5 Incredible Online Music Resources to Explore

1. The Groundbreaking Educational Apps of Amphio (formerly called Touchpress)

The renowned team responsible for some of the most innovative educational apps such as “The Elements” (2010), “Barefoot World Atlas” (2012), and “Disney Animated” (2013) have created a collection of classical music apps that are interactive and beautifully designed, and full of unique features and expert commentary. I just downloaded “The Orchestra” which features Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting excerpts from 8 pieces covering the entire span of Western concert music, “Beethoven’s 9th Symphony”, which dives deep into the composer’s symphonic masterwork, and “Juilliard String Quartet”, which illuminates the interplay between the instruments in a legendary chamber work by Schubert. I’m extremely excited to dive into each app and experience some of my favorite classical pieces in a new way!

2. Explore the Score

I was lucky to find this hidden gem when looking for information about Musica Ricercata, an intriguing series of short piano pieces by the great 20th century composer György Ligeti. Turns out it that it was way more than I bargained for – a FREE interactive online resource on a set of modern works by Ligeti, Pierre Boulez, and Stravinsky. The site doesn’t have the best or sleekest design, but it more than makes up for it in content. You can follow along with scores, listen to commentary by A-list classical performers and read historical notes to put the compositions in context.

3. Syntorial

I’m really looking forward to demoing this acclaimed synthesizer-teaching software by Audible Genius. Through interactive lessons, videos, and quizzes, Syntorial aims to help composers and sound designers understand synthesis on a musical, practical level. It’s this fact that attracted me to the software – I really like that it emphasizes pragmatic skills and ear-training rather than focusing solely on theoretical knowledge.

4. Association for Cultural Equity Online Archive

Folklorist Alan Lomax’s massive collection of field recordings, folk songs, and interviews was digitized and archived online several years ago, and incredibly it is completely free. According to an NPR report, this was all part of Lomax’s plan even before the internet was invented. “Lomax recorded a staggering amount of folk music. He worked from the 1930s to the ’90s, and traveled from the Deep South to the mountains of West Virginia, all the way to Europe, the Caribbean and Asia” Lomax founded the nonprofit organization Association for Cultural Equity (ACE) in the ’80s, and since then “[executive director Don] Fleming and a small staff made up mostly of volunteers have digitized and posted some 17,000 sound recordings. ‘For the first time, everything that we’ve digitized of Alan’s field recording trips are online, on our website,” says Fleming. “It’s every take, all the way through. False takes, interviews, music.'”

5. The Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program

As we lose more and more of great Jazz masters of the 20th century – Paul Bley, Toots Thielemans, Bobby Hutcherson, and Clark Terry in the last couple years alone – this sizable archive of Jazz oral histories becomes increasingly precious each year. Containing complete transcripts of interviews up to 6 hours long, and hundreds of mp3 audio clips as well, the Smithsonian archive captures priceless anecdotes and stories from Jazz legends like Ron Carter, Chick Corea, Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath, Shirley Horn, Elvin Jones, Sonny Rollins and many more. It’s a veritable treasure to any Jazz musician or enthusiast, as well as a fascinating historical look at 20th century America through the point of view of some of its most original and innovative artists.

 

March ’17 Mix

 

  1. Blues March / Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
  2. Na Baixa do Sapateiro / Banda Black Rio
  3. I Feel For You / Prince
  4. Don’t Touch My Hair / Solange, Sampha
  5. Rob Roy / Bill Frisell
  6. A Woman (Una Mujer) / João Gilberto
  7. Home Is Where The Hatred Is / Gil Scott-Heron
  8. American Tune / Paul Simon
  9. Suite de Danzas Criollas, Op. 15: Allegretto Cantabile / Alberto Ginastera, Barbara Nissman
  10. Les Fleurs / Minnie Riperton

February ’17 Mix

  1. Jazz Suite No. 1: 1. Waltz / Dmitri Shostakovich
  2. I Wonder U / Prince
  3. Chunari Chunari / Abhijeet and Anuradha Shriram
  4. But Not For Me / Ahmad Jamal
  5. Can’t She Tell – feat. Sly Stone / Billy Preston
  6. Armellodie / Chilly Gonzales
  7. Please Don’t Go / Stevie Wonder
  8. Running Away / Friendly Fires
  9. What’s New / Helen Merrill, Clifford Brown
  10. Expresso 2222 / Gilberto Gil

A Day in the Life of a Film Composer

On of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a composer is dealing with the lack of structure of freelance work. I’m engaged in a never-ending battle to impose a daily schedule on my life, which tends to swing between the poles of overwhelming monsoons of work and anxiety-ridden droughts. But maybe for this matter, just like for musical inspiration, we can all look to the great masters for a little guidance. Here is infamous daily schedule of the legendary composer Erik Satie:


A Day in the Life of a Musician
by Erik Satie

An artist must regulate his life.

Here is a time-table of my daily acts. I rise at 7.18; am inspired from 10.23 to 11.47. I lunch at 12.11 and leave the table at 12.14. A healthy ride on horse-back round my domain follows from 1.19 pm to 2.53 pm. Another bout of inspiration from 3.12 to 4.7 pm. From 5 to 6.47 pm various occupations (fencing, reflection, immobility, visits, contemplation, dexterity, natation, etc.)

Dinner is served at 7.16 and finished at 7.20 pm. From 8.9 to 9.59 pm symphonic readings (out loud). I go to bed regularly at 10.37 pm. Once a week (on Tuesdays) I awake with a start at 3.14 am.

My only nourishment consists of food that is white: eggs, sugar, shredded bones, the fat of dead animals, veal, salt, coco-nuts, chicken cooked in white water, mouldy fruit, rice, turnips, sausages in camphor, pastry, cheese (white varieties), cotton salad, and certain kinds of fish (without their skin). I boil my wine and drink it cold mixed with the juice of the Fuschia. I have a good appetite but never talk when eating for fear of strangling myself.

I breathe carefully (a little at a time) and dance very rarely. When walking I hold my ribs and look steadily behind me.

My expression is very serious; when I laugh it is unintentional, and I always apologise very politely.

I sleep with only one eye closed, very profoundly. My bed is round with a hole in it for my head to go through. Every hour a servant takes my temperature and gives me another.


Source

And here is a Spotify playlist for those unacquainted with Satie’s eccentric music, from the famous Gymnopedies and Gnossiennes to some deeper cuts.

Satie-erik-4ff9d0bde1749

December ’16 Mix

  1. Someday at Christmas / Stevie Wonder
  2. Frosti / Bjork
  3. Aurora / Bjork
  4. Urge for Going / Joni Mitchell
  5. White Winter Hymnal / Fleet Foxes
  6. Christmas in L.A. / Vulfpeck
  7. Greensleeves / John Coltrane
  8. Sugar Rum Cherry / Duke Ellington
  9. Come Ye Disconsolate / Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway
  10. A Hazy Shade of Winter / Simon & Garfunkel
  11. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening / Susan Graham, Ned Rorem

Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and Manifest Destiny

I’m currently reading An Indigenous People’s History of the US by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, and one of the main takeaways is that settler-colonialism is an ongoing process in the US, not a relic from our past. The conflict over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which infringes on the sovereignty of Indians in the Standing Rock reservation and threatens their water supply, demonstrates that fact dramatically. And as families all over the country sat down to commemorate a holiday celebrating a fantasy of Pilgrim-Indian collaboration, the world was stunned by the spectacle of non-violent protesters being brutally repressed with tear gas, rubber bullets, dogs, concussion grenades, batons, and water cannons in subzero temperatures. The ideology of Manifest Destiny has to go. The problem is – what to do we do about all of the groundbreaking, masterful works of art that served to justify, celebrate or shape this genocidal ideology?

I’ve loved Appalachian Spring, Aaron Copland’s landmark Pulitzer-Prize winning ballet, for years. It’s an extremely influential and popular piece, and its impact can be felt in popular film scores, classic and modern, from Elmer Bernstein’s To Kill a Mockingbird to Thomas Newman’s Little Women, and especially John Williams’ Lincoln. I was studying and analyzing Appalachian Spring this month when my growing awareness of the #NoDAPL Movement prompted me to think about the piece in a completely different way.

Continue reading

“Amor Che Attende”

One of my favorite things about film scoring is getting to compose in so many different styles of music. I love discovering artists or genres, delving deeply into them and trying to find my voice in a new musical language. One example of this was a cue from a short film I did a few years ago, in which I did my best imitation of a classic 19th-century Italian opera aria. I asked an Italian composer friend (Vincenzo Marranca) to write the lyrics, and had the privilege of recording the excellent soprano Allie Tyler for the vocals. While I think I’ve become much better since then at sequencing realistic orchestral textures, I’m still pretty proud of this little tune. Check it out:

Here is the leadsheet, for those of you who are curious. And here are the lyrics in Italian and English:

Continue reading

#BlackLivesMatter meets Classical Music

From Bitch Media, here’s an interview with Courtney Bryan, composer of a work dedicated to the memory of Sandra Bland, a Black woman who was found hanged in her jail cell in Texas in 2015. The piece, called “Sanctum”, was a commission for an activist orchestra called The Dream Unfinished, which premiered the work in a concert last summer.

I love the use of extended techniques to give the orchestra some fresh new colors, and the bluesy phrases based on the pentatonic scale which recall John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” (That may or may not have been intentional…) The work as a whole has a meditative, almost sacred quality, even though the subject matter is so raw, full of anger and heartbreak.

 

For more, here’s a list of 10 Black composers to check out. (Guardian)

And another list of 10 Black women composers. (Bitch Media)

Analysis (Part 1/2): “Sonatine M.40, 2. Movement de menuet” by Maurice Ravel

This piece of music has long been one of my absolute favorites. From the first sparkling, crystalline chords, this short movement from Ravel’s “Sonatine” seems to cast a magical spell that lasts until the last clanging bell tones of the coda fade into silence. Here’s my analysis of the first half of the score, but I have to admit that ultimately there’s no way to intellectually explain why the piece is so emotional for me.

Listen here on YouTube or here on Spotify, and download the score here for free! Continue reading