Artist Profile: Julian Saporiti

Artist Profile: Julian Saporiti

Artist Profile: Julian Saporiti
By: Devanney Haruta

FEBRUARY 23rd, 2018

ARTIST STORIES

Singer/songwriter Julian Saporiti tells stories of Asian-American history through music in his project, No No Boy.

At Your Heaven, we’re all about listening up close, whether in living room concerts or one-on-one conversations. This week, I talked with singer/songwriter Julian Saporiti, who’s all about sharing music (and stories) that inspire close listening.
Julian and Erin perform for a wide variety of audiences, including university students.

Julian’s project (and PhD dissertation) No No Boy shares stories of Asian-American history through music. With harmony singer Erin Aoyama, Julian has been touring around the country, performing in churches, schools, and community centers. What is now a songbook, a full tour schedule, and a series of educational sessions originally started out as a collection of research projects and a personal exploration of his family’s history:

“About a year ago, sometime right after the election, I was at home in Nashville with my mom, and I just started listening to these interviews that I had transcribed of people that were in these [Japanese internment] camps and other interviews with Asian-American musicians. I remember being at the dining room table, and my guitar was right there, and I just started writing all these songs. Literally while I was transcribing these interviews. Telling these stories through these songs.”

“I remember being at the dining room table, and my guitar was right there, and I just started writing all these songs. Literally while I was transcribing these interviews.”

When Julian picks up a guitar, you can’t help but lean in and listen. Whether playing a song at the kitchen table or onstage, Julian’s a natural performer. Both he and Erin effuse a genuine charisma and sincerity that brings an optimism to the songs despite the bone-chilling intensity behind the stories. That Erin’s grandmother was incarcerated during WWII makes the music all the more personal. For Julian, “it’s really powerful for her to sing these songs with me.”

No No Boy also brings Julian into collaboration with other Asian-American musicians. He and indie-rock violinist Kishi Bashi are playing a sold-out show in Providence, RI later next week, and earlier in the year, cellist Takénobu joined them for a southern tour through Alabama and Tennessee. The project is a commemoration and celebration of Asian-American history that Julian invites everyone to join; his goal is to “spark conversations with people, regardless of their background.”

Kishi Bashi, Julian Saporiti, and Erin Aoyama at Heart Mountain, site of a Japanese internment camp in Wyoming.
[image credit]
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This year, Julian and Erin are hitting the road with No No Boy. Julian has presented his research at academic conferences and has spent countless hours studying ethnographic theory, but where the project really finds meaning, he says, is in concert:

“It’s a really unobtrusive way for people to connect to this history because you’re telling stories through songs about individuals. It’s not hitting people over the head with, ‘Did you know 120,000 people were incarcerated in these camps?’ You talk about actual names of people and what they were doing in these spaces, and how they lived.”

“The world makes a lot more sense when you’re hanging out and singing songs and having conversations.”

It’s definitely a great way to get a PhD, but the project reaches far beyond Julian’s graduate studies. At the end of the day, No No Boy is really about the connections between Julian, his guitar, and the audience: “The world makes a lot more sense when you’re hanging out and singing songs and having conversations.”

Five Brand New High-End Acoustic Guitars from NAMM 2018 That You Have To Check Out

Five Brand New High-End Acoustic Guitars from NAMM 2018 That You Have To Check Out

The Next Big Thing

By: Katie Murray

FEBRUARY 19th, 2018

MUSIC NEWS

Five Brand New High-End Acoustic Guitars from NAMM 2018 That You Have To Check Out

Once again, we had a ball at NAMM in Anaheim, California last month, and were in awe at the plethora of new and exciting acoustic guitar lines, and models for 2018. The images of these stunning instruments are still haunting us, and since we can’t get our hands on all of them right now we thought we’d share a few on our wish list.

Martin, John Mayer Signature D-45

“A full thickness neck comes with hexagon inlays, bone nut and saddle, plus gold open-gear tuners, as well as an interior label personally signed by the man himself.”

MusicRadar

  1. John Mayer Signature D-45 Acoustic Guitar by Martin

Price: $15,000

First up, take a look at the new John Mayer Signature model. This high-end guitar has an Engelmann spruce top, with Guatemalan rosewood backs and sides. If all of that doesn’t sound fancy enough, it was also designed, and signed by Grammy winner John Mayer. Musicradar.com tells that it’s full thickness neck comes with hexagon inlays, bone nut and saddle, plus gold open-gear tuners, as well as an interior label personally signed by the man himself.

 

Breedlove, Legacy Concertina E

“It’s smaller and more comfortable to hold, but the guitar still has a nice big sound.”

PremierGuitar

  1. The Concertina from Breedlove: Legacy Concertina E

Price: $2,799

The Concertina is Breedlove’s brand new body shape for 2018 which uses their new sound optimization process. What we really dig about this new build is that it’s smaller and more comfortable to hold, but the guitar still has a nice big sound. The Legacy is made from sitka spruce and cocobolo, and has a glossy finish. It’s comfortable, and the sound delivers, what more could we ask for?

Alvarez Yairi, FYM66HD

“The new and rare material that this line of guitars is crafted from draws us to it like a magnet.”

PremierGuitar

Check out our Your Heaven Audio CloseUp System on the Products page.

  1. Alvarez Guitars FYM66HD Model

Price $2,500

We were looking for unique, and we found it here. A one of a kind model, The FYM66HD is made out of perfectly conditioned Honduras wood from Japan that’s been aged for nearly 50 years. The FYM66HD is the all mahogany model. The rare material that this line of gorgeous guitars is crafted from draws us to it like a magnet. It’d be a gem in any collection, for sure.

Art & Lutherie, Legacy Denim Blue Q-Discrete

  1. Art & Lutherie Legacy Q-Discrete 2018 Denim Blue

Price: $450

Art and Lutherie is a sister company of one of our favorite guitar manufacturers, Godin. After completely revamping their line last year they revealed a new denim blue finish for a couple of their models. Ok, so it’s not ‘high-end’ price-wise, but this cool vintage looking guitar with on deck volume and tone controls has a sheer finish that gives each individual guitar a different look. They basically took a sweet guitar and made it even sweeter with a faded denim look that we just can’t get enough of.

Art & Lutherie, Legacy Denim Blue Q-Discrete

  1. Lowden S-35W Figured Walnut

Price: $5,980

This new 12 fret neck joint model by Lowden is redesigned with the bridge closer to the middle of the body of the guitar, and the neck slightly shorter. We particularly love this one made entirely of figured walnut, which is beautiful and gives the instrument a warm tone. Lowden makes great guitars, and this one just happens to stand out in not only look, but more importantly in sound. To the ear it’s distinctive and earthy, but is still super clear. Easily one of the most attractive models we saw, this acoustic is a perfect example of combing flawless looks and flawless quality.

They Were Robots Live in Concert, Advice from Drummer Tim Eskey

They Were Robots Live in Concert, Advice from Drummer Tim Eskey

They Were Robots Live in Concert, Advice from Drummer Tim Eskey
By: Katie Murray

FEBRUARY 2nd, 2018

CATEGORY

Alluring Live Music Venue Features Up-And-Coming Alternative Rock Band, and we pick the brains of their drummer

The good vibes were all around as these cool cats took the stage at Alchemy and brought the room to life with their experimental, alt-rock bangers. High-spirited drummer Tim Eskey shared his colorful energy with me in a brief interview about his perspective as a performer.

Located at 71 Richmond St., Providence

Image via Alchemy

On Richmond Street in downtown Providence lives a hip live music venue and nightclub called Alchemy. This otherworldly little lounge is appropriately named, and it’s an ideal spot for night owls like myself to come out and support their local artists. Just walk inside and the hypnotic ambiance is immediately evident from the multi-colored mood lighting that flashes over a mysterious dark room. Like unveiling a juicy secret, your first time at Alchemy will make you say to yourself, this is my new favorite place. The staff is beyond friendly, too. The kind-eyed bartender was laid-back yet courteous (and also super apologetic), and offered me a free drink after admitting they were out of limes that night. The smell of freshly popped corn filled the air as the employees placed bowls of it on the bar, something for us hungry-for-music attendees to much on while we waited. I made my way over to the arcade games where a pinball machine flashed, and I couldn’t resist playing a few rounds before the show. One of the coolest things about this place is the fact that a sweet view of the stage can be had from anywhere inside. You can take a seat at the bar, get up and dance, or plop down on one of the oversized, cozy leather couches and still get an awesome view of the band.

Step inside for music and fun

Photo by Katie Murray

One of the two groups featured last Saturday calls themselves They Were Robots. The lively crew combines five uber-talented members: Chris Mitchell on keyboard, Mike Cirino on guitar, Matt Smith on bass, Keith Harriman on trombone, and Tim Eskey on drums. Everyone except Tim contributes to the vocals as well. Each bandmate adds his own personal energy on stage; not one of the guys seemed to overshadow the rest, and interlocking vocals give the music a unique texture. I was vibrating with anticipation as I sipped my drink, waiting for them to start the show. The moment they started playing I could feel my spirits lifting. The best way to describe their sound in a nutshell is experimental with a clear alt-rock influence. In the middle of the set, center stage trombonist Keith Harriman asked the audience if we were familiar with the band Cake. I threw my hand in the air as I began reminiscing on the summer nights I’d spent blasting The Distance through my car speakers. Cake does an epic job of smoothly working the trumpet into an alt-rock song, and They Were Robots manages to do the same with the trombone. I have to admit, my favorite part of the show was watching how much fun the band had on stage. There were nothing but passionate and magnetic vibes emanating from these guys as they set fire to the room. The red, green, and blue lights that danced over them reflected the colorful personalities of the bandmates, on radiant display during the set. Even when my feet started to hurt, I couldn’t choose taking a seat over swaying and bouncing to this vivacious bunch. Make sure you check out the band ASAP. Take it from me, their good mood tunes could turn any bad day around with just one note.

The musicians of They Were Robots

Image via They Were Robots

Check out our Your Heaven Audio CloseUp System on the Products page.

I was buzzing after drummer Tim Eskey hit me with a wave of positivity during our brief interview. His genuine insight left me eager to hear more and impatiently waiting for my next opportunity to see him live again

How long have you been playing live?

Started playing out when I was around 11-12, with a dixieland band in San Diego. A couple of years later I was playing swing standards with a big band on a yacht club circuit. Then it was a succession of rock, jazz, and fusion bands at clubs, parties, bars, concerts, and festivals.

“It’s great playing with these guys and being part of where they’re going.”

How did you meet your bandmates?

Craigslist! I’d been playing in the Boston area, but recently moved to Rhode Island and wanted to be more musically centered here. The band (They Were Robots) had been together about a year and was between drummers, looking for a replacement. I answered the ad and we got together to see if it was there. We played and I was blown away. They’re talented, committed, and write compelling and challenging originals. Glad I got the gig. It’s great playing with these guys and being part of where they’re going.

Your Heaven Audio has a drum system in the works, what are the biggest audio challenges you face when playing live?

Getting an accurate sense of how the drums really sound in the mix that the audience is hearing.

“Listening to these guys teaches that drummers are sure enough important, but they need to be a piece of the whole, serving the band’s music, rather than flashing chops, just because.”

Who are some of your influencers and/or favorite artists and what do you admire most about them?

Early influencers/favorites were older jazz drummers like Buddy Rich, Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, Tony Williams, Joe Morello, Jo Jones; and some younger cats like Peter Erskine.  In the rock genre, Ringo (of course), John Bonham, Carl Palmer, Danny Seraphine, Neal Peart, Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, Stewart Copeland, and Dave Grohl are favorites.  Fusion drummers like Vinnie Coliuta blow me away too. That’s a long list, but what they have in common that I most admire is not their incredible chops (that’s just a given on that level) but how they blend with, and make their bands.  Listening to these guys teaches that drummers are sure enough important, but they need to be a piece of the whole, serving the band’s music, rather than flashing chops, just because.

“The only thing I ever wanted to play was drums and, not just by myself, but with just about anybody who would play with me and who, like me, ultimately wanted to play out for other people.”

Any advice or words of wisdom for fellow performers in the industry?

When I was lugging drums to rehearsals and gigs before I could drive, my grandfather, who patiently drove me around, always used to say, “you should have played the damn flute!”  That always used to crack me up because the only thing I ever wanted to play was drums and, not just by myself, but with just about anybody who would play with me and who, like me, ultimately wanted to play out for other people.  I don’t know about advice or wisdom, but I do know that sometimes it’s a grind to get it right and deal with the fact that there’s a lot of competition for good venues these days.  So I’d just remind folks to keep in mind what you love about gigging and to support your fellow musicians by going out and seeing their shows and letting them know when they kill it.

[image caption]
[image credit]

Keys to Buying an Acoustic Guitar

Keys to Buying an Acoustic Guitar

Keys to Buying an Acoustic Guitar
By: Katie Murray

JANUARY 19th, 2018

AUDIO HOW-TO

Where to start and what to keep in mind when guitar shopping

Buying the right acoustic guitar is an important investment that can make or break how you utilize your playing potential. Keep these tips in mind during your search for the perfect instrument.

1) Make a budget, and try to stay within it.

Start off by making a comfortable budget for yourself. If you’re working with one that is relatively low, make sure to do plenty of research on the instrument you have your eye on to ensure that it meets up with your ideal quality. GuitarPlayer.com mentions that, if this is the case, you need to pay more attention to small details such as how well the woods were conditioned.

“Having a sense of what you’re looking for will be very helpful in the narrowing down process of selecting the right guitar for your tastes and needs.”
—Reyes Gonzales of Guitar Salon

2) Be aware of the sound that you’re looking for.

Guitars are manufactured in a variety of different materials, shapes, and sizes. These are all important factors that affect the sound of the instrument. If you’re inspired by a certain artist’s sound, try doing some research on their instrument. Guitar Salon mentions some specific tone options to keep in mind, such as “bright versus dark” and “clear versus full.”

“It pays to have a second set of ears there to give you that uncut, personal opinion that a salesperson may not offer.”
MusicRadar.com

3) Bring a friend along.

Consider bringing along a trusted friend who may be musically inclined. It never hurts to have a second opinion, especially with important investments. MusicRadar.com mentions that, by doing this, you can have your friend play the instrument before you purchase it, so that you can hear what it sounds like from an audience perspective.

Two guitars
Have an old guitar you can trade in?

Photo by William Baeck

“Most dealers will offer to match a lower price you’ve found elsewhere.”
MusicRadar.com

Check out our Your Heaven Audio CloseUp System on the Products page.

4) Look to lower your price any way you can.

Keep in mind that you can always trade in your old guitar for a discount on the new one. MusicRadar.com also notes that some dealers will match a lower price from a different dealer or add accessories to your purchase in order to match the difference.

“If it feels awkward in your mitts it’s going to affect your playing.”
—Art Thompson of GuitarPlayer.com

5) Make sure the guitar feels comfortable.

When buying your guitar, you want to make sure that the instrument is in good condition and the strings are not too far from the fretboard. GuitarWorld suggests that you try playing single notes and chords at different spots on the neck to check for fret buzz. They also recommend looking for light strings and a low action if you’re a beginner.

“Read reviews, try out as many guitars as possible, and ultimately let your ears and hands determine what to take home.”
—Art Thompson of GuitarPlayer.com

6) Trust your musician’s intuition!

You are the artist behind the instrument, so trust what feels right!

If you’re looking for somewhere to start, some of our favorite guitar blogs have great recommendations, such as the ones below.

Daisy Rock Guitars’ “Sophomore Butterfly”

Price: $279

Cordoba’s “GK Studio”

Price: $975

Greg Brandt’s Standard Concert Model, reviewed here

Price: $7,000

Martin Guitar’s D-28 Authentic 1937, reviewed here

Price: $8,599

For more options for buying the perfect guitar on a budget check out the GuitarPlayer.com article here. If you’re looking to learn more about higher end guitar options, scroll through GuitarAficionados Reviews for plenty of reliable insight.

Playing with the Room

Playing with the Room

Playing with the Room
By: Devanney Haruta

JANUARY 5th, 2018

ARTIST STORIES

A conversation with Monte Nickles

For audio engineer Monte Nickles, “there’s never a solo instrument – there’s always the room and the instrument.” Monte has been working in audio recording for six years with musicians of all genres, from the St. Louis Symphony to the Montana-based Big Sky Trio. He does everything from arranging mics to setting preamps to mixing tracks. But his key to a great recording is not just in the gear: it’s the room acoustics.

Monte Nickles is an audio engineer at Tippet Rise Art Center in Fishtail, MT.

Image via Monte Nickles

When recording classical music at Tippet Rise Art Center in Fishtail, MT, Monte finds that acoustics are essential to capturing a beautiful sound. “In classical, you’re trying to record not only the artist and the instrument, but also the room. It’s the direct sound from everybody as well as their interaction with each other and with the room.” It takes patience to find a harmonious balance between the acoustics and the instrument’s sound. “If you get too close to the piano you can hear the hammers and the mechanical noises, and then if you get too far away you’re suddenly recording the room with someone playing piano in it, not somebody playing piano in a room. There’s a fine line to find that balance.”
“In classical, you’re trying to record not only the artist and the instrument, but also the room.”

In jazz, room response contributes to the style’s aesthetics. Unlike classical recordings, which are often generous with reverb, jazz acoustics tend toward sounds that are clean, crisp, and clear. Many engineers achieve this by recording instruments in isolation, but putting the musicians in totally separate rooms risks minimizing eye-contact between players. “To me it’s never as good if the musicians can’t see each other, because jazz is very interactive. I always try to set up so that they’re isolated but can see each other.”

When you throw an audience into the mix, you enter a whole other world of recording: live shows. The audience, by making noise and even changing the room acoustics with its physical presence, is a key element that distinguishes live concerts from studio recordings. “If you heard just a guitar cab from a live concert, it doesn’t sound very good. The amplification of the room gives some life back to the sound. You can also put a couple mics out in the audience to capture what’s going on in the room.”

Even the outdoors have acoustics
Photo by Redd Angelo, via Unsplash
Check out our Your Heaven Audio CloseUp System on the Products page.
When it comes to recording, whether live or in the studio, gear and gadgets aren’t the only essential variables that can bring your sound to the next level. “A good room can make a big difference. It makes the engineer’s job easier, it makes the musician’s job more fun, and it makes the recording way better. I think it’s the one most overlooked things in recording these days. Most up-and-coming people don’t do a lot of experimentation with learning a space.”
“A good room can make a big difference. I think it’s the one most overlooked things in recording these days.”

You have to experiment, Monte encourages. Try the drums in this corner, the guitar in this spot. Move the mics around. Record a sample, listen back. Then move around again, until you’ve found the spot where the room sounds the best. Remember, you’re not just playing in the room, you’re playing with it.

All instruments enter into a relationship with the room in which they are played

Photo by Wes Hicks, via Unsplash

Guitar Advice to Beginners from Virtuosos

Guitar Advice to Beginners from Virtuosos

Advice to Beginners from Virtuosos

By: Katie Murray

DECEMBER 22nd, 2017

AUDIO HOW-TO

Pro tips from pro guitar players

Gene Bertoncini, Gabriela Quintero, and Charles Mokotoff, share their advice for less experienced guitarists with the ambition to succeed.

“You can’t take it anywhere unless you start with the truth.”

Gene Bertoncini

Gene Bertoncini

Image via Guitarkadia.com

Gene Bertoncini is a long time jazz musician who has been playing the acoustic guitar for a lengthy six decades. A clear lover of all things musical, Gene finds the art both abstract and beautiful. He emphasizes the importance of learning through small jam sessions with other performers, but above all feels that the simple desire to play is a gift in itself. Once you possess this desire, you have to “run with it,” he says. He feels that success in the industry is dependent on having this drive to play.

Gene Bertoncini plays guitar

Gene also describes how intuitive playing is a big part of being a successful musician. He mentioned in an interview with Guitarkadia—a blog dedicated to great stories about guitars, told through text, video, multimedia, and photos—that you don’t always have to be entirely conscious of what you’re playing in an effort to play well. He says in reference to this, “It sounds funny, but that’s okay.”

“The important part is that it has spirit.”

Gabriela Quintero of Rodrigo y Gabriela

Photo by Michael Loccisano

Check out our Your Heaven Audio CloseUp System on the Products page.

Gabriella Quintero, who combines percussive rhythms with metal techniques says in an interview with the world’s most popular music gear website Reverb, “If you think about it, all kinds of music can be played on the guitar.” This is something, which at first note, she failed to realize. The artistic freedom which the guitar offers is not necessarily available on all other instruments, which is an important thought to note when learning to play and testing out different styles.

Gabriela Quintero holds her guitar

Gabriela Quintero with her guitar

Photo by Michael Loccisano

“The important part is that it has spirit,” she goes on to say. “Music, like all expressions of art, is about filling it with spirit. Every night we play pieces that we have been playing for 10 years. They’re like your children, they grow with you, it has to have lots of spirit.”

“You have to love practicing.”

Charles Mokotoff’s career as a musician flourished throughout the 1980s. After taking a long break from music to focus on other obligations, he decided to pick it back up. “I also had an enormous capacity for practice,” says the classical guitarist in an interview with Classical Guitar, a site which includes wonderful articles on performing, practicing, interpretation and techniques related to the guitar.

Charles Mokotoff plays guitar

Charles Mokotoff

Photo by Cindy Dyer

Mokotoff is a firm believer in the necessity of deliberate practice when aiming for success. “I would spend at least an hour with the guitar. I wrote out a schedule of pieces to review, new music to learn, and at least 15 minutes or so of technical exercises.You have to love practicing, I really look forward to my time with the guitar, I never feel like it is a chore.”

Charles Mokotof plays guitar in a church

Charles Mokotoff playing guitar

Photo by Cindy Dyer

One important piece of advice which all of the above artists agree on, is that it’s crucial you learn from watching and connecting with other more knowledgeable artists as often as possible. These musicians value their own encounters with mentor type figures in their lives. So get networking and get practicing because one day, you could be someone else’s inspiration.

Artist Spotlight: Jesús Florido

Artist Spotlight: Jesús Florido

Artist Spotlight: Jesús Florido

By: Katie Murray

DECEMBER 8th, 2017

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT

Talented violinist takes the CloseUp System on the road

With 30 years of experience under his belt, Jesús E. Florido is a highly experienced violinist and an exquisite talent. After trying the CloseUp String System he was thoroughly convinced that the revolutionary features of the technology make it a breakthrough system. Coming from a brilliant musician who has tried countless other amplification and recording systems, his fond opinion of the system was certainly not overlooked.

Jesús stands in front of a wall, holding his violin

Jesús Florido, violinist extraordinaire

Image via Jesús Florido

“I have tried them all.”

The CloseUp System was made by musicians, for musicians like Jesús

“In my 30 years of playing amplified violin, I’ve always been looking for the best sound, the best violin, the best bow and the best amplification. It’s like these guys designed exactly what I had in mind, and I am very happy to be working with them closely, because it is revolutionary. Amplifying an acoustic violin has always been a challenge. I’ve tried them all, and then this past year I found the CloseUp System by Your Heaven Audio.”

“We compared it in the studio with high end mics, it was as good.”

Jesús is a discerning listener who knows what he wants to hear.

Photo by Jeff Fasano

Check out our Your Heaven Audio CloseUp System on the Products page.

Why the CloseUp system works for Jesús…

“It is very easy to use. It holds easily; you can put it in and out, and it’s not intrusive. This one has the perfect sound. It can also model and equalize your sound on their proprietary software. You go online, you test it for your violin, and it sets the perfect EQ for your violin. It’s unbelievable. We compared it in the studio with high end mics, it was as good. I can have a high end violin and just put it in the f hole and it works wonderfully.”

Jesús will soon be touring the world with Sonoro Latino

Image via Jesús Florido

Jesús’ upcoming world tour with the CloseUp System…

“I mean it was unbelievable, we were very surprised and very pleased that I found this mic since i was looking for a system for my new upcoming world tour with Sonoro Latino. I needed to find the perfect sound for this because it is an acoustic show and I want to have great sound. This system accomplishes them all. Ease of use, no feedback, great sound, and the EQ system software is amazing. We can’t wait to get on the road and show you how good it sounds.”

Jesús wearing coat, hat, and scarf

Coming to a venue near you…

Photo by Jacob Mendez

“We can’t wait to get on the road and show you how good it sounds.”

The Theory of Composing

The Theory of Composing

The Theory of Composing

By: Devanney Haruta

December 1st, 2017

ARTIST STORIES

What’s music theory got to do with it?

Music theory can come in handy when analyzing a Beethoven quartet or a horror movie score. But what about during the actual process of composition? This week, I talked with a couple local musicians to learn how they use music theory when composing.

Image by Wayne Topkin, via Unsplash

Mark Benis, a video game and film score composer, studied music in college and is now in graduate school for composition at NYU. He uses theory to maintain a creative flexibility in his character themes: “Say you’re writing for TV and don’t necessarily know what’s going to happen later in the series. You write a theme for a character, say they’re a very headstrong, aggressive person. If your main motive is big Taiko drums and guttural men’s choir, but they have a very tender scene later in the series, you’ve kind of written yourself into a hole. If you write a motive that can imply all sorts of harmony, you have more possibilities.”

Lamplight City, a video game scored by Mark Benis, scheduled for release in 2018

Illustration by Francisco Gonzalez

“If you write a motive that can imply all sorts of harmony, you have more possibilities.”

Theory also helps him translate a director’s instructions into musical notes: “If we’re talking about a client-composer situation, it’s the composer’s job to interpret what your client says into musical language. When they say, ‘I want this to be darker,’ does that mean they want the same melody but just want you to orchestrate it for cellos and double basses? It’s interpreting their words into theory and seeing if you can accomplish the changes they want.”

Check out our Your Heaven Audio CloseUp System on the Products page.

I next talked to Cory Broad, who plays acoustic guitar with the band called ., or One Dot. Cory’s been playing and writing pop and rock songs for 15 years, and this September at Brown University, he decided to take a class in music theory.

When Cory composes with his band members, theory is never a big part of the composition process. It’s more about the vibe of the music, and less about harmonic complexity: “I’ll write songs [with chords] I-IV-V, playing everything on the guitar with parallel fifths and octaves, and I’m pretty chill with that. It’s not very theoretically complicated or particularly harmonically interesting. I’m more concerned about the words and the emotions and the performance.”

Cory Broad plays acoustic guitar with the band . (One Dot)

Photo by Thea Monje

“Having the theory is helpful sometimes, and then it’s pretty easy to just ignore when I don’t want to use it.”

Cory sees theory as a tool to use when he needs it, and ignore when he doesn’t: “Whenever I pick up more theory I get concerned that I’m going to lose some kind of naiveté or something that I wanted to maintain in writing or doing music. But I don’t think that fear has been true. Having the theory is helpful sometimes, and then it’s pretty easy to just ignore when I don’t want to use it. If I need to think through something, then I’ll try to turn on some of the random theory stuff I have floating around.”

Whether you’re writing scores for films or playing and recording for yourself, music theory can be a great tool for tackling technical problems. But if you want to just zone out and groove, diving headfirst into a deep analysis might not be necessary. How do you use music theory, if at all, in your music?

Artist Spotlight: Albert Chang

Artist Spotlight: Albert Chang

Artist Spotlight: Albert Chang
By:  Devanney Haruta

NOVEMBER 3rd, 2017

ARTIST STORIES

Musician, Filmmaker, Magician

Albert Chang – musician, filmmaker, magician – is this week’s artist spotlight. During his tour with acclaimed singer-songwriter Dia Frampton who starred on The Voice, Albert performed with his CloseUp System at Brighton Hall in Boston and talked with us in the green room.

So, you’re a musician and a filmmaker and a magician. Can you tell us a little bit about that, how you integrate these three aspects of your creative character?

I began as a musician. My parents got me started off with piano, and eventually when I got to high school I decided to focus on the violin. And in middle school, I picked up magic, and there’s a lot of similarities with magic and music. Magic involves a lot of finger dexterity, but it also is a performance art. You’re trying to convince your audience, or make them feel something using something that isn’t necessarily tangible.

Then in college, that’s when I started to get into filmmaking. I borrowed a mixer from an a capella group that I was a part of, and I was like, “Hey, I’ve seen all of these YouTube covers, I think we could do one, too.” And so in a day, we just recorded and filmed the video, put it out, and we got a huge positive reaction from our college community. And that was kind of the catalyst for it all.

Albert Chang (far right) plays violin with singer-songwriter Dia Frampton on their 2017 tour.

Image by Your Heaven Audio, LLC

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I used to think that you needed really expensive cameras in order to shoot YouTube covers, but as I did more research, I realized that all you needed was a DSLR camera and a set of lenses, and you can get professional-looking videos. And so I created a YouTube channel and combined all my passions: magic, music, and videography. My handle on social media is “SleightlyMusical.” It’s a play on words – “sleight” is actually from “sleight of hand.” I try to combine slight of hand with violin playing, all the while shooting in really scenic type of areas and venues. And so I’m hoping to continue to do this in some greater capacity in the future.

“Magic… is a performance art. You’re trying to convince your audience, or make them feel something using something that isn’t necessarily tangible.”

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?

To string players or classical musicians who are trying to “make it” in this current decade… I think social media that is relevant to your audience is more important now than it’s ever been. Classical music is very, very competitive, and there’s not a crazy amount of jobs. It’s important to diversify your skill set and not just try and get orchestra gigs. Think about doing recording sessions with an artist, doing sessions recording scores for video games or short films, and putting out your own content on the internet. You have YouTube, you have Facebook, you have Instagram, Soundcloud… you have all these different platforms that you can use to showcase your talents. If there isn’t that niche for you, you need to carve it out for yourself.

Interested in doing your own acoustic recordings? The Your Heaven team has some tips for setting up a home studio.

Image by Paulette Wooten

“It’s important to diversify your skill set. Think about…putting out your own content on the internet… If there isn’t that niche for you, you need to carve it out for yourself.”

Symphony of Horrors: The Sound of Scary Movies

Symphony of Horrors: The Sound of Scary Movies

Symphony of Horrors: The Sound of Scary Movies

By: Nico DeLong

October 27th, 2017

AUDIO HOW-TO

The role of music and sound in making horror scary

Sound is incredibly evocative. It can soothe us or set our teeth on edge. It can transport us back into memories of the past or deposit us in a totally unfamiliar world. Sound adds sensory intensity and emotional resonance to our experiences. Film, even though it is considered a visual medium, has a longstanding codependent relationship with sound. Today, in honor of Halloween, we’ll be exploring the role of sound in scary movies (defined broadly).

A single railroad track curves to the right through a forest of barren trees.

What sounds do you think might accompany this spooky setting?

Image via Visualhunt

“Any good soundtrack must complement and enhance the sensory world of the film. So, soundtracks for scary films must be some combination of unnerving, unsettling, and uncomfortable.”

Soundtracks

Music has accompanied film from the very beginning. Early films were themselves silent, but audiences often experienced them accompanied by live music, which was usually provided by a pianist working for the theater. The first commercially distributed “talkie,” The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson, came out in 1927, and the landscape of motion pictures was never the same again. The first Academy Award for Best Original Score was presented in 1935 to Victor Schertzinger and Gus Kahn for their work on One Night of Love, a musical romance set in the world of opera singers.

Any good soundtrack must complement and enhance the sensory world of the film. So, soundtracks for scary films must be some combination of unnerving, unsettling, and uncomfortable. Every composer will do this in their own way, but there are undeniably some tried and tested techniques.

“Scary movies can be quite extreme—extremely suspenseful, extremely gory, extremely upsetting—and the music must keep up. Many composers accomplish this by going to extremes with elements of their musical language.”

One key concept: extremes. Scary movies can be quite extreme—extremely suspenseful, extremely gory, extremely upsetting—and the music must keep up. Many composers accomplish this by going to extremes with elements of their musical language. Take for example, texture. An extremely full, thickly orchestrated texture can overwhelm the senses and intensify whatever emotions viewers are experiencing (think Danny Elfman’s score to Sleepy Hollow (1999), which makes use of a full palette of strings, brass, percussion, and chorus). On the other end of the spectrum, an extremely sparse, bare texture can put viewers on edge, in a state of nervous anticipation (think Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind’s score to The Shining (1980), with its plain cantus firmus melody and spans of near total silence).

Heads Will Roll

Image via Schmoeville

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Extremes also play into which instruments that have a reputation for being particularly ~spooky.~  In this case, it’s extremes of pitch and tone. Instruments with extremely high registers, such as the violin or piccolo, or extremely low regsiters, such as the double bass, are often considered to be more eerie. Instruments with extremely pure tone (tubular bells, the theremin, and the soprano or countertenor voice) are also generally thought of as ethereal to the point of being unnerving. What horror film soundtrack doesn’t feature at least one violin tremolo or soprano descant?

Horror films often feature violence, injury, and death.
Image via Visualhunt

In the age of the “talkies,” music is only one component in the overall sonic landscape of a film. There are also all of the voices and sound effects that occur in the course of the story.

Two main sound categories needed for horror films are screams and gore sounds (bones breaking, dismemberment, etc.). A Sound Effect has a great horror sound design guide, which includes a whole section devoted to gore sound effects. Generally, the goal is to produce sounds that are not realistic but hyper-realistic. Viewers should not just hear but viscerally feel the physical trauma the onscreen bodies are undergoing. Common tools for making such sounds include humble fruits and vegetables: watermelons, carrots, tomatoes, etc.

A pale-faced man with hollow eyes and blood on his forehead and mouth walks through a crowd towards the camera.

Zombies invariably take a beating

Image via Visualhunt

When it comes to screams, again the goal is to convey through sound the type and intensity of emotion and sensation that the onscreen character is feeling. Is it the long drawn out scream of someone falling into an endless pit? Does it trail off into a gurgle as someone’s throat is cut? The job of screaming falls not so much to the character actors as to sound design professionals and voice actors. They may hold recording sessions entirely separate from the filming, just to capture a satisfactory palette of screams (and perhaps other exertions too).

So next time you watch a scary movie, take a moment to think about all the work that went into making it not just look but also sound scary.