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Ovation Arts – Songwriting Program for Teens in York Region

Ovation Performing Arts Academy in the Richmond Hill Centre for Performing Arts is offering a Songwriting Program for teens in the New Year. Click the link for more information. The program is NEW and appears to go through Songwriting 101 as well as taking the teens to the process of effectively linking music and lyrics into a successful song.

I wish the program all the best and use this as an opportunity to remind the local community of the Stellula program I posted about a few weeks back. May the Muse be with all the young songwriters…

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More from Daniel Levitin

I really enjoy Daniel Levitin’s musings on music/song, and in particular “songcraft” and the “science” of listening to music. See my previous posts here and here

Today, he appeared in an article in the Arts section of the National Post entitled “Hear My Song“. As always, the remarks are insightful, illuminating and entertaining. On the issue of a person’s desire NOT to learn too much about what is going on as they listen to their favourite music (in hopes of keeping the mystery alive), Dr. Levitin responds in kind:

“I’ve heard that from a lot of people before they start reading about music and the brain, that they’re afraid of learning too much. I’ve never heard from anybody afterwards that they regretted it because they don’t enjoy music any more. In fact, I think people are curious by nature. You go to a magic show, you want to know how the trick was done. Usually when people meet a musician they’ll ask, ‘What were you thinking when you wrote that song.’ I think that understanding the complexity of it increases one’s appreciation.”

And from his recent book, The World In Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature, the “music doctor” professes as follows:

“The brain learns music and language because it is configured to acquire rules about how musical and linguistic elements are combined; its computational circuits (in the prefrontal cortex) ‘know’ the rules about hierarchical organization and are primed to receive musical and linguistic input during the early years of development. This is why the child who is denied exposure to music or language before a certain age (believed to be somewhere between 8 and 12) will never acquire normal music or language skills – the pruning process has already begun, and those neural circuits that were waiting to be activated become eliminated.”

Ah, it may seem so dry, but it is a basic building block… my daughter has been “writing” music since she was 3 – humming melodies and writing lyrics to everyday situations… and I can’t remember when I didn’t do so either… let the Muse be with us…

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Stellula Music In Schools Program

Click the banner above to learn about this interesting program available in Simcoe County. As per the website:

The Stellula Music in Schools Program helps children and youth create music and art through writing, photography, and making CDs/DVDs and movies. Students learn about creating music from professional musicians, filmmakers, animators and sound production people.

The Program encourages students to express themselves through songwriting in a safe and supportive environment while building meaningful relationships with other students, teachers and professionals in the music business.

Best of luck to this program and other similar programs (see the School Alliance of Student Songwriters site too)… the Muse is truly with them…

USC Offers Pop Music Degree

The Los Angeles Times recently ran an article detailing the introduction of a Popular Music Degree at the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California. As described on the school’s website: “ USC Thornton is proud to announce a new bachelor of music degree in pop music performance, the first of its kind at a major university. The program, which will begin in the 2009-10 academic year, will provide a place for instrumentalists or vocalists whose passion is popular music — be it rock, R&B, folk, blues or country.”

And a quote from the LA Times article follows:

Students still will be required to study music theory, history and songwriting, but they’ll also learn about entertainment law, record promotion, marketing, publicity and other fields pop musicians need to understand to succeed in the evolving music business.

“We built this program recognizing that the nature of the music business is changing,” [Associate Dean Chris] Sampson said in a separate interview. “We’re looking to create a broader number of opportunities for our students to successfully make careers in music. Turning out records that end up making the charts, that’s the top of a broad pyramid. I expect other students might find their way into becoming music directors, arrangers and a variety of different roles.

“The whole idea is that we’ll be bring it all together under one umbrella. . . . We are building a network of people in different disciplines, whether in technology, business or law . . . and within a college atmosphere, students will have some room to experiment.”
May the Muse be with you…

Music Computer Stolen – Important Works Lost

In Illinois, Lake Forest College’s Department of Music suffered a serious blow when it’s one and only laptop was stolen – read the full article here and a small selection follows:

Associate Professor of Music Donald Meyer, who chairs the department and specializes in use of the studio, called the incident “a devastating loss.” Besides taking away important work by his students and himself, the theft has disrupted his ability to teach Songwriting this semester. Productivity in the class came to a halt, since the stolen computer was the only one students could use to record and compose in the department.

I don’t know… I suffered the same fate once when my laptop was stolen, but I had most of my songs backed up (though not all). It seems to me that some precautions should have been taken – stolen or not, even a hard drive failure could have led to this outcome… but who am I to judge…

May the laptop be returned and may the Muse be with this songwriting program, professor and students…

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Songwriting Grad Signs Record Deal

Last year, I wrote about a songwriting degree offered by Bangor University in the U.K. (see post here). Last week, Bath Spa University in the U.K. issued a press release about the success of one of its graduates of its MA Songwriting Course.

Andrew Clark, pictured, is the worthy grad. The songwriting course is certainly interesting… selections from the news release follow:

Andy West, director of the MA Songwriting course, is also delighted about his graduate’s achievement. He said: “Andrew has improved greatly as a result of his hard work and application during the course and fully deserves this rare opportunity. He was a really good student and innovative as a thinker and songwriter. These qualities will stand him in good stead in his professional career.”

The MA Songwriting course is the first of its kind in the world and available only at Bath Spa. It was created by the University’s School of Music and Performing Arts because no other institution was offering the chance for commercial music graduates to continue their songwriting studies.

The course, one year long for full-time students, was launched in autumn 2007. Andrew Clark is one of seven graduates from the first intake.

Well, Bangor and Bath Spa… and still I know of nothing here on this side of the pond, at the university level… but I will follow up on the Humber College songwriting degree program that just started last year… May the Muse be with you…

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Canadian Radio Star New Songwriter Workshops

Yesterday, I attended the New Songwriters’ Workshop put on by the Canadian Radio Star songwriting competition folks and supported by Astral Media, and sponsored by the Songwriters Association of Canada and Sennheiser. The workshop was staged at Metalworks Studio (very cool setup).

The topics included What’s In a Song?, Music Publishing 101 and Writing for the Radio, along with a song review and critique session. Greg Simpson of Mindbenders Music was the host of the event and the presenters included songwriter Blair Packham, Wayne Webster, Music Director of Virgin Radio 99.9, John Alexander, Senior VP-Creative Affairs for ASCAP, and Vivian Barclay, head of music publisher Warner Chappell Music Canada Ltd. Don Quarles of SAC was assisting as well.

Much was learned and will be shorlisted to the following points:

  • Music is patterns, but you have to break those patterns to keep the listener engaged.
  • You’re not a genius. Don’t overwork a song, but re-writing it as a craftsman can and usually does make it better.
  • There is no rule to songwriting other than – “Don’t be boring!”
  • Music is communication – the song should speak for itself and not have to be explained (my problem, big time).
  • Know your audience and listen with your audience’s ear.
  • Your mother is not a music critic when it comes to your songwriting/performing abilities – she doesn’t count (sorry Ma).

I brought my song She’s My Favourite Place to be critiqued and boy, was it ever! I know it was a bad mix (my fault) but the production and the song itself did not go over well… That leads to another point from the workshop – Do your demo well! You may only get one shot so whether it’s stripped down bare (just piano or guitar plus vocal) or with more advanced production, it has to work… if somebody is listening they’re only going to listen for a minute before moving on and if you can’t win them over, you get tossed in the “NO” pile… songs under 4 minutes and hook within 45 seconds…

I got some re-writing to do on some old songs and a new mindset to take into the new ones… may the Muse come to me!

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The World In Six Songs by Daniel Levitin

Okay, now this book is hot off the press and I haven’t had a chance to review it other than the sample that’s availabel on Dr. Levitin’s website. This book – The World In Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature – “shows how six specific forms of music played a pivotal role in creating human culture and society as we know it. Levitin masterfully weaves together the story of human evolution, music, anthropology, psychology and biology from the dawn of homo sapiens to the present.”

“Music seems to have an almost willful, evasive quality, defying simple explanation, so that the more we find out, the more there is to know, leaving its power and mystery intact, however much we may dig and delve. Daniel’s book is an eloquent and poetic exploration of this paradox..”
- Sting

The “Six” are Friendship, Joy, Comfort, Knowledge, Religion and Love. You can listen to Dr. Levitin on CBC’s The Current from this morning’s show discuss the Six Songs. Here is the podcast which can be eloquently summed up as follows: Music makes us human…

Listen to Podcast:

Happy listening and may the Muse (and Science and the Six Songs) be with you…

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This Is Your Brain On Music by Daniel Levitin

Well, I was going to wait till I actually finished the book to right about it, but since the author, Prof. Daniel Levitin, appeared on CBC Radio’s The Current this morning (to discuss a new book of his), I thought I’d make my first thoughts on this “old” book known.

The book is – This Is Your Brain On Music - and it’s a wonderful, thought-provoking achievement regarding the “science” of music. Don’t get scared by that thought (re “science”) as the book is lucidly entertaining, drawn from the real-life experience of the author as a musician/producer/scientist (don’t see that combination every day).

Yes, the “raw” science of sound is analyzed – that path of sound vibrating air molecules and triggering nerve impulses in the listener. But “music”, as opposed to just “sound”, can bring simple yet complex analysis within the brain that delves into the timbre, pitch, tempo and other musical elements. And it’s fascinating, without destroying the soulfulness or mystery of music.

As Levitin himself simplifies the book in his introduction to be: “what music can teach us about the brain, what the brain can teach us about music – and what both can teach us about ourselves”. I’m finding that I out as I complete the book…

Listen to Podcast:

So have a listen above or download the podcast (from CBC’s Quirks & Quarks, Dec/06) as well and know that his new book The World In Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature has just come out… see next post.

May the Muse (and science) be with you…

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The Everything Songwriting Book by CJ Watson

I enjoyed recently reading The Everything Songwriting Book by C.J. WatsonAmerican Songwriter Magazine called it the most complete songwriting book ever and said “No songwriter should be without it”.

Of particular interest to this reader was the section on musical theory and the Nashville charting system (nicely explained) and tips to record the music, and most importantly how to get the music heard. Mr. Watson has a very laid back, natural writing style which lends itself to picking apart certain chapters that may be of some benefit to a songwriter at any point in time…

Use with authority and may the Muse be with you…

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