I survived 2012. This is how it was!

The New Year means it's time to have a look back over the past year and see, through my blog posts, what has taken shape and what I have to say for myself! January started with a very well deserved "Shout-out to VaultPress" after they marvellously got my website back up and running after a meltdown!

3100508059_5c99a0f9e1_zFebruary is the start of the school term and I posted about the preparation work I do for schools.

My typing fingers must have been tired at the end of March - it started with two popular posts, iOS apps for music professionals and Digital music stands vs iPads, following on from, again, two very popular posts I did in 2010.

2012-05-15 APO Open Days 236

Following that were four posts on current projects - "Working on workshops" looked at some teaching workshops I was involved with, "An opportunity to make the floor rumble" talked about my upcoming new work for the Auckland Philharmonia and the Auckland Town Hall Organ. I conducted at the Bay Of Plenty Music School once again and my post, "Bay Of Plenty music school hit Rotorua!", pre-empted my visit there, and finally "Opening up an orchestra" reviewed the first two Auckland Philharmonia Open Days were I ran the "meet the composer" area.

In April I reviewed my time at the Bay Of Plenty Music School in "Making music in Rotorua" and posted photos in "Checking out the pipes" after an inspiring tour of the Auckland Town Hall Organ.

My Confession image May is music month and "A month of New Zealand music" checked out the events me or my music was involved with. It's also 48 Hour Film Festival time and our film this year was "My Confession…".

In June I talked about my involvement with Auckland Symphony's "Night Of The Proms" concerts in "Promenading in the colony" and I posted "Questions for a composer" after answering questions for a student's school assignment.

In July I posted my one word review of each piece from the "Nelson Composers Workshop 2012" where I was very happy to go this year as a mentor.

APO "Tiraki" workshopAugust is KBB Music Festival time and I also posted on the ongoing saga regarding the future of Sibelius in "What the heck is happening with Sibelius!". My piece, Tiraki, started to take shape after another workshop with the Auckland Philharmonia.

September was rather dormant on the blog front but in October I reviewed “What Lurks Among Saints” after being invited by a student I met earlier in the year.

The-Hobbit1In November I had the privilege of "Playing my role in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", and I posted about the experience.

December was busy with a number of projects. In "Little pieces of Christmas" I talked about a bunch of Christmas arrangements I did for the Auckland Philharmonia and Auckland Symphony orchestras. I also talked about a film I was involved with, called "Sounds Perfect" and its selection into the Tropfest final in “Sounds Perfect” to be in a final". I then prepared music for some very fine New Zealand singers and talked about it in "Preparing for some legends!".

christmas-musicFinally, no year is complete without a "Merry Christmas" post thanking you for all of your support during the year and the compliments of the season.

Another year ticked off the list, another year doing my absolute dream job - let's get ready for an even better 2013!

REVIEW: "What Lurks Among Saints"

What Lurks Among Saints On Friday night I had the pleasure of going to see the Liston College musical, "What Lurks Among Saints". Never heard of it? That's because it is new, brand new! An impressive feat for any school music department, even more so when the script and music is written by students and the director is the head boy. I met the composer, Josiah Carr, at an APO Open Day earlier this year where he came and said hello. He mentioned then that he was writing a musical and although being mightily impressed, I was well aware of the massive amount of work it takes to put a musical on to the stage. So, I was pleasantly surprised when he emailed me recently to invite me to opening night!

To set the scene, here is a short synopsis courtesy of the Liston College head of music, Janice Spearritt:

"In 1962 the townspeople of Chicago are gearing up for what seems to be another dreary election. After a year of mismanagement under the current Mayor the citizens are looking for a change. Victor Whitman is a newcomer to Chicagoan politics and seems to have stolen the attention of many of the townspeople including the determined businesswoman, Angelina Iverson. CEO of the largest stationery company in the Mid-West, she recently has had the Mayor at her beck and call, but seems to be abandoning the sinking ship. Her sights are currently set on expansion of her company and monetary gain, with acquisition of the foreclosed Chicago downtown Cathedral on the agenda. However she is meeting resistance from Stanley Glasgow, the manager of the downtown bank currently in possession of the church. Not that the church was going to put up without a fight, the clergy are set to try anything they can, even if it means to back the unpopular Mayor." Rosalina Rodriguez arrives to the convent in Chicago, a happy, optimistic novice sent from California, unaware of the struggle the church is facing. Her presence seems to have an uplifting effect and the church seems to gain traction. But when everything starts to look hopeful, catastrophe strikes – a catastrophe which turns Chicago upside down. Tension is high, romance is evident, and Chicago is in chaos. Lives are at stake, as everyone is searching for, what lurks among saints."

So, there is a lot going on. The "Inspector" did provide a short introduction but it was the first of many dialogues (or songs) not entirely comprehendible due to the band being too loud. This was an essential dialogue considering no one in the audience knew what it was about. A short synopsis or "scene-setter" in the programme would have also been nice so we could enjoy and understand it right from the beginning.

The band was made up of a flute, 3 clarinets, soprano saxophone, 2 alto saxophones, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, 2 trumpets, trombone, drums, piano, synthesizer, electric and bass guitars and 2 violins. A nice group, and they made a great sound, but I wonder if the instrument numbers were too large for this setting and a smaller group would mean more control over dynamic contrasts and problems wouldn't arise like mentioned above.

The music itself, however, was very well developed. It fitted the 1962 Chicago setting and as well as being stylistically aware, it was clearly original and gave the production a unique sound. Themes were well used, recurring as they should and providing a clear musical element for our ears to catch on to. While the full ensemble writing was indeed very polished, more variety with smaller combinations of instruments and different textures/colours could add even more strength to the production. There was some great links between the music and comedic happenings on stage, and some very fine moments of ensemble singing.

The performance of the music was good, clearly a lot of work had gone in. The rhythm section was a real asset and the brass in particular managed some very high and exposed passages impressively. Josiah very securely conducted the ensemble and the only minor slips came due to either him being not well illuminated or due to the bulk of the musicians being quite a distance away.

On stage it had everything it needed - romance, death, humour, intrigue, religion, politics, scandal and more. The lead characters all had a lot to offer, some great stereotypes and some fantastic lines to amuse us. There were a lot, however, and all coming at the story from different angles so there is a lot to keep on top of.

Being a musical, you do expect a script with twists and turns, fantastic music and... choreography. I was a tad disappointed that there was no dance sequences until the very end. It was good when it came, but it is a key element of musicals so would have been nice for some more. Dance sequences are also a chance for the music to shine and for the musicians to let loose.

My wife and I both thoroughly enjoyed the production. Huge congratulations to Josiah Carr (composer), Anthony Yelavich (script-writer) and James Devereaux (director) for creating and producing a very enjoyable and successful show - an accomplishment many only ever dream about. Major kudos also needs to go to the music department and school for giving the students this opportunity and supporting it through the final step.

Read a newspaper article on the three students here.

The production had three shows on 19th and 20th October at the Massey High School Performing Arts Centre. It also involved students from St Dominic’s College.

2011 through the eyes of a blog

And just like that, another year is gone! Here is a look at my posts for the year. thinking web picThe blogging year started in March with my favourite book arriving, "Behind Bars", which I preordered in 2010. It is definitely the most used book on my shelf! I then talked about two approaching projects:

In April I introduced my new work, "blimp", and reviewed two projects - a song I helped a friend create and my work at the BOP music school:

May was a busy month, so in June I talked about what I had been up to - writing 31 microscores and the premiere of "blimp":

In July I posted the video I worked on with Sideways Productions:

In August and September I covered my involvement in the KBB Music Festival and some composition tutorials that I held in Kerikeri:

October was the kick off of the Rugby World Cup here in New Zealand, I talked about my involvement in the opening ceremony and also made a post about what exactly I do when "preparing music" and why you would need someone like me to do it:

December means Christmas and I posted some Christmas carols that I prepared for my students. I also composed a new "holiday" piece for my Christmas post:

Happy New Year everyone, bring on 2012!

An exploration "Behind Bars"

A few days ago, "Behind Bars", the new book by Elaine Gould, arrived in the post. Have I ever been so happy for a book to arrive? Probably not. Have I had a spring in my step ever since? Possibly. Have I taken it to bed to read most nights? Unashamedly yes! Did my heart warm when I read a few lines of the index? Indeed. Is my excitement justified? Absolutely.

"... an extraordinary achievement... I would pray that it becomes a kind of Holy Writ for notation in the coming century..." - Sir Simon Rattle

Behind Bars

It is subtitled as the definitive guide to music notation and is already regarded as the most comprehensive authority on the subject. The brochure (see PDF link below) sets the scene well:

"Behind Bars is the indispensable reference book for composers, arrangers, teachers and students of composition, editors, and music processors. In the most thorough and painstakingly researched book to be published since the 1980s ... it has never been more important for musicians to have ready access to principles of best practice in this dynamic field, and this timely book will support the endeavours of software users and devotees of hand-copying alike ... Supported by 1,500 music examples of published scores from Bach to Xenakis, this seminal and all-encompassing guide encourages new standards of excellence and accuracy."

It has been thirty years since the last major book on music notation. Practices have changed hugely since then and so the need for such a book is well overdue. Elaine talks about the development of the book, which started in 1990, in this great interview on the Sibelius Blog.

behindbarscoverThe book is divided in to three sections 1) general conventions, 2) idiomatic notation, and 3) layout and presentation. My favourite parts are probably some of the insights in the idiomatic writing sections, such as writing for the classical guitar. Also, the sections on notating electroacoustic music and on freedom and choice - cadenzas, ad lib. passages, independent repetition and so on - as until now there has been no authority on these areas. The cross-referencing is super effective and seamlessly done, and because it is so concise I know it will be the go-to book for everything I do for many years to come.

"With the explosion of music publishing software in recent years, the need for authoritative guides on music notation has never been more pressing. ... Elaine Gould's book is bound to be a hallmark of best notation practice. I fully imagine it will become the bible of music creators everywhere." - Matthew Hindson (Australia)

When typesetting and preparing music there are hundreds, often thousands, of decisions that are made. Taking time to think about each one and not having a definitive answer from today's music prep standards can be very time consuming. The confidence that each of the 704 pages will provide is priceless.

"We have all been eagerly awaiting Elaine's monumental study. Those who have had as many years of her editorial guidance as I have will concur that she is clearly the one person with the requisite breadth and length of experience to render a balanced and penetrating view of the chaotic world of notation as it currently exists." - Jonathan Harvey (UK)

If you are interested in reading further, see the promotional brochure here (PDF), the website here or the article I mentioned above here. Or, just order your copy!

SoundCloud, move your music

soundcloud_logoRecently I signed up to SoundCloud, interested to see exactly what it was all about. I really, really like it. It describes itself as the following:

SoundCloud lets you move music fast & easy. The platform takes the daily hassle out of receiving, sending & distributing music for artists, record labels & other music professionals.

I am still only new, but have been uploading some tracks and am using it to power my music player, and soon will use its' smallest widget to place short samples in my catalogue. It's also easy to embed single samples in emails, pages and blog posts, like here:

Wild Daisies by ryanyouens

The receiving and sending of music is a service I have yet to require but with a beautiful drop box which you can embed on your own site, I can see this will be an easy process, just like using every other service.

There are various plans including of course a free account, and they are limited by duration, not by file size. Hallelujah! So you don't have to think twice about uploading your beautiful high quality recording.

What I really like is that it is set up for music professionals and there really is no attraction for others. It has great social features so there is the ability to upload a track, mark it as a work in progress, share it only between your friends and get feedback. When commenting on a track, you can select at any duration and comment there. For example, at 1:39 you may wish to say "Ryan, what's the chord here? It's crazy!".

There is a nice mix of genres, everything from DJ's to real music - classical, film and contemporary. Also an increasing amount of New Zealander's on there which is good to see.

So many beautiful features so take a tour here or sign in and follow my music here.

Christian Kolonovits, give me some more of that!

I just saw The North Face (Nordwand) at the NZ International Film Festival. It is a new film that's come out of Germany, Austria AND Switzerland and is fantastic ... but I'm not here to talk about the plot!! The score was by a Austrian composer, Christian Kolonovits. Oh my. It was quite something. I got it off iTunes as soon as I got home and I'm listening to it again now. Far out. It is a fully orchestral score and he does a great job of suiting it to its 1936 setting, but still, musically it is so fresh and very relevant to today. It is very nice to hear the orchestra still being used purely by itself, with no modern technology helping it along. The BEST thing is that there is no Hollywood influence in his music, which is so refreshing. Perhaps I need to be keeping an eye out for more European film composers. In the film it adds so much to the already hugely powerful scenes, but listening to the music now, it could so easily be moulded together to create some sort of 45 minute masterpiece in it's own right.

Here is the trailer where you get a sneak peak of the film, but as for the music ... it's a trailer, so uses other music ... you might notice the opening passage is from James Horner's score to A Beautiful Mind. This is the original trailer (not english version with subtitles):

Christian Kolonovits really did a great job. I can't wait to hear more of his work. If anyone has heard of him or knows any of his music I'd be interested to hear from you. Go find some music online from this film, it's worth it. Here is Christian's website: www.kolonovits.com.

Sibelius: How it compares, version 6 and composing with software

Well I often get asked what is the difference between Sibelius and Finale, which one is better and so on. So I thought I'd post a blog to put my views down and also to share some links which I think are just wonderful. Basically, my view is that Sibelius is a musician's program. It is intuitive and works as you'd want it to work. Finale is a programmer's program, it is powerful like Sibelius, but doesn't have the same ease of use. Despite an odd but common belief, as a Sibelius user there is nothing I have not found that I am able to do. As a copyist I tend to work the program hard, and so far to great success. There are of course a few features that differ, these do tend to be in favour of Sibelius. In the past Sibelius has been dominant in Australasia, Europe and the UK, and Finale was dominant in the Americas. This is changing, with Sibelius becoming very popular in America and Finale working it's way into the UK. Some publishers and copying houses swear by Sibelius, others with Finale, so perhaps it is becoming a fair share between the two companies. I won't get too deep into specifics because Daniel Spreadbury, the senior product manager for Sibelius, has a superb blog which answers all possible questions on this topic. A recent entry covers the specifics on this topic, where Sibelius leads, it's unique features, and why it's the copyists' choice, engravers' choice and teachers' choice.


What has brought Sibelius further into dominance as the world's leading notation program, is their recently released Sibelius 6. Another great blog is Daniel's two-part introduction to this new version. In part one he talks about the story behind Sibelius 6.


In part two he describes how they approached the development of their three biggest goals, Classroom Control, Versions, and their Keyboard and Fretboard windows.


Also related to this is a great new blog by Kenneth Froelich who is the Assistant Professor in Music Composition at California State University, Fresno. It is about composing with music software. He puts it that "as both a composer and a teacher of music composition, I have seen many of the missteps, pratfalls, and outright disasters that tend to come about from writing music on the computer. However, through my own personal experience, as well as working directly with my students, I have come up with several strategies and pedagogical approaches to help young composers recognize and overcome the traps that tend to hinder successful "computer composition"." It will be an interesting blog to keep an eye on.


I hope this is interesting reading for all of you. Enjoy.

EventFinder vs NZLive

Hey everyone, another NZ events page is eventfinder.co.nz. It stacks up against NZLive really well for browsing through. But the catch is that to list events, or to monitor events, you have to pay. There is a free option but you can only list OR monitor ONE event at a time. NZLive seems to do everything it can plus a bit more and it's free. Eventfinder have been around since the beginning of the year, so it will be interesting to see if/what they introduce to have that something different against NZLive. Anyway it IS a great site and definitely worth a look if you're on the hunt for events. If you've been to one or either site, let me know what you think. Check it out www.eventfinder.co.nz.

National Youth Orchestra 2006

Well tonight I went to the 2006 NYO concert (NZ National Youth Orchestra). The first of three concerts, the others in Auckland and Christchurch. It was also the premiere of Claire Cowan's new work "Trains of Thinking" (see her site here). Anyway, WOW, concert was fantastic. The highlight by far was Shostakovich's Symphony No.10. It was really well played. The strings this year are incredibly tight and are HUGE. I think I counted 12 violas. THATS AWESOME. The percussion as well was great - it's a great symphony for the percussion. Anyway Claire's piece was amazing. She's always so original and innovative - absolutely loved the piece. Make sure you visit her site here.

Of course afterwards it was fantastic to catch up with everyone from years past.