Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sam Smith on Petty Plagiarism

The 2015 Grammy Awards were fraught with controversy, from Kanye's stage rush balk (followed by a backstage bawl) to Sam Smith's song of the year Grammy for "Stay With Me," which allegedly borrows from Tom Petty's 1989 song "I Won't Back Down," in that they use exactly the same melody.

Sam Smith and his lawyer claim that they were not familiar with Tom Petty or his hit song, "I Won't Back Down," and argue that the earlier artist who, as they claim, "no one has actually ever heard of," is simply engaged in a bit of "petty larceny," trying to collect on royalties from the success of "Stay With Me."

Some have argued that there is no possible way Sam Smith has not heard "I Won't Back Down," considering its acclaim, but Smith counters that although there are pressures from all around, he maintains a firm stance, saying, "In a world that keeps on pushing me around, I'll stand my ground."

Smith and his lawyer have, however, acknowledged the similarity between the two songs and since Petty's number preceded Smith's, they have agreed to an undisclosed settlement.  Sam Smith is, however, perturbed with Tom Petty's apparent gold-digging and says that he will not stand for this sort of behavior in the future.  When asked if he had anything he wanted to say to Petty, Smith replied, "Hey! Don't come around here no more - whatever you're looking for..."

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A few words on working with an audition accompanist

I have accompanied numerous musical theatre auditions, and whereas I am understanding of the fact that actors may or may not be musically knowledgable, there are a number of pitfalls that could be avoided with some forethought.

First, realize that even though the audition accompanist should be a good sight reader, there is still the possibility for error, particularly if there are logistical hurdles making the job harder for the accompanist.  Make sure that your sheet music is clearly marked with a beginning and ending point, and that any cuts are very clearly marked.  Avoid excerpting the piece in such a way that the composer has to follow first and second endings or DS al Coda markings, which could be missed in a sight reading.

As for the physical score, it is best to prepare individual sheets so that the pianist doesn't have to worry about page turns.  I have had a few auditions that could have gone better if the book didn't keep falling shut on me.  It is best to make clear photocopies for the accompanist, making sure that none of the piano part is cut off.  Even though you are looking at the vocal part, the pianist may have a difficult time guessing what to play if the piano part is cut off - this has happened to me very often.  Finally, tape your photocopies with the appropriate clear markings on pieces of card stock so that they don't fall over while the accompanist is reading them.  If possible, you could even print the music directly on the card stock.

Then, make sure that any information such as tempo, style, and dynamic markings, that may have been cut off from your excerpt are copied to the appropriate places in the music.  For example, if your excerpt begins on page 2, make sure to write the tempo marking from page 1 at the beginning of your excerpt.

Make sure to practice your excerpt with a pianist so that you know what the musical introduction winds like and to make sure you can follow the accompaniment throughout.  When at the audition, take a moment to explain anything to the accompanist that might be a cause for confusion, such as a change of tempo or meter.

Finally, make sure to thank the accompanist!  It will be appreciated!

If you have any other questions about preparing a musical audition excerpt, leave a comment!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Double your staples!

I was rehearsing my middle school musical today and some of the cast members were missing pages. Oops.  Last year I provided the cast members with bradded folders, but this year I tried to save a tiny amount of money by simply stapling scripts together and this is what happens.  Well, I printed new scripts and now I have stapled them from both the front and back to minimize the number of lost pages.  Of course, bradded folders are better - and the plastic kind are much sturdier than the paper/cardboard kind.  Furthermore, you can use a heavier paper type for a sturdier script.  But, if you are going the low-budget route, double-stapling is a pretty good bet.  If you have other ideas, please leave a comment!

P.S. - I promise most of my posts will be more interesting than this, lol, but I do feel like even a simple idea like this can save rehearsal time.  An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Welcome to the Samuel Stokes Music Blog

Welcome to my new blog!  This is blog is meant to serve as a companion to my website and also to be a general location for me to express my thoughts about music composition, education, performance, and humor.  I hope you will subscribe, so I can keep you informed of updates.

Thanks for visiting!