Connection: the role of the artist in the 21st century

defining your purpose Jan 22, 2021


Authentic connection

It is easy to take for granted someone’s gentle smile. How it instantly brightens your day and lightens your load. That moment when your eyes connect and you peer into each other’s soul can be magical. Providing a simple act of kindness has as great an impact on the giver as it has on the recipient. A moment of authentic connection is the tie that binds us together. It is an example of our desire to belong. 

When we are stressed or under threat (like Covid 19) we tend to rely on methods that we have used in the past to cope with our situation. One could say it’s a version of the fight/flight response. But what if that doesn’t work? What if it exacerbates our discomfort? What if we don't have adequate skills to respond? Human connection is more important now than ever. 

Music and memory….

Our memory records our lives like our own virtual reality game. We remember not only the words or images, our brain documents...

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Musical Conventions

film music Jan 20, 2021

January 20, 2021

“Let science work for you”

The amygdala, which is a part of the limbic system, is a fascinating part of the brain. It is programmed to regulate our response to threat (fight/flight response), controls anger and aggression as well as fear and anxiety. The amygdala also participates as a part of our memory. To be specific, it records the emotions attached to our anger, aggression, fear and anxiety. 

Why is this knowledge of crucial importance to the film composer?

If we can use a sound, a melodic phrase, or a rhythmic motif to trigger a memory of an emotion in an audience, we can manipulate the viewer’s emotional response. If we combine this with an image we can have extraordinary control over an audience’s emotional response. 

Fascinating isn’t it? 

In “Why is there music in film” I introduced the idea that music can manipulate a viewer’s emotions. But, how do we exercise this awesome power? 


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Objective Comparison

January 18, 2021

Whenever I try to edit my writing as I go I invariably end up chasing my tail. I can go round and round trying to find the perfect solution to whatever problem I’m working on. I’m mean, really! You’d think I’d know better after all these years. This is especially problematic when I’m doing something new, something that is totally outside my comfort zone. My confidence takes a beating and I begin to wonder if my ideas are any good? Or, if I can pull off yet another rabbit trick. 

The words: frustration, self-doubt, insecurity, depression come to mind. If this has happened to you then know you aren’t alone. Believe me- this is a life-long struggle for every creative person I’ve ever known. We are all perfectionists to some extent so we won’t settle for second best. Perfectionism is a terrific motivator but, without a sense of balance and pragmatism perfectionism can quickly become your nemesis or outright...

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Reinventing Yourself: It's Not What You Think

January 15, 2021

When I look at my journey through life the path is anything but a straight line . If I were to draw a picture it would probably look like a sailboat tacking into the wind. Always a mountain to climb. Always more obstacles than smooth sailing. Always unforeseen challenges.

Sometimes I wonder how I’ve ended up moving through this unending, messy existence. That being said—when I’ve actually looked beneath the surface I’ve found that the skills I honed as a composer and arranger combined with the discipline of learning to play the piano well was the key.

Deep down we are all people on our own singular journey.

Sadly, when Americans are introduced to each other the default question is: “what do you do”. We are constantly defined by how we make a living. We are judged by the career path we have chosen. Professionals garner more prestige than service workers, teachers or laborers. This conditioned response is next to impossible to...

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Mood vs. Melody

film music Jan 13, 2021

Every story is different. Every film is different. Every production is different. Every filmmaker has different tastes and preferences. 

So how do you decide what type of music would be most appropriate? 

 I started getting opportunities to score films because I was a competent, if not precocious, musician and composer. That got me in the door. But, it didn’t adequately prepare me to be a film composer. The reality was my hubris propelled me forward but I was hopelessly unprepared. I would follow my emotional reactions to what I saw on screen but, if I misinterpreted the story I was lost. Making matters worse I had a difficult time communicating with filmmakers. They didn’t understand me and I couldn’t understand them. After a particularly bad experience I realized that I had a big problem and, if I wanted to continue to write music for film I would have to change my approach. 

 I figured that if I learned a few buzz words to help me...

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Unlocking the myths of creative problem solving


We all know how to do it… but may have forgotten how

Matching shapes and colors seems simple right? But this is an extraordinarily complex task for a child. To be able to match the square peg with a square hole requires a leap of visual cognition. They have to identify what a square is and then match that shape with the square hole. No small task and requires trial and error to actually make it work. Like much of what we learn as children, adults tend to take this for granted. Somewhere along the way we lose sight of the value of being able to match our perceptions with reality (I tend to believe that the regimented routine and testing of traditional school is to blame but that’s another story). A creative individual who is actively engaged in abstract problem solving will unconsciously utilize these skills on a continuing basis. So, how do I improve my creative problem solving skills?

Identify every aspect of the problem

It stands to reason that if you...

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deadlines Jan 08, 2021

How to embrace the pressure

I looked up from the desk. It was midnight. I was mentally drained and physically exhausted. I was falling asleep and didn’t have an idea in my head. My panic was growing because a messenger was scheduled to pick up my score at 6am and I was terrified at the prospect of not meeting my deadline. I had a LONG way to go to finish and I was hopelessly stuck. If i didn’t deliver on time I knew that my nascent career could be over. My wife and infant son were fast asleep. My only companion was the TV I kept on my desk to remind me that time was passing. I had to find a way to stay awake and finish the assignment on time. I was paralyzed by my anxiety. As my breathing became shallow and weak my body took over sending me into a fight or flight response.

I frantically began to contemplate my options. I could flee my discomfort and go to bed and let the chips fall where they may. Or, I could fight my way through my indecision and look for a new...

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What is the cost of kindness?

2021 blog Jan 05, 2021
What is the cost of kindness?
Not much for some...exorbitantly expensive for others. It really comes down to risk vs. reward, to love vs. fear and to lack vs. abundance.
It seems to me that the currency of kindness is acknowledgment.
It is possible to acknowledge others without being defensive, threatened or attacked.
In fact acknowledging others simply means: "I hear you". It doesn't mean I agree or disagree with you or, love you or hate you. All it means is "I hear you".
Perhaps "I hear you" is the place to start to mend our wounds?
Perhaps "I hear you" is the place to recognize we have more in common than not.
Perhaps we have lost sight of the power and benefits of "I hear you"?
Perhaps "I hear you" can make sharing a random act of kindness easier?
Kindness doesn't cost much...other than to listen with an open heart. Judgements about right or wrong, agree or disagree can come later.
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Who are you?

2021 blog Jan 02, 2021


I mean really: “who ARE you?”

Are you defined by your:





I can’t speak for other cultures but I will generalize that in the Western world we like to think we are open minded. We would like to think we are evolved. We would like to think we are (you fill in the blank).  

But are we really?

We are human beings. Sure. But, like all living creatures we cannot escape the fact that we are not the sentient beings we would like to think we are. We are a product of our conditioning. 

If we see a stranger walking down the street or read a social media post do we not instantly assess their status in life? Do we not instantly compare ourselves to them? Are we like them? Are we different? 

To be fair, this is part of our survival instinct. We are hardwired to scan our environment. We need to determine if we are safe or at risk. But what if the perception of risk is the result of our conditioning? What if our conditioning has...

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What will you choose to take forward? 

2021 blog Dec 31, 2020


a brave new world awaits 

Leading up to the New Year has traditionally been a time for reflection. In the past our choices were fairly predictable. We could vow to lose weight. We could decide to join a gym. We could tell ourselves we should work harder, be better people etc. etc.

Once we get back to the routines of our lives those New Year’s resolutions are easily forgotten, replaced with the urgent needs of each day. And, it’s back to normal…for better or worse.

2021 will be unlike any other moment we have experienced in our lifetimes which requires a deeper level of thought.. New Year’s resolutions for 2021 will be different.Thousands upon thousands will continue to die from Covid. Businesses will close. Jobs will be lost. People will go hungry. Millions will face eviction. Fear of getting sick will permeate our lives for the next 6 months at least. We will continue to have to deal with conspiracy theories, anti-vaxxers, anti-...

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