It feels like autumn today…Mabon is come!

Thanks to the Orfeo Universitari Choir of Valencia, Spain for performing Mabon: Song of the Autumn Equinox. This is absolutely beautiful:

Wind, fire, sea, stone
Breath, flame, wave, bone

Long light has lingered here, Earth still is warm,
Deepening shadows lost by the dawn.
Long darkness rising here, though heat lingers on,
Twist of the Equinox – Mabon has come.

Dead leaves fall silently, drift on the air,
Trees standing, slumbering – dry, cracked and bare.
Time passes quietly, echoing past:
Earth calls the winter in. Mabon at last!

Shadows through the mist I see:
Time passing silently.
Starlight, as the Spiral bends.
Moonlight, as the daylight ends.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day – performance by RMIT Occasional Choral Society

Here’s a lovely performance of my piece “I heard the bells on Christmas Day” by RMIT Occasional Choral Society, Melbourne.

I didn’t even know they’d performed it until recently!

Here’s the text, for those of you unfamiliar with Longfellow’s classic 1864 civil war poem, “Christmas Bells”. I’ve omitted a few verses, for length.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

The piece opens with just women singing (soprano and alto), then tenor join in, then bass for a verse, then a solo tenor verse before the full choir extend to six part harmony for the final verse.

I hope you enjoy the piece. I think they did a great job of it.

Free music…and filling a niche

I have no illusions about my ability as a composer.

I’ll never be a Mozart. Or a Beethoven. Or a Bach – and I don’t even like his stuff!

But what I do well is fill niches. I fill gaps. I’m good at figuring out what people want and need, and then creating the music to fill that need.

I create music that people want and need.

And what people want is free, accessible music.

People also generally want music that is easy to perform. A lot of choirs are cobbled together these days, musical directors don’t know who is going to turn up from day to day or week to week, and they need easy music that people who cannot sight read can just pick up and learn quickly.

I try to create that – fast, easy to learn music that is fun and accessible.

Then there’s the children’s music niche, and that’s one area I’m currently working in. I’m in the process of creating a children’s nativity play, hopefully in time for Christmas this year. It’ll be – you guessed it! – freely available, and easy to perform. Nothing too hard to stage-manage, and fun and easy for audiences to sit back and enjoy.

Oh, and music teachers in primary schools will be able to download as many copies as they need. For free.

So…what’s in it for me?

I’d compose music if I were stuck underwater with a brick on my head. I’d write too. I’m just someone who does those things, and I do them because I love them, not because I’m hoping to get rich doing them.

To be honest, I just dislike the whole way the music industry has gone – which is a let’s rip off the musicians and make as much money as we can model. To me, that’s not music – that’s profiteering.

I don’t like the way music that is over 50 years old is still under copyright, and I don’t like the way that choirs still can’t afford to perform Gershwin – because, yep, copyright.

You want to know why there are a thousand performances of the Mozart Requiem and Handel’s Messiah, but that brilliant composer down the road can’t get her stuff performed?

Yep. Copyright.

It sucketh mightily.

gershwin_copyright

Why copyright sucks…especially for choirs and composers

So much beauty is being stalled, and lost, because of huge companies wanting to throttle the neck of art and keep us all choking on copyright laws that are out of touch with what real artists and performers want and need.

Don’t get me wrong – I have no problem at all with people earning a fair living from their work. But when choirs don’t risk buying new music because the new music is too expensive to buy it’s quite clear to me that the old model of pay per copy and keep on paying for as long as copyright exists which is WAY too long is a broken, destructive model.

I disagree with it, and I won’t use it. I’m voting with my feet.

If you think the old model is broken, vote with your feet too. Support composers that offer free music. Support people who agree with your ethics. Perform the music of people who write because they love to write. Support CPDL and other free music ventures. Give new freely available music a go. And be vocal in support of the Creative Commons.

That’s my 2c for the penny arcade. What do you think?

Now here’s the Hutt Valley Singers & Major Minors Children’s Choir – a lovely community choir – with Sing Christmas. Thanks for posting on Youtube! 🙂