Is music “dead”?

I am getting fairly tired of this argument. It mostly comes from older people…the interjection frequently “Nobody has done anything good since the 70s!!! *grumble grumble…* MUSIC IS DEAD!”

That’s total bullshit, countless amazing singer/songwriter/composers are making their next brilliant chart as I write this and you chug coffee…scratch that, if you live in the Western Hemispere you should be in bed, sleeping or doing drugs at this hour.

I could pin 100s of tracks going back to 1980, Starting with “Everybody  Wants Some,” by Van Halen, but this post would take weeks were it comprehensive. We will examine just a few tracks that are both recent and posted to Youtube so you can listen for yourself w/o leaving this page.

Some of you know that this writer has been a brass musician since 5th grade – 1987. Got my first professional gig when I was 16. Despite my ages of experience, I am not nor will I ever be a COMPOSER…. an extremely technical skill and ridiculously creative and artistic craft…the best among them become social and historical icons: Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Louis Armstrong, Gershwin, Bernstein, Bartok, Miles Davis, Coltrane, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Hendrix, etc.

Great composers still walk the earth O uneducated music critic, you just need to know where to look. For you bitter old dudes …did you watch “The Pacific” on HBO? Did you like the music? Oh you did, ok that’s Hans Zimmer, probably the foremost score writer of late (I personally love the main theme from “Inception”). I am floored by his talent.

You can’t mention the top composers today without Thoman Newman (not the dorky “You’ve Got a Friend In Me” guy with the goofy voice), Newman writes mostly film’s just a few notables:

000 Erin Brockovich Steven Soderbergh Universal Pictures First collaboration with Steven Soderbergh
Soundtrack released by Sony Classical
Pay It Forward Mimi Leder Warner Bros. Pictures Soundtrack released by Varèse Sarabande
2001 In the Bedroom Todd Field Miramax Films Soundtrack released by Varèse Sarabande
2002 The Salton Sea D. J. Caruso Warner Bros. Pictures Soundtrack released by Varèse Sarabande
Road to Perdition Sam Mendes DreamWorks Pictures
Twentieth Century Fox
Second collaboration with Sam Mendes
Soundtrack released by Decca Records
White Oleander Peter Kosminsky Warner Bros. Pictures Soundtrack released by Varèse Sarabande

DAMN good music…all made even more magical by Newman’s stunning mind for putting sight, feeling and emotion into the kind of charts that DON’t bother me when they get stuck in my head. The soundtrack to “Road to Perdition” is one of my favorite albums of all time, period.

TV? Yeah ..uhhh…Newman did the Title track and other scoring for “Six Feet Under” one of my favorite shows. He mostly writes for film studios. You may note that nothing is listed since 2002. Is HE dead? No, I just cut the list drastically and by coincidence my favorite scores of his all came out around the same time. Newman is constantly composing. He has contracts for FIVE upcoming films between now and 2016 that I know of. So no, he is probably sitting at the piano right now with ledger paper strewn about and w/ Audition and Protools open on the nearby computer.

So what about pop music, are the complainers simply saying that “my local top 40 station sucks”? Well…it DOES  SUCK and so does MOST of the music, but not all, lets take a look some smash hits and you, dear reader decide if pop (popular) music is dead. The following songs prove that powerful, rockin’, catchy, bad-ass, fun, thoughtful composers are active all of them qualify as pop so take a listen and if you find no heart, creativity or quality in these tracks (and the visual production…to my viz design/cg friends) then we will agree to disagree:

This track JUST DROPPED, so i think it makes a good example of what the music industry is producing, the beat was licensed from a hit trance chart from the 90s called “Better Off Alone” and features an A-list rapper plus the artist himself is virally popular, especially since “Titanium” came out in 2012, one of the best electronica tracks EVER. NO QUESTION. Creative, driving, moving…and an anthem to me since 30 percent of my skeleton is now titanium rods, screws, brackets, pins and bars…it also came out during a VERY DARK chapter in this writer’s life, not to be spoken of today, but check it out and decide for yourself:

btw – if you liked it—>music is not dead. nor is pop.

Moving on, I wish I still had a Lexis-Nexis account so I could link to an great article from the LA Times showing that pop music today has on average MORE COMPLEXITY than that of the pop of the 60s and 70s and they used “Call Me Maybe,” by Carly Rae Jepsen as an example. She is  a powerful singer, super cute and I love the original, but the video is mostly her, fawning over her neighbor as he mows the lawn shirtless. In total it may be little too gay for some readers (the joke at the end of the video is that the mower really IS gay…too much man flesh for this blog),  I prefer Dave Days’ cover and find the video far less awkward:

This track also helped bring me out of a deep funk. Had nothing to do with women or relationships, it was just such an upbeat, catchy tune with awesome syncopation. It makes me smile. (btw-composition is .said to increase in complexity of structure over time, my fellow musical performance colleagues may think I’m reffering to chord progression and meter…though this one is in G the chord changes do not take a standard form (pretty close though) and are quite original for a pop song, but that is another advanced topic for another time. This is complexity of FORM…like an abstraction of a chart the composers construct. They are frequently quite simple…yet you could be a legit pro performer for 50 years and would never need to know about it – this is a composition topic…i only study it because the good journalist knows “a little bit about everything.” Most pop songs that are 2-3mins follow this pattern – ABABABABB (which can be reduced logically to just ABAB) – that is the gold standard and means verse, chorus four times and repeat chorus at the end). “Call Me Maybe” follows this form but has additional elements like  vamp, bridge break and soli….making far more complex than the majority of pop in the past. More evidence of the health and well-being of [some] popular music. If all music were losing complexity —-> then it would no longer evolve, hence, it would be dying. Fortunately for all music fans I can confidently say that music is in active evolution.

Next example: from the artist that inspired one of the most legendary hashtags of all time… #katyperrysboobs …”nice rack” aside, look at her from the Grammy Awards, is there any way in which she doesn’t define class, elegance, beauty, sex appeal and artisty? Be still my “Tapping” heart!


This track is straight up bad-ass. It’s not only a nice groove, the video is outstanding and Perry makes the same statement that Scorsese did in “Casino” –that Las Vegas is built for one thing: to take your money. A valueble lesson packed into a f—— sexy package. I respect Vegas, but truth be told…won’t gamble there unless I literally have money to burn. If I am there on a job, a pool tournament, a business meeting, gig or audition…you WILL find me at The Monte Carlo cuz I like it and cuz I have dropped enough cash there that 2 night stays are comped now…but NOT on the floor or the buffet—even the buffet is a rip-off…food is shit. Free time I would spend hunting for the cheapest Surf N Turf Buffet, a show and “people-watching” on the strip. NEXT! …

Not only a ridiculously creative rap lyric and outstanding blend of motifs…it also makes a statement about how fucked the economy is through humor.  I’m “poppin’ tags” too yo! Even when I have tons of money, you gotta swing by your local thrift once a month, I have bought almost all my suits there…ok so it belonged to a dead guy, but if I’m wearin Brioni or Armani you got some Men’s Wearhouse deal goin on? You payed over a hundo for something pedestrian, I payed 10 bucks for one of the best suits in the world! I just had to dry clean it to remove old-man-smell…”so shut the fuck about it!

Ok, we’ve covered this decade and the last, so for now, let’s wrap with one from the good old days…the 90s…great economy, money all over the place…ol’ Bill is chillin’ in the White House gettin blown by a fatty…who gives a fuck, right? For me that’s been by far the best decade in almost all categories…’specially music; it’s quality, innovations, entertainment value…you never thought you’d feel nostalgic for the decade that also brought us Vanilla Ice, Iraq: Episode One and Pauly Shore, but now you do don’t you stupid!

If you don’t feel the raw emotion in this song…if you find nothing about it’s soulful tones moving…find NO REDEEMING VALUE WHATSOEVER in this one…shit brother…idk what to do for ya’ …I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree about if/when music died.

Going off Don Mclean’s lyric from “American Pie” in 1959, it is said that there was a “day the music died.” — he was referring to 2/3/59 when The Big Bopper, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens died in a plane crash. By having this statement in a piece of original MUSIC…proves McLean was not making the crotchety old argument “music [rock] is dead now,” —it was tribute to losing three men who stood on the vanguard of popular music and to emphasize the tragedy of losing all three of them simultaneously.

Well I guess next time some old-timer starts up with this line of crap I’ll just say, “Dude, in what way is music dead?” No…. “If that’s true, then disconnect your car radio, toss your stereo equipment, uninstall iTunes…and if you have an iPod, you can fork it over to me..for …what do you say…5 bucks? I’d give you more but otherwise you gotta toss it right?”

For the record: Music is positively bursting with life. 

The (Original) Love Theme arrangement….

chris welke with dominique mainon, la,ca

In loving memory. Dominique. Mother, Daughter, Writer, Artist, Creator, Educator, Thinker, Researcher, Philosopher, Colleague, Nurturer and Friend. 1970-2012. RIP Dear Heart.

A better version….//draft located recently avoids FB backlinks…”raw cut”
WIP: Recover chops post-surgery to remake an at-minimum better recording.
This arrangement was created in memory of Dominique….who shined everlasting hope, knowledge, honor, courage and above all LIGHT and happiness into this writers life.
Dear readers – since so many of you listen to me and actually take to heart some of my suggestions and ideas…please visit the blog her loving stepmom created… it will enlighten you, warm your heart and give details as to the best way to help Dominique’s two children.
Mainly, if you go to and purchase one of her wonderful nonfiction books on film theory and history, most of that money will support her family. She far out-shined me in writing ability, and if you maniacs find my web junk readable… (you do …why? idk…maybe see a shrink?) you will greatly enjoy her work. There is a great deal of unpublished works and stories and screenplays…even film that is as yet unpublished…how to get that done is a task I promised to complete, but 1000s of pages of notes, scripts, stories, storyboards and tapes are sadly missing (at least to me) we spent years assembling this work…it would be a great shame if this work is staling in a garage or storage unit or worse, in a landfill. All I have is 5 pages of notes (just brainstorm scribble she wrote down) and what I can remember….they are not my stories, Dominique painstakingly wove them over a lifetime…all I did was transcribe, organize, edit and consult. Some of the screenplays would blow your mind…2 or 3 of them I could recreate from memory, but the quality would be reduced and if I sold them? Of course every cent will be donated to her family. Finding the notes? hard. Finishing the work and marketing it? The three I can roughly outline in my head will sell. the rest that my awful STM has lost…same. “10 out of 10 studios WOULD BUY AGAIN.”
Continue reading "The (Original) Love Theme arrangement…."

SoCal Drum Corps Weekend…

transcription of SCV

I haven’t been able to hit a one-two-punch BD/SCV show since 2011. So this was a big deal. There isn’t much to review because I was mostly working and socializing. I missed every other corps, but that doesn’t bother me so much. I wanted to check out Devs in the lot and by the time I dropped by Santa Clara it was head-to-my-press-box-adjacent VIP section ASAP or miss the entire show.

The Santa Clara Vanguard – this show has a ton of potential. I’m not sold on the trombones yet but the first impact point, could reach enormous decibel levels once conditioning, cleaning, balance and tuning are maxed out. The white tunics are ballsy, they make interval errors bleed obvious, but by August it will be clean and the white will really make the visual effect pop.

I volunteered to work on Ms. Amana that day (made 240 burgers for lunch, went to ensemble reh. and returned to serve dinner). The run through was outstanding for late June, less tearing between side 1 and 2 & front-to-back than I expected and overall a great look and ensemble sound. Soloists were spot on. Battery tore it up, love the feature.

At the show, they seemed a bit tired. Still pulled it out in terms of effort but it didn’t grab me emotionally the way SCV usually does….it may have been because I had already seen them play earlier in the day far better. There were more tears (which is partially because of the acoustics at Citrus College), the impacts did not pop as hard and the mellophone soloist who is out-freaking-standing fracked for the first time that I know of. Gotta also give credit to multiple pass-throughs at high tempo and ONE intervals (you can tell because the hornline will detriangulate their arms from 60 degress down to 45). So cool.

The Blue Devils – Outstanding talent and potential. Best thing in the show: one snare drummer does a massive visual solo one-handed stick toss – saw him nail it in warm up and on-stage/field. Music is great, but feels like kind of a mish-mash. I just couldn’t feel cohesion to this show but again its ok it’s June…I’m certain the direction and idea of this show will be very clear in August, but where were:

a) The Screamers?

b) The Screamer Soloists?

Do we just not risk this anymore? It takes a lot of fun out of the show to not see at least ONE dude go for the double C…so…less balls in that category. Guard – straight up sexy. Talent of (almost…) every performer in both corps is expert or higher…just need to put them all together into a single unit performing a clear, emotional, cohesive, fun and entertaining show.

They will BOTH make it and I hope they smash Rockford, Rosemont, Garfield and Crown on the road.

The Left Coast is the Best Coast.

Much love to all drum corps members, alumni, friends, family, supporters, benefactors and most of all to the fans cuz we can’t do it without you.

Pictured: a snippet of “Electric Wheel Chair” by the legendary Murray Gusseck. You can purchase his signature sticks from Vic Firth. I did.



Best improvised radio bit ever….

By Greg Hughes and Anthony Cumia, you can hear them live on Sirius/XM Radio Monday through Friday. Still no “hole” after all these years and still fighting for free speech – unparalleled in cringe humor. After Greg, Tony and the master Phil Hendrie retire there will be little quality-innovative, hardworking, honest, non-formulaic, non-plagiarized FUN radio left. A piece of artwork.
Please follow the above link to give ’em try. Catch the virus. Catch AIDS and die too!
Note: this Web site is run by a pest.

Best improvised radio bit ever….

00:00 /

Chris Welke: a writer’s bio…

The following is a draft of my writer/ed/proofer professional autobiography, in excruciatingly brief detail…it’s like saying JFK’s dad was into politics, so he got into it too, did ok, won some elections, became president, got shot. Then died. Enjoy dear reader I’ve been at it all day, but you all know how much I love to write to you…and besides, what better topic is there than…me? (I would put a winky face, but I agree with Larry David those symbols are “[part of] the destruction of the English language,” so I’m weening off emoticons….IS THAT OK WITH YOU???? huh……w…w…wha??? whut?)

It is standard operating procedure at major metropolitan newspapers to write stories at no more than an eighth-grade level. The same goes for Web sites and the majority of printed material. The majority of readers in North America will find anything written at a HS level or higher difficult to understand. In second grade, I began reading Stephen King novels, I’m a longtime fan of Roland, the Last Gunslinger and his infinite quest for The Dark Tower. My parents are both teachers and nurtured my love of reading by allowing me access to the same books adults were reading. My second grade teacher checked in on our reading progress by opening  books to a random page and saying, “what is going on on this page?” I was reading “Cujo” at the time, she happened upon a page that forced me to describe an especially horrific revenge scene that plumbs the depths of male depravity…My teacher strongly advised that I not be allowed to read adult novels, but my parents knew that by the time I was seven, to have me read any novels NOT for adults would waste my time, not expand my vocabulary and even the Scholastic teen-reader type books were a waste of money because I could read a 200 page book in one sitting. That’s the kind of voracious reader I am. I do not own a television. I prefer the magic and elegance of the written word. 

I finished HS in the 98th percentile statewide (a cross product of SAT scores, AP and college-prep coursework, extra-curricular (all music), volunteer work and GPA). This granted me entrance to the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo College of Engineering, where I stayed until I decided I wanted to be a writer/editor, not a code-writer. I advanced quickly through the College of Liberal Arts, Working at The Mustang Daily as a reporter, KCPR as a reporter, then News Director and interning at KVEC, the local Clear Channel Affiliate. Through dedication and a passion for storytelling, I graduated at the top of my Journalism class in 2004, winning The Ed Zuchelli Award for Outstanding Senior Broadcaster (2003-2004) and The Dept. Chair’s Award for Leadership in Journalism (2003-2004).
I worked as a professional brass musician for a year after graduation in the SF bay area and returned home when the gigs started to slow down. I took a job as a process server. Frequently the lawyers I worked for needed to investigate and occasionally track down the people they wanted to sue, often with little information to go on. Not a safe job, but a fun one for me…I love to research, investigate, solve problems and find people who do not want to be found. Private investigations are the good journalists’ stock-in-trade. Gas prices effectively voided this as a profitable job by early 2006.
Shortly thereafter, I found myself contracted to work at Metagenics, Inc. Makers of professional quality dietary supplements. I worked my way up from temporary assembly-line laborer to a litany of middle-mgmt titles including Purchasing, Scheduling, Assembly line lead, mechanic, technician, QA/QC technician, Private Label Expediter and one promotion later I traded in my lab coat for a suit where I was given the honorable title of Label Routing Coordinator, responsible for over 2000 SKUs, most of which would route for a variety of reasons on a regular basis (formula changes, Marketing redesigns, Sales copy revisions, Legal/Regulatory Affairs changes). I sat in between the Ops director and the Marketing Director.
A major routing, such as that for a new product or reformulation would need to route through every department imaginable, think of it as each department being the spokes on a wheel and ME being the axle on which that wheel turned. Once I’d mediated, negotiated and settled on a finalized label, it was me who signed off on the final draft and could place the PO for x-thousand labels to be printed in my capacity as Sr. Proofreader and Publishing Scheduler and Planner. That was a great honor and made the best use of my talents, exp. and education. To my knowledge I have never approved one label, template, marketing brochure or Web page with a single error on it.
My brain zeroes in on spelling errors, grammar problems, run-on sentences, punctuation errors, poor organization, poor structure of prose and the like. I find mistakes daily in the LA Times and it frustrates me, even my beloved Dark Tower books are littered with egregious errors. Editing and proofing is my strongest professional suit by a wide margin. I’m very left-brained, so editing comes easier than writing. That’s why I chose Journalism…it is hard to create a new story, but easy, fascinating and fun to take stories from real life and report them in a uniquely informative, comprehensive yet concise and clear manner. All the fiction I write in my spare time is based on real events from my life. All the characters are based on real people or a conglomeration of two or three personalities. Much like Robert Crumb or F. Scott Fitzgerald, the male lead in my stories is usually me, or some kind of abstraction of me.
Whether you are writing a screenplay, book, novella, short story, column, news blurb, blog or photo-caption, I can and WILL help you – because that is what I love to do…help other writers realize their full potential. Let’s create something great together. -cw