Animated Faces of Most Famous 100 Classical Music Composers

New video I created by animating the faces of the most famous 100 Classical music composers. I felt a very strange connection with each composer as I saw their faces come alive. There were several on this list that I was not familiar with so I also spent a lot of time on Wikipedia learning more about many of them. I hope others have the same experience where, after seeing these classical composers come to life, they cannot help but learn more about each composer’s life and music.

I have several favorite animations in this group. My top favorites are #15 Franz Liszt, #19 Antonio Vivaldi, #22 Dmitri Shostakovich, #27 Claudio Monteverdi and my top favorite composer face animation of the whole group is #45 Christoph Willibald Gluck.

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Christmas Gloria – New Baroque Style Music for Chorus and Chamber Ensemble

Christmas Gloria © 2007 Conrad Askland. Christmas Gloria in the Baroque style for SATB Chorus, SAT Trio Soloists, Flue, Oboe, Bb Clarinet, Trumpet, Horn, Tuba, Harpsichord and Percussion. Composed by Conrad Askland for the 2007 Christmas Eve service at Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church.

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Content Dictates Form – Thoughts on Stephen Sondheim’s Rules

In my writing room I have several printed promps that hang in front of me. One of these is:

SONDHEIM THREE RULES

1 Content Dictates Form

2 Less Is More

3 God is in the Details

All in the services of CLARITY, without which nothing else matters.

In the seven promps that hang in my writing room, these three short rules by Sondheim are the ones that I put that most importance on. “Less Is More” can be simply interpreted as “Don’t Do What You Don’t Have To Do”, or don’t write what doesn’t need to be written. “God Is In the Details” can be simply put as “Do your homework, work hard and uncover every needed nuance and needed detail.” But for me, “Content Dictates Form” is the one that keeps coming back to alternately reward me and slap me in the face.

“Content Dictates Form” is the rule that I keep discovering over and over again. Let me share with you the mistakes and successes I have had with this rule.

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Books on Musical Theatre, Dialogue and Book Writing

Scroll down and you’ll see a list of all my writing reference books that I use for preparing new musical theater works. I’ve read each of these books cover to cover and some I have read many, many times over and over. I do have some favorites in this list but I’m not listing them in any particular order because what you get from each book may be wildly different than what I learned from each book. We all have “holes” in our knowledge which is different for everyone. For me, these books helped fill in the holes of my knowledge with a deeper understanding of structure, character arcs and story development.

A couple of these books I’ve had for many years but most of these I read in 2018-2019 in preparation for my fourth original musical. This latest musical was widely considered by audience members to be my strongest musical theater work yet. I put the credit to many factors, but mostly it came down to really, really hard work and understanding the content in these books at a gut level.

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Getting Your Music Degree Online – Is it worth it?

So I earned a couple degrees: Bachelor of Professional Studies from Berklee College of Music and a Master in Arts Leadership and Cultural Management (MALCM) from Colorado State University. I actually just finished these in the last couple years so I’m what they refer to as a “mature learner”. Was it worth it? In short, yes. Does anyone really care? Not really.

Both my degrees were earned online. One of the reasons I didn’t finish my degrees many years ago is that in my line of work you often get a call for a tour with a short window of prep time. If I was back in a brick and mortar school and I got the call for a gig then I would have had to turn the gig down (or drop out of school to do the tour). I didn’t want just any degree. I wanted a degree I felt proud of (or at least wasn’t embarrassed by). There is one well-known online university that I didn’t want to sign up with because every time I imagined writing down the name of the university, well, it was not a feeling of pride. No, I won’t mention that school name because I’m “nice”.

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The Stories Behind Some of the Favorite Christmas Carols of All Time

Music has been an integral part of the Christmas celebration since the earliest years of the celebration. From traditional sacred music to up-tempo tunes, the songs of Christmas are a major part of the holiday.

But how much do you know about the origin stories of your favorite Christmas carols. Here is the story behind some of the most popular and well known Christmas carols of all time.

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Skagit Impressions Six – Skagit Violin Dance

I composed this piece as part of a music production course for my Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with Berklee College of Music. While taking classes I was on tour as music director with the Cirque du Soleil show Varekai and was fortunate enough to have our violin player from the show, David Piché, record the violin tracks while in Vilnius, Lithuania.

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Choosing Your Child’s Piano Teacher: Six Questions to Ask

Piano lessons are an investment of both money and time. Finding the right piano teacher for your child will help your investment lead to successful music education. Asking the following questions will help you choose the right teacher.

 

Is the teacher a member of local, state, or national music organizations?

Membership in music organizations signals that a teacher is interested in staying current with trends in music education. Music Teachers National Association, National Association for Music Education, and the National Federation of Music Clubs, along with the state and local affiliates of these organizations, are some of the well-known groups in which a piano teacher might hold membership. Journals and newsletters typically accompany membership and bring relevant information right to the teacher’s door. Membership also gives the teacher access to continuing education opportunities, including conventions and seminars on music performance and education.

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Six Reasons Why Children Taking Piano Classes Do Better at School

Learning to play the piano is not just about learning a new musical instrument. Playing keyboard instruments improves personality and makes people healthier and happier. Children taking piano classes benefit more because it gives them an edge at an early age. Playing the piano makes children smarter, improves their learning abilities and makes them better students.

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Johann Sebastian Bach: Baroque Superstar

(Johann Sebastian Bach 1685-1750)

J.S. Bach’s dad was a musician. J.S.’s uncle was a musician. All four of J.S.’s brothers were musicians and composers. In fact, pretty much everybody in the Bach family were musicians and had been since great-great-great grandpa John Hans Bach, originally a baker, had a mid-life crisis and discovered that he was meant to be a piper instead.

By 1685, when Johann Sebastian Bach was born, the Bachs were the German Baroque equivalent of our modern day musical Jackson family. The Bachs were well-known, highly connected, and prosperous. They served as musicians to Dukes, were musical directors at important churches, and were directors of renowned choirs. Even the ladies of the family got in on the act. J.S.’s second wife was a popular singer.

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6 Tips for Adult Music Beginners

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.

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How to Tune a Musical Instrument

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.

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Skagit Impressions Three – Adaptive Layer Battle Theme One

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.

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Where None Would Go – Gettysburg Memorial Song

“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.

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Thoughts on Gerd Leonhard and “Music as Water”

music-as-water

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.


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Beginning Vocal Lessons

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.

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How Music Works – Elements of a Vibrant Music Scene

How_Music_Works_David_Byrne

 

David Byrne’s book “How Music Works” contains an interesting list of 8 elements he considers important for a vibrant music scene (Hardcover edition p. 253-263). David Byrne’s book is fascinating, the highlight for me being his dissection of how performance spaces affected the composition and orchestration of classical music.

But on p. 253-263 he dissects in more detail the elements that encourage talent to thrive in a vibrant scene. I think this list is a well thought out dissection of the music scene he was part of, but by no means a dissection of the elements needed for “any” vibrant scene.

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