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What A Tale My Thoughts Could Tell…

Canadian Songwriters Hall Of Fame Newsletter

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Press Release:

On Thursday, October 21, 2010, two of Canada’s most celebrated songwriters, Ian Tyson and Jim Cuddy, will be live in performance and in conversation for the second episode of the innovative new master series, “If You Could Read My Mind” created by the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Through conversation and music “If You Could Read My Mind” contemplates the continuation of the Lightfoot lyric, “what a tale my thoughts could tell” and digs deep to unearth why Canada is such a hot bed for songwriting talent. The series got off to a phenomenal start this past February with its inaugural sold-out show, featuring the Canadian legends Gordon Lightfoot and Gord Downie.

Hosted by CBC Radio’s Laurie Brown, the October 21st event will also feature emerging Canadian artist Wayne Petti from Cuff The Duke, who will bring his unique blend of alt-country singing-songwriting to the stage for a special performance.

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to see Jim Cuddy and Ian Tyson in an intimate setting at the world class, acoustically spectacular George Weston Recital Hall at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. Contact TicketMaster today!

If You Could Read My Mind” featuring Ian Tyson & Jim Cuddy
Thursday, October 21, 2010 – Showtime 8:00 p.m.
The George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre of the Arts, 5040 Yonge Street
Tickets: $30, $40, $50 – On Sale Now
Available on TicketMaster.com or by calling 416-872-1111.
www.cansong.ca

Songwriting Strategies

isw.netTom Slatter of Indiesongwriter.net is putting together a series of “songwriting strategy podcasts”.  Episode One was delivered by Tom himself and dealt with key changes, while Episode Two covered Nadia Cripps’ process to compose a new piano instrumental in one of her songs.

Check out the Songwriting Strategies podcasts and may the Muse be with you…

Canadian Music Week: Songwriting Summit

Canadian Music Week ended last weekend with Eurythmics guitarist Dave Stewart talking about songwriting.

Stewart, appeared on Saturday, March 13 with Toronto singer Cindy Gomez to talk about songwriting. Stewart told the audience that the split in his romantic relationship with singer Annie Lennox led to a majority of the band’s best-known songs. Broken hearts (or agitated ones at least) can inspire…

The session also included American singer Paul Williams, the songwriter behind hits for the Carpenters and others, as well as Canadian Dan Hill, a prolific songwriter who co-wrote "Sometimes When We Touch."

May the Muse be with you…

101 Songwriting Wrongs and How to Right Them

101 Songwriting Wrongs & How To Right Them

I recommend this book for songwriters looking for commercial success because it stresses:

  • building solid, marketable song structures
  • creating lyrics/melodies
  • forming productive and profitable collaboration ventures
  • producing effective demos, and
  • tracking your royalty collection (I’d like that problem!)

Pat and Pete Luboff, the authors of 101 Songwriting Wrongs & How To Right Them, are platinum-selling hit songwriters, who also teach workshops for NSAI (Nashville Songwrites Association International). They have lots of insgight into what they’re writing about and write in an accessible manner to cover the 101 areas they do…

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Songwriting through celibacy?

From Celebuzz…

Lily Allen is truly willing to suffer for the sake of her art.

She’s taking a vow of celibacy in hopes of improving her songwriting skills.

“It’s good to get out of your comfort zone and test yourself,” Allen says. “I’m just going to see how it goes for a bit. I haven’t set a time limit or anything.”

“I’ve actually broken up with boyfriends for inspiration. When I hit a period of not being able to write music, I get up and I walk away,” Allen fesses up. “It’s pretty mean-but it’s true.”

Sounds like Lily Allen isn’t the only person who’s suffered for her art.

And may the Muse be with her for it…

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Songwriting – Pay It Forward

I enjoyed reading this article from a Nova Scotia local newspaper about songwriting as an art that can be passed along. Kudos to songwriter Steven Bowers (pictured) who is working with youth and passing along the craft/art of songwriting:

Equipped with good information and persistence, young musicians can forge a path as a songwriter – even if it’s not the career that a guidance counsellor would typically suggest.
Singer/songwriter Steven Bowers has been at the trade for about a decade, and still he says it’s a continual learning process. But at this point, he’s comfortable imparting some of the experience he’s earned at a songwriter’s workshop for several high school students this Saturday at Glasgow Square.

“We want to teach them about the business of songwriting. It’s not really something that’s focused on around here – basically how to connect with other songwriters, how to get your stuff heard,” he says.

He remembers back at the very beginning – writing music but not really having any idea of how to get people to listen to it. In high school he had an outlet through school programs, but without knowing anywhere else to look for performing, there was little opportunity.

“When you’re in high school, you can’t play a lot of the pubs. So, with the exception of local groups that put on coffee houses, you don’t really know many avenues to get your stuff out there,” he said. “The open-mic circuit was really big for me in Halifax. A lot of kids, if they are going off to university or to college, most will have open-mics at the local campus bars they can take advantage of.”

But even with the local notoriety that comes with frequenting an open-mic – or hosting one, as Bowers did – there’s still a distance to travel between pub staple and marketable songwriter. That involves networking with other musicians and knowing organizations which exist to put people in the music business in touch with funding opportunities and information. And it’s those angles Bowers, along with fellow musician Christina Martin are hoping to impart.
“Now that you’ve established yourself as a performer, you have to have some kind of product. If you want to sell your music – and if you want to be a professional songwriter versus someone who’s a hobbyist, you might not be interested in recording your stuff,” he said.

“But, from there, you need a venue to sell your music, people aren’t going to buy it sight unseen. And even if you want to go the radio route and not perform in your life, you still need to connect with the organization.”

The Muse is with you Steven… Inspirational! Keep the faith!

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SongStudio ’09

Kudos to Blair Packham et al (which “al” includes Rik Emmett, Ember Swift, Steven Page, Zack Werner and more!) for setting up SongStudio ’09, described as a “week-long adventure in songwriting at Toronto’s Ryerson University” and scheduled to take place this summer: July 18 – 24, 2009.

Just a bit from the website (which you should visit for yourself):

The week will focus on learning how to write your best songs ever. Best of all, you will get many chances to perform your songs, for supportive, attentive audiences in a warm, nurturing environment.

SongStudio’s format is designed to help you acquire strategies and tools to help turn your ideas into real, finished songs. Good songs that speak to your audience. If you have something to express through song, we can help. Maybe you only write lyrics. At SongStudio, chances are you’ll meet someone who needs help with their words, or who only writes music. And in the meantime, we can help you make your lyrics communicate more effectively, and help you learn how to write effective, compelling melodies and chord changes.

Something else happens at our workshops. Some might call it networking. We prefer to think of it as making friends, and if the last four years are any indication, many of the friendships made at our past workshops will be for life. This is a beautiful thing. So often, songwriting is a solitary art. When the experience can be shared, a community builds.

At SongStudio you will sing, you will laugh, you will listen, you’ll “talk shop”, but most of all, you will grow as a writer and as an artist.

Sounds like a wonderful, creative environment… May the Muse be with them all!

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The Musical Brain

I read an article in our local weekly about producer Vanessa Dylyn (pictured left with Sting at McGill University) and her latest project, “which mixes neuroscience and music [and] examines what music can tell us about the human brain and the what the brain can tell us about music.”

Dylyn came across the book This is Your Brain on Music by Dr. Daniel Levitin (see my previous posts). She knew it would make the basis for a wonderful documentary straight away and I have to agree (and can’t wait to watch it).

CTV will be airing the documentary, The Musical Brain, this weekend (January 31, 2009 at 7 p.m.). Here is CTV’s description:

Using the research findings of leading medical experts, including Dr. Daniel Levitin (This is Your Brain on Music), the documentary examines the physical, psychological and emotional responses to music through a variety of tests on children and adults. ‘The Musical Brain’ also features candid interviews with Michael Bublé, Feist, Wyclef Jean and Sting who share what they have learned about the power of music in their lives.

In addition to discussing his passion for music, Sting puts his own musical mind to the test when he enters an fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machine to have his brain scanned. Inspired by Dr. Daniel Levitin’s book, Sting undergoes tests to find out how music affects him on a physical and emotional level. Using state-of-the-art technology, ‘The Musical Brain’ demonstrates how Sting responds to various types of music – complex and simple – and what his musical brain reveals about him.

“Music is a gateway to emotion and memory, pleasure and intellectual stimulation throughout our lives,” says writer and director Christina Pochmursky. “‘The Musical Brain’follows Sting on his journey of discovery into his own musical brain, and also explores how music can define each stage of our lives.”

“This riveting documentary sheds light on the human musical experience and how science is teaching us more about it,” says Bob Culbert, Vice-President of CTV Documentaries. “The stories shared by the participating artists will resonate with viewers who understand the power of music in their own lives.”

May the Muse (and your brain) be with you…

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HitLab Dynamic Hit Scoring

A Canadian company, out of Montreal, was featured in an article by Roberto Rocha of the National Post yesterday discussing the DHS (Dynamic Hit Scoring) software featured on its website: HitLab.com.

From the article:

“We see this as the future of music,” said Eddie Wenrick, chief executive of Hitlab.com,a Montreal startup that aims to be the big new platform for farming musical talent. The company is a blend of MySpace– the social networking site popular among bands –and Canadian Idol. Members create profiles and add their songs for all to hear and buy. But for $30, they can get Hitlab’s software, called Dynamic Hit Scoring, to analyze their music’s hit potential. If they score highly, they increase their chance of signing a record contract.

Every three months, the four Hitlab users with the highest DHS score are invited to a talent show before a panel of industry honchos. The winners get coupled with managers and hopefully ink album contracts.

Hitlab would get a cut of the deal and publishing rights, and fame-seeking virtuosos get the exposure, Wenrick said.

“It’ll be a springboard to kick-start their careers,” he said. “We like to say we’re a baseball farm team before they go to the major leagues.”

Wenrick, a veteran of the music industry — he was an executive at Columbia Records and Epic Records and ran several talent management firms — understands that letting a robot pick new talent is exceptionally inhuman in a human-driven enterprise. This is why he also invites another top four members, as voted by other users, to the showcase.

“This is for users who don’t have a hit song, but have a large following and show potential,” he said.

And from the website on how DHS works:

To analyze music, the system breaks down the sound frequencies of a song into 78 variables such as tone, pitch, tempo, etc. If a song has very similar patterns to a song that was at the top of the billboard for a long period of time, the DHS score will be high. On the other hand, if the song has a moderately similar pattern to a song that was low on the billboard charts for a short period of time, the DHS score will be lower. By comparing a song to the database that holds the recent trends in music, we can evaluate how appealing the mathematical patterns of the sound frequencies are to the human ear, thereby evaluating a song’s hit potential.
Step by step:

  • Each MP3 song is digitized and parceled into tens of hundreds of short audio files.
  • A set of unique features (78 isolated variables) of the audio contents is extracted from each segment.
  • A full set of identifying features is created for each piece of MP3 content.
  • The complete set is then stored in the database.
  • Each MP3 is ranked according to its peak position in the Billboard compilation using the algorithms and stored in the database for future analysis.

I don’t know if something like this actually works. I guess it would for “pop” songs that may have many similar characteristics. My concern is whether a Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen, who didn’t sound like the prevailing pop at the time, would make it threw this type of screening…

May the Muse (and technology) be with you…

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Professor George Michael?

Okay, this article speaks for itself, so I’ll only preface it with – Huh, what are they thinking? The concept is good (breaking street violence through encouragement of artistic endeavours) but I don’t know if the practice works if George Michael is to be relied upon for seeing this through. No offence to Mr. Michael, but I don’t believe that he has a reputation of being particularly reliable:

Anne Lu – Celebrity News Service News Writer

London, England (BANG) – George Michael’s neighbors want him to fight knife crime. Residents and school officials in Highgate, north London, wrote to the “Faith” singer asking him to support a scheme designed to reduce knife crime in the area where he lives.

A source said: “In the interests on discouraging knife crime, a safer neighborhood group in Highgate has written to ask George for help.”

The former “Wham!” star – who sponsored this year’s Highgate Summer Festival – has been asked to get involved with a program that encourages children to express themselves through music instead of violent behavior.

The source added to Britain’s Daily Star newspaper: “They’re trying to get local children to focus on the challenges they face living in the area and express it in creative songwriting instead of violence. They’ve asked George to use his contacts ideally in organizing a songwriting competition in schools.”

Since January, 65 British teenagers have died as a result of violent crime. Almost 60 percent were stabbed to death.

The 45-year-old singer – whose fans can download his festive single “I Dreamed of Christmas” for free on Christmas Day – is yet to respond to the request.

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