I did a quick business card design for a music production client of mine who needed them for an upcoming show. I traced his hand drawn logo in Adobe Illustrator, and used existing artwork provided by the client.
For the London Health Sciences Centre’s important renovations to the Emergency Departments at their two main campus hospitals, I suggested doing a special “before & after” slideshow, where images of the spaces before the renovations are transformed into the new spaces by laying in elements such as floors, walls, and ceilings.
I worked closely with the Project Manager to ensure the photos I took were from the same exact locations during the before and after photoshoots. I carefully split the elements in Photoshop, put together the slides in Power Point, and put it to music in Sony Vegas Movie Studio.
In addition to being a co-organizer and co-host of the meetup group The Songwriter’s Cafe in Toronto, I also participate by presenting my own songs to the group and getting their feedback. There’s nothing quite like getting constructive feedback from fellow songwriters that’s always supportive and encouraging. The group experience never fails in inspiring me to improve my own songwriting, as well as meeting the extraordinarily talented songwriters in the room. There’s also great opportunities for collaborations between members beyond the meetups.
The group recently surpassed 1,000 members and I’m proud to be part of its growth over the last few years.
The photo was taken by one of the members, who, like me, is a budding photographer as well as a songwriter. Thanks Alexander for the great capture!
The latest Song Talk Radio backup band jam session was for my own song, I Never Write Her a Song. We rehearsed for a couple of hours, and then performed about three takes for the video recording. Thanks to the guys who put their hearts and souls into the performance, especially David St Bernard who took on the vocal part with great verve! Phil (bass) also took us through an exercise to ensure all four instrumentalists knew each other’s parts well, and worked together to create a unified groove.
David St Bernard – vocals
Neel Modi – piano, songwriter
Joe Romasanta – guitar
Phil Emery – bass
Gary Duke – drums
Bruce Harrott – consultant
I captured the room audio, and the vocal audio to separate tracks so I could mix them in post-production to get the best sound quality and ensure the vocal sat nicely above the mix.
The Facilities Management department at London Health Sciences Centre needed to improve its public profile at the hospital, and one strategy was to produce a Year in Review report to deliver key messages and showcase good work.
I wrote the content, took many of the photos, and designed the document for the 16-page report. Content included:
- letter from the Vice-President
- the Facilities Management team
- Featured Projects
- Infrastructure Improvements
- Visions for the Future
The Facilities Management department at London Health Sciences Centre needed to improve its profile within the hospital’s culture. The internal website I developed served to increase transparency and communication, while showcasing the good work done by the department.
I was responsible for writing, photography, and management of the intranet site. A working group arrived at a consensus for the site architecture, which I then refined and developed streamlined content for each of the pages, including some photography.
While at the Facilities Management department at London Health Sciences Centre, I was responsible for developing the graphical content for the touchscreen wayfinding features, including maps, buttons, and backgrounds, working primarily with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.
Special care to be taken with planning and exporting the map graphics so that future edits to the maps did not interfere with the wayfinding data points. I also took and edited the photographs for the homepage backgrounds, specifically for each kiosk in a different area of the hospital, following the existing wayfinding colour scheme.
After hearing the fascinating podcast Song Exploder, where a song is deconstructed and examined into its separate parts, I stumbled upon an episode featuring composer Ramin Djawadi and a breakdown of the Game of Thrones theme music. Hearing and learning the individual parts prompted me to arrange my own cover version, similar to the original in its groove, but with electric guitar and synth strings as points of departure. I also ended up discovering several other great versions of the theme on Soundcloud, my favourites including industrial, prog rock, and smooth jazz versions.
Check out my version here:
Often on Song Talk Radio, this question arises. Sometimes, it’s fun for the hosts to try and guess. “Your song sounds very cerebral,” or “Your song sounds very intuitive.” The guests themselves tell us how well considered every decision in their songwriting process is, or tell us “It just came to me.” This question of process in creative endeavour is as old as the creative endeavours themselves. On Blair Packham’s show, he talked about his own journey on both the intuitive and the cerebral roads.
Most songwriters and musicians know the history of the Beatles. In the early 60’s, before they were famous, they played for hours every night in clubs in Hamburg, Germany. They learned their chops, got better at harmonizing together and playing tightly together. Author Malcolm Gladwell, in his excellent book Outliers, describes this as the 10,000 hours rule: practice anything for 10,000 hours and you’ll be an expert. The Beatles played more shows in a few short years than many contemporary bands play in their entire career. Gladwell uses evidence-based examples to show that the most successful people are those who put in the time.
In another book, Blink, Gladwell champions the subconscious mind as a powerful decision maker, and how little information can be beneficial in making positive, snap decisions. He cites such examples as fine art experts who can spot a forgery at a glance (and can’t explain how they know they’re looking at a forgery) and orchestras who hold blind auditions to reduce conscious biases.
So let’s bring this back to our central question. It may be possible that songwriters who feel they channel their songs from some outward source, may in fact be so well practiced they make decisions in a “blink” and rely more heavily on their subconscious experience to guide their songwriting decisions. “That chord progression just felt right.” On the other hand, some songwriters are deliberate and conscious in their writing, and know the reasons their songs work the way they do.
I recall clearly learning to play the drums many years ago. I started with simple rhythms on a single drum, and practiced many hours to coordinate my hands and feet on a drumkit. The moment I could successfully coordinate kick drum and snare hits with a running cymbal rhythm, something in me clicked and I’ve never forgotten how to do it, no matter how long it’s been since I’ve last played a drumkit. These days, I don’t think about it – I just follow my subconscious to feel the beat and play along. If I’m playing in an unusual time signature, like 5/4 or 7/4, I need to engage more of my conscious mind.
I think the same applies to songwriting. As songwriters, we can rely on our ability to “blink” and know if a songwriting or performance decision is the right one. However, we can also study more conscious tools of songwriting to change things up, overcome writer’s block, and think outside the boxes we have created ourselves through our experience.
For myself, how do I answer the question of do I write from the heart or the head? Historically, I’ve been a head-dominated writer, but lately I’ve been “consciously” relying more on my snap judgements, and perhaps surprisingly, they’re mostly right. So, like everyone else, I’m somewhere in the middle.
Let us know how you look at your own process. Do you write from the heart or the head, or both?
Check out my articles at the Song Talk Radio website.