Supporting Friends Friday: The Cinematic Compositions of Mason Sandifer

The first two editions of Supporting Friends Friday (highlighting the poetry of Jeremy Miles and the music of Frederick Ingram) have been well-received, particularly by the friends being supported, and it gives me a great deal of joy to showcase their works, albeit from the humble platform of this blog (read by dozens a day!).  As I have written many, manymany times over the last year, making a living through creative work, like writing books and playing music, is difficult, especially in The Age of The VirusBuilding up a community of artists who celebrate one another’s works is an important part of the indie music and publishing business.

It’s also just fun, much like the music of Robert Mason Sandifer, the young composer I’m highlighting today.  Mason, as I call him, is a private student of mine, so this post is perhaps tad self-serving, but even if he weren’t my student, I would adore his music.

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Supporting Friends Friday: Jeremy Miles’s New Book is Out Now

One of the joys of blogging and creating is the opportunity to support my buddies’ work.  I’ve been blessed to be associated with quite a few prolific and ingenious individuals, and while I have spent many a Bandcamp Friday hawking my digital wares, I’m excited to take this Friday to showcase a friend’s work.

My real-life buddy Jeremy Miles (who also maintains a blog) has released his latest book of poetryHindsight: Poetry in 2020.  It’s available in paperback, hardcover, and Kindle editions, at (as of 8 June 2021) $15, $25, and $2.99, respectively.  I’ve ordered the paperback version and eagerly await its arrival.

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Sheet Music Burning

The latest target of the woke elites and their braying mobs is—that great symbol of imperialism and Western dominance—sheet music.

Apparently, some Oxford dons are considering removing sheet music and the ability to read traditional notation from its curriculum.  One quotation from The Telegraph article notes that “The Oxford academics went on to pronounce that teaching the piano or conducting orchestras could cause ‘students of colour great distress’ as the skills involved are closely tied to ‘white European music’.”

This latest crusade is the musical equivalent of the effort in English departments across the country to downplay the teaching of grammar.  Sure, one can make plenty of excellent music without knowing how to read notation, but why limit one’s self to tabs or lead sheets?  I can certainly communicate certain ideas without adverbs, adjectives, or even pesky commas, but doing so severely limits the range of expression.

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TBT: Gig Day II

Tomorrow—Friday, 1 May 2020—Bandcamp is waiving the commission it takes on sales of musicians’ work.  That means every purchase made on the site from midnight to midnight Pacific Standard Time tomorrow goes completely to the musicians (other than PayPal processing fees)—another 15% in our pockets.

The Age of the Virus has really taken its toll on musicians.  As I wrote last Thursday, a substantial portion of my income in 2019 came from music lessons and gigs—nearly 17% of my gross income for the year.

With The Virus holding full sway over us, shutting everything down, there are far fewer opportunities for musicians to earn a living—except by way of online album sales.

As such, Bandcamp sacrificing that 15% commission is a huge act of charity for its users.  It also means that it’s the best time to support musicians you lovelike me!

Bandcamp gives musicians the opportunity to sell their music in high-quality digital formats directly to fans.  One nifty feature is that artists can offer their entire discography in one go, often at a discount.

To that end, my discography—seven albums, EPs, and retrospectives, spanning fourteen years of artistic development—is on sale for $15.75.  All of it.  That includes my tour de forceContest Winner EP and its hit single, “Hipster Girl Next Door.”

Another fun feature is that Bandcamp allows fans to pay more if they so choose.  Indeed, when I announced on my Facebook artist page that the full discography was up for grabs, two fans paid $20 for it.  Some artists have reported fans paying as much as $100 for a single album.  I don’t expect that kind of generosity, but, hey—dig deep.

Regardless, there’s never been a better—or more necessary–time to support indie musicians.  We can’t play gigs.  We can barely teach lessons (some folks are doing so online, but it’s just not the same).

So, any support you can offer is always welcome.  To purchase the full discography, you can view any of my albums (like Electrock EP: The Four Unicorns of the Apocalypse) and find a button/link that reads “Buy Digital Discography” (unfortunately, there’s no way to supply that link directly).

Of course, you don’t have to buy all seven albums—it’s just a good deal.  You can also buy individual releases, like 2006’s Electrock Music (ludicrously cheap at $1 for twelve tracks!) or 2007’s Electrock II: Space Rock (just $5!).

But enough soliciting for now—there will be more of that tomorrow.  Let’s get to the ostensible purpose of today’s post—TBT.

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TBT: The Bull on the Roof

It’s been a cheery, musical mood here at The Portly Politico.  I’ve been tearing through popular Christmas carols, offering up some histories of these beloved tunes, as well as a little musical analysis.  Thanks to Milo sharing my piece “Milo on Romantic Music,” I enjoyed a large surge in traffic that has now settled into a nice daily trickle (nothing huge, but it’s helped).

University of Chicago medievalist Rachel Fulton Brown also linked to the post in a piece on her blog, Fencing Bear at Prayer.  The success of that piece, plus the beauty of Christmas music and the general cheeriness of the season, has inspired me to write more about music.

This week, then, I’ve cast back to this summer, when I wrote a little piece about a whimsical piece of modern classical music, “The Bull on the Roof.”  As I recall, I wrote the piece on my phone—never ideal—while playing with my little niece.  I’d heard the tune on public radio on the drive to my parents’ house, and was so taken with its charm—and lacking any other suitable topic, or the proper conditions to write about them—I jotted out this short piece.

“The Bull on the Roof” is a marvelous example of modern classical music.  And for all I rail against cosmopolitanism, it’s a fine example of the ideal of cosmopolitanism:  a French composer celebrating the vibrant, lively traditions of Brazilian folk music.  That’s the “salt in the stew,” as John Derbyshire calls it—the pinch of cultural diversity that makes the broth more delicious.

Yesterday was spent teaching History of Conservative Thought, painting a classroom floor, and rushing around the Pee Dee region teaching four music lessons, before finally heading out of town for a few days. Needless to say, there wasn’t any time to get a post ready for this morning.

The news has also been light. The first round of Democratic presidential primary debates is tonight, but who cares other than the candidates?

There was a bit of a diplomatic imbroglio with Iran last week, but did anyone really think war was going to break out? Trump handled it Trumpishly; that is effectively, letting the mullahs sweat it out a bit before giving them an out (and signalling to Iranians that he cares more about their lives than the Ayatollah).

That’s why I’ve been sticking to the history and culture posts lately. There just hasn’t been much to say on politics, because there’s so much good happening. Illegal immigration is still a major problem, but otherwise the only “bad” news is that the economy is still growing, just not as quickly as a year ago.

So, brace yourself for another self-indulgent post (this publication is a blog, after all). While driving last night, I hit a classic rock and talk radio dead zone, so I resorted to public radio. I was pleasantly surprised.

The program featured a concert recording of the Greenville (SC) Symphony performing French composer Darius Milhaud’s delightful “Le Bœf sur le toit,” or “The Bull on the Roof.”

Fans of Civilization VI who have played as Brazil will hear some similar themes and styles, as the composition quotes dozens of Brazilian folk songs. The tune is full of Latin-inspired motifs, and it is a charming, fun piece.

Milhaud wrote the piece in 1920 for a silent Charlie Chaplin film that was never made, though the ballet has apparently been staged. I particularly enjoy these kinds of jaunty, popular modern classical pieces (I adore Gustav Holsts’s The Planets because they are pleasing and interesting, but never pretentious). If I’m going to listen to something for nearly twenty minutes, don’t make it a Philip Glassian nightmare experiment in purposeful atonality.

If you have twenty minutes, I highly recommend listening to this piece. It will be a more enjoyable use of your time than watching the Democratic debates.

O Little Town of Bethlehem and the Pressures of Songwriting

Somewhere—I think it was in one of the Civilization games, but I can’t seem to find the exact quotation—I heard a pithy saying, something along the lines of “Genius is a combination of pressure and time.”  It’s one of those expressions that instantly rings true.

Years ago, a coffee shop in a nearby town (it’s now become a hip, upscale dining spot—and it axed the live music) used to host a quirky songwriting competition.  The premise was simple—every month, participants would pay $5 entry fee into a pot, and a “secret judge” would pick a winner, who would win that evening’s pot.  Sometimes there would be a small “second round” of the top three contenders for that evening (I won once, back in January 2014, when I believe I debuted “Greek Fair“; I was surprised, but also thankful that I wouldn’t spend $5 a month for the rest of the year).

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