Q&A with Leonard Slatkin

Conducting Business by Leonard Slatkin gives a unique look inside a unique profession. Slatkin recently sat down with Stay Thirsty Magazine to answer some questions about his book and how he himself rose to the position of maestro. You can read the rest of the interview here!

 

00333460I’d like to begin with a biographical note from your 2012 publication, Conducting Business: Unveiling the Mystery Behind the Maestro (Amadeus Press). You were effectively assured of victory had you entered the international competition to determine an assistant conductor for the NY Philharmonic. This was back in the 1960’s, when Leonard Bernstein was at the podium and arguably at the height of his popularity (via the Young People’s Concerts, which ran on CBS from 1958 to 1972). Essentially, you “turned him down.” Did you ever fear repercussions in your career? Also, what are your thoughts vis-à-vis competitions for conductors?

At the time, I was still a student, and I really hadn’t thought about my career. I had a number of options to consider, beginning with getting drafted! I might have been in the army, in which case I would have been an arranger for NORAD. I was also offered the opportunity to become the assistant conductor at St. Louis, and I had this chance to go to the Mitropoulos Competition. The latter, however, I had to turn down, because I simply did not want to be in a position that I hadn’t earned legitimately. No, I didn’t really “think about it” all that much. It bothered me; it disturbed me. I realized I could win the competition not for what I could do, but simply for who I was. I found that notion annoying. I should append that to this day I generally recoil at the idea of competitions as the way to “spot a talent,” even though I’m involved with one – the Van Cliburn Competition. Moreover, there will be an announcement fairly soon about my relationship with that organization, and it will become clear why I have chosen to accept it.

Competitions are arguably more suited for athletics, and the similarity dissipates pretty quickly. Of course, we “play” music or some sport, and the competitor is deemed only as “good” as he is on that particular day. However, we really need the “long-term” to be able to judge, particularly with a conductor. How does the individual relate to the orchestra? Other questions arise as well – knowledge of the score, technical command, and ability to garner the respect of the orchestral musicians. It’s really pretty difficult, if not impossible, to tell that in a conducting competition, and I hope I never have to be in the position of judging one.

Of course, I do have to judge other conductors, especially when we audition assistant conductors, but usually I can start that process during the course of an interview that takes place. Obviously, one needs to be able to conduct and relate well to the orchestra, but I want to see what other things the applicants bring to the table – communication skills; whether they write well and speak well; the ideas they may have for educational programs:  in other words, the “total package.” However, these intangibles are not what judges score, and so I’m decidedly not a fan of conducting competitions, since I feel I can’t really learn anything substantive from them.

 

I agree. In fact, I am reminded of Arthur Rubinstein’s famous quote, “Competitions are for horses, not people.” 

I suppose that for some it’s a necessary evil. There are those who attune their entire mentalities toward the objective of winning a competition. However, what do they do for the rest of their lives?

 

 

 

 

David Flitner on “Less Noise, More Soul”

Website

David Flitner, author of Less Noise, More Soul, has graciously written a blog post for us!

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* * * * * * * *

“Anyone who has worked in the art and science of recording music knows the challenge of getting what’s in one’s mind to sound the same when, eventually, it emerges from speakers (or, more problematically, ear buds). There are so many variables that can alter and confound the journey of sound on its way from instruments and vocal chords, through hardware and software. And, for the most part, skilled hands and ears are required to navigate the passage.

This is also the dynamic that attends the writing and editing of a book, particularly one that collects the voices of numerous contributors. Less Noise, More Soul: The Search for Balance in the Art, Technology and Commerce of Music brings together, by design, diverse personalities and points of view, all trying to make sense of where music finds itself amidst the digital paradigm, and all with a passion for that music’s profound relevance in our lives.

Does the message get through?

Reviewers have commented regularly on the “wealth of knowledge” brought by the contributors (many of whom are Grammy winners). The essays have been called “well balanced,” containing “elegant arguments for rethinking where technology is taking the sounds we crave.” One reviewer even referred to the essays as “unexpurgated,” saying they were “amusing and eye-opening and sometimes shocking and will certainly make you start thinking.” (“Shocking” is likely a reference to a metaphor offered by essayist Will Ackerman that I’ll not spoil by revealing here.)

The Journal of the Music & Entertainment Industry Educators Association honed in on the diversity of argumentation in the book, declaring the volume “excellent food for classroom thought and study.” Another reviewer succinctly caught the book’s essential concern with “musical authenticity.”

And then there was the review that summed it up this way: “Less noise more soul. No more needs to be said.”

Since its release Less Noise, More Soul has been acquired by dozens of major institutions, from Yale, MIT, and UCLA to the distinguished Eastman School of Music and the Loeb Music Library at Harvard. And, for good measure, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Each reader may decide for herself or himself about the merits of the message. But it’s worth the journey.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Flitner - credit Thomas BovairdDavid Flitner (Wolfeboro, NH) holds a PhD from Tufts University and has been a consultant to the US Congress. He is the author of two previous books and has written on music and public affairs for numerous publications, from major newspapers to Billboard. He composes and records with the band Thinline.

Sunburst: How the Gibson Les Paul Standard Became a Legendary Guitar

Superstrat cover singleSunburst, from Backbeat Books, is the latest venture in Tony Bacon’s explorations in guitar models and music. Sunburst unravels a myth and puts into sharp focus how 1,400 or so guitars produced at the end of the ’50s became the most desirable electrics of all time. Check out more of Tony’s books here.

* * * * * * * *

The Gibson Les Paul sunburst model – the ‘Burst’ – was made between 1958 and 1960, and today  it is probed and picked over like no other guitar. That’s because it really is like no other guitar. In fact, as we discover from the musicians, collectors, and guitar-makers found in this book, it may well be the greatest solidbody electric ever made.

You only have to listen to the music made with this guitar to realise that it’s a special instrument. Its roots are on Eric Clapton’s Beano album with John Mayall in the 60s and Jimmy Page’s classic work with Led Zeppelin into the 70s; there are its appearances on timeless cuts such as ‘All Right Now’ and  ‘Hotel California; and today we hear it bolstering Joe Bonamassa’s worldwide blues-rock success. Many more guitarists have found that the tone and feel of a Burst come together in a magical blend that helps them play better than ever before.

The sunburst Standard can be a beautiful object, too. The pictures in this book celebrate the splendour of its figured maple top, each one a unique signature, and reveal the way that the rigours of time can turn the hardest-worked examples into careworn road warriors with a history in every ding and paint-fade.

Sunburst is the latest book in Tony Bacon’s bestselling guitar series, with a thoroughly researched story partnered by a gallery of full-color pictures of great guitars, rare memorabilia, and famous Burst players – from Keith Richards to Joe Bonamassa and Jeff Beck to Billy Gibbons.

This book shows how Gibson slowly came to understand and more accurately re-create the original Bursts through its reissue programme, under way since the early 90s, and how Gibson’s artist models, limited editions, and collector’s specials have widened the appeal of an already legendary guitar. Sunburst closes with e reference section that provides production details and identificiation clues for every significant model, new and old, of this most enigmatic and revered instrument.

 

Interview with Scott Binder

Below, Scott Binder discusses his new book Make Some Noise: Become the Ultimate DJ with the SAE Institute in Istanbul.

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 There are books on how to become a DJ, books that talk about beatmatching, mashups, how to perform in nightclubs – even one that claims it can teach you everything in two hours. Make Some Noise is a complete DJ book that has been created on the cutting edge and goes beyond any current book on the subject. Yes, it teaches the basics, but it goes beyond the how-to, discussing DJing while playing with a live instrument as well as goal setting, marketing, and choosing your music genre.
Make Some Noise blends together practical advice and tools for learning the craft, along with an inspirational message that will help encourage you in regard to your own dreams and aspirations about becoming a DJ.

Happy Birthday, Quincy Jones!

A Friend in the Music BusinessQuincy Jones, whose contributions to the world of music cannot be overstated, nor can they fit in a single blog post, turns 81 today.  In 2010, Jones authored Q on Producing, which presented his approach to making music.  More recently, he contributed the foreword to A Friend in the Music Business: The ASCAP Story, written by Bruce Pollock, a look at the association’s influence on the music industry over its first 100 years and its continued importance and relevance today.  He titled the foreword “Why ASCAP Matters.”

* * * * *

I first joined ASCAP in 1955. I had previously spent a lot of time in France, and I knew about SACEM (Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Éditeurs de Musique), the French equivalent of ASCAP. I heard the United States had their own version of it, so that’s why I became a member. Also, many other composers and songwriters that I was familiar with were members too, like Duke Ellington and Count Basie.

 

For nearly 60 years, I’ve worked as a producer, arranger, songwriter, and composer in almost every musical style—including pop, jazz, R&B, rock ’n’ roll, and classical—and in all media forms, including records, film, and TV. It’s been an amazing journey. And through it all, ASCAP has always been there for me, making sure I received fair compensation for my work, thereby ensuring I could continue to work and grow as a creative artist. This has always been their main role—to be the champion for all their member songwriters and composers.

 

 

But in today’s music business, there is a proliferation of piracy everywhere in the world. Songwriters and music industry professionals are challenged to stave off this epidemic, because the means for producing, replicating, and disseminating intellectual property such as music is so quick, easy, and accessible to everyone. In this climate, the challenge is, how do songwriters and composers continue to be properly compensated for their work? The solutions are not easy to find, but if we don’t discover them, there aren’t going to be songwriters to write the great songs of the future. That’s why ASCAP is absolutely as essential now as it ever was and maybe even more so. It’s a gamechanging time throughout the business, with people reluctant to pay for various uses of music. That’s why it’s important for ASCAP to persevere—to make every effort to work with the entire music industry, as well as legislative bodies, in making sure songwriters continue to be treated fairly in terms of appropriate compensation. So far, for the first 100 years of their existence, they’ve done a great job; they’ve consistently worked very hard to represent us at every turn, whenever there’s been a challenge to our right to make a living from our creative work. ASCAP has their hands full, but they keep working at it and finding solutions. As songwriters, we certainly need them. They are essential to our existence.

 

 

I talk to young songwriters all the time. I tell them don’t forget God’s rules, and that’s to have humility with your creativity and grace with your success. Start with that. That’s very important. Then I tell them join ASCAP and you’ll get protected from piracy, because ASCAP is a rights protection organization. I tell them ASCAP will champion your right to earn a living on your creative work, and what’s more, will collect revenue on your behalf for that work.

 

 

Right now, as a society, we are not respecting the rights of songwriters—that they need to be compensated for their intellectual property, which is their songs and compositions. The world is running outside the boundaries of the concept of intellectual property rights, and we’ve got to get back in them, because it’s about respect for people’s property and the morality of not just stealing it because it is so easy to do. But even though the business is in trouble, young songwriters are creating great music. Music and water will be the last things to disappear from this planet. People can’t live without music. So we’ll need ASCAP to be doing their job until the very end.

 

 

I was so honored when I received the ASCAP Founders Award in 2013. Some incredible musicians have been recipients of this prestigious honor. ASCAP has an amazing legacy and a long heritage of nurturing and supporting the creative process. That’s why I try to do as many ASCAP events as my schedule permits. We all need to do our part to keep ASCAP visible and in the public’s eye, so everyone knows how important it is that they are there.

 

 

I was elected to be on the board of ASCAP, but at the time I was in the middle of an incredibly heavy workload, especially working with Michael Jackson and all my other endeavors in the ’80s. So I wrote a long letter to ASCAP recommending that Marilyn Bergman take my place on the board—which she did, and not surprisingly, she later became an awesome president and chairman of ASCAP for a period of fifteen years, until 2009. (Currently, Paul Williams has taken the reins and is continuing to do a wonderful job.) I’ve known Marilyn and Alan Bergman since we were next-door neighbors and worked together on the songs for In the Heat of the Night in 1967. She’s like family. I knew she’d be right for the board because I knew her soul, her mind, and her God-given gifts. She definitely has a leader’s mind. She’s brilliant. You can hear it in her lyrics.

 

 

If you want to know what ASCAP’s mission is and always has been, just read the first few lines of “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” with music by Michel Legrand and lyrics by Marilyn and Alan Bergman:

 

 

How do you keep the music playing?

 

How do you make it last?

 

How do you keep the song from fading too fast?

 

 

Quincy Jones

 

November 2013

 

 

Make Some Noise

Below is an excerpt from Make Some Noise: Become the Ultimate DJ by Scott Binder, published by Hal Leonard just last month.

What is DJ’ing?

With the recent developments in technology, DJ’ing has turned its attention to the computer generation. This has opened up a world of possibilities and is changing the culture right before our eyes, Of course, there are a lot of traditionalists who believe that the art form of DJ’ing is being lost in the technology, but I disagree. It’s simply providing yet another platform for the craft to evolve and expand. True, mixing records is a craft that takes much longer to perfect than mixing on a computer-based system, but I believe that the computer system provides opportunities for DJs to incorporate instruments, drum machines, synthesizers, and any other controller one sees fit. This opens a world to DJs truly creating a live show. Even if a DJ has no intention of including live elements or controllers into their sets, I have no problem with the computer-based mixing systems. Sure, one can incorporate live instrumentation on the traditional setups. I am one of those who do that. But technology makes this possibility even easier. After all, there is much more to DJ’ing than beatmatching and mixing. Does this mean I personally would DJ on a computer-based program without playing an instrument? No, but I think that if we resist change we are closing ourselves off to what lies on the other side as we sift through the ever-changing landscape of the music world.

To become an ultimate DJ, one must master all levels of DJ’ing. And in my opinion, DJ’ing consists of these elements: mixing and beatmatching, programming amazing sets, incorporating live instrumentation, and crowd interaction. If you master these elements, you will separate yourself form 99 percent of the DJs out there. Sometimes good DJs excel at mixing but completely lose sight of their crowd. Other DJs are great at connecting with people on the dance floor but lack proficiency at mixing or programming their sets. It doesn’t mean a DJ is necessarily bad if he or she doesn’t master all levels of DJ’ing. A good DJ is pretty good at most of the facets of DJ’ing but isn’t a master of any of them. Is it a bad thing to be a good DJ? Not at all, but being great means mastering as many levels of the craft as possible. Modern DJs are at their best when they are turning their shows into true live performance, and mastering all of the levels illustrated in this book will help you do that.

Make Some Noise

There are books on how to become a DJ, books that talk about beatmatching, mashups, how to perform in nightclubs – even one that claims it can teach you everything in two hours. Make Some Noise is a complete DJ book that has been created on the cutting edge and goes beyond any current book on the subject. Yes, it teaches the basics, but it goes beyond the how-to, discussing DJing while playing with a live instrument as well as goal setting, marketing, and choosing your music genre.

The book also features a collection of one-page spotlights from some of the biggest DJs in the world, providing you with the opportunity to learn from the best of the best. These DJs include Infected Mushroom (1,073,271 likes on Facebook), Judge Jules (102,871 likes), R3hab (413,237 likes), Todd Terry (22,733 likes), DJ Chus (57,076 likes), Max Graham (180,293 likes), Umek (1,612,019 likes), Bingo Players (293,612 likes), and Prok & Fitch (22,663 likes).

Make Some Noise blends together practical advice and tools for learning the craft, along with an inspirational message that will help encourage you in regard to your own dreams and aspirations about becoming a DJ.

ASCAP’s 100th Anniversary

Hal Leonard is proud to release two books in conjunction with ASCAP’s centennial: A Friend in the Music Business: The ASCAP Storyby Bruce Pollock, and The ASCAP Centennial Songbook. Below is Quincy Jones’s foreword to A Friend in the Music Business, “Why ASCAP Matters.”

I first joined ASCAP in 1955. I had previously spent a lot of time in France, and I knew about SACEM (Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Éditeurs de Musique), the French equivalent of ASCAP. I heard the United States had their own version of it, so that’s why I became a member. Also, many other composers and songwriters that I was familiar with were members too, like Duke Ellington and Count Basie.

For nearly 60 years, I’ve worked as a producer, arranger, songwriter, and composer in almost every musical style – including pop, jazz, R&B, rock ’n’ roll, and classical – and in all media forms, including records, film, and TV. It’s been an amazing journey. And through it all, ASCAP has always been there for me, making sure I received fair compensation for my work, thereby ensuring I could continue to work and grow as a creative artist. This has always been their main role – to be the champion for all their member songwriters and composers.

But in today’s music business, there is a proliferation of piracy everywhere in the world. Songwriters and music industry professionals are challenged to stave off this epidemic, because the means for producing, replicating, and disseminating intellectual property such as music is so quick, easy, and accessible to everyone. In this climate, the challenge is, how do songwriters and composers continue to be properly compensated for their work? The solutions are not easy to find, but if we don’t discover them, there aren’t going to be songwriters to write the great songs of the future. That’s why ASCAP is absolutely as essential now as it ever was and maybe even more so. It’s a game-changing time throughout the business, with people reluctant to pay for various uses of music. That’s why it’s important for ASCAP to persevere – to make every effort to work with the entire music industry, as well as legislative bodies, in making sure songwriters continue to be treated fairly in terms of appropriate compensation. So far, for the first 100 years of their existence, they’ve done a great job; they’ve consistently worked very hard to represent us at every turn, whenever there’s been a challenge to our right to make a living from our creative work. ASCAP has their hands full, but they keep working at it and finding solutions. As songwriters, we certainly need them. They are essential to our existence.

I talk to young songwriters all the time. I tell them don’t forget God’s rules, and that’s to have humility with your creativity and grace with your success. Start with that. That’s very important. Then I tell them join ASCAP and you’ll get protected from piracy, because ASCAP is a rights protection organization. I tell them ASCAP will champion your right to earn a living based on your creative work, and what’s more, will collect revenue on your behalf for that work.

Right now, as a society, we are not respecting the rights of songwriters – that they need to be compensated for their intellectual property, which is their songs and compositions. The world is running outside the boundaries of the concept of intellectual property rights, and we’ve got to get back in them, because it’s about respect for people’s property and the morality of not just stealing it because it is so easy to do. But even though the business is in trouble, young songwriters are creating great music. Music and water will be the last things to disappear from this planet. People can’t live without music. So we’ll need ASCAP to be doing their job until the very end.

I was so honored when I received the ASCAP Founders Award in 2013. Some incredible musicians have been recipients of this prestigious honor. ASCAP has an amazing legacy and a long heritage of nurturing and supporting the creative process. That’s why I try to do as many ASCAP events as my schedule permits. We all need to do our part to keep ASCAP visible and in the public’s eye, so everyone knows how important it is that they are there.

I was elected to be on the board of ASCAP, but at the time I was in the middle of an incredibly heavy workload, especially working with Michael Jackson and all my other endeavors in the ’80s. So I wrote a long letter to ASCAP recommending that Marilyn Bergman take my place on the board – which she did, and not surprisingly, she later became an awesome president and chairman of ASCAP for a period of fifteen years, until 2009. (Currently, Paul Williams has taken the reins and is continuing to do a wonderful job). I’ve known Marilyn and Alan Bergman since we were next-door neighbors and worked together on the songs for In the Heat of the Night in 1967. She’s like family. I knew she’d be right for the board because I knew her soul, her mind, and her God-given gifts. She definitely has a leader’s mind. She’s brilliant. You can hear it in her lyrics.

If you want to know what ASCAP’s mission is and always has been, just read the first few lines of “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” with music by Michel Legrand and lyrics by Marilyn and Alan Bergman:

How do you keep the music playing?

How do you make it last?

How do you keep the song from fading too fast?

 Quincy Jones

A Friend in the Music Business

On February 13, 1914, a group of the nation’s most distinguished and popular songwriters gathered together in New York City to support the mission of ASCAP, a new organization for publishers and songwriters. A few years later, ASCAP received its mandate from the Supreme Court to collect royalties for the public performance of copyrighted material. Over the course of the next century, ASCAP has been as prominent a force for the advancement and nurture and financial well-being of songwriters as any record label or publishing outfit one would care to name. With a responsive board of directors made up entirely of songwriter/composer and publisher members, ASCAP has defended creators’ rights at every turn against those who would seek to devalue music. Today, with copyright under renewed assault, its mission is as resonant and vital as ever, along with its relatively new role as a nurturer of the young artists who represent the future of music.

Award-winning music writer Bruce Pollock explores the growth and changes within this complex society and its relationship to emerging technologies, in the context of 100 years of an ever-evolving music business, to see how ASCAP has become, for those who hope to make a living making music, now more than ever, “a friend in the music business.”