Posts tagged ‘music’

December 30, 2012


In my last blog post, I mentioned pieces of music that never get used. I was curious to take a listen to those bits, so I booted up my master music library and revisited some old tunes. There were a lot of tracks that I loved hearing again, but I realized that I have come a long way since they were written.

Then I came across “Quartet” which I originally wrote for Rise Of Nations. After nearly 10 years, the details are fuzzy as to exactly why the track never appeared in the game. But the process I have always followed is to put together a “temp track” so that the producers, game designers, etc. can listen to it before going into full production. That means that Quartet, as you hear it here, was composed, performed, mixed and mastered by me on a digital audio workstation (DAW). Essentially, a DAW is a computer system that’s sole purpose is music creation.

To be honest, Quartet did have a small and rather obscure part in Rise Of Legends. Although it is never heard in the game, it appeared as a bonus track on the original soundtrack (OST) released by Nile Rodgers’ Sumthing Else Records. As we were putting together the project, Nile suggested that we include bonus tracks. I had nine first pass music tracks that I composed for the game before we shifted musical direction. So those pieces were added to the DVD.

The Rise Of Nations OST was the first game soundtrack to be released on DVD with both stereo and 5.1 surround mixes. But being the first of anything can be dangerous. It proved to be more of a test for other game soundtracks. When the first run of this soundtrack was sold-out, there were no reprints made. There are only a couple thousand in existence, making them very rare.

So now that I’ve exposed one of my little bits that has been hidden away, I wonder if I can persuade other composers to contribute to the “Unused Symphony?”


November 17, 2012


To quote Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg address: “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here …”

The same is true for composers whose work speaks within a larger project. Their names are usually buried at the end of the credits, which most people will never pay attention to. How many people actually stay in the theater to read the credits at the end of a movie or dig through documentation to find out who composed the music score for a game? Most people only remember whether they liked or disliked their entertainment experience.

So it always amazes me to hear from fans who actually care enough and take the time and energy to send me an e-mail or post a note on my blog, Facebook page or YouTube channel.

Getting to the point of having my music reach so many people has been a lifetime commitment, though. And every composer has his or her own path and learns different skills along the way.

I started out playing in school bands and rock bands. In college, I designed and co-built my first synthesizer, which enabled me to offer more diverse and unique shows. Exposure to this music was limited to those who came to my shows or heard my recordings on the radio.

I then moved on to being a product specialist/clinician for synthesizer manufacturers because of my knowledge of both music and technology. While it offered almost no exposure for my music, I learned a vast amount about music technology. That enabled me to start composing for games.

I never thought that my pinball games would expand my reach. But I uploaded a montage of my pinball music to YouTube recently. Much to my surprise, it is one of the more popular videos on my channel. It seems that there are fans of old school pinball music who love that Lo-Fi audio experience.

Because of my pinball experience, I was able to join FASA Interactive, creating music for the “MechWarrior 3” and “MechCommander” video games. Because of the success of those games, FASA Interactive was acquired by Microsoft Game Studios. That led to scoring the soundtracks for “MechWarrior 4” and its expansion packs, “Rise Of Nations” and a host of other smaller projects.

When I left Microsoft in 2003 to form my own music production company, it allowed me to score the soundtracks for “Rise Of Legends,” “Civilization Revolution,” “Defense Grid” and several small projects.

I am now a full time composer/sound designer at IGT, the largest manufacturer of slot machines in the world. My music is heard in casinos on five continents. I could have never gotten to this point without the notoriety I’ve gained by reaching out and seeking publicity throughout the years.

Beyond the body of work, I always made a conscious effort to keep my name out there through personal contact and writing published feature stories for newspapers, music trade magazines and game Web sites.

These days, it is a given that you need to have a Web presence. My Web site, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, blog and YouTube channel all contribute to creating publicity for my work and reaching a wider audience. While you may think that it’s not necessary to continue pursuing more visibility when you have a great job, quite the opposite is true.

Although I work for a large company now, all of my individual work contributes to the overall success of the company. When you work on creative teams, you are motivated by others on your team. If I know that a colleague has received patent awards or worked on world-class games, films and TV shows, etc., I am inspired to do my best work.

When you aspire to be a musician or a composer, exposure is key to building a fan base and a successful career. You will start small and you must never expect that the world will come knocking at your door just because you were the most talented kid in your school.

If you commit to a career in music, if you truly believe that you can withstand all the obstacles that will inevitably be thrown in your path, and know very deep in your heart that this is the only thing that you want to do for a career, you have a chance to succeed. Let the world know that you have something valuable to contribute by expanding your reach and making it easier for people to find your music.

October 7, 2012


After posting my last blog, “MUSIC COPYRIGHTS,” Duffmaister (, a fan from Helsinki, Finland, sent me the following questions:

Duffmaister: “Kinda curious about one music copyright matter, do you think bands like these have got the right to use the music like this or , the background music sounds quite identical to one piece of Rise of Nations music. So if they followed the correct procedure they asked Microsoft/Warner Bros for a permission to use parts of this music piece? Or is it allowed to take a small sample of the music and slightly change it without breaching copyright laws?”

Duane: Thank you for your comments on WordPress. I was unaware that my music “High Strung” from the “Rise Of Nations” video game was being used in rap/hip hop music tracks in Eastern Europe. But there is no obligation by Microsoft or Warner to inform me when they grant permission. Both of the examples you refer to here are using my master recordings of that music. Simply put, they took my original, recorded music and rapped on top of it. While they each “arranged” my original music recordings to fit with their lyrics, they are using my music and my recordings and taking credit for them, without giving credit to the composer (me) or the copyright owner (Microsoft Corporation). If they did not seek permission from Microsoft or Warner Bros., it is a violation of international copyright law. All I know at this point is that I have not received any royalty payments for YouTube uploads that have received 245,159 views and 1,351,935 views respectively. That seems like a lot of views to ignore international copyright law.

According to International Copyright law, you can’t repurpose a piece of music without permission and/or license from the copyright owner. I will check with both companies to see if they granted a license for these songs, but it is unlikely that either company will respond. A lot of big businesses just don’t care about these issues unless it affects millions of dollars in their bottom line.

Duffmaister: “Nevertheless, I’m glad that people have had the opportunity to enjoy your vast works on YouTube even after many years since, for example, Rise of Nations was released. Of course, if this would mean economic loss for you personally my moral would feel obliged to remove the videos.”

Duane: Your uploads of the Rise Of Nations soundtrack on YouTube, while possibly technically illegal, probably fall into the category of “fair use.” You haven’t claimed that you wrote or recorded the music and have given proper credit to the composer and copyright owner. You aren’t profiting from it. And your intent was to simply share the music with fans of the game. Because the music is attached to the game, your uploads have probably been used by Microsoft as a marketing tool to sell more games. If any public performance royalties were to be generated by this music, the appropriate Performance Rights Organization (in this case ASCAP) would be able to track who is owed publisher and composer public performance royalties.

These types of questions have been around for a long time. But as digital technology progressed, it became very easy to take someone else’s work and claim it as your own. The late 80s and early 90s saw several big hits from rappers who rapped over someone else’s song. Probably the most infamous was Vanilla Ice’s 1989 song “Ice Ice Baby.” He took the recorded intro to “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie, rapped over it, and didn’t have permission to use it and didn’t give them credit for their work.

While I’m surprised that my song “High Strung” would appeal to rappers, I guess the popularity of the “Rise Of Nations” game and soundtrack would make it appealing to steal. These rappers are building on the large fan base that already exists from the soundtrack. But if they didn’t acquire a license, they are still stealing my music.

To make it very clear, here is my iMac computer’s dictionary definition.

steal |stēl|
verb ( past stole |stōl|; past part. stolen |ˈstōlən|)

1 [ trans. ] take (another person’s property) without permission or legal right and without intending to return it : thieves stole her bicycle | [ intrans. ] she was found guilty of stealing from her employers | [as adj. ] ( stolen) stolen goods.
• dishonestly pass off (another person’s ideas) as one’s own : accusations that one group had stolen ideas from the other were soon flying.

One last thought on the subject. While a lot of people may think that just because I am recognized around the world for my music, that I am rich. That couldn’t be further from the truth financially. I am rich with respect to having a family that loves me, that I love my work and that I love entertaining people. For those things, I have been blessed in my life. But like most music composers (as is true with most people on this earth), I am just getting by and struggle to pay the bills. To all those who view Intellectual Property (music) as a thing that you can just take and claim as your own, please think again…

October 3, 2012


I am not a copyright attorney. Any time you have a question about copyrights, you should contact a qualified attorney who specializes in copyright law. My view on the subject simply comes from decades of experience protecting my musical work. After a recent question from a fan, I thought it was a good time to give an overview of how it works from a composer’s perspective.

Basically, if you have purchased a piece of music on its own or integrated it into a game, film, TV show, etc., you have the right to enjoy that product for your personal use. You can play it at home, enjoy it on your iPod, view it on DVD, etc.

We are all familiar with YouTube and enjoy a lot of music and shows without paying for them. Just like TV, YouTube has advertisers to help defray their costs. Some uploads have their own advertisers, as well. Some use the site to promote something or simply post something goofy.

However, it is illegal to use this music for anything but your personal use unless you have permission or a license from the copyright owner. A prime example is on the demo pages of my Web site. Although I composed all of the music you hear, I received written permission from all of the copyright owners to post the demos and attached the copyright information for each piece. There is also a disclaimer at the top of the page: “Music provided here are demos only. Duplication is in violation of copyright law. Commercial music licenses are available for all of this music. E-mail Duane for more information on music licensing options.”

The copyright law protects the copyright owner of a piece of music by giving them the right of exclusive control over how, when and where the music can be used. The copyright exists from the moment it is created and belongs to the composer(s), whether it is registered with the copyright office or not. Registering with the copyright office only ensures that you won’t pay legal fees if someone tries to steal your music. But if problems arise, you still need to prove that you created the music on a certain date. The duration of the copyright varies depending on circumstances, but is likely to be in force long after you are gone.

In order for a composer to make money from their work, there are two directions to take. In either case, the composer is always credited with composing the music and retains the composer’s portion of any public performance royalties.

“Work For Hire” is when a composer is hired to create music that will be copyrighted by the production company that has hired them. This allows that music to be associated with that project without any other money being paid and assures that there won’t be any complications if/when the project is re-released at some later time or on a different platform or media.

“Licensed Music” (for lack of a better term) is when the composer(s) retains the copyright and licenses its use for a specific project and duration. The production company does not have the right to dictate where else the music will be used. So the music that was licensed for a film, for instance, could also show up in an ad for toothpaste. Odd, but I’ve heard of this happening. In either scenario, the composer is paid either a composing fee or a licensing fee for their work.

To wrap up, I will add that sometimes I get requests from people who want to use my music for some sort of personal project and I can not, under copyright law, just grant their request. It is very flattering to know that my work is appreciated, but there are legal reasons why I can not release certain music for other uses. Please remember, too, that music is not a hobby for me, it is my livelihood. I am thankful for the interest and always open to questions about how this works.

September 22, 2012


I’ve been thinking about this subject for months. No one is an island. We all rely on each other for support and to move forward. But when a friend sent me a link to Jonathan Antoine’s audition on “Britain’s Got Talent,” I realized how important it is to recognize that your family, who you associate with, work with, and befriend can make all the difference in the world.

Jonathan is an extremely talented 17-year-old who has been a victim of the way he looks all his life. If you watch this video, it becomes painfully obvious that the judges and the crowd have made their decisions about him and his partner as soon as they took the stage.

The wonderful part of this … is how they got to that stage. His singing partner, Charlotte, knew that he was incredibly talented. She is a cute girl with talent of her own. Her pop singing style might have propelled her into a solo spot on the show. But she chose to be with Jonathan on the stage. For the 17 years he has been on this earth, Jonathan has dealt with people judging him on first impressions. Charlotte knew that despite that, they could show the world what they can do and ensure that Jonathan would have a chance to be heard.

In my experience, in addition to my own family, I have learned so much from the people I’ve worked with. Even my bad experiences have taught me volumes about my craft, who I am, what I’m capable of, and the person I want to be.

You need to value times when you get to work with people who have a common goal. Each person has something to bring to the table. My times as a freelancer were wonderful. I was my own boss and my schedule was much more in the creative lifestyle. But I was always wondering how much better it would be if there were a team around me to give me honest feedback and fill the gaps in skills that I’m not so good at. I now have that.

Thankfully, Jonathan has Charlotte. Their chemistry together is what made it possible to show the world their talent. I’m sure we will be seeing more of both of them in the future, no matter what happens on a TV show.

August 30, 2012


When asked about the low points of my music career, I can’t forget the stint I did as keyboard player/singer with a boring lounge act called Jim, Bonnie and Duane. We had a steady gig at a restaurant/lounge called The Hungry Hunter in a Southern California beach town. The best thing I remember about the gig was that we got free food — and it was good food, too. The pay was also decent. But playing middle-of-the-road cover tunes by acts like The Captain and Tennille and Fleetwood Mac was painful, considering my preference for artists such as The Who, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin.

It was also a very strange thing for me to be on a tiny stage playing background music for the dinner crowd, using a full-blown modular Moog and RMI Keyboard Computer. My equipment alone took up most of the stage and Bonnie would sing in front of this 6-inch-high stage. I could have (and probably should have) played this gig with one small electric piano.

At some point, Bonnie left the group due to medical problems. And so the act became the even-less-riveting duo of Jim and Duane. We shifted over to a regular gig in National City, California … and the boredom continued, but it was a source of income. When Bonnie recovered from her illness, she rejoined the act. One night, she set a beer on top of my amp and it spilled, ruining the amp. That was it. I couldn’t take it anymore. “See ya later, Jim and Bonnie.”

Fortunately, I was then invited to join a successful Denver-based band named Reign. The musicians were very talented but a bit lazy. They didn’t practice much — and they focused on cover material. Their repertoire was much more challenging than the song list from the Jim, Bonnie and Duane days. Singing/playing hits by Journey, Kansas and Earth, Wind and Fire was tolerable, but whenever I’d suggest adding some original songs, I was shot down. As Reign’s line-up began to disintegrate, I was forced to look for another touring band and really hoping for a chance to “upgrade” to one that was more ambitious.

Timing was on my side. A band named Canary, which played the same Western U.S. circuit as Reign, had recently lost its drummer, Bill Gent, to a new band called Lois Lane. In turn, Lois Lane was looking for a keyboard player/backup singer. Bill, who had seen me with Reign, recommended me for the gig. I spent several years with Lois Lane, playing original material and developing new skills and increased confidence, which later paid off in a number of other great music jobs.

The take-away lesson is that anyone striving to be a musician or composer, or maybe anyone in any line of creative work, must be patient, flexible and confident that sometimes the least glamorous jobs will sustain you while you follow your true calling.

August 25, 2012


Are you psyched for football season? I know I am, but not just because of the action on the field. In the ’90s, as an in-house composer for Premier Technology, I composed music for the Gottlieb pinball game called “Touchdown Football.” Later on, when I began composing for production music libraries, one of my first tracks to be placed in a TV or film project was in an episode of HBO’s “Inside the NFL.”

Although I haven’t been heavily involved in creating music associated with football, every season and every form of entertainment — including watching football — reminds me of how much music enriches the total experience.

Classic movies about football have had original soundtracks that were profoundly moving and/or uplifting. Think of “Brian’s Song,” “Rudy,” “Friday Night Lights,” “The Blind Side” and so many others. The music truly helped to convey the emotions within these stories.

TV coverage of professional and college football is always enlivened by pop music that pumps up the excitement level. Think of Queen’s “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions,” Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” Europe’s “The Final Countdown” and Faith Hill belting out the “Sunday Night Football” song.

In addition, there’s great live music by pro football drumlines and college and high school marching bands. Some of the most fun I’ve had in recent years was attending University of Washington football games when my daughter was a member of the Husky Marching Band. Sure, the game itself was the main attraction for most of the fans, but the phenomenal band and cheer squad contributed volumes to the energy in the stadium.

Bottom line, music makes everything better, including football! When you’re cheering for your favorite pro or college or high school teams, also give a hand to the musicians who make “game day” a real celebration.

August 20, 2012


I’m not a music teacher, but my goal, when I started this blog, was to inspire and help young people who love music. Having worked as a professional musician and composer for most of my life, and having been involved in my kids’ music programs, I’d like to offer a few tips for the new school year.


• Choose an instrument that appeals to you, rather than the one that your friends think is cool. Experiment with different instruments, until you find one that best fits your personality and ability. Most schools and music stores offer trial rental programs and/or programs that apply rental payments to the purchase of an instrument.

• Yes, you do need to practice. Don’t fall into the “all or nothing” routine. Setting aside 20 minutes a day, or even a few times a week, is better than not practicing at all.

• Look for role models and mentors — not just your favorite recording artists, but people in your community. Park districts and teen centers often sponsor free or inexpensive concerts or workshops where you can interact with more experienced musicians. Some of the most successful musicians and composers of all time — The Beatles, for example — were once just curious kids who sought opportunities to meet like-minded, talented people. And look where it got them!


• Don’t force a particular instrument on your child because it’s the instrument you played or wanted to play. Likewise, don’t choose your child’s instrument based on gender. Once upon a time, girls played flutes and clarinets and the brass and percussion instruments were reserved for boys. Thankfully, times have changed. At most schools, you now see kids of either gender playing any instrument they like. Keep in mind that if your child is not happy with his or her instrument, practice will not be a priority and it’s even less likely that he or she will want to participate in school music at all.

• Show up for your child’s performances. Just as student athletes would be discouraged if no one showed up to cheer for them at the big game, music students want and need your applause and your approval. Make every effort to attend your child’s recitals, concerts and athletic events where your child is a member of the marching band or pep band. Kids and teens don’t always admit it, but your presence (or lack thereof) matters to them. When they don’t see your face in the auditorium or the stadium, it sends a negative message: “My parents think this is a waste of time, so why am I bothering to play music?”

• In this tough economy, many schools are struggling to keep both sports and music programs alive. Parent-run boosters’ clubs often must come to the rescue. If your child’s school doesn’t have a music boosters’ organization, “band together” (pardon the pun) with other parents to start one. Every dollar helps, whether it’s raised through a bake sale, a silent auction, creating small music ensembles to perform at private parties and so on. Do check with teachers and school administrators to make sure that proper policies and guidelines are followed.


• I have a lot of respect and admiration for hard-working men and women who have the patience and dedication to share their love of music with kids and teens. Dealing with a wide variety of kids and their parents and their various temperaments has to be enormously challenging. Having said that, when I was growing up and when my kids were in school music programs, there were always a few music students who stood out for the wrong reasons. Either they were the class clown, they were cocky and rude or maybe they were excessively timid or falling asleep in class. Before judging that child as a troublemaker or slacker, please stop to consider circumstances that might not be visible. The child may be facing a crisis at home or he/she may have an undiagnosed illness or learning disability. Helping that child to “fit in” in a music program may be a lifeline, a reason for him or her to care about coming to school.


Best wishes for an exciting and successful year of school music.

July 25, 2012


As you might have guessed, I’m not much of an athlete. But I’m definitely inspired by the men and women who’ve trained most of their lives to represent their nations and showcase their talents at the Olympic Games. I would never compare myself to Olympic superstars such as Michael Phelps or Apolo Ohno, but I do believe that whether you’re a serious athlete or a serious musician or composer, many of the same tenets apply.

In no particular order of importance, I’ve found that:

• Having a cheering squad is highly desirable. Early in life, I knew I wanted a career in music after my godmother took me to a series of Broadway shows and dinner-theater performances. My parents, like many responsible adults, were not necessarily convinced that this was a good idea. I think they feared that I’d end up as the stereotypical “starving artist.” Yet in my mind, I knew that I was destined to entertain people.

There were times that their prediction seemed to be accurate, but I was stubborn or crazy enough to keep doing what I wanted to do. And while they may have been thinking, “I told you so,” I am grateful that they took me to music lessons when I was a kid. And later, as a young adult, I was always welcome at the family home on the rare occasions when I wasn’t on the road with some band or another. Oh, I’m sure they were thinking, “Please get a haircut!” but that was probably the least of their worries.

• Strive for your personal best, first and foremost. Athletic events, especially the Olympics, are extremely competitive. So is being a professional musician or composer on the world stage. You’ll likely be thunderstruck by this realization the first time you venture outside of your own school or community and figure out how many other people are smarter, stronger, faster or hotter than you.

You could use this bolt of realization one of two ways. You could just give up or you could tell yourself that right now, your goal is to strive for your personal best. Before you can deal with the competition, take the time to work on your own skills and presentation. The rest will follow.

• Take yourself seriously, but not too seriously. Learn to laugh at your mistakes as much as learning from them. For some reason, I recently recalled an embarrassing incident where the band Lois Lane was opening for Pablo Cruise at a rodeo stadium in Wyoming. My equipment was being powered by generators and my keyboards kept going out of tune every time a song started. Our guitarist, John Verner, kept coming over to help me tune up between songs and as soon as the lights went up again, my keyboards would go haywire again. Despite an audience of over 10,000 giving us thunderous applause after every song, I felt like hiding in a corner. After the show, my band mates made me feel better by telling me that the show sounded like a surreal punk band with high tech keyboards. Lesson learned? Generators and keyboards don’t mix. Make sure you fix the problem. Then have a laugh.

On another note, my daughter, Desiree, performed at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics with the “2008 Beijing Olympic Orchestra,” which was a 2008-member ensemble made up of university and high school students from around the world. Watching her on TV during this stunning international event really renewed my passion to excel, as well as my belief in the importance of music education.

Strive to be the best in the world and never give up on your dreams. I can’t wait for the spectacle of the opening ceremonies for the London 2012 Summer Olympics!

July 7, 2012


I recently toured the Musician Rehearsal Center (MRC) in Sparks, Nevada, a unique facility that rents secure, temperature-controlled and sound-dampened rehearsal spaces to musicians. It’s located in an industrial area and features easy load-in and load-out for gear, is accessible to electronic key holders 24/7 and also features a large stage with professional lighting, audio and video equipment. The owner/founder Bill Woody is a former musician who wisely saw a need for this. As he gave me a tour, we joked about all the garages and basements where we rehearsed in our youth, hoping that the neighbors or our parents wouldn’t get too sick of hearing us play. Oh, if those walls could talk!

While providing a solution for musicians who really do want to rehearse — and really don’t want to irritate the neighbors — the MRC is also a place where musicians can network, post info about their upcoming gigs, gather feedback from others in the community and so on. And the MRC recently hosted a Musician Faire and Fanfest for the benefit of the Northern Nevada Food Bank and The Washoe County School District Music Department.

In a similar vein, I heard from a friend in Chicago about a Haymakers Reunion that took place a few months ago. Haymakers was a popular nightclub that closed in the early ’80s, so the actual reunion was held at another venue called Durty Nellie’s. But many bands and fans who were fixtures at Haymakers got back together for an energetic afternoon and evening of live music. This event also raised money for charitable organizations.

The bottom line is that busting out of the garage is important to musicians and composers on so many levels. At some point, you need to get out there and share your music, sometimes even when you’re not sure that you’re ready to do so. Networking with other musicians can be valuable, as is finding out (from audience reactions) whether you’re on the right course or maybe need to rethink the type of music you’re attempting to present or promote. Last but not least, it doesn’t hurt to donate your time and talent to worthy causes in your community. It’s not just a way to gain exposure, but can really make someone else’s day and/or help them to keep their good work going.