Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

The 31-Day Blog Challenge, Day 3: What’s In a Name? -or- The Best-Laid Plans…

31 DAY BLOG CHALLENGE QUESTION, DAY THREE: “Meaning of Your Business Name”

Well, to the extent that it’s a business … in the formal sense … in the sense that it might cross over the line into being something with “Inc.” on the end of it … in the sense that, in a previous decade, one might advertise by actually finding a physical shingle and hanging it out somewhere …

It’s a little tiny thing. Hardly worth considerin’.

HammertonMusic.

You’d think there wouldn’t be much to tell. Last name … activity … voila.

 

Last fall, I suddenly got all amped up about buildin’ me a website, so as to more properly (and slightly more loudly) give people the idea that I like to write musical arrangements for bands and choirs, etc., etc., and here’s how to get in touch with me if you’d like to chat about that subject.

The process of building that website, with the able assistance of an outfit called Weebly, caused me to consider a few topics a lot more comprehensively … on the logic that whatever website I put together would suddenly become not just a contact point, but something of a position paper. “Here’s where I stand on a few subjects,” and all that. Don’t know me? After perusing the website, to some professional degree you will.

I learned about landing pages. They’re the webpages whose design needs to cause people to wonder what else is on the website, since this page is so attractive and informative. I learned (somewhat) about the concept of brevity – not my strong suit – since who wants to land on the landing page and be hip-deep in thirteen paragraphs?

No self-aggrandizing website worth its salt lacks webpages with names like “Biography” and “About Me” and “But Enough About Me, Let’s Talk About You, What Do YOU Think Of Me?” So, yes, I’ve got one of those, and a page full of “News” – where am I next plying my musical trade? Y’know, just in case anyone anywhere is breathlessly wondering; the likelihood of which is debatable … but fortune favors the prepared, dahling.

And, so as to convince people that this website all about me is in fact not all about me … a page full of links to websites of other musical people and organizations and companies that I admire, do business with, or want to help promote.

What musical services does my website detail? Musical arrangements, which I’ve been doing for approximately -ever. Musical composition, which I’ve only just started to dabble in (and the difference between composition and assembly of sounds is a topic for another post). Musical transcription score preparation – what? – well, I’ve got this trusty piece of music notation software that can make music actually look attractive; perhaps that can help somebody somewhere.

The Weebly people offered me the opportunity to include a blog section on my website, and so of course I took them up on it. –Wait. Don’t I already have a blog that I have seemed to ignore quite a lot in this past half a year? Y’know … this one? Well, yes; but the HammertonMusic blog would be strictly about musical arranging and composition and my musical projects and strictly musical topics.

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

 

Finally … partly out of self-protection, but partly because it’s important … a page went up regarding intellectual property issues – copyright clearances and permissions and all those legal issues that can send your burgeoning musical-arranging career spiraling down into the canyon if you’re not careful.

And in putting that page together, I started to do lots more research even than I had done previously. Which was at least some … although not as much as you’d think would be necessary. Fortunately for me, most of the people who historically have hired me to write field shows for their bands have taken care of acquiring the proper legal okay to have this or that tune arranged for their ensembles. Thus I have not had to delve into the nasty but necessary world of (as I titled that legal-issues webpage) “How Not To Be Sued.”

At that point, I discovered that the website wasn’t just to advertise, to hawk my wares, to hang out my shingle. A lot of it became the online representation of things that I actually believed about musical expression, and creativity, and other issues that were not at the forefront of my mind when I’d started the project.

 

As it has turned out, since the early fall, when the website went live, life has careened on. A couple of new projects have arisen … and I do not in any way downplay the importance of those projects … but they have caused me to focus in other directions than the “edit your website” button on Weebly.com.

So the website has gotten only sporadic updates. This, in a world where constant updates are highly recommended (so that returning visitors feel like the site is worth returning to).

Well, to paraphrase the founder of the particular denomination wherein I do my church-giggin’ … the website is continually “moving on toward perfection”.

But I was struck by how much the process of building the site made me reconsider a few musical things … come at them from slightly different approach vectors … and probably forced me to get better at a few of those musical things. We’ll see. But for now … I have to get back to work on that really cool marching show concept for the fall.

More on that here, in a bit.

Or more properly, more on that over at HammertonMusic.com, in the upcoming weeks and months.

(Focus, Rob. Focus.)

May 3, 2016 Posted by | arranging, blogging, HammertonMusic.com, Internet, music, technology | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grand Pause

So, here’s the thing about the new Star Wars movie that comes out tomorrow …

For various reasons, I won’t end up seeing the thing until it’s been in theaters for about ten days.

Weep not for me.  I have a roof over my head, and food in the ol’ icebox.

But aside from my desperate attempts to avoid spoilers for a week and a half (and still somehow remain connected to my friends on social media) … and aside from my insane curiosity about things like, “who is this Daisy Ridley running-toward-exploding-spaceships character?  And who is this John Boyega heavily-perspiring-stormtrooper character?  And is there truth to the rumor that Han Solo and Princess Leia didn’t actually stay together, in this new Abrams-verse?  And does Luke Skywalker ever take off that hoodie?  And how in the world did they build that insanely fast rolling droid thingy?” … and all of those questions undoubtedly will transform into the dumbest questions imaginable, come January …

Aside from those mere trifles, the real suspense for me is … what it was when the last batch of prequel things came out, sixteen years ago:

What’s the score going to be like?

Even now, nearly forty years since Star Wars became A Thing, the same John Williams is at the helm of the Star Wars film music juggernaut as was in charge .  Give or take an animated series (i.e. “Star Wars: Clone Wars” spent its first three seasons unsure about whether to avoid the classic sound or embrace it; and the more recent “Star Wars Rebels” has done a very nice job of honoring the good ol’ movie scores, and in some cases gleefully ripping them right off) … the Williams sound has been the sound of the Star Wars franchise.

He and the other handful of composers who have tackled Star Wars projects over the last four decades … have largely been creating new arrangements of that great old material.

The prequel scores, I thought, had the great potential to “reverse-engineer” the original scores (just as the stories were reverse-engineering Darth Vader’s life story) – in addition to being opportunities for more fun treatments of the music that has become, for some of us, like the artistic version of family.

Let’s find out where all those leitmotifs and themes got their start!, I thought. … Ah well.

With the exception of a really clever melodic turn at the end of what was essentially a “kindergarten with ominous foreshadowing” theme for Episode I’s young Anakin Skywalker, the occasional “Force motif” quote, and a marvelous re-setting of the Imperial March as the clone troops inexorably head off to war at the end of Episode II … the music was mostly fresh and new and struck me as the end result of a head-on collision between Harry Potter and Hook, or at least those films’ incidental music.

Well, can you forgive a composer for having a compositional style that has evolved somewhat over forty years of work?

To my eye and ear, the musical scores sold Episodes I, II and III as nearly nothing else did.  And yes, there were blasts of identifiably “Star Wars-y” music.  But that Star Wars Main Title theme only appeared a handful of times in the prequel trilogy, and … I don’t know about anyone else, but (as chronicled in a previous post hereabouts) I thought the Episode IV music had a certain bombastic charm, and I kinda missed it.

It was as if the extended family had come to visit after being away for a long time, and they were sorta recognizable, but there were more than enough things different about them that we had to get reacquainted again.  And it didn’t feel quite the same.

Conceivably, Williams may just have been reacting compositionally to what he was seeing, in the final cuts of the prequels: [1] a story that inevitably will end badly, and darkly; and [2] an editing pace to these films that mirrors the accelerating pace of American entertainment in the years since Episode IV – i.e. there’s barely any time to linger on a visual, or bask in a great extended musical moment.  The goal of a film composer is to reflect and amplify what’s on the screen; and so Williams did.

So, since “The Force Awakens” has threatened to reference the Episode IV-V-VI story and characters so much more directly than the prequel trilogy …

… the London Symphony Orchestra’s performance in Episode VII has the potential to be the world’s most Wagnerian-scale cover band in recorded history.

Whatever it is, I’ll listen to, enjoy, and in all likelihood lay out bucks for, Johnny Williams’ latest hits.  He is arguably at least the greatest living American film composer.  Guy knows a little somethin’ about cinematic sound.

But I’m really hoping he goes back to his Star Wars roots, if you will, on this one.  I hope the family looks more like it used to.

We’ll see.

Can’t wait.

December 17, 2015 Posted by | arranging, entertainment, film, media, movies, music, science fiction, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

It’s About Time

On teaching: … the job seems to require the sort of skills one would need to pilot a bus full of live chickens backwards, with no brakes, down a rocky road through the Andes while simultaneously providing colorful and informative commentary on the scenery.”

   — author Franklin Habit

 

So, he puts up this (relatively) (for him) massive website to broadcast the idea that he’s planning to ramp up his musical arranging efforts. Those efforts previously were just kind of an extra, something on-the-side that he did for fun and a couple of bucks here and there.

But why? My writing in recent years has been mostly for friends. I haven’t gone in for all that Advertising and Marketing Stuff. I haven’t done research on estimated tax payments. Why shift gears now?

Among the several perfectly good reasons, it occurred to me – and I’m talking mainly to the music teachers out there, the school ensemble directors, and possibly the church musicians as well – that there’s one reason which has gotten especially notable in the last year or so:

You probably don’t have a spare minute to do it yourself.

I’m lucky to know a pack of music teachers – friends and colleagues with whom I have shared tales before – who probably are capable of putting a note or two down on paper (virtual or otherwise) for their bands, jazz bands, orchestras, choruses, small groups, whatever. I can think of one such friend and colleague who just put an item together for her middle-school jazzers, and seemed quite thrilled with it.

But given all the Stuff (with a capital “S”) that teachers have to do as part of their daily jobs – and the extra Stuff that various education departments, federal, state and local, have piled on top of them – well, I can imagine many music teachers thinking, “I’d love to write out this or that tune for my gang; but with what time, exactly?”

New evaluation regimens. New requirements for record-keeping, with respect to those evaluation standards, and to special-education plans, and … well, the list goes on and on. Even if teachers were “merely” teaching, and didn’t have to contend with all the other Stuff that goes with teaching (in many cases, being the parents that their students maybe don’t have, or certainly could sorely use), preparation of materials and strategies for those classes still would put time at a premium. Not to mention, they might be trying to maintain lives outside the workplace. What a thought.

In the last year or two, here in Massachusetts, a new requirement was dropped onto teachers of all stripes (music included): they need to take a specialized course in how to deal with English-as-a-second-language learners, and there’s a deadline before which they have to take it. It’s the equivalent of a semester-long graduate class, with weekly writing assignments; and everyone must complete it, and get a good grade, … and pay for it themselves. No help from the state, or from any individual school districts. Oh joy. Another unfunded mandate.

Don’t get me started. Oops. Too late.

I have it on good authority that the humor in those classes is strictly gallows.

<*shakes himself from his red-tinged haze of “you gotta be kiddin’ me”*>

Having been a high school band (and chorus and jazz band) director, I know all too well the virtual mountain of to-do list items that face music teachers regularly. Sometimes it’s a physical mountain of Stuff.

My new favorite quote about that specific version of teaching comes from a t-shirt meme, of all things:

 

Being a band director is easy.

It’s like riding a bike.

Except the bike is on fire.

You’re on fire.

Everything is on fire.

 

With all that, who has the time to write out the perfect arrangement, not to mention the time it takes to track down copyright permissions information and all the rest of the details that go into all this?

You could say I want to help.

So do feel free to pass the word … if you (or a friend or a colleague) have a project in mind that you will never in a million years get to, but would make your kids very happy (with you!) … drop me a note here, or visit the shiny new website, HammertonMusic.com

and let me know what I can do to make your life easier.

 

[Ed. Note: this blog post was originally posted over on my “News ‘n’ Notes” blog at HammertonMusic.com.  Synergy!  Or something.]

November 18, 2015 Posted by | arranging, band, choir, education, HammertonMusic.com, marching band, music, teachers | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment