Archive for October, 2015

Symphony No. 4 Update

Posted: October 27, 2015 in Press
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Guess what? I’ve managed to complete the first two movements of the my fourth symphony within the past month. I’m on a roll! I’m editing as I go to reduce the amount of post editing I’ve been accustomed to with previous large scale works for orchestra. I’m currently working out the material for the remaining movements.

Initially, I intended Symphony No. 4 to be a one-movement work, but since getting under way, I’ve decided to partition it. I’m expanding my musical language with this symphony. I’m loving it so far, and I find myself being extra careful with what remains -vs- what I omit. I’ve omitted at least fifteen to twenty-minutes of music already. What remains of the combined first two movements is approximately twenty-minutes of music.

Stay tuned for more!



As a composer of orchestral music, which follows many years of composing and producing popular music (hip-hop, soul, rock, country, funk, jazz, house, reggae, etc…), several concert programmers assume that my orchestral and chamber works are mere re-generations of the pop music I once made, or am still creating. This, I believe, is a contributing factor to me not being received or welcomed at the table, alongside today’s recognized and/or commissioned composers.

As I compose my fourth symphony, symphonies 1-3, along with several other large works remain unperformed/unprogrammed. I’ve been encouraged to compose several chamber works, which I have done, and continue to do. Yet, those too have not been performed. Reaching out to performers, ensembles, and conductors is a necessary and easy task, but the boomerang effect most often returns with no response. No matter how many solicitations are made, nothing changes. These various groups haven’t even heard the music, nor have they read through any of my scores; yet there are no responses. I can totally understand if one hears the music and she or he doesn’t like it. That’s NOT the issue here. It’s like I’m being downsized in a sophisticated way. Why is it like this? I’ve considered various scenarios that may be contributing factors. Here are a few.

  1. I have not won any awards for music composition. I began composing concert works beyond the age of 30; thus considered too old to apply to several opportunities restricted by age. Basically, I’ve been deemed too old from the time I began.
  2.  I may be type-cast as a composer of popular music. A background in pop music doesn’t sit well in the classical world; though it shouldn’t hinder anything. But, maybe it does.
  3.  Perhaps my ethnicity is a contributing factor, since orchestras generally do not perform or program the music of black composers outside the months of January or February (the times for Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday and/or Black History Month). Furthermore, black composers are often stereo-typed as being composers of jazz, gospel, and the blues, and nothing more.
  4. No one is a champion of my music. No conductor, no musician, not a college professor; no one. How does a composer get their works noticed when NO ONE responds to their solicitation?

I realize that it’s difficult for ALL composers! Yes, I do, but where’s one’s chance? Do you have to pay for it? Is it hidden in one of those call for scores opportunities that comes with a hefty entrance fee and an age limitation? Is it based on some dark, inside relationship that one must commit to? This is something to think about. What are the deciding factors?

I also have a beef with conductors who hand me their business card, and say, “email me”, or “phone me”. Yeah, I’ve followed up each time, reaching out to several conductors who seemed inviting with well intentions. However, my efforts after the follow-ups seemed like a teaser; like a woman leading a man on, only to lead him in the wrong direction. It’s a joke….it’s all one big joke! Several of these people, but certainly not all, are pretentious. And, do you wanna know something? Just for kicks, I contact numerous conductors, just to test the waters that there might be a scent of interest for one of my original orchestral works to receive a programmed performance. But,…..ha haaaaa……it’s like knocking on a 4-foot, thick door. No one’s listening.

I feel like this…..if music is your practice, then you ought to be a harmonious being; accepting people and music from all corners. You should also practice common courtesy.

It’s like an old, well-built, sturdy machine telling the people, “Hey, come play with me. I’ll be your friend. Bring me your music, and I’ll program it for you.” So, you engage this machine, but the machine doesn’t really want you. It’s programmed to act like it does want you…..that’s how it keeps afloat……….by keeping you interested and enticing you to engage it. It’s like that woman I mentioned earlier.

Someone mentioned to me that conductors are extremely busy people. Oh? Really? Well, I’m busy too. Composers are busy people, most often busy dealing with a lot of b.s. at promoting themselves and their work. I too study scores, and I spend numerous hours  composing music. I record, produce, teach, eat, sleep, and handle other personal responsibilities, just like a conductor. So, what’s so different? What is it? I often think about this, and perhaps, many conductors just do not have the freedom to program works by living composers, simply because those who are funding the orchestra prefer to hear the usual Bach, Brahms, Haydn, Beethoven, and……you get where I’m coming from. I would like to believe this to be the main reason, instead of it being a sort of holy territory, where only deceased composers or friends of conductors thrive.

It’s a lot to consider. I’m also talking about the wind band world as well. I once was told that the wind band arena would be more inviting than the orchestral realm, but both are equally biased. Friends conduct the music of friends. It’s all a game. You’re either someone’s friend, or you’re kissing someone’s ass to get ahead. It’s the truth, and that’s madness to me.

One hopeful outlook is that there’s an increasing number of young conductors coming on the scene, who possess a progressive interest in musical diversity. Unlike those I’ve previously encountered, I hope these emerging conductors are more engaging. Perhaps these will be the ones to dismantle the old machine. Things cannot remain the same if we are to move forward.


Kerwin Young Composing a Fourth Symphony

Posted: October 18, 2015 in Press

With no present work assignments to interfere with my time, I’m writing my fourth symphony. About a week ago, I was averaging one-minute of new music a day. Currently, I’m averaging about 3 minutes per day. Without a doubt, I will complete this work before the new year, leaving me with a few weeks for handling the edits and engraving. It won’t be as long as my symphonies 1-3, or as large, but it’s a happening work. I’ve got nothing but time on my hands to compose, while I continue to secure my niche in the classical field.

Upcoming performances include a November concert of  Evan Cooper (violist) performing a new arrangement of Music for Steven Spielberg’s Next Film. Originally composed for alto saxophone and piano, the latest version for viola and piano excites me. I’m looking forward to hear it. it seems like this will be the last of my concert performances for 2015.

Other planned compositions include a piano quintet for pianist Wen Zhang, and an orchestral work celebrating the life of O’Sensei Ronald Duncan.  Other works slated between 2016-2019 can be viewed on my website, under Concert Works.

Stay tuned!


Yes Yes Yall, it’s the latest release of Kerwin “Sleek” Young’s Beats Breaks & Rhymes Vol 2! Peep it HERE.

Chopped Herring Vol 2Closing out 2015 with the second Chopped Herring release of some hot, unreleased hip-hop flavors from the 1990’s. Recorded at the legendary Public Enemy studio , and at my studio in Roosevelt, Strong Island, these cuts reflect just a glimpse of my hip-hop production back in the day.

and……YES, there’s a book in the making as well. Stay alert!


Babies and Masters

Posted: October 10, 2015 in Press

I just want to shed some light on those of you who want to get ahead fast. Many of you have done your studying of past artists and their success. You’ve studied the music and the business. Many of you can run down the history of how a particular song was written, produced, recorded; where it was recorded, and so forth. You can even go into great detail on how certain artists were screwed over in their career(s). Many of you were screwed over in your career. You also know what is fair in business, but many of you show a total disrespect in business. You speak what people want to hear, but you practice trickery.

What do I mean? If you’re a young songwriter, or even a seasoned veteran, you should give the proper song credit reflecting the contributors for each song. And, if the credit is something you would NOT be comfortable with, do not expect anyone else to be comfortable with the same. In fact, you may have ruined a potential business relationship because of a poor choice/decision based on greed. Don’t practice the same bad deeds that were done to you.

As a veteran composer, recording producer, and musician, it’s my duty to ensure that those coming up in my midst do what’s right, and receive the necessary information that will ensure positive growth. Not all will, and in fact, not all have. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go in this business really fast. I’ve met some artists when they first began, who’ve toiled really hard to enjoy the success they have today. I’ve learned a lot of great lessons from such masters who have endured lengthy careers; people as Abbey Lincoln, T. J. Anderson, Roy Haynes, Lalo Schifrin, Quincy Jones, Kenny Gamble, Eric “Vietnam” Sadler, and Luther Campbell.

In nearly all the lives of those who are successful, the ability to work as a team with others is a common factor. What does that mean? Well, you have to know when to pass the baton/the ball/the duties, when you are not competent in a particular area. You must be willing to share with others. That means sharing the ownership of the music. Can you do that? Will you do that? Or are you a greedy one? Do you mis-use others because they lack a certain knowledge? Do you share knowledge with those you work with so that they may grow? Are you a two-bit hustler in slick attire who’ll take 99% of a song and give your sister or brother 1%? Which are you? This reminds me of a song Chuck D and I composed and produced on the Muse-Sick-N-Hour Mess-Age album, “What Side You On?” We incorporated background vocals from the Punk Barbarians, my brother, folks from the neighborhood, and d.j.’s. We made certain to acknowledge everyone that worked on that song, and the album. You must acknowledge the contribution(s) of your constituents, and be fair with them.

I recall a certain rapper who, when interviewed, would never mention the producers or song-writers with whom he collaborated. It was as if the music just happened. It is everyone’s duty to assist in the building and development of one another. This is how careers are made. And, in that process, when one is lifted up, and that individual does not acknowledge their beginnings or the people who helped them to get where they are; well, then you must check them… them out! If I would say I knew no one who fit that description, I’d be lying.

Those of you who fit the description of the unfair one, it’s not too late to change. You’re still young in mind. Maturity hasn’t yet set in, wherein you realize that the journey is a long one, and not a short one. The road to success is a long hike, and it’s not an overnight camping trip. If you want good to come to you, you must do good toward others by being fair in business relations.


Just on the heels of completing a third symphony, I’m now composing a fourth. I’m averaging about 1-2 minutes of new music per day with this one. It is a prequel to Symphony No. I (Empire of Kasuf). Until I am commissioned to score an epic major motion picture, I will compose these grand, larger-than-life symphonic works.

Amendments to my recent symphony, Khemet West, has undergone multiple text changes and challenges. I’ve been waiting on 7 people versed in Afro-Asiatic languages in east Africa, to translate the tempo text from English. Friends from Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Eritrea committed to the task of translations; yet no one has translated one word. I didn’t want to use any standard European tempo text. However, it’s been almost a year since requesting these services, and I must say that I am not satisfied with the lack of commitment. So, guess what? All tempo text will be presented in Italian. Perhaps someone will come in the future to make these translations for me. It’s my longest work to date, at sixty-six minutes. It’s the perfect prerequisite for my planned operas.

I’ve got several works in planning, but until I begin to get the current completed works programmed/performed, I won’t be writing much……unless there’s a handsome commission. I’ve been re-orchestrating several of my existing chamber works to solicit for performances.

Gustavo Dudamel!! Where are you?

That’s about it for now.

Stay tuned!