Monday, December 31, 2007

Music From The Camps - Francesco Lotoro

CBC Radio's show, Dispatches, aired a radio documentary by on Francesco Lotoro's quest to record the music from the victims of the Nazi concentration camps. As labeled by the reporter, Megan Williams, this is "[t]he story of one man's quest to uncover the work of composers once held in Nazi prison camps. "Concentrationary music," he calls it. But you could also call it haunting."

It's certainly a powerful concept of music as the ghosts of those Holocaust victims, a lasting legacy through the music that Francesco Lotoro keeps alive through his recordings. Plus, he's doing it in my parents' home province of Foggia in Italy!

You can listen to this wonder documentary in RealAudio format here, or download the podcast here (it's the last 17 minutes or so of that podcast). I also found this article at the Telegraph that has links to some of the recordings that are moving and powerful...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Reaper DAW

I use Cakewalk Sonar 6, Studio Edition (though edition 7 is the current one), but I may take a look at this product: Reaper is getting lots of rave reviews in the Usenet groups and home studio recording crowd.

They've just released a new version and here are some of the features at a cost of $50 USD for non-commercial, personal use (though it's shareware, so you can try it out first for as long as you like before deciding to buy):

  • Portable - supports running from USB keys or other removable media

  • 64 bit audio engine

  • Excellent low-latency performance

  • Stunning multiprocessor performance

  • Direct multi-track recording to many formats including WAV/BWF/W64, AIFF, WavPack, FLAC, OGG, and MIDI.

  • Extremely flexible routing

  • Fast, tool-less editing

  • Supports a wide range of hardware (nearly any audio interface, outboard hardware, many control surfaces)

  • Support for VST, VSTi, DX, DXi effects

  • ReaPlugs: high quality 64 bit effect suite

  • Tightly coded - installer is just over 3MB

Anything that will help you create the music! May the Muse be with you... and ci vedimes...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

In Memoriam - Oscar Peterson

Oscar Peterson passed away prior to Christmas... He was quintessentially Canadian and unsurpassed in his musical talent - playing those jazzy keys and bringing joy to many people. I wore out the grooves on my Night Train LP, and the songwriter in Mr. Peterson shined there in Hymn to Freedom. He lived fairly close to me, but I never had the pleasure of meeting him, though I was fortunate enough to see him at the Orpheum theatre in Vancouver in my university days...On his official site you'll find the following song written by Oscar with Elvis Costello providing the lyrics:
When Summer Comes
Music by Oscar Peterson
Lyrics by Elvis Costello
Originally Performed by Diana Krall

The land was white
While the winter moon as absent from the night
And the blackness only pierced by far off stars
But as every day still succeeds the darkest moments we have known
When season turn
Springtime colours will return
And as the first pale flowers of the lengthening hours
Seem to brighten the twilight and that melancholy cloak
Then a fresh perfume just seems to burst from each bloom
Until the green shoots through each day
As it arrives in every shade of hope
When Summer Comes
There will be a dream of peace
And a breath that I've held so long that I can barely release
Then perhaps I may even find a room somewhere
Just a place I can still speak to you

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas! - Free Stuff!

Just thought I'd compile a list of some free sites/stuff in the spirit of the season...

  1. - This is a fantastic site run by Crispin and it is as the site describes, "a collection of the best Free Audio and Music Software floating around in Cyberspace." Well worth a visit, and a permanent link on my blog!

  2. eBook for How to Set Up a Home Studio - This is from Revolution Audio and it has a great Boxing Day sale set to start after Christmas. If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, you should check out the free How to Set Up a Home Studio Class offered by Revolution Audio, next scheduled for Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 7:30 p.m.

  3. Along the same lines, is the online PCStudioTutor - billing itself as the "the ultimate site for home computer recording newbies" where you can "learn about the latest computer recording studio gear and music production software."

Merry Christmas to all and the may the Muse be with you...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Well, I think John C. Reilly is a heck of an actor, so I'm looking forward to seeing his new Apatow-scripted movie.  A synopsis of the movie (which sounds hilarious) follows; and here is a recent quote from Reilly on the songwriting process:

Q: I know you were involved with some of the songwriting for the movie, and I was wondering if you could talk about the songwriting process as well as your musical background, in addition to your acting background.
A: I grew up in Chicago doing rock community theater and musicals because that's just what everyone did, all through grade school and high school, and studied acting at a conservatory program. So music's always been a pretty important part of my life. It's just recently become more of a part of my career for this.
The songwriting process on this was really cool. We just took it period by period, starting in the '50s and wrote the "Walk Hard" song and "Take My Hand" and the early stuff and got our feet wet, and developed the character with the music from his life.
All along the way, we had this kind of amazing stable of songwriters that would be working on their own, and if they got stuck, they'd come to us. In the '60s stuff, we'd pitch them like an idea. I'd be driving to work one day and get an idea like, "It would be so funny if Dewey was really into women's rights, but just because he wanted to get women to take their bras off!" And the song would be called "Ladies First" and he just gets it all wrong. The two main songwriters* and I would go off to a hotel room for a couple of hours and we would come back with a song called "Ladies First."

*BTW, the songwriters include Van Dyke Parks and Marshall Crenshaw...

GENRE: Comedy

DIRECTOR: Jake Kasdan

PRODUCER: Clayton Townsend, Jake Kasdan, Judd Apatow

SCREENPLAY: Judd Apatow, Jake Kasdan

STUDIO: Columbia Pictures

Synopsis: America loves Cox! In Columbia Pictures' new comedy Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, John C. Reilly stars as larger-than-life musician and songwriter Dewey Cox. Behind the music is the up-and-down-and-up-again story of a legend whose songs would change a nation. On his rock ‘n' roll spiral, Cox sleeps with 411 women, marries three times, has 22 kids and 14 stepkids, stars in his own '70s TV variety show, collects friends ranging from Elvis to the Beatles to a chimp, and gets addicted to -- and then kicks -- every drug known to man... but despite it all, Cox grows into a national icon and eventually earns the love of a good woman -- longtime backup singer Darlene (Jenna Fischer).

Cast: John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Tim Meadows, Kristen Wiig, Raymond J. Barry, Harold Ramis, Margo Martindale, Chris Parnell, Matt Besser, David Krumholtz

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Digital Fake Book

I use and love Lyricist (linked above the posts section in my blog), but if you don't want to spend any money, there's a free application out there called Digital Fake Book.

It might not have the features that Lyricist has, but it's a great tool also for songwriters who want to get the chords and words down (especially from guitar). From the website:

  • Keeps all your songs in one place for easy, one-click selection.
  • Built-in metronome with tempo setting for each song.
  • Audio file linking with A/B section looping helps with learning songs by ear.
  • Text size and sheet divider position is saved with each song enabling the largest text size possible while still fitting the whole song on the screen.
  • Random sets can be created to make practice more varied.
  • Several color schemes (themes) to choose from.

Song of the Year - Suggested Artist


Well, my "A Beat Away From My Heart" received a "suggested artist" tag from the Song of the Year contest for October 2007...

That's two recognitions this year (the first was for Pause and Wonder in July...


Song of the Year

songwriting contest lyric contest
JULY 2007


Awarded to Lorenzo D. Policelli

Lorenzo D. Policelli has been selected as a "Runner Up" in July 2007 and was awarded "Suggested Artist" in the October 2007 round of the Song of the Year song and lyric competition. Song of the Year receives entries from all over the world and only the most noteworthy artists receive such recognition.

For more information about Lorenzo D. Policelli please visit

My SongU Evaluation of "A Beat Away From My Heart"

I took a Feedback 100 course at SongU last week and received some nice kudos for my "Beat Away From My Heart" tune... You can listen to it in my ReverbNation player that's embedded right at the top before my posts section...

"It's a good song... The rhythmic setting of the lyric is working gangbusters for you... There's a real rhythmic setting to the way these lyrics are set... Nice play on words - heartbeat/beat heart..."

That statement was made by Randy Klein, the instructor who headed the Feedback course and is an accomplished and recognized songwriter in NYC...

Here's a video of the session dealing with just my song:

Sunday, December 09, 2007

How to make a Top 40 hit? Let them count the ways

From a Globe and Mail article by Marsha Lederman... This is the state of the music business today when it comes to trying to make a Top 40 hit... Nicely written article... Me, I just want to write a song that will get published, let alone make a Top 40 chart somewhere...

Once upon a time, knowing what songs were dominating the music charts was easy: You turned on the radio.

Instantly, you'd be rewarded with a spin of a hit record - by the Beatles, the Bee Gees, U2 (depending on your era). Even if you touched that dial, chances were you'd encounter the same songs on a different station.

These days, it's not that simple. The choice of new music offerings can be overwhelming, coming at listeners via video games, iTunes, television shows, music videos, social-networking sites, online radio, satellite radio and, yes, old school, terrestrial radio - where the hit-driven Top 40 format is making somewhat of a comeback, according to some industry watchers.

With the unprecedented choice comes unprecedented fragmentation. The new multiplatform universe may mean the end of multiplatinum records. "Pretty clearly the days of selling 10 million albums are done," says Nic Harcourt, music director of the influential Los Angeles radio station KCRW and host of Sounds Eclectic. "There's probably less than 10 records that sold two million [copies] this year. I think it's a different world."

So how, in this new world, does a song make its way through the mass of available music, and emerge a hit?

A select group of international music-biz movers and shakers, Harcourt among them, gathered in Vancouver this week to discuss that issue during a boutique-style, invitation-only music and digital-technology conference, focusing on the challenges created by the new musical landscape.

The event, now in its second year, and more think tank than convention, was co-conceived by Brad Josling, who works on the marketing side of the music industry in Toronto. Struck by the contradiction of declining record sales and soaring appetites for music consumption, Josling wanted to create a forum where the issue could be tackled in a meaningful way by key industry leaders. "We hope that overall, the opinions of this group can be used to sort of move matters forward," he says.

It is a critical time for the record industry (which may be now somewhat of a misnomer). Getting music out to people who will listen to it and, please God, buy it, has never been more challenging, the methods never more varied. Radiohead offers an album online at a pay-what-you-want price. Television shows like The O.C. and Grey's Anatomy release soundtracks. Feist explodes onto the U.S. market thanks to an iPod commercial.

Terry McBride, founder of Vancouver-based Nettwerk Records (its artists include Avril Lavigne, Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan), says things have changed radically over the last three or four years. It used to be, says McBride, that "if you had a No. 1 single [on] radio, you could guarantee [it would be in the] Top 10, Top 20" on the sales charts. "That's not the case now."

McBride prefers to think of hit records not in terms of sales or spins, but exposure. He says a tune on the soundtrack of a popular video game like Madden NFL can be as widely heard as a hit song played on a Top 40 radio station. "The metrics of measurement are not really accurate," he says.

McBride believes that, for a rock song, too, exposure on a hot-selling video game can be more valuable than radio play. Getting a song featured on a hit TV series can create a huge impact as well. And a strong Internet presence is key.

The music industry, he says "is a very vibrant place to be, but it's not hit-driven. You have lots of artists sell lots of records and lots of concert tickets without getting an awful lot of radio play." Think Feist, Arcade Fire, Joel Plaskett - all of whom developed a substantial fan base before breaking out on mainstream commercial radio.

How important radio remains in this new equation is one of the questions the industry is asking itself. While there's no doubt terrestrial radio's influence has waned, there are those who argue it is still critical for creating a hit record. The Internet might get the ball rolling, they say, but your local radio station is the final arbiter of what becomes a bona fide hit. After all, Feist and Arcade Fire eventually became radio stars, and Plaskett is on his way (thanks, in part, to a Zellers commercial that featured one of his songs).

"Radio is still the overall primary source for listening to music," says radio programming consultant Guy Zapoleon, President of Zapoleon Media Strategies, based near Houston. "This is why the record labels still spend millions of dollars a year promoting new music to radio."

Zapoleon says that Top 40 radio, also known as contemporary-hit radio (CHR), which plays the roughly 40 most-popular songs over and over, has recently enjoyed some of the best ratings the format has had in years. He also points out that CHR is the format with the most influence on music charts, appealing especially to teenagers.

Results of the all-important fall ratings period for Canadian radio, released this week, indeed show growth in CHR in some influential markets. In Vancouver, for instance, the Top 40 station, The Beat, is now the No. 1 music station in the market - racing past its nostalgia-heavy competition over the past year.

Zapoleon says Top 40 is at the top of its game right now thanks to a climate in which all the key styles for current music (pop, R&B and rock) are very "pop" in nature and can be played on one radio station. Playing Timbaland and Michael Bublé on the same station creates a broad appeal - so mothers and daughters, for instance, can listen to the same station.

Zapoleon says that society's current love affair with celebrity culture has also helped push Top 40 radio ratings higher. "Let's face it, people young and old always want to know what's happening in pop culture, and no format does a better job of featuring music from, and information about, the hottest artists."

Still, radio overall is bleeding its younger audience. Statistics Canada data released earlier this year show a steady decline in the number of hours people aged 12 to 24 are listening to radio. Teenagers spent about seven-and-a-half hours a week listening to radio in 2006, down from more than 11 hours a week a decade earlier. And teens are a key target market for record companies.

Young consumers are finding their music elsewhere these days - mostly online, of course. "The power's really been put back on the consumer to make the choice of what they like," says Josling, "versus there being ... gatekeepers to drive who the pop stars are going to be."

But while a 16-year-old might enjoy spending hours online sifting through the overwhelming amount of music available and looking for cool new tracks, her 50-year-old mom, who might also want to know what's happening in music these days, may not have the time / skills / inclination to investigate.

For that consumer, the sheer volume of uncurated music available can be daunting. Without the easy filter of pre-Internet days, where a radio DJ or music director selected what relatively few songs got to air, finding music becomes a more active, rather than a passive, pursuit. There may be more music available, but you have to go looking for it. And that's not always convenient.

Still, Nettwerk's McBride has no interest in returning to the less-complicated old days - even if his company, like others, has taken a revenue hit. (Although not as extreme a hit as the big, more traditional labels. Overall, the Canadian Recording Industry Association says, retail sales of physical formats brought in $676-million in 2006 compared to $1.3-billion in 1999. Sales of digital music comprised about 6 per cent of the market in 2006, not nearly enough to fill the revenue gap). "What was played on radio was the gospel for such a long time, but it was such a small amount of the music that was actually released," he says. "So radio became a huge filter, but a filter that basically suited their commercial needs."

McBride loves the way the Internet has created options for fans of all types of music. "It's much easier than going into a [now-] defunct Tower Records, and trying to get the kid behind the desk who has a Mohawk to tell you about something new, maybe, on the bluegrass scene."

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