Monday, March 24, 2014

New Recordings Available: 2014

Alfred Publishing recently posted new recordings of this year's new music and, as usual, they're spectacular. The sheet music isn't ready just yet, but you can listen online for free and you can buy each song for just $.99 USD.

This year, all three pieces are written for the beginner end of the spectrum, mostly for intermediate and late beginners.

March of the Wood Elves: The pizzicato pulse and sly melody set up the imagery of rows of tiny soldiers marching across the forest floor. The music builds and breaks into a rustic dance before returning to the regimented, military rhythms and quietly stomping into the distance.
Listen here

Winstride: This is a sunny, optimistic piece that offers beginners some fun counting challenges. The middle section goes into a minor key and includes some call-and-response before returning to the main theme.
Listen here

Zuma Breakers: Named for a popular Southern California surf spot, this piece is a rollicking tribute to the surf rock scene of the 1960's and artists like Dick Dale, The Ventures, and Jan and Dean. Everyone gets a shot at the fun melodies and this piece would make the perfect encore at your next concert!
Listen here

 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Oscar Post-Mortem 2014

I had my best Oscar Night ever, correctly picking 19 out of 21 categories! That's 90.5% - so much for all the hype over "the closest races in years." Here's a list of winners, with my correct picks in bold:

Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave
Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Best Lead Actor: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyer's Club
Best Lead Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyer's Club
Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Best Original Screenplay: Her
Best Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave
Best Cinematography: Gravity
Best Film Editing: Gravity
Best Sound Mixing: Gravity
Best Sound Effects Editing: Gravity
Best Score: Gravity
Best Song: "Let it Go," Frozen
Best Art Direction: The Great Gatsby
Best Makeup: Dallas Buyer's Club
Best Costumes: The Great Gatsby
Best Animated Feature: Frozen
Best Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty, Italy
Best Documentary Feature: 20 Feet From Stardom

I thought the show was really fun, but, as always, I could do without the montages. Ellen was a great host and kept things light. She seems to be bulletproof in a thankless and often-criticized role and I hope she gets asked back again. 

I can't imagine that I'll do better at my picks next year, but there's a little room for improvement. For now, it's back to the music!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Oscar Predictions 2014

It's Oscar season again and it's time to make my picks. There are some really close races this year and a few others that are shoo-ins. Some leaders have emerged and other big races are still up in the air. It should be interesting. Here are my predictions:

Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave
Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Best Lead Actor: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyer's Club
Best Lead Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyer's Club
Best Supporting Actress: Lupita N'yongo, 12 Years a Slave
Best Original Screenplay: Her
Best Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave
Best Cinematography: Gravity
Best Film Editing: Gravity
Best Sound Mixing: Gravity
Best Sound Effects Editing: Gravity
Best Score: Gravity
Best Song: "Let it Go," Frozen
Best Art Direction: The Great Gatsby
Best Makeup: Dallas Buyer's Club
Best Costumes: American Hustle
Best Animated Feature: Frozen
Best Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty, Italy
Best Documentary Feature: The Act of Killing

As usual, I don't get to see the Short Film nominees, so I don't pick those.

The top three contenders this year are 12 Years a Slave, Gravity and American Hustle and, as you can see, I've picked Gravity to take 6 categories, but not Best Picture. It will likely sweep the technical categories and be recognized for its direction, but I suspect that 12 Years a Slave will edge it out for Best Picture. It's unusual for the Best Picture not to get the highest number of Oscars, Best Director, or the Film Editing Oscar, but that's how I see it going this year.

The big story is the emergence of Dallas Buyer's Club in the acting races. McConaughey and Leto have been picking up prizes all award season and are expected to finish big, overshadowing higher-profile performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor and Bradley Cooper.

I'll be watching on Sunday, March 2nd and hope you will too. The official pre-show begins at 7pm EST on CBS but E! will be broadcasting arrivals all day long. It should be an exciting show and I hope to match or beat last year's 76% success rate.  Enjoy the show!

 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sales Statement 2013

I got my annual sales report from Alfred Publishing recently, in which they compile and break down sales of all my music for the year, from April through March, 2013. Unfortunately, sales were down a little bit from last year and the report showed some interesting trends.  Here are my top domestic sales of scores and parts in 2013:

1. Maharaja
2. Avatar
3. Gargoyles
4. Gauntlet
5. Agincourt

Avatar has been the top seller for the past few years and was unseated by Maharaja. I'm still surprised at the popularity of Maharaja but that piece was all over YouTube this year. Gargoyles edged ahead of Gauntlet for the first time in a while - both are usually in the top five and are very close, but Gauntlet is normally slightly more popular. In truth, Gargoyles sold one more copy than Gauntlet this year.

It's important to note that this report predates the release of Dragonfly and Across the Wind, my newest pieces. That means that the newest pieces on this report are Harrowland, which would have come in 7th, and Beale Street Strut, which would have come in a distant 8th.

Foreign sales are a different story. Sales abroad are usually much lower, because the system of music education is different outside the U.S. and many countries don't have group music instruction in schools. Here are the top five sellers of scores and parts outside the U.S.:

1. Harrowland
2. Beale Street Strut
3. Samba Del Sol
4. Sneaking Suspicion
5. Avatar, Gargoyles, Gauntlet, Maharaja, Porcupine Pantomime

A complete inverse of the Domestic Sales list! And a five-way tie for 5th place! I honestly don't know what to make of this, other than deducing that foreign orchestras gravitate toward the newer titles. Also, there are more minor-key pieces on the Foreign Sales list than usual. Usually, this list is full of major-key tunes.

Finally, I'll include a list of the top five selling scores. This is important because orchestras buy extra scores for the judges when they take a piece to contest. And when a piece is included on contest lists, that speaks to its long-term popularity and quality.

1. Gauntlet
2. Avatar, Gargoyles
4. Las Mariposas Exoticas
5. Agincourt

Gauntlet is the runaway winner in this race, selling more than Avatar and Gargoyles combined. All are popular, time-tested pieces (Agincourt being the newest), which makes sense on this list. I'd be shocked if something from the last three years showed up here, but I expect that Maharaja will work its way up this list in a few years.

I'd also like to give a shout-out to the handful of honest folks who went through the proper channels and paid licensing fees to copy, record, and re-arrange my music.

So sales were down in general, but I got some good data from the report. Hopefully, things will turn around next year with five new pieces in the works. Look for March of the Wood Elves, Winstride, Zuma Breakers, Pioneer Sky, and Woodpecker Cha Cha later this year. Also, my next report should include Dragonfly and Across the Wind, which I suspect will make a major impact.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

New Music from Wingert-Jones

I got some great news recently – in addition to my three new compositions getting published by Alfred Publishing next year, two more pieces (Pioneer Sky and Woodpecker Cha Cha) will be published next year by Wingert-Jones Publishing! Here's the story of how this came about:

I've been working with Alfred Publishing for nearly 15 years now and they've included one to three of my compositions in their String Orchestra catalog every year. All the while, my editors have reminded me that we don't have an exclusive contract and that it's not uncommon for composers to get deals with several different publishers. So every once in a while I sent a portfolio of music to Kjos, Carl Fisher, or Hal Leonard and always received a nice rejection letter explaining that they're not looking to expand their stable of composers. Even when I introduced myself as the composer of Gauntlet and mentioned the enormous success that Alfred was enjoying with my publications, they still weren't impressed enough to accept my submissions.  Eventually, I got bored with the rejection and stopped trying to get their attention. Alfred has been more than happy to work with me and I'm happy to work with them.

Then, out of the blue this past summer, I got an e-mail from the String Editor at Wingert-Jones, a small but well-established music publisher looking to expand its String Orchestra catalog. He knew me by reputation and invited me to submit some music for their 2014 catalog, which I did. This week, he wrote back to tell me that two of the five pieces I sent have been selected for publication!

I normally send Alfred Publishing about nine pieces of various levels and styles each year and they take two or three of those. That means that about 70% of the music I write goes unpublished. When they pass over a piece of music, it's often not that they don't like it, it's because it doesn't fit their needs at the moment. Maybe they found another piece with a similar style or one that covers the same playing technique or they need more beginner-level pieces to create a well-rounded catalog. I've re-submitted music to Alfred and occasionally the timing is better on the second pass.

Alfred has been great to me over the years and I'll always give them the first (and sometimes second) opportunity to publish any String Orchestra music I write. But now, with Wingert-Jones, I have an additional outlet for some of the great music that was previously shelved.

So I hope you look for my two new pieces next year from Wingert-Jones as well as my three new pieces from Alfred! It should be an exciting time!