Sat | Mar 25, 2023

Music writing needs skills development

Published:Tuesday | April 24, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke/Gleaner Writer
Joy Fairclough speaking about Making a Career in Music Writing at the JAMPRO building, Trafalgar Road, New Kingston, on Monday.

The picture Joy Fairclough painted of music writing competence in Jamaica, was overwhelmingly bleak as she pointed out the deficiencies of skilled persons to the audience at the JAMPRO building, Trafalgar Road, New Kingston, on Monday morning.

Fairclough, a musician, educator and administrator, was speaking about 'Making a Career in Music Writing,' as she participated in The Business of Writing Seminar, held on World Book and Copyright Day, a part of the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office's (JIPO) 2018 week of activities.

Fairclough described the process of writing music as "word painting with music. Everything that you can think of as a word, there is a note or set of notes to represent it."

Among the major skill shortfalls are: composer, arranger (who she likened to a book editor), typesetter (equivalent to the scribe) "who has to be very, very accurate"; music book editor and music critic, among whose functions it is to review the book. All those roles require the ability to read music, but that is just the start, as Fairclough outlined a level of development which can take decades.


Overlap and overwork


"Who is going to be the book editor if we have no scribes trained?" Fairclough asked. In the absence of sufficiently trained persons, there is overlap and overwork, as, she said, "What happens is that the some persons are doing all the roles." Then there is the matter of printing the music, which costs significantly more in Jamaica than the United States, for example, in addition to matters of quality and software compatibility.

Still, it was not all doom and gloom, as Fairclough gave a comprehensive overview of the multiplicity of roles in the music business. She beamed and shouted "hooray!" as she spoke about the music union, the Jamaica Federation of Musicians and Affiliates Union (JFMAU). With marketing and promotions, agents and publishers among the required roles, Fairclough worked her way to the music store, of which there are very, very few in Jamaica. This means that having gone through the process of writing music, "you still have to market it yourself or you will get no sales."

After outlining an exhaustive list of subject areas required for the multiple music roles, Fairclough said, "You have to be a master of subjects."

It begins with reading and that in turn informs the lyrics writing process," as Fairclough said more experienced and established artistes invariably tell younger ones to read. "You can't write of you don't read. That is what they tell all the young artistes coming into the studio," she said.

And there is another kind of writing that is crucial to music as well, Fairclough emphasising the importance of written agreements about song ownership and ensuring that contracts are in place.