This song was released by Road Records on the CD “New Faces Volume Two”. The goal of this song was to create something that sounded like a retro jazz ballad. I remember this is one of the few recordings where I used an actual upright piano to play the keys parts. Normally I don’t use upright pianos because they’re always a tad out of tune, but that effect worked very well on this song to give it an authentic retro feel.
“Ballad of Dull Knife” is one of the first songs I wrote that ended up being on a released album (around 1995). It is about the Cheyenne chief Dull Knife (Morning Star) and the emotions I imagined he might have felt as his lands were being taken away.
Update: After working in my scores with these different chord fonts, I prefer Norfolk Chord ASL Standard for all layouts (Full Score, Piano/Vocal, and Parts)
Getting the right chord font for notation software is a big deal for the player that has to read the music on the fly. Often I’m orchestrating scores for shows that I am working on and I need the fonts to be intuitive. When a score is laid out well visually then it’s a pleasure to play through scores for rehearsals and performance. I can’t waste a split second trying to differentiate a chord marking. It needs to be crystal clear.
For 2021 I’m revisiting my full-length musicals to update score layout and orchestrations. Here’s a compilation of workflow and tips from music composition sketches to final scores and parts for musical theater. An ongoing project.
The endless debate on which notation software to use seems to now be centered on Finale vs. Sibelius vs. Dorico. I’ve been using Sibelius since 2007 and I love it, while at the same time I feel a little shame that I haven’t mastered Finale. Here are some of the reasons why I’m once again sticking with Sibelius (while also feeling ashamed).
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.
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.
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”.