Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category



30
Oct
08

10/30/2008 – The Frankenstein Method

Often during the process of writing and producing a song, I step back for a moment to analyze the construction, to see if the song is well-developed.  To achieve this, I use what I call “the Frankenstein method”, in which I visualize certain aspects of the song in relation to the human body.  For example, in my mind’s eye, I equate the melody (the top line) to the eyes, the windows of the soul.  I then see the chord progression as the heart and mid-section of my imaginary torso.  Finally, I compare the bass line, rhythm and foundation of my song, to the legs of my creation – considering whether these perspectives are harmonically strong and stable enough to support my fantasy life form.  Yes – it all does sound rather Frankensteinian, doesn’t it?!  But this somewhat unusual approach, on innumerable occasions, has helped me study with defined clarity, the working mechanics of a song.  By doing this, I gain a glimpse of the universal in the particular.  It’s my way of freeing the imagination to see the song as organic and natural – a living thing.  That doesn’t mean that every time I finish a tune in my laboratory (Oh, sorry, I mean my studio), I cry out to the heavens, “It’s alive!  It’s alive!”, but if truth be told, the feeling of accomplishment is something akin to that.

I admire the writing and thought of 19th-Century German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, who believed music to be the highest art form.  He had a most intriguing outlook on music.  He held true that music articulates the inner-nature of all things.  He wrote, “The ground-bass is in harmony what inorganic nature, the crudest mass on which everything rests and from which everything originates and develops, is in the world.  Further, in the whole range of notes that produce the harmony between the bass and the leading voice singing the melody, I recognized the whole graduation of the ideas in which the will objectifies itself ….”  He adds, “Finally, in the melody, in the high, singing, principle voice, leading the whole and progressing with unrestrained freedom, in the uninterrupted significant connection of one thought from beginning to end, and expressing a whole, I recognize the highest grade of the will’s objectification, the intellectual life and endeavors of man.”  Wagner also believed music to be strongly connected with the true nature of all things in the world when he wrote, “Instruments represent the primal organs of Creation and Nature; their expression can never be clearly defined and formulated since they convey the primal feelings as they first issued forth from the chaos of the Creation; perhaps even before there was any human heart to hear and feel.”  I find it thrilling and fascinating to think that the essence of music is none of man’s doing, that it was built into the world long before we arrived.  Pythagoras was the first to show that the basic intervals on which Western music is constructed inhere in the world, independently of man.  To demonstrate this, he most famously plucked a string to sound a note, then halved the length of the string and showed that plucking it produced the same note an octave higher.

Every time I attempt to write a song, I try to allow my gut instincts and raw emotions to lead the way.  It amazes me that, behind this simple human outpouring of expression – this humble communication of sound – lies a complex and profound mathematical mystery born of nature herself.  Amazing too, that when we hear a song that we like, we, in general, don’t know why we like it – we just do.  We feel it!  It’s as though it was just meant to be, inherited somewhere deep within our human nature.

And so to finish:  Thank you Mary Shelley, for writing your masterpiece – and for inspiring me to look at my songs-in-progress from within a weird and wonderful framework, hopefully enabling me to animate some little melodic monsters of my own.

“Feel is all”

Goethe

Thanks for stopping by.

– Martin

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16
Jun
07

6/16/2007 – Podcasts, Soccer and Bloody Noses

Hello again, all.  Well, a few weeks ago, we held the one-year anniversary show of the Podcast in which I am regularly involved – that being www.audionowcast.com.  The show was recorded in front of a live audience of friends and followers, and was, by all accounts, a great success.  The Podcast (organized by my good friend of many years, Mike Rodriguez) brings together myself and three other resident music pros and a guest speaker, to talk — to discuss, comment and debate the state of today’s music technology.  I am the token songwriter amongst the technical heavyweights.  I am told I’m there to add my penny’s worth regarding the songwriter’s perspective in this age of the digital revolution.  Check out the Audionowcast website and the Audionowcast Myspace page (www.myspace.com/audionowcast).  We have completed a year’s-worth of shows talking about a wide range of subjects, and believe me, the shows are not just about technology, and they contain a great deal of humour and irreverence.  Check it out (it can be found on iTunes as well).

In my spare time, I’ve been indulging in one of my other passions besides music – soccer (“football” to us Brits).  When I was a lad, I was signed as an apprentice to Southampton Football Club (“The Saints”), and all I wanted and hoped to be was a professional player some day.  Alas, that was not to be, and music eventually came along to steal my heart.  As a 16-year-old, I represented my city, my county (Hampshire) and the South of England, as a schoolboy player – and the passion for the game has remained with me ever since.  I regularly still play games with ex patroits, x-professionals, and friends on the weekends in the Los Angeles area.  I’m lucky enough to join Robbie Williams (whom you may also know as a soccer fanatic) for games on his very own soccer pitch!  Robbie has been a very gracious host on and off the field of play, and is a gifted player with an educated left foot!

I often get asked to play in celebrity games, and just recently I played a charity game for the Hollywood Allstars team.  It was great fun playing with friends from the Entertainment Industry for a good cause.  The Hollywood Allstars regularly features celebrities like Vinnie Jones, Steve Jones (Sex Pistols), Rod Stewart and Gary Richards (Fox Sports T.V. commentator).  I was enjoying this particular game in which I was involved (beautiful day, good crowd, party atmosphere), until, in a goal-mouth scramble for a highball in the penalty box, my nose was punched and smashed by MY OWN GOALKEEPER!  (As a defender, I have had my nose broken many times in the past – so I’m used to it).  As a result of this clash, I am told, my nose was pushed back into a straight position!!!!  Unfortunately, I had to retire from the match because of the nose bleed I had acquired, but at least I have a reasonably straight nose again – o lucky me.  Only a week earlier, I was nursing a black eye for my troubles on the field….. I suppose I must learn not to be quite so competitive on the pitch these days.

Before I sign off, I’d like to continue the trend of telling you about the books I’m enjoying at this time:-  “The Friendship — Wordsworth and Coleridge” by Adam Sisman – a study of the relationship between these two great writers; “Solitude – A Return To The Self” by Anthony Storr – a profound exploration of solitude and its role in the lives of creative individuals; and “Here, There and Everywhere” by Geoff Emerick and Howard Massey – the inside story by the innovative engineer who recorded The Beatles’ greatest albums.

Well, there we are – thanks for the indulgence.  Until next time, live lightly on the Earth.

— Martin