Most of the recording is not studio quality (since it wasn’t done in a studio), and recording isn’t something I enjoy doing, but I made the mistake of not putting my earlier compositions on tape (yes, that early) or onto the computer. Trying to remember those pieces has been futile effort. So now I at least score my pieces as I write them.
Earlier this year I did a series of posts on my writing process:
I hope that you enjoyed my conversation last week. It was fun to do, and I will definitely do more. I tried to keep it casual sounding yet informative as I aim to highlight some of the authors I am doing promotions with.
Now onto today’s topic:
When I first picked up a guitar, I wanted to be a rock and roll star. My friend had recently played a new album by this band called Van Halen. I was awestruck. I went out and bought the cassette (Remember those? Some of you won’t, some of you will have fond memories of making or receiving a mixed tape).
I liked every song on that tape except for Ice Cream Man. For some reason, I disliked it so much I put tape over the little gap on the top corner (some of you will know about this, others will be scratching their heads) and proceeded to erase it. Thankfully, it was the last song. I also scraped the title off the cassette.
Why did I go to great lengths to eliminate this one song from my life? It was a departure from what I thought Van Halen and hard rock were supposed to be, I suppose.
Hearing it later in my life, along with songs and covers like Pretty Woman, You Really Got Me, Dancing in the Street (which was much better than the terrible Jagger/Bowie version), and Big Bad Bill/Sweet William (clarinet in a rock band!?) showed just how talented and versatile the band members were—and no one screams quite like Roth, either. I’m not saying he was the best, just that you could always tell it was him. I also remember there was an uproar when 1984 came out and featured keyboards in Jump and many others (keyboards in a rock band!?)
What made me think about this? I found an old iPod (mine) that had all the pre-Hagar albums. (don’t get me started on that fiasco*). So, I listened to them all. They had many hits—and many misses—and you could hear the sound that influenced many of the 80s hard rock bands.
So, I apologize to Mr. Roth, Mr. Halen (both), and Mr. Anthony for my hasty judgement and destruction of your work. I am not a rock star…you all are.
Thank you for sharing your talent, Eddie. R.I.P
*FYI: Joking aside, Van Halen with Hagar was different, not better or worse. It changed the band, not like how AC/DC was able to change their lead singer and not miss a beat.
Welcome to my new conversation series! Season 1, Episode 1: The One with Abigail
[Chairs scuffing on floor…*cough*…]
Hi, Abigail. I’m glad you made it. I know that internet traffic can be congested at times. So, if you are comfortable, let’s get started. In 33 1/3 words (see what I did there?) or less, tell me a little about you.
I’m a musician and author from the East Coast, now living in Toronto! I also play the oboe, sing, and write lyrics. I’m very inspired by the places I grew up around back home.
(did I do that right?)
You’re a little over, but I’ll let it pass. What is your favorite note?
I’ve never given it much thought, honestly! I’d say D is very nice.
That’s a good choice. I like that one as well. Do you know how many people pick that note?
I have no idea!
Neither do I. Interesting to know, though. So, along that same line, do you have perfect pitch, and if so, what is the most common note out there?
I don’t have perfect pitch! The only note I know 100% whenever I hear it is “A”. That’s the beauty of being an oboist and tuning every orchestra/band you’re ever in. I spent many hours practicing playing “As” over the years!
I think there is an oboe joke about that.
Oh, probably. There’s an oboe joke for everything.
Not as many as for the viola, I’m sure. What composer has influenced you the most?
Probably Sondheim! I’m very inspired by musical theatre in general. I once thought I might try for a performance program in that area, but I found I much prefer being behind the scenes.
I recognize the name, and I’m sure I’ve heard his pieces, so I looked him up and said, “Oh yeah. That guy.”
What inspires you to compose a piece, and how do you proceed? I rarely hear a melody in my head, so when my emotions need an outlet other than poetry, I have to turn to playing guitar to come up with ideas.
It really depends. Sometimes, I have a melody spring out from my head that I have to write down, but sometimes it’s just a concept I want to explore more. Like, maybe I’m inspired by a photo or a poem and want to convey that musically. Or maybe I have words in my head I want to put to music.
Do you have a favorite instrument to score for, and on the flip side, what instrument do you find challenging?
I love writing for voice! An instrument I find challenging to write for is the harp, or really anything stringed. As a woodwind player, stringed instruments are foreign to me, so sometimes I need to ask around to see if what I want to write is possible or if a player would hate me for writing something a certain way.
Isn’t a harp just a sideways piano? It’s like the builder just gave up and said, “That’s enough.”
Haha, I wish it was that simple! All those pedals and tunings make things interesting.
When was the last time you have an earworm, and what song was it?
Yesterday, I had “Danger” by BTS stuck in my head basically all day.
I’ll give you one—Watermelon Sugar. You can thank me later.
Gosh, that’s also constantly in my head. It’s too catchy!
First concert? Last concert?
My first concert was probably Symphony New Brunswick. My parents started taking me to them when I was pretty small, so I’m guessing it was them! The last concert I saw was Kim Petras.
I’ll have to look her up. What song or genre are you embarrassed to like?
I don’t really get embarrassed by my music taste anymore. Life’s too short to get hung up on those sorts of things. If I had to answer the question, though, I’d say K-pop because it’s so big right now, and many who aren’t in the know are annoyed by it and the fans, but I really don’t care.
I agree. There’s usually merit in all styles of music…usually.
[Sound of flipping through cue cards]
I read here that you are a writer of poetry. What came first for you, music or writing?
I think writing. I was writing stuff way before I could spell or print properly, but music came shortly after. I began lessons when I was still in kindergarten.
Do you have a favorite book?
So hard to pick just one! I’d go with the Lord of the Rings trilogy because I’ve reread it the most out of everything.
I’ve read that a few times as well. I think the sign of a good book is when you want to read it again. I’ve read Klondike by Pierre Burton many times.
I can’t say I’ve read it or even heard of it! You learn something new every day!
It’s a historical account of the gold rush. Quite fascinating. Speaking of fascinating…are you allergic to anything or wish you were?
I have sooo many seasonal allergies.
Let’s change things up a bit. Are you ready for the lightning round?
Introvert or extrovert?A bit of both?
Talk or text?Text
Physical or Ebooks?Ebooks
Tea or Coffee?Coffee
Coke or Pepsi?Coke
Rick or Morty?Neither? I’ve never watched it, haha.
The beaten path or the road less traveled?Road less traveled.
Like or dislike:Ice cream— like
Moths— like (when they’re not stuck in my house)
Bonus question: What’s the square root of 13?
Why are you making me do math??
I didn’t say it was going to be easy. Time’s Up! I’m glad we had this chance to chat. Are there any links you would like to share?
Be sure to follow my newsletter for monthly updates! You also get a free e-copy of my poetry collection MIDNIGHT when you do!
My first conversation will be with poet/composer Abigail de Niverville. I immediately was drawn to the parallels in my skill set, which was what made me decide to do this feature. So stay tuned (Ha! There’s the music reference for today), I hope to have it ready for next Monday.
And, now for something not so different:
For today, I will continue on the Olympic theme because, hey, why not. One more year and I’ll be annoying you with Winter Olympics stuff.
As reader (Stevie) brought up a point about performance enhancing drugs. as with most (all?) sports, there regulations and rules preventing the use of these, which in most people’s minds make sense. There is a definite advantage (plus negative long-term disadvantages) to the use, but if some do and some don’t, it does create an imbalanced playing field.
Some athletes knowingly take them – hoping not to be caught, and some unknowingly do – from an honest mistake to subterfuge (I’ve been waiting a long time to throw in that word). The consequences can range from banning (some as harsh as lifetime), records and medals being taken away, to asterisks being places beside your achievement.
Kudos to the Olympic committee for allowing some Russian athletes to compete in the last few games amidst the allegations of doping by their government. On a side note: They should also be applauded for creating a refugee team for the displaced athletes with no place to call home.
Maybe the solution is to have a competition solely for athletes that take PEDs. Wouldn’t that be exciting? Imagine how much weight they could lift or how fast they would run/swim. Gymnastics would be interesting, though.
Now that I have written a piece of music, what next? Music, like other forms of artistic expression, is meant to be shared. Not always—some of what I have created will only be seen and heard by myself. Not that I’m selfish, some things are just too personal.
There are two options: Live or recorded. Live music has taken on a whole new meaning in the last year, with streaming performances becoming the new live. I’m not a performer. I have performed, but it’s not my forte.
I suffer from the classic stage fright. If you’ve never experienced it, you are lucky. Imagine playing a piece and all you can think about is “don’t make a mistake” or forgetting the next part—the proverbial “drawing a blank”—and so on. It really sucks.
One thing about learning to play a piece of music is memory: Mental and muscle. There are pieces that I learned early on in my college and university years, I can still remember. And some, if I don’t think about it, will come back like water from a faucet. It’s pretty amazing. It’s also about consistency. Can you play it right the first time (you don’t want to learn mistakes) and can you repeat it correctly?
When I try to learn a new piece, it seems to be more difficult to do those things, and it feels like more work than enjoyment. Since I’m only doing it for myself, there’s not much accountability when I say, that’s enough. Often when I do learn a piece, if I don’t play it on a regular basis, I need to relearn many of the parts. I love to play. I used to be better. I don’t like when it feels like work.
It also takes me a while to record. I can play a piece perfectly (or perfectly enough) until I press the record button and bingo—mistake city. I’ve been trying to record two of my earliest compositions, so maybe now is the incentive to finally finish them. Since I made a separate page on my website for all my music (plus I put them on SoundCloud), I might as well put those on as well.
Before the availability of computer programs to record, there used to be home 4-track cassette* recorders. Small, compact, and easy to use. Basically, it had four recording heads that divided the tape into four parts. Perfect for voice / guitar / bass / drums. But what if you wanted to add more instruments? Easy! Record tracks 1, 2, and 3, then put those on track 4. Now you have 3 empty tracks. So now you can record on 1 and 2, put those on empty track 3, and voila, you have 2 more tracks.
OK. Not so easy…
I use a free program called Audacity to record. You can have as many tracks as you need, add effects, and edit countless other aspects. Now, that’s easy.
What’s next for this series. Well, I have to finish the composing piece that I started. There are still parts that need to be connected, and parts yet to be created. Don’t ask me the timeline. I have no idea. It still needs a name as well. Stay tuned.
*Remember cassettes? Then you also remember when they jammed, and you pulled out lengths of crinkled brown tape. You also remember having to use a pencil to rewind them.
I was thinking the other day (I do that sometimes) how much easier it would have been to be a composer in the early days. For example:
Gregorian chant? You hold that low drone for a while, and then we’ll move up and down this scale I invented. Ohhh, I got an idea! Let’s sing in this cavernous church.
Traveling troubadours? I can use these same three chords. No one has heard them in every country song written yet.
I bet no one said to Bach: “Hey, J.S., I love that tune, but doesn’t it kind of sound like In-A-Gadda- Da-Vida?”
We could have had more or less than 12 tones in western music, but nooo, someone decided to use that division. For you Ancient Alien fans, I think there was a show all about the number twelve. Just sayin’.
Do the math. There are many combintaions you can get with just twelve notes, but ultimately, you are going to write something that will get you sued. Bach then (ha!) everything was new. Oh, I’m sure there was the occasional fugue fight, or arguments on who’s motet that really was, or who was the real father of the symphony (psst–Haydn), but what you wrote was more than likely going to be brand new.
There are times when I am composing that I have to change certain notes because even though they fit and sound exactly how I wanted it to, it reminds me of something else that I’ve heard. You would think that it would happen more often than it does, but I’m sure glad it doesn’t.
The next few Mondays will give some insight into one composer’s process (mine, but you knew that): what I’ve learned, forgotten, ignored, and dismissed. So, you guessed it, sometimes I just wing it.
I don’t know if I have ever heard anyone say the phrase: “I don’t like music.” You are more than likely to hear someone say, “That Ferrari belongs to the mime.“
I usually have music playing. Sometimes, when if I hear a new song, I can picture myself in a past experience. It is as if the song was written for me for that event.
Music makes me cry, sometimes. I tried to record a song that I wrote, but I couldn’t get through it without stopping to wipe the tears or catch my breath. There are songs that I hear that still bring a tear to my eye.
Music makes me smile, often. More often than not. Music moves me. I don’t know what I would do without music. Be very sad, I suppose, unless I never knew about music in the first place, but who would want to live in a world like that?
And BTW, can somebody move that Ferrari? It’s blocking my Pinto.
So I dropped the ball this week. I was going to start posting some of my music on Mondays, but got distracted and wrote a cartoon/humor related post. I think perhaps I will use Tuesday as my music related post (should I still tag it as Music Mondays? Can I?)
Short back story: I play guitar.
Not such a short back story: I have always enjoyed music. I took piano lessons as a child/teen, as well as guitar lessons (wanted to be a rock star – How’d that work out you ask?). After bouncing around college for a few years I decided to pursue music studies, and after 6 years I received my Bachelor of Music, majoring in classical guitar. I wasn’t a great performer. Nerves, stage fright, and blanking memory doesn’t make for a successful career.
Life got in the way. I forgot/lost many of my early acoustic pieces, but then began to write again.
As with performing, recording is a difficult process-perfection isn’t an option-but I am starting to get a few compositions recorded to the best of my ability. I hope that you enjoy them too.