And now they’re up.

“O mio babbino caro” and the Mozart Kyrie canon are now both up on the print music page under Brass Quintet. Score Exchange apparently had an issue over the weekend that created a huge backlog of unprocessed scores. That cleared up sometime in the last day or so, and so I was able to finish putting them up for your perusal.

In other news, I’ve been working on a brass quintet arrangement of Richard Wagner’s Meistersinger overture. This has easily been my biggest challenge so far. There’s a ton going on in that overture, of course, and the process of distilling it down to five parts has made me appreciate even more than I already had the amount of talent the great arrangers have and the amount of hard work that they have to put into their craft. I am not on that level–at least I don’t believe that I am–but I hope that my attempts are passable rather than offensive at the very least.

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Updated print music with two new offerings

Adagio by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for brass quintet, originally for two clarinets and three basset horns (available at Score Exchange). Trumpets are in E♭ and B♭.

“Christus factus est” by Anton Bruckner for trombone choir, originally for choir (available at Score Exchange). This is in four parts: alto/tenor/tenor/bass, although a sufficiently strong player could go without the alto if one isn’t available.

On the way is “O mio babbino caro” from Giacomo Puccini’s opera Gianni Schicchi. Unfortunately, Score Exchange is not cooperating. No matter how long I wait, the website will not finish processing the score. I don’t understand why; it’s one of the simplest things I’ve ever written. Also, I have an an arrangement of Mozart’s Kyrie, not from the Requiem, but an early canon he wrote for five sopranos. It’s done, but in Lilypond, which Score Exchange does not accept, so I have to convert it to Sibelius before I can upload it.

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I’m still alive

And it has nothing to do with weighted companion cubes.

No, hardware problems have kept me away. I’ve still been working on a lot that hasn’t been posted either on here, ScoreExchange, or SoundCloud, but I’ll get to that soon enough. I’m also looking into using other self-publishing platforms, but I’m almost worried to push forward with this without setting up some sort of company to funnel all this through.

In other news, I’ve also begun writing marching band drill. I’m steeped in the tradition of Bill Moffit, having marched in his four-person squad-based Patterns of Motion style throughout most of high school and college. If anyone has an extra copy of Pyware to donate to the cause…

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When fonts don’t work

So the brass quintet arrangement of “Bist du bei mir” that I had uploaded to ScoreExchange, when I looked at it today, was trash. This isn’t me being self-conscious of it (although I am), but that ScoreExchange clearly isn’t set up to use anything but the default fonts supplied with Sibelius.

I had created “Bist du bei mir” using the Taneyev font developed by Andrew Moschou as a modified version of Steinberg’s Bravura. It looks really nice and has a heavy quality to it that I like for printing. Unfortunately, ScoreExchange absolutely panics when it sees a font it doesn’t recognize and fills the score and parts with garbage symbols. I know I’m not the only person who uses custom fonts in Sibelius, so my question to ScoreExchange is, “Am I stuck uploading with Opus and nothing but Opus if I sell on your site?”

At any rate, I’ve changed the link on the print music page to the new version of the score I have.

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Updated print music again

I just finished a brass quintet arrangement of “Bist du bei mir” from Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel’s opera Diomedes. The piece had been mistakenly attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach due to its inclusion in the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, but this was (much) later discovered to be incorrect, although the voice leading in the versions typically performed today was not actually Stölzel’s writing. This is, unfortunately, still a mystery due to the fact that Anna Magdalena entered “Bist du bei mir” into the notebook herself.

At any rate, the East-West QL Symphonic Orchestra render is up on Soundcloud, and the print version is over at ScoreExchange.

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What’s a composer, exactly?

A post from the Soundtracks and Trailer Music blog has been making the rounds on Facebook, and it made me think about what a composer actually is.

The post in question, written by Michael A. Levine, a former employee of Hans Zimmer, heaps praise on the former Buggles member and creator of many incredibly epic film scores and takes a potshot at those who say he’s not a real composer. A cursory glance at his IMDb profile indicates that if you’ve ever watched a movie, you’ve probably heard his music. But, and I hate to say this given his stature and the fact that I do like his material, he’s not a composer. OK, so he is a composer in the dictionary sense of the word; he does construct music through mental labor. I cannot argue that. However, my opinion is that the word “composer” carries with it certain connotations that Herr Zimmer fails to embody.

Let’s take a look at some of the arguments Mr. Levine as to why Zimmer gets jobs that others don’t.

Hans is a visionary.

This is, in itself, inarguable. Hans Zimmer practically created the “epic” sound that shows up in film after film these days. However, the arguments Levine uses to defend Zimmer’s vision also back my stance. Levine related an anecdote where Zimmer asked him (along with several other musicians) to take a set of written instructions and interpret them repeatedly, hundreds of times, even, giving Zimmer a “toolbox of sounds”. That’s all well and good, but it is not composition. It is the creation of samples to be plugged into a constructed piece of music–glorified sound effects. That’s it. It takes a great deal of vision to anticipate this kind of a need, but it is not composition.

Hans works very, very hard.

So Zimmer works long, insane hours. This might indeed be a reason why he gets jobs that others do not. None of this speaks to composing. Many people work long, hard hours in music and never write a note.

Hans is the best film music producer in the business.

Great! But there’s a reason most well-known musicians do not produce their own recordings. It’s hard work that is more or less unrelated to the process of actually making music. The “right room, or engineer, or recording technique, or mixing technique” are not things that composers are typically worried about. Does that mean that if you’re a composer you can’t care about those things? Of course not, but it is typically the purview of people with other job titles.

Furthermore, this bit of defense contains the part that inspired me to write this piece in the first place:

We’re not talking about technical music skills. Hans is a so-so pianist and guitarist and his knowledge of academic theory is, by intention, limited. (I was once chastised while working on The Simpsons Movie for saying ‘lydian flat 7’ instead of ‘the cartoon scale.’) He doesn’t read standard notation very well, either. But no one reads piano roll better than he does.

With all due respect to Zimmer, if you don’t understand the music you’re writing, you’re not composing; you’re guessing. And if you don’t write musical notation either by hand or with the aid of a computer, you’re not composing; you’re writing a computer program.

Hans works with great people.

But why? Why does a composer need an army of ghostwriters? If you see a book on the shelf or at Amazon written by an athlete, or by a celebrity, or often enough by any public figure, most people realize that there was a ghostwriter involved and that the person who gets the top billing on the book cover isn’t actually a real author. Nobody questions this. Why, then, should people ignore Zimmer’s ghostwriters? If all he has is an idea but needs someone else to bring it to life, he’s not composing.

Hans is a charmer.

I fail to understand how charm, the ability to convince others that he is right, and a studio that looks like a Turkish bordello makes someone a composer. Moving on…

Hans delivers.

This may be the biggest reason that Zimmer gets so much work. When you’ve got an army of ghostwriters at your beck and call, you can be extremely flexible and avoid getting fired from jobs. In this respect, Zimmer’s production company is much more like a factory complete with assembly line than it is Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky sitting at his desk with a quill and inkwell. This isn’t just a matter of technology changing the methods; it’s a totally different experience. The methods for all composers have changed in the last few decades, but this is a different thing entirely.

That’s not to say that there is shame in this. There isn’t. Zimmer is free to do as he pleases; directors, producers, and studios are free to continue hiring him. He does consistently exemplary work that’s great fun to listen to. But this work is not composition.

Posted in Composers, Opinion Tagged with: ,

Updated Print Music

I just added a couple brass choir pieces to the Print Music page. Each has an embedded SoundCloud audio stream along with a link to the score and parts on my Score Exchange profile where you can quickly, easily, and cheaply(!) purchase a copy for yourself. Note that the two I added were done a long time ago when I was not only less than proficient in Sibelius but also using a very obsolete version thereof. Perhaps someday I’ll reformat those scores and re-upload them.

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This is how it begins, finally, after kicking the idea around for nearly two years.

I’ve updated my performance calendar with 10 dates in July, and this does not count several dates that will not be open to the public.

Soon, once I have some, there will be recordings and print music linked above in the menu.

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