EducationWatch: ArtistShare's Hemispheres

Fan-subsidized label project showcases GRAMMY-winning and -nominated guitarists and fan-submitted art
Laurel Fishman

ArtistShare, an record label where fans financially subsidize various artists' albums and witness the creative process of recording online, recently released Hemispheres, an ambitious album by GRAMMY-winning guitarist Bill Frisell and GRAMMY-nominated guitarist Jim Hall. Fans were asked to submit original art for the Hemispheres album cover, with Susan Warin winning the competition. A nonverbal artist, Warin expresses herself through the paintings she creates at Sophie's Art Gallery in El Cajon, Calif., an art center for developmentally disabled adults. Warin's kinetic cosmoscape captures Hall and Frisell's inventive musical explorations and, though her disability was unknown to the label until after winning the contest, her participation in Hemispheres reflects the ArtistShare philosophy that the true value of music lies in the artist's individual creativity.

Houston's Texas Children's Hospital is offering Purple Songs Can Fly, a first-of-its-kind program presented by the hospital's pediatric cancer care facility, which is among the country's largest. The program gives young patients the chance to create their own original songs in the hospital's recording studio. Professional composers work with the children individually or in small groups to compose and record their material on a purple-colored CD, giving the children a creative healing opportunity to express their energy and feelings through music. Songs have been featured on audio tracks aboard commercial airline flights and during space shuttle voyages, with the CDs signed by flight personnel and flown back to Houston along with a complete flight log documenting the voyage. The entire process provides both a symbolic and tangible means for the children to rise above some of the challenges they encounter in dealing with cancer.

Sponsored by the Department of Cultural Affairs and the office of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and with support from Disney, the Music LA Program recently provided nine weeks of free music classes for intermediate and advanced teenage musicians from the Sangeet School of World Music & Dance. Sitarist Paul Livingstone and his fellow instructors offered a series of free concerts and workshops, allowing young students to learn to play the sitar and tabla in a creative ensemble and apply the principles learned to instruments they already play. With orchestrations by Livingstone featured during the workshops, students integrated Indian musical concepts into elements of rock, jazz, funk and hip-hop to create an experimental hybrid of world music.

According to a July 1 study published in the Psychology Of Music journal, children involved in a structured multi-year musical training program consisting of increasingly complex rhythmic, tonal and practical skills demonstrated cognitive reading skills superior to their non-musically trained peers. The musically trained students received keyboard instruction as part of a three-year progressive music curriculum. Both groups of children attended schools in the same geographic vicinity with comparable demographics, and all participating children were involved in comprehensive literacy programs integrating reading, writing, speaking and listening. The study's authors, Joseph M. Piro and Camilo Ortiz of Long Island University in New York, concluded there was sufficient evidence to support the growing practice of "educators incorporating a variety of approaches, including music, in their teaching practice in continuing efforts to improve reading achievement in children."

Several new book releases give an insider's view of the business of making music. In The Studio With Michael Jackson, by GRAMMY-winning engineer Bruce Swedien, documents his work with producer/arranger Quincy Jones on Jackson's recordings such as Bad and Dangerous. The book tells of the trio's creative and technical collaborations, with information about how Swedien achieved certain sounds, photos of the studios and equipment used for Jackson's sessions, and images of Jackson's handwritten notes and other memorabilia. Legendary songwriting partners Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller have released a joint memoir, Hound Dog: The Leiber And Stoller Autobiography, written with David Ritz. The book includes tales of personal and professional friendships, such as their encounters with Elvis Presley, jazz trumpeter Chet Baker and actor James Dean, among others, as well as stories about the golden age of pop music. Music journalist/engineer/producer Howard Massey's Behind The Glass, Volume II is an insightful collection of firsthand interviews with top record producers and engineers, who reveal their professional techniques and creative secrets, and discuss the music business and the future of digital recording. The Daily Adventures Of Mixerman, anonymously penned by a Los Angeles-based recording engineer, is a compilation of online journal entries. "Mixerman" writes about the vagaries of the record industry through a behind-the-scenes account of his studio experiences with an anonymous band and a famous producer. Amid the candid anecdotes are helpful tips on studio operations and practices. The 10th anniversary edition of Moses Avalon's Confessions Of A Record Producer is a guide for both working and aspiring music-industry professionals, covering the pinnacles and pitfalls of careers in music. The book includes a CD-ROM with lessons and concrete information on how to operate in today's industry.

(Laurel Fishman is a writer and editor specializing in entertainment media. She reports regularly for and GRAMMY magazine, and she is an advocate for the benefits of music making, music listening, music education, music therapy, and music-and-the-brain research.)

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