Grown-ups like numbers. When you tell them about a new friend, they never ask questions about what really matters. They never ask: “What does his voice sound like?” “What games does he like best?” “Does he collect butterflies?” They ask: “How old is he?” “How many brothers does he have?” “How much does he weigh?” “How much money does his father make?” Only then do they think they know him. If you tell grown-ups, “I saw a beautiful red brick house with geraniums at the windows and doves on the roof…,” they won’t be able to imagine such a house. You have to tell them, “I saw a house worth a hundred thousand francs.” Then they exclaim, “What a pretty house!”

~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

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Here’s a little-known fact: it wasn’t long ago that, for a while, I seriously considered giving up composition and going to law school.

It wasn’t because I was tired of music – far from it. It wasn’t because I was worried about a professional composer’s questionable job prospects – because as I was informed by everyone I’ve ever met, I would make a terrible lawyer. It wasn’t even because I’m super passionate about the legal system.

I flirted with the idea of going to law school because I am absolutely disgusted with the state of copyright in the United States. (more…)

This evening’s adventure in internal struggle:

I’m at the finishing stages of a choral piece, a setting of two texts by the incomparable Federico Garcia Lorca. The piece itself is written, the notes and lyrics are into the notation program. For me, the last stage is to add and finalize the dynamics, articulations, and other expressive markings in the score – I call this “painting” the score (because it adds color to the music – get it???)

Lots of composers put this portion of the process nearer the beginning of the compositional timeline; I’ve never been able to, for a few reasons. Chiefly, when my music is freshly written, I don’t frankly know what the character of it is right away, save for general dichotomies like “loud/soft” or “quick/slow”. More to the point here, though, is the second problem: I can never decide what to paint with. Every dynamic and articulation is a choice. Some are bigger than others, obviously, but every one affects the music. The ones I really struggle with don’t just stop at the music; they can affect a composer’s relationship to the performer. (more…)

Photo by DMJarvey. CC-A.
Photo by DMJarvey. CC-A.

NHL hockey is back.

NHL hockey is back, my friends.

Let me repeat that.

NHL. Hockey. Is. Back.

Granted, it’s back from what was an absolutely absurd lockout which insulted the sport and its fans (if you want to learn about the lockout from people who really understand it, the Wikipedia article does an expectedly-great job of outlining the core issues). Granted, I’ve been complaining to anyone who would listen for the last three months that I’ll never watch another NHL game again; that I as a fan can’t be treated like this; that from here on it’s only the college and junior offerings (of which there are MANY in Michigan) that will receive my money and my fandom.

But I’m only human. Like a recently-dumped partner still on the leash, I’m back to following stats, watching highlight reels and predicting this year’s Stanley Cup winner (hint: not my San Jose Sharks). NHL hockey officially has its greedy little hooks in me again.

Yes, I am head-over-heels in love with the sport on ice, it’s true. But the reasons for my sheep-like flocking back to the NHL are more complex, and they have a lot to do with my reasons for being a composer. (more…)

Photo by nomilknocry. CC-A.
Photo by nomilknocry. CC-A.

My mornings often start the same: a sunny alarm jingle. A lingering war with the snooze button. A reluctant trudge from the bedroom to the shower. Highlights from last night’s Daily Show or a brief spin of Nils Petter Molvaer. Finally, a bowl of freshly-made oatmeal… accompanied by lots, and lots, and lots of freshly-made coffee.

Coffee, either black or with a splash of skim milk, is a key thread in the fabric of my life. I have a cup in the morning, a cup in the afternoon, and often an emergency cup before class (likely needed because of the amount of coffee that I drink, but whatever).  It’s not just the caffeine that fuels my coffee addiction. It’s the sensory assault of complex, yet rewarding aromas and tastes that shocks one awake; the remarkable ability of a brown-black liquid to simultaneously speed up and slow down time; the delicate balance of water, grounds and time – which I haven’t yet perfected – that will determine whether the five-minute drinking experience is a rich bath of smoky, chocolaty velvet or a charred mess of disgusting, caffeinated water. Coffee is more than a start to the day: it’s a concentration etude, a meditation. To borrow a phrase from Vonnegut, it’s a “Buddhist catnap.” (more…)

Now that we’re officially in 2013, it’s time to make a few changes, starting with the website. Welcome, one and all, to the new look for gregsimonmusic.com! The content is the same – you’ll find score samples, audio, and upcoming events, just like the old site – but I’ve added more stuff and a few easier-to-navigate menus. 

And as part of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2013 I’m getting back to blogging! For now, every Sunday and Wednesday this space will feature some new stuff to get your day started. Feel free to comment, look around the site, and get in touch using the Contact tab any time. Welcome to the new site!

Before I was became a highbrow, elitist composer, I was a wayward teenager of the late nineties. My clothes were baggier, my hair was highlighted, and my musical tastes were much, much worse. More importantly, I was one of the first teens to get his gawky hands on Napster, the icon of turn-of-the-century music sharing. For those of you who may need a refresher, Napster (as well as its fellows Limewire, Morpheus, Kazaa, etc.) were ways to anonymously and quickly download music files from other Napster users, while sharing your ever-growing collection with them. In the wake of the DMCA, and due largely to a well-funded smear campaign by the RIAA and many independent labels, these file-sharing giants dropped left and right, and most people, save for a dedicated contingent of online subversives, forgot about sharing music illegally.

People didn’t stop being people, though, and the market for software that makes music available free (legally or not) hasn’t gone away. (more…)