Tara's Thoughts

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

In 2009 my husband Art and I were invited to attend the wedding of Aaron & Helen Glass in Dunedin, New Zealand.  Aaron’s parents, John & Judy Glass, have been extended family since I was 18 years old.  So we were honored to be included and made our plans to travel to New Zealand with John and Judy.  After the 14 hour flight from Los Angeles, CA we landed in Auckland.  Our itinerary was designed around a plan to drive through as many cities as we could, spending 2 or 3 days in each, as we traveled to Dunedin to attend the wedding.

It was a spectacular adventure!  Naturally, I took lots of pictures.  We saw many sites, met wonderful people, stayed in wonderful places (including a sheep farm – quite a departure for a city girl from Los Angeles)  and found, what I still believe to this day, is the best cup of hot chocolate I have ever tasted! 

The wedding night was everything you’d want a wedding to be. But one night stands out even more in my memory. Our last night on the Northern Island was spent in Wellington with Gillian Bibby & Roger Wilson, family members of the bride. They welcomed us into their home and shared a meal with us.

Roger, a celebrity of the opera world who has been a soloist with New Zealand’s major opera companies, orchestras and choirs, sang for us and told us of his creation of an album of songs, poems and music composed by his maternal grandfather aboard the ‘Morning’ which sailed to the Antarctic in 1902.   Gillian, a renowned musician and award-winning composer, teacher and lecturer, played some of her original music for us and showed a genuine interest in the local folk/rock band I am a member of in Los Angeles. Upon learning that I had just begun, at this very late stage of my life, to learn to play the piano, she grabbed a copy of a book of piano exercises she had written and gave me that gift with the enthusiasm of a passionate, open heart.

After returning to Los Angeles I was organizing the photos of our trip and, of the many splendid sites we encountered, I stopped at the image of the Bibby/Wilson house in Wellington where I had felt so welcome.

The photo, and the memories that it brought back, inspired me, right at that moment, to write a short essay about the home on the cliff  in Wellington. My story is nothing to speak of from a literary standpoint, but it is a night and a family that stands out as a cherished memory.

Now, 12 years later, in honor of Gillian and Roger’s Anniversary, I share that essay with you with thanks for a heart-warming memory that has lasted all these years.

They live on the edge of a cliff overlooking Wellington harbor.

Green hills reflect back from the still, blue water. The path up to their house is steep, a fifty foot climb up to a set of cement stairs that take you another thirty feet up the side of the hill.

Inside the dark wood house three pairs of rain boots, “Wellies” they call them, sit by a small, carved wooden bench by the front door.  Across the hall Gillian Bibby sits at her grand piano using the songs of native New Zealand birds to compose new music. Roger Wilson, her husband of thirty years putters about in the kitchen preparing lamb stew, kumara and warm, dark rolls for the dinner party that will fill the dining room with warmth and laughter later this evening. His operatic voice sounds clearly as he sings along with the music coming from the CD player – a recording that features his voice telling the tale of family ancestors who crossed the sea by sailing ship a hundred years ago from England looking for the shores of New Zealand.

Gillian is one of New Zealand most well-known composers and Roger one of the country’s most famous opera singers. But their happiest moments are not in the concert hall.  Their spirits soar when their son, Charles, comes home from work and tells them stories about his day teaching Spanish to high school students.

A few minutes away from their portion of the city is a narrow peninsula that winds forty minutes out into the cold water. No fence protects drivers from the edges of the road that lies at sea level.  It is a wild, dangerous, beautiful place that they live in.

And the best moments are all about family.

Written by Tara Sitser

Los Angeles, CA 

2009

So I am one of the few oddballs who actually watches C-SPAN.  I find it to be a window into a very distant world. But a world whose actions and decisions affect us in ways we only begin to comprehend.  And sometimes those decisions have consequences that we, down here on the ground, only feel after it is too late to do anything about it.Image

In yesterday’s House Sub-committee Hearing on Copyright Regulations and Intellectual Property Law I had a moment of clarity that revealed why, when it comes to legislation about the arts, those mountain-top decision makers so often get it wrong.

The House panel was asking questions of a number of “experts” including Professor Glynn Lunney of Tulane University Law School. The question of the moment had to do with copyright restrictions applied to the music industry that used to exist but that had been recently eliminated.  The Professor was asked if the elimination of the copyright laws had any effect on “content producers” (meaning song writers, composers, music producers, etc.).

The professor cited a study that charted the amount of content produced before and after the elimination of those restrictions.  The study showed that the amount of content produced by the industry before and after the lifting of those artist protections had not changed. So the conclusion the professor and his ilk have come to is that those protections must not have been necessary!!

 WOW!! Talk about a major misunderstanding of your intended subject!!

 The inference here is that the additional protections the laws had been providing would motivate artists to produce more because income from your work is more likely. And conversely, without those protections artists will produce less music.

 This is stunningly wrong.

These conclusions are based on a business model that, I suppose, works for shoes or driveway pavers or plumbing pipe.  But artists produce because we HAVE TO!  Not just because we are getting paid to do it.  Don’t get me wrong, here. Getting paid for what you create is important.  I have always felt the creator of the art should be fairly compensated for each creation. But it is also true that we do not choose to become artists. We are called to it by something greater than ourselves.  And it is a demanding calling.

Whether you are a musician, a writer, a painter, a poet, a sculptor, a clothing designer, a novelist, a choreographer or any other type of creative spirit there is something within you that demands to be expressed.  Those who ignore that demand will pay the price, one way or the other, in personal anguish.

Artists will create whether or not we are fairly treated by society. And that is the crux of the misunderstanding of the politicians and industry experts who are creating the laws that either protect us or leave us to be taken advantage of.

As long as the politicians treat art the same way they treat widgets we will never have a system that truly understands why we create art or that values what artists contribute to society.

 If any of you out there are brave enough to contact Professor Lunney, please explain this to him.

Tara Sitser, Proud Singer/Songwriter 

Los Angeles, CA

January 19, 2014

Sending here an alert to all creators of music: Singers, composers, musicians, songwriters.  Your right to be paid fairly for the music you create is under attack.  Please read this article from MusicFirstCoalition.org.  

SAG-AFTRA Recording Artists & Background Vocalists

Need Your Help:

Tell Congress to Say “NO” to Pandora

You may have heard from Pandora radio, asking you to contact Congress to support a bill that Pandora says would create “parity” in how much they would have to pay recording artists and background vocalists for the use of their music. Despite Pandora’s claims, this bill is not about fairness or parity, but instead would slash payments to SAG-AFTRA performers by starting a race to the bottom when it comes to recording artists’ and background singers’ royalties. We need you to click here to contact Congress today and tell them to say NO to gutting pay for performers.

Under current law, Internet radio services — like Pandora — pay recording artists under a “willing buyer, willing seller” standard.  Just like it sounds, this standard is intended to approximate the standard Pandora and performers would arrive at in a fair market negotiation. Pandora is asking Congress to move to a cut-rate, below market, government-mandated subsidized rate. This would slash payments to our members and all recording artists and singers, possibly by as much as 80%.

Pandora has made claims that it needs this bill to survive. In fact, Pandora is valued at more than $1.8 billion and is expecting $600 million in revenues next year.

It is the SAG-AFTRA recording artists and background vocalists who will suffer.  All other developed nations in the world – except for a few, like China, North Korea and Iran – have full performance rights, paying royalties for all public performances of sound recordings, regardless of whether they are played on terrestrial, Internet or satellite radio.  In the U.S., recording artists and background vocalists only have a right to be compensated when their recordings are played on digital radio platforms, like Pandora. Artists don’t get a dime when their music is played on AM/FM radio.  So, in essence what Pandora is asking for is a discount that will hurt performers who are already getting shortchanged.

Pandora has sent emails to millions of listeners, asking them to tell Congress to pass its unfair bill. That’s why we need to make our voices heard. Congress needs to hear from SAG-AFTRA members that Pandora’s bill would devastate our recording artist and singer community, make it harder for working performers to make ends meet, and force us to pad Pandora’s pockets by subsidizing its business model.  Please join with our partners in the musicFirst Coalition and tell Congress TODAY that you support parity and fairness that treats performers fairly, not a government mandated subsidy that starts a race to the bottom.

 Thanks for standing up for the rights of SAG-AFTRA performers who make their livings as recording artists and singers.

Click Here to Tell Congress, Don’t Slash Music Creators’ Pay

 

This week my good friend, acting coach Jeanne Hartman, will be traveling to Hong Kong to teach another series of master classes in acting technique. Here in Los Angeles Jeanne has been my acting coach and director on a number of theater, radio and voice-over projects so I can truly say that I am envious of the students who will be attending her classes next month. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear Jeanne talk about acting. Her insights and clear descriptions of the tools an actors needs to build believable characters are invaluable.

We tend to accept that investing emotionally in your character is necessary when we think about non-musical performances. But I consider it just as important when your job is to sing a song in a musical theater or live concert performance. In my work as a singer/songwriter in a folk rock band I often have the opportunity to watch other artists perform. The singers that I enjoy the most, the ones I remember and want to see again, are the ones who know how to connect with their audience. Because they invite us into their experience. Their performance makes you feel something. But in order to have an experience to share the performer must know how to create that reality for themselves and then commit to the emotional investment that will draw your audience into your imagined reality.
Which is where grabbing the chance to study with Jeanne Hartman comes in.

I recently watched a young singer/songwriter sing her original tunes. She sang well and her songs were well-written. But she sat at the keyboard and stared at her hands never making eye contact with the audience and never giving us any clues as to what she was thinking or feeling. She made no effort to connect to what she was singing about. Without that connection to the material you are performing there is little chance you’ll be able to connect with your audience.

Using the same set of tools that actors use to create believable characters the singer can make a song real for themselves. Which will make it real for the audience.

In the November 16, 2009 Calendar section of the Los Angeles Times there is a review by Randy Lewis of a concert that has in it this paragraph:

“He coaxed shimmering, pulsating tones from his Lowden guitar and unleashed dazzling tones and fills that never came off like Guitar Hero grandstanding because they were always inspired by, and in the service of, the emotional heart of each song.”

I’ve learned to treat my song lyrics the same way I would a non-musical monologue or dialogue in a scene. The techniques I’ve learned from coaching with Jeanne lead me to discoveries about the song’s content and my reasons for singing it that allow me to find the emotional center of the song.

So, for all you singers out there, go to the events page and sign up for Jeanne’s workshops. OR contact her through her web page and make an appointment for a coaching session:

http://www.JeanneHartmanactorsDetective.com

Because a song performed without the emotional investment made possible through the use of the actor’s homework is just a lot of notes.


Tara Sitser - Leadership Member of Al Gore's Climate Reality Project

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