Livin’ On The Edge at Stuyvesant High School

(left to right) SHOF Education Special Projects Committee member Joe Abrams, Steve Greenberg, SHOF 's April Anderson, Mark Hudson, committee member Jamie Dominguez, Stuyvesant's Harold Stephan and committee member Adam Epstein.

By April Anderson

Stuyvesant music and art students had an exceptional treat on Wednesday, November 14, when the second Songwriters Hall of Fame Master Session took place with special guests and GRAMMY Award winners Steve Greenberg, President, S-Curve Records, who discovered and produced Joss Stone, Andy Grammer, Hanson, the Jonas Brothers and more, including the hit song “Who Let The Dogs Out” – (Baha Men), and songwriter/producer Mark Hudson, co-writer of “Livin’ On The Edge” (Aerosmith), “The Reason” (Celine Dion), and producer of  hit albums for Ozzie Osbourne, Ringo Starr, Baha Men and more. The event was hosted and moderated by Stuyvesant's Vocal Music & Music Technology professor, Harold Stephan.

After the panelists took the stage, Stephan called up three pre-selected students who each performed their original songs for critique by Greenberg and Hudson. Grace Goldstein performed her song “Amber Seaglass,” “Weak” by Chris Brown was sung by Zeynep Bromberg and Morris Raskin’s prerecorded song “The Way It Goes” was played.

Greenberg asked the students what they were envisioning when they were writing their songs and talked about what he was "hearing" while listening to them. He advised them to not "get stuck" and be open to where their songs could go when produced, which could possibly be an entirely different way. Greenberg then asked about what genre they might have had in mind, and said they shouldn't worry too much as to which their songs might fit into because "if it's amazing and brilliant the world will come around to you." 

Hudson explained the difference between songwriters and performing songwriters and advised student's to "always tell the truth," and "be true to yourself" when writing. He asked about their influences and spoke of how he heard that in their songs. He suggested a bridge or "middle eight" to use as a departure from the rest of the song, bringing it to a "whole other level" and then weaving it back into the rest of the song. He said "don't be afraid to rewrite." Hudson spoke about inspiration and how a songwriter he knows goes to newsstands and looks at the magazine and newspaper titles for ideas. He said one should always "search for words" to make a song shine.

Both Greenberg and Hudson told stories of their experiences writing and producing some of their biggest hits.

Stephan then launched a presentation of the new A.I. technology as it relates to music and demoed tools that can be used by songwriters to overcome writer's block. For the "Music by A.I." demo, the chorus melody from Mark Hudson's song "Livin' On The Edge" was fed into The Watson Beat by IBM and computer programmer Janani Mukundan. The Watson Beat then created musical arrangements in various styles based on "Livin' On The Edge."  Since The Watson Beat outputs MIDI files which can be pulled into applications like GarageBand, it is a perfect collaboration tool for songwriters. For the 'Lyrics by A.I." demo, Stephan trained open source A.I. software called Encore.AI with Aerosmith's lyrics. Encore.AI learned how the band writes lyrics, including words, phrases, rhyme schemes and line breaks. After the Aerosmith training, Encore.AI could write an unlimited number of fresh lyrics in the style of Aerosmith on demand. After the demonstration, Greenberg discussed ownership of the lyrics or music that is output by the A.I. format, as well as the issue of “revolutionary changes” in music, and questioned where the “rule breaker” would come in to play to create new sounds. He felt A.I. in general is limited in that respect. Hudson said what is missing is “what is coming from the inside out. Songwriting is an art form that comes from your heart and soul.”

The students were then able to interact with Greenberg and Hudson in a Q and A session, and a student song medley of Greenberg and Hudson hits was the finale of the program, featuring Dylan Mak (guitar & vocals), Meredith Silfen (vocals) and Roshnie Rupnarain (vocals), performing "Tears In Heaven," "Livin' On The Edge," "Honey, I'm Good" and "Who Let The Dogs Out."

In attendance were the members of the SHOF Education Special Projects Committee which includes committee Executive Director and SHOF Marketing/Communications Director April Anderson, Stuyvesant's Vocal Music & Music Technology professor and SHOF Education Special Projects Committee Co-Executive Director Harold Stephan, Joe Abrams, Jamie Dominguez and Adam Epstein.