Above the Clouds

Above the Clouds CDs

Two big announcements today!  Well… big for me anyway.  The first is this:

My first true-blue, from-the-ground-up album is now available on Bandcamp.  It is available to stream for free with no strings attached.  In fact you can just hit the play button above and listen away!  If you want to download it, you can do that too.  Just go to bandcamp by clicking the “Above the Clouds” link above and you’ll find the full album available for $4 (or more if you’re feeling generous).  If you buy the whole album, you’ll get a few extra hidden songs that aren’t shown in the track list.  If you’d rather download the tracks for free, you can do that too!  Just click on each individual track , click on “buy this track” and enter $0 in the “pay what you want” section.  Easy-peezy.

Honestly, I’m just proud that it’s done and out there for people to listen to or ignore–as they see fit.  I put a LOT of effort into writing and recording these songs, and this album represents not only countless hours of work, it also represents a lot of self-doubt, soul-searching, and inner-turmoil.  To summon enough bravery to overcome all that, find peace with what I’ve created, and share it with the world is an accomplishment in itself.  This album is me exposed in a very intimate way, and I let it go now with pride and, as with so many of my creative projects in the past, the fervent hope that I can still do better in the future….

But there’s more!  I’ve also done a video for the title track of my album, dedicated to the memory of my good friend Phil Boal who recently passed away.  The video can be found here:

Above the Clouds from SLDMusic on Vimeo.

It’s reverent and wacky all at once, and it was a lot of fun to put together.

I have more things on the horizon for 2014, including new tutorials, new videos, and of course, more music.  I hope you are all well, and Happy Holidays!


Wait for It….

Hi all, long time no talk.  I wanted to let you know that I actually HAVE been working, even though I haven’t released anything lately.  It turns out that everything I’ve been working on for the past year (maybe 5 or 6 songs, along with a new video!) will be released at once in the coming weeks.  I will be putting a new album on both Soundcloud and Bandcamp (I think) that reflects all the work I’ve done over the past year.  Included on it will be “Excelsior” and my original arrangement of “O Danny Boy”, which I had released previously on Soundcloud.  But ALSO included will be a new choral triptych set to three poems by Sara Teasdale, and new fast paced piece using the simple pneumonic phrase, “Minna Omen-Wow”, and a new setting of Paul Bewsher’s beautiful poem “Cloud Thoughts” that I’ve dedicated to my friend Phil Boal who recently passed away.  That one will get the full video treatment as well–in an attempt to add a little humor and cleverness to it’s rather reverent and introspective message.  :)  Again–for my friend Phil.

Anyway, it’s all coming very soon, so stay tuned!


Beauty Amidst Strife

Hello all! It’s been a while, and for those that happen to care, I apologize. Life has been… trying lately for various reasons. Family health issues, work related stress, it’s all been pretty horrifying I must say. That said, the light at the end of the tunnel is shining brightly right now, and my lovely wife and I are on the verge of new and exciting life-changes that are very welcome indeed.

Apparently nothing will stop me from stealing some time and working on music though. The truth is, the creative process is a sanctuary from stress. You have to MAKE time for it, and that I did. I spent a week or two pouring through a LOT of poetry to find words that inspired musical ideas in my head. After many false leads, I finally happened upon a poet named Sara Teasdale. Most of her work is in the public domain, which was one of my criteria, as I’m not yet good enough or established enough to try and negotiate the rights to set a copyrighted poem to music. The legal implications of that are horrific, and it’s not a minefield I want to traverse at this point in my musical career. Therefore, public domain it is, and Sara Teasdale’s work has a distinctiveness and message that spoke to me. I decided to create a music “cycle”–traversing from dusk, through evening, and into morning with three settings that are meant to be performed / played in one continuous sequence. The first one is finished. The second one is in the final stages of completion, and the third one is still in the composing stage. I know better than to project a timeframe for the cycle’s completion, but I HOPE it will not be more than another month.

Cubase Conducting

Conducting “Evening” (Adapted from the Poem “Dusk in June” by Sara Teasdale)

Meanwhile, I thought I’d share the text I will be setting–if for no other reason than to give Ms. Teasdale her due before I corrupt her gorgeous words with my ill fated attempt at musical adaptation. Here are the poems I’m working with:

Twilight

Dreamily over the roofs
The cold spring rain is falling;
Out in the lonely tree
A bird is calling, calling

Slowly over the earth
The wings of night are falling
My heart like the bird in the tree
Is calling, calling, calling

———————
Dusk in June

Evening, and all the birds
In a chorus of shimmering sound
Are easing their hearts of joy
For miles around

The air is blue and sweet
The few first stars are white
Oh let me like the birds
Sing before the night

———————-
Morning Song

A diamond of a morning
Waked me an hour too soon;
Dawn had taken in the stars
And left the faint white moon.

O white moon, you are lonely,
It is the same with me,
But we have the world to roam over,
Only the lonely are free.


Demystifying the Control Room in Cubase

A few months back I produced a series of tutorials on the ins and outs of the “Control Room” feature of Cubase. For those of you unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, Cubase is a powerful music production software package, and it’s what I use in my studio to create my music. Cubase has a somewhat unique feature that is absent from other software of its kind called the “Control Room”. The feature can be confusing, and its possible uses aren’t well explained in the manual or on the web for that matter. I therefore created an 18 video series of tutorials that go over its use and operation step-by-step. Originally, I put this material together for a presentation I did for the Cubase Users Group in Phoenix, Arizona, which was well received. Subsequently, I attempted to pitch the idea to MacProVideo.com to include in their tutorials on Cubase. They met with me, but ultimately weren’t interested. Totally cool, I was just stoked to get the meeting. :) Anyway, I decided to make the entire series available for free on youtube for those who might find it useful.

Here is a link to my youtube channel where you will find the videos:

SLDMusic Youtube Channel

And here is a link the page I set up for it, which has all the videos linked separately.

SLDMusic Video Tutorials

If even one person finds this useful, I’ll consider the time I spent making it well spent. I remommend watching full screen, and setting the quality to Auto or 1080p HD if your connection can handle it.

I’m currently in the process of hacking away at the 10 or so hours of footage I have on the making of Excelsior. It’s slow going, but I hope to distill it down to no more than 3-4 hours and then I’ll post a set of making-of videos on youtube. I’m currently looking for texts to use in my next choral composition, and I’m considering which chrismtas song I want to arrange and record for my 2013 Christmas CD. And of course, pre-production on the video for Danny Boy is currently on going.

That’s all the SLDMusic news there is to print at this point. More in the near future.


Standing on the Shoulders of Giants…

I’ve been feeling like this quite a bit lately. First, let’s not kid ourselves. We humans didn’t INVENT the major chord. That comes from something bigger than us. Whether it’s a result of higher celestial being, simply a function of the random mathmatics of the universe, or somewhere in between is up to each individual to decide, but we didn’t invent it. We didn’t create out of thin air the fact that moving from a dominant chord to a tonic chord is pleasing to our ears. Or that true beauty comes in contrasts–dissonance versus harmony, light versus dark, negative space versus positive space, or in the case of lighting design, blues versus ambers. All these things are simply a function of human nature.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been lots of notable humans in history who, of course, brought some of these things to light through incredible works of art that survive to this day. Still… the creative process, irrespective of what results from it and how “original” it is, is no less rewarding for the creator. This is all a round-about way of telling you what a beautiful and humbling process the creation of my own arrangement of the classic song “O Danny Boy” was.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants is the best way to describe it. People much more skillful and creative than me created the melody and lyrics. People far more talented have created countless arrangments of this song in the past. And ultimately, the transition from a C11 chord to an F Major resolution is not something I invented, but merely an unbeliveably beautiful tool of universal happenstance I can use to finish my own version of this gorgeous song.

Today I offer you my second podcast–which details some of the production techniques I used to record my version of “O Danny Boy”. Although the release of the full song will need to wait until I finish the video, this podcast will give you several preview snippets, an exploration of the four different endings I created for the song, and an opportunity for you to vote for your favorite one to determine which ending will make the final cut. Along with that I offer some samples of previous recordings I’ve done as examples of my talking points. Check it out if you like, and send me an email via the contact link above to let me know what you think. Here is the link on Soundcloud. You can also download it and listen to it on your ipod / mp3 player at your liesure. For best sound, though, may I recommend you grab a good set of earphones / speakers? :)


What’s New, Pussycat?

Am I a Tom Jones fan? No, but how can you not respect a guy who’s got the balls to throw his underwear into a screaming crowd of women night after night? You know… I’m 41 years old. I’m told by my older tennis friends that I’m still a youngster in the grand scheme of things, and sure, I’m not gonna argue with that. Still, I wonder at this point how much personal change is possible at my age. I’ve made remarkable progress over the the last 5 or 6 years, just in the self-worth sense alone, but I still REALLY admire those who have the gift of the gab – this easy-going ability to engage with people they don’t know and charm them. My wife has it. Many of my friends have it. Me though, I don’t know. It’s one of those things that I wish were different about me. I mean, I have no desire to throw my underwear into a crowd of scraming fans, but I’d sure like to be able to engage with people more easily. There are lots of people I admire in that regard. At the end of the day, though, I suppose I have a special kind of fearlessness. Many of my friends who are so adept at social interaction would never even dream of taking the risk of getting a pilot’s license, or running their own business, or even standing in front of a crowd of a couple thousand people and singing a song. Yet, for the life of me I can’t figure out why anyone would be remotely interested in talking to me. Go figure.

Anyhoo, I’m way off the track. So what’s new with me anyway? Well, I have no new songs to share (well I do, but it’s a cover version of “This is the Thing” by Fink, and I don’t have the rights to share it, so … oh well.) I do have some things I CAN share on the horizon though.

Danny-Boy-Small2

1.) “O Danny Boy”: My latest choral endeavor will be my own original arrangement of “O Danny Boy”. I know… you’re probably thinking, “Does the world REALLY need another arrangement of “O Danny Boy?” The answer, of course, is no… no it doesn’t. But I’m doing it anyway, so there. I was born to sing this song. I’ve sung it countless times in front of probably thousands of people all told. I wanted to wait until I attained a reasonable competence at this recording thing before I attempted to do my own version of it, and here we are. I don’t know when it will be done, but it’s coming along in what little free time I have available to work on it.

2.) The Making of “Excelsior” : As promised, this is still in the queue. It will be a little while yet, but I do want to share the process of creating this song from arrangement to the final master.

3.) Collaboration with Mr Bill : You who are reading this blog TODAY will likely not know who Mr. Bill is. For those interested, he’s an electronic musician who lives in Australia. He creates his own brand of glitchy-electronica. My favorite work of his was as one half of the tandem called “Electrocado”. Their second album, The Hass Effect is AWESOME–one of my favorite electronic albums. Anyhoo, I’ve arranged and recorded some choral-esque vocals to contribute to a track Mr. Bill is creating for use in his live sets. It’s very exciting to work with such a unique talent. More on that as it develops.

I’ve got more stuff in the hopper, but nothing concrete enough to talk about yet. Mostly I’ve just been incredibly busy at work, and while I’m not complaining….. it seriously cuts into my music making time.

As my beautiful, and unbelievably charming, wife would say, “Later, peeps!”


Excelsior

Okay, despite some personal strife, and work being a pain in my butt the last few weeks, I’ve still managed to get some music making in. This one started several months ago, when I entered a contest at KVRaudio.com to create a 30 second song. The 30 second song I came up with was a very quick dity with lyrics adapted from a poem called Excelsior by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Excelsior, for those that don’t know means “ever higher” or “ever upward”–something along those lines.

My 30 second song was nothing special, but it was enough to win me third place in the contest, so that was kinda neat. More than that though, I really wanted to do more with the song. I ended up writing a short choral piece using my original idea as a basis shortly after the contest was over. I then let it sit for a while, too busy with other things to sit down and record it. Fast forward like… eight or nine months, and I finally decide I’m ready to do it.

So not only do I take my original SATB (Soprano, Alto, Tenor Bass) arrangement and do a new arrangement for TTBB (Tenor, Tenor, Bass Bass), I also decide I’m going to be a bit more ambitious this time in several respects. The first is that I wanted to document the making of this song. And document it I did–with several hours of screencast and video footage of my process of arranging, recording and finalizing the piece.

The second thing I did was more than double the number of voices that I’ve recorded for similar choir-like songs in the past. “Dirait On”, “Sleep LIttle Baby” and “O Magnum Mysterium” were limited to only eight voices–two of each part. “Excelsior” on the other hand utilizes TWENTY voices. This complicates matters tremendously, but I won’t bore you with the details here. You can see more about that if you want to watch the “making of” vidoes that should be ready in a couple of weeks.

The short of it is that I was going for a more full sound, and I believe I succeeded. I also did it in record time. From start to finish, I had the song arranged for TTBB, recorded and finished in 7 days. It would have been shorter if I didn’t need to rest my voice and make some changes to the end of the song after the initial attempt wasn’t good enough. My New Years Resolution seems to be panning out so far (see my previous blog post).

Finally, I also created a short “video” of the song–giving a little behind the scenes look at the song’s recording, as well as a moody “cloudy” ending that hopefully encourages you to stop watching the song, and start really listening to it.

Without further adieu, you can SEE the song on my youtube account here:

And you can just listen to it by pressing play here:

Thanks for listening! Until next time.


New Years Resolution?

Greetings all, and I hope you had a nice holiday. I’m not going to bury the lead, so here it is: It’s called “Magic Hour”. For me it conjures up the thought of magic hour–that time just before dusk, when your mind wanders to what is, what could be, and what might have been…

I’ve never been one for making promises you don’t keep, and since New Years resolutions seem to tbe the epitomy of that, I’ve never really embraced the concept. Still, timing is everything, and I recently discovered a great bit of wisdom from an electronic music producer named ill.gates. Not only does he make some pretty interesting and unique music, he also does tutorial workshops around the world. Now the thing about music tutorials is that as the “consumer” you have to play an active part in what YOU get out of them. There are only so many tutorials on how to use a compressor you can watch before you can’t help but get the concepts. Still, I can’t help but seek out more. Why is that? Well, it’s because I’m always always hoping those compression tutorials might give me a nugget of information on workflow, or creativity or those other elusive concepts that will help me understand what I REALLY want to know, which is “How can I create better music?”

Now I’m intelligent enough to know that after a certain point, a tutorial on using a tool of music production isn’t really going to help me make better music. Only practice, and a diverse, multilayered approach to music education can do that. And I’m on that path–no matter if it takes 30 years (and it will). Don’t get me wrong, there is still a LOT to learn about the tools of music production, but making better music is something that most music tutorial creators are not necessarily qualified to teach–even if they happen to make great music themselves.

This brings me to ill.gates’ ill.methodology course–which can be found here: The Ill.Methodology. He’s made the first video in the series free to watch, and believe me, it’s worth watching. It’s inspriational, and it touches on those nuggets of philosophy and human nature that others are too intimidated by or unaware of to talk about. Regardless of what kind of music you want to make, what he says in this course makes enormous sense, and it’s inspired me to make my own New Year’s resolution.

Yesterday I sat down in my studio, I worked for about 5 hours, and I came up with the song that become Magic Hour from nothing to completion. Granted, it’s not a complicated song. It’s not a very long song either, but I did it, and it’s done. My resolution is to not be so precious with my music–to get in the habit of finishing songs and staying excited, rather than trying to muscle any one song to say everything I want to say at once. Over the course of time, my music will get better. My techniques will get better, and most importantly, I’ll have more fun and excitement in my creation process. That’s what _I_ got out of this particular tutorial. :)


Merry Christmas!

I have a couple of updates since the last time. I have two new songs that will flesh out the Christmas 2012 CD I’ll be giving to family and friends this year.

The first one is called “Home Sweet Home” and this is a “before” version. By “before” I mean, that “Home Sweet Home” will be re-recorded in the near future, with REAL musicians and a professional producer, so it will be drastcially different than what you hear here. This is simply my proto-type, if you will. My hope is that real musicians (and a better producer) will breathe some more life into it than just me messing around on a MIDI keyboard. Still, here it is for now. It is quite harmonically complex for the music-theory minded, moving from the D Phrygian mode (with a raised third) through to B flat major for solo-ists section, then to G minor for the third verse, then back to D Phrygian with a raised third, ending in D minor with a major lift at the very last chord. Some of the chords are almost jazz-like in their complexity, and I’m very pleased with how it turned out.

Additionally, I’ve got a second piece I’m releasing that has been well over a year in the making. I might do a making-of podcast, or video on this one. I’m not sure yet, but it originally started as my attempt to create a dubstep track. I quickly found that I’m not cut out to create dubstep–or at least the Skrillex inspired “dubstep” that is currently making the rounds–which seems to be all about who can make the sawtooth-ier lead, and wobb-lier bass line. I just end up finding it too mind-numbingly boring after a while. So I abandoned my attempt but took some of those initial experiments and morphed them into what you hear below. It took a LONG time to really figure out, not only what I wanted to do with it lyrics and “story” wise” but also how to execute some of the tricks I wanted to incorporate (the sound effects, the talking space ship, and the accompanying build-ups and breakdowns). The final polish is the hardest part, and it took another 2 months of patient work and decision making to finalize the track. I declare it done now, and whether anyone else likes it or not… _I_ like it. And I tell ya, when you like your own music it takes a lot of the sting of rejection away. That’s why I don’t release anything until it’s “done”. I don’t like regrets. As always, this is the best I can do right now. I may be able to do better tomorrow, but for now, I’ve left it all on the table. Take it or leave it. :)

Anyhoo! Thanks for listening. Thanks for reading, and Merry Christmas! I’ve got many things (alot of them happier!) in the hopper for next year, so maybe I’ll see you then.


New iTunes release coming soon!

While I’m still deciding what exactly to do with “Sleep Little Baby” (I may have it remastered before I make it widely available), I’m near completion of another faux-choral piece composed by Morten Lauridsen.  It’s a Christmas song called “O Magnum Mysterium” –from the Latin text.  It sounds pretty good if I do say so myself, and should be available maybe by the beginning of December. We shall see.  I’m on the verge of releasing a bunch of other odds and ends to soundcloud as well–just need to you know… finish them.  In the meantime, here’s a short preview of “O Magnum Mysterium”: