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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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.

Happy New Year – the apprenticeship continues…

2011 has been a good year for me, composition-wise. So I thought I’d write about what happened, where I currently stand, and what my goals for 2012 are.

2011 – my first year apprenticeship!

Firstly, I’ve been accepted as a fully represented SOUNZ composer, which is wonderful news. More info on that to come: my forms have only just gone in.

To be a fully represented composer, I needed to have had 7 performances, plus international performances, prizes and recordings. I’ve done all that, thanks to so much support from people all around the world who have loved and shared my music, so everything I’m starting to achieve right now is due to you all, and your decisions to perform and record my music, as much as anything I’ve done.

Thanks in particular to RMIT Occasional Choral Society in Melbourne, Australia, and to Grupo Talliesin in Brazil, who have been there from the beginning. Both groups have been incredibly supportive not just of me, but of other aspiring musicians and composers. We need more awesome people like you in the world, willing to take a chance on those of us who are still building our name and credentials.

This year, I’ve written and published about a dozen pieces of music. I’ve had over 60 performances around the globe, more than one a week, and everywhere from Brazil to London to Pennsyvania to Shanghai!

Every performance I hear of is a thrill to me – it’s wonderful to know that my music is being performed and enjoyed around the world. It’s also very humbling to receive so many emails from so many lovely people.

Thankyou thankyou thankyou!

Some of the places I’ve been performed I’ve had to look up on Google, so it has been an education in other ways besides music, because I’ve learned more about where people live. Every city and town I’ve heard from I’ve looked up on Google Earth, and learned a bit more about it. The world really is a village now, and we can connect with one another through music.

When I began 2011, I thought of this year as my “first year of apprenticeship”, learning to write music as a composer.

There is so much to learn, and the more I learn, the more I realise I’ve a lot of growing to do. But I do feel like I’ve learned a huge amount, and that I am growing and developing my skills. Pieces are happening more quickly and naturally now, and the flow is easier.

Overall, I do feel like I’ve learned as much as any music student would have, by doing my own “private apprenticeship” at home.

If I can write music at home, anyone can. If you’re reading this, and you’ve ever wanted to write music, don’t let anyone or anything stop you. You can do it!

So let your music ring out and light the world up!

Goals for 2012

2012 will be my second year of my “apprenticeship”.

I’ll continue to study scores by the “Great Composers”: everything from Mozart to McCartney.

I’ve been starting to get more interested in the Russian dudes – Russian church music is so beautiful. And in early music. Plus anything from anywhere I happen to think is good. Lady Gaga, for instance, is a master of the ear worm, and I’m starting to take her music to pieces, and see how it operates: there really is a calculation and method to it all.

That’s the beauty of studying and learning by myself – I can pick and choose what I want to learn from! I don’t know of any course that compares Wagner to Gaga – but they should! The two have a lot of similarities in how they “hook” your ear, and it is interesting to compare methods and techniques in the writing styles.

Goals for 2012 include finishing a Christmas Song Cycle which I have already started. I’m planning for it to run between 15 and 20 minutes in length, and be set for full choir plus piano. As far as I know, no New Zealand composer has ever written anything like this, so I guess it’s up to me 🙂 Yee haw!

That’s my major goal. I’m also planning to write a few solo pieces, and start writing instrumental works. A big part of the plans involves setting up a recording studio here at home, and organising a group of singers and instrumentalists to do some recordings. I just have to find some talented people who are interested.

Another goal is to try writing some children’s music. I’d like to write some nursery rhymes, and have had some ideas jotted down for a while now, but haven’t got around to filling them out. They’d be in unison with piano, with maybe a few simple splits here and there.

That’s probably enough for 2012. If I achieve all that I’ll be doing really well.

So here’s to a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

May 2012 be peaceful, joyful, and filled with music for everyone 🙂