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Star Spangled Banner for SATB and hand drum

I created a new arrangement of The Star Spangled Banner for Global Harmony Community Chorus to sing at a nationally televised Minnesota Lynx WNBA game on June 1. I’m very excited about it!

It departs from the traditional harmonies and also adds some African-inspired rhythms and harmonic progressions. A fair amount of I-IV-I thrown in for a more soulful feel.

From the Program Notes:

I wanted to reflect the multicultural demographics of the United States in the 21st Century and not just the British history as is evoked with the traditional setting.

I wanted more modern rhythms and harmonies while remaining compatible with the John Stafford Smith melody, since often the audience sings along. I also wanted to evoke some of the vivid imagery that is in Francis Scott Key’s poem.

Lastly I wanted the arrangement to be flexible for performance and a fun alternative to the usual with a few surprises.

I will participate in a rehearsal this Sunday and can’t wait to hear what it sounds like!

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Upgraded to Sibelius 6

After years and years of using Sibelius 1.4 for my notation software, I finally upgraded it to Sibelius 6. So far, with only a week of using the upgrade, I’m pretty impressed.

Before the Dynamic Parts feature, you would extract parts into separate files and then worry about syncing them back up with the score file if you made any changes in a given part. No more! The Dynamic Parts keeps all your separate parts within the master score file and changes are reflected throughout. Awesome.

Also you can track versions within a single file. I used to save about three or four copies of a file each day I worked on it, just “in case” I wanted to go back to before making a major change. No more!

I will need to spend a lot more time working on it to get fully used to it. They changed some of the keyboard shortcuts, so I make some input mistakes with my old keyboard habits ingrained.

But still, more than 10 years later, I have no regrets about switching from Finale. For most things, I find Sibelius to be vastly easier to work with.

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A couple days of inspiration

The Minnesota Orchestra along with the American Composers Forum put on a Composers Institute each year.

This is an incredible program where seven composers are selected from a pool of applicants to have their works premiered by the Minnesota Orchestra in an all-new-music concert.

During the week leading up to the concert, the composers have intensive sections with performers in the orchestra as well as industry pros to learn the business.

I was fortunate enough to audit a few of the sessions this year, a free opportunity for members of the American Composers Forum.

In particular, I learned quite a bit about copyright registrations, performing rights organizations (ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC), writing for percussion, conductors’ preferences, and marketing yourself as a composer.

The sum total of this has inspired me to beef up this website and flesh out my catalog.

Stay tuned for coming attractions!

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Argh! Curse of the composer

Anyone steeped in a trade pays attention to certain details that don’t bother most people.

As a composer, I have a hard time getting past when artists ruin an otherwise excellent song by mispronouncing the words. Here’s two current pop songs that drive me nuts:

1. “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz. The lyric is “I won’t hesitate.” But he says it as “I. Won’t. Hes-. AH-. Tate.” (over and over and over and over again, first instance around 0:58) Argh!

2. “These Words” by Natasha Bedingfield. Her lyric is “No hyperbole to hide behind.” She says it as “hyper-bowl.” Argh! (At about 2:16).

It’s a shame because they are otherwise incredibly catchy songs.

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Sound clip added for Savoy-Lease Arrhythmia

I just uploaded the first 1:11 of Savoy-Lease Arrhythmia, which I composed in 1998 for jazz combo.  Specifically, I used piano, bass, saxophone, and conga drums.

I think it has one of the best grooves I’ve composed and I like its type of tonality.  Take a listen!

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Listening: Mahna, Mahna

Every once in a while, you need to distract your toddler long enough for a diaper change or to get some food in him.  I use YouTube on occasion and this song is one of my son’s favorites.

Besides being ridiculously catchy, it also is a nice introduction to jazz improvisation.  It strikes a little close to home because it depicts how I feel often when I’m improving live.

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Listening: La Boheme

I’m currently on an opera junket and finding Puccini arias to be sublime. Opera can be daunting to many, and to those I say Puccini is a great starting point. Melodic and compelling, his operas have a dramatic arc that is more familiar and less bizarre to modern audiences than much of the opera canon.

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