Pointwood Big Band Live

Here is a video that I discovered last Monday of one of our recent concerts. I do not know who shot the video (assuming that DANMUPPET is not a real name), but the quality is rather good. The sound quality is reasonable given the fact that it was an open air concert and we only used minimal amplification. The reason why I walk of the stage in the first part is that I wanted to check the sound balance. Unfortunately the "engineers" had left the mixing console and where nowhere to be found! By the way, this is not our strongest number on the list (by a long shot!), so if you want to hear what the band can really sound like, you will have to come and see us live! The next opportunity is Saturday 25 september 14:00 - 16:00 at the Munsterplein in Roermond. Maybe I will see you there!

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Les Paul dies at age 94

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From gibson's website:"Les Paul, acclaimed guitar player, entertainer and inventor passed away today from complications of severe pneumonia". That is sad news indeed. Of course many people know the Gibson guitar named after him, but I wonder how many computer musicians today know how much of a legacy they owe to Les Paul. Many of the technologies that are taken for granted today are invented or vastly improved by him. The most far-reaching is probably multitrack recording, but he also made a huge contribution to guitar effects.

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Pointwood big band in Bratislava

Bratislava
I just returned from a concert trip to Bratislava with the Pointwood Big Band. I became the conductor of this band in January. I have only done two concerts with this band in the past months, so this was an excellent opportunity to develop the sound and get to know the bandmembers better. And of course a great way to explore some new surroundings. Read on if you like to know a bit more about our trip:

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Is this the future for corporate video music?

Film composer Jeff Rona released a music library composed specifically for film trailers and television promos. Jeff has scored a number of feature film and won a couple of awards. So, intrigued, I quickly scanned a fair number of the tracks and I must say I am highly impressed. This is not your run-of-the-mill electronic plinky-plonk library music. Jeff and his co-composers used real orchestras, choirs, instrumentalists and a top notch film music recoding engineer on this library. So are we going to hear this music on every film trailer in the future? Or even worse....:

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Revisiting 'the Singing Detective'

Singing Detective DVD
This week I began work on a new project: a performance of about an hour for one of my ensembles. It is based on selection of songs from the BBC miniseries "the Singing Detective", that originally aired in 1986. For those who don't know the show: it's about a writer with a nasty and painful skin disease in a hospital, working on a novel of the said 'singing detective' (although the actual story is a lot deeper and more confusing than this). If you want to know more about it, here's a link to the wikipedia page. The whole project is a lot of fun because I face a few interesting challenges:

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Find out how limits can free your creativity

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If you're a creative professional, already somewhat established in your field and if you have quite some assignments; after some time you might feel you get stuck. This is often the case when you have a number of assignments to do and limited time (sound familiar?). You resort to tried and tested ways of working i.e. you're getting into a routine. You are delivering quality work, your clients are still enthusiast about it. This is a good thing, obviously, but there's this nagging feeling inside you that you are no longer satisfied. You have this feeling you are stagnating. Go there often enough and even your clients might notice that your work has lost some of its sparkle. What can you do about this? Let's explore...

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Take your coaching or producing to the next level

Ray at mixing desk
That's me on the right
Recently, I spent an entire weekend locked away in a recording studio, recording a number of songs with a local amateur ensemble. Later that week came two intense afternoons of mixing. After listening to our preliminary results, I am impressed with what I heard. After all, these are not trained musicians, and the challenges I set them were substantial. Last week they set up a presentation for themselves that I sadly could not attend, but their own reactions were great as well (pride, a feeling of accomplishment!). Now its of into the next stage: mastering, the making of a video and the public release in September. Throughout the project my role has changed: first the preparatory meetings, then writing the arrangements, next assisting at rehearsals as a co-conductor. And finally (in recording and mixing) as producer which is what I want to explore in a somewhat larger perspective here:

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Upgrades: Bliss or Blues?

Finale logoI have funny thing with upgrades: most software I use is open source software on Linux (I use Ubuntu) and often upgrade programs as soon as a new release becomes available. But there is one exception to my 'upgrade policy' though. A BIG exception. Most of my 'working' hours I spend with Finale (the only reason I still use Windows). I rarely update that one: when I get used to a version I don't like to change it because I have a need for speed in my main application. Plus: most of my notation needs are fairly modest, so I don't really need to keep it at the cutting edge. Besides incremental upgrades often have too little to offer. But after a few years these little features start to add up. So today I bit the bullet and upgraded Finale for the first time in 6 years. Boy, was I in for a surprise, and not just pleasant...

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Pity the poor spammers...

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Them pills
Lately, this site has been a heavy target for comment spam. Since the site uses a challenge-response system, it is very likely that the comments are posted by humans rather than spam-bots. But the spam-filter here is quite effective, so almost all spam-comments are removed immediately. And the very few that do get through are quickly weeded out by hand. From the site's logs I deduced that there are only a few people posting these comments. And as these people are obviously "regular visitors" to this site, surely by now they must have seen that their comments are removed almost the instant they post them? So this got me thinking:

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So this is what J.S. Bach looked like...

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reconstructed bach...or so they say. Modern forensic techniques were used to reconstruct his face from a scan of his skull. I know a number of murders have been solved by these techniques, so it is conceivable that Johann Sebastian Bach really looked like this (after he took his wig off...). But it made me wonder: do I care? Does it change anything in my perception of, or appreciation for his music? Does knowing this add any value? No. At least not for me. But it does make me wonder about the visual connection to the great composers and musicians. Why do we want to know what they looked like in the first place...

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How much fun can practise be?

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Rock star baby!
photo ©hpbatman7
Many professional musicians I know also teach. So do I. And we all know the age-old adage "practise makes perfect". We all know that repetition is necessary to enhance skills - in any endeavour. Unfortunately, practise is often equated with drudgery. A necessary evil. But does it have to be that way? One of the things that frustrated me as a kid learning to play the clarinet was the rigidity of the instructions. I was never allowed to deviate from the exercise, since I was "learning to play in a wind orchestra" where you weren't supposed to deviate from your part. Of course this makes sense for a concert piece, but for an exercise? I felt as if I was turned into an automaton: switch on and whatever is on the page comes out. Looking back, this experience seriously impaired my love for making music for quite a long time... And I know this happened to many people. Some even gave up music altogether. Does it have to be that way? I think not. Read on and put some fun in the practise:

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Mistake or failure? You choose!

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Acrobats
Photo © Kevin Connors
Take a look at these acrobats. Let's suppose one of the top girls did something that caused her to fall down. Would that be a mistake or a failure? The real answer is: you can't know. To the world mistakes and failure look the same: she fell to the floor. So only she can tell if it was a mistake or a failure. And that can have major consequences for her work and her life. The same goes for you. Being aware of the difference between a mistake and a failure can do a lot for your life. Care to explore this topic a little deeper? Let's go...

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I'm just a soul who's intentions are good...

...Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood"
The internet is a fast medium. Information is instantly accessible. It encourages you to do a lot of things at the same time. It can be a real source of inspiration. Also anything you write is instantly available to the whole on-line world. And this can be a source of trouble. If you're doing a lot of things in rapid succession, you sometimes forget to check for accuracy. You try to convey something, but because you forget to check, it ends up all wrong. If you're attentive (or lucky), you can minimise the damage and get your original intention across after all. If you're not..... Read my comments on This post on Liz Strauss' blog for an example... Liz's post itself by the way is great as well, so be sure to read that too.

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Perfectionist? Stop fooling yourself!

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So you say you're a perfectionist? Well, I've got news for you: you're not. You are an imperfectionist! Think about it: don't you always find the things that are wrong in any situation? The "not good enough" things? In your work, in your life? So instead of looking for perfection, you are actually searching for anything that's NOT perfect about it. You are seeking imperfection. So how do you feel about your work like this? About yourself? Not too good? I wouldn't be surprised, because I've been there myself, and it's not a nice place to be. So is there something you can do about this? Well yes, but it requires a change in your outlook. Ready to have some fun with this? Read on...

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Is my work accessible?

reading levelSometimes I like to just sit back and enjoy reading some of my favourite blogs to see what's happening. And almost always I run into something interesting or thought-provoking. This time it was Scott Spiegelberg's "birthday post" that displayed a widget about the reading level required to understand a blog. The level shown here is for my blog, for Scott's you need 'Genius-level'. I must say I'm quite pleased with the level required for my blog. Why? Read on...

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