“Love Rock” by Emi’s Eve: A Composer/Arranger’s Perspective

About 2 years ago, I wrote some music for Emi Waterson, lead singer and songwriter of Emi’s Eve (an original and covers band from Australia). Fast forward to today, the result of that collaboration is now here for your listening pleasure:

 

(“Love Rock” – Copyright 2012, Emi Waterson/Mark A. Galang/Jeni Wallwork)

 

“Love Rock” is a song that started out as a melody that Emi wrote. She sent me a recording of her singing the melody and I wrote music to accompany that melody. It’s a product of my first musical collaboration with somebody from outside of the Philippines, something that was unimaginable for me prior to the advent of the Internet.

The intro where the strings are sawing away was originally a guitar riff. I even wrote a shredding guitar run in the upper register prior to the part where the vocals kick in. The whole idea that I had in mind for the music was sort of a hard rock song for a pop singer. At the very least I was trying to put some hard rock integrity into the song in the same manner that a J-pop song would have a surprisingly technical twist that you would typically expect from a speed metal piece.

The great thing that I love about this recording is how Emi and the rest of her collaborators have tweaked the arrangement. I think most of the notes I wrote are still there, the most important ones being the riffs, the chord progressions, some of the licks and the basslines. The most surprising thing for me was how the Emi and the other arrangersĀ  turned the main riff and some of the passages into something useful for strings. The string passages gave that sort of chamber music appeal like a Vivaldi concerto.

Since the record is intended for a mass-market/radio audience, I wasn’t really surprised that the guitar solos I wrote were edited although a semblance of which appeared as a lick towards the end. Maybe Emi’s guitar player wrote it himself and could have been influenced by the solo I wrote: I’m not really sure.

To sum it all up, I’m very happy to have worked with Emi on “Love Rock” and a few other songs (regarding which I’ll keep my mouth shut for now). I was really glad how the whole recording turned out. It is a pop song, that’s for certain, but it’s one that requires a good level of musicianship to perform, a rarity in today’s music scene where garbage can produce millions of dollars. Give “Love Rock” a listen and you’ll be happy to hear how amazing Emi and her band are.

To get to know more about Emi and Emi’s Eve, visit http://www.emiseve.com.

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Recitals and Canned Music Live

When I was studying piano and classical guitar back when I was still attending classes in Benedictine Abbey School, I remember how it was to line up and wait for my cue to perform. Today, my son is experiencing the same thing for the third time, another step closer to what I hope to be the development of a future violin virtuoso. While waiting for everything to unfold, I’m currently listening to the MSE Orchestra (one of my past clients for sheet music preparation and music transcription). They are performing the kind of stuff they do best: pop songs reconfigured for strings, piano and flute. As expected from professional musicians with years of experience, they are excellent performers. The repertoire, however, is reflective of the sad state of the musical tastes of many Pinoys: instant entertainment that drives the emotions and the feet rather than the mind. Perhaps in as much as MSE and the ensemble would like to perform something artistically gratifying (which they do on occasion), they need to keep a business running, and this is why at this instant they’re churning out what I call canned music. It’s like Muzak being performed live.

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Don’t get me wrong. I have great respect for the musicians themselves. It’s impressive how they produce renditions of hits, chamber orchestra style. The pianist’s improvisations are spot on, and the rest of the orchestra play their instruments as if they were just brushing their teeth. However, as much as I’d wish to hear them play stuff like Penderecki, Bach, Debussy, Liszt, or even Wagner, it’s unfortunate that I won’t get the chance to do so. So canned music it is for now.

The set is just bad here at SM Bicutan. If I were Ric and Mariza (MSE’s owners), I’d be really pissed off. First thing is that MSE plans to serve lunch. The assholes at SM failed to provide tables. How are the guests supposed to eat lunch? Minutes after writing this, I see some tables being set up. I’m hoping that they’d put in enough tables for everybody. Second problem is the awful slide in the middle that just gets in the way of the audience. If I was shelling out tons of cash to rent the place for a few hours, I’d expect it to be put out of the way, no excuses.

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In a few moments from now, my son would be performing a Gavotte by P. Martini, one of the standard pieces found in the Suzuki Violin School Literature. He could already pull off pieces like Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto in A minor. However, it seems to me like because of the Suzuki methodology, he has to go through recitals in chronological order of the books. Since it’s his 3rd year of playing the violin, he’s playing something from book 3 I believe. Maybe he’ll have a better chance of demonstrating his skills in the School of Tomorrow’s Junior Student Convention in 2014, an event he’ll prepare for after this.

Now I’ll be stopping my critiques and do my best to enjoy the rest of the day. So, I’m guessing that I’ll be expecting the same stuff year after year: classical music from students and canned music from the pros. Maybe if my son goes into another program things might change. It’s a good thing that my son is learning from the pros but I hope I could find an opportunity for him to go for higher artistic goals, the kind of stuff that people like Coke Bolipata would go for rather than play canned music. Well, performing canned music would help pay the bills but musicians need to go for dreams way bigger than that.

Six String Madness Interviews Mark Galang

Just this week, I was interviewed by Scott of Six String Madness regarding my work and insights as a music transcriber for Steve Stine and GuitarZoom.

Read the interview via the links below:

http://www.sixstringmadness.com/exclusive-interview-mark-galang
http://www.stevestine.com/exclusive-interview-with-mark-galang/

For more tips about playing guitar and info regarding getting the best blues, rock and metal guitar lessons on the net, go visit sixstringmadness.com.

Of Eagles and Rats: Family Structures and Socio-Economics

I will be candid and honest here. I find it very annoying and irksome when people ask me why I only have one child and have decided never to have another one. These sort of people go on with their reasons that the child might become unhappy, lacking in social stimulus, and all of those same tired illogical reasons to having more than one child. I explain my reasons to them (along with my reasons for homeschooling and other lifestyle choices), they seem very baffled given that it goes against much of the traditional Filipino culture norms (machismo, two or more children, head of household working in some big corporation, etc.).

In such times, especially when such people encourage me to have a second child, I have this urge to question or tell them, “Since you want it so bad, why don’t you have another child yourself?” or “Perhaps you are rich enough. Maybe I can ask you for financial support for your suggestion.”

If you ask these people why they want to have children, they can’t provide you with a decent and logical answer. For one thing, if you had asked me why I wanted to have a child, I would answer you in this manner:

  1. It fulfills the natural, biological urge to reproduce
  2. It is a fulfillment of the need to build a family
  3. It fulfills the desire to share one’s life and nurture another

I’m being honest here when I state such reasons. I wouldn’t answer you with some answer that would come across as hypocritical. I would not lie as well when I tell you that I cannot fulfill the third reason if I had more than one child. Should I then try to have another child? If I did, the likelihood of ruining the life of my son and that hypothetical child would be great indeed.

To clarify a few reasons for having only a single child, let me describe to you two of God’s creatures and how they differ: the eagle and the rat.

The eagle is a creature that has such high esteem. It is an apex predator, a high-flying bird that rules the air with telescopic vision, sharp talons and a powerful beak. They tend to build their nests in high places. Once an eagle finds its mate, it is for life, an example of monogamy in the animal kingdom. Reproduction tends to be minimal with only about one to three eggs in the nest. In many cases, only a single eaglet succeeds to go on into adulthood. To me, an Eagle represents a vision of going to what seems to be unreachable heights, of dreaming big and doing something noble in life.

The rat, on the other hand, is usually a prey animal. It has poor vision. It’s survival as a species depends on being able to reproduce rapidly, often with multiple partners. It may be crafty but its no apex predator and is always on the lunch menu. It dwells in dark places where they can scavenge for food easily, acting as a pest inside human dwellings. I’m not surprised of the fact that the rat is often used as an analogy for a state of being destitute.

Following the model of an Eagle makes more sense to me because it espouses the “quality over quantity” concept. Being an “eagle” allows me to provide full resources to a single offspring which improves the chances of that child having a superior level of upbringing. My child would have a better chance of avoiding the kind of problems that Alfred Adler describes in his theories regarding birth order. My son enjoys the diversity of social interaction he gets without being pigeonholed into peers of the same age group. He can therefore have the mentality of an apex predator that would not follow the whims of the herd. It’s the same kind of mentality why I ventured out to become my own boss rather than dwelling in corporate slavery.

If you talk about “rats”, they’re everywhere. Take a tour of downtown Manila and you’ll readily see what I mean. Go to the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, and you’ll get a clear picture of how dysfunctional the rat mentality is. There are many people who still have the mistaken belief that children are living insurance policies; in many of these cases, such children turn out to be liabilities as their inept parents are not capable of equipping them well.

Now you know why I choose to be an eagle rather than a rat. I don’t want to be on some other predator’s lunch menu, and I don’t want my son to become prey either.

Afterthoughts About The Movie-Viewing Habits of the Pinoy

My wife and I like watching movies. It’s one of those things that we tend to enjoy together. After watching the last Twilight Saga movie (Breaking Dawn Part 2) and then seeing the Jason Becker movie trailer over at YouTube, it led me to conclude how vacuous the tastes of many Pinoys with regard to their movie viewing choices.

Breaking Dawn Part 2 was entertaining, something that many Filipinos appreciate in their movies but content-wise it was thin. I never even bothered reading the books after my wife reported about how bad Stephanie Meyer’s prose is (she apparently shares the same opinion that Stephen King had with Stephanie Meyer). See, in our household while I am the authority regarding music, my wife is the authority with regard to literature so I tend to listen to her suggestions and opinions regarding prose. Going back to the movie, it was mere entertainment or something that a completionist would do. It’s just that I’ve watched every single Twilight movie and I wanted to see how it all wraps up. To sum up the whole shebang, the Twilight Saga is entertaining in its depiction of teenage angst in a world where vampires and werewolves are different from the traditional folkloric concept of such creatures. Again, it’s entertainment and nothing more. It does not compel anyone to go deep into serious thinking about symbolism and intellectual themes. The Twilight Saga could never merit an intellectual discussion anyway.

And so the theaters were filled with this movie and some other local flick which I wouldn’t bother watching. A day after, I once again saw the trailer for Jason Becker’s biopic “Not Dead Yet”. Being a musician, such a movie sparked a great deal of interest in me and wondered why such a story would never make its premiere in the Philippines. And then I suddenly recalled those other trailers of Justin Bieber and Katy Perry movies in local cinemas. The question now became, “Why do Philippine cinemas show such vacuous movies rather than movies that compel people to think or imagine?” It’s bothersome that majority of Filipinos only prefer mind-numbing entertainment rather than information that would provoke them to think big and be creative. Philippine theaters would prefer to air vacuous movies like Justin Bieber’s and Katy Perry’s rather than a Jason Becker movie.

Consider this. Which of those music-related flicks would prove to be more inspiring? If I would compare the trailers for each of these flicks, in terms of overcoming challenges and obstacles, the Jason Becker movie would just sink those Justin Bieber and Katy Perry flicks to the bottom. While the two would continue to dominate music charts with their vacuous pop crap, Mr. Becker churns out wonderful, imaginative music to this day using only his eyes. If we examine the backgrounds of these artists, it seems to me that all of them stem from middle-class North American families. I don’t understand why the Justin Bieber and Katy Perry trailers seem to whine about the “obstacles” they face while they churn out millions and millions of dollars every single night, complaining about being “different” and living in a “repressive” environment. I don’t really see how different they are from every aspiring teenager who wants to make it in the music industry. It looks like all of them grew up in similar suburban settings so with the exception of Jason Becker, I don’t really see what they’re whining about.

Jason Becker, in contrast, is burdened by a real challenge. Being one of the top-notch guitar virtuosos of his time, he suddenly fell ill to Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig disease. He can only move his eyes, his jaw and to some extent his mouth, but he can’t move and can’t speak. His musical and artistic mind is trapped inside a body that many people would easily give up on. Despite the enormous challenge, he still can write music through his eye movements that control his computers and sophisticated software.

I seem to be going off tangent but I’m trying my best to illustrate a point here. That being Philippine cinemas would rather feature shallow entertainment than something that is truly inspiring. The Jason Becker movie has that sort of story that I think many Filipinos would like, since many Filipinos are suckers for that kind of feel-good-underdog-rising-against-the-odds movie. It’s sad that it would never be shown here. The reason could be easily demonstrated in a following imagined scenario:

Me: Uy manong, nagugustuhan nyo po ba yung mga kanta ni Justin Bieber at Katy Perry (Hey mister, do you like songs by Justin Bieber and Katy Perry?)

Manong: Ay oo, gusto ko yun. Madaling sayawan at nakakaaliw. Gustong gusto nga ng mga bata yun e. (Yes. I like their songs. They’re very amusing and danceable. In fact, a lot of kids like them).

Me: Eh manong, yung si Jason Becker ba kilala nyo? Magaling na magaling gitarista yun. (Manong, what about Jason Becker? Do you know him? He’s a very good guitarist.)

Manong: Jason Becker? Sino yun? (Jason Becker? Who’s that?)

Me: Magaling na gitarista yun noong dekada ’80. Nagkasakit, di na makagalaw, pero nakakapagsulat pa rin ng kanta. (He’s a very good guitarist in the ’80s. He got sick, became paralyzed but is still capable of writing music)

Manong: Talaga? Ewan ko. Di naman mapapanood sa Wowowee yun e. HindiĀ  sikat. (Really? I don’t know. I can’t watch him on Wowowee. He’s not famous.)

The point in this illustration is that most Filipinos are only attracted to what’s popular. That person or entity may have all the kind of skill and talent in the world but if he/she is not popular, she wouldn’t make a dent into the Filipino psyche. Many Filipinos tend to admire only what’s popular, even those without any sort of substance whatsoever. This is one fatal flaw in Filipino culture that has resulted into a messed up government, substandard education (Nationalist sentiments promoting Tagalog in public general education, despite the language’s divisiveness, inefficiency to articulate scientific and intellectual concepts, and lack of economic value), and the lack of entertainment options that are intellectually stimulating. And that includes movie choices folks.

Steve Stine’s 96 Blues Licks Now Available

After two weeks of hard work, I’m proud to announce that Steve Stine’s long anticipated 96 Blues Licks course for guitar has already been released by GuitarZoom. If you’ve ever dreamed of playing the blues and all sorts of its derivatives like blues rock and Texas blues, this is the course that you’ve been waiting for.

Steve Stine’s 96 Blues Licks course can be seen as part of a continuity of lead guitar instruction courses by the guru himself. If the first Solofire installment and Music Theory Made Easy provided you with the “how” of guitar soloing and music making, 96 Blues Licks provides you the “what”. You can say that it’s going to form part of your ever expanding vocabulary of lead guitar lines.

One of the most awesome aspects of 96 Blues Licks is that it provides some insights into the music theory behind playing the Blues. The introductory material provides a good method into how any guitar player would approach using the licks and putting them in the context of any song. Rather than just being told how a lick is played, the introductory materials actually provide more by helping learners expand the licks into things more than just soloing.

The sheet music provided (transcribed by no other than yours truly) is in the usual standard notation and guitar tablature format. It covers all of the materials in the DVD and we even went far as including all of Steve’s jam track improvisations at the end of the course so that learners can actually gain insight as to how Steve approaches playing the Blues.

So, to cut the long story short, if you’ve ever dreamed of being like Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Chuck Berry or Stevie Ray Vaughn, check out Steve Stine’s 96 Blues Licks. If you’re a blues guitar fan, I guarantee that you’ll get more than your money’s worth just listening to how Steve gets you going with the Blues.

Filipino Mediocrity Starts with the Individual

About two Sundays ago, I went out for a typical family day with my wife and son. We ate out at the mall and bought some stuff like a light bulb and some new clothes for my wife. It is in these instances that I sometimes get to observe the proud Pinoy at his “finest”. Such behavior at centers of commerce prove the fact that the Pinoy really is anti-intellectual, unruly, mediocre and lack any form of discipline.

We were first at the gilded illusion of a first-world city called Makati, particularly it’s central business district (CBD). Filled with tall buildings and malls with a cozy atmosphere of recycled air, the CBD seems like the ideal go-to place, catering to the taste of people from the higher economic brackets. However, as you venture out of the CBD’s boundaries, you’ll see that Makati is no different than the jungles like Manila and Pasay have become with bad roads, nonexistent city planning, reckless drivers, unruly pedestrians, sleazy joints, etc. On our way out of the CBD, we only have a choice of a two-lane service road that’s similar to a lunar surface and an oppressively expensive tollway. We usually choose the latter for practicality (reduced wear and tear on the vehicle we use) and convenience.

Next we went to SM Bicutan, a place that caters more to the masses. Unfortunately, it is in this sort of place that the misery of the Filipino is more evident. The place just reeks of substandard merchandise and shallow entertainment options designed to drug the masses into a zombie-like, brainless state with four-on-the-floor thumping music and local cinema that’s devoid of anything of intellectual interest and creativity. To get good items or better options in such an environment, you’d have to dig deeper, avoid the pestering utterances of squads of salespersons, and exercise common sense and discernment.

In such an environment, you would readily notice the Pinoy’s lack of courtesy and respect for his fellow man. One manifestation of this is at the parking lot where many drivers have no respect for no-entry or one-way signs. There’s supposed to be an organized way by which drivers should navigate the internal pathways of the parking lot, and such a way is labeled by big signs labeled “This Way” and “Wrong Way”. Apparently, many prefer entering the “Wrong Way” just so they can get ahead and pick out the parking spot they like. In this regard, economic class was not a factor as I have seen a lot of these people driving very expensive vehicles. Many moviegoers in its cinemas are just the worst. They’re loud and crude as they do not respect the need for silence in movie theaters. They would let their cell phones ring loudly and chatter away as if they were watching mind-numbing TV at home. Chaos seems to be the norm for the Pinoy, and it’s level would skyrocket whenever SM hosts some local celebrity event.

It really is odd in these malls like SM where there seems to be a 1:3 salesperson to customer ratio. I probably am exaggerating here, but for items that do not require any form of technical expertise it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have an army of salespersons occupying every corner of the store. People should be disciplined enough to go choose and take items for themselves, and put things back in order. As a creature of chaos, the Pinoy will not do that, hence the armies of salespersons on very low salaries. This goes to show that apparently you cannot trust the Pinoy to take the merchandise from the checkout counter himself and has to be treated like a king with his every idiotic whim.

I have become friendly with the staff of Lazer Music in SM Bicutan. They certainly have some good merchandise. However, I’m assuming that the management of the place know that a majority of people who try their hands at music are not musically adventurous at all. How do I know? I’ve asked the place numerous times for a 6-string bass. They don’t have it. These days, you wouldn’t really consider a six-string bass to be an unusual instrument, but in the Philippines it is hard to find one. It just is sad to know that many Filipino musicians aren’t willing to go beyond the standard instruments available. If you try out something new, you could be labeled as “hambog” and “mayabang”. Many Pinoys are afraid of change and do not have an innovative spirit at all, and the music store is a sad reflection of that since the management knows that most aspiring Pinoy musicians do not aspire to do more and will not try out something new. Their only recourse is to sell the standard stuff; unusual instruments are out of the question. It’s the same prevailing attitude when you claim to play progressive music in the Philippines; either you earn respect or you get derided for being flashy and out of the norm. Collectivist mentality at work.

I was genuinely amazed at how very few Filipinos would be fascinated by new ideas. The Lazer Music staff happen to be such folk. They were very interested when I introduced to them things like Mark Wood’s violins, Jordan Rudess’s iPad apps and the GuitarViol. I suppose there’s still some hope as at the very least there’s a few open minds out there willing to check out and explore innovative ideas.

So here’s how I could sum up my ramblings:

1. Makati CBD is like opium, designed to numb people from the problems outside of it.
2. Pinoy consumerism and anti-intellectualism create a vicious cycle: The lack of interest in anything intellectual and innovative leads business owners to sell products that serve to feed only shallow interests. These include entertainment options that gives a quick laugh, thrill, excitement, sexual arousal, etc, but lacking in facility to provoke people into thinking of ideas. Such cheap thrills provide the positive reinforcement to think less and then act like animals on impulse. Just like Mark Mothersbaugh sings about, “Are we not men? We are Devo!” Pinoys are devolving. Such substandard merchandise appeals readily to the Pinoy “Pwede na yan” (that’ll do) mentality.
3. Such brain killing activities and products turn men into monkeys, having lost the ability to follow simple rules like “Do not enter. Wrong way.” Idiots and assholes they have become as they confuse what’s right from wrong.
4. It seems to me that the whole design of these places is to keep people ignorant and stupid, so that they can be controlled and manipulated to benefit the interests of major business owners. No value is added, no wealth is created.
5. If you, the thinking kind, would hope that such ignorant people would be wiped off the planet, you’re dead wrong. They multiply like jackrabbits.
6. We need not despair yet as there is a chance that the problems could be reversed, given the fact that there still are a few who are willing to think and accept new ideas. While it is very difficult for me to find people who would be interested in sensible and meaningful conversation, there still are a few.