Easy Sleep Music Release of the Day: “Saving Grace”

The good people at a7records have made another easy sleep music piece of mine available for public listening on the Easy Sleep Music YouTube channel. This piece is called “Saving Grace”.

“Saving Grace” is mostly a piano piece with the requisite background synth pad and binaural beat per Easy Sleep Music specifications. Other instruments that play the main theme on various sections of the piece include my new Greg Bennett Concord 3 electric guitar and a virtual instrument that imitates a veena (an Indian stringed instrument similar to a sitar).

There are many reasons one can think of why this piece is called “Saving Grace”. It actually is a reflection of my faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and how much I find comfort in the fact that the Lord had decided to offer up his life to save me and the rest of us from God’s wrath. Now, I know that there are some who read this that may become uncomfortable about my expression of faith. Let me clarify that I am in no way imposing my faith but I’m requesting that you keep an open mind as you read along while I explain the inspiration behind this piece. I leave it up to you whether or not you would decide to believe what I believe. God never forced anybody to believe in him anyway; otherwise we’d all be robots without differences in opinion.

According to Romans 3:20, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” There is nothing that man can do to merit salvation. No amount of prayers, devotionals, offerings, money, indulgence, service or good works could make us justifiable before God. Romans 6:23 even goes on to state, “For the wages of sin is death….” As we are tainted by our sinful nature, God sense of justice demands exact payment, and death is what we we deserve.

Romans 6:23 doesn’t end there. It continues as, “…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The fact is that though we deserve to be separated eternally from God,  he provided a way back to him through his son Jesus Christ, God who became man, the perfect sacrifice. I’m sure many people would argue otherwise but here we find the beauty in believing in Jesus Christ. Unlike all other religions of the world where  people have to continuously work their way towards salvation/deification/etc. without any form of assurance, Yeshua Hamaschiah proves he is a just and loving God through his sacrifice for you and me.

My personal faith has a lot to do with this piece called  “Saving Grace”. Many people want to sleep at night feeling secure and loved. That is how I want to feel exactly when I go to bed each night. “Saving Grace” as sleep music would remind me how much God loves all of us that he willingly became human, sacrificed his own human life and then conquer death in order to cleanse us free of our debts. If you truly believe in your heart and trust that Jesus alone has done so, then He will bestow upon you that saving grace (John 3:16,  John 14:6, Acts 4:12, Ephesians 2:8). You no longer have to go through all the steps and rituals to buy your way into heaven as Jesus has already done that for you. If you think about it this way, it would be easy for you to do good and become at peace and relaxed at night or any time of the day. I hope to share such an experience with all of you and I pray that you get that well deserved rest and feel that assurance you would find only in Jesus Christ as you listen to my music.

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A Misunderstanding of What Innovation Is

I just read this article from YahooI News:

http://ph.she.yahoo.com/fast-food-chain%E2%80%99s-newest-burger-stumps-critics–consumers-20120628.html

It seems to me like a sign of a lack of ideas or a misunderstanding of what innovation is. Innovation for me is a fresh idea that pushes boundaries and conventional notions but is useful as well. It may be provocative but with a clear purpose in mind, a signal for a change of perception and a new way of doing things in a more practical or beneficial manner. Sadly, this new KFC cheese top burger, no matter how the folks of KFC Philippines think about it, does not fall under what I perceive to be innovative.

I don’t understand what the deal is with KFC Philippines. In my opinion, they’ve been concocting some of the worst dishes I have ever seen or tasted. This by far takes the top spot. I could just imagine how uncomfortable I would be having this sandwich. Is putting cheese on top of a burger bun something you would call innovative? If you want your cheese to stick immediately to your fingers or see it clinging from the takeout wrapper, then by all means you can have this disaster of a sandwich. What about patty top burger, mayonnaise top burger, Coke-soaked burger? This is something that even an imbecile could easily think of making.

I wouldn’t be surprised if KFC Philippines stole an idea from a Nickelodeon series “The Mighty Bee”. There was this episode where the main character prepared a three-course meal for her scoutmaster only to chew it up and regurgitate it before serving. So watch out for the next KFC product: The easy-to-eat, easy-to-swallow chicken bucket meal – Pre-chewed to save time!

 

A New Easy Sleep Music Release via a7records: “Tranquility I”

I have here a new easy sleep music freshly released by the good people at a7records. Listen to it and watch the video below:

If you would ask what exactly is going on in the music, then I’ll gladly talk about it so here it goes.

“Tranquility I” is basically what some people would describe as a minimalist piece. The entire piece is based on the motif played by a vibraphone in the first two bars. Supporting the “Tranquility I” motif is a synth pad in the background. Little by little, more instruments join the vibraphone for a buildup of sound. The marimba harmonizes with the vibraphone and the sound gently grows as the flute and clarinet introduce themselves.

A soon as the flute and clarinet finish their phrases, the sleep music journey continues in the second section as an otherworldly synth pad provides another dimension of sound. The clarinet then plays a variation of the main motif and the flute then enters after a few bars of the clarinet solo. The marimba then enters as a third wheel in harmony with the clarinet and flute.

Soon as the flute and clarinet quiet down, we proceed to the third and final section which begins with the marimba playing a gentle solo (still based on the motif) accompanied by a droning bass pad in F. The vibraphone then enters a few bars later. At this point, it would be easy to imagine the marimba and vibraphone as gentle drops of water. Soon after, as the piece modulates from F to G, we once again encounter the atmospheric synth pad followed by the clarinet and flute as all instruments play the final closing bars, hoping to send you all off to dreamland.

That wraps up my notes for “Tranquility I”, one of my new easy sleep music pieces released under the a7records label. If you’re still reading this, I guess you should listen to “Tranquility I” again and start drifting off to a more peaceful state of mind.

A Fairbanks Piano at Club Balai Isabel

My family and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to escape everyday life for a day and a half in a place called Club Balai Isabel. It’s a vacation spot in Talisay, Batangas where we enjoyed a great view of Taal Lake and Volcano, buffet-style meals, and cozy accommodations. Though it was brief, what more can we ask for? It’s a trip sponsored by my wife’s employers that gave us a chance to live like kings and queens for a day. From my own personal end, it provided me with an opportunity to refresh my creative juices and play a fantastic antique piano.

Other than the fact that it was a good opportunity for quality time with my wife and child, I thought of the trip as a way to get inspired to write some new music. Since we decided to bring our own vehicle instead of riding on a hired shuttle service, I was able to bring my nylon-stringed guitar and Zoom H4n recorder, and a laptop, essentially a portable studio ensemble. I was able to record a few musical ideas on the H4n after gaining a fresh new look at the sights, something that I have taken for granted on numerous occasions. However, the afternoon of that day led me to discover this antique piano.

The piano was an upright piano built in 1910 by the Fairbanks Piano Company of Southern California. It had the appearance and feel that you would expect from antique instrument. It was no Yamaha, Steinway or Bechstein but it did have a remarkable character or its own.

As you would have noticed, I am a sucker for pianos and other fine instruments. I just felt the need to play it and see what I can do with it. My wife was initially resistant but then she asked permission on my behalf so that I can play it. As you would see from these videos, I really took advantage of that opportunity.

In order to make my sense of shame and shyness disappear, every time I played on the piano I ordered a drink or two (one of which is for my son). I even managed to record my son playing J.S Bach’s “Bouree in E Minor” on that instrument. I also was able to perform a number of pieces while I was there.

About a few hours before returning to Manila, I was able to record myself playing that wonderful piano, and so here’s how it all turned out as I played for a very small audience consisting of myself, microbes, some flies and perhaps one or two people passing by. I played five pieces all in all: an improvisation, Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude, Debussy’s 1st Arabesque and “Reflets Dans L’Eau” from Images Book I,  and a sketch of my original composition entitled “Waltz on Water”. You can watch and listen to my “live set” below courtesy of the all-powerful YouTube. I’d also like to dedicate this performance to the late Bernabe “Totchie” Galang, my uncle who’d probably have no idea what I’m playing:

01 – Improvisation

02 – “Revolutionary” Etude (Op. 10 No. 12) by Frederic Chopin

03 – “Arabesque No. 1” by Claude Debussy

04 – “Reflets Dans L’Eau” by Claude Debussy

05 – “Waltz on Water” by Mark A. Galang

Would I say that it was a concert-worthy performance? Of course not. I’ll be first to admit that even though I desire such skills, I’m no Lang Lang, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Daniel Barenboim, or Cecile Licad. My excuse would be that I’m more of a composer rather than a concert pianist so I was more of trying to coax out some more creative juices courtesy of that piano rather than trying to please a crowd. After all, you won’t expect me to play pop tunes for solo piano for some people who merely dine and treat pianists as if they were Muzak machines. Anyway, the point is that I really felt happy being able to play a vintage instrument that was still in playable condition, and that doesn’t stop me from trying to act like as if I were a concert pianist, hehehe!

A Tribute to My Uncle Totchie, Gangster Hero of the Streets

Death is a thing that no man can escape. Sooner or later, despite all the advances of science and medicine, regardless of stretching out our telomeres to unimaginable lengths, we would all soon expire. We’ll never be certain how, where, when, what or why should we give up our breath. Should it be feared or should it be accepted? If you ask Mr. Bernabe Galang, he’d probably say that if it’s time, it’s time to accept and embrace it wholeheartedly without fear or remorse.

Two days ago, Bernabe Galang a.k.a. my uncle Totchie died. He was a man that had a rather colorful history that many people may dismiss as nothing worth noting. How he came to be “Totchie” despite being named “Bernabe” is something that his brothers and sisters would only be able to answer properly. In our family, he’s infamous for his character flaws and his vices. In many ways, he could have been stereotyped or pigeonholed as the neighborhood tough guy, a gangster with a bottle or two or Red Horse or Colt 45 malt liquor in each hand. It’s no secret that he mooched off money from my Dad, my Godmother as well as my uncles and aunts. Some may say he may have led a selfish life. However, the opinions of other people may differ.

My Dad describes him as a person with a remarkable sense of honesty and justice. During his stint as a dispatcher in Alabang’s jeepney terminal, the place was safe. Stories have indicated that no pickpocket or mugger left the place unscathed. Such was his reputation as the bane of petty criminals on public transport that you would hear accounts that snatchers would rather give up their stolen goods rather than receive a beating from a 60-year-old former Philippine Constabulary sergeant. Without a doubt he would never hesitate to save your life when you are in trouble.

From an occupational therapist’s perspective, I find his sense of self-discipline remarkable. While he may have his destructive habits, he had enough wit and determination to enable himself to functionally recover from incidences of heart attacks and strokes. Unless you were trained in the rehabilitation or health sciences, you wouldn’t notice he’s had neurological problems in the past. He fared better than the rest of the people I’ve encountered that have had similar medical histories just because he was determined enough to relearn how to do his everyday tasks independently as if he hadn’t had stroke for a number of times (and yes that includes maybe punching a few muggers in the process).

No matter who he was or what sort of legacy he had left, he remains to be loved by the people around him, the family he had left behind. Was he afraid of death? Certainly not. From what I’ve heard yesterday, it seems that at the very least he believed in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Perhaps he wasn’t afraid of giving up his breath because of that. Struggled he may with his vices, I choose to remember him for his redeeming qualities, the positive things I remember about him as a child, the fascinating stories, the one-time 30-second sparring match when I was a teen (an event where I’m pretty sure he was going easy on me), my Dad’s stories about his love-hate relationship with the man. All of these things have led to forming the image of a fascinating man in my mind.

Did he leave this earth in peace as we all would like to believe? We wouldn’t really know, but it wouldn’t be hard to form that image in your head that he’d smile and laugh about all of this as he watches how everything unfolds. We’d all like to believe that perhaps during the last few seconds of his colorful life, he had felt some form of peace and comfort. Someday, I might write a piece of music or a song about him if the inspiration fuels me enough. It drove me enough to write about this and so I wouldn’t doubt if it does happen eventually. One thing for sure is that such a life was enough for me to honor Mr. Bernabe Galang, the gangster hero of the streets, as a person who acted as the spice of life for the Galang family.

When Common Courtesy and Manners Disappear

Communication is supposed to be a two-way thing. You send out a message and expect a reply. It is very odd that in today’s world where people from all over the world can easily communicate using smartphones and the Internet, people can still be as rude as ever. What sort of excuses would people have today for not being able to send a simple reply? Could it really be that technology meant to bridge people together could actually be working to force people apart?

If you’d like me to cite some examples, I have some notable ones to draw from my career as a freelance worker. There were many instances when some clients suddenly become uncommunicative. Apparently, even when things seem to work out nice for them, they wouldn’t bother giving you the dignity of replying to a request, an inquiry, a submission or whatnot. There were times when I have completed a number of successful projects they hosted or sponsored that after paying for the job they suddenly become unresponsive. There also are some of them who, after a couple of jobs and an end-contract request (on oDesk), they suddenly become mute. It’s as if in an instant I had become categorized as spam. After all the niceties of communicating and doing a great job, I suddenly get ignored. Is it so difficult to say that you no longer have any projects for me to work on?

There are those people who make appointments or deals with you but they would not honor them. They may call you up and then ask for a meeting at a specific time and place. You show up, honoring your end of the deal. You wait for hours, send out texts and even make a couple of calls. You may even receive a return call, making you expect that the meeting would push through but no. Four hours later, you lose all hope of that meeting pushing through. In other words, they wouldn’t show up. What’s worse is that some of these people are highly educated or hold high positions of leadership e.g. lawyers, physicians, CEOs, COOs, etc. If such esteemed people behave in such a bad manner, what is there to expect from the rest of society then? In today’s world, what was once common courtesy and decency are as rare as fist-sized diamonds.

So, in such cases, how do I deal with such crass behavior? Do I become aggressive and spew out my hate? No. Such an act won’t go anywhere. In such cases, I believe the best way to handle them is with a certain degree of class and a positive attitude. I may send out a final and polite note the same way I would respond to critics who would act mean towards me. Sarcastic it may seem, I would wish for their well being and success in the future. However, the prospect of doing business with me afterwards is gonna be pretty slim, that is unless they pull through to start honoring their words and commitments they have set.. What’s the worth of all that advanced communication when common courtesy, decency and manners are thrown out of the window? Apparently not much at all.

The Challenges of Writing Sleep Music

Sleep deprivation is a problem in contemporary society. The demands of today often call for long work hours that would stretch the strength and patience of anybody. What’s worse is that instead of being able to rest, some people couldn’t even sleep at all. This is where a variety of interventions come into play. You have the allopathic medical solution (drugs) and alternatives that include sleep music. As a musician, nothing can be more fulfilling than one person finding your music to be helpful. However, the ironic twist to that is making sleep music can be very challenging and tiring.

In my experience, composing sleep music gives me that dose of irony. I write music with the intent of inducing deep sleep yet sometimes I myself get sleep deprived working on it. This has to do with the fact that an 8-minute sleep music track can take around 16 hours to write, perform and record, mix and master. If you are a musician like me who does all of the music production processes, you know what I mean.

Melody is an important aspect of my music, and that’s why I try my best to introduce it in sleep music. However, composing a melody for sleep music is one heck of a challenge. It should be interesting enough to be appreciated yet it should be serene and calming to induce sleep. Put in the fact that prior to recording, I have to practice playing some of the instruments live myself. It can take up to an entire day to do just this.

When I get the chance to record the music, it’s all a mix of playing pre-composed written ideas and improvisation. Another challenge at this stage is to make an arrangement (or in many cases, improvise an arrangement) that would be serene and calming yet remain to be musically interesting.

As much as I love shredding on a guitar or playing runs like Chopin on the piano, you can’t do that in sleep music. At one point, I even tried to pull something out of Debussy’s book, a fast run that sounds smooth. My artist manager didn’t think that would fit in a sleep music context. What I learned here is another challenge to writing sleep music: restraint and control. While it may seem to be natural for players to insert fast runs into a seemingly slow piece of music, it takes a good amount of impulse control to prevent showing off while writing sleep music.

The last challenging thing I can think of at the top of my head when it comes to sleep music is mixing and mastering. These production processes also consume a lot of time. Imagine yourself having to listen to your track for 10 times or more, one segment at a time, in order to mix it. This is the equivalent of reading an embarrassing section of your diary over and over again. Mastering your own tracks is like that too except that you would be listening to two or more complete tracks over and over again to see if all of them fit well in an album. The repeating drone of a binaural beat, which is designed to make your brain shut down for sleep, doesn’t help much either in keeping your concentration up.

Writing sleep music shouldn’t be taken for granted. Just like playing prog, jazz fusion or modern classical music, sleep music has it’s own heavy set of challenges as well. It is good to know that one would easily reap the rewards of doing so.

Anyway, if you’re off to go to bed, check this latest easy sleep music track of mine from a7records: