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! 🙂

Darth Vader plays electric guitar – and conducts a Christmas flash mob

This may be the coolest flash mob I’ve ever seen – Darth Vader on electric guitar conducting a Christmas flash mob at Algonquin College.

The choir note that “Lord Vader is not enrolled or on faculty at Algonquin.”

Merry Christmas!

A Creative Commons Christmas

I’m currently busy on an SSATB a cappella composition with the working title of “Starlight”. No text for the piece as yet, but everything going well.

I should have some midi samples ready witihn a week or two, but it is Christmas, so things may slow down as eggnog making, gingerbread house construction, and building of various yummy salads all get in the way of things, as they tend to do at this time of the year.

In other news, I’m now a fully represented SOUNZ composer. They’ve received and approved my paperwork, so you’ll now start to be able to find my works at the SOUNZ website too, along with those of other New Zealand composers.

If you’re looking for new works to perform, go check out the website. It’s worth a look.

Sharing music at Christmas

Christmas is coming fast, and with it a fair number of performances of my works around the world. This week I was sent a copy of the flute line Mark at All Saints Edmonton in London has written for Mary Sings A Lullaby.

They’ll be performing his two voice plus flute arrangement of Mary on the 18th of December. I’ll be adding Mark’s score to this website with his permission, and to the Choral Public Domain Library, sometime fairly soon.

This is the beauty of Creative Commons release – it enables performers to add their own touches to the work, without fear of repercussion. It also provides new options for choirs and churches, free of charge, for their performances and services.

Copyright should end after 10 years

If I had my way, I’d make copyright end after 10 years. I think we need more free – and freely shared – music in the world. Right here, right now at Christmas, I am reminded how it is more important to give than to receive. Ten years would be enough for composers to earn fairly, then to share our music without fees attached.

After all, if we are able to write music it is not through anything we’ve done ourselves, but usually through lucky chance, and the gifts of others – music lessons as a child, music teachers who cared and worked hard themselves, mentors and friends, and others taking an interest in us, supporting us, and performing our music.

After ten years, I think it is high time to give something back.

Christmas performances – England, the USA and New Zealand

Just a quick mention of some more performances I’ve been contacted about recently.

Over in England, right near where my Dad grew up near Nottingham, Sing Christmas! is receiving another performance in the village of Burton Joyce, in the annual Christmas concerts there on the 17th and 19th.

And I was lucky to be able to attend a performance of Sing Christmas! here in my own home city of Dunedin, by the Southern Consort of Voices, performed at St. Paul’s Cathedral. It still feels off hearing my own works from my head, brought to life in front of me. I felt honoured and humbled to be present.

Another piece that received another outing recently was “Yule” from the Wheel of the Year. It was performed by the Timberlake High School Choir in Idaho on December 7th, which gave me an Idaho premiere – I’d never been performed there at all, to the best of my knowledge. I hope your concert went well over there!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

It’s really starting to feel like Christmas here.

In the southern hemisphere, we have a summer Christmas instead of a winter one, but this time of year comes around, and I get all sentimental, reminded of trying to stay awake for Father Christmas hour after hour – and failing dismally! – as a kid.

Our Christmas tree is looking beautiful, with real bells on it that jingle when my children shake them. We have a star on top, and an assortment of home-made and collected decorations – everything from yoghurt pottles sprinkled with glitter glue and sparkle, made by my four year old daughter, through to hand-blown glass from Venice – a gift from my travelling parents.

It’s all equal in beauty to me, when it hangs on the tree – although maybe the handmade decorations by my kids come a little higher in importance 😉

This is probably my last post for the year. With so much to do, there’s likely not much time to post again before 2012. So all I can say is, thanks to everyone who has been reading, thanks especially to the choirs and musicians who have been performing my music – and I hope everyone has a safe and happy Christmas and New Year.