Composers' Forum

Music Composers Unite!

Are we selling ourselves out?

 

I've written music since about 1979. I did not know anyone else who did it: I had no support. Paper and pencil & an upright piano that cost $75. Things got more expensive, but always within thrifty reason. Music was cheaper than painting, in those days.

 

Then, in the 1990s, I purchased Finale, and a digital harpsichord, and a Proteus Orchestral sequencer. All consternating, and a waste of money. I wrote stuff - which now sits in a box. It will never be looked at again. The entire set-up (with PC) came to over $2,000.

 

After 1999, I have had no more of high technology in music. But I paid attention enough to see that all that I bought was worthless. I went underground for a while.

 

In 2007, I decided to have fun with video. It started as an exhilerating hobby. I found YouTube, and made lots of dumb vloggy things: few survived my mood swings. I'm hot on the delete button.

 

I decided that I had a new use for music: I could play in "public" - and I could play my own compositions. If I got 100 views that might be more than a real concert attendance. In a way, that strategy worked. YouTube, Dailymotion, Vimeo are all free. The cost was in the cameras, and some editing software. My ambition led me to spend $1000, at least. Over 3 years, it has really been more like $3000 for video/recording stuff.

 

So I have decent mics, and a good prosumer HD camcorder. A good laptop. And then, I discovered composers on the Internet. Digital orchestras still sound horrible, for the most part. But those who spend a little extra, or have the latest, and spend time tweaking the scores: the sound is almost useful for a personal filmscore. I became enchanted.

 

[I almost don't notice that I pay $50 per month for cable Internet.]

 

If I choose to "upgrade" and buy notation software and the rest, I will be spending a lot of time and money. And it makes me awfully nervous. Part of me pulls away - and I fantasize about going Offline. Just check my email at the public library, a few times a week.

 

More important to me than whether I buy anything: who benefits from the expense? And how creative is it really, after all? Using someone else's algorithms... 

 

Why do I need to write for orchestra? Who seduced me into that fantasy?

 

The costs will never end: and they will remain at the top shelf of what we can afford - we, the average. Upgrades are a must.  But worse: I am annoyed that so few composers, videographers, photographers, musicians have even noticed that they are in perpetual debt.  

 

Finale, Sibelius, Garritan, Adobe, Windows, Apple - they don't care a fig for my produce. They care that I remain addicted to their product. And addicted to a dream. Costly - unnecessarily costly.

 

There are cheaper ways to do this. For now, I write for piano, or organ, with paper/pencil. I play my own works. I use free publishers, like YouTube. If I was so wonderful, I would have been discovered 20 years ago. I lost some money: corporations won it. But they will not get everything.

 

How expensive is composition supposed to be?

  

Views: 740

Replies are closed for this discussion.

Replies to This Discussion

Another view of this: the World is in ecological catastrophe status as for music, art in general, and information in general. Even if we wipe out bad-quality music, there is still too much good music for the listeners for being able to choose what they like.

This catastrophe is created by technology, especially radio and recording industry, and it started about 100 years ago. The expensive modern technology, mentioned by you, tries to resolve this, but in fact drags us into still deeper pit. The only possible cure for this is some authoritative and professional body, not financially driven, that criticises, promotes good music, and labels it into genres for better accessibility by public. Somewhat Music Academy.

I doubt music labels, or film industry stars, or music journals are such bodies. They are money-driven. Music libraries are not suitable for this too - there are too many of them; besides, some of them have this qustionable payed self-promotion service, also designed for taking our money for nothing.
I'm not really sure I see your point here Sylvester.

The only thing that strikes me about modern hobbies is that people want what the professionals use. This has lead to the creation of yet another hideous portmanteau: prosumer. I think this is where your beef lies.

Prosumer products are another amazing marketing gimmick where hobbyists feel like they are buying the same gear as the professionals. With the transparency of the Internet this means that we can all chase after the top libraries hoping to sound like the top dogs. This is where the Gear Acquisition Syndrome truly strikes.

I think it's a matter of accepting whether this is a hobby or business. If it's a hobby then it's a matter of accepting what you can happily afford. As you rightly say, writing with pencil and paper can be enough to enjoy composing. If you want advice on buying economical software and sample libraries then I will be all too happy to help you.

On the other hand if you are planning to work with this as a business then you need a viable business plan. For me I have had no problem committing a significant amount of money to what was effectively a business plan. This has paid off for me and there's no doubt that having top equipment has made my showreels shine. There is still a LOT of money around to be made in this industry despite what people will tell you.
Andrew Gleibman said:
The only possible cure for this is some authoritative and professional body, not financially driven, that criticises, promotes good music, and labels it into genres for better accessibility by public. Somewhat Music Academy.

That way, madness lies! There is no 'body' capable of making a value judgement on music that is not informed by it's own prejudice.
Just look at the history of (western art ) music. How many times did Berlioz and Ravel fail to win the Prix de Rome? The soviets versus Shostakovich?
I think it was Holst who said 'Never compose anything unless the not composing of it becomes a positive nuisance to you'.

Finding your audience or public, that's the hard bit. In my opinion, this age of information, whilst giving us composers access to potentially billions of listeners, has become flooded with hundreds of thousands of hopeful composers competing for attention. So nothing has really changed.
Technology just helps a little talent go a longer way.
Having a virtual orchestra at your fingertips is very seductive to most composers who want to realize their ideas. But the danger is concentrating on the tools instead of the music.

Oh the hours spent with my nose in a computer manual, or a sampler manual or on my knees wiring a studio or trying to make a bunch of diodes and circuits sound like Isaac Stern! I could have spent more time with my nose in the scores of the great masters or
practicing my species counterpoint!

LOL !!

Also... the 'professionals' may have the budget that allows them to create highly polished finished products but that doesn't mean that the actual music they write is any better than that created by a someone with a synth and a free sequencer. It just means that the client or the public or the listener doesn't have to make a leap of imagination when listening to it.
I very much agree with your points there Michael. I do feel in the media world that polished productions are currently easier to pitch than good music. I even hear composers like James Horner talking about erducing the 'orchestral flourish' in his writing and I'm disappointed by it.

Hey I see you are in London. Would you be interested in coming along to the get-together in October?
If I can, I will, James. Sounds fun.

James Semple said:
I very much agree with your points there Michael. I do feel in the media world that polished productions are currently easier to pitch than good music. I even hear composers like James Horner talking about erducing the 'orchestral flourish' in his writing and I'm disappointed by it.

Hey I see you are in London. Would you be interested in coming along to the get-together in October?
I think I come somewhere in between the two extremes of this discussion. The people I want to sell music to are only interested in the score, and that's it........... or so they say.

When I was at university and we were given an essay or dissertation to complete, it was accepted that we could hand in handwritten work (as opposed to word-processed work). However, somebody close to me made light of the fact that although the various professors who mark the work say that handwritten work is perfectly permissible, they may subconsciously mark up work that is better presented and easier to read, even if they don't mean to.

When I render my work into audio format (comparitively economically to a lot of composers), I can honestly say that I do it for myself to listen to, not only for my own personal pleasure, but also to make adjustments necessary to fulfil my satisfaction that the standard of music is high. However, when I have finally notated it to the very best of my ability and I am happy that the visual work is as perfect as I can possibly make it. I will submit an audio recording of it to accompany the score, as I am well aware of the above analogy concerning "word-processed" homework.

By the way Michael. That's a great quote from Holst: 'Never compose anything unless the not composing of it becomes a positive nuisance to you'. It sums me up.
Passion is free - and the basis of life, including music.

If it doesn't light a fire in one's gut, what's the point anyway?

Personally, I never saw a reason to give up pen and manuscript. (and probably never will)
Sorry Michael, I do not completely understand what exactly is a mad lie here. Maybe I am a bit naive. I agree a professional committee can be biased. But it's exactly the bias and madness of money made Zimmer produce this loud track for "Inception", which is as precise, technologically proficient and expressive as a water-flash device in a toilet. For a professional committee, which evaluates music, to be biased towards money only is much much worse than "making a value judgement on music that is informed by its own prejudice".

As the result we have these crowds of people shaking their bodies and belching under dull music loops of ideal mechanical quality. Welcome to the world of loud inexpensive music loops, available to milions for 1 cent or even for free. Farewell Bach, Beethoven Shostakovich, Stravinsky, whose music needs a Music Academy for promotion and explanation!
I think that the word processor metaphor is a little misleading.
You see, if one presents a score to a film director or a song publisher or a choreographer or whoever, they won't be able to 'hear' it.
Whereas, a dissertation or essay, whether hand written or typed is understood by everyone, obviously.
It's like a playwright having to record the voices of his characters on to a tape to play to a director or publisher because they can't read the manuscript.
Most people are, in a word, illiterate as far as musical dots are concerned. This has always been the case. No complaints about that. However, once upon a time every publisher had a piano in their office and a film composer could play to a producer or director the main themes on a piano and say this will be brass, that will be strings etc.
What the 'virtual' instrument software has done has made it so nothing can be left to the imagination- unless one is a well established writer with a good working relationship with said directors, choreographers etc. It is very hard for the newbie to break in without some digital assistance.

I agree with Nick C though. It is impossible to write anything in any genre if it doesn't 'float your boat'.

In the end the best (for me) 'classical', 'concert' or non 'applied' music is that which is written down and then performed by good musicians. However, many fans of music concrete or electronic sound design will disagree on that!


Simon Godden said:
I think I come somewhere in between the two extremes of this discussion. The people I want to sell music to are only interested in the score, and that's it........... or so they say.

When I was at university and we were given an essay or dissertation to complete, it was accepted that we could hand in handwritten work (as opposed to word-processed work). However, somebody close to me made light of the fact that although the various professors who mark the work say that handwritten work is perfectly permissible, they may subconsciously mark up work that is better presented and easier to read, even if they don't mean to.

When I render my work into audio format (comparitively economically to a lot of composers), I can honestly say that I do it for myself to listen to, not only for my own personal pleasure, but also to make adjustments necessary to fulfil my satisfaction that the standard of music is high. However, when I have finally notated it to the very best of my ability and I am happy that the visual work is as perfect as I can possibly make it. I will submit an audio recording of it to accompany the score, as I am well aware of the above analogy concerning "word-processed" homework.

By the way Michael. That's a great quote from Holst: 'Never compose anything unless the not composing of it becomes a positive nuisance to you'. It sums me up.
Andrew Gleibman said:
Sorry Michael, I do not completely understand what exactly is a mad lie here. Maybe I am a bit naive. I agree a professional committee can be biased. But it's exactly the bias and madness of money made Zimmer produce this loud track for "Inception", which is as precise, technologically proficient and expressive as a water-flash device in a toilet. For a professional committee, which evaluates music, to be biased towards money only is much much worse than "making a value judgement on music that is informed by its own prejudice".

As the result we have these crowds of people shaking their bodies and belching under dull music loops of ideal mechanical quality. Welcome to the world of loud inexpensive music loops, available to milions for 1 cent or even for free. Farewell Bach, Beethoven Shostakovich, Stravinsky, whose music needs a Music Academy for promotion and explanation!

Well Andrew, perhaps you can define 'good' music. We live in a splintered or fragmented cultural reality. It is possible to like Beethoven and a good techno track, and a good jazz performance and a good pop song. As long as you judge them on their own terms.
And I am afraid that money was the bottom line for Mozart et al as it is for Hans Zimmer. I would no more expect Zimmer to produce a masterpiece in the symphonic tradition than I would expect a Yo Yo Ma to do a great version of Giant steps.
I'm all for educating the young to appreciate the jewels of western art music but in Beethoven's day and since time immemorial 'art' was and always will be a minority interest.
I don't want an idiot in the 'Polit Bureau telling me I shouldn't listen to Jay-Z or Lady Gaga! Or for that matter some academic self interested pressure group telling me that serialism or tonal composition or this structure or that style is better. How would they know?
I think I generally agree with the consensus here about spending the time working on compositional skill rather than just production. Of course it depends what you want to be. This forum is for composers of all ilk, not solely concert composers.

If you are one of the lucky people who gets to have an orchestra perform their music then of course you don't need expensive mockups.

If you are a media composer competing against other media composers for a job then you need high-quality libraries. Even John Williams is asked to produce mockups these days (or was on his last few gigs). I can say with empirical evidence that using high-quality libraries and production has worked very well for me in this area. I would also say that in the case of media music (which has influences from all worlds including pop music) developing complex writing may end up as a detriment. In the current market it seems that high production values and fairly simple writing is the order of the day. This is not a value judgement at all but I believe an honest evaluation of the market.

I hated learning about production and had to be forced at gunpoint to do it but for my career as a film composer I needed the skills. Whilst I agree with Kristofer that the inherent musicality of a great piece still comes across TO US COMPOSERS even when rendered with cheap samples I will absolutely guarantee that a worse piece of writing with fantastic sonic qualities will impress producers and directors more.

For the record, I also disliked the Inception score.
Just to clarify in my last post when I said 'If you are one of the lucky people who gets to have an orchestra perform their music then of course you don't need expensive mockups.' I was really talking about concert composers. Media composers who use orchestras these days still generally need high-quality mockups to get their cues signed off.

RSS

Sign up info

Read before you sign up to find out what the requirements are!

Store

© 2021   Created by Gav Brown.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service