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’.


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


This might sound really self-inflating. Or at least self-inflating on behalf of the folks in the church choir I have the pleasure of conducting.

A couple of Sundays ago, we presented to our congregation a cantata, a multi-movement piece of choral music called “Yuhanon”. It was written by our music director and organist, Kevin Murphy, specifically for our choir and for specific instrumentalists who are a part of our congregation. Not to put too fine a point on it: it was hard.

The notes were often challenging for the singers to find. This was partly because the patches of music that preceded the choral entrances were more often than not written in 12-tone series style. For the uninitiated, which is to say, for those who have not taken graduate courses in twentieth-century compositional styles, this means that this sort of music is written without any particular tonal center. Which is to say, it’s borderline impossible to find a home-base note, a note that one can definitely identify as “do” in the classic sequence “do-re-mi”. Which is to say, singing the music sometimes felt like the equivalent of trying to grab a tennis ball that is falling during a skydive at the same rate as you are, while blindfolded.

To be fair, there were other stretches of music that did in fact feel perfectly tonal, in which it was easy for singers to find their next pitch either in relation to one they just sang, to one that some other section just sang, or to one that a nearby instrumentalist just played.

On top of that, the texts that Kevin chose were not the classic Advent texts that one might expect to hear on the 16th of December in a church; certainly if you were waiting for a “Gloria in excelsis Deo”, or lyrics that described how startled certain poor shepherds were to be addressed by a pack of angels in fields where they lay, you didn’t get either of them. At least the texts were included in an insert in our worship-service bulletin, so listeners could follow along and get the gist of each movement’s text. If you had that in front of you, you had a good chance of understanding why Kevin wrote certain sections of the work the way he did. There was a whole lotta “text painting” going on, during which the music reflected (or in fact illuminated) the intent of the music. Baroque composers frequently made sure that the highest note in one of their melodies corresponded with the words “God” or “heaven” … Kevin’s piece used pitches and rhythms and harmonies in a very much more complex way to achieve the same sorts of musical expression.

In the weeks leading up to the presentation of the cantata, Kevin did a bit of work to publicly and privately prepare people for the fact that it was a challenging piece, written in a way that might conceivably lead to a performance which was not note-perfect, but understandably so. And if the composer is on the grounds for the performance and says outright that he’s going to be okay with a presentation that isn’t precisely note-perfect … that might go some distance toward taking the nervous edge off the choir.

Or it could have been gamesmanship – a psychological ploy – even a way of lowering expectations such that if people think the piece could fall apart and it doesn’t, then we have a winner! But given that the composer is also a regular participant in the choir’s activities from week to week, I tended not to think this so much.

In any case, the way in which our choir went after that piece on that Sunday, well … quite simply, they brought their A-game. And no, the thing wasn’t completely note-perfect, but (forgive me) it was damn close and there were many more moments in which it sounded really well-prepared and confident and even brave.

And in so doing, the choir may have given people the impression that you have to be a really fine singer in order to be one of us. Unintentionally, to be sure … but I can imagine that there may have been people out in the congregation who thought to themselves, “boy, that’s over my head. I could never do that.”


Not our goal, for openers. Also, as the saying goes, “we live to serve” – not to impress. As has been chronicled in this space before, we have a great many more people in the group who have not been formally trained as singers than who have. We have many people who, if asked if they are Singers, would probably say “no; but I’m in the choir.” They may not know all the musical and physiological terminology associated with what they’re doing (I always make sure to gently define words like “crescendo” and “chest voice” and the like, something like including subtitles at the bottom of the movie screen) … but once they’ve been in the choir for a little while, they figure out how to blend their voices with all the other voices and contribute to a beautiful sound.

So, if anyone had a thought about joining our choir, or any church choir, or any community chorus … and then heard a piece of music that made them think maybe they couldn’t do it, just because it sounded difficult or complex … we apologize for the misconception.

And we suggest, nay, we beg! … that they reconsider. We won’t let them flop. Or, certainly, we won’t let them skydive alone. We’re all in this together … and it’s a blast.

December 27, 2012 Posted by | choir, music, SUMC | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment