Archive for the ‘Studio Buzz’ Category

Desperately Needed Gear

Posted: June 12, 2017 in Press, Studio Buzz

The most agonizing moment is when you’re right in the middle of mocking up a bad-ass orchestral cue, and your computer freezes! That just happened to me! Luckily, I’d already saved the session. After re-booting, it froze twice more.

I’ve long needed a new laptop! Fortunately, the current mock-up is part of my daily mock-up regiment (daily mock-up exercise); whereby I merely do film cues so that I’m prepared for the real thing. Had this been an actual gig, I could handle the glitch. It’s imperative that I freeze the midi tracks (bouncing to audio) once I’ve settled on an idea. This would eliminate a computer lock-up; or at least minimize a re-occurrence.

So, mock-up practice is a great exercise for composers; especially when moments like this occur. Being prepared for the unexpected, and knowing how to handle the situation is a necessity for any assignment.

But, still, the main point here is that I need a new laptop. It’s exceeded its life expectancy. I also plan to go back to Mac! I started with Mac, and then went to PC.

Someone asked in a chat, “why do you practice mock-ups?” The main reasons are:

  1. You’ve worked up a catalog of cues that you can use to promote yourself
  2. You’re prepared for when the real work comes
  3. You’ve grown accustomed to your gear (DAW(s), sound libraries, and fx plugins, and hardware)
  4. You’ve developed a work flow and have built a diverse template that ensures for a successful final product
  5. You can develop a method for transferring midi data to notation, and vice-versa; working between your DAW and notation software.

 

Speaking of notation software, I’ve been using Sibelius since 2002, and I absolutely love it. I’m still using 7, and I haven’t found a need to update beyond that point. As a college professor, I had to learn Finale for lecturing purposes; though I hate using it. Steinberg’s Dorico isn’t quite there yet if you’re writing huge orchestral scores. Although the engine is awesome, it still lags behind. Notion by PreSonus is great, and it would be far greater if it were built into the Studio One software; making it compatible with Digital Performer and Logic Pro. I also find Notion to be what Dorico hopes to be. The score editors in DP and Logic Pro are decent; in fact, these two DAWs are complete!

Depending on the type of project you’re working on, or if you’re asked to conduct a demonstrative lecture, having DP, Logic Pro, and Studio One at your disposal would prove quite beneficial. I plan on incorporating all three to fulfill live demonstrations, lectures, tutorials, and basic client fulfillment. I’ve already got Pro Tools, which I use solely for post production. But, for the purpose of lecturing, and cross-platform collaboration with others, it’s imperative that I use all three. Each one offers a unique attribute that another lacks. For example, Studio One, DP, and Logic Pro can all import video/film, but not all can export MOV, AVI, or MP4 files.

Recent Concert Works

The recent success of Songbirds: Suite for Violin and Piano, has had seven performances since January, and it is my first breakout piece EVER. Inspired by its success, currently, I’m simultaneously composing Symphony No. 5 (Perseverance), and Symphony No. 6 (Deeqo).

        Symphony No. 5 (Perseverance) has gone through so many drafts since the first sketches in 2015, but finally the first and third movements are complete. I’m halfway to completion, and should wrap up in the fall of 2017.

This work is about the resilience one must possess to forge through life’s challenges. In a recent interview with Spitfire Audio, composer Dario Marionelli stated, “as a composer, you’ve got to be strong“.  Damn if that aint true! Symphony No. 5 is a journey through hard, lonesome times; arriving at a place much better than before; but quite uncertain of its stability. So, it’s a lingering drama! Damn I wish I were writing this for a film!

As for Symphony No. 6, it will be a one-movement work in honor of Fadumo Dayib (a/k/a “Deeqo”), a recent presidential candidate for the country of Somalia. She is also that nations first woman to run for president. Although she did not win, her bravery and self-determination sparked my imagination to compose a work dedicated to her. Symphony No. 6 is now 3 years in the making, and I should be complete by January 2018.

In-between my symphonic writing, I took time to compile a near 3-hour tetrology based upon my Kasuf character. Compiling four related orchestral works, the Kasuf Tetrology concert works order consists of:

1. Escape from the Evil Empire
2. Symphony No. 1 (Empire of Kasuf)
3. Symphony No. 4 (Kasufhetep I)
4. Symphony No. 2 (Khemet West)

What an exciting, epic concert this will be! 

 

Music Producer/Recording Artist

Another new album recording will be released shortly. This one, a tribute to my Caribbean heritage, influences, and recording producers as Clement “Coxsone” Dodd and Lee “Scratch” Perry; along with the many friends representing the islands of Trinidad, Jamaica, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Barbados, British Guiana, and Saint Kitts.

The album, Caribbean Heights is another soundtrack album project, displaying my talents as the one-man band, and multi-genre composer/producer. Why the soundtrack album format? Because I want to showcase a diverse array of my genius, and in what better format is there to do that? Huh? Multi-media! My fascination with film, huge landscapes, and fantasies will continue to drive such diverse projects.

 

Media Composer

Following Spike Lee’s 1989 cult classic, Do the Right Thing, the first film to include a song produced by Kerwin Young was the movie Green Card (1990). The first weekly television series I composed for was in 1994 (New York Undercover), and the first film I scored was in 1997 (Tar). For me, it’s been a brutal up-hill climb to have more opportunities as a media composer; especially securing projects that are not ethnic specific, but rather more diverse. It’s been twenty years since I scored my first film, but I’m almost there to where I will have a steady flow of films to score. I’m thankful to have a steady career in music; though not as stable as I would have liked thus far. But, steady and consistent is far greater than never working at all. I’ve never had any representation, so I think I’ve done pretty good as a self made man.

 

Mix Engineer

Just for kicks, I recently mixed a song for a buddy of mine; just to keep busy. Not bad…not bad!

 

We have to keep busy no matter what, and stay positive. I’ve got more exciting news coming soon about a residency I will begin!!! So, stay tuned!

3Q2016

Posted: June 30, 2016 in Composing Insights, Press, Studio Buzz

Commissions

As the third quarter 2016 begins, work as a copyist with Origin has been pretty amazing. The constant work assignments keep my transcribing chops up, as well as my DAW to notational software acumen. Composing for major motion pictures, television, and video games couldn’t be any sweeter than this. I’m thankful to finally have some level of constant activity in the industry. “Big ting a come“, but that will be a surprise!

Thanks to the Sphinx Organization’s Mpower Artist Grant, Tami Lee Hughes (violin) has commissioned me to compose a violin suite honoring five (5) iconic women. I’ve begun my usual research process; studying and the like, which for me, constitutes the composing process. July and August will find me particularly busy at composing.

 

Business

I’ve also been quite busy soliciting my orchestral works to several orchestras. Below is a diplomatic approach to stating the problem and solution to achieving this goal, I think. Well, at least for me. Orchestras are pretty set in their ways, and one has to be a “pain in the ass” to really get their attention; regardless of one’s demographic. In that process, I’ve written this:

I love composing for orchestra!
My music is tonal and melodic!
I do not create soundscapes of bleeps and blurps that are forgotten,
and/or complained about by patrons and supporters.
For me, the orchestra is like an old wheel with no intentions of integrating new parts.
Can we work together to tweak this?
I’ve spent the past 16 years seeking to have a relationship with a professional orchestra,
but she’s not budging at all.
She teases me with encouragement, but no commitment to any sort of relationship.
Orchestra, how can we go on a date? How can we develop a relationship?
Let’s cut to the chase, “Orchestra, Will You Marry Me?”
Is there one orchestra interested in this composer? Hmnnnn…
Perhaps this can be the premise for a commissioned work?

Albums / Concerts

Spaceship Chronicles (album cover)

Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement released its 7th album, Spaceship Chronicles. It’s been doing exceptionally well, receiving great reviews internationally. This will be the last Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement studio album. I will be releasing a Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement Greatest Hits album for the 1Q2017.

I’ve recently posted videos for the last two concert premieres; Cry of the Queenless King, and Cellét.


 

 

Spaceship Chronicles (album cover)It’s been almost 7 years since releasing the last Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement album. During that time, I completed both a bachelor and a master degree in music composition, at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, studying with Chen Yi, Zhou Long, and Bobby Watson.

By no means did school prohibit the release of any album recordings. During that time, I managed to produce 9 albums, score a stage play, compose the theme music for two weekly television series, score independent films, and compose over 4 hours of music for the concert hall.

So, what was the cause of the hold-up? It was mere politics that held up any subsequent Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement releases. You know, people trying to stop my productivity. Where are those jerks now? They are off of the scene, like jazz on 52nd street. Adding to that, a series of crappy artist agreements that only an idiot would sign; so I’ve decided that I ought to do this myself. Kinda like when the Isley Brothers left Motown and cut It’s Your Thing. I see this as an identical moment. When you’re around bad business, you get the hell on….you get to steppin’…. I’ve never been one who waits on others to do for me, what I can do better; and do for myself. I enjoy working with others, but in this “I-Age”, comradery is scarce. And in business, especially the music business, jealousy and envy run rampant.

The forth coming lp, Spaceship Chronicles will be the seventh Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement album released since 2000. This also marks twenty-one years of Kasuf; since that first sonic encounter in 1995. As with Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement’s debut album, Blackopolis, this album also includes sides from the first Kasuf recording sessions in 1995.

Details? Hmnnnn…..there are 13 songs. This album is a soundtrack for the world! It’s got legs!! It will get around!! It’s everything that all the other albums weren’t. It’s what Bitches Brew was for Miles Davis. A new direction? Not necessarily, but it is a clear path!

Get Ready!! It’s landing on all 7 continents June 24th, 2016!

 

K

The month of May brought forth three premieres, including one documentary film (Full Court: The Spencer Haywood Story), and two concert premieres (Cry of the Queenless King and Cellét ). All were very successful! Cry of the Queenless King premiered at the annual Composers of Color Conference at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, performed by Dr. Carl Dupont (Bass-Baritone) and Qiao Zheng Goh (Piano). I was on hand for the concert via FaceTime; which was a first. The experience was awesome, the performance was amazing, and to have it premiere alongside other newly composed works by my peers and contemporaries was an honor.

Cellét! St. Louis! Wow! This was my first stay in St. Louis, aside from Greyhound Bus layovers, or airline transfers to/from Kansas City or Springfield. Catherine Lehr Ramos put together a wonderful cello fest. The musicianship was superior, and the hospitality was awesome. I had a great time.

Cellet Premiere Concert 1

Catherine Lehr Ramos seated, Moh & Ja Ghraiz at far right, Kerwin Young at far left

The program kicked off at the Webster University Community Music School on May 30th.  Cellét  featured two Palestinian pop-lock dancers (Moh and Ja Ghraiz). Cellét  was conducted by David Commanday.

Currently in the Works

With a commission from Tami Hughes, via a Sphinx Organization MPact Grant, I am composing an untitled suite for violin and piano, inspired by iconic African-American female vocalists from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Other work includes my duties as copyist/orchestrator with Origin-Creative, as we prepare for our initial launch with the Atlanta Film Score Orchestra. I’m currently preparing conductor scores and parts for our first studio recording session. I’m excited to be working in the motion picture and game industries! It’s taken me 22 years and a lot of b.s. to get this type of film work. But, persistence overcomes resistance. Next will be scoring those epic films and games, and having a score agent!

April 2016

Posted: April 24, 2016 in Composing Insights, Press, Studio Buzz

Just finished composing Cellét, a masque for ten cellos that will premiere 30th May 2016 in St. Louis, as part of a cello fest organized by Catherine Lehr Ramos. Cellét was commissioned by Catherine, and will include choreography. A little over ten minutes, it’s been edited, revised/re-worked for its premiere.

 

I’m also wrapping up production on the Spencer Haywood soundtrack. I co-wrote two songs with Chuck D; one of which will be featured in the film. I’ve also produced a handful of additional songs on the album in various musical styles, including Hip-Hop, Reggae, Afro-Beat, and EDM!; for some legendary artists.

 

My orchestral suite, Reclamation is almost complete. I’m not yet done composing the lyrics. This work will cost a lot of money to program, and I am committed to continue composing large works such as this. Reclamation could easily be my fifth symphony, but I will reserve that slot for a much larger work. Reclamation consists of five movements, and is approximately twenty-eight minutes in length. A great companion piece alongside my master’s thesis, Escape from the Evil Empire, both works offer a magnificent program for any large orchestra with mixed chorus. Their combined performance time is forty-two minutes.

 

Upcoming work on my first opera is still in motion. It will NOT be done next year as planned, and I expect it to pose several challenges.

 

I’ve also been re-building my studio, piece by piece! I’m definitely feeling the west coast…I’m rockin’!! Won’t allow the concert-world blues to bring me down.

 

K!

 

 

 

Still 1Q2016

Posted: March 15, 2016 in Composing Insights, Press, Studio Buzz

Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement’s latest album, Spaceship Chronicles, is completed and mastered! Be on the lookout for its debut in the coming months.

In the film world, I’m producing new music for Full Court: The Spencer Haywood Story. New music will be featured in the film as well as on the soundtrack album.

Check out the trailer!

 

In the concert world, Cellét, a commissioned work for ten cellos will premiere in St. Louis on 28 May as part of a grand cello fest. I’m still working out various ideas for the new work.

Stay tuned in!!

 

K