A Day in the Life of a TV film Composer? (Bear McCreary)

Bear McCreary – Hurdy Gurdy & Black Sails Music

Blues for D.D. by Jeffrey Agrell – Oboe & Piano (with Diana Doherty!)

How to Write a Melody (video)

Eccentric Dances for Solo Tuba by Jeffrey Agrell. Soloist: Andrew Dolgon

Gospel Time by Jeffrey Agrell (video)

I like to think of the notated versions of my compositions as beginnings, not ends. I am always happy when performers inject their own visions and imaginations into my music. Composers don’t know everything. If we make performers partners, we will have a lot more varied and interesting performances. Why should a composition be frozen forever in one single version (recordings tend to make us think that there is only one valid version of a piece). The performance below of my Gospel Time for trombone quartet is good evidence of great imagination. There is no singing in my version – it was delightful to see that they dared to transform the first section into a sort of wordless sung hymn. There were more liberties in the middle – with a spontaneous oom pan section – what fun! They also had fun with the ending – more singing; plus a late coda encore. Good for them. I really enjoyed their performance, and clearly, so did the audience

Interval Song (video)

David Newcomb’s Gems

vibDave Newcomb is a composer who writes for percussion (and performs a mean vibraphone) and electronic music. I really enjoy his YouTube Channel– the many examples of short compositions. Very inspiring! Thanks, Dave!

Blues for D.D. (video)

[This is a video example of the previous Tip.]

Breathes there a composer with soul so dead who never to himself has said, “Boy, I wish a lot of people would either hear or play my compositions. Or both!”

The internet is and has been a huge boon to compositional democracy: you can write something, record it, and put it out there in audio or video form for all (all meaning anyone with electricity and internet access) to see. The process of making something and making a recording is a bit more involved than that glib sentence  might indicate, but the point is still there. The process is way better than the old way, which is 1) only local exposure (friends, family, school) 2) radio stations 3) CDs.

But there is one other way to get your music known. It’s not particularly easy, and will involve a certain amount of luck, and certainly requires a solid composition. And that is to have somebody famous play your piece. This doesn’t necessarily mean Pop Star famous. This is just someone who has something of a reputation in the field and performs a good bit around the landscape. This is a fairly large circle and there are various levels.


Aural Influences: Learning from What’s Not Written Down

The video of the piece below is an example of a piece that come from Composing Tip #3, below. The piece arose from the confluence of several experiences. At the time I was working on jazz guitar, and went to a three-day jazz workshop in Tübingen, Germany that was sponsored by the publisher Advance Music. It was a terrific workshop and I still remember (this was, oh, over twenty years ago) great talks and performances by Bill Dobbins, Dave Liebman, Rufus Reid, Bobby Watson, Steve Erquiaga (guitar), and others. What was most affecting, however, was not guitar. I had an hour free and wanted to fill it with something, so I signed up for Pamela Watson’s Gospel Choir. I am not a singer, but I can find pitches and read rhythms. I was the only native English speaker there – there were (real!) singers from Vienna, Berlin and other places. What astounded me was that, unlike me, they were not new to singing this style. When they started singing, it sounded like they had been born and raised in Mississippi. It was a real treat to masquerade as a singer and be among them. Pamela Watson was a terrific director. We sang some of her arrangements and I am here to tell you: it was probably the single most fun I have ever had making music of any sort, and that is saying something.