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Music in the Rear-View Mirror

CDsSorry. It’s been a month since my last confession… I mean Blog Entry.  This was the norm for me in the Old Days. In fact, a two-month gap was probably the norm back then.  But I made a commitment to try to post more regularly, and so a month-long waiting period requires I start with an apology. But in my defense – I’ve been busy.

(Not that “busy” is an excuse.  But it is a reason.)

So what have I been doing since we last connected?

* A brilliant orchestration for a Joe Martin choral anthem, once again making Joe appear more talented than he really is. And he has yet to thank me for it, by the way. (I’m waiting, Joe.)

* Oversaw an orchestra recording of three of my charts for an indie project, in which I was in Nashville and the orchestra was several time zones away in Prague.

* Arranged and orchestrated a fourth song for the same indie record – which has yet to be recorded.

* Wrote four string charts for the Luke Garrett project that is currently underway. (See my previous blog post for more details.)

* Got a haircut.

But what has really vacuumed up most of my time, keeping my neck and shoulders in a vice-like twist, is the joyless but absolutely necessary administrative work that must be done to survive in the music business as a self-employed writer/producer. Foolishly, I allow this work to pile up. Along these lines, I…

* Smoothed out some issues with the Copyright Office on a couple of recent pieces.

* Updated databases.

* Digitized a three-feet tall stack of royalty statements.

* Chased down money that was sitting in a SAG/AFTRA reserve account in my name. (Turned out to be a whopping $48)

* Paid the bills and royalties due on the various projects I am currently in the thick of.

* Digitized and organized some 200 recordings of choral anthem accompaniments, cantatas and musicals – storing the data onto hard drives. Every decade or so, technology changes and you have to maintain a current version of recorded archives, or risk losing a recording forever. Twenty years ago, I made the switch from analog tape to digital tape.  Ten years ago, I put everything on CDs.  Now, it’s all going onto multiple hard drives.

And it was this last task that gave me pause. For in transferring all those recordings, my musical life passed before my ears in fits and starts. (Sort of like a near-death experience, only in slo-mo.) Hearing all that music, I was struck by these revelations:

* I’ve gotten a lot better at my work over the years. I am definitely a better arranger/orchestrator today than I was in 1987.

* Overall, I arranged more good music than bad – though I accepted some songs of questionable quality in the early days of Praise & Worship music that I now wish I had declined to arrange.

* Songs with a great melody hold up over time better than songs with a cool groove.

* I’ve been fortunate to work with an amazing group of talented instrumentalists and vocalists of every stripe, along with some of the most gifted recording engineers in the business. It is a rare blessing for a writer/arranger to get to professionally record almost every piece you ever put down on the page. (That’s why I had 50+ hours of recorded music to transfer.)

I am nearing the end of the digitizing job, and I’ve made a vow to never again let the new music pile up on me like that. But some of this work is what comes naturally as a result of doing this job for so many years.  I look in my musical rear-view mirror and there is whole lot of music piled on the U-Haul I’m pulling behind me.

And the crazy thing is, I’m loading new stuff onto the trailer every month.

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