This Land is Your Land

May 14, 2019

In January of 2009, Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger sang “This Land Is Your Land” in front of the Lincoln Memorial, for the inauguration of President Barack Obama, (Cassuto, 2012, p. 8-9) our first African American president.  This was a crowning achievement for Guthrie as well as a crowning achievement for America; it was a culmination of the forces of integration over the scourge of slavery and segregation that will forever scar the country’s history.  The song was equally symbolic of both the American dream and the American struggle of breaking down barriers and achieving equal opportunity for all of its people, regardless of their race, sex, creed, or economic disposition. The choice for using a folk song to convey this message was also a wise one.  As a result of its long history of immigration and expansion, American folk music is unique in its heterogeneity (Nettl, 1976, p. 17). No other country or ethnic group’s folk music represents such a huge body of disparate cultures and sense of inclusion. It’s hard to imagine a composer who would have been more satisfied and more apt to have his song performed than Guthrie, a champion of the common, underprivileged, and outcast person.  Guthrie fought for those people through his music, lyrics, simple compositional style, and travels throughout the country.

Born in 1912, composer Woody Guthrie lived a difficult life.  Leonard Cassuto (2012) notes that his family was financially unstable (p. 2).  His “father’s work waned more often than it waxed” (Cassuto, 2012, p. 2). His mother was plagued by and eventually died from Huntington’s disease, which caused her bizarre and erratic behavior.  It is speculated that she caused a fire that eventually burned down the family home in 1927 (Cassuto, 2012, p. 2). Guthrie moved with his father, who was injured in this fire, to Pampa, Texas and took up music.  From that point he also began a “lifelong pattern of restlessness,” (Cassuto, 2012, p. 2) migrating to California, where he became aware of what he saw as flaws in politics of opportunity for workers. Cassuto (2012) states that the “New Deal reforms were slow to reach the coast, as powerful agribusiness interests fought hard for control of a poor and itinerant labor supply” (p. 2).  

When Guthrie was living in Pampa in his early twenties, having just recently become a father, the Dust Bowl, a severe drought, hit the southern plains of the United States.  The worst day of the Dust Bowl was dubbed “Black Sunday,” in which a severe dust storm hit the plains on April 14, 1935. In a later interview in which Guthrie describes the storm, it becomes clear how his difficult life began to color his political beliefs about economic injustice:

Why, most people are pretty level-headed. They just said well, this is the end, this is the end of the world. People ain’t been living right. Human race ain’t been treating each other right. They’ve been robbing each other in different ways, with fountain pens, guns, and having wars and killing each other and shooting around. So, the Feller that made this world, He’s perked up this dust storm. And there’s never been nothing like it in the whole history of the world, even the old-timers that lived there for fifty years said they’d never seen anything like it to even compare with it. And they said yes, that’s right, somebody has robbed somebody, some of us have about starved to death, others spend five or six thousand dollars on a little party at night, some lose five or ten thousand across a gambling table at night. This nicely ain’t been living right. So this dust storm is the end (Shaw, 2012, p. 110).


Over time, Guthrie developed a politicized stance against the forces of inequality within America.  For example, speaking in his oft-used “folk dialect,” he is quoted as saying “Wall St. is where the workers git worked on an the reapers git reaped-an the farmers git plowed under” (Shaw, 2013, p. 120).  Another interesting anecdote about Guthrie’s life came shortly after he married his first wife, Mary. He had found a job at a grocery store. Even though Guthrie himself was nearly penniless, he gave over his entire first paycheck to the Moores, friends of Guthrie and a family in which the wife was ill and the husband had lost his job.  Guthrie is quoted as saying “I figured that the old fellow needed it worse than I did” (Kim-Brown, 2006, p. 18-19). Between the depression and the drought, Guthrie eventually decided to leave his farmhouse and family behind.

In 1937 he set out for California in search of better things.  During his travels, he met people of many different races who were also migrating, and in the process he picked up, played with, and exchanged songs with the other migrants.  Guthrie both absorbed and placed his stamp on some of these songs (Kim-Brown, 2006, p. 19). Unfortunately for Guthrie, California was not a welcoming place for people without money, and many of the hitch hikers were jailed or turned back.  Guthrie had a difficult time. Somehow he was able to land a radio show and form an audience with his fellow “dust bowl refugees,” who became his main audience. He sympathized with these migrants.

Shortly before Guthrie wrote “This Land is Your Land,” Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” was a popular song within the public.  In addition to the aforementioned economic disparities amongst laborers and the wealthy, African Americans still lived under the inequalities of the Jim Crow south (Shaw, 2013, p. 138).  Shaw (2013) notes, “the irony was tragic: America, where ‘all men are created equal,’ had been founded on conquest and slavery” (p. 138). After the DAR refused to allow Marian Anderson, an African American contralto to perform at Constitution Hall in 1939, Eleanor Roosevelt allowed her to give a free concert from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, making history (Shaw, 2013, p. 145).  

Ten months after this historic event, Guthrie moved to New York.  Broke and homeless, out of his own resentment, he started toying with his own parodies of “God Bless America,” writing his first draft of “This Land is Your Land” on February 23, 1940 from a hotel room he was staying in, temporarily using a tune he borrowed from the Carter Family, which itself borrowed lyrics from an African American guitarist named Blind Willie Davis (Shaw, 2013, p. 152).  After hearing “God Bless America,” Guthrie was “provoked” into writing “This Land is Your Land” as a protest, because he felt the former to be too positive about the conditions at the time. That song did not adequately describe the harsh living conditions of the group of people he identified with (Shaw, 2013, p. 151).

Guthrie’s nomadic and evolving life is mirrored in the way he constructed both the verses and musical form and content of “This Land is Your Land” as well as most of his songs.  John Shaw (2013) notes that even though the first draft of Guthrie’s most famous song was written in 1940, by 1945, the first verse became the song’s chorus, with its’ tagline “This land was made for you and me.”  Guthrie made two recordings, one which contains the fifth verse about “private property” and one which does not, the second of which being the one that is traditionally included in textbooks (p. 211). Guthrie went on to record other versions of the song and eventually penned nine verses, even though no recording exists which contains all of the verses.  It is almost as if the song evolved in tandem with Woody’s life and opinions of American politics and his personal situation, and he continually gave us a snapshot with each new rendition of the song. As Shaw (2013) notes, “we have no way of knowing what Woody’s ‘final’ version was, or even if such a thing could be said to exist at all” (p. 218).

Guthrie catered his lyrics, musical performance style, and dialog about “This Land is Your Land” directly to his radio audiences, who weren’t interested in polished and sophisticated songwriting.  At a 1940 benefit for farm workers, Guthrie became the main musical attraction because of his “authentic American voice” (Kim-Brown, 2006, p. 19). Guthrie even “consciously played up his rural background” (Kim-Brown, 2006, p. 19) to further emphasize this aspect of himself.  His audience was interested in something simple that could be universally understood. According to John Shaw, (2013), Woodie’s listeners “wanted to hear songs and stories, told mostly by Woody, that reminded them of where they had come from, not slick sounding cowboy songs and ‘buckaroo ballads,’ made popular by the likes of singing cowboy and movie star Gene Autry” (p. 24).  

The structure of the melody of “This Land is Your Land” also seems to be deliberately made for Woodie’s audience.  Both the verse and chorus of the song contain the same simple melody, with only the lyrics differing. The song, written in the major mode, uses only the I, IV, and V chords.  The verse/chorus melody is built on a simple, repetitive sequence of six repetitions of the same melodic motive, varies in pitch to follow the chords, and has a final descending motive to the tonic, which is the only motive that differs rhythmically.  Pete Seeger is quoted in an interview as saying “I confess when I first heard it, I thought, gee, this is just too simple. That melody doesn’t go anywhere… dee dee dee dee dee, dee dee dee dee dee… there’s such a thing as being too simple. Well, that shows you how wrong you can be” (Doak, 2001).

Folk music is music written by and for the “folk,” or the masses, and this is the style of virtually all of Guthrie’s music.  According to Shaw, (2013) the formal study of folk music began in the eighteenth century when German philosopher and linguist Johann Gottfried von Herder published a collection of folk songs with a nationalistic intent.  Herder made distinctions between the “folk” classes and the “educated” classes. Herder is quoted as saying that literature should be founded on the “volk” (German for “folk”) instead of writing “eternally for the closet sages and disgusting critics out of whose mouths and stomachs we shall get back what we have given” (p. 97).   Guthrie’s interests were clearly aligned with the “volk” in “This Land is Your Land.”

One can also see the parallel between the construction of “This Land is Your Land” and the way that its’ genre, folk music is accepted, modified, and adopted within a particular ethnic group.  According to Bruno Nettl, (1976) “we know that a folk song, even though composed by a member of a given ethnic group, will not take hold in that group unless it conforms to the current aesthetic ideals” (p. 13).  As stated earlier, Guthrie’s audience would have rejected “sophistication” of any kind, opting for a simplicity they could identify with. Nettl (1976) goes on to state that even if a song is accepted within the group, it will likely be “changed through the process of communal re-creation until it does conform” (p. 14).  One can see evidence of this in the way Guthrie constantly added and subtracted verses to his song and changed the lyrics. Furthermore, one can see evidence of this in the way that one version of the song is adopted for schools whereas other versions of the song contain more politically charged stanzas. Since its inception, separate versions of the song have been used in all types of situations, from protest rallies to political campaigns.  It has even been stated that politicians began to use “This Land is Your Land” whether their message was in keeping with Guthrie’s message or not. Mark Allan Jackson (2002) warns us, “not only could the ‘very selfish interests Woody was fighting all his life’ that [Pete] Seeger mentions make a mockery of the song, but history itself could make the song tell a lie – or at least point out a promise not kept and an entire people displaced” (p. 271).

In his construction of the melody, Guthrie also followed the unique pattern of folk music in the United States, which is different because the various ethnic groups tend to mix, unlike the folk music in other countries.  According to Shaw, (2013) Guthrie “modified and extended the melody of ‘When the World’s on Fire’ by the Carter Family,” who sourced African American guitarist Blind Willie Davis (p. 152). Nettl (1976) explains that although Europe and other parts of the Old World folklore is homogenous because the same people have been living in particular geographic regions for many centuries, in America, the music represents a mix of all of the cultures of the peoples that inhabit the country.  “The trademark of American folk music is its variety,” (Nettle, 1976, p. 14) and it is these varying cultures as opposed to Native American music culture alone that most Americans identify with. Nettle (1976) substantiates the point by noting that “the differences between American and European folk music may be explained by the different historical developments and contrasting cultural composition of the two hemispheres” (p.16). Shaw (2012) points out that in the United States, “folk” is particularly difficult to pin down because the country is a nation of immigrants, (p. 98) and although many scholars attempted to compile and catalog folk songs from various heritages, including African American heritages, it wasn’t until 1927 that Carl Sandburg published a book that according to Shaw, (2012) “settled the question of the identity of the American folk” (p. 103).  Sandburg compiled The American Songbag, an “extremely popular” collection unmatched by any before it in the number of “published songs from different ethnic groups and regions in one volume, [including] cowboy songs, British ballads, slave songs, minstrel songs, spirituals, and Mexican songs” (Shaw, 2012, p. 103).  Whether consciously or subconsciously, Guthrie’s melody and lyrics fit within the culturally diverse pattern of American folk music.

The verses of “This Land is Your Land” run in parallel with the ever-evolving nature of and ideas present in American folk music.  Nettl (1976) states that “American folk music is constantly changing,” and as new people immigrate to the United States, new cultural practices and thus new bodies of music are adopted and integrated (p. 19).  In addition to this metaphorical “cultural frontier,” the literal concept of the “frontier” is also mostly unique to American music due to our westward expansion (Nettl, 1976, p. 18). Just as how Guthrie, with each new verse of “This Land Is Your Land” explored new political and philosophical frontiers, American folk music pushed new frontiers with each new ethnic group included in its expansion of both its cultural and geographical frontiers, including its disputes and changing ideology around slavery (Nettl, 1976, p. 16).  Nettl (1976) also notes that Americans are more “mobile” than Europeans due to their adoption of the automobile and other mechanical devices, and thus there is more migration and travel between city and urban areas in the United States. Consequently, the music of the city is just as much folk music as the music of rural areas, in contrast to European folk music (p. 17). As we would expect, Guthrie wrote verses for “This Land is Your Land” that mention both the city and the idea of breaking barriers:

In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;

By the relief office, I’d seen my people.

As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,

Is this land made for you and me?


As I went walking I saw a sign there

And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”

But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,

That side was made for you and me.


In conclusion, Woody Guthrie wrote with the ideals of American folk music in mind.  “This Land is Your Land” has been a perpetual song choice to celebrate many of our nation’s most defining moments.  In Catherine Kim-Brown’s article “A Hard Travelin Man,” (2006) she quotes Guthrie as saying “I’m out to sing the songs that will prove to you that this is your land, no matter what color, what size you are or how you were built” (p. 1).  Guthrie’s approach to his music was “inclusive,” as opposed to “exclusive.” Consider this final anecdote of Guthrie’s beliefs:

Guthrie–and also Seeger–was a Communist sympathizer at this time, but Guthrie probably didn’t join the party. When asked about his politics, he had a one-liner at the ready: “I ain’t a Communist necessarily, but I have been in the red all my life.” You could say he was never an official joiner–or perhaps that he could never belong to a group that would exclude anyone. In response to a question about his religion toward the end of his life, he quipped: “All or none.” (Cassuto, 2012, p. 3).


According to Bruce Springsteen, Guthrie “never had a hit, never went platinum, never played in an arena, never got his picture on the cover of Rolling Stone,” but at the same time was a “big, big ghost in the machine” (Cassuto, 2012, p. 9).  From the classroom to presidential inauguration, or to the picket line, “This Land is Your Land” is a unionizing force for the growth of humanity and it is our responsibility to keep it that way.



Doak, J. (2008, November 29). Woody Guthrie Biography. Retrieved from


Cassuto, L. (2012, October 12).  Woody guthrie at 100. Chronicle Review, Retrieved from


Jackson, M. (2002).  Is this song your song anymore?: revisioning Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”  American Music, 20(3), 249-276.


Kim-Brown, K. (2006).  Woody Guthrie: A hard travelin’ man.  Humanities, 27(4), 16-21.


Nettl, B. (1976).  Folk music in the United States.  Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press.


Shaw, J. (2013).  This land that I love: Irving berlin, Woody Guthrie, and the story of two American anthems.  New York, NY: PublicAffairs.



April 12, 2019

A lot of weight loss researchers talk about NEAT.  I notice today that on a slightly emptier stomach (I’m not totally stuffing myself, but eating a tad less at each meal) that I have more NEAT.  I’m fidgeting more.  Feel more jittery.  But I also feel less loaded down and tired.  So this might be a state I need to get used to in order to get the full benefit of eating.

New Weight Loss Idea

March 2, 2019

To CUT weight, you need to do doubles or walking after work

To MAINTAIN weight, you need to do singles.

Jack Lalanne exercised up until his death.

Regarding diet, I’m not sure how cleanly I’ll have to eat doing doubles, but I can already see that there may be more leeway than if I’m only doing singles.

I’m not even sure if I can lose weight doing singles. I seem to maintain on that.

I seem to GAIN when there is no exercise.

The Achievement of Musical Values in Novices

April 29, 2018

The Achievement of Musical Values in Novices

It is possible for novice musicers and listeners to achieve the values of music and listening.  The values of musicing and listening are general human values not unique to only high-level professional musicians, but to all types of musicers, regardless of ability level.  If we assume that some of the values of musicing include the development of human skill, the enjoyment in that process, the strengthening of empathy through cooperation, the enhancement of human emotional expression, and the development of self-esteem, then it seems reasonable to assume that novice musicers can achieve these values by learning and exploring music in both structured and unstructured environments.  According to Elliott and Silverman (2015), “as persons, we have an innate desire to deploy our enactive-embodied powers to achieve human flourishing, happiness, fellowship, meaningfulness, and self-knowledge through self-other knowledge. One way human beings have sought out this knowledge is through musicing and listening” (p. 360).  

One of the most powerful human drives and human values is the development of skill.  Since novices have a great deal of skill that needs developing, it seems reasonable that with enough discipline they will realize this value.  Elliott and Silverman (2015) state, “the most powerful drive in the ascent of man is his pleasure in his own skill. He loves to do what he does well and, having done it well, he loves to do it better” (p. 368).  It seems pretty clear that both the interest in and attainability of this value is high in both novice and professional musicers alike.  A simple observation of the number of music settings in the world in which novices play a significant role supports this idea. According to Elliott and Silverman (2015), “indeed, even a quick glance around the world is enough to show that although some people make music chiefly for money, status, and other tangible rewards, most do not. Most musicers and listeners find the actions of musicing and listening meaningful in themselves, for the sake of the self, and for the sake of the self and others” (p. 363).

           With the assistance of a great music teacher or CM facilitator, it becomes even more possible for a novice musicer to not only develop their skills, but to also achieve a state of flow while doing so.  Flow is the optimal state between challenge and ease that allows the process of making music to go smoothly for the student. In mentioning a hypothetical example of a music student name Sara, Elliott and Silverman (2015) state that “balancing of musical understanding and musical challenge will restore enjoyment, and place Sara back in the channel of enjoyment and self-growth(p. 385).  According to Csikszentmihalyi, Silverman, and Elliott, happiness isn’t necessarily directly caused by praise but rather in the achievement and state of flow experienced by the musicer (Elliott & Silverman, 2015, p.374).

           The enjoyment and benefit of taking part in a community of musicians is also equally available to the novice musicer as the expert.  Through interacting with others in a musical practice, the novice can learn more about both themselves, the means for teamwork, and community values.  According to Elliott and Silverman (2015), “the key to understanding “self” is the relationships the self has to others” (p. 362). Through interacting with others, the novice musicer can gain insight into their own identity.  There is no need to have an expert skill level in order to attain these insights during musical exploration.

It is also pretty clear that novice musicers can enjoy the communal benefits that music provides without having an expert level of skill.  My church choir is made up of primarily novice musicians exercising their right to worship through song. There are countless millions of community organizations around the world in which people are involved in the enjoyment of making music on a novice level.  As Elliott and Silverman (2015) say, “on the most obvious level, performers, improvisers, composers, arrangers, and conductors make musical sounds for a variety of purposes, including dancing, worshipping, celebrating, marching, mourning, socializing, teaching, learning, and so on” (p. 379).  Many of the participants in these forms of musicing are novices.


One condition that contributes to students not investing themselves in musics is a poor environment, be it at school or in the person’s living environment.  School environments that are dominated by fear, an overemphasis on standardized testing, or even the American overemphasis on writing and math all contribute to a lack of investment in musics.  As Elliott and Silverman (2015) say, “positive social circumstances are necessary for developing the understandings and knowings necessary to achieve flow. Sustained effort and concentration are not likely to occur in learning environments that are dominated by fear, embarrassment, or punishment-all of which can arise from unethical teaching” (p. 369).

Another situation in which it would be difficult for students to invest themselves in musics is when their basic biological needs for food or shelter are not met.  Schools in underprivileged areas come to mind. “When biological and social needs intrude into consciousness, the result is disorder. Order is restored in consciousness by satisfying these needs” (Elliott & Silverman, 2015, p. 369).  In such needy environments students are unable to achieve the focus necessary to invest themselves in musicing and listening.

Another unfortunate situation that occurs in schools which prevent students from safely musicing and listening is bullying.  Within schools, “music classrooms are ‘homes’ for [students’] growing sense of individuality and intersubjectivity” (Elliott & Silverman, 2015, p. 374).  In spite of this fact, bullying still pervades some school environments and even affects the lives of the music teachers themselves.  

Some people simply do not find music interesting or aligning with life values that they would otherwise find important, and thus do not invest themselves.  “Accordingly, there will always be a few students who find musics incongruent with their personal values and goals” (Elliott & Silverman, 2015, p. 385).  In addition to not finding musicing interesting, some people might not agree with the ideas, values, and meanings in particular musical products (Elliott & Silverman, 2015, p. 385).

Within the context of the school, some students may not be able to achieve flow within the music classroom for a variety of reasons. This may lead to those students losing or never attaining interest in musicing and listening.  This also implies a great responsibility on the part of the teacher to ensure that flow is taking place within the walls of the classroom. According to Elliott and Silverman (2015), “as music teachers well know, some students who arrive at points S2 or S3 may give up altogether. Some may not buy into the challenge-knowledge relationship as it manifests itself in the musical context” (p. 385).

Finally, while attempting to develop skill, some students may never be able to develop a framework for exemplars of musicing and give up, feeling as if they haven’t accomplished anything.  According to Elliott and Silverman (2015), students “require practice in recognizing when, why, and how they are meeting their musical goals. Unless they learn how to gauge feedback in relation to contexts and flexible traditions of musical praxis, they will not experience self-growth and musical enjoyment” (p. 386).  Without the help of an experienced teacher, an otherwise promising novice may give up on the path to attaining mastery because they do not have a proper definition of mastery and do not have a clear goal to strive for.

In conclusion, if we consider the values of music to be those stated above, then it is certainly possible for novices to attain the values of musicing/listening, especially if they by engage in quality CM music programs and music instruction (Elliott & Silverman, 2015, p. 387).  When there are barriers within the community or the classroom, then there is less of a possibility of novices attaining these values, assuming they have an internal interest in and alignment with the values of musicing.


Elliott, J, & Silverman, M.  (2015). Music Matters: A Philosophy of Music Education.  New York, NY: Oxford University Press.


Musicianship/Listenership is Context-Specific

April 29, 2018

Musicianship/Listenership is Context-Specific

In the 15th century, Descartes put forth the idea “I think therefore I am,” spreading the idea of the duality of mind and body, or that the mind (and therefore knowledge/knowing) is separate from the body. In much of today’s music education philosophy, we find traces of this mind-body split (see, for example, Reimer, 2002). However, this archaic notion of the mind-body split calls into question the very essence of contextual personhood, and, therefore, musical understanding being context dependent. Therefore, in this paper I will show that both the teaching and practice of music is at odds with Descartes’ idea because it is inseparable from the “mind-body” and the musics and culture in which a person is practicing.  Since music is inseparable from the context of the human beings that create its sounds and from the context of the musics and culture that exist during, before, and after its creation, musicianship/listenership is context-specific.

Many people don’t necessarily need to know music theory or how to read notation in order to enjoy music.  As listeners, if they are absorbed in the “context” of their musical culture, many people say they are able to both understand and enjoy the idioms of their type of music.  According to Gary Marcus, “listeners don’t need to know the structural details of a song to enjoy it, any more than patrons of a magic show need to know how a magician can hide a coin in the palm of his or her hand” (Elliott & Silverman, 2015, p. 195).  How are these people able to still enjoy and understand these art forms? They are able to do this through the repeated listening of a variety of songs within the genres and idioms ubiquitous to their culture, which become very familiar to them. In this way, uninformed musical listenership is context-specific.

The case is no different for uninformed musicianship.  “Quite remarkably, many people ‘just pick up’ the abilities needed to sing songs they hear in everyday life, sing along well with recordings, and play instruments by ear, without informal or formal instruction”  (Elliott & Silverman, p. 196). One example I can think of off the top of my head is the Beatles, who were arguably the most popular original rock band of all time. They have stated in interviews that they could not read or write traditional music notation and instead invented their own form of notational “shorthand” used to remember the chords and lyrics of songs.  They also felt that if they could not remember a song the next day, it wasn’t worth “saving” and was probably not a hit song. Paul McCartney said, “we would write down the words and if we needed to we might write the name of the chords but we wouldn’t really bother too much. We had a rule that came in very early out of sheer practicality, which was, if we couldn’t remember the song the next day, then it was no good” (Miles, 1998, p. 37).  Therefore musical praxis of the “greatest rock band of all time” was context-specific to their “mind-body” as well as the idioms of their day.

There is also a directly biological component to being able to enjoy and reproduce music.  In his article, “Enacting Musical Experiences,” Joel Krueger (2010) discusses people with “amusia, an experience of pitch distortion occurring simultaneously with gradual hearing loss,” eventually leading to people who hear music as random noise  (p. 114). Eventually, some of these patients are able to recover part of their listening via sustained perceptual attention. As Krueger (2010) says later in the article, “within this sort of focused deep listening, we enact perceptual gestures that very literally change the structure of the piece-as-perceived” (p. 114).  This example shows how inextricably linked and specific music is to the context of the human body and its functioning.

An out-of-context verbal understanding and knowledge of something is different from the actual performance of that thing.  Consider the experience of an educator practicing a lesson plan alone versus practicing in front of students. Everything is much different when done in front of students.  The audience always changes the course of a lesson. In the same vein, when a band performs live, they may change how loud or soft they perform a passage or even change the next choice of song in their set list in response to the cheers (or jeers) from the crowd.  Just like the complete practice of teaching is inseparable from the context of the classroom, which includes the students, the school, the materials, etc., the complete practice of a musical performance is inseparable from and context-specific to the audience, the auditorium, the instruments used, and the social and cultural norms within which that music is performed.

Separate from but also in addition to music teaching, it is also difficult for music to exist outside of the technological advances of the time.  For example, it is unfathomable to imagine EDM existing without both computer technology and African loop-based musical forms. Furthermore, “musical instruments play a key role in our appreciation of many of the skills of music making”  (Alperson, 2008, p. 37). Imagine trying to play a pianissimo melodic passage on a harpsichord or a band trying to perform the chorus of “Good Vibrations” without a Theremin. It can’t be done. In this way music is context-specific to the instruments and technologies it is created with.

Similarly, being able to create and perform music effectively can only exist in relation to the “products, values, and cultural norms” within that practice of music and its culture.  For example, a jazz drummer is not necessarily going to be a proficient rock drummer. A wedding band drummer is not necessarily a proficient original band drummer. Each position with each group requires a different set of skills, ideas, beliefs, and decisions to be made.  

Moreover, when evaluating a music performance as “good” or “bad,” if such a thing exists, or evaluating a practitioner or teacher as “skilled” or “insufficiently skilled,” one cannot separate their evaluation from the context of the musical products they are attempting to demonstrate (Elliott & Silverman, 2015, p. 234).  Bruce Springsteen’s singing is an example of music making in which “pitch-matching ability” or “proper vocal technique” removed from the context of the musical style is meaningless. According to Marissa Silverman, “If we expect Bruce Springsteen to sound like Placido Domingo, we’d wrongly evaluate his singing (and vice versa).”  

Music performance and music educational praxes are also context-specific to the rules of being a good human being within one’s culture and the rest of the world.  “Of course, it’s very possible to perform and listen to “Daybreak Express” without understanding its cultural-ideological dimension and its relationship to the praxis-specific traditions of 1930s American jazz.  But to do so would be to overlook and “underhear” something significant” (Elliott & Silverman, 2015, p. 226). What would one make of the Beatles’ “Blackbird” without knowing about the Civil Rights Movement?

It follows from what has been stated previously that a musician’s “knowing” is evident not in what she says but what she does, and much of this knowledge falls outside the realm of Cartesian cold-cognition.  “True, many brilliant performers, improvisors, composers, and so on talk and write eloquently about music. But many others don’t.” “Knowing how to make musical judgments depends on an understanding of the musical contexts…”  In order to achieve this ability, “music makers and listeners acquire nonverbal impressions, or an affective “sense of things:’ while doing, making, and critically reflecting in specific musical situations” (Elliott & Silverman, 2015, p. 224).  

In conclusion, “knowing” music is inseparable from the context of the experience of and performance of itself and other related musics.  Artists’ knowledge is not reducible to propositional knowledge (Elliott & Silverman, 2015, p. 215). Musicianship/listenership does not exist outside the context of human beings, but lives and breathes within the body of humanity and connects to other musicians and music practices, other human beings, and human life and culture both past and present.



Elliott, J, & Silverman, M.  (2015). Music Matters: A Philosophy of Music Education.  New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Alperson, P. (2008).  “The Instrumentality of Music.”  Denver, CO: The American Society for Aesthetics.

Kruger, J. W. (2010).  “Enacting Musical Experience.”  Exeter, EX: Imprint Academic.

Miles, B.  (1998). Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now.  New York, NY: Henry Hold and Company, L.L.C.


An Argument For School and Community Music

April 29, 2018

An Argument For School and Community Music

           As a full-time performing musician and music teacher I encounter many different points of view in my daily life and work experience as to the value of music and whether it is an essential need in our country’s school curriculums and communities.  In what follows, I argue that music is both an essential part of a well-rounded education as well as an important community activity that can greatly increase the overall happiness and quality of life of the individuals who partake in it.

           In order to make this argument, first I will put forth a definition of happiness.  According to Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness, one of the main contributors to human happiness is the development of virtue.  “The human virtues, to be capitalized on in attaining authentic happiness include wisdom and knowledge; courage, love and humanity; justice, temperance, and spirituality-transcendence(Seligmanquoted in Wellik and Hoover, 2004, p. 59). In part three of Seligman’s book, he talks about “eudaimonia,” which is a state of persistent happiness.  Seligman states that this condition can only exist when an individual engages in “activity consistent with noble purposes.  In a nutshell, when we focus on causes outside ourselves that benefit humankind and utilize our unique signature strengths, we transcend to higher and higher planes of authentic happiness”(Wellik and Hoover, 2004, p. 60).

           The practice of music contains both “musical values” and “extra-musical values” that are associated with music performance and being part of a musical ensemble, which help achieve Seligman’s goals of authentic happiness.  These can be defined as valuables that come directly from the act of engaging with the music and those that arise indirectly from performing and creating music.

Within the musical realm there is the building of musical skill itself through rehearsal and repetition of musical passages.  The practice of building musical skill seems to engage a person in the kinds of activities that Seligman proposes help oneachieve happiness, which are activities that cause us to focus on things outside of ourselves (creation and performance).  In addition to gaining physical and mental skills that are directly musical, someone engaged in the act of music can achieve a state of “flow,” a term coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, professional psychologist, to mean “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter” (Csikszentmihalyi, 2009, p. 4).  Wellik and Hoover state, “clearly, readers will recognize the similarities between Seligman’s ideas and Csikszentmihalyi’s (1975) notion of flow (well worth reclaiming readers’ time) and Maslow’s “peak experiences” (Wellik and Hoover, 2004, p. 59). Musical problem solving inherent in creation and performance seems to take us outside of our own personal problems and get us to focus in the moment on something that will last eternally for consumption by others.

In between the bounds of both musical and extra-musical values, there is the practice of music as a means of self-expression and self-awareness.  Not inherent exclusively to music, these values can be achieved in all art forms. According to Bennett Reimer, “consequences of musical experience, in addition to the sheer pleasure and fulfillment brought about by creating and sharing musical sounds, include the sense of deepened individuality it yields, the societal beliefs it enables to be embodied and shared, the breadth and depth of feelings it adds to our inner lives, the awareness we gain of both the universality and cultural specificity of the human condition, the dimension of depth (or “specialness”) it adds to our experience of life, [and] the fulfillment of an inborn capacity to create and share the meanings expressive sounds afford…” (Reimer, 2002, p.4).  According to Kwasi Enin, a 17-year old from Long Island, who was accepted into all eight Ivy-League universities, “music became the spark of his intellectual curiosity” (Ehnes, 2014, p. 2).

Moving toward extra-musical values, the development of one’s own personal methodology and approach to practice, rehearsal, and creation also helps someone along his or her path to “esteem” and “self-actualization,” which are part of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.  According to Saul McLeod, as each individual is unique, the motivation for self-actualization leads people in different directions (Kenrick et al., 2010).  For some people self-actualization can be achieved through creating works of art or literature, for others through sport, in the classroom, or within a corporate setting”  (McLeod, 2017, p. 6). Music is clearly an art form in which one can work towards achieving self-actualization through creation and performance.

Also within the “extra-musical” realm there is the element of “community-building” in music performance both within the classroom and within community music settings in which a group of musicians is rehearsing and performing the music.  Seligman examines“secure attachment” and “feeling positive emotion and expressing it”  (Wellik and Hoover, 2004). “Belonging” isafoundationalneedin the pyramid of Maslow’s hierarchyof needs(McLeod, 2017).  Even if we don’t invoke Seligman or Maslow it seems obvious that itisimportant to feel like one belongs to something.  Certainly, being a member of a musical group gives one a sense of belonging within that group.

Another extra-musical value is that the practice of and achievement of musical skill can result in eventual monetary gain for students as they embark on careers as music educators, live performers, and composers.  This is also another means of achieving many of the layers of Maslow’s Hierarchy, including “self-actualization,” “esteem,” “belonging and love,” and obviously, “safety” and “physiological needs.”

In conclusion, there are many reasons why music education is important and essential in our schools, and the most important one is that music can be shown to be a practice that greatly adds to human happiness while satisfying many human needs.   If we revisit Seligman’s virtues of happiness, we can see that the practice of music aids in the attainment of many of those virtues mentioned. To me, all of the benefits discussed, and especially the attainment of happiness are excellent reasons for including it in our education curriculum and in community practice.


  1. Wellik, J. J. and Hoover, J. H., (Spring 2004).  Authentic Happiness [Review of the book Authentic Happiness, by M. Seligman.  Reclaiming Children and Youth, pp. 59-60, Retrieved from
  2. McLeod, S. (2017) Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved from
  3. Kenrick, D. T., Neuberg, S. L., Griskevicius, V., Becker, D. V., & Schaller, M. (2010). Goal-Driven Cognition and Functional Behavior The Fundamental-Motives Framework.  Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19(1), 63-67.
  4. Reimer, B.  (Spring, 2002).  Why Do Humans Value Music?  Philosophy of Music Education Review 10, no. 1.  Retrieved from


  1.  Ehnes, J. (April 18, 2014).  The Value of Music. Huffington Post.  Retrived from
  2. Csikszentmihalyi, M.  (2009). Flow:The Psychology of Optimal Experience.  New York, NY: Harper Collins.


Email to My Professor

April 28, 2018

I’m finally getting to your article on happiness and I read the story
about the administrator.  After listening to that, I feel like I have
enough evidence to state that there are a huge number of these people
in power who feel they have to (and are able to) make these “big,
bold” (and ultimately unsubstantiated) statements that profoundly
affect their teachers.

Where does that come from?  Is that an American cultural thing?

I feel this at in my district as well.  Why do so many people in these
power positions feel that:

(a) They even have enough intellect to say something that is that
important/groundbreaking (ever)


(b)  That it is even possible to say something that groundbreaking
every single day


(c) They have enough intellect to see some change in things that
“common folk” (read: teachers) couldn’t have figured out already.

It’s like everybody in middle management is a visionary, and as
(Webster?) would say, nobody is a visionary.

This is the big problem I have with the idiocy that runs rampant in
education.  And I’m not hearing of this kind of thing in other

Most of the people in these power positions listen to their own hot
air enough times that they convince themselves that they are saying
something meaningful when they aren’t.

Is this our culture?  What is it?  I think Russell said that the
biggest problem with the world is the the smallest minded individuals
are so sure of themselves whilst the most intelligent ones never are.


Song 6: Mobile

January 27, 2018

Create a piece of music using only a phone or tablet. You may use any app, or combination of apps. I recommend these (Links to an external site.)  Not all apps make it easy to record, so you may need to get creative.

I started by playing around in GarageBand on the iPhone/iPad.  (My iCloud is linked now, so any song I make on one will sync with the other.)  I started with the “Live Loops” and “EDM” setting:

Sounds nice, but extremely canned.  Before I settle on this preset, let me see what else GarageBand can do today.

I tried the hip-hop setting.  Sounds great.

I tried a bunch of different looper settings as well as the new beat sequencer ala FL Studio and some other drum machine pad interfaces.  I think the important thing to remember here is that the tool itself is not the end, but that the song is and that you have to keep the birds-eye view of where your direction is in your songwriting so that you do not get lost playing with each preset:

GarageBand NEW Loopsdifferent drum padBeat Sequencer

I feel like I can play with this stuff forever and not actually write a song.  I guess I have to go with something that grabs me.

I’m listening to the Auxy Soundcloud examples now.  I just feel like there is a preponderance of this kind of music, a total market glut.  All of it sounds canned and repetitive to me.

Now I’m looking at Propellerhead Figure – I’ve had my kids use this app before.  I am somewhat familiar with it.  I’ll give that a whirl.

Tried it.  More of the same.  Basically canned patterns of beats in the same key.  Not much melodic or harmonic interest for me.  I guess I get tired of this kind of music?


On to Rhythm Necklace.  This straight from the app’s website:

Rhythm necklaces are circular representations of repeating patterns. They’ve found application in fields as varied as Crystallography, Radio Astronomy, Nuclear Physics, and Ethnomusicology. When applied to musical rhythms, circular representations show the underlying geometric properties that make them enjoyable, such as the degrees of evenness and symmetry. Computer scientist Godfried Toussaint has found that analyzing rhythms geometrically reveals surprising relationships between rhythms the world over. In fact, Toussaint has shown how a core group of geometric algorithms can generate rhythms employed in African, Cuban, Balkan, and Spanish folk music, to name a few. The Rhythm Necklace iOS app is a musical sequencer for exploring the geometry of rhythm necklaces, and for experimenting with generating rhythms algorithmically.


So now we’re deriving music from mathematical patterns.  Why does this sound so similar to the atonal music derided (and rightfully so) by many common folk?

And… it’s not free.  On to the next one.  Neither is NodeBeat.  Next.

Patterning… not really interested in an app that only makes beats, as there is a beat maker preset in GarageBand.

Animoog… $30.  Next.

Sampler… looks… interesting.  Sounds… good, but again, the music generated this way is harmonically too simple for my ears.

Novation Launchpad… this might be cool.  Checking it out. launchpad.jpeg

This particular preset I have up sounds great… even better than the GarageBand stuff.  Maybe that is because there are more acoustic instruments present in these presets?  But rhythmically it sounds good as well.  Again, my only beef is it’s in Eminor.  Actually, in addition to not being able the change the key in real time, I have no idea how to change the key of these loops at all.  What gives?  Not sure I can use this if I can’t edit the key.  It would be useful if I could do this in real time.

Borderlands… costs money.

Thor… keyboard synth.  Aren’t there a bajillion of these?

Three more paid apps.  Okay.  So that narrows it down quite a bit.  GarageBand is still the overall winner.  I’ve used FL Studio on the iPad and enjoyed it as well, but now that GarageBand has a built in drum sequencer I probably don’t need FL Studio anymore.

Back to the drawing board with GarageBand.  One thing is for certain… as sophisticated as music apps get, I think they are only providing a tool or a veneer for the artists’ creativity.  You still have to solve your own musical problems.  There is no shortcut for the same kind of brute hard work that Irving Berlin did in writing great songs.

Day 3 – still at the drawing board.  I think to a large extent I just don’t like composing on the iPad.  My iPad froze today while trying to work with the “Chill” live looper patterns.  I think I’m about to ditch for just using the regular virtual instruments.

Day 4 – So I decided that I’m going to use the Novation Launchpad groove in Eminor and write a song over it, exporting into GarageBand.  This is the loop setting I like:

File Jan 29, 12 11 08 PM.png

Novation Launchpad Eminor Groove

The next step is to figure out how to import this groove into GarageBand.  There’s no way I can see to do this, except by using inter-app audio.  So I put Launchpad on a separate track.  There is also no easy way to sync.  I’ll start by setting the tempo of the GarageBand Session to 114:

File Jan 29, 8 25 55 PM.png

Got the audio in.  It’s not lined up to the click, of course.  How might I fix this?  I guess I have to go in and edit the audio down.  I can’t get in any closer than this:File Jan 29, 8 30 54 PM.png

Going to try to chop the beginning of the loop off and place it at the tail end so that it’s a loop that lines up with GarageBand’s 8-bar grid.

File Jan 29, 8 37 30 PM.jpeg

This is what we have so far.  Sounds decent, it’s just that the second and first half of the groove are swapped.

After loads of edits:


I decided I like this Novation thing enough that I’m going to make most of the song form from this program.  What I’m going to do is play and export each part of the arrangement from this.  As usual, there seems to be no way to sync the metronome between apps.  So I have to do some crazy edits to get things working.

File Feb 01, 2 38 17 PM.png

Current Version of Song

Next I felt like the drums needed some souping up, so I recorded a drum track using the manual drums in Garageband.  I had some timing issues, so I manipulated the timing:

working with MIDI drums.png

adding drum track.jpeg

I’m listening through and I hear that I need to continue adding to the song form.  So it sound  like it makes sense to bring the intro and the pre-chorus in again, but this time with more drums.  So I did just that.

File Feb 04, 8 05 51 AM.jpeg

Updated Edition

At this point I felt like the next step for me was to build a bridge to the song.  Then I’ll come back around and take a pass at some vocals/lyrics.  I decided to go into loops for the bridge, so I downloaded the “flex and flow” pack from the sound library.  If this doesn’t work, I’ll just play something in manually:


Then I realized that the way I am accessing this isn’t right.  I finally figure out how to get a loop into the song.  Then I hear the key of the loops of the flex and flow pack as being wrong.  They are in C minor and I’m in E minor with the rest of the song.

GarageBand Loops.png

Changing the key from “C major” to “E major” really worked.  Garageband didn’t mess with the previous loops I had and it did transpose the Flex and Flow Pack, even though those loops are in minor.  So technically, we have E minor at this point:

File Feb 08, 7 41 19 PM

I listened through and felt that for time’s sake, the bridge needed to be doubled in length:

File Feb 08, 7 44 48 PM

Lastly, I went in and duplicated the kick and crash to be on the downbeat of each section of 8 bars:

adding kick and cymbal hit.jpeg

And the audible result, with the new bridge is:

I decided I wanted a “slightly dubsteppier” drum part.  So I looked for it in the loops and found it.  Then I went back and re-cut the bridge with the new drum part.  At this point I felt like the song was ready to add the final chorus.  I added 3 choruses via duplication and a fade out.  This was all pretty easy to do within Garageband.  The final result looks and sounds as follows:

File Feb 08, 8 09 37 PM.jpeg

As usual, the song is starting to take hold within my psyche through repetition.  I figure I’ll start messing with some vocals before I go back in and start working a little bit on fills and transitions within the song:

It’s Alive In Your Brain Because of Repetition!

On a wake-up-next-day listen, I feel that the difference between the bridge and the final chorus is too abrupt.  So I go in and add an introduction section right after the bridge and before the final chorus:

File Feb 09, 5 51 04 AM.png

And what it sounds like

I heard a voice in the middle section of the song, so I decided to add one to as an extra track.  I recorded it quickly without even using headphones, so I’m going to have to go back and re-cut this:

In keeping with the spirit of Ethan Hein’s “Repetition Defines Music” – I have been listening to my song on loop for the past few days.  I am finally starting to hear vocal melodies emerge from the fabric and I begin putting one down:

File Feb 10, 10 01 00 AM.jpeg

Sometimes the shower is a great place to hear vocal melodies.  I started coming up with some new ones in my head and put them down:

Okay.  Finally starting to get some lyric ideas together.  Something about “mindfulness” seems fitting for the month of February, when everyone is driving me nuts:


Don’t need to look inside it

You just might never find it

Cuz if you stare too long, it’s gone

You’ve got to let it flow

Go with the undertow

Keep to the road you’re walking on


You just might have to do it all for yourself

No one else will do it now

Just stick with what you know when no one else will help

And you will soon figure it out!



I’m not the best lyricist under pressure, but this will have to do for now.  I wonder how the pop stars do it.  Anyway… on with figuring out a chorus… I’m still not a fan of the chorus melody I have yet, but maybe I can modify on the fly as I come up with lyrics.




Yea, break it down now, yeah.

Break it down, yeah, break it down now, yeah, yeah.

Break it down, yeah, yeah, break it down now.

Break it down, break it down, yeah, yeah, break it down now.


As I listen through I can hear that the song needs an intro so that I can come in with the right length for the verse.  I copy the first section and repeat it:

File Feb 13, 7 12 11 PM.jpeg

I also love the snaps in the intro, so I held onto those.  I decided to duplicate the track to keep the original vocal take as a reference:

File Feb 13, 7 14 27 PM.jpeg

With new recorded vocals:

I think the song should be called “Flow,” since we’ve been talking about Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi in my music issues class, and since this music tech class gets me in touch with flow and that’s where I want to be lately.

Here’s a chorus attempt:


Just let it flow, flow from your heart,

No need to fall apart, fall apart

Just let it flow, flow from your heart,

No need to fall apart, fall apart

I’m hearing it in a super high register.  Oh well.  Good thing I can duplicate!!!File Feb 13, 7 37 58 PM.jpeg

I can hear that the 2nd and third chorus vocals are displaced improperly.  I revise:

As per Ethan’s suggestions: “The vocals need a little 80s-tastic reverb and artificial doubling to match the vibe of the track, and then this is will be a stone cold banger.”

So what I did was up the reverb on each channel and then tried some of the artificial doubling presets.  I think I liked the artificial doubling preset and due to the sake of time and the fact I have a gig tonight, am going to submit that, along with a written second verse.  Here are the song lyrics from start to finish:


Don’t need to look inside it

You just might never find it

Cuz if you stare too long, it’s gone

You’ve got to let it flow

Go with the undertow

Keep to the road you’re walking on


You just might have to do it all for yourself

When no one else will do it now

Just stick with what you know when no one else will help

And you will soon figure it out!


Just let it flow, flow from your heart

No need to fall apart, fall apart

Just let it flow, flow from your heart

No need to fall apart, fall apart


As you go through your day

Things will get in your way

Try to throw you off your base

Just keep your center line

You’ll soon be feeling fine

Keep your head within the space


Even if you have to do it all for yourself

When no one else will do it now

Just stick with what you know when no one else will help

And you will soon figure it out!



Yea, break it down now, yeah.

Break it down, yeah, break it down now, yeah, yeah.

Break it down, yeah, yeah, break it down now.

Break it down, break it down, yeah, yeah, break it down now.

File Feb 14, 4 01 05 PM.jpeg

Notice I cranked the reverb “vocal hall” to 50% here.  Will do the same on the chorus vocals.

Had to cut the 80’s-tastic reverb just a little bit.  Also added a little volume automation to second verse.  This will have to do for now:

File Feb 14, 4 17 39 PM.jpeg

80’s-tastic doubling on the chorus is a little weird, but I’m going to go with it.  I’d probably want to do a real double sometime later.


Also did some (very quick) cleanup on the track.  More needs to be done with the vocals in terms of deleting pops, clicks, weird breaths and mistakes in places.File Feb 14, 4 22 01 PM.jpeg



Song 5: Peer remix

January 23, 2018

Remix a song by another student in the class. You can work from their original session file, or download the audio from SoundCloud and work with that. You can make any alteration you see fit, up to and include radical reworking.

I just want to start this post by saying that I don’t really even have a good flavor for how Kanye really does this.  I’m so used to melodically-driven pop.  But I’m going to take a stab at it and try to resample this song into a groove.  I’m going to try to set it up in Ableton so that keys on my keyboard trigger the elements of the groove.  I think that should work.  I am probably sure that Kanye visualizes the complete song structure with hook and everything as he’s laying down the song structure, or at least has a good feel for it, and isn’t just creating  a background track in a vacuum.  But what do I know?

I’m thinking about Sampling “A Night Out at Applebees.”  That track definitely sounds like it could have a rap over it even by itself.  Great progression there.  The drum loop in it is super idiomatic to our current musical world as well.   I finally figured out how to get Trillian loaded back onto my computer.  It will be great to have that in Pro Tools and other DAWs to make some phat bass sounds.

I watched some good videos to up my Ableton skills on sampling and remixing samples.

How to Remix in Ableton

Lets Remix : Daft Punk – Get Lucky in Ableton Live 9

Avicii in the studio – The Making of Dancing In My Head

The Daft Punk video is really huge for explaining remixing.  It’s basically a master class in how to remix a song.  I highly recommend it.  So after watching it I decided it was the right time to boot up Ableton.

After watching the Daft Punk remix video it seems to me that it is easier to just create the full arrangement without using the sampler in Live.  So I decided to go that route.  I chopped up Michael’s piece into units that I thought I would like to use and started to apply effects to them.

Adding Applebees to Session copy.jpg

For this project I decided to watch the Daft Punk remix video once more and make a running list of effects he used and also think about the overall arrangement.

(1) From the beginning the producer isolates 2 segments of the piece that he wants to work with for the remix.  I went through “Applebees” and color coded each of the sections of the piece as it went along and gave them a different color.

Red – piano/kit intro

Yellow – strings entrance

Green – “Tell your mom I said hello…” break down – no drums.  Definitely could use this section and cut a new beat behind it.

Blue – vibes/reverse vibes

Pink – vibes/ no drums – this also might be a great section to add new drums.

Brown – all instruments

Orange – All instruments and just kick… also might be a good section to use.

Sections - Applebees copy.jpg

(2) Establish the length of the segments and set up the beginning of the segment to hit on the transient.

I decided to start with just using the sections that had no drums or minimal drums and add a new beat to those.  I muted the other tracks for now.Useable Sections copy.jpg

isolating samples copy.jpg

Now that I have my loops set, I’d like to add in kick and bass samples.  So I look through some of Live’s loops.

I found “House – 122 bpm” and started with that.  Here’s the audible result:

It sounded like the first track (just the piano) needed some boost in the mix, so I boosted it 6 dB.

Adding Drum Loop copy.jpg

Made Some Small Adjustments to the loop lengths.

(3) The next thing that occurs in the video is a addition of filters to the tracks.  So I go ahead and employ the same filters within my session.

As in the video, I add EQ, compression, and 2 auto filters to the master channel.  It’s there for now because I have to have all of my tracks playing combined through the master.  adding filters copy.jpg

I made my first filter to have a low cut but also to have a small boost in the bass.  The second filter I made a low-pass filter for the purposes of arrangement of dance energy in the disco house style song.

(4)  With the filters in place and set up, I decided to find a two-bar segment of “Applebees” to loop as an introduction.  I think I’m gonna use “tell your mom I said hello, and your grandmother” as well as the vibes entrance.  The first clip is just too funny.  I think I’m going to open up the low pass filter over these two clips as a way to build energy at the beginning of the song.

tell your mom i said hello copy.jpg

(5)  Next in the video a kick is added.  I am going to do the same in spite of already having a kick in the drum loop track, for the purpose of side-chain compression.

I like “A-Kick Remo 1” from the Live 9 Packs sample library.  I drop the volume -6 dB because it is causing the master to go into the red when combined with all the other parts.

(6) Create an artificial side-chain.  I did this in spite of adding the kick, realizing that since he did this artificially I did not need the new added kick.  I will listen on the big speakers later during mix down and see if the new kick is actually necessary or not.

I like a pretty heavy side-chain because it’s just funny.  I set the initial attack to be -22.9 dB before popping back to zero on each bass drum hit.

I like the sidechaining on the original tracks.sidechaining copy.jpg

(6)  Build the arrangement.  It looks like in this idiom the intro has no sidechaining and then what is introduced is a new bass drum with the old and a side chain.  I’m going to do exactly the same thing.

(7)  Group the audio tracks that create the arrangement so you can add filters over all 3 tracks.  This is likely the step I was missing before when trying to add filters over the master fader.filters copy.jpg

I added a band pass filter onto the Applebees tracks which I automated to have it move higher in frequency as a buildup to the main part of the song.  I also added a high pass filter to the drums and deactivated it during the main part of the song.  Lastly I added a high pass filter to the yellow sample which is the breakdown so that the bass drum in that section didn’t compete as much with the new drum kit loop I had rolling with that part of the track:

automation lanes2  copy.jpg

automation lanes copy.jpg

I decided to add some high-pass filters on the master channel during the end of each section leading into each new section.high pass filters copy.jpg

(9) I also added the obligatory ping pong delay in these buildup sections:

ping pong delay copy.jpg

(10)  At this point I started really working on the arrangement, just adding filters and fades and crash cymbals where I felt appropriate:

building the arrangment copy.jpg

Apple bees 2.0

After listening to this mix in the car, I hear the bass drum as being WAY too loud.  So I reduced it by 9dB in the mix and re-bounced it:

Next I added some white noise to the arrangement.  I found “Filtered Noize.aif” under the ” Live 8 Samples” Library:white noise copy.jpg

I added side chain compression on it, triggered by the kick drum.  I set the threshold low and the level to be high, 10:1.  It helped really add that compression to the white noise.

At this point I am just messing around with more of the filters/FX and making sure things generally sound good.  I’m enjoying this project:

more filters copy.jpg

I put the mastering compressor on the master track:mastering copy.jpg

I decided to add a synth bass to the track.  I had to roll off some of the bass from the original track to make sure everything was kosher with the blend between my bass and the bass that is already on the track.

I tried to add just the sample of “hello” at the very end of the bridge to refresh the memory about the voice.  I also added an auto filter effect on it and swept it.

Lastly, I’m trying to do some drum drop outs.  Instead of doing that, I decided to add ping pong delay to the drum track itself.

all remaining edits copy.jpg

Added some white noise to the end of the track, increased the length of the ping-pong delay and the reverb at the end of the track.  Here is the final result!  I’m sure there’s more I can do with this, but for the sake of time, I’m satisfied stopping here.

After listening to the mix in the car, of course I heard some issues.  I lowered the high end of the vibe track (I brightened it too much) and raised “tell your mom I said hello” 2dB.  For the vibe track I dipped about 4dB around 1kHz.

I think I got really lucky that “tell your mom I said hello” had a beautiful 3-against-4 feel with the rest of the track.  I just liked this track in general but I think the end result turned out awesome.

I decided to add vocoder to the signal at the end of the track.  I had some plans to make some kind of melody with it, but it was so hard to get the vocoder working that I was only able to get chords done so far.  Here it is so far:

I decided to try to really mess with the volume on the vocoder track and add a lead track.

vocoder tracks copy 2.jpg



Blog post: Sampling ethics

January 22, 2018

Do you think that sampling without permission is morally acceptable? If so, why? If not, why not?

I still remember that day in college when my professor talked about how Leonard Bernstein ripped off Beethoven in “Somewhere.”  “There’s a place for us” was really just a quotation of “The Emperor Concerto,” second movement  with the last note raised a whole step.  How many times have you reused a popular idiom from your day, such as “it takes two to tango” or “you win some, you lose some,” et cetera?  This phenomenon of humans quoting other humans has been present since the dawn of humanity.  In terms of music, what’s neat about this is that this small license then gives the composer the opportunity to take that quote and make a completely new invention out of it.  The difference in sampling is that if you could capture the original premier performance of Beethoven and have those performers play just that bar of the song before yielding to Bernstein’s orchestra, you’d have a good replica of what sampling is.  It gives you the opportunity to have the original performance of the original quote in your song.  In that regard, sampling might be more authentic than merely copying someone else’s music.  You can hear the original author of the quotation in their own context.

It seems arguable that all new music is derivative of older music, even if we just consider newly-composed melodies.  What is interesting is that we tend to take just small fragments of things we’ve heard already and develop them like nothing that has come before.  In that respect most new compositions are not copies of older compositions but are inventions or at least innovations.  When one writes music within an idiom listeners are almost expecting to hear certain melodic motives, rhythmic motives, and instrumental motifs that they are familiar with.  If repetition defines music, and it is highly arguable that it does, then why doesn’t re-quotation (repetition, just within a new song) define new music?

So now that that has been established about sampling, can sampling be morally unacceptable?  In most cases, I’d think no, especially because you are bringing to light the original artist of the musical quotation you are using.  In some cases this may cause the listener to think to themselves to go back to the original track and both purchase and play that.  There is nothing about sampling that doesn’t yield further credibility to the original artist, in my mind.  There is nothing immoral about Barack Obama quoting JFK or any of the other countless presidents and important political figures he’s quoted in his speeches.  Now just imagine if Obama played the original recording of JFK speaking, and you’d have a good analog for sampling.  This scenario probably caused many to go back and listen to the original JFK speech.  If the listener is a fan of Obama it probably lends even more credibility to JFK to hear their favorite president quote him.

Are there scenarios where sampling can be immoral?  I’m not sure if it’s the sampling itself that is immoral or the copyright law that needs to be re-written to make it more moral.  The example that comes to mind is the “Amen break” by Gregory Cylvester Coleman.  The reason why I think copyright law here is not set up morally (and not the sampling itself) is that it took Coleman until the end of his life to reap any form of profit, which was by and large not enough, for the widespread use of his work.    In my mind, the law is inadequately set up to handle sampling and how to properly distribute profits if such cases are allowed to persist.  But imagine now a scenario in which the law was properly set up and Coleman profited handsomely, as he should have.  Would anyone go around thinking sampling is immoral?  I’d think not.