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Last update: 2013-06-26

Music Composition and the Law: How to Protect Your Creative Work

2013-06-26 :: Charlie McCarron
Length: 48s

In this special episode of Composer Quest, I talk with entertainment lawyer Blake Iverson of Friedman Iverson Law Firm and entertainment law student Sarah Howes about how to copyright your music and make money from royalties. They provide a bunch of great tips and legal myth-busting for us composers and songwriters.…

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Quest 3: Arias on Tap

2013-06-19 :: Charlie McCarron
Length: 14s

Join us for the third Composer Quest Quest! Write a classical aria for the Twin Cities Opera on Tap group to perform. For this special podcast episode, I talked with singer Eryn Tvete, who co-hosts the Twin Cities division of Opera on Tap, and opera composer Nick Mroczek. Nick shares some aria composing tips, and Eryn shares tips on getting your piece selected to be performed.…

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Highlights from the First Composer Quest Concert

2013-06-01 :: Charlie McCarron
Length: 24s

We recently had our first ever Composer Quest concert at Yoga Sol. The Twin Cities Trio performed some awesome listener-submitted arrangements of pop tunes and film/video game scores for bassoon, clarinet, and oboe. We also got to hear the indie pop duo Matt and Donna Schubbe, indie rocker Peter Frey of Kazyak, and indie folker Paul Spring. Here’s a special Composer Quest podcast episode with highlights from the concert.…

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Season One Finale: Dmitri Tymoczko on Music Composition

2013-05-15 :: Dmitri Tymoczko
Length: 29s

Composer and Princeton professor Dmitri Tymoczko shares some excellent composing advice in this season finale episode of Composer Quest. Dmitri says that working on music theory as a composer is like lifting weights as a football player – it helps improve your intuitive composing. We also ponder the morality of exposing babies to only atonal music for experimental reasons.…

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Quest #2: Conversation

2013-05-14 :: Boffo Yux Dudes
Length: 12s

Your composing quest, should you choose to accept it: co-write and co-record an original piece of music with a random Composer Quest listener, based on the theme “Conversation.” Your finished track will be part of the first ever Composer Quest album, a free-to-download online release. In this special Quest #2 announcement episode, I talk with musical comedy duo The Boffo Yux Dudes about how they record songs together exclusively over the internet.…

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Torley on Creativity, Asperger’s, and Music Production

2013-05-08 :: Torley
Length: 30s

A truly unique figure in the electronic music world, Torley describes himself as a “time-traveling, universe-crossing, autistic, cyberpunk monk.” I was drawn in by the (over 800!) videos on Torley’s YouTube page, many of which are thoughtful talks by Torley on music composition, creativity, and his life experiences. In Composer Quest episode 38, Torley talks with me about Asperger’s syndrome, his hearing disorder called hyperacusis, his job in the online world Second Life, and of course, his advice on making otherworldly sounds.…

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Follow Your Dreams! With Candy Bilyk

2013-05-04 :: Candy Bilyk
Length: 30s

Theater, film, and video game composer Candy Bilyk shares the best piece of advice she ever heard from Katy Perry: “Follow your dreams!” Candy was happy to share her own (actually practical) advice on composing and the music business. In Composer Quest Episode 37, we talk about everything from “synthestration” to grant writing to her opera about a fairy-eating carp.…

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North Korean Cannibal Songwriting with Joe Graves

2013-05-01 :: Joe Graves
Length: 29s

My cousin Joe Graves’ songwriting skills somehow flew under the radar in my family, until he finally performed some of his songs this past Christmas. In Composer Quest Episode 36, Joe plays and talks about the music he wrote for his band Goodnight Gorillas. He was inspired to make dark music by his older brothers Matt and Nate (Ep. 4), but he’s been developing his own singing and songwriting style. Joe shares some of his lyrical inspiration, including a story about a famine in North Korea that forced some people to dig up dead bodies for food.…

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Movie Score Trivia with Director Elliot Diviney

2013-04-27 :: Elliot Diviney
Length: 29s

Minnesota filmmaker Elliot Diviney taught himself to compose film scores to lighten the budget in his money-sucking filmmaking habit. In episode 35 of Composer Quest, Elliot and I talk about his newest political satire musical Problem Solving the Republic, inspired by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. We also talk about some famous movie scores.…

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Physical Songwriting with Jenny Katz

2013-04-24 :: Jenny Katz
Length: 29s

For wordsmith Jenny Katz, writing lyrics feels like rolling marbles around in her chest. I can’t say I’ve ever had such a physical reaction to words, so it was fascinating talking with Jenny in Composer Quest Ep. 34 about how she approaches songwriting. For her, even the meaning of a song is subservient to the sound of words that feel physically right to her. Jenny also shares stories behind her new Kickstarter-funded album Galaxies.…

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Reddit Sensation Cameron Scott Boster on Folk Songwriting

2013-04-20 :: Cameron Scott Boster
Length: 29s

Folk singer/songwriter Cameron Scott Boster posted his 24-song album on Reddit a few weeks ago and got a huge response from listeners. In Composer Quest episode 33, Cameron shares some of the stories behind his songs, and cracks me up in the process. He’s heading off to law school in Virginia, so music is going to have to be a side project for him. After hearing his incredible live performances, I think you’ll probably be with me in wishing that he continues on his songwriting path.…

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Robot Drummers and Patrick Flanagan of Jazari

2013-04-17 :: Patrick Flanagan
Length: 30s

Cyborg percussion ensemble Jazari was created by "token human" Patrick Flanagan. He made a kind of robot drum circle that beats on acoustic bongos, cowbells, a djembe, and more. In episode 32 of Composer Quest, Patrick talks with me about his robot band, his day job creating musical iPhone apps, and his reasons for leaving the academic composing world to create dance music.…

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Songwriting Genesis with Emot’s Matt Leavitt

2013-04-13 :: Matt Leavitt
Length: 30s

In episode 31 of Composer Quest, songwriter Matt Leavitt of the indie band Emot talks with me about his belief that the very first time you work on a song is often where the best ideas come from, and anything after that is just trying to recreate this spark of initial inspiration. We also get to hear Matt play a couple new tunes live from Emot’s upcoming album, which they’ve been working on with producer Brian Moen (of Peter Wolfcrier and Laarks).…

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Throat Singing and Chopping Beats with Prism House

2013-04-10 :: Brian Wenner and Matt O’Hare
Length: 30s

Brooklyn experimental duo Brian Wenner and Matt O’Hare talk with me about their production process in episode 30 of Composer Quest. In the latest Prism House EP, Reflections, Brian Wenner’s beats are made from chopped-up field recordings of pop cans and squeaking doors. Matt O’Hare, the visuals man of the duo, is also a very talented musician. He explains how The Simpsons has helped him become an excellent throat singer.…

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Musical Illusions with Dr. Diana Deutsch

2013-04-06 :: Diana Deutsch
Length: 29s

I was thrilled to talk with Dr. Diana Deutsch, a pioneer in the field of music perception and psychology (she literally wrote the book on music psychology). Diana has discovered a number of famous musical illusions. Prepare to have your mind blown by the octave illusion, the scale illusion, the tritone paradox, the mysterious melody, and the speech-to-song illusion "Sometimes Behave So Strangely," made popular by Radiolab. Diana also explains how composers can benefit from studying these perceptual illusions.…

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Orchestrating a Time Travel Musical with George Maurer

2013-04-03 :: George Maurer
Length: 29s

Jazz Pianist George Maurer has been a working composer for over twenty years. In episode 28 of Composer Quest, George imparts his words of wisdom on making a living as a composer. He also shares tips on arranging music for orchestral instruments. George's latest project, Empire Builder, is a musical set on a time-traveling train, and we get to hear George at the piano, talking through his composition process for this musical.…

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Metal 101 with Devin Earlywine

2013-03-30 :: Devin Earlywine
Length: 28s

Metal isn't for everyone, but guitarist Devin Earlywine is okay with making music 90 percent of listeners won't enjoy. In Composer Quest Ep. 27, Devin talks about how metal isn't all about doom and gloom. He even admits his band Idiopathic Necrotization started as a joke to have fun with the ridiculousness of the gore death metal genre. In most of his music, Devin tries to avoid thinking of his audience at first, so there are no roadblocks between the purest musical idea from his brain to the finished song.…

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Arranging New Standards with Chan Poling

2013-03-27 :: Chan Poling
Length: 30s

Most famous for his songwriting in the new wave band The Suburbs, Emmy-winning composer Chan Poling has gravitated lately to performing pop music from other iconic songwriters. His jazz trio, The New Standards, features Chan on piano, John Munson (of Semisonic fame) on bass, and Steve Roehm on vibes. In episode 26 of Composer Quest, Chan talks with me about his arranging, songwriting, and film scoring.…

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Cassette Tapes and Synesthesia with Warren Hildebrand

2013-03-23 :: Warren Hildebrand
Length: 29s

Songwriter Warren Hildebrand of Foxes in Fiction has a special sensory gift. He experiences images and color when he listens to certain music, and hears tones when he sees certain images. In this episode of Composer Quest, we talk about how this synesthesia shades how Warren makes music. Warren also talks about why he loves audio degradation, and why he started the cassette tape label Orchid Tapes. This interview with Warren, by complete chance, happens to be a perfect follow up to my previous interview with synesthetic composer Mary Beth Huttlin.…

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Synesthetic Composing with Mary Beth Huttlin

2013-03-20 :: Mary Beth Huttlin
Length: 29s

Dr. Mary Beth Huttlin is not only a talented composer and clarinetist, but she's also gifted perceptually. She has perfect pitch and a constant stream of melodies in her head to draw from. Mary Beth also experiences auditory-visual synesthesia, meaning she perceives colors when she hears music. In episode 24 of Composer Quest, Mary Beth talks with me about how these gifts affect the way she listens to and makes music. We also discuss why Bach is possibly the coolest composer ever.…

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Mary Ellen Childs on Music Composition

2013-03-16 :: Mary Ellen Childs
Length: 29s

Prolific composer Mary Ellen Childs writes music for everything from orchestral instruments to zippers. In episode 23 of Composer Quest, she shares her creative process, which often involves bouncing ideas off of her experimental percussion ensemble Crash. Mary Ellen brings us behind the scenes of a few of her major works, including Click, Dream House, Wreck, and an upcoming project which will combine scents and music.…

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Quest #1: Arrange Pop Songs for Bassoon, Clarinet, and Oboe

2013-03-13 :: Twin Cities Trio
Length: 8s

Your Composer Quest quest, should you choose to accept it, is to arrange a pop tune or movie/TV theme for the Twin Cities Trio, which is Maia Hamann on bassoon, Karen Jennings on oboe, and Mary Beth Huttlin on clarinet. They're looking for fun tunes to perform for children in schools.…

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Dessa on Writing Hip Hop Lyrics

2013-03-12 :: Dessa
Length: 26s

Rapper and poet Dessa somehow found time to join me over the phone for Composer Quest Episode 21, in the midst of her nationwide tour (SXSW, New Orleans, Nashville, etc.). I was honored to talk with Dessa about her creative process of writing and arranging hip hop songs. In this episode, we get a glimpse behind the scenes of Castor, the Twin, which features more tender jazz arrangements of her original beat-based songs produced by the Doomtree crew.…

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Social Media for Songwriters with John Anealio

2013-03-09 :: John Anealio
Length: 28s

In episode 20 of Composer Quest, Sci-fi songwriter/composer and Functional Nerds co-host John Anealio shares tips on getting your music out to the online world without seeming like a narcissistic party-crasher. For example, following the 80/20 rule for Twitter and Facebook posts will keep your self-promotion in check. John also gives some helpful pointers on writing melodies, and he explains how even a simple song can employ one of Mozart's secret weapons - the Rondo form! John has also set forth a challenge to those who would accept: finish 23 pieces of art in 2013. He believes that if you don't finish and present your songs to the world, “you're just the guy talking about your art, you're not the guy doing it.“…

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Crowdfunding a Creative Bender with Tim Cheesebrow

2013-03-06 :: Tim Cheesebrow
Length: 28s

As a dad of two young kids, songwriter Tim Cheesebrow has limited hours in the day for music. But he recently wrote an album's worth of material in a self-imposed solitary confinement at a cabin in northern Minnesota. He's now in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign to produce this new album, Home in the Heartland. We talk about his three main sources of inspiration: his family, the concept of home, and a Carl Sagan-inspired philosophy of universal connectedness. Oh, and we also talk about extraterrestrial music.…

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Composing Your Way out of Plato's Cave with Ted Moore

2013-03-02 :: Ted Moore
Length: 29s

In episode 18 of Composer Quest, electroacoustic composer Ted Moore enlightens us about coding music to interact with human performers. He also shares his ideas on choosing a musical form for your piece, like sonata form (ABA) or binary form (AB). We also talk some philosophy when I bring up Ted's piece Eyes May Be Impaired, which he based on Plato's allegory of the cave.…

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Subconscious Songwriting with Mike Nilles

2013-02-27 :: Mike Nilles
Length: 28s

Guitarist and songwriter Mike Nilles has a secret method for writing melodies: dreaming them up! In episode 17 of Composer Quest, Mike and I swap stories about our dream-inspired songs. We also talk about a few of the groups Mike has played in over the years, from his 70s St. Paul band Smart Alex, to an Italian blues band, to his latest project, The Badinovs.…

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Minnesota Waterfall Disaster Music with Nick Syman

2013-02-23 :: Nick Syman
Length: 27s

Jazz trombonist Nick Syman has challenged himself to write a large jazz ensemble piece based on the St. Anthony Falls collapse in 1869. Nick talks about how using a story can help you structure an instrumental piece of music. Nick also explains how the tension and release system of Afro-Cuban rhythms can help make more compelling melodies. And finally, we talk about our experience starting and finishing our Cagetones album in one month last February, for the RPM Challenge.…

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Drum Kit Melodies with Pete James Johnson

2013-02-19 :: Pete James Johnson
Length: 27s

Jazz drummer Pete James Johnson has recently been getting into sampling his dad's old records to make beats for his DJ project Elephane. In this episode of Composer Quest, Pete shares his beat sampling advice, his experiences composing for jazz trio, and his new method of thinking in terms of “melodies“ when he plays a drum solo.…

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Composing YouTube Soundtracks with Corridor Digital's Sam Gorski

2013-02-16 :: Sam Gorski
Length: 27s

Sam Gorski and Niko Pueringer have built up a fanbase of nearly 1.5 million YouTube subscribers on their channel, Corridor Digital. Sam writes and produces most of the music within a very short deadline. In this episode of Composer Quest, we talk about what goes into his soundtracks for their video-game-themed short films.…

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Film Scoring with Hollywood-Bound Will VDC

2013-02-13 :: Will Van De Crommert
Length: 25s

Will Van De Crommert produces Hollywood-quality film scores in a humble basement studio at Saint John's University. We talk about composing for film, his portfolio for USC Film School, and how to produce an endorphin-releasing pop tune.…

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A Composition Seed with Dr. Brian Campbell

2013-02-09 :: Dr. Brian Campbell
Length: 30s

I felt like I was right back in a composition lesson with Dr. Brian Campbell, my former CSB/SJU music professor, when I interviewed him for this episode of Composer Quest. As always, he imparted plenty of wisdom, this time about writing music from a single “seed” and developing that idea. We also talk about form, writing melodies, “robot composers,” and using the Japanese aesthetic of “ma” – silence.…

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Songwriting Inspiration with Paul Spring

2013-02-06 :: Paul Spring
Length: 43s

Paul Spring was destined to be a poet, being raised in a family of English professor parents, and now having six brothers and sisters who are also English teachers. In this episode of Composer Quest, we get to hear live renditions of four new story songs Paul has been working on, from the hilarious “Type II Diabetes” and “St. Cloud Traffic” to an edgy but thoughtful song trying to make sense of the tragic Newtown, Connecticut school shooting. We also talk about Paul’s self-titled album and the very personal stories behind it. I think it’s the most moving talk we’ve had on the show, so a special thanks to Paul for sharing his music and stories.…

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Teaching Kids to Compose with Maia Hamann

2013-02-03 :: Maia Hamann
Length: 35s

This episode, I talk with my girlfriend, Maia Hamann, about how she teaches her young students to compose music. She explains her strategy of breaking music down into individual elements, something all composers could benefit from. Maia shares tips on composing for bassoon. We also get to hear about her unique experience studying Somali music.…

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The Okee Dokee Brothers' Joe Mailander on kindie songwriting

2013-01-29 :: Joe Mailander
Length: 36s

I think there's a good chance Joe Mailander will win a Grammy for Best Children’s Album. He and his fellow Okee Dokee Brother Justin Lansing took a trip down the Mississippi river to write some beautiful bluegrass songs for their album Can You Canoe?. We talk about Joe's philosophies on deceptively simple songwriting, work ethic as a DIY musician, and involving the audience. Joe also performs a new Okee Dokee Brothers song called "Echo," which will be a part of their upcoming Appalachian adventure album.…

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Composing for iPhone games with Whitaker Trebella

2013-01-26 :: Whitaker Trebella
Length: 40s

In this episode of Composer Quest, I chat with video game musician and coder Whitaker Trebella. He shares his words of wisdom on writing for games, producing chiptune music, and getting composing gigs through Twitter. He also composes an on-the-spot "quickprov" using Logic Pro. Finally, we ponder what would happen if Beethoven was given a laptop. Would he be making dubstep tracks?…

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How to write a pooping duck robot song with Matt Schubbe

2013-01-23 :: Matt Schubbe
Length: 30s

Matt Schubbe, the graphic designer behind our 8-bit Composer Quest art, is also a songwriter himself! In this episode, we talk about how he writes songs for (and with) his wife, Donna. Matt tends to choose strange lyrical topics, like a kid getting his head stuck in the banister, or the 1739 invention of a pooping duck automaton.…

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Taking the stage with drummer Luke Friedrich

2013-01-19 :: Luke Friedrich
Length: 28s

Luke Friedrich was too young to carry a musket when he joined his Civil War reenacting unit, so he picked up the fife and drum instead. Now, he plays in more bands than would seem possible, including Crimes, Strange, Rupert Angeleyes, Flowerstalks, Secrets, ThoughtTalk, and his primary songwriting endeavor, Squares. We talk about performing, the music business, and his fascination with horrific lyrical topics.…

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Composing textures with theater sound designer Kevin Springer

2013-01-16 :: Kevin Springer
Length: 29s

When does sound become music? That's a line blurred by Kevin Springer's sound art. He designs sound and music for plays, including Tenesse Williams' Summer and Smoke. He has also found a niche for his brand of experimental electronic composing online, and we talk about how he works in this strange musical language.…

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Catchy dissonance with Nathan Graves

2013-01-12 :: Nathan Graves
Length: 54s

I talked with my cousin, Nathan Graves, who fronts the band With a Gun for a Face and writes solo music under the name Kurtz. Nate's music is usually pretty dark and dissonant, but strangely catchy. We talk about why avant garde art is important.…

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Going solo with guitarist Peter Frey

2013-01-09 :: Peter Frey
Length: 33s

Kazyak's Peter Frey shares his new, more personal album See the Forest, See the Trees. He also shares his philosophy on soloing, the pros and cons of touring, and his advice on promoting your music.…

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The art of lyrics with fiction writer Ryan Ruff Smith

2013-01-03 :: Ryan Ruff Smith
Length: 38s

Ryan Ruff Smith and I talk about a bunch of lyric-writing techniques, including seeing the big picture, using subtext, writing as a character, and focusing your song ideas.…

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Pop music theory with Beatles expert Mitchell Johnson

2013-01-02 :: Mitchell Johnson
Length: 36s

Mitchell Johnson from Spencer McGillicutty talks about pop music theory, Beatles songwriting techniques, and his “Douchiest Song Challenge.“…

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Composer Quest

Join the quest! Learn how composers and songwriters create music in this new podcast hosted by Minneapolis composer Charlie McCarron. Whether you’re a music composition grad or simply an occasional noodler on a guitar, each guest has a new perspective for you on the creative process of composing and songwriting, along with some concrete ideas to apply to your own music.

Composer Quest


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