what do you get when you don't get stuff done

It's been an amazingly interesting month, working with a voice student on an intensive program for freeing the voice, and meeting 5 days out of 7 for an hour. As part of the student's process, they are recording video of the sessions and journalling immediately after, then watching the video the next next day and journaling more. I'm taking notes as I participate as mentor, and sharing my process and my knowledge with him as we go forward. Many discussions on what it means to free oneself from past programming and what it means to be alive and in the moment.

Many many voice teachers speak of pedagogy, as do I, but for me the studying of singing is more than the technical things we need to do in order for the voice to work properly. Because those of us who are shy or introverted or intimidated or doubtful can study technique til we are blue in the face, but unless the way we relate to ourselves and the world is included it's hard to get free. I teach this because it was the process of learning to sing that allowed me to wake up to the way I protected myself and how that held my voice back... and me back... from being fully actualized.

In today's session I wrote, 'what am I not accomplishing, and what do I get from not accomplishing it?' (I called this a 'Dr Phil moment' :D)  There has to be a payoff for those things we wish to do and have opportunity to do but do not do. Not that we should be rigid and expect every hour to be busy with stuff. But there are hours wasted surfing the net or playing games that would potentially be better spent. That's what I contemplate tonight....

"Never hope for more than you are willing to work for"

I found that quote in an interesting blog by Brian Medavoy. Although the blog is about breaking into Hollywood, all the things he talks about could apply to a creative career anywhere. Highly recommended: Getting to Know Hollywood: Sign the Town Before You Sign the Talent

'Social prescribing' has its benefits

Just had to share this article: 'British Doctors May Soon Prescribe Art, Music, Dance, Singing Lessons'

When I read an article like that I think someone is finally getting it right. I've always felt that removing music from schools for lack of funds - like it's not important for our development and wellbeing - is a crime. Music is not a luxury. It's a necessity. I know not everyone can afford lessons or instruments or even to join a choir sometimes is impossible. But still we can enjoy music in our lives in a variety of ways. There are many benefits to being 'in the music'. Don't wait!

the ebb and flow of a day

I only have my own perspective, really, but it often feels to me like a day has its own ebb and flow, rather like the ocean tides. Some days, like today, I feel like I am in a tidal backwater and the sea is very very low. Other days I feel like everything flows along at a good clip and I am vibrating with creative energy a decent amount of the time. I begin to wonder if I need those fallow days as much as I need the vibrant ones. It can't sunshine all the time. Perhaps it's enough to sit and listen to the music of the rain.

quality in doing...

It occurred to me today that all my excessive planning might be as bad as bingewatching the latest series on Netflix or spending too much time on Facebook. It's as much not being present as any other overconcern with what happened before this moment and what's going to happen next.

I'd always considered that planning ahead was a reasonably reasonable thing to do. Indeed, how does one get from A to B without a road map. Very true. There does need to be some kind of purpose to one's day and some kind of a sketch as to which way one will go and what one might actually do when one arrives.

I do remember Eckhart Tolle saying something like, you can't think about attaining some future state as that removes you from the now. And, if one is so focused on an intention that one feels a lack in one's current moment... we create an unhappy state that affects the self and those around.

It seems, then, the quality of our 'doing' is more important than an end goal. As I write that it resonates with me.

In working with my students it is all about hearing & seeing the person before me as they are now, today. We cannot push the voice to be something it's not. Our whole journey together is about removing past programming and future expections to experience the natural voice without constraints.

There is a practice associated with that process... the goal is to practice for the sake of practicing... to allow that today's practice will feel however it feels but is the foundation for growth... to embrace the idea that breathing, sighing, and vibrating with sound today is sufficient. That it feels good. It feels good to have practiced being in the moment practicing. ~

the challenge...

I was watching a TAXI TV episode today with two very successful media composers. It was very interesting when they started talking about time. They don't do facebook, they don't watch tv. As they spoke I knew they were right, that there are definitely hours in my day that could be put to better use.

So I began again. Years ago I had a daily journal where I would write down what I'd done that day towards my creative goals. Not big earth shattering amounts of anything. Just a slow, sure walk on the path.

Since I'm working on several things at the moment, my list is Words (for writing my novel); Guitar (must practice as I am taking lessons), Composing (create music), Walk (good for you), and an ancillary item or two like 'pay bills' or 'put the recycle out'.

I remind myself that the goal here is not to be perfect. I may write something that doesn't quite jive or the musical cue I start may not gel, or my guitar practice may still be out of time with the metronome. But a little work on each of these things every day is, first and foremost, acting creatively. Secondly, you can't get to where you want to go without walking the path before it, however overgrown or meandering. ~

maybe one day...

It's hard to allow the fallow days. The times when inspiration seems far away. You pick up the pen or open the document, and the brain seems bent on something resembling a doze. Maybe you just need a recharge. A walk in the fresh air, or something different to do.

I find myself planning trips. I think, well, what if I wanted to go to LA for that film festival. Or what if I got brave and went to England for a week or two. Or Italy. I've always wanted to see Italy. I plan itineraries and price out tickets & hotel rooms. Even though the money or the time or whatever other limitation there is does exist, still, the dream passes an hour or two.

In my exploration of what might be possible or what would be cool I sometimes come across little bits of information. A blog that looks interesting. There are even places that understand travel dreaming and give you the tools to plan your journey.

Whether it's a youtube video, a travel book or a website with suggestions, I always look for the quaint, the cosy, the cute little place just right for someone like me, who doesn't need fancy decor or 5-star dining to enjoy a stay. All I want is a little place that feels homey and safe, where I can retreat whenever needed.

I'm inspired by the thought of my mom who designed her own walking holidays in England and backpacked with a girlfriend from place to place. Three years in a row. Lest you think that was nothing special, they were both in their 70s.

I hope one day to feel brave enough to board that plane and travel somewhere I have not been before. ~

feet of clay...

No one is perfect. That much we can all probably agree on. Each one of us have been influenced by any number of people in our formative years. Even before we understood language, we sensed meaning. Perhaps things were clearer, in a way, more simple. That was dangerous. That was uncomfortable. That made us laugh. That made us interested.

It's hard to know how much of what we experienced when we were young has to do with who we are as adults. But I do believe that if we can become aware of what we have integrated and, if we wish to change it, it is possible. The key, naturally, is the awareness part.

It's not easy to look at my own perceptions and preconceived ideas. Most are not black and white, they are a jumbled mess of voices that contradict themselves but all seem to agree that what ever I do, I'm not doing enough of it, or I'm doing it badly, or I'm doing it wrong, or I should just give it up.

Apparently we have something called a crocodile brain that plays a feedback loop all day long, ensuring that we stay where we are and how we are.

There’s a couple things I want to say about that. First, in ‘The Artist’s Way,’ Julia Cameron talks about identifying these negative things you tell yourself. Then, change the statement to something positive.

My mind used to screech at me that I was too old for whatever creative thing I was pursuing. It would say so in letters as large as the Hollywood sign.


I took that and made the affirmation, ‘I am a young, strong, and worthy singer. I have the right to sing.’

Second thing I want to say is… don’t believe the hype. People are not ‘born with it’ they ‘make it happen’. I’m not a doctor or a psychologist but I can tell you that I believe that most people are capable of change. It just takes work. Consistent practice of a new habit. Determination not to let the past win and affect the future. And perhaps even a sense of satisfaction in at least doing something towards a dream. ~

#3 Creative Hack

I just posted a blog yesterday about goals, and striving to fail more often (Kim Liao) and working to fail faster (Michael Laskow).

Today I read this cool blog (Penelope Trunk) about the practice methology employed to prepare an 11 year old cellist for an audition at Julliard. Well worth the read.

It reminded me of this excellent youtube video I watched on practicing the playing of chords. Now, I knew that you should play through the cycle of fifths on the piano regularly even if it doesn't seem to make much difference at the time. (Cycle of 5ths is playing the scales by using the 5th note in the current key as the starting note for the next scale. So you'd play the scale in C major and then start the next one in G major (the 5th note), which adds an F# to the scale, and so on.)

But this video recommended doing additional things like playing the chords up and down the piano, so, say, the chord of C major in every octave. Then play it in first inversion. Then in second inversion. Then in C minor. Then in first inversion. Second inverson. Now move to the chord of G major. Do the same.

Even though I've been singing since I was six and taught myself to read music & play the guitar, and then had lessons of various kinds... doing that exercise showed me chord relationships I didn't know before. It opened my mind as a composer to more options in writing melody and harmony.

It brings to mind attending life drawing sessions where, to warm up, we would sketch 5 minute and 10 minute and 15 minute poses before the long pose of 30 minutes began.

Or writing sessions where we would toss out a genre and a word and set the clock for a 15 minute speed write.

Or song skirmishes where a subject is provided and we have an hour to write and record the worktape of a song.

Or the composer challenges I did last year where we would be given some assignment (write something in 7/8, write something inspired by this picture, write something using percussion only, etc) and have a time limit of 30 minutes or an hour to compose and provide an mp3 of our piece.

Penelope's blog reminds me there are many ways to practice. The key is... well... to practice ;)

#2 Creative Hack
#1 Creative Hack

wherein I set a goal to set goals (and do them)...

I'm the first one to confess I'm very good at setting goals. Very good indeed. If you were here in my studio right now you'd see the 30 or 40 pieces of paper with scribbled goals on them. (Some are even crossed off, thank you very much.) I know there were times in my life when I felt confused or caught in a trap. The only thing that seemed to help my state of mind at that moment was to sit down and make plans, even if they seemed impossible.

I did not expect in later years to find the goal setting getting in the way of achieving the goals. In that, it's much easier to think upon a goal and envision the wonderful things that you'll feel or see or hear or experience when that goal is met... than it is to actually do the things to get you there.

It reminds me of some great fiction writer who said, very wisely, don't talk about your story. Write it.

How the mind likes to play games, too. You sit down to compose that piece or get to work on writing that story or get a list of things done... and it distracts you. Suddenly the cupboard in the bathroom that you could care less about, needs organizing. Really. I used to make a pot of coffee, get myself all set up in front of my computer, get the fingers on the keyboard... and my mind would say 'that junk drawer is a mess.' Wtf?

Which brings me to the joy of the article below. I'm thinking that maybe one reason I procrastinate is that when I'm done whatever I'm doing someone else might have a look at it. Instant stop sign.

For example, I am so happy creating stuff all the time, happy as a clam, dabbing paint there, writing that story there, making up a song at midnight, nooo problemo. I'll look up words in the thesaurus and find something I like and compose a piece of music to go with that title. Easy peasy. But if you say, 'write me this and I'll pay you'... I freak out. All the creativity goes for a drive. A long one. Across country. Suddenly I'm stuck with the fact that now I have to actually meet someone's expectations and nothing is good enough, every idea is crapola, who do I think I was kidding, and so on.

Problem is, very simple, scared to fail. Scared to look like I don't know what I'm doing. Scared to have whoever it is look at me with eyebrows raised and shake their head. 'Not good enough,' those dreaded words. Rejection! *sobs*

I do like the idea that its my job to fail. It's my job to keep writing and composing and failing. And get up and write and compose and fail some more.

Of course, if I fail at that goal... 😕🤣

Aim for 100 rejections a year - https://lithub.com/why-you-should-aim-for-100-rejections-a-year/?fbclid=IwAR192r-jewsZv3xw6aGnBWgY8Q5XQuQTNY88E4B46kgN7p5qQrwrgTAnwmM

How to get better faster - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDbMylYCSIo


I woke up composing a song

Sometimes I wake up too early. It's rare, but it happens. The sun isn't up yet. Sometimes I can't get right back to sleep. So I open the little Chromebook and have a little gander around at what's going on. A little Facebook, a little songwriting forums, a little bit of this and that. I had an email with a brief looking for a gospel tune, I figured, I'll listen to the a la's. Watched a little Jane Austen and when I felt sleepy again, switched it all off, and lay down. I started imagining a gospel song... came up with a title, could kinda 'hear' it in my mind... imagined the hook in different settings, and then once I had the chorus I was imagining the choir coming in under the lead singer with some cool harmonies and the lead kinda doing that embellishment and ad libs, I had this whole chorus going on in my mind. Then I opened my eyes and looked at the clock and realized I'd been snoozing for almost three hours. I'd been composing in my sleep. ~

Did I do anything today? Ummm...

Monday, nearly time to go to bed. I cast my mind back to ask myself what, if anything, did I achieve today. I have to think about it.

Well, I walked. And I have had some difficulty walking but I am slowly getting better and I walked further than I have before. That felt good. The sun was shining and the wind was blowing cold from the sea.

Yesterday, an Easter sale tempted me, and I updated my Tracktion 7 to Waveform 9. I like already. Then I sat and went through 8 intro videos, rather doubtfully at the start, since I've been using Tracktion for years. But the videos were great and each one had some tidbit or other that was of interest.

Today there was another film scoring challenge from a group I belong to, due this coming Sunday. This time I didn't wait, I downloaded it, watched it and sat noodling on the piano for awhile. The idea is to find a motif and then expand it. Although I didn't noodle anything that stood out for me, it was fun to noodle and try things out.

Then I went back and listened to my entry for another composing contest. Funny how when you put these things away for a little while, when you listen to it after a break, you sometimes start to see the potential. Now I have something I like I just need to orchestrate it.

I signed up for a songwriting workshop at the end of the month with a songwriting coach I respect. I sent in a song for review. I'm considering recording it for submission to film/tv opps and it would be good to get her feedback on it.

And, I find myself watching American Idol. A few years ago, I did a blog for a couple of seasons, I'd give my thoughts on each show and performance. I stopped doing it because it was a lot of work and also I didn't like some of the negativity on the show. They made fun of people and embarrassed them. And I felt like they promoted the 'big voice' at the cost of authenticity.

I feel like the show has changed. They are more about telling the story of the singers, and pretty much only show the successful auditions. And you get see how someone really talented chooses the wrong song, or can't find the courage on the day, or has overworked their instrument, and in the end, may not make it. Anyway, I find myself enjoying the show for the storytelling and the ability to watch the singers receive their coaching and feedback.

I've been working on going through stuff, boxes, desks, drawers, etc. Watching a little AI helps the job get done.

Not bad for a sleepy Monday. ~

Still dreaming

Tonight I watched the movie 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.' I wanted to see it because the main character and his day dreaming reminds me of me. I have been and probably always will be a dreamer. Imagination is a wonderful thing. It helped me survive many a bad time. That and music, movies, books, writing, singing... probably eating, too, lol. Somehow the message of the film - gentle in its lesson - got me to thinking about my own struggles.

You see, I love film music and film scores. And I have been told that some of the music I write is not particularly suited for television where it needs to lie under the dialogue and not call attention to itself. Be interesting, move forward, have ear candy, but be.. well, kinda unnoticeably awesome. It's been suggested by a couple gate keepers that my creative take on briefs isn't suitable for the end user in television... but that my style might work better in film. Ha. As if.

Yet, there is something in me that hungers to try writing to picture just for the challenge of it, to try to add to the story with a sonic tapestry.

But, given clips to score, I find myself frustrated with what I am doing. I think I evolved a little the last couple of days, though. Yesterday I was happy with one section I did. I said, that was enough for the day. Today, another section started to take on life. I said, that was enough for the day.

I remind myself of the Hans Zimmer masterclass I took last year. I loved Hans talking about how he gets hired to do a movie, gets into the studio, sits down at the keyboard and says something like, 'I think they better hire a real composer cause I got nothin.'

He talked about his musical diary. That he just writes, every day. He has to, or the fear and doubt will take over. And it was fascinating to hear little snippets of his diary be developed for use in the score for the film. Great inspiration and I really enjoyed the masterclass.

Back to me and allowing myself to write a little, let it sit, come back and write a little more, and trust this process will lead me somewhere.  ~

Orchestrating a day...

"I’m going to change who I am and become a winner." ~ Charlie Brown

A day in the life of a composer: In looking at three projects I should be working on, plus my teaching and other responsibilities, I realized that the calendar in my head is simply not enough. Yes, I have schedules for this and that, but they are jumbled together in my mind. I get frequent spurts of 'omg did I remember whats-it'. How I currently orchestrate my time is simply not good enough.

The calendar in my head doesn't plan for time off. Now, given the determination to be prolificly creative as well as be doggedly producing good quality cues, it might seem funny that my first thought was about 'time off'. Acknowledged.

One of the problems is, I love music. It's my art, my heart, my soul, my breath. The thing that lights me up inside. So when I have 'time off' what am I doing? Probably music. Or writing, as I like to pen stories, poems, lyrics... ah, blogs.

So I created a calendar using googlesheets. Oh, I know there's a google calendar but it doesn't work for me. I want something that looks like an old-fashioned appointment book where I can put 'music' at 1000 am and draw a line to 200 pm. I worked very hard on the calendar, setting it up for the rest of this month and one of the purposes of doing this was to be sure I had at least one day a week without commitments of any kind.

Because without that 'waking up with nothing to do' on a regular basis, I can't find the serenity to let things go and just be for awhile. I know I can find a couple of hours on a work day. But a whole day off is a completely different flavour.

I updated my website, soundcloud, etc, adding new tracks and removing some that felt too old and not as representative of who I am today. As we write, we evolve. Our knowledge and foundation is stronger. What was good before is still good. It's just not at the standard of today. One hopes.

After I finished that, I watched some videos on music theory - chords and major modes used in film composing. Some of it is still difficult to grasp but when I sit down at the piano and play a scale in Phrygian Mode, I start to hear it. Diatonic, eh?

To me this is a lot like grammar. I feel I have a fairly good grasp of syntax and composition in the English language. I know what a verb is, of course, but if you asked me to name off all the titles given to the words and phrases we use, I would be... well I'm ok with conjunctions and prepositions, but when you start talking past participles and stuff, I'd be lost ;)

Modes and scales of different types are like that. I've heard them, played them, and sometimes composed in certain modes, but without a clear idea of what made them different and what they are best suited for.

I also watched videos on what to practice and this is one thing I need to add in - more practice on the piano. Play the cycle of fifths. Now play it in first inversion. Play the scales in different modes. Now play a major triad in different modes and sing the intervals.

I was once told by a jazz teacher to just play the cycle of fifths every day. You might not see what it's teaching you but you obtain clarity over time. I think that is true of all of this stuff. Seems boring and arbitrary and then one day you're tinkering with a chord progression and inversions and something clicks. Like a language you suddenly understand.

Then I wrote up project notes for the three items I have on the task list right now, and began work on a new track, experimenting with textures. It's a work in progress. I will put it away for a few hours, and will come back to see what the muse and the ear wants to add. And then on to mixing, as it sounds muddy and unfocused to me at the moment. https://soundcloud.com/hummingbird-26/barbarity-wip-sketch-mar-11-18/s-TpYva

That's what I did in my 'time off'.

Make Stuff Happen

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. What I do today matters. What I do today will not, in most cases, come to fruition today. I will see the results of today and tomorrow and the day after in my evolution two or three months from now. But if I do not engage today, if I do not change today, if I do not perservere today, I will not evolve past today.

Today I taught students. Today I chatted about filmmaking, scoring to picture, producing cues for television, resources for composers and filmakers, & singing. Today I watched youtube videos on music theory and the music biz. Today being International Women's Day I especially listened to music written & produced by women.

Today I walked by the ocean.

Today I tried for the fourth time to come up with ideas for a film scoring challenge. Am I too dismissive. Am I editing too much. Is it all 'grist for the mill'? Or, am I doing as Hans Zimmer suggested, keeping a 'music diary'...

I don't know, but at least I 'made something happen', on this day.