An information page for the Interstitial Arts Foundation has been added to my website. For many years, my creative process is to write down music that comes to me. I do not put a stylistic filter on my work. Sometimes the music fits (more or less) into a particular style, sometimes it is a blend of styles, and sometimes I do not know what to call it. When I discovered the Interstitial Arts Foundation earlier this year I suddenly found a community of kindred spirits who are not constrained by artistic borders. Their creative vision is deeply inspiring to me.
Being primarily a composer and not having a performing band, a challenge that goes beyond writing new music is how one builds an audience for their music. How to do that was not taught in the composition courses I took back in the day. Thus, in large measure I have been flying by the seat of my pants since I started to use various internet resources for my music in 2010.
I am grateful to the musicians and ensembles who have discovered my originals and are performing them. Along with seeking live performances, I have been giving a great amount of time and effort to building an international virtual audience through my website and other music sites where recordings and videos of my music are being played.
Currently, my originals are reaching many more people online than through live performances. This online audience extends beyond Maryland to many countries around the world. According to the Google Analytic stats for my website today, the top 10 countries for people visiting my website are: United States, Brazil, Romania, Australia, UK, Germany, Italy, Canada, Finland, and Netherlands. In addition, many of the other sites that I am using for my music have a large international audience.
Building a virtual audience is a key part of getting one's music out on the internet. I am delighted that my music is doing so well in that regard. However, it is not the same as the music being played for and connecting with a live audience.
In today's music world, one needs to have both virtual and live audiences. With that in mind, while I continue to work on expanding an audience with my website and other online resources, I will also continue to network with musicians and ensembles so there can be more live performances of my music.
Composer friend Amy Duncan has a wonderful new blog: The Creative Process. Here is her description of it:
"A few weeks ago, I posed these questions on Facebook:
Here are a few questions for my creative friends (writers, musicians, composers, artists, photographers, etc.): What is your creative process? How do you approach your work, day by day? What are your work habits? Your frustrations (if any!)? Feel free to be wordy!
I received so many interesting and varied answers that I decided to share them here on my blog. Feel free to add your own in the comments section!"
Twenty four of Amy's friends (writers, actors, musicians, photographers, directors, artists, poets, singers, composers, etc.) responded with messages about their creative process. It's an honor to be included with them. I highly recommend a slow and careful reading of The Creative Process. These are inspiring messages!
There is a common understanding that each saxophone, trumpet, and trombone player in a big band has an individual part. However, that is a misconception with regard to harmony. Traditional big band arrangements -- with 5 saxophones, 4 or 5 trumpets, and 4 trombones (13 or 14 players) -- typically use 4 or 5-part harmony. Therefore, doing the math, 2 or 3 players are going to play the same note, using unison or octave doubling, in a given harmonization.
A traditional way to harmonize a melody in top-down, close-position voicings for 5 saxophones is the 1st alto plays the melody note, the 2nd alto plays the chord tone below the melody note, the 1st tenor plays the next chord tone (below that of the 2nd alto), the 2nd tenor plays the next chord tone, and finally the baritone doubles the 1st alto an octave lower. While there are 5 saxophones, the chord voicing is actually 4-part harmony.
Here is an example of this method of writing for saxophones using a melody note of D (9) on a C7 chord (from the top down): 1st alto = D, 2nd alto = Bb, 1st tenor = G, 2nd tenor = E, and baritone = D (octave below 1st alto). Even if tensions of a chord (natural or altered 9, 11, or 13) are used for modern harmony, the voicing often follows this traditional concept of harmonization. As a variation of the example used above on a C7: 1st alto = D, 2nd alto = Bb, 1st tenor = A (13), 2nd tenor = F# (#11) or E, and baritone = D.
Top-down, close-position 4-part harmony (as described above for saxophones) is also used for the brass section. Usually, the 4 trumpet parts are written first and then the 4 trombones double the trumpet parts an octave lower or with variations of this technique.
When saxophones are joined with the brass in concerted ensemble writing, the 1st alto usually doubles one of the trumpet parts and the remaining saxes double either lower trumpet or trombone parts. Thus, there is a considerable amount of unison and octave doubling in traditional big band arranging.
Open or spread voicings can go beyond the 4-part harmony used in traditional close-position writing. In spread vocings, the trombones and/or lower saxophones play basic chord tones (such as 1-3-7 or 1-7-3) and the trumpets and/or higher saxophones play remaining chord tones and, importantly, include tensions to give the voicing a richer sound. Here is an example of a spread voicing with an Ellington flavor on a C7 chord (from the bottom up): C, G, Bb, E, A, D#. Spread voicings can use 5, 6, or 7-part harmony instead of being limited to 4-part. However, unison and octave doubling still occurs when 7-part harmony is used in concerted saxophone & brass passages.
While the focus of this discussion is on traditional big band harmony, I would like to say a few words about contemporary writing for big bands. Characteristics include a greater use of individual lines (linear writing), contrary motion, expanded harmonic structures (clusters, intervalic-based structures, etc.), and orchestration that crosses horn sections. Even with the use of advanced harmonic concepts, unison and octave doubling is also found in contemporary big band music.
The simple reason why harmonic doubling is commonly used in big bands is there are more horn players in the band than the number of individual notes in the harmonic structures used by big band arrangers.
Given this perspective of harmonic doubling in big band music, I have an idea to offer to big bands: to try using my 6-horn ensemble scores with doubled players on a part. This is described in my Mid-Size Ensemble article. So far, big bands have been reluctant to try it. However, as I envision this approach (as another option to playing these scores with 6 horns), it can give conventional big bands a fresh sound.
Bands are encouraged to experiment with this idea. For example, the 12+ horns can be used in different combinations at places in the score as well as playing together. Of prime importance is my concept of having 6 lines with distinct tone colors instead of the conventional sound of saxophone, trumpet, and trombone sections. This can be done by combining saxophones & woodwind doubles with the brass using various mutes (as well as playing open) to create an expanded palette of tone colors. With this approach, each wind instrument is used as an individual tone color -- and blended with other colors -- instead of as part of a section.
Interested bands can write to me from the Contact page to discuss these ideas and to inquire about scores.
Here is a link to The First Climate Message Video Festival. It is a work of love by Warren Senders who coordinated the project and edited over 120 submissions. The scope of the music in the video is fantastic. Many countries from around the world are represented. The clip of my tune Sunset on the Chesapeake starts at 13:12. The Climate Message website has information about this on-going project.
Warren plans to create a second Climate Message video. For those interested in submitting music (or another talent) along with a personal message, see the Climate Message website for info about how to make a submission.
Over time I will include more originals on my site that have not been recorded. When they have been added to the Previous Featured Music page (after being featured for a week on Bonus Track) they will be designated with an asterisk. These pieces will be a mix of recent work and older ones that I especially like. By doing this, it is my hope that ensembles will discover these pieces and perform them. The unrecorded pieces that I have so far on my site are Cloud Dance, Gina's Waltz, Smaller Ups & Downs, New Tango No. 6, and New Tango No. 7.
Now and then I reflect upon the relationship I have between writing original tunes (lead sheet format) and ensemble pieces. I like to write for ensembles. However, it seems to me that my most creative work is in writing original tunes. When I'm working on an ensemble score I already know what it will sound like, depending upon the amount of freedom in the piece (see my blog Beyond Notation). Whereas, with an original tune the performing musicians in a small group can take the music anywhere. I love the excitement of the unknown and seeing where the music can go.
The Collecting Consort's 1996 recording of my tune Spring Beauties has been added to my site. The new page that I created for Spring Beauties has information about the music and this ensemble. Shortly after Spring Beauties was added to my site Tom Puwalski (clarinet and soprano sax) and Julius Fischer (piano) listened to it, liked the tune, and made a new recording. Both recordings are on the Spring Beauties page.
It has been 6 months since I launched my website on October 11, 2013. Since then, I have continued to work on it in various ways: adding new music, new pages, and general tinkering. With the latest changes, I am thinking of this as Version 2.0 of my site.
Among the new features are:
Home page has several changes to its layout and to the order of pages in the navigation menu.
A new Welcome To My Site page gives first-time visitors a quick overview of the site along with suggestions for exploring my music. A link to it is on the Home page.
A new Site Map page enables one to see all of the site's 62 pages and how they are organized. You can go to any page directly from there. Site Map has been added to the navigation menu.
News & Blog has new categories. I have been writing more blogs lately.
Bonus Track was added after I originally launched my site. One of my originals is featured on this page each week. This gives my site a way to have something new on a regular basis.
Previous Featured Music (a link to it is on Bonus Track) now has 36 of my originals. Each one has a separate page with a recording, a lead sheet or score, and comments about particular aspects of the music.
My Mid-Size Ensemble article has been revised over time. It describes my concepts of a mid-size jazz ensemble.
Salt Marsh Rag at CSIC has been revised and now has a link to the ArtifexMusic page. ArtifexMusic published Salt Marsh Rag in January.
Links, Interviews, Etc has been revised and has a number of new links. The links that are underlined have an information page. These links take one to a page on my site instead of directly to a website. There, the page has information about the organization, comments, and a link to the organization's site.