All That You Are

I have another one for ya. This was a minute piece that I submitted as part of a contest in my composition studio in 2016, where the composers were given a piece of artwork and asked to write a sixty-second piece based on that. This was one of two pieces I wrote for two different pieces of artwork- this one was what was essentially a miniature metalwork sculpture of Lake Michigan, with many different layers and parts.

All That You Are, I suppose, attempts to capture all of those layers and complexities in sixty seconds, or something. Actually, I wrote this the night before the deadline when I realized in a panic I’d spent too long on the other piece, and didn’t think much of this one at all.

It wound up winning second. Go figure.

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Somewhere You Long to Be

This one started out as a minute piece, and then I extended it into one four times that size.  You can hear the exact moment in time where the original minute piece ends and the rest of it begins (at 1:17).

So this one turned out to be an exercise in CPU management.  I used the full Cinesymphony instrumentation (all strings, winds, brass, and percussion) and the load on my computer was crazy.  I wound up having to do the song in four different project files, and then splicing them together at the end.

It was a lot of fun trying out a bigger, cinematic sound with the drums and brass in the middle section.  All previous attempts at something like this had failed horrendously, and this was really the first time I’d listened to something I’d written of that sort and not cringed.

Enjoy.

As usual, I had an older demo of this song with my old sound library. Check out the differences and see what I mean.

Elsewhere

During my year at Grand Valley State, my final senior project was to assemble an ensemble and have them play about 30 minutes of music that I had written.  One of those songs was Elsewhere, a relaxed Last of the Mohicans-esque soundtrack style bit.  I’d been working with writing shorter and shorter pieces of about a minute long- ones that would just establish a mood or setting- and Elsewhere was composed in that vein.

It was also the first to receive the Cinesamples treatment, which couldn’t have turned out better.  The biggest difference between this version and the original are the dynamics.  Cinestrings allow a lot of dynamic freedom with the strings, which you hear in Elsewhere within the first three seconds.  Honestly, this was the piece that got me really excited for the rest of them.

So here it is.

And, just for comparison, here’s the original. Yup.

Past year update

It’s amazing what you can not accomplish when you’re not actively thinking about it. Over the past year, I finally graduated with a degree in music composition (the pursuit of which was an exceptionally long and twisted path), and a lot’s changed since the last time I posted on my blog.

I’ve decided I’m going to move to LA and try to make a career writing soundtracks. This is a case of taking a long time to realize something I already knew. Back in 2011 or so, I knew that I loved writing music, but didn’t know what form that could take in a career. I knew that I could use virtual instruments and sound samples to create music, but didn’t really know too much about creating authentic sounds. It’s taken a rather long time to realize what I’m good at and what I’m not.

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An exceptionally long and twisted path.

Anyway, it’s time I start taking everything a bit more seriously. Recently, that’s manifested itself in high quality music- you know, the kind that people actually like listening to, not just experiments.

Recently I got turned on to Cinesamples (www.cinesamples.com), which are a collection of ultra high quality sound sample libraries recorded at the Sony Pictures Studios in Los Angeles. I went a bit crazy and bought the entire Cinesymphony set (strings, winds, brass, and percussion) and I gotta say… it’s pretty amazing. The whole thing sounds completely legitimate, and there’s an infinite number of customization options and placements you can do that really make for a great sound.

I’ve already got a couple compositions done with the new software, and I’ll be posting them in a bit. For now, I’m rather excited about the direction I’m headed and what the future holds.

Dionysus the Tea Man

Today, the Little People star in a re-imagining of the ancient Dionysus myth. What if Dionysus, instead of being the god of wine, was the British overlord of tea? And what if Pentheus, instead of being a jealous king intent … Continue reading

Autumn

So this was originally a piano bit that I had written for a series of songs entitled “Anatomy of a School Year”, where I encapsulated all the memories and emotions of a school year into minute-bursts of music. The middle one, “Autumn” (named very creatively, I know) was later orchestrated and recorded. Here’s the result.

Love Me When I’m Gone

Despite all that I’ve written, in the past year there’s been almost nothing new on Devolution, the album for which I’ve been throwing around ideas for ages now.  I came up with a list of song titles for the album, and some musical cues to go with them, sure.  But I have no way to record voice or guitar, and my composition style is moving further and further away from rock n roll.  We’ll see how it all shakes out, but Devolution as I imagined it will be a long way off.

In the meantime, I had a melody idea for a piece called “Love Me When I’m Gone,” and, during a composition seminar at Grand Valley State, seized the opportunity to expand it into a full piece.  Ideally the full version will be fully orchestrated, and I’ll also hopefully learn how to actually play it well in the future, but for now, here’s the first look at the piece.

Composers as Listeners (shared blog post)

Today, Ashlee Busch* posted on her blog (http://ashleebusch.com/blog/) a short Thought that she’d had recently. I was so moved by it that I’ve reproduced it below.

Ashlee’s a composer and adjunct professor at Grand Valley State University, which is a complicated way of saying, “Read this. It’s insightful.”

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For the first time in what feels like years, I’m writing a piece that I want to hear. I am a professional musician. I am a professional composer. Why do I spend such time writing music I don’t want to hear…?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing something all musicians should do more – listening to the work of my colleagues. Most notably in recent weeks, Common Tones in Simple Time (1979) by John Luther Adams. This piece is genius. The subtlety of the changing timbrel language, the constant and sustained reining in of the orchestra’s full dynamic range, the constant pull of a rhythmic motor that never tires the ear as it’s embedded so artfully…it blew my mind. And I thought – THAT is the kind of music I want to write! So why am I spending time on this other stuff…?

I don’t know at what point a young composer (or maybe they don’t and it’s only a few of us) becomes ensconced in the world of what we “should” write versus what we want to write. Take, for example, this picture above. Is it a good picture by a photographer’s standards? No. But I like to look at it. I like the colors. I like the broadness of the sky. I like the framing of the cars at the bottom of the picture as if to signify how small humans are to the enormity of the Heavens. And that picture is mine.

Countless musical mentors warn young composers not to let the crafting ruin the craft. Yes, gather the tools you need. Yes, a comprehensive education is an efficient path to honing those skills. Yes, make yourself marketable.

But…

…we must never lose sight of why we are, why we simply must be, composers in the first place.
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You know, it’s true. Often it’s been the case that I’ve written a song, and I love the hell out of it, but then I get nervous. “What if it’s not ‘classical’ enough?” I wonder. “What if people think it’s too easy to play? What if they don’t take it seriously because it’s not ‘right’?”

Frankly, that’s an incorrect and counterproductive way of thinking. Remember, the purpose of music is to be listened to and to be enjoyed. If it fulfills those, then maybe, just maybe, it is good enough.

*Amusing sidenote: for a short while, Ashlee was both a fellow student in a composition seminar of mine and simultaneously the teacher for one of my theory classes. There were pros and cons to this: a pro is that we respect each other’s opinions, but a con was that if I didn’t turn my homework in, she was legally entitled to kick my ass.

Crush remix

Next on the remix docket was Crush, a song I’d never been happy with for a variety of reasons. By all rights, I should have cut this song from the album long ago and consigned it to oblivion, but I couldn’t. It meant too much to me.

So yeah, I remixed it using what I’d recorded at Michigan. The middle section has always given me grief because it’s an orchestration of virtual instruments that was always meant to be played back when (if) I ever played the song live. I don’t remember which instruments I used originally and of course I didn’t make notes of it at the time, and I can’t just splice in the original 2010 version because clever old me had to bring it up a whole step when I re-recorded it. I could use the version I made at Michigan, but I never liked that version anyway.

This is a whole bunch of words to say that here’s the first two-thirds of the song, remixed. I should probably re-do the midsection at some point.