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! 🙂

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And so it goes on…

Life has been pretty crazy this year, with not as much time as I’d like for composing.

Despite that, I’ve managed to finish off a new arrangement of I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day – for SAAB. I’ve also been quite busy working on a few larger works, including an Ave Maria which is going well, and a new earth-based piece possibly titled Awakenings, which is going well, set for SATB and hand drum.

The Awakenings piece is the one that is really taking off. I work in an odd kind of way – I get a theme in my head, and go with it, and either it starts to work well, or it doesn’t. In the case of this new work, it’s coming together nicely. And unlike most of my works, the basses have a lot of work to do – they’re the superstars, and hopefully will love it, with some really low notes to pound out and have fun with!

I just wish I had more time to compose! Composing isn’t my only interest – or job – and there has been a lot on my plate this year. As well as work, I took a month of holidaying in Europe, which was spectacular fun, and I’ve been busy at the local gym, getting back into rowing form, and doing a bit of bodybuilding as well (yeah, I’m a composer who bodybuilds – who’d a thunk it?). I just like to have a lot on my plate – I’m not happy unless I’ve got way too much to do!

Anyway, Awakenings should be finished pretty soon, and of course it will be released here at the website before anywhere else. It’s along the same vein as Crescent Moon, so if you liked that, you might just like Awakenings!

Busy working away…

I’ve been pretty busy the last few weeks, working on a few pieces of music that are struggling to reach completion.

Not many composers talk much about the compositional process, and the difficulties that are sometimes involved. So when we hear a piece of music at its completion, we’re never really aware of what went into it, or how much in the way of blood, sweat and tears were bred into its making.

For me, some music comes easy. “Mary Sings A Lullaby” was written in the space of a few hours. “Crescent Moon” appeared in the space of three or four days, when my husband was on business overseas, and I had no-one and nothing to keep me company in the evenings. And “Where Is The Moon?” was also a few hours, coming quickly and with little effort.

But other pieces have been really hard. And at the moment, I’m struggling with an “Ave Maria” whose principal themes arrived quickly, but now seems to sit in a secondary phase of development, not wanting to be finished. I know it will happen, but it seems to be challenging me at every turn.

Then, of course, there are just the everyday businesses of life that slow things down. I have two kids, and they’re demanding. Other interests fill my hours, and I have a farm to run that takes time. We’ve had four groups of overseas visitors come to stay in four months (*waves*), and – while it has been lovely – it does take a fair chunk of your time to show people around our beautiful Taieri and city.

Plus we’ve been renovating. The whole top storey of our home has been redecorated and painted. I’ve been up, fourteen feet in the air, perched on stepladders, covered in eau-de-nil paint, and dabbing at walls on my tiptoes. The house (or the upper part of it!) is looking awesome, but it all took time in which I wasn’t composing.

But now the winter is on its way. Everywhere I look, autumn has settled in with a vengeance, and the nights are definitely feeling colder. Daylight Savings time is over. And soon it will be too cold to do much on the farm besides a little bit of fence-fixing here and there, and just regular checks on our animals.

That’s when the composition will happen in big chunks. Because there is nothing better to do, when the wind is blowing hard outside, than to snuggle up under the heater with my laptop, and fiddle with the lines of a new piece. Or complete something that has been on the backburner for a while.

So yes, things are definitely moving. “Ave Maria” will get out of the door – eventually. I promise. What I have done is sounding incredible. It’s on its way.

I’m looking forward to sharing it with you when it is done.