28 December 2005

Returned to work during the day, then had visit from an old friend who’d been a teacher in a Rudolf Steiner school. All the years I’ve known him he’s been planning to become a Zen monk, but he’s just withdrawn a few weeks before taking his ordination – a difficult decision but one that feels right. Now doing voluntary work while helping at the local priory in Reading. Madame served up a nice meal and we had a good opportunity to catch up on the years.

In the interests of fairness I must point out that I’ve now listened to Matthew’s music at http://www.garageband.com/song?|pe1|S8LTM0LdsaSkaVGyams and it is competent and pleasing, within the constraints of  his chosen style.

Last night I got a review of If You Had Said on Garageband.com. It was so negative it was funny. This morning there was another, which was very complimentary.

The first one said:

The vocals are flat. It sounds like you are singing through your nose.
"If you had only said" over and over isn’t working. This song is making
me sleepy Their wasn’t alot of time spent on writing this song. Try
listening to some singer songwriters. 5 min is way to long for this
song I am ready for it to be over. I hate to be mean but come on you
can’t tell me you actually like listening to this. (Matthew Hodges, Texarkana, Texas)

Now I must admit I haven’t turned to Matthew’s page yet to see what kind of music he produces and likes, but accepting that there must be some truth in any comment, and that he has taken the time to write, let’s address what he has said:

‘The vocals are flat.’
This is largely true, but I am frequently forgiven for this, as are Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Mark Almond, Jonathan Richman, Lou Reed and many others. Perhaps Matthew also dislikes these.
‘It sounds like you are singing through your nose.’
If Matthew knew my facial features he would realise that some nasal influence on my vocal performance is inevitable, but I have never been credited with nasal singing before. I cannot claim to be able to vocalise through any other part of my anatomy than my mouth.

‘"If you had only said" over and over isn’t working.’
Indeed. It’s no Hey Jude. That is why there are additional lyrics and melody lines.

‘This song is making
me sleepy’
Perhaps Matthew has a busy lifestyle, and hard work is making him sleepy, rather than a song. Or perhaps an energetic burst of sexual activity. At any rate he’s probably younger than I am, and finds less appeal in a relaxing piece of music than I do. He may prefer to rock out, and we cannot criticise that.

‘Their wasn’t alot of time spent on writing this song.’
Or on spelling in the review. But many of the best songs of any genre were scribbled down quickly. That is not the point. It’s whether it works.

listening to some singer songwriters.’ Good advice, I cannot quibble with that. I wonder why I didn’t think of it. How about Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave,  Jonathan Richman or Lou Reed?

‘5 min is way to long for this
song I am ready for it to be over.’ I can only be appalled at the cruelty of whoever is forcing Matthew to suffer in this way. Could they not have made their point and released him after two minutes? How exactly are they restraining him?

‘I hate to be mean…’  I agree – meanness saps the soul. Generosity expands and fulfils, and puts a smile on the face. Again, Matthew is right.

‘…but come on you
can’t tell me you actually like listening to this’
There was a time during the painstaking mixing and mastering periods when I would have answered ‘no’ to this question. Now I rarely listen to it but when I do I think it’s a reasonable piece of work and I get some pleasure from it. More to the point, other people do. It would be strange to put up on Garageband.com a piece of music I disliked. Or is Matthew here attacking anyone else who might like the song?

For example, today’s review from Rahul Bhatt from London. He points out but forgives the vocal inadequacies, and is specific about the points he likes. This is a different class of review, not because it’s more favourable to the music but because it is written by someone who has taken it seriously and singled out the features he wants to comment on.

Anyway, I thank them both. Any attention is better than no attention in the cutthroat world of music promotion.