician!

For anyone who doesn’t know, Five Iron Frenzy is getting back together and making an album! I am excited for lots of reasons, but one of the major reasons is how they did it!

They launched a website, and asked their fans to pay for their studio time by offering various prizes for paying certain amounts... Their goal was 30,000, and hoped to reach it in 60 days.

They reached their goal in 55 minutes... *jaw drop

In less than a week they raised 150,000 dollars! *pissed myself

Relevant magazine interviewed Reese Roper (the lead singer) and he made several references to not being under a label with this album, and how being under a label isn’t necessary. You can read the article by clicking here

This is such wonderful news! The middle man is losing his grasp on the music industry, and the artists are beginning to thrive!
What a great time to be a musician! Unless of course you are a hack, people will see right through that...