Sunday, December 4, 2011

Black Music

This typeface is white .

Black Musicians created Black Music .

I would consider concepts created by Charlie Parker , John Coltrane , Herbie Hancock , Miles Davis , James Brown , Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Wonder CENTRAL to the way I create music . That's black music . Black people should be allowed to be VERY PROUD of that . A piece of music or an improvisation by a Black American musician is Black American music . That is a fact as far as I am concerned .

I used to teach a piano class at a school in Bedford Styvesant . 10 - 15 little black faces and keyboards . They couldn't afford private piano lessons . Their parents obviously didn't have much . After each lesson I would get in my car and 5 minutes later I was in park slope brooklyn surrounded by white wealth and privilege . You couldn't be faced with a situation like that and to want to tell those kids that a black man inspired you to become a musician . Otherwise what have they got apart from their humanity and poverty .

I am very proud to be an Australian musician who was inspired to play music by the Black American Herbie Hancock .

Jazz , Fusion , Blues , Funk , Classical are just words which are often used as an excuse to discriminate against musicians .

It's hard to get rid of words unfortunately . Black American's even seem to want to keep the word "nigger" alive so what chance has "jazz" got of being killed off ?

I doubt inventing another word is going to make things get better . Let's just call it music . There is always going to be music created by Black Americans and Australians hopefully . That would be enough labeling as far as I am concerned but those words are going to creep into the conversation . I would love to see "classical" and "jazz" musicians perform together more often and for Australian musicians to perform more " Australian works " . I hope America can get to a point where the wealth is distributed more evenly and race becomes an issue of the past .. more of a historical fact than an important issue in music .

Monday, September 26, 2011

Music Funding in Australia .

Imagine an Australia where scientists teaching selected "important" scientific historical texts received the lions share of the funding .

Lets say the works of "freud" , " einstein " , "euclid " , " plato " and a few others where deemed worthy of publication and discussion . New research was given little emphasis . Universities mostly taught the classics and the computer science department made do with a couple of Atari computers in the basement .

Similarly very little television or film could be given support , but the works of "shakespeare" and a few other playwrights had large companies with large numbers of administrative personell funding them .

In this imaginary world the CSIRO would be operating on a shoestring budget at the back of a pub . Collecting tips , competing with poker machines for revenue . The Garvan institute would receive little financial support and would be housed in a disused factory in Tempe . The staff at the Garvan would have to clean the building themselves and take out the trash after completing their research .

For a bar or club to be given a license to serve alcohol or have poker machines they would have to serve " Classic English food " . Any other restaurant could only sell coca cola . Sitting on Bennelong point where the Opera house now stands there would be a giant RSL club with Shakespeare playing 24/7 , selling only meat pies and beer . It would be the only place in town with poker machines . Imagine Government funded Television stations played only "classic" European TV shows like Dr Who or Minder ( perhaps the Paul Hogan show for Australian content ) . New shows where had one hour on the weekends and where only played after 2am … American crap like Tyra Banks was on all the other stations . Imagine if Austrade only supported car companies building and exporting "classic model " cars like Ford Falcon or Holden Sandman Ute .

This is my analogy to how music performance and education is funded Australia .

These 2 documents give a fair example of funding levels , and what Australian's pay for outside of the Opera Houses …

I believe if it was science , food , plays , TV or any other endeavor it would be seen to be an absurd situation .

Those of you reading this would think that I might want our musical cultural institutions to be torn down . Nothing could be further from the truth . I am a strong supporter of the music of Bach , Brahms etc etc and I think it is important that this history be preserved in universities , taught , studied , and funded to perform . I believe that the performance of these works should be funded within Universities . As well as funding the performance of "classic" musical texts in Universities , money should be provided in the same institutions for the performance of "classic" Australian musical works by say Peter Sculthorpe , Mike Nock , Graeme Bell , Miriam Hyde etc … Australian musical history is still young relatively speaking but this will change .

Within Universities and outside a great deal more support should be given by the government for newly written music , and for the preservation of our own cultural history . Places like the National Film and Sound archive should be making our history available to Australians and the world for a reasonable price not locking it up in a basement somewhere .

Venues should be being built , with accommodation in them for touring artists , which have the best audio and visual recording/broadcast facilities .

These could be used to allow Australian musicians and composers to present both new and old music to Australia and the world . Access to these venues would be on the basis of firstly that someone's tax return proves them to be a musician . If the government doesn't have the resources to build enough venues to provide for it's musicians (across all genres) then time should be allotted based on a method of peer review and popularity . I would be happy for musicians to perform a few "covers" in this venue from time to time . It would be good for business , and Australia's elite musicians should be able to showcase their abilities playing the standard repertoire . My opinion is that this activity should be viewed similarly to the "Australian Institute of Sport" which is really seen as a learning institution .

At the moment the majority of musicians in Australia presenting new music of any genre do so at considerable financial risk often loosing money for the privilege of presenting their works . There are exceptions of course like Silverchair and Missy Higgins but these are the very few .

I believe if the music industry could be supported in a more sensible manner it could generate much more money for local musicians and create jobs around it .

It would also be of great pride to Australian's if our best and brightest musicians from all genre's could be marketed to the world .

It would help our exports and Australian image .

I imagine a great deal of terrific new Australian music written and performed by Australia's greatest musicians from every genre .

I imagine works written by Joseph Tawadros , Jim Moginie , Paul Grabowsky , Mike Nock , Ross Edwards and host of other talented composers being performed by our best symphony orchestra , augmented by a jazz big band of brilliant improvisors and Australia's best rock and funk session musicians … The night might start with a "repertoire" piece followed by some music celebrating to Australia's rich musical history culminating in the latest new Australian music . It would be happening every night and telecast on the internet to the world . Imagine what that would do for Australian music and its place in the world ..

Surely that is a better world than " lets play the great oldies one more time " …..

Thursday, July 28, 2011

selling music in the digital age / spotify

It's been a while , and this is a long post ...

I grew up in an age of recorded music . My parents realized how much I loved music and for my third birthday I got a very basic turntable and a Beatles LP . I can remember dancing around the room listening to that thing . It's probably my earliest memory . I also remember convincing one of my sisters friends to dance with me to it ( my sister was jealous but it was hard for her to compete with the fab four ) . I also remember hearing Michael Jackson's " Don't stop till you get enough " at a friend's 8 year birthday party . We all danced to "off the wall" at that party with great relish until one kid danced through a glass window and had to go get himself stitched up by a doctor . He's fine now but probably still has the scars on his butt proving how funky MJ is . He literally danced his butt off . Much later after hearing a fender rhodes being played by Ray Charles , Herbie Hancock , Steely Dan and Pink Floyd I knew that I had to become a musician . Since then I have devoured most of the albums by many great artists like Miles Davis , Allan Holdsworth , XTC , Stevie Wonder , John Coltrane etc etc . Most of those albums I either paid for a second hand LP or purchased a CD . A made a few cassettes of friends LPs when I lived in share houses , I have burned a few CDs and even downloaded a few hard to find albums off the internet . Itunes was pretty cool and I have spent a great deal of money there too .
I love to go see live music in NY like Dr Lonnie Smith or Wayne Krantz or Roy Haynes or whoever is playing at smalls or the 55 bar .. That's an important part of life . Today I went to Lincoln Centre to see a free jazz music concert. Unfortunately Barry Harris didn't show as advertised but Eric Reed and Christian Sands played some great jazz piano ....
Even though I love to perform live , I am still a big believer in "studio " music . To me this is a seperate artform to live playing which really came into it's own with the advent of overdubbing ...
In my opinion Allan Holdsworth is the supreme master of this method of communication which probably started with the Beatles Sgt Pepper . Steely Dan , XTC , Weather Report , Miles Davis have made pretty significant contributions to the ART of recorded music , designed to be listened to through a good pair of speakers or headphones .
Roy Haynes is probably best heard with a drink a few feet away from the drums , but some of those other artists mentioned are just as good driving in your car ... I can't afford to spend my money on concerts every day but for $30 a month on itunes I can listen to plenty of great music all the time ...

Part of me thinks flying around the world to make a living is a bit crazy and I always liked the idea of recording music and selling it . My experiences of touring have been pretty poor from a musical perspective . Usually the piano , keyboards , PA system are less than adequate . Often the bass player is playing a borrowed bass , or you are dealing with musicians that are playing your music for the first time because you can't afford to bring a band around the world .

At least in the studio a lot of those problems can be solved . You can choose your piano , have it tuned , find a great sounding room to play in , pay the musicians you want who have been playing with you often . You can bring a whole house of keyboards with you if you want and even spend hours editing and overdubbing and mixing afterwards getting the music just right .

I still think live performance has it's place in fact I think it is equally as valid as performing " in the studio " . It's just a different medium . I play regularly in New York and occasionally overseas and it's always a pleasure . I think the pressure and communal nature of live music essential .

I also believe the renaissance that improvisation has had since the jazz age is in part a result of the fact that it can be recorded . For me it's a game changer that music doesn't need to be notated for it to live forever .

For that reason since I started playing and composing I have gone to great efforts to document my music . The process has been my greatest teacher . Making a CD that anyone would bother to listen too is a pretty huge challenge considering the amount of recorded music already out there . More recently with the help of some of the world's best musicians like Keith Carlock , James Muller etc I have managed to turn my recordings into something that generates a small but regular income . The income doesn't offset the dollars I have spent on musicians and studio fees , but if I stopped making any more CDs at the current income eventually I would start to get a small return on my investment . I haven't lost a great deal of money at this stage but it has been worth it to have my music documented as I would like it to be heard . I have always considered myself a better composer than performer and I would much rather people could LISTEN to my compositions than just look at dots on a page and try and figure out how it is supposed to go . I have been lucky that the tunes I have written have resonated and some of them have been recorded and other's are performed by other musicians fairly regularly , mostly in Australia by jazz musicians . I think Australia needs a body of original jazz compositions which can be reinterpreted so I am proud to be able to make a small contribution to the growing body of music written by folks like Mike Nock , Dale Barlow , Bernie Mcgann and Paul Grabowsky . The Australian general public is not greatly aware of this resource but I believe in the future it will be cherished as part of the Australian identity and soul ( perhaps when those who think Alcohol alone is entertainment enough are in the minority ) .

Why have I written so many words on this blog . Because I believe recorded music HAS VALUE .

The digital age and the internet have changed the way that music can be delivered . It is now no longer necessary to have a collection of your own music . It's possible for a central database to have all the music and we can listen to whatever we wish to whenever we wish . I think this is a great thing and I am all for it . Unfortunately at the time that the internet was created most of the music recorded at a time was owned by non-musicians . Sadly at this point the interests of musicians and the "value" of recorded music has been ERODED to the point where in the USA on Spotify you can listen to 10 hours of music FREE of CHARGE and for $5 you can listen to any music you like at any time ...

It is my opinion that $5 a month for as much recorded music as you can listen too (including most of the great music recorded in the last 100 years) is a DISGRACE and quite frankly and offence to music and musicians . It is so far below the minimum wage it is a joke .

At this point I ask my fellow musicians to take control of their own destiny . We need to set up our own distribution systems for music owned by musicians , with fair pricing and PROPER ACCOUNTABILITY . I believe that this will happen in the future and that the sooner the better ...

I am convinced there are a lot of people in the world who want to continue to support new music to be created and recorded and that they would be prepared to pay a lot more than $5 a month in order to support the latest product being produced . It is my sincere hope that musicians worldwide wake up at this moment and realise that we must take the "business" into our own hands . Let's hope that "Spotify" is actually the beginning of a new age of recorded music where the next Allan Holdsworth can record his/her compositions and be paid properly by the world's music lovers to listen to it . It could be a beautiful future where the creativity and talent of musicians can shine without being told what to play by "businessmen" and anyone with a decent idea can hope to get fair renumeration for it by music lovers .

Let's hope !

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Letter to Peter Garrett . MP

 The Hon Peter Garrett AM, MPThank you for your time.
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You have sent the following details:

Name: Sean Wayland
Address: 571 6th ave apartment 1
City: Brooklyn
State or Territory: N.S.W
Postcode: 11215
Country: United States
Telephone Number: +1 347 5231455
Email Address:
Comments: Hi Peter, I am an Australian musician living in New York. I studied jazz piano at the Sydney Conservatorium of music in 1992. I am well known amongst the jazz community in Sydney. I was a founding member of the Jazzgroove Association in Sydney. I left for New York and a bigger pool of musicians and opportunities about 5 years ago. I live in Brooklyn with my wife. I am a big midnight oil fan. Jim Moginie is an online acquaintance. One time I had a lengthy conversation with Rob Hirst when we got stuck in a performers van together en-route to the Wangaratta jazz festival. I am writing to ask for your political not musical help. Australia's recorded jazz history is disappearing fast. Most recordings that still exist on LP are fading. Older musicians and independent record company owner's are dying before their copyright can be passed on. If something isn't done this valuable history will be lost for good. A solution would be to create an online database of titles with reference to their locations in various libraries. I have contacted the National Film and Sound archive about this. They are willing to give some help but jazz is a small part of their large program and the law limits what they can do. A legal solution needs to be sought that would allow out of print music to be rereleased. Perhaps if an album was out of print for 20 years the copyright in the masters would automatically refer back to the musicians or their families. If it was legal and encouraged for musicians to digitize their collections and leave them at the music school libraries (like the one at the Sydney Con) this music could be saved. With the internet an online wikipedia style database of recordings could be set up cheaply. The Australian people could edit it and take care of their own history so to speak. I also believe that a valuable business could be created if the law would allow it. My piano teacher at the Conservatorium Roger Frampton died in 2000 aged 52. He created music in the 1970's which I have never been able to hear despite quite a lot of searching. I am told it is very good. I believe that his music should be heard by Australian's and the world. It should be taught in schools. The producer of some of those old Frampton LP's is approaching 90 years of age. It is time for action. I have set up a facebook group in an attempt to gain some momentum on this issue. Please email me thank you. I hope all is well and that you still get a chance to get into the ocean in the 2035 postcode. Yours Sincerely Sean Wayland