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The Best Year on This Blog So Far

Blogging doesn’t seem to be quite as popular as it used to be. Maybe that’s why the stats for this site are still quite modest. Nonetheless, I wanted to point out that this year has been the statistical best for this blog. Thank you for visiting and reading. Don’t forget to like your favorite posts, and leave comments–and by all means, when I’m being an idiot, say so.

I haven’t had as much time to write lately as I would like, as I’ve been focusing on music promotion–a skill that I still have a long way to go in. So the number of posts I’ve written this year is probably down from last year.

That said, there were some surprising performers this year. My spiel on Real Talk did surprisingly well, especially considering that I was afraid it would alienate readers owing to the less-than-uplifting subject matter. Also, a year and a half ago I wrote about a lecture by Aki Onda I attended that discussed composer Jose Maceda. This one is consistently viewed and is also a high performer this year. I never would have guessed that when I wrote it, but it’s gratifying to see people seek out information on experimental musicians.

Also performing well this year was my review of Deep Work by Cal Newport. If you haven’t yet read that book, I highly encourage you to do so.

Again, thank you all for reading this blog, and also for having supported the release of my EP, Into the Darkness. There will be more music coming out in 2020, and hopefully a lot more writing as well.

Happy New Year.

Into the Darkness Now on Streaming Services

My recent EP, Into the Darkness, which was released in October on Bandcamp, is now available on streaming services. If you subscribe to one of these services, please consider giving this album a listen.

To date, it can be found in the following places:

Spotify

Apple Music

iTunes

Google Play/YouTube

Amazon

Deezer

Tidal

iHeartRadio

These are just a few of the streaming services where this album will appear. If you find it in other places, please leave a link in the comments. Thank you for listening, and I really hope you enjoy it.

 

 

A New Christmas Single

I’m not much for Christmas, but there are a few tunes from the holidays that I like. One of them is Greensleeves, probably because of its haunting minor contours. It appears in two different versions–one with a raised sixth, the other with it lowered, right there on the word “this,” if you’re singing “What Child is This?” I prefer the raised sixth, and that’s how I played it in this track, now available on Bandcamp–and pretty soon on streaming services.

To make this version, I used the E-mu Virtuoso 2000 synthesizer, using the harp and string sounds. Having a stack of three keyboards helps with flexibility. If only I could get my hands on a pedalboard I’d really be in business.

Update: I’ve now added a video of this piece with the high quality audio:

Whether you love Christmas or hate it, I hope your holiday season goes exactly the way you want it to.

Into the Darkness on Star’s End

A big thank you to Chuck Van Zyl for including the title track of my recent EP, Into the Darkness, in his Star’s End┬áradio broadcast last night on WXPN. I encourage you to check out his show’s archives and keep up with it. It features a lot of really incredible musicians, and I’m really happy to be included in such good company.

Chuck also runs The Gatherings Concert Series, which takes place four times a year at St. Mary’s Hamilton Village, on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, where I’m the organist and music director. Often the featured performers in a given concert later do a live-to-air performance on WXPN the same night. If you’re in the Philly area I highly recommend you mark your calendar with their concert dates. I don’t see any official announcement but I believe the next event is sometime in March.

 

Real Talk

I have to admit something, and I can only hope it isn’t bad form to do so. I’ve become extremely frustrated with trying to promote my music online. I don’t think my expectations are too high. I don’t think anything I put out is going to go “viral,” and I don’t need to be rich and I don’t want to be famous. I’d be the world’s worst famous person since I love having time to myself and that would go right out the window.

I just want to make enough money that the music pays for itself. I’ve tried everything I know. Facebook ads, Instagram engagement, and I’ve even added a TikTok account now, too @michaellawrencemusic. I just put an EP up on Bandcamp last month, where it is floundering. If you can figure out how to leverage Bandcamp’s Byzantine genre categories, you’re way ahead of me.

I feel like a loser. I don’t know what to do. For now I keep going, but as Einstein said, Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Patience is key but it’s also important to know when what you’re doing just isn’t working.

The advice I’ve gotten seems solid, and it comes from people who have achieved real success themselves–they are not merely self-proclaimed internet gurus or life coaches.

But it isn’t working for me. I may be facing the possibility that I’m making the kind of music that just isn’t going to get much traction.

This is the risk we artists run. Our products are not pragmatic, and they are subject to taste. Yet an artistic product that has no market value might also be the manifestation of our very souls, so it would be spiritual suicide to turn our backs on them. When I do not make enough music, I become a gargoyle.

This really isn’t anything new. I’m under no delusions that I’m the only one who faces this. I’m aware of a composer in New York City who died of AIDS in the early 90’s. His work is said to have been on par with Leonard Bernstein’s, but when his father cleaned out his apartment, all the compositions went in the trash–a lifetime of music sent to be buried in Staten Island. Devastating.

Please don’t feel sorry for me. I suppose the only point I want to make is that for every musician you notice who’s making it even a little bit, there is not only a ton of hard work over the course of many years to make that happen, there are also another 99 musicians who haven’t made it at all.

So if you like someone’s music, support them. Buy an album, buy a t-shirt, and for God’s sake make the hustle to get to their show. For most musicians it’s not about egotism, but about the sheer joy of making music for an audience that’s listening.

Thanks for letting me rant, and I promise I’ll keep grinding.

 

Into the Darkness now available on Bandcamp

Improvisation has been an essential part of my musical life ever since I was five years old and sat at my mom’s newly-acquired Kimball upright piano and “told stories” with sounds I came up with on the spot. I couldn’t read a note of music–and it probably sounded like it. However hideous those early experiments might have been, they were the first hints that I was not going to be satisfied simply with playing Other People’s Music–though that can be fulfilling too.

Over the years the improvisation has taken many forms–free improv at the piano, jazz on the trumpet (though I was quite staid in that style), and liturgical improvisation on the organ. In the past five years I’ve gotten into synthesizers, and this has opened up a whole new world to me. Every Wednesday night I head into the studio. We set up the MIDI keyboards and roll the tape, and I sit down and see what comes out. Some nights go better than others, but it’s amazing how fast useful material piles up. Into the Darkness is the first installment of these improvisations. It gets its title from one of my foremost impressions about the creative process–going into the great unknown.

This record can be streamed for free. If you enjoy what you hear, please consider purchasing the high-quality files, which also allows for unlimited streaming. And of course, please tell your friends.

I would like to thank Matt Taft once again for the stunning artwork he made for the cover of this album. I would also like to thank Mike Sabolick, who set up the equipment, running the mystery cords to all their mystery places–I can never remember what goes where–and who also helped solve some pesky issues in the mastering process. Their involvement in this project made it all the more enjoyable.