I'd like to start this post with a wonderful performance of "Libertango" for woodwind quintet by Astor Piazzolla....
Here's what I love about woodwind instrument:
1) Unique sounds and timbres (brass and strings tend to be much more homogenous--still love brass and strings, but boy do I love the tone colors of woodwinds)
2) Very expressive--the highs and lows (in pitch AND range) are flexible and fantastic
3) As a composer, I like the playable range of most woodwinds, and how you can use the different registers to your advantage
4) Really fast scales/arpeggios... this is kind of silly, but what a great effect to use--whether it be scales in all directions creating a really cool harmonic texture, or loud chromatic rips to create intensity, woodwinds are great
Now, in my world of exploring plug-ins for Logic Pro, I've noticed that it's difficult to find great woodwind plug-ins. The musician in me is thankful that this will hopefully keep woodwind players gainfully employed, but the composer and listener is worried because many composers have stopped writing for woodwinds. Now, please keep in mind I haven't carefully researched this notion, I'm just making an observation. As more and more composers look to DAWs to create their mock-ups (especially in the commercial/film world), we've seen much more brass and string heavy (the plug-ins sound WAY better) compositions. If you don't believe me, just listen to the two clips below:
Just listen to the difference in use of woodwinds... actually, in the Iron Man example, they're not even there (or at least you can't hear them). Now, this isn't a criticism at all. I love Brian Tyler's music. I'm just noticing a change in how things are written these days. I could have picked a lot of other film composers from the 80's like Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, etc. I could pick practically any popular film composer today. Whatever the reason for using woodwinds less, I think it is unfortunate and hope that as plug-ins get better, we see a return to lots of colorful writing for woodwinds!!
Now, you might wonder why I spend so much time talking about film music. Aside from the fact that I love it, it's important to note that film/commercial/video game music is what the OVERWHELMING majority of people listen to. People will hear film music long before they will listen to Beethoven or Mozart (or any classically oriented composer today). I'll elaborate on why I think "classical" film music is paramount to keeping the genre alive in another post.
I always enjoy talking and writing about great film music. Having grown up on the Spielberg/Williams collaborations, I certainly like when the score plays a central role in a film. (Side note: Spielberg always kept John Williams close when developing and creating movies, which I believe is why Williams creates such thematic and compelling scores)
I recently went and saw Jurassic World. It lived up to expectations, especially from the music end. I was very appreciative of how Michael Giacchino worked in the original themes, as well as created some new ones...it was very tastefully done. I really really liked when the piano quietly played the original theme while the kids were discovering the old visitor center--a very poignant moment. My second favorite part of the score was when the creepiness of the raptors was accompanied by a trombone (with straight mute I think) playing a dissonant melody...if you can call it a melody.
I recently heard a Giacchino interview on NPR that was enlightening as to how he developed his style of composition. He apparently used to take a cassette tape recorder into Spielberg movies and record the audio then listen to it over and over. I can certainly relate to this in the sheer amount that I listened the Lord of the Rings soundtrack a LOT when I was younger. It's safe to say that Howard Shore definitely influenced my composition. This incessant listening also explains why I always felt a familiarity in Giacchino's scores (especially in Super 8...great movie btw).
I'm also appreciative of the fact that Giacchino makes use of the woodwind section. These days that seems to be left out of many "summer blockbuster" scores...which sucks, because woodwind add such a rich color and are so flexible for melodic content (here's a reason why composers might be using them less).
I'm excited to see what else the summer holds for my symphonic and cinematic loving ears..
Today I'm discussing my frustrations with the fact that Apple computers no longer come with a program that natively and easily plays MIDI files. I remember when I first found out that Quicktime no longer plays MIDI files. This was a dark day for me as a composer/arranger.
Now, for those of us who don't know exactly what MIDI files are: Music Instrument Digital Interface. Surely that explains it...right? Basically, without getting too technical, it is digital language that can be created by electronic instruments (or software) and translated to a computer so you can hear the music/pitches/etc. The absolute best thing about MIDI files is that they are SMALL...TINY, compared to mp3's and other larger music files. Now, they transmit a different type of data than an mp3/wav/aiff does. This is why Quicktime no longer plays them... it no longer translates the data for immediate playback. You now have to use another program to open the MIDI file.
So... attention MAC users: you can open these with Garageband, the built in DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). It may tell you at first that there's no program to open MIDI files, but all you have to do is right click (or control click) and select Garageband.
The thing I dislike about this, however, is that the instruments in Garageband are severely limited compared to what you might have in Finale or Sibelius. Garageband is largely set up for a more commercial sound, rather than a symphonic sound. And because MIDI files are small, they don't translate as much info as an XML file...because of this, there are something things lost in translation and the music ends up sounding quite wonky.
As I've read on many forums and blogs, Apple is known for killing technologies. The Macbook Pro I'm typing on has no cd drive...and Quicktime doesn't play MIDI files. Click here if you're interested to see what else has been killed over the years.
Now, in light of being an educator and not simply complaining about the fact that we Mac users can't simply click on the midi files and play them.. here's your options for playing midi files.
1) Garageband - as we already discussed.
2) Download a third party player. Google "MIDI Player" there's a bunch.
3) Find a copy of Quicktime 7 (the last version that played MIDIs)
The fact is you can still play the MIDI files, you may just have to do a little more than double click and expect it to work.
As an earlier post described my exploration of places to sell my commercial music, I've now been exploring my options to sell my instrumental and choral music, easily getting them in the hands of teachers and musicians. And this discussion brings me to the excitement of the post..
Recently, I Googled "sell PDFs online," just curious if there were platforms that existed. Fortunately for me, there are a TON of places to sell digital goods online. Now, these services are more for selling ebooks and such, but it totally works for selling music as well. I had contemplated using Paypal and just sending people music individually, but this takes the work off my shoulders. These third-party companies host my pieces and take care of the payment as well. After some research, I decided to go with Selz.com because there is no annual price, they just take a small cut of the profit (commission based). This will help in the times where I don't actually sell music..
So the great thing is that I can take care of everything on my laptop, from the comfort of my favorite coffee shop.. and it's summer and I have more time to write. I remember back in college wondering how I might brave the world of trying to get signed on with a publisher, and now I don't really need to. I obviously won't have the backing of a big company, but I own all of my own music and my copyrights. Years ago, I remember Eric Whitacre commenting on the benefits of owning your own copyrights, I now truly understand why that is a benefit.
So soon I'll have a bustling marketplace of sheet music to add to my commercial tunes! Time to write!