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.

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“I heard the bells on Christmas Day” and other performances

I’ve just had a request for an SSAB version of “I heard the bells on Christmas Day”, for the sesquicentennial celebrations of the American Civil War in Gettysburg, USA in June 2013! So I’m busy working away, and that should be released on this website within the next day or two.

In the meanwhile, the current SATB version is (of course) available here. Go have a listen – it’s quite a lovely piece.

I’m thrilled at the chance to be part of such an important celebration – the American Civil War not only changed the face of US history, but also the path of human rights worldwide. I just wish I could thank the great poet Longfellow for writing such a beautiful text. I hope I’ve done it justice.

Other performances

When I began 2012, I was hoping that I might equal the sixty (or so) performances I managed worldwide last year. Things are looking good – so far I’ve had about a dozen performances, primarily in the UK, plus a couple of performances in the US and in New Zealand. I really need to update my performance page!

But the year has been so busy with other things – at home we’re ripping out a swimming pool, doing landscaping of the farm and painting, we’ve got in a new ram, and I’ve also been busy hatching out baby chicks. All have kept me busy, not to mention looking after a very active four year old, and a pretty precocious seven year old. I sleep well these days!

New works

However, I’ve finally got back to composing, now the kids are back in school and kindy (I’m sure Beethoven never had to deal with parent-teacher timetables!). I’m currently working on an Ave Maria – something I always intended to write but which, until now, I never felt competent enough to attempt. But now the time has come, and it is happening, and I’m about halfway there.

I’m thrilled with the piece, my husband hates it, so I guess the proof in the pudding will be how you all out there respond to it. It certainly isn’t “traditional” in any sense!

The “Ave Maria” should be completed and released in the next week or two, if all goes well. It will be released here at this website first, so stay tuned 🙂

Please pirate my music! Why SOPA and PIPA are so, so wrong…

There’s just one thing that makes humans different from other animals. We can communicate ideas so easily.

We have language, and writing.

Better than both, we have music – something that transcends language and writing, and crosses cultural, age, and historical barriers.

Mozart’s voice comes down to us, as clear and sparkling and witty as if he’d written his music yesterday.

Beethoven’s beauty and majesty from two hundred years ago is shared with us and becomes our own. No matter what country we come from, or how much we earn, or where we live.

“Communication” is another word for sharing. And the more we do it, the stronger the ideas that we share become, and the more critical they become to the community that shared them.

Which is why SOPA and PIPA are so, so wrong. Ideas that are censored and under tight restriction have the guts pulled out of them, whether they know it or not. By restricting their ability to be shared, they are immediately devalued in a society of creatures whose development and intelligence is based on sharing.

SOPA and PIPA threaten to devalue the internet, because we absolutely need the creativity, innovation and the sharing of cultural wisdom that the internet can provide.

To threaten the openness of the net is to take a step backwards in human development.

Illegal to sing Christmas carols?

Imagine a world where it was illegal to sing Christmas carols. Imagine our kids not being able to sing “Away in a Manger” at their nativity play.

Imagine a Passover celebration without a family being able to sing “Dayenu”.


Dayenu – one of the songs we sing every Passover (although we sing it a lot faster).

Imagine not being able to sing “Happy Birthday” without fear of recrimination (oh wait…)

The point is, these songs became our culture because they could be expressed freely, and without recrimination. They “went viral” in our culture, and are now solid, core parts of what it means to be Christian, or Jewish, or just to have a birthday in a Western society.

(As for “Happy Birthday” – fancy going to jail? You just might, if you sing it next time your child has a birthday, if you record it on camera and upload it to Youtube for your overseas relatives to see.)

The internet – history’s greatest sharing device

And then along came the internet. It enabled people who could never communicate, from different social groups and different parts of the world to suddenly be able to talk to one another, as equals. Of course we shared ideas. Of course we shared our favourite music, and movies. That’s what people have always done (remember dubbing cassette to cassette? I do!). It’s just that now it was open, and visible, and trackable.

Of course a lot of our favourite content is created by the mass media. What else would you expect, when we’ve had TV and radio and movies and mass-produced and mass-marketed CDs shoved in our faces all our lives? If none of our favourite content were created by the “entertainment industry”, the industry would have died a long time ago.

That doesn’t mean people are criminals. It just means to a large extent we’re mirrors and products of our society and culture. We share what we like, we buy what we like, and we repeat to others what we like.

And now, if you think these new potential US laws will only affect the US, well, if you believe that, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

Oh, those poor, poor millionaires!

Is “piracy” such a huge problem? Really?

I’d argue no, but then, I’m a weirdo who offers her work freely, for no charge. I benefit from people sharing my music, because I can’t compete with the heavily advertised, heavily subsidized commercial industry. (I also can’t compete with Mozart and Beethoven, but that’s another story…)

My view is that piracy is simply the world telling Hollywood that their prices are too high, and they need to face up to reality. No movie star is worth $77 million a year (Leonardo DiCaprio’s reputed earnings for 2011). My husband and I paid $32 to go see “Mission Impossible” last night – and that was just for tickets. No popcorn or drinks. Affordable? Not really, if you’re on any sort of a budget (it was our anniversary).

By the way, the movie was rubbish. Don’t bother.

As for DVDs, they cost cents, not dollars to make, so a new release DVD should not be costing $36 in the shop. The industry is massively overcharging people (a.k.a. ripping us off). No wonder people download! If DVDs cost $5 instead of nearly $40, maybe piracy wouldn’t be a problem.

What you can do about it

If you don’t agree that the internet should be censored simply because a few companies who overcharge for their products and want even more control say it should be, you can learn more about this issue and take action here.

If, like most of the world, you’re not in the US, you can write to your local Department of Foreign Affairs and make your voice heard.

I wrote to the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Here’s a link for my Kiwi readers: New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

What else can you do?

If you’re a content creator, consider offering your material – or some of it – under a Creative Commons license. Visit the website, and you can learn anything you want to know about this worthwhile project: Creative Commons.

And share my music freely. Share your music freely. Create new content, and share it. Because great ideas are meant to be shared. It’s what we humans do best.

And Mozart and Beethoven would give you the big thumbs up.