From food stamps and survival to writing the songs you know

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” says artist and composer Allee Willis. Yet her output ranges from Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “September” to the theme song of Friends. If you don’t know Willis, you should – and her story might inspire yours.

Behind all the cheery social media these days, most artists you talk to have struggled. They’ve struggled with creativity and sobriety, mental health and creative blocks, unfriendly industries and obscurity. And sometimes they’ve struggled just to get by – which is where Allee Willis was in 1978, living off food stamps and wondering what would happen next.

What happened next is a career that led to an insane number of hit songs – along with plenty of other fascinating side trips into kitsch and art. (There’s a kitsch-themed social network, an artist alterego named Bubbles, and a music video duet with a 91-year-old woman drummer on an oxygen tank, to name a few.) But what it hasn’t involved is a lot of widespread personal notoriety. Allee Willis is a celebrity’s celebrity, which is to say famous people know her but most people don’t know she’s famous.

At least it’s about that gap. The odds that you don’t know her? Decent. The odds that you don’t know her songs? Unlikely.

Let’s go: Earth, Wind & Fire “September” and “Boogie Wonderland,” The Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance,” Pet Shop Boys with Dusty Springfield’s “What Have I Done To Deserve This.” The theme from Friends, recorded by The Rembrandts (if you knew that, which I suspect you didn’t)… all these and more add up to 60 million records. And she co-authored the Oprah Winfrey-produced, Tony and Grammy-winning Broadway musical The Color Purple. More songs you know in movies: Beverly Hills Cop, The Karate Kid (“You’re the Best”), Howard the Duck.

The Detroit native is an impassioned use of Web tech and animation, networked together machines to design an orchestration workflow for The Color Purple musical, and now lives in LA with … Pro Tools, of course, alongside some cats.

But this isn’t about her resume so much as it is about what she says drives her – that itch to create stuff. And for anyone worried about how to get into the creative zone, maybe the first step is to stop worrying about getting into the creative zone. We value analysis and self-critique so much that sometimes we forget to just have fun making and stop worrying about even our own opinions (or maybe, especially those). In the end, it was that instinct that has driven her work, and presumably lots of stuff that didn’t do as well as that Friends theme song. (But there are her cats. Not the Broadway kind; that’s Andrew Lloyd Weber – the furry ones.)

There’s a great video out from CNN-produced Web video series Great Big Story:

And her site is a wild 1999-vintage-design wonderland of HTML, if you want to dive in:

https://alleewillis.com

More:

How she wrote “What Have I Done to Deserve This” gets into her musical thinking – and incongruity (and she does sure seem like she knows what she’s doing):

Plus how she hears and why she needed a Fender Rhodes:

The post From food stamps and survival to writing the songs you know appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Deep Forest, Through A Pyramid

This video captures Eric Mouquet from Deep Forest, playing on a Buchla modular system and a Fender Rhodes piano, through a Pyramid and an Onde from La Voix du Luthier.… Read More Deep Forest, Through A Pyramid

Taylor McFerrin – Live Improvisation On KEXP

McFerrin improvises a 40 minute set, featuring Sequential Prophet-6, Fender Rhodes & Ableton Push. … Read More Taylor McFerrin – Live Improvisation On KEXP

UVI Electric Piano For The Mac

Click here to view the embedded video.

UVI Electric Piano is a new virtual Fender Rhodes for the Mac, available via the Mac App Store.

Features:

  • Featuring a classic Rhodes manufactured in 1979.
  • Recorded in a world class studio with the best gear.
  • Deeply multi-sampled (sustain, release, pedal noise…)
  • Scripted using the latest UVI Engine.
  • Low Memory usage thanks to lossless realtime decoding.
  • Custom velocity curves to fit your playing style.
  • Onboard FX: Speaker Cabinet, Drive, Tremolo, Autopan, Chorus & Flanger.
  • Integrated old school “Spring” reverb.
  • Easy to record in Garage Band, Logic and others audio software.
  • CPU efficient.
  • Ultra low latency.
  • Compatible with built-in or third party sound cards.
  • Compatible with all USB/MIDI keyboards and controllers.

Note that UVI Electric Piano is designed to run standalone, not run as a VSTi/AU.

Electric Piano is available now for $29.99.

The Vintage Vibe Electric Piano

Click here to view the embedded video.

2011 NAMM Show: Vintage Vibe introduced their new Electric Piano, a Rhodes-style keyboard, with models starting around $3,000. Vintage Vibe also sells replacement parts for vintage keyboards and vintage keyboard repair.

The Vintage Vibe Electric Piano pays homage to the Rhodes of the past. According to the company, “Our sound, architecture and look are kin to highly sought after, classic electric pianos.”

Three basic models are planned, 44, 64 & 73 key electric pianos. The 64 & 73 key models are now available.

The Vintage Vibe Electric Piano

Vintage Vibe Electric Piano 64

  • 53lbs.
  • 39 9/16” x 21” x 7”
  • Custom Contour Fiberglass Lid
  • Light Weight Pedal
  • Chrome Legs
  • Vintage Style Knobs
  • Internal Power Supply
  • New Damper Design
  • New Hammers/Flanges
  • Chrome Tone Bars
  • Re-designed Action Rail
  • Re-designed Harps
  • Re-designed Damper Rail
  • Re-designed Key Bed
  • The easiest damper in the world
  • New key caps and bushings
  • New hammer tips, grommets, hardware and damper felt.

Vintage Vibe Electric Piano 73

  • 60 lbs.
  • Custom Contour Fiberglass Lid
  • Light Weight Pedal
  • Chrome Legs
  • Vintage Style Knobs
  • Internal Power Supply
  • New Damper Design
  • New Hammers/Flanges
  • Chrome Tone Bars
  • Re-designed Action Rail
  • Re-designed Harps
  • Re-designed Damper Rail
  • Re-designed Key Bed
  • The easiest damper in the world
  • New key caps and bushings
  • New hammer tips, grommets, hardware and damper felt.

Free Fender Rhodes Piano VSTi

Free Windows Music Software: 4Front Rhode is a free Fender Rhodes style virtual instrument, with a “gentle overdrive”:

This module reproduces the classic sound similar to RSP73 pianos. The sound generation is not based upon samples, thus there are 127 continous layers provided with a vintage rhodes smooth overdrive.

Unlike many other software modules and samplers, this module will never overload CPU. It will never stick notes, and never interrupt the sound during live performances.

You an preview the sound of 4Front Rhode below. Download at the Yohng.com site.

via rekkerd