“St Clair” is a piano piece for my friend Judy St Clair. Judy and her husband were mentors of mine when I was younger and they guided me through many adventures. Some were sweet and some were painful, but still they were all adventures.
While playing this piece, I was remembering the light and playful camaraderie we had during those times. Style might be called a new age piano improvisation.
Recorded July 31, 2017 in Tarragona, Spain. Part of my “Tarragona Piano Improvisation Sessions” – Audio engineer: Jesus Rovira
If you are thinking of learning a musical instrument as an adult, you might be wondering if you can do it. Maybe learning a musical instrument has been a lifelong dream, or perhaps you have been inspired to learn along with your kids.
Whatever your reasons, you can succeed at your chosen instrument if you are willing to commit to what it takes. Try these handy tips to help you stay focused and make your dream a reality.
(Song above is “Song for my Mother. Song 3-6 of the Tarragona Piano Sessions)
On July 31, 2017 I recorded four sessions of piano improvisations at La Casamurada recording studio in Tarragona, Spain. Most of the improvisations are light impressionistic pieces that some might call neo-classical or new age piano style.
“Alberti’s Dream” is a piano improvisation by Conrad Askland. Recorded July 31, 2017 in Tarragona, Spain.
For this piece, I started with a simple Alberti Bass in Bb and then just followed where it led me.
Session 3-8 of my “Tarragona Piano Sessions” improvisations.
Alberti bass is a particular kind of accompaniment figure in music, often used in the Classical era, and sometimes the Romantic era. It was named after Domenico Alberti (1710–1740), who used it extensively, although he was not the first to use it.
Unless you are completely tone deaf, it is often not difficult to tell when a musical instrument is out of tune. This is because the pitch sounds wrong — it’s either too high or too low. To the trained ear, the instrument will sound a bit flat or sharp. For this reason, musical instruments need to be tuned before they are played, particularly if several instruments are being played together. If you are just beginning to learn how to play an instrument, this might seem like a complicated task, but it is really quite easy once you know how.
I am thrilled to be joining Cirque du Soleil’s show Varekai as bandleader and keyboardist on their world tour. The show has been on a world tour since 2002 and I will be joining them on the final legs in Europe and ending in the United States in 2017.
Skagit Impressions Three from the Gary Brown and Conrad Askland project. Farmland photos of Skagit County, WA by Gary Brown with music by Conrad Askland.
This third impression includes my composition “Adaptive Layer Battle Theme One.” This is a five layer composition for use in video game adaptive scoring. Each of the five layers are complete unto themselves, but also layer to create different levels of tension. In a gaming environment these different layers would be triggered in and out by player actions and states of being.
For the Skagit Impressions Three video, each layer builds sequentially. Starting with layer one – then layer one plus layer two – then layer one two and three and so on until all five layers are playing together.
In the video below, I show how this same music might be used in a gaming environment. The layers are used for the different states and actions of a character in the video game Uncharted 3.
Skagit Impressions Two – Music as Water. Photography by Gary Brown. Vocal by Leisha Skinner. Music and Melody by Conrad Askland (ASCAP).
This is the second in the series for the “Gary Brown and Conrad Askland Project” where I take the photography of Gary Brown and create music to accompany his photos. We do this to express our impression of the natural beautiful landscapes and farmlands of Skagit County, WA. This is also the are famous in the spring with tourists for the Skagit County Tulip Festival. There are many photographers that take photos during the tulip season, but Gary Brown takes photos of these landscapes all year long so you get to see different hues and variations of the landscapes.
ON THE MUSIC
The music I wrote for this, which I call “Music as Water” was part of a weekly assignment for a class on Songwriting for TV and Film that I took with Berklee College of Music. The assignment was to write for the least number of instruments possible, with the option of adding a vocal. I chose a piano and vocal arrangement. There is an original piano track and then I added some light fills in the top octave in between the vocal lines.
The music stays in Cm (natural minor) and floats in a 12/8 time signature. When we recording the vocal, we experimented with several different vowel sounds. At the final mix I found myself enjoying the natural “Ah” sound, so that is what you hear in the final mix.
Here is the music as it could work as sync placement in a television series:
“Where None Would Go” (Gettysburg Memorial Song) is a piece I wrote to commemorate the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863. This song released July 4, 2016. Words and Music by Conrad Askland. Vocalist: Leisha Skinner. To a variation of the melody “Shenandoah”.
I was inspired to write this song after spending many hours of discussion on the Civil War with my friend, Joe Bowen. He is a scholar of American History where he studied the Civil War at Harvard College. He will setup battle tactics and battle strategies on tables using napkins, playing cards, cups – whatever is around – to really immerse me in details of the Civil War. The conversations usually start with prose, then get into historical details and facts of the battles and politics of the time, then end with philosophical musings, anecdotes and quotes from soldier’s letters.
Truth is a variable in it’s definition that relies on the cultural glasses worn by the observer. Maybe part of what this discussion is really about is honesty. Artists can be the honest ones to give voice to a found truth when others see the Emperor’s new clothes.
Perhaps part of the reason artists can give voice to honesty and truth is that they often have nothing to lose. The struggling singer-songwriter who can barely rub two pennies together is extremely sensitive to observing the world around them. In some ways the struggling singer-songwriter is in a very powerful place because they have no corporate or record label responsibilities to be “marketable.” Janis Ian says the world needs artists because artists tell the truth. Truth is honesty. The singer-songwriter is compelled to write about what is important to them and they hunt for the truths (and untruths) they see around them and then report this in song as honestly as they can.
In Gerd Leonhard’s book “Music 2.0 – Essays by Gerd Leonhard” he mentions the concept of “Music Like Water” and writes: “Music is no longer a product but a service….for the future, think of a ‘record label’ as a ‘music utility company’.”
I have seen this gradual shift over the years and his words seem to have become prophetically true. We are so incredibly immersed in music now. It has become normal to dial up any song at the drop of a hat and to have access to more music that a single person put even physically listen to in a single lifetime.
With the seemingly infinite access to music has also appeared a reduced interest or need in user ownership. Gerd Leonhard also says “Access to Music Will Replace Ownership.” Also a trend that has become true.
I am old enough to remember cassette tapes and how naughty we were to record to tape directly from the radio. But we had our physical collection and were proud that we “owned” the music. Somehow making our custom mixtape brought us into the creative sphere of the songwriter or composer. We could play the music which was really a customized performance brought about by our uncanny ability to find the perfect mix of songs and segue them together as never before. Our Radio Shack tape recorders transformed us into analog rocket scientists.
Photography of Skagit County, WA farmlands by Gary L. Brown with piano music and nature sound field recordings by Conrad Askland.
Gary Brown is known locally as one of the premier photographers of surrounding landscapes in the Skagit County farmlands of Washington State in the US Pacific Northwest. He also does excellent live theater photography and has been photographer for many theatrical shows that I have been involved in locally. A few months ago he took me out on a photo shoot with him to hunt for different sunlight, shadows and cloud formations after a local rain shower. It was incredible to get a sense of how he views our local land through his lens.
Welcome to the Conrad Askland show where we talk about Business and the Arts and all the intersections in between. This episode is brought to you by the Berklee College of Music. I love this school and their classes are fantastic. I’ve taken many of their classes myself. Berkeley College of Music, now offering offering Bachelor and Master degrees online.
Today’s guest is Steve Such. Steve is the trap kit specialist, or you can simply him a drummer, for the Broadway smash Rock of Ages with NCL International out of New York; and also drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers tribute group: The Red NOT Chili Peppers. You may know Steve from his viral YouTube video: 100 Rules for Drummers featured on Drum Talk TV and DrummerWorld.com or as the creator of ChopsFit, a cross-training system for drummers. Steve proudly endorses Evans Drum Heads and ProMark sticks. He also holds a degree in Jazz Performance from Indiana University Bloomington.
I’ve worked with Steve on live shows and many recording sessions in New York. He is, in two words, absolutely incredible both on and off the stage. In this interview, he talks about his approach to practice and visualization. Here we go. Enjoy
These are questions I received about my musical “Romeo and Juliet”. My musical version of RJ premiered in January 2015 at the Historic Lincoln Theatre in Mount Vernon, WA. Directed by Joe Bowen and presented by META Performing Arts. The challenge set for this production was to score the entire musical using only Shakespeare’s original text. No watering down the words. No slang and updated lyrics. And no hipster modern setting. We set the set and costumes to the original Shakespeare time period of the late 16th century. It was a very challenging project and extremely fulfilling. Here’s a link to check out original musicals by Conrad Askland.
How have you adapted the themes of the play to adapt and suit the modern day audience and politics?
Yes and no. In my rendition, I use Shakespeare’s original words. For the premiere run I requested period costumes and sets (1590’s). Of course, a future company could choose to change that approach, but to me those considerations are superficial. To my personal taste, those changes detract instead of adding to the production. Musically, I scored the show in a combination of North American Broadway style and light opera. So it was the music itself that was tailored to a musical theatre crowd while the text and presentation was true to the period in which it was written.
In helping a student with beginning vocal lessons in classic technique I came across some materials online that I think are of value to new vocal students. One of the difficulties with developing vocal technique is that what the student hears in their head is different than what others hear. So with voice study in particular, it’s important to have an outside source guide you in technique and placement. In it’s simplest form, the teacher is helping the student with how a proper placement feels to them, so the student can build muscle memory on basic technique before moving to more complex layers and interpretation.
Los Dorkos perform Americano Pharaoh (The Donald Trump Song). I wrote the song and produced it for them and it was so much fun to work on. I’m interested to see reaction to the song. It’s a novelty song and like with musical theater, you never quite know how it’s going to land until you put it in front of an audience. Humor is a fine line between what is funny to one and not another. So here it is, just released today – let’s find out what happens…
Photos of farmlands in Skagit County, WA on Easter evening 2016 after a light rainfall. This area is known for it’s tulip fields where tourists visit in the spring every year to tour the local farms. It’s a breathtaking area to drive and take in the local sights. We affectionately call this area “God’s country.”
This is my first venture into nature photography. I look forward to improving my skills. The process of taking these photos is an adventure in itself and very fulfilling.