Expert Advice

First, let me announce that this is NOT an April Fool’s joke.

The other day, I thought about expertise and what exactly makes someone an expert. Years of experience? A large social media platform? When you seek advice, do you seek advice from an expert? It really depends on what you need, right? After all, you wouldn’t go to someone for legal advice who was still in law school. But you might go to that law student if you were looking for advice about the application process, since that person successfully completed the process.

When it comes to publishing, I usually look for someone who can offer me more experiential knowledge than I currently have. Though I have many years of experience in publishing, I still don’t consider myself an expert, because no one masters every imaginable genre in publishing. So there’s always something to learn, especially from a fellow writer, an editor, or an agent. Even as an editor, I can only give an opinion to the author about what may or may not need to change—even in line edits.

Awhile ago I pitched a manuscript to a mentorship program where mentorships are offered by published novelists if your pitch is picked. Once chosen (not everyone is) you would then submit your manuscript to the mentor or mentors who would then help you to submit it to an agent. The one I’m referring to is this one. Click to find out more information. That’s one way of seeking expert advice.

What expert advice have you sought recently? Were you satisfied with the result? While you consider your answer, let’s celebrate the winners of the following:

Laura Bruno Lilly’s Swimming with Swans: The Music—Goat Suite (Saga) (Click here for the interview.)

and Sandra Nickel’s Breaking Through the Clouds: The Sometimes Turbulent Life of Meteorologist Joanne Simpson (Click here for the interview.)

The winners of Swimming with Swans: The Music—Goat Suite (Saga) are

Jennie

Nancy Hatch

The winner of Breaking Through the Clouds: The Sometimes Turbulent Life of Meteorologist Joanne Simpson is

S. K. Van Zandt!

Winners, please comment below to confirm. Thank you to all who commented.

Covers and photos courtesy of the composer and author. Expert image expertly done by L. Marie.

Check This Out: Swimming with Swans: The Music—Goat Suite (Saga)

With me on the blog today is the amazing composer/musician/performer Laura Bruno Lilly, who is here to talk about her album Swimming with Swans: The Music—Goat Suite (Saga) and the process of composing.

Cover designed by Rita Moore

First, here is the intro:

El Space: How long was the process from composing the music to this finished product?
Laura: The actual length of time from start (inspiration) to finish (digital/cd music release) took 11 years. However, it took only a month or so to compose Goats in the Garden at Midnight by the Light of the Full Moon. While it was a complete piece in and of itself, it just didn’t feel finished. It wasn’t until after our between-homes journey came to an end that I realized it could be developed further in keeping with the structure of a suite. More accurately, those goats insisted there was more of their musical story to tell!

Photo by Terry Lilly

My Goat Suite (Saga) was composed and written while my husband and I were living on the compound in the desert outside Las Cruces, New Mexico from October 2010 through August 2011. It is a self-contained, yet complimentary slice of a larger project, Swimming with Swans: the music & vignettes of our three-year journey between homes which encompasses two standalone, yet related segments comprised of musical and literary material I created during that time on-the-road from June 2009 through June 2012.

Goats in the Garden naturally morphed into the middle movement within a larger three movement piece. Both the first and third movements were completed within a few months of each other, making the total composition time of the piece about a year from start to finish.

So you see, the composing itself didn’t take all that long. I’m very hands-on. Doodling with multiple parts on different instruments, putting it all together—I love that stuff! Composing is my sandbox where I get to play with all the parts of the piece in the course of creating it.

Next came the technical aspect of setting the music into a readable score for use in recording and later future performances. To that end, I purchased and learned a score notation program that enabled me to write down the parts more quickly than if I continued to write it all by hand. as it is scored for two classical guitars, mandolin, 12-string acoustic guitar and rainstick, I’m sure the wisdom in this time investment is obvious!

Once in final score format, I set it aside. The journey from that to the finished product took a more circuitous route. I applied for and was awarded a small grant from the Puffin Foundation to aid in the financial aspect of recording my Goat Suite (Saga). Around that same time, my 93-year-old Dad in Colorado entered hospice. Already juggling long-distance care-giving for a few years, this catapulted my focus 100% on Dad’s final days, shelving everything else.

After Dad’s passing, while getting his house cleared out and ready to sell, I managed to schedule some recording studio time with two longtime colleagues in the area. This effort yielded a finished mix ready to send elsewhere for mastering.

Once mastered, it was just a matter of finalizing the cover art, designing the physical product, pressing the CDs, registering the music with various agencies, sending it off for distribution on various streaming platforms and setting up an internet storefront.

And here it is. Now. Finished.

El Space: When did you decide to become a musician/composer? How were you encouraged as a child?
Laura: I don’t know that there was ever an actual decision made to become either. Most composers are/were also performing artists, so I view composing as a natural outgrowth of being a working musician.

As far as receiving encouragement as a child, most of my upbringing was taught by example. This quote expresses how my Jazzman Dad influenced my musical journey in general.

Each jazz musician when he takes a horn in his hand—trumpet, bass, saxophone, drums—whatever instrument he plays, each soloist, that is, when he begins to ad lib on a given composition with a title and improvise a new creative melody, this man is taking the place of a composer. He is saying, “Listen, I am going to give you a new complete idea with a new set of chord changes. I am going to give you a new melodic conception on a tune you are familiar with. I am a composer.” That’s what he is saying.
Charles Mingus

El Space: Which composers inspired you on your journey?
Laura:
Beethoven, Vivaldi, Berlioz. John Cage, Philip Glass, Max Richter. Janet Feder, JoAnn Falletta, Joan Tower. John Duarte, Eduardo Falú, H. Villa-Lobos. Mike Oldfield, Herbie Hancock, Ry Cooder. Ennio Morricone, Edgar Meyer, Bela Fleck. Foday Musa Suso, Billy Strayhorn, Anonymous. And more! Google the names and give them a listen.

        

Ennio Morricone (left), Eduardo Falú

Billy Strayhorn (Photo by Carl Van Vechten)

El Space: What leitmotifs occur in the music? Why?
Laura:
The second movement revolves around the most obvious one, introduced by the solo guitar within the first three measures. This Goat Bleat Motif was inspired by conversations held between Mama Goat and her kids. Based upon the intervals of each goat’s voice pitch, I assigned each goat a note and when bleating all together, their monotones made up a minor seventh chord. Then as a compositional element, a Reverse Goat Bleat Motif was used for further development of the second movement—all in keeping with the flavor of goats in the garden frolicking and dancing about.

El Space: What advice do you have for budding composers?
Laura:
Learn an instrument! It doesn’t matter which one. Noodle around with banging pots and pans, humming tunes or sounding the odd finger harp thing hung on your mother’s front door. Music composition in its most basic form is merely an organization of sound. The best instrument for understanding music theory visually is indeed the piano, but that does not have to be your primary instrument. Use it is a tool in context of understanding the underlying structure of composition. Strive to actively participate in a swirl of musical styles. This will surround you with tonal possibilities, blasting through untold sonic boundaries. Along with all that hands-on sort of stuff, listen, listen, listen to a plethora of musical genres. Explore translating your feelings into a compositional piece. Try your hand at arranging already created music. Hone your craft by taking classes, studying alongside a music teacher/professor/mentor and then, just do it. The more you do, the more your own voice will emerge.

Thanks, Laura, for being my guest.

Looking for Laura? Look on her website.

Looking for Swimming with Swans: The Music—Goat Suite (Saga)? Click here
I’m giving away two copies of Swimming with Swans: The Music—Goat Suite (Saga). Comment below to be entered in the drawing. Winners to be revealed next week.

Album cover, embedded intro, and photo courtesy of Laura Bruno Lilly. Photo by Terry Lilly. Ennio Morricone and Billy Strayhorn photos from Wikipedia. Eduardo Falú photo from secondhandsongs.com. Music note from wallsave.com.

Grace and Truth: The Tension

    

The other day I heard a sermon by Robert Madu (Google him) on the topic that is this post’s title. I feel you flinching. Don’t worry. I will not preach at you (unless you want to talk privately). But I found it interesting because of the discussion on the dichotomy of grace and truth. Too much grace, and a message is watered down. Too much truth, and compassion goes out the window. Yet it is possible to live in the tension of both.

I’ve struggled to know what to post lately. With so many voices already lifted, what could I add? (By the way, for a great post on giving voice, I recommend Laura Bruno Lilly’s latest post. Click here for it.) And then I heard the above sermon which really hit home to me. So here I am.

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that we’re all struggling, hurting, sad, afraid, and overwhelmed. That we all want to be heard. That we all were children once who grew up without all of the answers, no matter how much we pretend otherwise.

So, we criticize, complain, ignore, put down, demand—I feel exhausted just thinking about that list. And by we, I mean me. I’ve done all of the above in just the past week or so. “They see what they need to do. Why don’t they do it?” I grumbled. Truth without grace.

Or, I have thought, Let’s all just move on! Grace without truth.

Living in the tension of grace and truth is not easy. But we need that tension, don’t we . . . when we mess up. When we see someone else mess up. When we’re afraid. When we see someone else with a fear that’s different from ours and we are tempted to judge.

We need it from each other. We need each other.

Grace and Truth images found somewhere on the internet via Bing.

The Perfect Pillow

I read this picture book the other night (perfect bedtime reading)

and thought, What is the perfect pillow?

I must confess that this is not a question I’ve ever thought long and hard about. Back in the day, my parents shopped for sheets and pillow cases during the January white sales. They probably bought new pillows also. I say probably, because when I was a kid, I never paid too much attention to what my parents thought about pillows or bedding in general. I only knew that the pillow I was used to was the perfect pillow. In fact, I took to college the same pillow I’d slept on for ages!

These days, I’ve never met a $3.99 pillow I didn’t like. Some people might be appalled at the cheapness, especially when pillows sell for ten, twenty, even a hundred times that amount.

Or tens of thousands times that amount.

Out of curiosity, I Googled to discover the most expensive pillow, thinking that pillow had to be the most perfect pillow ever. This article stated that the world’s most expensive pillow (photo below) was developed by a Dutch inventor/physical therapist named Thijs van der Hilst. It is called the Tailormade Gold Edition Pillow. It is made of memory foam based on a 3-D scan and has a 24-carat gold cover, diamonds, and a 22.5-karat sapphire. It is only $57,000.

The Tailormade pillow. I think the appropriate thing to say right now is, “Ta da!”

Ha! A mere pittance! The company that makes this pillow sells one for $3995. I’m sure you’ll want to order several, so click here to get yours now!

Seriously, the perfect pillow is one that helps you gain restful sleep. If you’re a back sleeper, a stomach sleeper, or a side sleeper, the perfect pillow varies, especially if you’re dealing with back or neck pain also. Searching the internet for these categories can net you dozens of duck feather/down, memory foam, and latex pillow recommendations.

But these days, the perfect pillow, at least for me, is one made by a friend: the fabulous Laura Bruno Lilly who made and sent this one:

What kind of pillow is perfect for you?

Pillow found at trendhunters.com. Other photos by L. Marie.

“A Crack in Everything”—In Partial Fulfillment of the 3 Quotes 3 Days Thingie

Laura Bruno Lilly nominated me for the 3 Quotes 3 Days Blogger Tag Thingie (not its official title). Thank you, Laura! 😃 But I decided to break the rules and post a quote one day instead of three, and nominate anyone who wants to do it (or not do it). Laura’s post with the rules can be found here, for those of you who are rule followers. (Blessings be upon your heads.)

On with the quote:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in. Leonard Cohen from “Anthem”

If you’re scratching your head, wondering what Cohen meant by those words, there’s no better explanation than the one he offers. You can find that here.

I chose it because I totally get the “crack in everything.” I remember as a kid, bemoaning what I thought was my lack of a perfect smile because of a gap between my front teeth. And as a teen, I worried about having “chicken legs” (a description given to them by a guy I once liked romantically, but later didn’t) instead of the perfectly sculpted ones others seemed to have. And then as an adult, I could not seem to produce the “perfect offering” novel-wise that would be rejection proof. 😀

Sometimes life reminds you that the hope of reaching perfection, or sorrowing over the lack of that state, is a waste of time. Granted, I’m not advocating, “So don’t try at all.” Instead, I think Leonard said it best:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering

On a less-than-perfect cloudy day, these daffodils gracefully bending in the wind were a lovely reminder of the beauty to be had even in imperfection.

Babette is babysitting. Not sure who would trust her to do that.

Liberty Bell photo from en.wikipedia.org. Leonard Cohen photo from fanpop.com. Other photos by L. Marie.