Category Archives: writing workshop

Hey Band Nerds!

All you squeakers and squawkers out there, reed, double-reed, no reed, brassheads and trash can bangers, looking for some help here. I’ve been asked to write a piece for symphonic band, which is a genre I haven’t touched since … let’s call it 20 years. So, here’s my question for you:

Is there a piece of literature for symphonic band that really, deeply moves you? Anything you’ve listened to that just left you breathless? The only one I can remember is Bukvich’s Symphony No. 1 (In Memoriam, Dresden, 1945). Anything else that comes to mind?

The Swamp Effect

I have a horrible habit. At some point in every project, things start not sounding … right. Good. Emotional. Whatever. The train has jumped the track, and is off wandering through antique stores on State Street. I’ve lost my way.

At this point, I do the same thing, every time.

I do more. I do everything. I take every idea, and make it louder. I double it. I do it in octaves. I do it with a triplet backing rhythm. I add 3 string samples and 2 pads, on top of 3 more loops and a delay. I start putting out frantic midnight calls for friends to play overdub parts, stacked, with overdrive and double-stops.

I add piano, add flamenco guitar, add horn swells and swirly synths, a B3 solo, 6 passes of backing vocals, and a Taiko. With reverb. Then a reverse Taiko with even more reverb.

Then I put a limiter on the main bus, a 6:1 multi-band compressor, then another limiter. Then I turn my mains up. I turn on the sub, then add another low string sample.

The swamp effect takes hold, and whatever spark of inspiration birthed the process has been completely, utterly, horrifically buried in a morass of crap.

Save as.

Rename.

Delete.

Repeat.

Ender’s Game – Thesis Project

So, my Masters of Music thesis project is in full swing, and I thought I’d cross-post some of it here. I’m taking 4 books that haven’t been turned into films, and writing scores that would fit if they ever were turned into films.

The first book up is Ender’s Game, one of my all-time favorites. You can check out the work so far here:

Ender’s Game Thesis Project

Toxic

Christmas music is in the air, and so what better time to drop the awesome bomb on ya’ll. This is an arrangement I did last year for the Cal State LA master’s program, and I never got around to posting it. The assignment was to take a well-known song, and arrange it in a style totally unrelated to the original. Behold what I hath wrought!

Toxicity

Round Midnight

I was tracking some piano last night for a beautiful song that Chad put together, it was late and the lights were down and everyone was asleep, so I took a few minutes afterward to play through one of the greatest jazz ballads every written.

This is what the Steinway sounds like with a pair of Neumann TLM 170s on it.

Round Midnight by Thelonious Monk

Sing, Ye Christmas Choirs

Working on the opener for the big APU Celebrate Christmas concert. It’s going to be a big epic choir & orchestra setting of “Do You Hear What I Hear?”, building up into a new anthem that I just finished last night. I’m kind of loving this.

Sing, Ye Christmas Choirs

Sing, ye Christmas Choirs
Ring, ye wild bells ring while darkness flees

Sing the Light of Heav’n
Sing of peace o’er all the earth while darkness flees,

O sing, ye choirs
O sing, ye choirs
Ring out, ye wild bells ring

Ring out Christmas bells
Ring out songs of joy for God has come

O Son of Israel
O Zion’s Daughter, sing! our God has come

Brightest of Adam’s wandering sons
Joined with the light of the holy one,

O sing, ye choirs
O sing, ye choirs
Ring out, ye wild bells ring

What’s That Stank? Oh, It’s Just This Christmas that I’m Laying Down

To me, my men and women of valor! To me, in my hour of need! To me, and aid me, so that I don’t have to do my own work!

I’m writing a big epic opener for the 2010 APU Christmas Concert, with soloists, handbells, orchestra, choirs, the whole shebang. The piece opens with “Do You Hear What I Hear” sung by antiphonal choirs, and then into the final verse of that song:

Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace people everywhere
Listen to what I say
The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light

The piece is not quite epic enough to sustain the energy through the end of the piece, so I’m looking to transition from the song “Do You See” to something else. This is the part where you help me out. Any suggestions?

O For A Thousand Stacks

I am supposed to be writing a piece of chamber music, which has to be finished, like, yesterday. I am, therefore, of course, doing anything and everything but that. Here’s today’s little time waster. By the way, singing through a hymn 20 times is a great act of meditation and contemplation. Those words start to take on serious meaning.

O For A Thousand Tongues

30/30 Logic Challenge

You ready?

  1. You must start with a blank Logic file – no templates
  2. You can only use internal Logic sound, no external sample libraries
  3. You get 30 minutes from launch to bounce
  4. The final project folder has to be less than 30 MB.

Post it here or wherever you can, then drop a link.

THE 30/30 Logic Challenge is ON!

Here’s my first entry:

click-clack.01.mp3

Here’s the logic project file. Enjoy!

Click Clack (zip file)

O Holy Night – Instrumental

I know, it’s a few weeks late. Just bookmark it for next year.

A few hours before our Christmas Eve service, I knocked out an arrangement of “O Holy Night” for tenor sax and piano. It came out … pretty well, I think. Jonathan Proctor played, and that guy has turned into a very fine player indeed. Great tone, phrased the part wonderfully.

So, in the fine tradition of this blog, and in recognition of the fact that printed music publishing no longer exists as a viable income stream, I present the arrangement here for your perusal and use. The lead part is simple, you’ll find it useful even for high school players. The piano part is written for me, so basically nothing is written out. Enjoy!

O Holy Night – Bb Tenor Sax

O Holy Night – Score

If anyone wants the Sibelius file to print parts for other lead instruments, shoot me an email on the contact page.

Child of Sorrows

For my songwriting class at CSULA, we have to write a different kind of song each week. This week, Da Blues.

Here it is. My staggeringly white attempt to write the blues. I had to resist the urge to make the whole song about this time I ordered a Chai Tea Latte at Starbucks, but got a Soy Latte instead. Oh Lord, why must I suffer.

Child of Sorrows

UPDATE
Finished it, here’s the full demo:
Child of Sorrows – Final

Child of Sorrows

I am a child of sorrows
The Good Lord won’t let die
I am a child of sorrows
The Good Lord won’t let die
Lord knows I’ve been trying
With whiskey and with rye
But I ain’t done suff’ring yet


I am a child of money
But that don’t mean a thing
I am a child of money
But that don’t mean a thing
She kicked me out at 17
And I ain’t seen her since,
Oh I ain’t done suff’ring yet


I married a good woman,
And you know I turned her bad
I married a good woman,
And you know I turned her bad
The joy I took away from her
Is the only joy I’ve had
Oh I ain’t done suff’ring yet


I went to see the preacher
About my heart of sin
I went to see the preacher
About my heart of sin
Well he looked me up
And he looked me down
And he kicked me out again
Said I ain’t done suff’ring yet,
No I ain’t done suff’ring yet,
Well I ain’t done suf’ring yet.

God is Good, Good, Good. Mostly.

Posts in the Sermon Prep: God is Good series

  1. This Week’s Sermon: God is Good
  2. God is Good, Good, Good. Mostly.
  3. God is Good: Sermon Audio

Well, first service is done, second service is about to start, and the sermon went great! I’ll post the audio a little later, but for now, here’s the manuscript. Thanks to all for your help, your comments, and your prayers.

God is Good (manuscript)

Previous in series: This Week’s Sermon: God is Good

Next in series: God is Good: Sermon Audio

Sappho 31

My God, how incredible is it that we get to simply pick up a pen, or click open a file, and out of nothing but hubris and time create something that didn’t exist just a few hours, or days, or months before? How fantastic is this soul that hums along beneath the surface of our human machine!

But enough of that crap. Yes, I’m composing again. Or still. Whatever. I am making notes go. I am writing for a young (Ha!) composers competition, where the prize is cash money and a debut of the piece by a pretty kick-ass professional choir.

The theme is “Romantic Love”, and I thought, what better place to start than with the dawning of fiercely bitter lesbian political love-hate poetry, Sappho. If you don’t know about her, go check it out. Awesome stuff. If you really want to get into it, check out Anne Carson’s fantastic new translation, “If Not, Winter“.

So, I settled on one of the best known fragments from Sappho, Parchment 31, sometimes called the Poem of Jealousy. Sappho is watching another man woo her beloved, and she is jealous not of her attention to him (much), but of his ability to just sit calmly in her beloved’s presence, just sit! and not be utterly consumed with desire.

The last line of the poem is tantalizing – it is cutoff, but the fragment that remains seems oddly appropriate. It is, in various versions, either “But I endure” or “But even in poverty” … you can see below how I chose to render it, but that’s almost certainly not what was intended. As I said, tantalizing.

If you’d like to see just a sampling of how people have reconstructed this poem, you can check it out here. Below is my own translation, with little attempt to be literal to the original:

Sappho 31:
He is as a god to me
That man
who sits to face you and
simply listens to
your sweet speaking

and your sweet laughter
makes my heart pound
hovering in my chest
for when I look at you
my words are fleet and away
and away

my tongue breaks
and thin fire runs beneath my skin
and eyes lose sight
and I hear nothing but
this
this
pounding heart

and cold sweat grips
and shaking grips
and pale as the summer grass
I pass
from life
to death

bereft of you
I endure

Hosanna (In Round)

Need a spiffy little call to worship for your church choir? Wanna teach your high school choir about modern composition techniques in a way that’s accessible and singable? Wanna grow thicker hair faster, and lose those last 20 pounds? Try all new and improved “Hosanna (in Round)”.

Check out the Sibelius Music page (link below). It’s free, so do me a favor and try downloading it, just to see how it works. If you end up performing it somewhere, let me know.

Hosanna (In Round)