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An enjoyable pastime, or your livelihood?
Last post Thu, Apr 28 2022 by agitato, 80 replies.
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Posted on Sat, Apr 09 2022 04:04
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 563

Errikos, thank you but I must duck credit for my link - I've just been lucky to find JP Sears recently, and as his very large numbers of subs and views suggest, he ain't no beginner. But that one-liner you quoted and your modification of it - they're just exquisitely apposite! lolol.

Now largely I'm just gonna have to capitulate to the main body of your spendid exposition. Touché, Sir. Aren't those issues some of the crucial issues of the Internet era? The more I try to hang onto the old ways, the less today's situations make sense. But .... I'm not prepared to defer, let alone surrender to mere kids in the face of their noisy and all too often absurd upheavals - that would be craven and irresponsible. Millennials and especially Zoomers are still far from being capable of steering, let alone leading any of the new world that's been dumped into their laps. Those generations need our help, guidance, wisdom, common sense and sometimes a firm hand, in vouchsafing sound shape and sense in today's world and its new possibilities. Furthermore, as some of them already know or suspect, they're prone to being manipulated and groomed by highly-placed power-hungry narcs who never reveal their true hand; the young 'uns certainly need help to fight that kind of malignancy - indeed we all do.

So much of what used to be subject to clear and orderly structure in our cultural habits and activities has now become somewhat fuzzy and foggy, largely owing I think to the explosive advent of mass lateral, peer-to-peer telecommunications via Internet, and its enormous impact on the traditional power of vertical, mostly top-down mass communications and telecommunications. So many cultural gatekeeping measures established over centuries have been or are being subverted, bypassed and otherwise rendered ineffectual. The good news is that we're already seeing powerful refusals to entrust these potentially huge and profound cultural changes to IT geeks such as Zuckerberg. But the bad news is that we're also now seeing huge amplification and consolidation of top-down power - e.g. stern covid restrictions and mandates, and more recently, colossal efforts to mobilise and unify wartime propaganda - presumably mounted mostly by those who feel terribly threatened by the potential of mass lateral comms.

Where does that get us with this thread? Lolol, I dunno. It's probably fuel for several new threads - I hope started by younger blood.

I'm impressed and reassured by your choice to find a real publisher for your book - wishing you all the very best for that. I know from long family experience that getting a "pass" from the reputable gatekeepers can be tough, but then again it means all the more both to the author and potential readers looking to buy a new book. And later, as a published author, your next and subsequent offerings to publishers tend (but only tend) to be somewhat less prone to perfunctory rejection. So many people nowadays seem to fear and loathe even the idea of rejection - where's their spine, guts, grit and gumption gone? But I've a feeling you're a trouper, Errikos. (If I recall correctly, you already know what it's like to sit in front of a microphone and broadcast to a nation.)

"Music embodies feeling without forcing it to contend and combine with thought, as it is forced in most arts and especially in the art of words."
~ Franz Liszt
Posted on Sat, Apr 09 2022 19:19
by rverne10
Joined on Tue, May 26 2009, Michigan, USA, Posts 133

Originally Posted by: Errikos Go to Quoted Post

I would like to participate in this discussion, but I find it impossible if the words professional, amateur, hobbyist, dilettante are not defined and related to musical composition.

Contrarily: Hans doesn’t know his German 6th chord from his bootstrap (not to mention the French and Italian 6ths). Be that as it may, the door is coming off its hinges as everybody who can afford him is begging/banging to commission him. He is already reeking rich, marketing himself as a composer - film composer if we must. What is he?

I quite agree that the discussion is not well informed so far as pertains to the very long tradition of how musicians and composers received reimbursement for their efforts. I could review the situation with Mozart & Beethoven but I'll just say: Mozart struggled mightily at times, oddly at the very end of his career when he wrote the likes of Don Giovanni, the Clarinet concerto, Requiem and the last of his symphonies and piano Concertos. Viennese society was bored with him and it showed in his income. The trivial likes and dislikes of society and their eagerness to 'cancel' a particular style has absolutely nothing, very often, (indeed, usually) to the intrinsic value of the artist's work. Beethoven had much success in keeping his rent paid (despite having a tendency to forget to pay it) and his pantry well stocked-when he could keep a housekeeper to do his shopping. But given the ultimate societal decision as to the worthiness of his music, Beethoven's recompense was almost trivial. Again, shows no connection between success in society's measure and the cultural value determined as the ages roll on. Rossini, to do just one more example, was rewarded handsomely towards the end of his life, one may speculate whether or not he was overpaid. Again, shows the shallow nature of the judgement regarding how much an artist gets paid means almost nothing as to the intrinsic cultural value of a work; that financially success rarely means anything other than sheer luck of the draw. 

I dislike Hans Zimmer's works because he now shows a decided proclivity to engage in repeating himself over and over, time after time the same chugging bass ostinatos - to mention but one technique he over indulges in. Basically the minimalist techniques borrowed from Phillip Glass et al become boring when listened to away from the movie itself. Mind you, all I'm saying here is that I prefer *not to listen to Zimmer-I'll take Glass about as often-I have yet to achieve a full 20 minutes of either composer without becoming agitated to the point of distraction.

But speaking of Hans Zimmer:

Shortly after the official opening, Hans Zimmer's Remote Control Productions chose Synchron Stage Vienna to record a whole slate of productions, including music for Inferno, starring Tom Hanks (directed by Ron Howard, music by Hans Zimmer), and the Netflix series The Crown by Peter Morgan (music by Hans Zimmer and Rupert Gregson-Williams).

Here's an interior shot of the Synchron Stage 

Cubase 12, Windows 10 Installed on ‎4/‎11/‎2022
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Posted on Sat, Apr 09 2022 22:03
by Errikos
Joined on Tue, Jun 12 2007, Posts 1107

Back again.

I just glanced at my previous post. What a jumble... I don't know why the formatting turned out like that. I apologise to everybody that read it.

Anyway, I asked for definitions and I got them from William and Macker. Since you guys went into the trouble I will add to my already long diatribe. But first, I just want to say that I mentioned my writing a book because I feel it chimes very well with this discussion. When it is finished, I will investigate whether there is any interest to be generated in publishing it, but that is more than a long shot. I realise this. If it doesn't happen (which it most probably won't - the book market is much more saturated than the music one), I won't wail at the world for being too stupid and heathenish not to be paying attention to my "brilliant" short fiction, and I know that the publishers who will reject me will vie ferociously for the rights to a Kardashyan autobiography. I don't care (too much). I am writing these stories because it gives me pleasure. I get pure enjoyment out of writing, as a hobby, as others get out of writing music, as a hobby. Id est, without the pressures that are automatically applied to a professional. 

I perused a lot of the posts here, and the prevailing idea is that a professional composer is one who makes money from their music. Well, yes and no. The money is actually the last factor in the equation. One has to satisfy every other requirement of the "job" in order to ever get to see any money. It is very akin to being an accountant or a plumber when it comes to that. People that pay money have certain expectations from the benefiting party. The whole transaction is expected to be equitable. People will rarely use an accountant or a plumber that is not referred to them by someone they trust. The times that they do go outside their comfort zone -during an emergency- they do so with fingers crossed. For the accountant they will expect that he is certified by some authority they recognise (jsg made a similar point), and this will also apply to music professionals. It is not enough that you even get access to somebody, you will play them a couple of your tracks, they'll like them and then they'll bring out their check book. Not if they know what's good for them (see point above regarding references).

Ability to write music that people like is not nearly enough in itself to make you a professional. No-no! Actually, it is not even necessary. What people that are prepared to give you money want to know is whether you can compose music to their requirements, not your own. They want to know that you can compose to at least an average professional standard for the kind of ensemble they have in mind. This is not a simple criterion: Is the ensemble professional or amateur? Do you know how to compose for professionals and amateurs for all instruments? Do you know what the differences are in range, instrumental technique, compositional technique - are you going to give multi phonics to a high-school woodwind ensemble? Etc. They want to know that you can complete the music on agreed schedule(!) and idiom, and that you will present them with score and parts of professional standards (this goes 2x for amateurs - i.e. not what the Score Editor of your favourite D.A.W. will hurl out). I am omitting a score of other important details.

What is it that will reassure these people commissioning you that you will deliver a professional product? The fact that your mother and Facebook/Youtube friends like your music? A joke, surely. First of all, a university degree is that aforementioned authority people will accept as an initial guarantee that at the very least you know the rudiments and that you have already been proven responsible enough to deliver adequate work to deadlines. They cannot wait until inspiration hits. This is another difference between professionals and everybody else. Professionals have to compose, no matter what! They have contracts and a reputation to uphold/build, negotiating an unfriendly environment of vicious and back-breaking competition... If you think all the aforementioned skills can be acquired overnight, I know which category you don't belong to. Professional composers are not "merely" musicians (good or bad). They are excellent time managers, entrepreneurs (look up the origin of this word - you won't believe it...), promoters, and -most of all- reliable.

If one satisfies all requirements of being a professional composer, then -at last- money will find its way into the conversation. How much of it will depend on the client. The client will of course get the best professional he can afford. This is where it gets a little fuzzy, in that the most expensive composer is not necessarily the best. That is another point that I feel has not been addressed: The vast-vast-vast majority of professionals, in any field, by statistical definition, are journeymen! And these are the ones that know their stuff! Not the dilettantes, the hobbyists, etc. They are as journeymen as your accountant (who is not Warren Buffet's accountant I presume).

It is not by chance I mentioned Sorabji in my first post, asking rhetorically whether he was less or more professional a composer than Hans or J. Williams. You learn about Sorabji at university if you study composition, and maybe more than in passing (you learn nothing about Williams, let alone Hans). An incredible iconoclast, contemptuous of both atonality and neo-classicism, with a profound, complex thought that translates into hours of music for each work (his Piano Symphony n.5 "Symphonia Brevis" lasts over two hours), Sorabji was so eccentric that he reached a point where he summarily forbade any performances of his works without his explicit permission. The combination of the over-protracted, complex nature of his music, his introversion and misanthropy resulted in an absolute scarcity of existing recordings of his music. His extensive symphonic works have never been recorded insofar as I know. Apparently, there are also some orchestration mistakes that have been noted in his interminable manuscripts, but these, surely, would have been corrected if he ever intended to publish. Be that as it may, there they are.

Conclusion: Sorabji was not a professional composer, certainly not in the league of Hans and J. Williams. Music history however has immortalised him as an 'artist'.

'Artist' is yet another term, which I posited in my second post, the one that matters to me, and the one with which I will close this post. 

All the other designations are more or less claimable for oneself. You can call yourself an amateur, a dilettante (which didn't have such negative connotations in the past; what happened?), or a hobbyist, most will just take you on your word as the range is just so abysmally vast. If you call yourself a professional to anyone 'in the know' at least, you'd better be able to back it up [do you get commissioned a lot? For money? By whom, etc. This will determine whether you are a journeyman professional (99.999%), further details (fee, prestige of commissioning party, etc.) will determine whether you belong to the high or low end of the journeyman spectrum, or in the infinitesimal margin above or below it].

(Musical) 'Artist' is the only designation that you don't get to claim for yourself. It is a really rare distinction and must be bestowed upon you by somebody else, either by other artists or professionals, or by people with real, vast musical culture. Not by friends and family. Not by fellow amateurs.

I'm going to bed. I bid you all goodnight, and sweet dreams...

If you can't notate/MIDI it yourself, it's NOT your music!

In these modern days to be vulgar, illiterate, common and vicious, seems to give a man a marvelous infinity of rights that his honest fathers never dreamed of. - Oscar Wilde
Posted on Mon, Apr 11 2022 17:07
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 563

A superb and illuminating disquisition by Errikos! I'm most grateful. I'll add a couple of points, then perhaps we'll leave this complex and difficult topic in - hopefully dignified - peace.

1. Pros sometimes also do pro work as a 'hobby'

William mentioned several cases of great composers having produced superb compositions that were not commissioned, nor originally pitched at potential commissions. I can - sort of - corroborate that this kind of activity is not especially rare, by pointing to examples in my pro discipline of hi tech design engineering that are somewhat analogous. (However, I can neither confirm nor deny that these events actually took place, lolol.)

In a certain very large defence development contract back in the late '70s, it was widespread practice among the pro designers to be doing - while at their usual workplace - what used to be called "foreigners" or "homers", i.e. their own personal projects that had nothing whatever to do with the official project at hand. These homers included some marvellous designs, including, for instance, an astonishingly realistic and highly responsive analogue video simulator for driving a car in a variety of environments. There was even a competition informally set up to design and build the fastest model of a drag racer, the only rule being that all parts used had to be what was found in the lab, nothing from outside. This competition culminated in an exciting and well attended race meeting held in the canteen, where about 30 or so models were run in a drag strip and timed with opto-electronic precision.

All of these homer-designers were pros and doing pro work for the official project; but they nevertheless also found the time and motivation to indulge in what can perhaps be called "hobby" projects. Some of these pros were probably just sharpening their creative skills and ingenuity as designers; others perhaps were exploring new skills and new technologies, maybe to be used professionally in subsequent contracts; and some may have been aiming at starting a new business.

Wholly reprehensible of course, but such was the nature of large defence contract management in those days - based on the "cost-plus" model which meant in practice that pretty much whenever prime contractors asked for more time and money for their ongoing projects, they got it. But although lamentable for the customer (the Government), it could be said that at least the pro discipline as a whole benefitted from these lively albeit strictly illicit activities, in terms of general enhancement and development of the ingenuity, knowledge, skills and experiences of the pros who indulged their hobbies with such wonderful enthusiasm and commitment.

So there it is, yet another anomalous take on who is a pro and who is a hobbyist.

2. Pressure - a double-edged sword.

Let me tell you about the most intense pressure I ever experienced as a pro. I happen to be one of the type who thrives on pressure - so long as it's not nefarious or malign - but I know full well that some others suffer badly from high pressure. As always, it's a matter of horses for courses.

One day, NATO High Command discovered to their horror that there was a very serious and intolerable gap in their Order Of Battle for Anti Submarine Warfare. Long story short, I found myself in a huge, very high pressure fixed-price prime contract development project aimed at plugging that gap ASAP. By this time (in the '80s), the UK Government had become averse to cost-plus project management, and in any case NATO could not afford to be kept waiting any longer than absolutely necessary for this project to reach fruition. For this project, UK Government and my company adopted a very tough, efficient and effective programme management scheme from the US Polaris programme. I immediately recognised much of this management scheme from my studies of ancient Chinese philosophy - it had already been described and proposed just before the unification of China about 22 centuries ago and was adopted by the first Emperor of China. Plus ça change!

Needless to say, absolutely no homers showed up on this project. The ethos was far from being laid back. In fact, to my knowledge two people on project were literally taken away by men in white coats. But even worse, there were several suicides. Questions were raised in UK Parliament, but no satisfactory answers were ever provided. I shudder in recollection. The Programme Review Meetings sometimes became figurative bloodbaths and several managers were destroyed along the way. As a matrix-manager, I covered an awful lot of departments and subcontract companies and I was either in or very close to the so-called "critical path" for much of the time. And that sometimes got very scary indeed. But I delivered my milestones, and so did the great majority of others. The project concluded on time, on budget and on specification, then went swiftly into full production. Thereafter, the company quietly dropped the purest and most ruthlessly brutal aspects of the Polaris management scheme - mental breakdowns and suicides are certainly not tolerable concomitants of any kind of professional work in the UK.

Many of us did stuff for that project we didn't even know we were capable of doing. I have to say, I don't recall ever performing as well as I did during those high-pressure years, including doing creative design work (hands-on management was the rule, not the exception).

My response to those who say they conjure up their own deadlines: - pfft. Real deadline pressure can only come from outside. It's an essentially natural part of being the social, cultural creatures that we are. We either endure the pain and discomfort while taking pride in doing the best we can to serve others, or we cop out and bumble along in a happy and contented world of one. I'm pretty damn sure I know where the best results come from, and it ain't the latter. No, I'm certainly not recommending the full-on Polaris/Emperor of China environment; the optimum - except for dire emergency situations - lies somewhere between the first and second stories here.

"Music embodies feeling without forcing it to contend and combine with thought, as it is forced in most arts and especially in the art of words."
~ Franz Liszt
Posted on Tue, Apr 12 2022 17:28
by Jerry Gerber
Joined on Thu, Jan 19 2006, San Francisco, CA USA, Posts 398

Originally Posted by: Macker Go to Quoted Post

My response to those who say they conjure up their own deadlines: - pfft. Real deadline pressure can only come from outside. It's an essentially natural part of being the social, cultural creatures that we are. We either endure the pain and discomfort while taking pride in doing the best we can to serve others, or we cop out and bumble along in a happy and contented world of one. I'm pretty damn sure I know where the best results come from, and it ain't the latter. No, I'm certainly not recommending the full-on Polaris/Emperor of China environment; the optimum - except for dire emergency situations - lies somewhere between the first and second stories here.

Hey Macker!

Since you seem to know so much about music, composition, artistic creativity and composers, I'd like to ask you a few questions:  

How many music compositions have you written and completed in the last 10 years?  How many albums have you produced?  How many soundtrack cues have you written for money?  How many interviews for music magazines have you done?  How many reviews and professional endorsements have your recordings received?  How many composition and theory students have you taught?  Have you done any music workshops in professional settings? 

Dictionary definition of a dilettante:  a person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge.

Yours truly,

A real composer

Posted on Tue, Apr 12 2022 19:32
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 563

Jerry, what thread are you commenting about? Are you sure it's this one? Are you feeling ok? 

"Music embodies feeling without forcing it to contend and combine with thought, as it is forced in most arts and especially in the art of words."
~ Franz Liszt
Posted on Mon, Apr 18 2022 01:59
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 563

-

"Music embodies feeling without forcing it to contend and combine with thought, as it is forced in most arts and especially in the art of words."
~ Franz Liszt
Posted on Mon, Apr 18 2022 19:07
by Jerry Gerber
Joined on Thu, Jan 19 2006, San Francisco, CA USA, Posts 398

Originally Posted by: Macker Go to Quoted Post

So, by and large I suppose this thread is aimed at fence-sitters, probably young, who have yet to make up their minds one or way the other about how serious or not they're going to be about their music.

Dear Macker,

I think the "fence-sitter" around here may be you.  Psychological projection--you've been doing this since you stated this thread! 

Most of the people around this forum are either professional composers or completely dedicated practitioners of the art, having gotten their college degrees in music composition and music theory and composing for decades. The young composers that I know personally are as committed, ambitious and dedicated to the art of composition as are us older people.   Perhaps you should take your ridiculously wordy lectures on what it takes to live a committed artistic life to another forum where maybe you'll get the audience you want?  

Wisdom usually does not come with youth, but old-age is certainly no guarantee of wisdom either.   Please, try to show us at least some wisdom and re-direct your many doubts and questions about devotion and sacrifice to the artistic life to where it really belongs--to the guy in your mirror!  Maybe ask us, the composers who've devoted their lives to writing music, exactly what it takes?   We might be able to help you get started and it might bring you some needed peace of mind, I certainly hope so. 

Posted on Mon, Apr 18 2022 22:59
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 563

JSG, no idea what you're going on about, don't have time to read your comments. Oh, but see my last comment to you in the other thread that you're trolling. Or not. Either way, lolol.

"Music embodies feeling without forcing it to contend and combine with thought, as it is forced in most arts and especially in the art of words."
~ Franz Liszt
Posted on Mon, Apr 18 2022 23:01
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 563

To sum up

I'm in no doubt that the great majority of members here have already chosen the path of commitment and devotion to their music, and hence tend not to think twice about taking consequential time, effort, pains, discomforts or inconveniences in their stride. Of course there are always differences and exceptions but I'm speaking here only in the broadest terms.

So, by and large I suppose this thread is aimed at fence-sitters, probably young, who have yet to make up their minds one or way the other about how serious or not they're going to be about their music.

I'll leave the last word to JP Sears, in the hope that he may help many if not most fence-sitters in making up their minds. Of course he couldn't possibly cover all kinds of endeavour in a 5 minute video, but music-making can fit in here easily. Some of JP Sears productions do indeed have pronounced political content (and since I don't live in the US I don't pay much heed to those) but this particular video is, in my book, about cultural and psychological matters rather than political.

Take it away, JP:

If body positivity logic was used everywhere

"Music embodies feeling without forcing it to contend and combine with thought, as it is forced in most arts and especially in the art of words."
~ Franz Liszt
Posted on Thu, Apr 21 2022 01:29
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5710

Originally Posted by: Jerry Gerber Go to Quoted Post

Originally Posted by: Macker Go to Quoted Post

My response to those who say they conjure up their own deadlines: - pfft. Real deadline pressure can only come from outside. It's an essentially natural part of being the social, cultural creatures that we are. We either endure the pain and discomfort while taking pride in doing the best we can to serve others, or we cop out and bumble along in a happy and contented world of one. I'm pretty damn sure I know where the best results come from, and it ain't the latter. No, I'm certainly not recommending the full-on Polaris/Emperor of China environment; the optimum - except for dire emergency situations - lies somewhere between the first and second stories here.

Hey Macker!

Since you seem to know so much about music, composition, artistic creativity and composers, I'd like to ask you a few questions:  

How many music compositions have you written and completed in the last 10 years?  How many albums have you produced?  How many soundtrack cues have you written for money?  How many interviews for music magazines have you done?  How many reviews and professional endorsements have your recordings received?  How many composition and theory students have you taught?  Have you done any music workshops in professional settings? 

Dictionary definition of a dilettante:  a person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge.

Yours truly,

A real composer

Wow, that is one of the most arrogant posts I've ever read on this Forum.  Congratulations, jsg.   The ideas presented by Macker were perfectly valid and rather well thought out, and whether you agree you don't have to show off how big a "pro" you are. Who cares?  I couldn't care less. I hate almost all film music by the biggest "pros" now working.  They are nothing to me. So showing your  "pro" credentials is laughable.

Posted on Thu, Apr 21 2022 04:18
by Jerry Gerber
Joined on Thu, Jan 19 2006, San Francisco, CA USA, Posts 398

Originally Posted by: William Go to Quoted Post

Wow, that is one of the most arrogant posts I've ever read on this Forum.  Congratulations, jsg.   The ideas presented by Macker were perfectly valid and rather well thought out, and whether you agree you don't have to show off how big a "pro" you are. Who cares?  I couldn't care less. I hate almost all film music by the biggest "pros" now working.  They are nothing to me. So showing your  "pro" credentials is laughable.

Yes, I can be arrogant.  But not quite as arrogant as you.  When we were discussing symphonies a while back you interpreted what I wrote and twisted it around with your own misunderstanding of what I said so you could justify attacking me.  It was so obviously one-upsmanship that I had to call you on it.  And you almost wanted to knock my head off for scoring Gumby with MIDI instruments,  but later admitted you would have taken the job yourself if it were offered to you.  Remember? You even apologized to me because you knew you were being such a jerk.

Macker was beating to death his theory of amateurism and professionalism in the arts and no matter that both you and I tried to explain why he wasn't right about it, he kept pushing.  Read the entire thread again and you'll see how it devolved.  I didn't start the devolution, he did. When I told him that I set my own deadlines when not writing for money, he went "pfft", dismissing my experience in not only setting my own deadlines, but utterly ignoring that I actually meet them (most of the time).  You even wrote above:

"That's a great post by jsg, and so true - the line between amateur and professional is often someone just figuring out a trick of how to sell what was already being done."  

But Macker kept on and on no matter the evidence to the contrary.  I got bored with someone who refuses to adjust his position even when the evidence isn't there.  When you pointed out my mistake in confusing ET with Well-Tempered tuning, what did I do?  I looked it up and admitted I was in error.  I didn't push and push and start denigrating other's experience and defending my mistake.

I became arrogant because he's telling me my own experience is false, that deadlines have to be "externally" imposed or they're not real.  He said that the composer has to feel "external pressure" to write, or it's not a real deadline.  He's totally wrong, it's not that I disagree, it's that he's in error.  I feel pressure to write not because I need the money, but because composition serves a primary function in my psychological, artistic and intellectual life.  I don't feel true to myself if I slack off.  In some ways, that kind of pressure is even more anxiety-provoking than having to meet professional deadlines because it's not merely about money, it's about one's being, central to one's purpose for existing.  But Macker would have none of it.  So I questioned his musical experience because he denies my own.  He doesn't understand the artistic soul.  I do.  I am sure Macker understands many things that I don't. 

And by the way, there are some outstanding film composers, particularly some European ones who are writing today.  I am not always good at remembering names of people that I've heard only once, but there are some highly original talents and very skilled composers working in film.  I don't hate film music like you do. 

Posted on Thu, Apr 21 2022 14:02
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5710
I apologize for overreacting like that - started focusing on the wrong things and went off...
Posted on Thu, Apr 21 2022 16:57
by Jerry Gerber
Joined on Thu, Jan 19 2006, San Francisco, CA USA, Posts 398

Originally Posted by: William Go to Quoted Post
I apologize for overreacting like that - started focusing on the wrong things and went off...

Thank you, apology accepted.  The thing that really irks me about online conversation is that there are so many missing cues--eye contact, body language, facial expression, tone of voice.   In-person conversations are very different for me.  There's a cafe around the corner from where I live and I often go there in the late afternoon to get outside for a walk and then stop at the cafe for some conversation.  Because I am talking with neighbors, acquaintances and friends in real time, we have really interesting conversations about AI, politics, philosophy, religion, science, what's happening around our neighborhood, etc.  We laugh together, get serious together, and there's a respect and kindness that permeates the conversations.  This has been going on for years. 

Forums online are missing this crucial information about each other.  If the same thread as this one took place in person, I would guess it may have gone differently.  People can strongly disagree with one another and still be kind and friendly.  I see it happen all the time.  But without all the vital information we get about each other when interacting in person, it becomes a bit more tricky.  Some people use that "virtual social distance" to get away with posturing, bullshit, trolling and other anti-social behavior but most people do not.  Sometimes it's hard to tell and of course we all make mistakes. 

I'm signing off now, working on a new composition.  I hope you have a good day, or night, depending upon where you are.

Best,

Jerry

Posted on Fri, Apr 22 2022 19:20
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 563

JSG, precisely what "evidence to the contrary" are you referring to? If you mean your attempts to smear, belittle and invalidate a contributor behind what you seem to find to be unacceptable propositions or opinions, and by asserting that you are a "real composer", implying that what you say carries some sort of ultimate and exclusive authority, then nah, sorry, champ, that simply ain't "evidence to the contrary" - not where I come from. I don't require permission from you to think, nor to state my views.

The interesting and revealing part about your contribution to this thread is that you'd not been named or cited in connection with any views stated here (until William rightly took you to task), yet you jumped in like a scalded cat! That's odd. Why not come clean and tell us precisely what it really is about this thread that's upset you, personally, instead of just trying to smear and invalidate people?

You did at least take issue explcitly with my comment about self-imposed deadlines. But I can tell you, your claim about that is nowhere near strong enough to reshape my experience-derived opinion on that matter.

William has demolished most of your other absurd nonsense, so I don't need to go there.

"Music embodies feeling without forcing it to contend and combine with thought, as it is forced in most arts and especially in the art of words."
~ Franz Liszt
Posted on Fri, Apr 22 2022 21:02
by Errikos
Joined on Tue, Jun 12 2007, Posts 1107

I would like to add - since it was mentioned - that everybody has his own modus operandi regarding deadlines.

In my experience however, that of colleagues with whom I have discussed the matter, and through my academic enquiries into the greats of the art, the majority of composers benefit from an externally imposed deadline. Apparently, and somehow, a deadline precipitates inspiration and generates ideas. I can personally attest to that as has pertained to numerous occasions. Otherwise, a lot of us would keep trying to improve any given work indefinitely. Of course, this highly depends on what it takes to satisfy each and every one of us, the difference in everyone's standards for what constitutes a completed work. 

In addition, deadlines are also one of the parameters that separate the men from the boys (as I have mentioned before). And I am not referring to the capability of completing a commissioned work within a specific time frame. That's a given! I am referring to the capability of completing a commissioned work within a specific time frame that is actually any good, and with which the commissioning party is satisfied enough so that you can expect repeat business from them, as well as great references to other, similarly interested parties. That is what a professional cares about. Especially the journeymen!

If you are just writing for yourself, the self-imposed kind of deadline is almost meaningless to me, unless it has to do with extraneous factors (ex.: Mahler having to write as much as possible during the summer before his conducting duties prevented him from serious composition sessions throughout the rest of the year). 

If you can't notate/MIDI it yourself, it's NOT your music!

In these modern days to be vulgar, illiterate, common and vicious, seems to give a man a marvelous infinity of rights that his honest fathers never dreamed of. - Oscar Wilde
Posted on Fri, Apr 22 2022 22:23
by Jerry Gerber
Joined on Thu, Jan 19 2006, San Francisco, CA USA, Posts 398

Originally Posted by: Macker Go to Quoted Post

The interesting and revealing part about your contribution to this thread is that you'd not been named or cited in connection with any views stated here (until William rightly took you to task), yet you jumped in like a scalded cat! That's odd. Why not come clean and tell us precisely what it really is about this thread that's upset you, personally, instead of just trying to smear and invalidate people?

William has demolished most of your other absurd nonsense, so I don't need to go there.

I am starting to feel sorry for you Macker.  Are you that bored?

As far as William "demolishing" my "nonsense", the following are William's own words.  From this thread:

"That's a great post by jsg, and so true - the line between amateur and professional is often someone just figuring out a trick of how to sell what was already being done..". 

"I apologize for overreacting like that - started focusing on the wrong things and went off..."   (addressed to me also from this thread).

Posted on Sat, Apr 23 2022 17:45
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 563

Errikos, yet more enriching views from you; I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling fortunate and grateful that you've chosen to contribute extensively here on this topic.

I agree wholeheartedly with your point about those composers who find themselves with only a matter of weeks at the tail end of a film's production and well into post production, their work probably being in critical path for the project as a whole, while investors are breathing down everyone's necks to get the movie out there making money; and yet they do a good, competent job and later win further contracts to do it again. In my book, that's hardly short of heroic.

My hat is off to those composers. I can only guess at what they go through to get through those high-pressure contracts. Furthermore, I'm usually prepared to forgive a film composer whenever I recognise bits and pieces adapted from the classics. Sometimes, when push comes to shove, you gotta do what you gotta do!

I can sympathise with Harry Gregson-Williams' decision to take a sabbatical in order to feel his feet once more. I dread to think what it had been like for him on that meat-grinder production line of contract after contract after contract.

It appears there are, sometimes, other options open to exec producers in the matter of when to bring a composer on board for a film. For example, unless I'm mistaken, wasn't John Williams engaged by George Lucas quite early on in each of the Star Wars projects? A more recent example is Hildur Gudnadóttir being engaged very early in the production phase (maybe even in pre-production?) of "Joker" to start work on her score - for which she won the Oscar for Best Original Score, along with a slew of other prestigious awards. It's quite illuminating what Hildur says here about her work on that project:-

Joker composer wrote music before seeing picture.

[The title of this video and Hildur's brief descriptions of her work on "Joker" might perhaps be a tad misleading. We do know from an interview with Hildur about her work on "Chernobyl" (another early-start contract) that she very much enjoyed and benefitted from the early phase of conceiving musical ideas for the eventual score while having only the pre-production screenplay text to read. And despite what she said modestly about not being a "word person", in the interview linked here, I'd say she is clearly highly literate as well as being musically-minded, and able to draw much from words for purposes of developing a complementing score.]

"Music embodies feeling without forcing it to contend and combine with thought, as it is forced in most arts and especially in the art of words."
~ Franz Liszt
Posted on Mon, Apr 25 2022 00:40
by Jerry Gerber
Joined on Thu, Jan 19 2006, San Francisco, CA USA, Posts 398

While some here continue to fantasize, glorify deadlines and in general show a lack of understanding about scoring to picture, I'll give you some first-hand experience. 

Scoring to picture is a very different type of collaboration than writing music for dance, ballet, opera, songs, or Broadway.  In each of those genres, music is a 50-50% collaborator.  Music has an important role in determining the pacing, length, style, form and mood of the total work.  But in scoring to picture, there's a reason it's called background music.  The composer almost always comes on to the project after the screenplay is written, the scenes are shot and the film editing is done.  Not 100% of the time, but almost.  Of course the composer might be hired before all that work begins, and may even start sketching some ideas out based on the script, but the final produced score, whether done with live players or with virtual instruments, isn't usually mixed into the film until late, more likely last, in the process.  The composer must fit the music to the scene, usually to the 1/10th of a second. This requires talent no doubt; to make the music fit and still make sense as music, to capture the mood the director wants, to avoid clashing with dialogue, this requires a certain sensitivity and skill-set.   But putting 20 or 30 or 60 short cues together for a film also lacks certain challenges that music, particularly long-form music like symphonies, sonatas, concertos, must fulfill.  One of those challenges is transitions--creating an entire piece that works from beginning to end in which the music is not just part of the drama--the music is the drama.  Though film and TV cues must sometimes make 90 degree turns and change quickly the tempo, or style, or some other property, there doesn't need to be a holistic connection between cues that are separated during the time there is no scoring happening.  I find the problem of abstract long-form writing to be more challenging and more artistically satisfying to solve than scoring to picture, but someone else may find the opposite. 

My guess is that at least half the composers working in Hollywood would stop seeking "contracts" if they suddenly found themselves with enough money to last the rest of their lives.  Some would continue to score to picture, but get very picky about what projects they'd choose to work on.  If it were a film they'd never have any interest in buying a ticket to watch, they probably would choose not to score it.  Some would turn away from scoring altogether and seek out musical projects like writing for chamber groups, or orchestras, or they'd play in a band or maybe work as a solo performer/composer or conduct.  I chose to invest nearly all my musical time in working with the virtual orchestra, it's been my passion and obsession now for over 35 years.  

There are very few films where music is the primary vehicle for the form of the work. Fantasia, Chronos and  Koyaanisqatsi come to mind, these films are driven by music and are the few exceptions to the rule.  When I scored The Adventures of Gumby, out of 99 short animated films, about 4 or 5 had no dialogue and I could write a continuous score that was like a little symphonic work in the sense that the music had to work as one long piece all the way through.  But the vast majority of scoring situations do not offer the composer that challenge.

There are people around this thread who have not spent a life in the arts; that's fine, not everyone wants to devote themselves to working in an artistic medium.  But if I joined a forum of engineers and physicists and began talking to them like I was in their league, me, a guy who has never studied engineering and who knows next to nothing about physics, I'd be laughed at or pitied if I insisted on asserting that I know as much about their field as they do. And if I started belittling them because I didn't like them disagreeing with me they'd probably think I was just an immature jerk.  I respect people who show humility, who ask questions, who show curiosity and willingness to learn new things.  People who can say, "You know, I'm wrong about that, thanks for pointing out my mistake".  Nobody particularly enjoys being wrong, but those honest souls with integrity admit when they are.  Defending pet theories about the amateur vs the professional in the arts that are clearly wrong is just bullshit. 100% unadulterated bullshit.

Posted on Mon, Apr 25 2022 16:07
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5710

Jerry Gerber, your definition  of film music is of course correct for most composers, but is completely formed and circumscribed by the commercial practice.  You have experienced that kind of scoring because it is what usually takes place.  But it is not the ideal of film music.  The ideal usually can't be obtained, but it is not to be buried, abandoned or assumed to be non-existent the way you do.  The aesthetic reality of an art medium is NOT simply the most usual degradation of that medium.   And the simplistic concept that you brought up - that film music has no overall structure unlike symphonies, operas, etc. - is DEAD WRONG in the case of a great film score.  To me the greatest film score of all is Herrmann's Vertigo and it is music that is superior to most music in any field written at the time. Including concert hall music.   It creates - as Herrmann himself stated as his goal - an overall structure to the film bound together by musical motifs and orchestrations.   

What you are doing in your comment is reducing an art form to its worst practices and most degraded examples, and then using that to judge the art from. That is lamentably wrong. 

One other thing - you mention that an "amateur" or someone outside of a field is being arrogant in actually conversing and discussing things with professionals.  I totally disagree - some of the best comments on this Forum have not been from a clique of composers who look down on non-professionals, but from scientists and engineers who have fascinatingly objective concepts that are often startling and - by virtue of being outside the usual "professional" discourse - inspiring.  I love the mix of scientific with musical ideas as there are often fascinating parallels. 

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