Tag Archives | Composer

Out of Context Sheet Music Is Here!

I’m very pleased to announce that sheet music for the songs on my album Out of Context: The Songs of Michael Patrick Walker is now available for purchase!  That’s right – it’s true!  There is a brand new Store section of my web site where you can buy music for twelve of the thirteen songs (the thirteenth song, I Believe, is already sold by Hal Leonard)!

Out of Context: The Songs of Michael Patrick WalkerI’ve wanted to offer the music for sale for some time but you’d be surprised how long it takes to format and clean up sheet music – especially when you’re a bit of a procrastinator like me!

On top of that, the music is also for sale via a wonderful web site – NewMusicalTheatre.com – which sells sheet music from practically all of today’s young musical theatre writers!  Check out the mpw section on their site to hear sample clips of the songs, watch videos of Broadway and West End stars performing the songs and to buy the sheet music so you can sing it yourself!

I would love to see and hear all of your performances of any of these songs – it’s always exciting to see what different performers bring to a song – so I encourage you to video yourself singing and post to YouTube and let me know – maybe I’ll share some of my favorites here!  Happy singing and I hope everybody enjoys!

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Finished! Let’s get started…

Back in February, I did a table read of my latest musical, The Distant Bells. I hate table reads. I love table reads. I love-hate table reads. I love them because it’s an invaluable way to gain insight into a show I’m writing. Nothing helps me take a step back and focus on all pictures (big, little and everywhere in between) than sitting in a room and hearing actors read through the show. On top of that, it is the least difficult type of reading – rent a studio, call up some actors you know and away you go.

Which is why I hate table reads. Actors can easily sit down and read a part in a script without much preparation – well, many actors can. It won’t be a nuanced and fully realized performance of course, but that’s not the point of a table read. They can get through the show, bring something to it and help you see the characters in a different way – all by cold-reading the script with other actors. What actors can’t do – even the most amazing, professional, talented and wonderful ones – is “cold-sing” a score they’ve never heard before. It would be…let’s say “unfortunate” to try and most likely depressing to me, the actors and any passers-by in the hallway outside the studio.

But, love ’em or hate ’em, a table read is valuable – especially when the show is just not ready yet for a week-long reading or workshop.
So, after the table read in February, I suggested we set a self-imposed deadline of June 1st for another draft of the show incorporating all we learned from the table read and the things we already knew before it. A lot of things changed – and I mean a LOT of things! – between February and June 1st. It wasn’t always easy nor did it always move forward quickly, but, we got to June 1st and we now have a draft which took us several significant steps forward from February.Champagne

Great! Finished! Crack open the champagne, get your suit tailored for opening night, kick back and enjoy! Right? right…?
Not quite.
Though I’ve been working on, outlining, plotting, writing and rewriting The Distant Bells off and on for just under two years now, the June 1st draft is really the “first draft” of the show. Oh, there have been many, many drafts before this one. But none that successfully realized the two separate but complimentary ideas for a musical (one mine, one the book writer’s) which became the show I hope you’ll all see on stage someday soon!
So, what DO I do when a draft is finished…well, a few days after this draft was done I did a reboot on the third song in the show. I didn’t write a completely new song, but made big lyrical, tonal and musical changes to an existing one to set up the relationships between the characters better.
Yup – that’s right, I’m finished with the first draft of The Distant Bells…which means it’s time to get to work on the next draft…and the next draft…and the next draft…
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Write a lot of new stuff… rewrite old stuff

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of work on the score for The Distant Bells. I wrote the first song for Bells about a year and a half ago. Of course, I put that song in my trunk awhile back, but I digress. At this point, working on the score is an interesting combination of writing brand new songs for brand new moments and rewriting and retooling old songs which still fit, but not quite as well as they used to. When you first begin writing a show, it’s all new. And when you get to previews – if you get to previews – then, though you may be rewriting like mad, it’s almost all “old”.

In between those two fence posts though, it’s a mixed bag. I’m almost always working on old and new things at the same time. It’s a constant battle as to which I love or hate more – sometimes old beats new and sometimes the other way around. And sometimes they both lose to the Wii in the other room…but I digress!

When I’m working on an old song – rewriting, revising or retooling it – it can be very exciting. It is a wonderful feeling when I feel that I’m “almost there” or that I just have “one more piece of the puzzle” before I can put my pencil down, play through the last section and take a satisfying drink of my international coffee. Then there are the times where rewriting a song feels like I’m walking into a run-down fixer upper of a house when I really want to see the brand new shiny place across the street.

When I’m working on a new song – well, that can be very exciting too! Finally tackling a new moment in the show that has been crying out for a song is what it’s all about. Of course, writing new material isn’t all joy and rapture. Sometimes, an idea is all I need. I crack “the nut” and the musical and lyrical ideas start to flow. Inspiration hits and a song seems to write itself. Ok, that almost never happens. It would be nice if it did, but… Don’t get me wrong, an idea is important. But an idea on its own is like a friend with ADHD who gives you remodeling suggestions. Sure his comments about “knocking down that wall” might give you something to think about, but he’s nowhere to be found when you start swinging your sledge hammer!

So, back to rewriting the old material. The idea is already there and I’ve fleshed it out – and that’s nice. But the old material also comes with the baggage of what the song already is or once was or maybe could be.

Back to the new stuff! It’s exciting to ponder what the “in” for a moment or a song might be. The possibilities are exciting and good and pure and hopeful and frustrating and scary and annoying!

Suddenly I have the strongest urge to call Carrie Fisher and tell her I know how she feels…

But, such is the glamorous life of a writer – or at least this writer. I dunno, maybe other writers get up in the morning and trip over their pianos and toe-stub out a song by accident…but I doubt it…

Check out one of the “in progress” songs from The Distant Bells entitled “What Margaret Thinks” – just click on the Media button at the top of your screen!

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