For most of us, the memory of getting ice cream as a child is almost universal. We all remember that exhilarating moment of seeing all of those colorful flavors behind the counter, selecting the perfect one, and having it expertly scooped and served to order. If you’ve ever been inside of a Baskin-Robbins, these sights, smells, tastes and sounds are all part of that wonderful memory. But if you had to describe that sensational experience, could you do it? How would it look? How would it sound?
This past year, the team at Baskin-Robbins and 22squared were successful in doing just that with an award-winning series of 15-second ads that captured the sensations BR ice cream. This TV ad campaign was awarded Brand of the Year (2014) in the category of Quick-Service Restaurants by Ace Metrix.
But it is not visuals alone that capture a moment; sound is a critical aspect of an experience. That is why Baskin-Robbins and 22squared teamed up with Tunewelders to help get the job done.
Executive Producer, Jeremy Gilbertson had this to say: “We love working with the Baskin-Robbins and 22squared teams. They have an amazing balance of vision, creativity and precision in their execution.”
The 22squared team included group Creative Director Curt Mueller and veteran Producer, Rhett Kearsley. Their team set the creative tone by asking Tunewelders to capture a heightened sense of sound by channelling their inner Spiderman and his “spidey-senses”. Tunewelders’ Ben Holst recalls, “Ice cream, on it’s own, makes little if any noise. That was the challenge. Fun, fresh and exciting without being cartoony. The film, Honey I Shrunk the Kids was referenced a time or two in the direction. Bigger than life.”
The Tunewelders team pulled together unique audio concepts into a composition that takes the audiences ears on a journey from the scoop, to the pour, and finally to the blend. Sound design is just like music composition for Tunewelders, where each sound has to fit together and make sense. Every sound is a song in and of itself; it must be in tune and have natural transitions.
Overall, it is safe to say that 22squared succeeded in its mission to get thousands of people all over the country to leave their homes for ice cream. Congratulations to Curt Mueller, Rhett Kearsley and the teams at Baskin-Robbins and 22squared!
Shakespeare used scenes and plot lines that were taken directly from other plays. Picasso based paintings on specific African sculptures and called them his own. If you compare the opening theme to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 “Eroica”, you will hear frightening similarities to the overture from Mozart’s “Bastien and Bastienne”. It is in creativity’s very nature to take existing ideas and re-shape them into something of our own. That is freedom of expression. That is art.
In the Baroque and Classical eras, it was generally considered an honor paid to quote the music of another composer. Folk music around the world is happily passed from generation to generation where it is allowed to evolve and flourish, made into something new, and passed again on to the next generation. Music is based on the wonderful tradition of becoming inspired by the great works that came before, immersing yourself in the extant collections of chords and melodies and rhythmic figures that inspire, and reinventing them with a new voice. This freedom of expression is the thing that is transcendent about music. Or at least, it used to be. Now you have to be really careful what inspires you, because you might get charged with copyright infringement or stealing intellectual property.
This week the social media universe has been ablaze with articles about Tom Petty and his settlement with musician Sam Smith. Petty and Producer Jeff Lynne claim “similarities” between the Smith title “Stay With Me” and Petty’s 1989 hit “I Won’t Back Down”. Smith voluntarily agreed to award Lynne and Petty songwriting credits and royalties for a song that the elder statesmen had no participation in. Most of the published stories reference Petty’s colloquial “everyman” response to the settlement dealings in which he declared he had no “hard feelings” towards Smith and that “the word lawsuit was never even said.” Avoiding the legal-ese was a good move on Petty’s part, because it camouflages him from the nasty business that it actually is, which is laying claim to intellectual property rights on commonly used musical forms.
I find even the intimation of a copyright infringement absurd in this case, for the reasons that there is no real musical or lyrical structure that can be linked between the two songs, and any similarities that do exist between the songs should be considered common musical devices.
Let’s look closely at the differences:
First, let’s look at the key signature. These are not in the same key signature. Stay With Me is in C Major. I Won’t Back Down is in G Major.
Next, let’s look at the chord progression. I’ve read a lot of analysis online which says the chord progressions are the same. Sorry, folks - they are not. They are much different, and for the purposes of this analysis, I’ll compare only the relevant sections of each. Here is how they each breakdown: Stay With Me has a basic figure of Am, F, C occasionally hitting a Ab dim chord as an approach to the Am chord on the turnaround. This is a m6-4-1 chord progression. The relevant figure in I Won’t Back Down is different. The basic figure here is Em, D, G. This is a m6-5-1 progression. Are these similar? Sure they are. But “similar” is not “the same.” Chord progressions are not unique in popular music, and they are not and never should be considered intellectual property nor be subject to the purview of the legal system. They are the most fundamental forms of songwriting, and the means by which Petty himself borrowed from Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and scores of other influences that came before him – none of whom lay intellectual property claim to what was old hat when Johann Sebastian Bach was using them 300 years ago.
Next, let’s examine the time signature and rhythmic feel. Both tunes are in 4/4, but the rhythmic figures of each are vastly different. Stay With Me has a slower ¼ note feel and the chord movement happens on 1, 3 and the “and” of 4 which gives it more of an anticipated rhythmic pulse. I Won’t Back Down is a more straight ahead 16th note feel with chord movement happening on the downbeat, with a much more straightforward pulse. These yield completely different musical results which represent the backbone of their respective songs.
The tempo of the two songs is very different. Stay with me is 86 BPM (beats per minute) while I Won’t Back Down has a tempo of approximately 118 BPM.
Of each of the musical components analyzed, I find the melody in both of these tunes the most closely related, but again, they are not the same. If we strip out the flourishes and phrasing (which are entirely different), the basic framework of the melody in Stay With Me is root (over m6 chord) to 9 (over 4 chord) to major 3rd (over root chord). I Won’t Back Down is root (over m6 chord) to root (over 5 chord) to major 3rd (over root chord). Generally, the melody has a similar movement but is working against different chords with a different rhythmic pulse. Yes, there are similarities, but I would absolutely not say they were the same, and different enough where it would be hard to even conclude that one is derivative from the other.
Lyrically there is no comparison between the two songs.
Finally, I have to point out the vast differences in the overall feel and atmosphere of these songs. Stay With Me has a more somber feel with a clear gospel influence. The prevalent instrumentation is piano and vocals with a strong choral section. I Won’t Back Down is more upbeat, with strong electric/slide guitars and traditional pop/rock harmonies, guitar solos, etc.
The popularity of Petty’s song is what allows for this discussion to even happen; if a little-known songwriter made the same claim, even with much better evidence, it’s unlikely that writing credit would have been given because Smith’s claim that he never heard the song is much more believable to the general public. Does this result in a too- subjective legal standard that disproportionately rewards the already well-rewarded?
So, with all of these differences in musical structure and even musical intent, why is it that Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne should receive royalties and songwriting credit for something they had nothing to do with? I really have no idea. But if the legal system is allowed to become a tool by which popular artists lay intellectual property claim to common musical devices, the next generations of songwriters won’t have much to work with.
KING OF POPS: A POST APOCALYPTIC MUSICAL! January 22, 2015 This week at Tunewelders we’ve been humming songs about popsicles and the American Dream. That is because we’ve been hard at work with our friends from Dad’s Garage Theater and ensemble member Mike Schatz on the upcoming world premiere, King of Pops: A Post Apocalyptic Musical!, which opens April 24th 2015 at 7 Stages Theater in Atlanta’s Little 5 Points. As we follow the fictional journey of one of Atlanta’s favorite iconic figures, the King of Pops - into a dark world of death, destruction and delicious popsicles, the original musical numbers for the show will offer a unique mix of Americana Folk and Broadway Orchestration. Joining Schatz in production of the musical are Tunewelder’s Ben Holst (musical co-writer and Producer) and Jason Shannon (Arranging & Orchestration).
For singer-songwriter Josh Herndon, music is about inspiring change in someone’s life.
This week Josh was in the studio with the Tunewelders team, recording his first album Deeper Water.
For Josh, the studio experience was a new one, but he quickly found his stride. When asked about his first venture in a professional recording studio, he had this to say:
“Ben [Holst] and Vic [Stafford] are both really cool and made me feel at home. I don’t think this experience would have been as good without them. They are so encouraging. If we messed up during a take - we just did it again until we got it right. There was no pressure to get it done immediately or in a certain number of takes. They keep it light.”
For Holst and Stafford, a successful album is a product of making the artist feel comfortable in a foreign and often intimidating environment. Holst spoke about the importance of this:
“Whenever I work with a new recording artist I spend as much time as I can to demystify the process. It takes a long time to get used to elements like a new headphone system or a room that sounds different. Even things like different seating can really throw someone off. We also have to be very mindful of our technical linguistics, which most recording artists won’t understand or may misinterpret.”
This album is a highly emotional work drawing from Josh’s personal experiences and hard times and desire to inspire change. As he puts it, “your hardship becomes something beautiful”.
For Stafford, it is all about the artist and their message, and to not allow the technical process get in the way. “Our job is to clear a pathway to creativity.“
Finally musicians in different locations can perform together real-time!
This is an original song called “Down the Columbia” premiered on the LOLA low-latency audio/video conferencing system. The performers were at two locations and separated by approximately 50 miles. The latency between the performers in this video is less than 10 milliseconds, equal to the speed of sound at 10 feet apart. This 10ms delay is imperceptible to the ear and provides a completely natural musical experience for the performers. This is made possible by sending an uncompressed audio and video signal across a high-speed (1 Gbps) fiber optic network. In other words, speeding up the speed of sound (1 foot per millisecond) to the speed of light (186 miles per millisecond).
Special thanks to all of the great folks from North Georgia Networks and Habersham Electric Membership Cooperative who made this video possible. Without their expertise in creating an amazing broadband network this technology would not be possible. Special thanks to Tony Adams, Curt Arulf, Jonathan Cantrell, Todd Pealock, Rodney Pugh, Greg Sprayberry and the entire staff at HEMC.
Tyson Farmer = Acoustic Guitar (6-String) Jeremy Gilbertson = Acoustic Guitar (12-String) Ben Holst = Resonator Guitar Franher Joseph = Upright Bass Jason Shannon = Mandolin Vic Stafford = Glockenspiel