The New York Times has an article today about a man on trial (link). His song lyrics are about to be used against him in court. If you read this blog you probably know some of my own music. This could very well be my worst nightmare.
“SHOULD rap lyrics be used in court as evidence of a crime? Next week, the Supreme Court of New Jersey will hear a case that could help decide just that. At issue is a prosecutor’s extensive use of rap lyrics, composed by a man named Vonte Skinner, as evidence of his involvement in a 2005 shooting. During Mr. Skinner’s trial in 2008, the prosecutor read the jury 13 pages of violent lyrics written by Mr. Skinner, even though all of the lyrics were composed before the shooting (in some cases, years before) and none of them mentioned the victim or specific details about the crime.” – NYTimes.com
I use Melodyne often on my own vocals. Sometimes I use it to correct pitch and other times for creative strange things. On my song I Stand with You (link) I sent my vocal to my friend Gabri Negro in Italy and he created a few harmonies of my own voice using Melodyne on specific words. He’s a classically trained musician and knew exactly where on the scale to place my “other” self. In the video above you can see Melodyne’s Random Deviation function which speeds up creating variations of original material.
“Simply copy the vocal track, insert slight deviations in pitch and timing, and place the tracks in the stereo image. And with the clever functions of Melodyne, you don’t have to move every note by hand.” – celemony
I love songwriting helper Apps. ProChords helps you find the next chord. I was using it last night and it definitely helped me make a progression I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. It’s a bit more than your standard App at $8.99 and keep in mind your still doing to have to work hard to create a song.
“ProChords is a hand held road map of chords from 9000 songs. So if you are working on a song Fx. “Am7, Em7, Am7, Em7″ and don’t know how to get out of the loop. Tab it into ProChords and you will instantly know 31 different ways to continue. It makes it fun to explore odd chord progressions and get inspiration for more original songwriting” – prochords.dk
I love software that helps me create actual songs. Chord generators, lyric triggers and anything that can get me to a full arrangement quickly has my interest. I’ve been playing with an iOS app called SongSynth. Sitting on my couch I was able to knock out a few simple songs. I really like this app quite a lot and hope to see more apps like it. My only wish is MIDI export so I can bring my sketch into a pro-environment.
“At the heart of a pop song is a lyrical idea sung along to a collection of chords. SongSynth offers a unique, easy-to-use way of experimenting with chords, and a host of other features to help you write, store and record song ideas.” – atticsound.net/songsynth
I was reading an interesting article on Wikipedia about a long gone practice called “Song Sharking”. Essentially there were businesses who ran ads asking poets to send in their poems which would then be turned into songs by professional musicians. In 2003 PBS produced a documentary about Song Sharking called “Off the Charts”. To see a full preview: pbs.org/independentlens/offthecharts/ It’s also available on Amazon: click here I wonder what other old music business practices that have long been forgotten.
“The business of recording song poems was promoted through small display ads in popular magazines, comic books, tabloids, men’s adventure journals and similar publications with a headline reading (essentially) Send in Your Poems – Songwriters Make Thousands of Dollars – Free Evaluation. The term lyrics was avoided because it was assumed potential customers would not understand what the term meant. Those who sent their poetry to one of the production companies usually received notice by mail that their work was worthy of recording by professional musicians, along with a proposal to do so in exchange for a fee. The early 20th century versions of this business involved setting the words to music and printing up sheet music from inexpensively engraved plates.” – Wikipedia
Microsoft Songsmith is a PC only application that you sing into and then the software creates a full song behind your voice. It uses some neat algorthms, technology from PGMusic’s Band in a Box and sounds from Garritan. You most likely already know about Songsmith but I found a really interesting website/mashup you may find new. It’s call Robert Songmith and basically it’s a good looking website that is Songsmith + The Cure + You. I spend a nice while listen to other people’s creations last night. You can also follow Robert Songsmith on Twitter: twitter.com/robertsongsmith
I just got back from a live show I performed in Denver, Colorado. I played the second day of a three day EBM, PowerNoise, Goth type Festival. Some of the other acts included Hocico, Phyclon Nine, Rome and Terrorfakt. I’ve never been to Denver before and overall it was a good experience. Denver is called the mile high city because it’s exactly one mile higher than sea level. It has more sun than L.A. and the driving from the airport Denver looks like a desert with the giant Rocky Mountains off in the distance. The city’s old area looks a bit like a cowboy town mixed with a Long Island N.Y. strip mall.
I decided to go early to the club (The Bar Standard) and hear some music. I was a bit disappointed. The bands and DJs before I played were all competent. Songs had beginnings, middles and ends. The live shows had scarred keyboard stands in front of patent leathered heavily made up freaks. The showman ship was there. They bands ran back and forth in front of the audience and the audience yelled on command. So what was the problem? It was all derivative, watered down, copy cat music. Each song had some elements of a once great song. The message was, “We sound like…” instead of “We are…!”.
I know it’s not just the EBM/goth scene that is suffering from this phenomena. One could argue all art is going through a similar type of troubled these days. All I can plead is for artists to find their own real voice based on their own real life actions. Don’t try and be interesting. Be interesting and then afterward tell us about it. Those are the only stories, songs, paintings I want to hear!
It’s 6:30AM and I just jumped a few feet out of bed. For some reason a few days a week vivid nightmares pry my eyes open. The dreams don’t bother me. In fact, I’m amazed how clear and wild they are. Last night’s dream started with a Depeche Mode concert and ended with giant scorpions making incredible screeching sounds attacking people. I know it sounds stupid but trust me it was real enough at 6:29AM.
The interesting part is for most of the dream Depeche Mode were singing new songs. Songs that only exist in that dream last night. With every waking moment they are fading quickly from my memory but I am sure I heard at least three full tunes. I remember the themes were about love and the usual DM musings. The songs were very good and I was excited to hear them. I guess since my own mind was creating them it knew how to make the songs exactly how I personally would like them. The tragedy is I can’t recreate any of what I remember.
Once every year or so I dream I am making my own songs. I create perfect pieces with lush melodies, incredible lyrics and spot on pitch. Maybe someday there will be dream catchers that save to SoundCloud or something. I’d even be happy with the screeching scorpion sounds. Until then sweet dreams…
I always say melody trumps the sounds you choose and I use a variety of helper software to find nice melodies. Harmony Navigator has been my favorite non-mobile application for this task. On my iPhone I’ve been using Star Guitar (iTunes link) to generate ideas and today I found another useful tool Simple Songwriter (iTunes link) from Hopefully Useful Software. It’s a simple chord selector/player/recorder and if you’re making lyric based songs it’s sure to give you a few ideas.
“Beginners to advanced musicians can use this app to leave thinking behind and bring the fun back into creating music. All the chords given sound great together and most pop/rock songs will use a combination of these chords. The touchscreen gives you the perfect environment to quickly and easily generate song ideas. When you have a great song idea, record it for later practice on your chosen instrument. List view allows you to browse your songs chords, while the song key section can transpose your idea to any key instantly.” – hopefullyuseful.com
I’ve learned almost every life lesson the hard way. The “hard way” usual means you don’t listen to what anyone tells you and therefore you experience life’s pains first hand. I do admit when I am wrong and today I’ll make a minor confession. Basically, I thought if I took a full time job I would make music just as easily and with the same fluency and frequency. So yeah I was pretty much wrong.
However, it’s not actually time management that’s the issue. It’s more that well, I love my new day job! It seems after almost 40 years on this planet the left (analytical) side of my brain grew as large as my right brain (creative side). Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been freaking out waiting to get dirty with Ableton Live 8 but I’m finding organizing my audits also tantalizing. My official job title is “Field Energy Auditor”. I enter commercial buildings in a certain section of Manhattan that ConEd is having problems delivering power to. I help stores and buildings reduce their current demand by recommending various conservation (lighting retrofits, new HVAC systems, etc..) and generation (solar, geo-thermal, hydro, wind) methods. Often I meet with building managers and companies with more money than the entire music industry (just sitting in the top drawer of their desks!). You would be amazed how open they are to the green revolution. Then again, they save tons of money by implementing the plans we offer. Did you know an underwater turbine now sits in the east river and powers a Gristedes supermarket? Amazing.
I wanted to post this to put my feelings on the record. It should be interesting in a year or two to read this again (for me anyway). So to those of you who work full time how does your music making life fit in? Whenever you get the urge? Weekends only? What’s your stradgey? One thing I am sure of is I put 20+ years into the music business, learning the craft of song-writing and I am finally good at it… so expect many more albums to come. The best thing is I can afford more toys with keys and knobs on them! Here’s where I work: Energy Management Solutions
photo: They found my secret life as The Horrorist.