When my father-in-law passed away, my wife ended up with a bar ornament that her father possessed.  It is about 8 inches high -- a dragon with spread wings and holding some kind of hops-related plant in its claw (broken off years before we acquired it).  On its base there are the words: "Dragon's Blood, Brewed By Flowers".  Here is a photo:

In Dec. 2011 David Mallory (a musical theater composer) wrote a thought-provoking piece in HowlRound.com, titled:  A Slushy in the Face: Musical Theater Music and the Uncool.  Here is the link:


In it he reviews the history of musicals and concludes that, in spite of their popularity,  most musicals are considered "uncool" by the general listening audience (at least those who read Rolling Stone andWired).  What he critiques is what he calls the traditional Broadway sound that musical theater composers tend to produce (while the majority of listeners outside of this genre were listening to Led Zeppelin II or Miles Davis' Bitches Brew).  Mallory complains about a trend in musicals that become parodies of themselves (such as The Book of Mormon).  As he states, instead of

After writing, composing and producing the radio-play version  of my Dragon's Blood (DB) musical, I came upon David Spencer's book: The Musical Theatre Writer's Survival Guide (2005). I recommend it to anyone trying to write a musical.  In addition to advice about working with directors, producers, agents, performers, and how to format a script, he lists (in Chapter 4) 10 features that, he claims, all successful musicals must have.  I went through these 10 to see if my musical conforms to them and, happily, I think it does.  These are:

1. Hero/heroine with a very ambitious goal -- In DB, the vampire Vandar wants to become human, which is quite ambitious. 

2. Supporting characters with unique desires/characteristics --  Angela, for example, has a strange, genetic disorder, for which she wants to find a cure. 

3. Story that is character-driven (vs. plot-driven) --  Each character in DB does what they do because 

Having written my first musical, DRAGON'S BLOOD  (a 2.5 hr work, with 24 musical numbers in it), I have formed a few thoughts in this area:

The Difference Between Musicals and Operas

I've looked at a lot of comments on the web (e.g. operas have "high-brow" music and themes, while musical theater is more "low-brow".)   However, there are many exceptions to most distinguishing characteristics people come up with.

My criterion for distinguishing is simple:  If the dialog is sung, then it is an opera.  If the dialog is spoken, then it is a musical.  

Personally, I find that the melodic lines sung during the dialog segments of many operas are not on par with the songs and so I prefer dialog to be spoken and I prefer songs to be self-contained.

There are Two Different Ways To Write Musicals:

The standard method is:  Generate the characters and the plot and then write all of the songs to fit them.  

An alternative method is:   

ANOTHER KIND OF BLUES (Jazzy Blues) - Michael Dyer (c) 2013


In an earlier blog I mentioned different genres of blues.  Well, I left out one (an important and interesting one), namely, jazzy blues.


Over the last year I have gotten interested in a subset of songs that belong to what is commonly called "The Great American Jazz Songbook".  I have been exploring the musical structure of famous jazz songs from the 20s ("Ain't Misbehavin' - Fats Waller), from the 30s ("It Don't Mean A Thing" and "Sophisticated Lady" - Duke Ellington),



Michael Dyer

© 2011

On June 10, 2010 Jim Fusilli (rock and pop music critic for the Wall Street Journal) wrote an article, titled: "Lamenting The Future Of Blues".  The URL to this article is:  


He wrote about what he experienced when he went to Memphis to attend a Blues Foundation event. There, he heard many forms of classic/traditional blues (Chicago blues, Delta blues, Texas blues) but he complained that he didn't hear any new kind of blues.  He stated:  "Today's blues music isn't only steeped in the past; it's anchored to it.".

He interviewed various blues spokesmen, who stated that blues fans don't want innovation; that blues gets less and less airplay, and that classic blues artists don't interact enough with artists from other music genres.   Fusilli argued


20 Pitfalls To Avoid When Making Rock Music

Michael Dyer

© 2008

For the past few years I've been involved in producing my own songs and during that time I didn't listen very much to the music of others within my own genre -- that of rock music broadly construed. (My taste includes many rock subgenres, such as bluesy rock, soft-rock, folk-rock, electronic rock, new age rock, metal rock, Americana rock, and so on). A few months ago I decided to spend at least an hour each day listening to the music of others. My sources were archives of music radio pod casts and the thousands of EPKs (electronic press kits) available on websites specialized for musicians. (Artists commonly include several songs within their EPKs.). I have avoided sites like MySpace because I wanted to examine the music of indie musicians who are way past the "high school garage band" stage but, at the same time, are not famous.

I've discovered that I can sample a 4-minute song within about 60 seconds. So I can sample about 50 songs an hour. Thus, I was able to explore over 1500 songs a month. I always listened to the beginning, and at least to one or more of the vocal and instrumental segments. Of course, there is no disputing taste and so my complaints will reveal my own taste and biases, but after having listened to over three thousand songs within a relatively short period of time, I have the following observations to make about what I consider pitfalls in the composition and performance of songs within the rock genre.

But before I do, let me point out that this listening exercise made me recognize weaknesses in my own compositions, arrangements and performance. I have to admit that some of my own songs suffer from the pitfalls I mention below. I survey these pitfalls for three reasons: 

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