The Bells

Here’s an interesting new composition. It’s a piece I wrote for Vocal Essence, “one of the world’s premier choral music organizations” according to their website. They host an annual choral music competition. The guidelines called for a Christmas carol featuring Scandinavia violin and chorus. Unfortunately, I missed the deadline.

I finished the piece of course, and it was selected by the Southeastern Composers League for their annual concert series. And I must say, the Campbell University Chorus conducted by Dr. Phillip Morrow featuring Lucy Greenleaf-Carter on violin did a wonderful!

This piece is a setting of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Bells”. The fast moving violin part creates a feeling of nervous energy. It’s intended to sound like snowflakes swirling in the air on a cold Christmas night in the dead of winter. The chorus mimics the sound of bells ringing at the stroke of midnight across a frozen city scape.

Does Your School Offer Music and Technology Courses or Degrees?

 

My proposal to the College Music Society, Open Discussion Forum was accepted in December. It’s now live at the link below since January 01, 2016. It will remain open until the end of the month.

http://bit.ly/1PhkZov

If your school offers music and technology classes, please take the survey and share your experience. This study will collect data on how traditional music schools are adapting their curriculum to include a greater emphasis on preparing students for music careers that include aspects of digital music composition, performance and production. This data will become part of my presentation on the same subject at the CMS conference in Alabama.

“Happy Birthday to You” is Now Public Domain

Bet you didn’t know “Happy Birthday”, one of the most recognized songs in the English language, was under copyright with Warner, until last week.

Yep! In fact, it has generated significant revenue for Warner since 1988, especially in movies. The licensing fee can be as much as $1,500 to $5,000, which has inspired a number of productions to create alternative versions of the song.

Check out this video to see some examples:

According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, a federal judge in Los Angeles has ruled Warner/Chappell publishing company never had the right to charge for the use of “Happy Birthday to You”.

In 1893, Mildred and Patty Hill published it in a book entitled Song Stories for the Kindergarten. They borrowed the melody from a similar popular song of the era and changed the lyrics to “Good Morning to All”. Patty Hill, a kindergarten principal in Kentucky, encouraged her students to sing it at the beginning of school each morning. It became so popular; her students began to spontaneously sing it at birthday parties, changing the words to “ Happy Birthday to You”.

In 1935, The Clayton Summy Co. published a piano arrangement of “Happy Birthday to You” attributing the composition to Preston Orem and R. R. Forman. The copyright to this particular arrangement was eventually purchased by Warner in 1988. Warner incorrectly charged a fee for any and all versions of “Happy Birthday to You”, but they actually only owned the copyright to a specific piano arrangement. Amazing!

So you can relax. No one’s going to take half of your birthday cake, or a percentage of your birthday presents. : )

A Composer’s Inspiration

Click on the picture to read an article about my composition “Lake Avondale” in Decaturish.com. I’m a featured local composer this week! Pretty cool.
Dr.-David-Mitchell-2

Compensate Musicians Fairly: We Demand It Now! #FairPay4Music

Musicians, it’s time we started demanding just compensation for our life’s work! Another case of “musicians being asked to play for exposure” has come to my attention. Ex Cop, a punk duo featuring Amalie Bruun and Brian Harding, was asked by the McDonalds corporation to play at their SXSW stage “for the exposure only,” and with no compensation whatsoever. McD’s is a mega corporation with a net worth of $97 billion – that’s billion with a B – and they can’t scrape together just compensation for artists? This arrogance blows my mind. When did it become OK to rip off musicians? ex-cops-300x169 It’s not the first time this has happened. Bruno Mars wasn’t paid a dime when he performed at the 2014 Super Bowl. In fact, the NFL floated the idea of having HIM pay THEM to play in order to cover their cost for the multimillion dollar broadcast extravaganza. They suggested he compensate them in a number of creative and self-serving ways, including taking a percentage of his record sales and/or tour receipts. Musicians, we must unite through social media to call out corporations, bars, club owners and venues who attempt to take advantage of us. We can use the power of social media and the power of the purse to make a difference. Let’s take a page from the LGBTQ community and boycott businesses who treat musicians unfairly. I, for one, will not patronize McDonalds until they make a change. We are not powerless to demand to be treated fairly. The power of the purse will make a difference! Let’s also stop racing to the bottom with streaming services who pay fractions of a cent and rip off artists at every turn. Check out compensation models below in a slide taken from a presentation I recently gave with Anderson Jones PR on marketing your music online. (Click the image to view full presentation). Please use this as a guide to put your music on services that compensate you fairly. how-to-promote-your-music-online-a-social-media-guide-for-the-musician-10-1024 Let’s wise up and claim our power to make a difference! Let’s start a hashtag campaign to call attention to abuses in the industry. Tweet #fairpay4music if you agree.

Boardwalk Empire Opening Theme: Music Sets the Mood

The opening theme for Boardwalk Empire is an excellent example of setting the mood for a television series. The song is “Straight Up and Down” by The Brian Jonestown Massacre, their second album released in 1996, Take It from the Man. According to Wikipedia, this album “is rooted in rhythm and blues and heavily influenced by artists such as The Rolling Stones.”

Click the image below to watch the video in a new window.

This song is anachronistic within the context of the show, but it sets the mood perfectly. From the start, the opening theme song and video draws you in, making you want to watch. It says, “this is hardcore. You’re going to want to stick around and find out what happens next.” It’s also clear that this show is not a sitcom. It’s a serious drama and stuff is about to go down, my friend.

So this theme song does everything a good theme song should do:

  1. It sets the mood.
  2. It let’s you know the type of show you are about to watch (sitcom or drama).
  3. It keeps you in your seat wanting to see more.
  4. It’s also kind of catchy. You can’t help but nod your head and say “yeah man, rock ‘n roll.”
  5. It’s also nice and short, just long enough to do what needs to be done without giving the audience time to change the channel or head for the fridge.

What is most interesting is the juxtaposition of a modern rock song with a television series set in the early twentieth century. Both Nucky’s suit, obviously 1920’s fashion, and the old Boardwalk don’t jive, at first blush, with the music. In addition, the series as a whole takes great care to make everything true to the period from clothing, appliances and cars to music,lingo and mannerisms. If you have watched the entire series as I have, you know it’s almost like looking back into the past, a postcard from the early twentieth century. This juxtaposition is curious and compelling.

So why did the producers choose this song over period music? It’s because period music no longer has the same connotations for a modern audience as it used to have for audiences of the early twentieth century. A modern rock song can reach an audience with more familiar music and push the right emotional buttons which have been put in place by years of exposure to popular music. Period music won’t make an audience think “hardcore, yeah man, it’s about to get real.” Period music does a great job of placing the series within the early twentieth century, a job the producers do so well within the episode itself. It won’t necessarily keep you from changing the channel or thinking “this is a show my grandma would like.”

This juxtaposition is also a classic film trick, namely, combining two polar opposite elements to create a more powerful impact, for example, playing children’s songs during a murder scene. It’s so wrong, it’s right.

In addition, the producers did a great job marrying the video to the music. In most cases, the music is written after the film is shot. In this case, the music came first (1996). For example, the highly distorted guitar is matched by the oversaturated video (nice touch). Also, the violence of the waves and the breaking of the whiskey bottle, at approximately 48 seconds into the video, match the raw sound of the grunge guitar solo which begins at that precise moment reflecting the violent, raw nature of the series as a whole. Also, the solo ends with waves hitting Nucky’s feet at approximately 1 minute 15 seconds with a brief reprise as the camera pans up to Nucky’s face ending at approximately 1 minute 20 seconds. This symbolizes the fact that this series begins and ends with Nucky Thompson. It’s all about his world.

I say bravo to the producers of this opening theme song and video. It serves as an excellent example of how to marry video to music and captivate an audience.