Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Confession and (Re-)Connection -or- Where Ya Been?

Hi everyone.

I know. It’s been months.

This was not the plan.

There’s been plenty to write about.

And honestly, it’s not that my schedule, my life, has been that jammed full of every possible commitment and activity that I didn’t have time to sit and park a few thoughts on the Blogge.

I could have gone on and on about, say, current politics. Plenty of writers have done so, and very eloquently and movingly – not that this truth would have deflected me from writing on that topic, as well. I’m not that humble.

My musical life has careened onward at its standard pace. I could have scribbled (metaphorically) a few notes (ha) about all that.

Yes, I had a root canal recently. But it was my tooth that hurt, not my typin’ fingers.

Somehow, several months have gone by.

A friend of mine suggested that it would be a much bigger deal if this were a paid-subscription blog. In that case, then, yes, I would have to process a few refunds!

But still, there are people – not just automated bots, but actual people – who signed up to get eMail blasts every time I published something. They didn’t have to do that. No one was forcing them. They did it – I presume – because they enjoyed something I wrote, and were interested in reading the next one, and possibly even the next one. I need to respect that.

There are others who didn’t sign up, but let me know that they were reading faithfully anyway. I need to respect that, too.

Those are connections.

Connection – most especially these personal connections, with longtime friends and newer friends and friends I’ve never actually met in person! – is something that has become, to me, more important-seeming in the last three or four months of navigating current events. Not that you would know it from my blog activity … so what say we show a little evidence of that?

Write. Write write write.

Will do.

Stand by. Powering back up. Re-acquiring signal. Re-establishing connection. Resurrecting blog in 3… 2… 1…

May 19, 2017 Posted by | blogging, writing | , , , | Leave a comment

The 31-Day Blog Challenge, Day Twenty-Four: Chilling Effect

Today’s writing prompt:

31 DAY BLOG CHALLENGE, DAY 24: “a difficult time in my life”.

 

Well, everybody’s got ’em.

I’m pleased to say that there are plenty of people whom I know personally, and lots and lots more whom I don’t, who have probably had more difficult Times In Their Lives than I’ve had in mine.

Still, they get your attention.

I don’t know that this is the space for the response to this question. Please accept my apologies, Dear Reader – especially if you are a regular and longtime Dear Reader, and have been around for a few of the difficult Times In My Life in online print. Especially if you watched me take on the Young Singing Sensation Fan Club trolls about five years ago.

Yes, I’ve had ’em, both personally and professionally. Some of those Times In My Life have been the kind that only a few folks know about, and it’s darn well going to stay that way (and those weren’t always of the personal variety). Need-to-know basis, and all that. Others have been a bit more widely understood, in part due to their public nature.

 

For the full story, go back (if you dare) to these two blog posts – one was highly caffeinated snark, and the other was an honest reappraisal of the first one. The second post was inspired by feedback about the first one … feedback which was at worst full of veiled threats of legal action, and at best full of mediocre spelling.

In our current political climate, the slightest online critique of a candidate can attract the ire of online commenters in such a way that the author of the critique starts to wish s/he had never hit “publish” [hey, wait just a damned minute, what the hell ever happened to freedom of speech and the First Amendment and all that great stuff that makes Murrica great? Ohhh, I see; freedom of speech as long as I agree with it. Got it].

Five years ago, I got my own dose of that. At the merest hint that I might not have totally utterly swooned over the vocal performance of this particular golden-tressed, 38-year-old-mezzo-soprano-voiced moppet … the trolls descended. The Singing Sensation Fan Club swept in, bearing their spears and magic helmets. How dare I. This young singer is a gift from God.

(Not making that up. There was talk of singer-as-angel-messenger-from-God. Good Lord.)

I thought I could probably handle online critique of my stuff; I knew I was publishing a blog that anyone with an Internet connection and a pulse could read; so pushback was always possible. But while politics draws fire regularly, surely musical subjects wouldn’t have as big a target on their backs, yes? … Um, I guess no.

Simple disagreement is one thing. A back-and-forth about what strikes you musically that doesn’t so much strike me? Let’s have that conversation. We might learn something, each of us.

This was something else.

In the comment section of that blog post, it got pretty heated.

 

Meantime, on the online fan forum devoted to the Young Singing Sensation, one commenter suggested that because I said such horrible things about this singing youngster, then logically that made me a Bad Person, and definitely a Bad Music Teacher. Who would want such a horrible person to be teaching music to delicate children? And this person suggested that it might be a good idea to send someone to investigate this Bad Music Teacher. To contact the school where he taught music, and perhaps to alert the administration therein to the presence of such a Bad Music Teacher.

In support of that, one other commenter posted this:

…if the downside became quite nasty, then who can be blamed for that outcome. Obviously the person who was nasty to begin with. If there were/are negative ramifications, then they fall on the person who needs to take responsibility for making it negative in the first place. I don’t worry for his job. He should. I’ll offer the same sort of mercy for his outcomes as he has for [the Singer’s].”

One of my blog commenters played the part of the mole in the organization and quietly pointed me toward that forum comment thread.

Bad enough that, upon reading this, I considered contacting a lawyer friend of mine and putting him on standby alert. Worse that I considered contacting my school’s principal and putting her on standby alert – because you never know what utter whack job might think that carrying out a Bad Music Teacher Investigation might require visiting a school while carrying a concealed weapon, or something. Principals really enjoy that spectre, lurking out there.

But go back a few paragraphs, to the other commenter who replied to the initial suggestion. Did you notice that I didn’t say he/she, or him/her? I said “she”.

Because the identity of the Other Commenter is very specific, is very important in this, and ought not be downplayed.

This Other Commenter was not anonymous. And therefore she was quite publicly making these accusations and insinuations and, whether she knew it or not, was quite publicly taking the chance of inciting some other person, some potential utter whack job (for all she knew) to go ahead and pull a “Guy Noir, Private Eye” routine on me.

This Other Commenter was no mere fan.

She was the Young Singing Sensation’s mother.

Let that rattle around in your head for a minute.

In that moment, I both did and did not know exactly what I was dealing with.

 

As it turned out, the firestorm subsided relatively quickly. If our current political circus wasn’t happening, I’d say something like “this is always the case. There’s a lot of shouting (real or virtual), and then the short attention span kicks in and it’s off to the next crisis, the current one entirely forgotten.”

But – partly because of that political circus which has turned the scary-invective-and-utter-whack-job volume control up to eleven – and partly because I’ve made it a habit not to “poke the bear” when I really don’t need to – which was not the lesson I wanted to learn, five years ago, but there it is anyway – I’ve consistently avoided naming this Young Singing Sensation.

Her fans made my life pretty crazy, there, for about two weeks in 2011.

The sad part of all that was: thanks to those two weeks of crazy, generated solely by her fans, she’s lost me as a potential admirer for good, no matter what happens. In my head, her name is a synonym for back away slowly so as not to startle.

Singers aren’t the only public figures whose supporters make them look bad, whose fans’ behavior causes other possible new fans to turn away from them. And it’s a pity.

So I’d love to tell her that I’m sorry about all that. Her schtick, through no fault of her own, only laid the groundwork for the creation of a difficult Time In My Life.

Her mother, though?

In the words of a great philosopher, that Other Commenter needed to go home and re-think her life.

May 24, 2016 Posted by | blogging, celebrity, Famous Persons, Internet, music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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