The BIG Picture

by Graham

My interest in contributing to this blog comes from a desire to develop my writing skills. I’ve always had a weird phenomenon in my life where I have to communicate things 3 times for them to be “heard” or taken seriously. As a result I am considered quiet besause I generally won’t say something unless I want to say it 3 times. Alot of everyday conversation isn’t worth repeating and it’s socially awkward to have to repeat yourself every time you add to a conversation. It just becomes tedious. This means most of the things I want to say are not small talk, they are legititmate intellectual conversation material in situations where that’s not what is happening. Many times they too go unsaid. It would stand to reason that written communication would make up for my short comings in the spoken realm but for reasons I can’t identify it hasn’t ever really happened. I actually hadn’t given it much thought before writing this paragraph.

The driving force behind this personal skill development is my activities as an independent musician. I’ve taken a rather non-traditional approach to a non-traditional career in a time of great change in the field, which I’ll explain later. It’s been an interesting experience to say the least.

In keeping with the theme of my New Years Resolution “Be more intense” one of the keys to accomplishing this goal is focus. Much like a laser, a focused energy and effort can have significant effects. For this year I have 2 things I am focusing on with my intensity. They are outlined below.


The Sunrise Review

The Sunrise Review is the title I have given a project that came about as a result of a number of events/experiences.

I started writing music in the ocean off the coast of Australia during 2005 and 2006. I would spend most mornings in the sea waiting for waves to surf. The rest of my days were spent honing my skills as a recording engineer at the school I was attending. During these outings I would spend my down time between sets gathering my thoughts, keeping myself on track with projects small and large. It became an almost daily ritual, my Sunrise Review.

I found myself building on an idea I had in the forests south of Nashville, Tennessee – using natural spaces for their acoustics. The key to this was solar power as a quiet, renewable power source. I had watched first hand as multi-million dollar studios in Nashville went bankrupt as a result of a business model that was rapidly growing outdated. It became clear to me that overhead (rent, utilities, etc. . .) was the culprit. By using nature as a studio I eliminated most of these expenses.

There in the water, surrounded by dolphins, whales, rays and the occasional shark, I discovered that the world around me was an inspiration which was changing my view and experience of music. It was a moment of providence for me. I set about learning how photovoltaics worked and in the process learned about energy conservation. That information has been invaluable in this project and my everyday life.

The project came together with a focus on 3 concepts: Sustainability, Inspiration and Conservation. I’ve since released a handful of tracks which are inspired by the Pacific Ocean (an ongoing project) and am working on a project which is fiscally sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts, American Heritage.


Fair Trade Music

Fair Trade Music is a grassroots community organizing initiative. In the same way that Coffee, Cocoa and other producers were organized and supported with ethical purchasing campaigns, the goal of Fair Trade Music is to create a system of support for local musicians, enabling them to earn a living from their craft. The idea is simple; if you want to see live music, go to an Fair Trade Music venue to support the local musicians.

The initiative began in Portland, OR about 5 years ago. I have been involved for 4 of that. It developed out of a concern in the music community there that the financial support fans and concert goers were providing wasn’t making it to the musicians. The venues were taking a cut of tickets to cover their expenses and giving the performers what ever was left. Generally, well below minimum wage for their time. Part education, part advocacy, Fair Trade Music is a loose coalition of local interested parties and centers around the Musicians’ Union, The American Federation of Musicians.

As an international organization, the AFM has chapters all over the US and Canada. The goals of the organization also fit very closely with the changes that needed to be made. In fact, without their involvement the conversations that identified the needs and possible solutions would probably have never happened. This institutional support has enabled the idea of active, focused participation in the development of the local music community to spread to other cities around the US. At the moment there are campaigns underway in Seattle, San Francisco, and developing groups in Washington D.C., New Orleans and New York as well as signatory venues along the eastern seaboard and southwest.

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2 comments

  1. As you will be stepping up your efforts with Sunrise Review, perhaps there will be many locations to share? How do you find the best site and what is the recording process? You don’t have to reply now. I would be interested in a future post.

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