The Most Heard, Least Known Composers In America
Category Archives: Stories
August 24, 2015Posted by on
It’s that time of year, and International Strange Music Day is once again upon us — can you believe it’s already been a year?? Okay, okay … none of us have actually ever heard of this holiday, but when it came across the calendar, I just had to have a little fun with it.
So what actually qualifies as “strange music”? Well that, of course, depends on your definition of “normal”, but I’m going to attempt to share five songs that I think everyone can agree reside firmly in the realm of “unusual”.
5) I’ll start out with something odd, but not too odd. This is a piece of music that, in itself, isn’t all that unusual. What makes it strange, though, is that it’s being played on an accordion … at blistering speed. I honestly didn’t know an accordion could be played like this. His name is Alexander Hrustevich if you’d like to see more.
4) Next we have Genesis. Not the “Invisible Touch hit machine” Genesis fronted by Phil Collins. No, I’m talking the weird, early, costumed Peter Gabriel with a negative mohawk Genesis! In their early years, they recorded some of the oddest music ever to achieve commercial success. One of my favorites is “The Return of the Giant Hogweed” … literally a song about a harmful, invasive species of plant.
3) At number three is a band that, at least from what I’ve heard of their catalog, pretty much defines “frenetic”. These guys are incredibly talented, but for me, anyway, they often teeter on the edge of listenability. Taken in short, controlled bursts, though, they’re actually quite entertaining. I give you The Mars Volta!
2) You know that “edge of listenability” I just mentioned? Yeah, these next guys passed that about five exits back! Even their diehard fans admit The pAper chAse aren’t for everyone. They turn in inspired performances of really well written and thought-out songs, but they’re … well … just weird! Case in point, this is one of their most accessible songs.
1) The Residents. Just … The Residents.
Honorable Mention: Pink Floyd’s “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving With a Pict”. Released in 1969 on the Ummagumma album, this … song? … is an exceedingly bizarre collection of tape loops recorded by the various band members, played back at high speed, and assembled into five of the strangest minutes ever to grace lacquer. Believe it or not, the title is not only an accurate description of the piece, but it’s not the weirdest aspect of the track.
May 19, 2015Posted by on
In the world of music – be it blues, rock, pop or even country – there are few names as revered as B.B. King. He was a pioneer of popularizing a sound that had been brewing along the banks of the Mississippi for generations.
As a very young man in the mid-‘90s, I was lucky enough to see B.B. King at the (then) recently rejuvenated, and now defunct, Bronco Bowl, in Dallas, TX.
It was a special night and I will never forget the silk suits, fedoras, and walking canes that were the chosen outfits of that evening. As an 11 year-old boy it was eye-opening – not for the venue and patrons, but for the man on stage. Little did I realize that few performances later in my life would rival what I saw that night.
Fast forward 15 years and I witnessed what, still to this day, stands as the most unique sound check I would ever experience. I was a young road dog – a glorified roadie – living in London and hanging concert PA’s for a family-run sound company called Canegreen; based just steps from White Hart Lane in Tottenham.
Our first show in our UK “tour” of five shows was at Manchester’s MEN Arena and having hung the stage left PA (16 Meyer Milo‘s on the main hang, 10 box side hang) I settled in stage left for what I thought would be an awesome sound check – watching a living legend play with his backing band without an audience.
It did not disappoint, but not for the reasons I had anticipated.
Keep in mind that this was the first of four or five arena shows and we were supplying every piece of equipment barring backline, including front of house and monitor engineers. So naturally you’d expect the band to come out and sound check, right?
But rather than seeing B.B. King make his way on stage with his band, out came his band leader James “Boogaloo” Bolden. I can only try to recount in writing what happened next (Editor’s note: This may have in fact been the drummer or bass player instead of Boogaloo as James was a killer trumpet player.):
Boogaloo: “Ok, we ready for sound check?”
Us: “Sure, the band coming out?”
Boogaloo: “Nah, I got this”
[MD moves to far stage right position, horn section]
Boogaloo: “Ok, ya’ll ready”
Us: “Uh, yea, ok… you want a trumpet?”
Boogaloo: “Naw…. [shouting in the microphone, NOT playing a trumpet] Bap bap bap bap bap!!! I’m a trumpet!”
[Silence from the sound crew]
Boogaloo: “Bah bap bap bap bap!!!! I’m a trumpet!”
Boogaloo: “Hey turn this up a bit…. Bap bah bap bap bap!!… hey, perfect!”
[moves to sax position]
Boogaloo: “Bee bee bee bee beep!! Be bee bee bee beeeeeeep!! I’m a sax!!”
You get the idea…
So we set the stage levels per the bandleader’s musical direction. Needless to say, when the band came out and we un-muted everything, a wall of feedback greeted the crowd and sound crew; and the first song was spent dialing in the band.
It was the most fun and laid-back set of shows I ever was a part of, and it sounded fantastic. The backing band – and B.B. King – had been performing and touring for decades. They mixed themselves, as the best musicians and performers do.
Luckily, I had a chance to meet B.B. King in person. He was gracious and I couldn’t help mentioning to him my father’s signed “Lucille” ES-355
Want to see B.B. King? Unfortunately he passed last week at the ripe old age of 89. But you can see Steve Arnold’s signed B.B. King Gibson ES-355 “Lucille” at both Promax NY and LA this June, where we’ll proudly have it on display. It’s our own small tribute to a man who transformed music – and the art of the sound check.
The King is Dead – Long Live B.B. King.
April 22, 2015Posted by on
What a long strange trip it’s been.
As you can guess from my last name, I’ve been around Stephen Arnold Music for quite a long time. I’ve often mused that it was quite an eye-opening discovery, around age 8 or 9, to find out that EVERYONE didn’t have a recording studio.
While the business has changed from its humble origins as Stephen Arnold Productions, one thing has remained the same: We’re proud to be an independent and customer service is our lifeblood.
So what exactly does that mean? Aren’t there lots of composers and music houses out there?
Sure, there are many fine composers out there, and many successful music houses. But to have staff including sales, marketing, admin, not to mention our creative team and all the musicians and talent that we count on daily – working alongside full-time employees numbering 15+, Stephen Arnold Music today is a different animal completely.
We’re proud to service over 300 television stations along with some of the largest networks on the planet. Our music helped launch CNN Headline News (now HLN) and recently rebranded CCTV China’s 5 international channels — the largest television network in the world by viewership.
Aside from the detailed creative and production that takes place daily in our studios, there is a heaving database of administration – from contracts to sales to copyrights to registrations to making sure payroll goes out; it’s no small task to keep Stephen Arnold Music humming on a daily basis.
Ask around and you’ll discover what sets us apart: our dedication to customer service, understanding the science AND art of sonic branding, and always putting our clients first (even if adding that saxophone is a bad idea!). Our passion is to make our clients look and sound great; to brand stations, networks, TV shows, and media in a way that’s memorable, innovative and engaging.
Want to know what it means to be #indie? Pick up the phone and give us a call – ask for anyone in the company, from President Stephen Arnold to VP Creative Services Chad Cook all the way down to the mail room and you’ll be put right through. It’s always been that way at Stephen Arnold Music.
Happy Hour is Friday 4pm sharp – stop by, see us and we’ll show you around.
Editor’s Note: For more information on what is means to be #indie, check out Newscast Studios article: http://www.newscaststudio.com/2015/04/16/stephen-arnold-relishes-in-independence/
April 7, 2015Posted by on
A generation ago, the music listening experience was just that: an experience. Having returned from the record store, the eager listener – usually in the company of like-minded friends – would peel the shrinkwrap from the rather large cardboard sleeve and remove the inner, thinner paper sleeve to reveal the all-important vinyl record that awaited inside. After placing the fragile disc carefully on the turntable, the stylus would be lowered to the surface, gingerly, in the hopes of minimizing that inevitable *pop* of first contact.
And with that pop began an audio/visual adventure. For it wasn’t only the music that caught our interest. No, the best collections of music were always wrapped in large, stunning artwork that fired our imaginations and sparked our conversations. And no first listen could be complete without a thorough examination of that new masterpiece.
But as we’ve made the decades-long transition from Hi-Fi to Wi-Fi, the canvas has shrunk, and the listening experience has become less organic and, consequently, less engrossing. No longer do we take the time to listen to a new release in its entirety as a single work while intently studying every square inch of the packaging. And while vinyl is enjoying something of a resurgence in certain circles, downloads and Shuffle Mode still rule the day. And with that, we’ve lost our appreciation of the long-form album as a work of art in its own right.
So I’d like to share with you some of my all-time favorite album covers. No rhyme or reason here … no particular order … just revisiting some really fantastic work by an increasingly underappreciated class of artist.
And of course, I’d be remiss to neglect our two offerings from SAM. Give us a call if you’d like a copy!
November 19, 2014Posted by on
I think it’s safe to say we are in holiday season mode. With Thanksgiving approaching next week, we are either giddy as a child or resentful as Scrooge. Thanksgiving has lost a bit of its historical meaning and has evolved into an eating holiday, right? It’s still a beautiful thing – family and food.
Just a reminder, if you are feeling a big nostalgic and want to add some historical data to your dinner conversation: according to Wiki, Thanksgiving became an official Federal holiday in 1863. President Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving and praise… And then there is the story of the first Thanksgiving, which we recreated every year in elementary school. I was always the Indian because of my darker completion…now that I think about it that was just wrong.
I am incredibly thankful I will be spending Thanksgiving with friends and family this year and very excited that my daughter will be coming in from Nashville. We’ll pick up annual traditions:
- Mad Libs
- 4 a.m. Black Friday Shopping!
- 10 a.m. nap
I wanted to tie music into this post, but Thanksgiving is not really a musical holiday. However, I did find this:
Our Stephen Arnold Music family wishes you and yours a beautiful Thanksgiving holiday.