February, 2016
I can’t believe we’re coming up on our 25th Toronto Ravel meeting!  Since October 2013 we have been meeting every month to break bread, and study some great music. I thought it only fitting to share an email I just had from Ron Jones, founder and inspiration for this ‘idea’ called Ravel study. 

So glad what you and I started found a home in the hearts and minds of the creative community there. Feels like we are all in a family sort of, like we all can gather aound a hope for greater insight and understanding of music and its wonderful playful offspring, Orchestration.

I have actually heard quite an improvement in the level of orchestration chops among the Ravel study people in L.A. I am sure it has had a positive effect there and in the other cities.

I am nothing. It is and was you and your cats there that came together and asked what can we learn in looking deeper at the score at the process involed. I merely proposed a path, you guys traveled it and took in the wonderful sights along that path and everyone became more connected. It is that connecting part I am always the most happy with.

I will take a look again and again at the clip. How kind, how fun.

Thanks!

No Ron – thanks to YOU!
JH

November, 2015
from a blog post by our November guest, Margaret Tobolowska
“A very special community of uber talented professionals welcomed me a little over a year ago, as a new emerging composer with practically no experience under my belt, as I transitioned through a new career path.  This community of screen composers meets monthly under the passionate direction of John Herberman as the head of Toronto Ravel – just for the love of it! for pretty much that reason!!!  I remember sharing my music for the first time last year in September 2014 and how I trembled!  Today, I was invited as the special guest to do cello demos and to share my music and how I create it.  I shared Raging Red Carnations and Be Love and my heart still caught at the idea that this group was listening to my work!!  What an incredible feeling it is to have the kindness and support of your own colleagues and an amazing community help you find your way in the business with a wealth of knowledge and create some new musical friendships and partnerships along the way!  I can’t thank my fellow colleagues enough!  The passion and love shines right through.  I am both humbled and inspired by it!”

September, 2015  Scores for “Appalachian Spring
Scores for “Appalachian Spring” in the 13 Instrument original score are available from a variety of sources. Boosey and Hawkes publishes two versions; a smaller (but not pocket-sized – quite readable) version, and a larger one. The larger one is exactly the same as the smaller – page and bar numbers are identical – it’s just a bit bigger.  Long and McQuade will get the smaller one for you, in the $20 – $25 range. The larger one can be ordered from Amazon.com. It is important to order it from .com not .ca, as the price difference is huge. Amazon.com will ship to Canada if you have an account.  We will be referencing the full orchestral version during the study – this version is widely available as well if you wish to have both.

September, 2015
Adventures in Listening is a unique opportunity to get unbiased and honest feedback on your ‘in-progress’ or experimental work from a community of your professional peers. Because it is anonymous, it is a risk-free environment.  Whether you are an emerging composer or an experienced one, and whether your work is for concert or screen, I encourage you to take advantage of this invaluable resource.

At the same time, many of you are actively performing musicians or are composers with TV shows or films containing your original scores. If you would like me to mention upcoming concerts or showtimes, please see me during the first hour, and I will make the announcement during “Adventures in Listening”. This way we can get the word out while preserving the relaxed and casual atmosphere that we have created at Toronto Ravel.

NEW!   If there is something on your playlist that you would like to share with the group, bring it to Adventures in Listening.  We’ll listen to it, and you can take a minute or two to tell us what you find inspiring about it, and what lessons might be hidden in it that we can all benefit from.  Your own mini- Ravel!

June, 2015
June 2, 2015 marked the end of our 2nd great year of Toronto Ravel. Fitting that we were once again entertained by filmmaker Larry Weinstein as he shared with us footage from his upcoming doc on the saxophone and Adolphe Sax. Larry has been a strong supporter of Ravel from early on.

We have spent the last 10 months studying “Star Wars” and marvelling at John Williams’ brilliance as an orchestrator (not to mention as a composer) – I think we have all gained the kinds of insights and information that can be used in our own work as composers, arrangers and orchestrators, and especially as composers for media. In fact just recently, in working on a symphonic orchestral arrangement of “When I’m 64″, I found myself looking at what I had done and asking myself “how would JW have achieved the clarity that I am looking for with this score?”  Abandoning the ‘as much as I can throw at it’ for the ‘3 thing rule’ was a great place to start.

Toronto Ravel is now on summer hiatus. Next September, we will finish up “Star Wars”, and begin our look at Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” in the original 13-instrument ballet version of this score.  A masterpiece of economy, full of Copland’s unique, ‘break the rules’ orchestration with it’s trademark ‘Americana’ signature (largely of his own creation), this will be a fascinating study indeed. Copland has always been a musical hero of mine, exemplifying the highest artistic ideals applied to a musical language that is at once fresh and entirely comprehensible by musicians and non-musicians alike.

I hope you will join us, just for the love of gathering to study and hanging with friends and colleagues.  And, as I do often, I would like to thank all of you who attend Ravel, regularly or infrequently, for the opportunity to sit with you and study this great music. I am gratified and humbled by your trust and continuing interest.

See you at Ravel. JH

February 2, 2015
It’s Monday afternoon, and tomorrow is Ravel.  I’m up to my eyeballs in work, family, volunteer responsibilities, shovelling snow… The last thing I need today is to have to prepare for Ravel. That is, until I start.. At first I stare blankly at the score. None of my notes make sense – I can’t even remember how the darnn music goes, or so it seems.  Then, gradually, I remember;  how great this music is, how much I love diving into it, and how Ravel, once I’m ‘there’, is not a burden at all, but an oasis amongst all the ‘shoulds.’  Being out of the studio for a half day tomorrow may put a bit more time pressure on me, but it will feel like a holiday, not an obligation. 

I suspect I am not alone; I’m sure that just about everyone who comes out each month has just as much on the go as I do, and debates whether or not to make the effort.  “Maybe next month…” is the thought that enters the mind.  Happily, most resist the thought. And each month I am grateful that people come – to study and to gather with colleagues and friends – so I can keep doing this.  Because without the gathering, I wouldn’t be doing any of this.  I suspect that’s true for everyone.  So…. let’s keep doing it. Please, and thank you.  JH

January 13, 2015
Our first Ravel study of 2015 was a bit of a happy free-for-all.  We inaugurated our new monthly feature “Further Adventures in Listening”, an opportunity for the performers among us to try out new works, get some feedback on a performance piece, or just perform a favourite tune. We’ll keep it quite informal. Just let me know ahead of time that you wish to play, how long you need, and any (simple) tech requirements.

A big thank you to Bruce Cassidy for his fascinating tour of the EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument), and to him and Doug Wilde for their impromptu performance. JH

November 5, 2014
Last week, Ron Jones announced that he is stepping away from active leadership of the LA Ravel study, after 7 years at the helm, during which he never missed a meeting.  I’m sure the Ravel community there is reeling, and they are currently putting together a committee to carry on. I’ve had a few emails back and forth with Ron, and I know this has been a difficult decision for him. In the process, he has also waxed even more philosophical than normal, and I thought I’d share something he wrote;

The greatest composition is who we are. I think that music needs attention at some point. The challenge is always the same; to see what we can learn, how we can build, design, understand, or even appreciate how little we know. Oh yeah….and to care about humans, the people we love. There is no substitute for building real friends who are also composers, orchestrators and musicians. This is ultimately a human art, a human world.  The greatest composition is not a bunch of notes on a page or in a sequencer. To me, it is who we are, what we care about.  This composition lasts our whole life…”

Ron and his wife Laree have purchased a property in the mountains just north of Seattle, and Ron will now be able to concentrate on the things he loves most; writing music that matters to him, writing for and performing with his Jazz Band, spending more time on his art photography, and furthering the mission of the Academy of Scoring Arts.

All the best pal! We are indebted to you.  JH

May 21, 2014
The video is done!  A huge thanks to Tony Kosinec for all of his work on this, and to Doug Wilde and Adrain Ellis for their contribution to the effort.  To view the video, copy this link; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AQN8yoJpDI

A big thank you to all those who took the time to respond to our informal survey included in the last newsletter.  There were many great suggestions made, but by far the most consistent was to keep the study portion as intense and deep as possible.  I have taken this to heart, and hopefully you won’t be disappointed. As Ron Jones would say, we’re going to ‘wrestle this thing to the ground’ until it gives up all of its secrets, while still making our study completely accessible for those among us without extensive training.  

In the interests of promoting our little idea, Tony Kosinec has taken on the task of creating a promotional video that will be made available to all of you to post on your own Facebook pages, etc.  Stay tuned. Many thanks to Tony for this contribution.

See you at Ravel.  
JH

March 19, 2014
Toronto Ravel needs your help. There is a critical mass that will keep Ravel growing and vibrant, and you can help to make this happen.  The easiest way is simply to spread the word. I have found that the best way to do this is not just to tell people about a neat study group that you attend, but to take the time to explain what the ‘idea’ of Ravel is (see blog entry below).  The ‘idea’ will appeal to people in a way that a ‘study’ cannot.

It is important when telling people about Ravel to stress that a lot of prior knowledge is not critical to enjoying Ravel.  I like to use my lovely wife Katina as an example of a non-musician who, despite the difficulties of taking a morning off work, continues to come to Ravel meetings because she gets enough out of it to find it enjoyable and worthwhile (it sure isn’t because she just wants to spend more time with me…).

The other way you can help is by posting your experience of Ravel on your Facebook wall, and including links to this website. That way, Ravel will be introduced to a whole new group of people. Shortly, we will begin creating Facebook ‘events’ that you can invite friends to be a part of.

Help us to keep going and growing, and to sustain this unique community.

Thanks.  See you at Ravel.  JH

February 18, 2014
What is Toronto Ravel?  It seems to be time to revisit this question.

Toronto Ravel is an idea. It is an idea conceived by Ron Jones in L.A., a composer at the top of his game and profession, who looked around him and was dismayed at what he saw. For what he saw was a group of composers huddled alone in their cubby-hole studios, creating ‘ensemble’ music by themselves. And thinking that this was the best or only way to work. A devolution, not an evolution.

The key word here is ‘ensemble.’  But it doesn’t just apply to the group of musicians who might play your music.  It applies to the larger collaboration of creators that enhances what we do.  When we go to a public concert, it enhances our experience of music, and leads to creativity.  When we jam with friends, it does the same.  When we come to Toronto Ravel, we are reminded that we are part of a larger community of creative professionals. Many people have also said to me that it reminds them of why they got into this business in the first place.

Toronto Ravel is the idea that if we get a lot of musicians, composers, directors, etc. into one room, then perhaps collaborations, networks, partnerships, ideas….  You get the idea.

The study is the reason for coming into the room.  The gathering is the idea of Toronto Ravel.

Hopefully, TR will be a self-propagating force, that gradually works its way into the threads of our musical community.  In order for that to happen, the study sessions need to be interesting, engaging and fun.  That’s my job, and I look forward to continuing to do it with input from all of you.

The other ‘job’ is spreading the idea of Toronto Ravel within our circles.  It needs a critical mass to succeed, and that is what we call ‘community’.  The creation of community comes from within the community. If only I could will it into existence… but I can’t.

If you value TR, invite a few friends that you think might enjoy it.  I hope by now it is apparent that ‘schooled’ and ‘non-schooled’ musicians alike can enjoy the study. Let’s fill the room. Let’s  make this ‘idea’ a big idea.

See you at Ravel.  JH

January 15, 2014
A couple of days ago we had our first meeting at Hugh’s Room.  There seemed to be a different feeling in the room – more relaxed, more fun, more participatory.  Perhaps it’s just the comfort of settling into an enjoyable routine.  Our study was deep and thorough, with occasional flights into the more esoteric theory of Ravel’s work. Best of all were the many contributions (and challenges) from the folks in attendance; this is what Ravel is about, and I hope it continues and evolves to a point where others take more active roles in the analysis of the score.

My favourite moment; just before Reh. 78, the english horn enters to accentuate an important cadence.  After listening to the section, I asked “what just happened,” and someone said “I just got shivers down the back of my neck.” Right on!  JH

December 3, 2013 – Our New Home
Toronto Ravel has a new home! From January on we will meet at Hugh’s Room, 2261 Dundas Street West.  Here’s a summary of what the change will mean;

Cost: there will be a very slight increase in the cost; $22.50 instead of $20.  The good news is, you will be able to get receipts, which should more than offset the increase.

Reservations: reservations will be made directly through Hugh’s Room by calling (416) 531-6604. Please do not use their online reservation system.
– $22.50 credit card advance booking ($25.00 at the door) – you can book up until 7 PM the day before!
– if you have to cancel, you can do so up to 48 hours prior, and all but $2.50 will be refunded
– you must reserve for each meeting

Transit: Dundas West subway station is a mere 1 1/2 blocks north of the club. The 504 King streetcar stops at Howard Park and at Bloor Street.

Parking: currently there is free parking right across the street in the Loblaws/LCBO lot.

Our next meeting will take place Monday January 13After January, we will meet the third Tuesday of each month.  This will minimize the risk of conflicts with Hugh’s Room’s concert schedule. I sincerely hope the change of day doesn’t cause problems for anyone.

See you at Hugh’s Room!  JH

Oct. 24, 2013
The first meeting happened today, after much prep and effort.  Our guest was Ron Jones, who kept us inspired, awed and laughing for over an hour. We didn’t really get to study that much, but that will change as of the next meeting.  My heartfelt thanks to all that helped, and particularly to all that came to check it out.  I think we might be on to something here…. JH

Oct 13, 2013
I watched a fascinating online interview today, which speaks to why Toronto Ravel even exists. The interviewer was Jonathan Shields, and was part of his “The Good Life Project”.  The interviewee was Simon Sinek. Here’s the link; http://www.goodlifeproject.com.

Although it is very hard to put into words what the interview was ‘about’, the central idea was that there are 3 components to what we do; the ‘what’, the ‘how’ and the ‘why’.  Most of us can easily articulate the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, and indeed, spend most of our days (and sleepless nights) thinking about them.  But the ‘why’ – that’s often neglected, and yet is, in some ways, the first question we need to answer. That speaks to our passion, our love of whatever the activity is, the reason we are happy to get up in the morning and do it all over again. It’s what allows me to tell people that I feel lucky, because I get to do what I love, which mostly feels like play, and people actually pay me for it (well….not so much over the past couple of years, but…).

I’m more excited about Toronto Ravel than almost anything I’ve done, work-wise, in 10 or 15 years.  Why? Because it seems like such a natural fit. Because I believe in the underlying concept of sharing knowledge, creativity and resources. Because it just seems like the right thing to do. And, no coincidence, I am able to speak passionately about it, without feeling like I’m selling anything, or trying to fit someone else’s agenda or expectations.  Freelancers – you know how big this is!  I’ve been able to talk to people (…like Ron Jones…) who, if I was calling as a freelancer trying to get work, wouldn’t even pick up the phone. 

Some folks who I’ve told about the concept of the Ravel study have told me that what I really ought to be doing is charging $25 instead of $20 and keeping the $5 for myself, as payment for my efforts. Think of how that would change the dynamic, and how I would feel about everyone that attended. Ravel is free (except for the food) because it has to be. Because I’m there to learn, as much as to ‘teach’. Because the logo says “just for the love of it”. Because it’s a good thing to do, and will yield its own rewards, that, in my estimation, will far outweigh the $5 I could ‘make’ from each person there.

What is your “why?”  JH

Oct 4, 2013
Today was my day to go to the LA Ravel Study to see how Ron Jones runs his group. LA Ravel meets at Vitello’s, a very cool jazz club in the Studio City area of LA. There were two guests; Don Williams, percussionist and brother to John Williams, and Kevin Kiner, composer on, among other shows, “Clone Wars”. Today was the first study devoted to John Williams’ “Star Wars Suite”, and Don W. was able to give some pretty interesting insights into his brother’s work. Whatever your thoughts about John Williams’ filmscores, the composition and orchestration in this score is impeccable, and filled with some pretty heavy ‘learning moments’.

I was immediately struck by the atmosphere in the room, which was filled to capacity. Ron Jones has created a casual and relaxed vibe that is welcoming to everybody, regardless of success or musical background. That said, the talent in the room was deep. And, by focusing the discovery on the “why” and not the “how”, purely technical discussion was supplanted by aesthetic analysis. This approach makes the ‘teaching’ accessible to everyone, and the ‘wow’ can be experienced by all.

Everyone in the room seemed almost grateful that another Ravel Study was about to be launched, and anyone I talked to offered sincere encouragement. There seems to be a strong commitment to the philosophy of the project, and appreciation when it is introduced to a new audience.  Big shoes to fill, for sure.  JH