Obi-Wan: a John Williams Masterpiece.

It is a surprise to none what a massive fan of Maestro John Williams I am. Since first hearing his new theme for Obi-Wan Kenobi it’s been a slow burn, but yesterday it hit me.

Different from almost all the other main Star Wars character themes (Solo excluded) which were written for a first appearance, Kenobi’s theme is like the retelling of an entire life journey; fitting as we consider Maestro Williams’ own incredible saga.

“Obi-Wan” is majestic and regal (as for a Jedi Master), yet it weeps with the sorrow and despair of battles, lives, and dear friends lost. There is a clear progression towards a moment of decision; the time to re-engage. Finally, the piece closes with a hint towards the nobility and ”purpose rediscovered”, perhaps of his final moments confronting Vader in A New Hope?

This is a masterpiece.


May 1st, 2022 was the official start to my 31st year with Roland Corporation. Over these three decades, I have been given the opportunity to learn, challenge, and grow in ways I could never have imagined, and I am deeply thankful to so many. In 1997 I also met my wife during her brief Roland career, and we just celebrated 23 years of marriage, so that’s pretty good!

In my first decade with Roland I was privileged to work as a Product Specialist, and was given the opportunity to inspire people across Canada and into the USA with new instruments, applications, and solutions. During this time I was intentional with writing original music for every product I demonstrated. This era was when I was most prolific musically, as I reveled in the challenge of limiting myself to one instrument and a sequencer (the mighty Roland Micro Composer!), often facing ridiculous deadlines and a stream of firmware updates as I went. I LOVED IT.

I have not been able to find audio recordings of everything from this era, but I have found some, and I am going to start sharing with my friends (because why not?). These recordings have not been processed or mastered in any way; the audio outputs of whatever instrument I was working with were usually connected straight to a DAT (Digital Audio Tape Recorder), and I simply pressed play.

The first to be shared is a collection of songs I wrote which were published by Roland globally as a GS Format “Standard MIDI File” album (on floppy disk!) in the early 90’s. Everything was created on and for a Roland SoundCanvas synthesizer, with sound design being done using the MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) equivalent of assembly language known as System Exclusive and Non-registered Parameter Numbers (yawn). One or two of these songs were performed live to groups small and very large- fun!

The song Remix on Io has an interesting story. My “album” needed one more song, but I had been afflicted with severe tendonitis on a product tour and could not play with my right hand at all. My solution? Create a new version of the album’s first tune by copying, editing, rearranging, and playing any new parts only with my left hand. Micro Composer Achievement Unlocked!

Anyway, if you like progressive electronic music with rock tinges, perhaps you’ll enjoy Twenty Sixty-One, and if you don’t, there’s not much I can do about that now! Onward…


Heartfelt global response to the recent tragic passing of Tim “Avicii” Bergling is testament to the massive impact the late DJ/Producer had on dance music and culture. The nature of this response, especially that which flowed from fellow DJ/Producers, has caused me to reflect on the accelerated culture within which we now live.

As news of the artist’s passing fanned out through social media, I was struck by the number of today’s EDM superstars, including Martin Garrix, whom have cited Bergling as their biggest inspiration and main reason for choosing music as a career. If we were speaking of Rock Guitar, such tributes would likely be reserved for the likes of Eric Clapton (73), Jimmy Page (74), Keith Richards (74), and select other iconic septuagenarians. Tim Bergling was 28 years old.

Internet-fuelled digital disruption has allowed the creative voices of savvy artists (supported by savvy managers) to reach and influence all corners of the earth at lightening speed. By way of contrast, while Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart passed away in 1791 at the age of 35, most would concur that it was not until the 20th century when his influence and impact could clearly be felt and documented.

At the risk of sounding insensitive in the shadow of his recent passing, trust that I am not intending to compare the overall musical and cultural influence of Bergling to Mozart; only time will tell whether their is a legitimate connection to be made. What has struck me, however, is that the influence of Tim “Avicii” Bergling has been felt by millions of aspiring creators from every corner of the world almost instantly. This is Culture ACCELERATED.

Mr. K

What’s in a letter? In the world of music, if that letter is K as in ” Mr. K”, or “Ikutaro Kakehashi”, founder of Roland Corporation and inventor of the legendary “808” drum machine, well, everything.

Kakehashi-san (whose name most appropriately translates to “Bridge”) passed away on April 1st at the age of 87. The worldwide outpouring of emotion and tremendous respect from musicians, inventors, competitors, and more has been awe-inspiring- there can be no doubt that his legacy will endure forever.

While most in the world of electronic music will be familiar with his all-in personal commitment to inspiring creativity and “designing the future”, Mr. K was, despite his humble watch repairman heritage, a commanding and world-class business leader. His vision, wisdom, and skill, gained as much through adversity and failure as by his countless successes, grew Roland into a global powerhouse corporation over four decades.

In my 25 years with Roland, I am fortunate to have spent many hours in the presence of Mr. K. To say that he was an influence would be an understatement of the highest order; the guiding principles that he etched into me and others shape my decisions and actions every day.

While by no means an exhaustive list, here are a few of my favourite life lessons, brought to you today by the letter K…

Value face time.

When I joined Roland Canada, it was common to see Mr. K in our Vancouver Headquarters once or twice each year. During these visits, he would take time to walk around and enter into casual conversation with team members (it was always a thrill when he stopped to speak with me!).

In the days after his passing, social media was filled with people from across the world- Roland colleagues, musicians, retailers, and more- all claiming a personal connection with Mr. K, and many recounting multiple in-person exchanges.

How did this man, operating on one lung for most of his adult life, achieve such personal connectivity? The answer is simple but not easy: he made it his priority and committed to it.

Having started his professional life operating a tiny watch and appliance repair shop in Osaka, I suspect that Mr. K learned the value of realtime personal connection early on, and this influenced his entire life (for those that knew him, think about how many times Mr. K talked about the concept of “realtime” when describing product designs!).

In his last years with Roland, even as his health prevented him from traveling outside of Japan, face-to-face was replaced with “the phone call”- not as effective as in-person, but somehow, Mr. K still managed to create a sense of immediacy and connection.

While I have championed new communications technologies and worn the wounds of a pioneer at times, with a nod to Mr. K, I will always encourage myself and others to prioritize “Real Face Time” whenever and wherever possible.

Respect the artist.

Being personally privileged to have participated in many R&D conversations with Mr. K, there were a few “Roland Truths” that we dared not challenge (usually). At the very top of the list was a ban on any design concept that would require the established musician to significantly modify their playing technique.

Simply put, Mr. K would say that the musician had spent most of his or her life learning their craft, and it was not our way to ask them to change- to walk towards us. To the contrary, Kakehashi-san would challenge us to deeply understand and respect the musicians technique, concluding that “Roland MUST approach the musician, not the other way around!”.

This principle connects directly with his personal value of face-to-face communications, as Mr. K devoted much of his life to meeting directly with (and learning from) musicians, and he truly did listen more than he talked, as was my experience. Many Roland colleagues will have fond memories of Mr. K holding court with guitar players, drummers, DJ’s, pianists, and more- none was safe!

Share vision and wisdom freely at every opportunity.

For myself and others, Mr. K was a teacher, and it seemed so clear to me that seeing his “students” succeed brought him incredible joy.

My own experience of Mr. K’s teaching was that he often (but not always!) left the details (the step-by-step) for others, choosing instead to focus on the big picture- the guiding principles that defined for him what it truly meant to be Roland. And, he would deliver his wisdom and insight freely both inside and outside of the company.

For me, this willingness to share what he had learned, to communicate his principles, may end up being his enduring legacy. Perhaps more than anyone I have ever met, Mr. K believed in bringing others along and partnering with intention; it was his firmly held belief that in this kind of culture, _everyone_ would benefit. The history of MIDI itself is but one example of this proving itself true…

Just start.

There have been many phrases turned around the concept of getting going, from Nike’s “Just Do It”, to Seth Godin’s “Ship It”, and more. Predating all of these for me were words from Mr. K that, for a long time, despite their seeming simplicity, I did not fully embrace (or, as Mr. K would say- “I had chewed, but I had not swallowed!).

Often introduced to some planning discussion that had either lost itself in endless detail or been hung up in the pursuit of a perfect plan, Mr. K would interject with: “Just start. JUST START!”.

This urge to “just start” should not be taken as a willingness by Mr. K to proceed without due consideration of risk and return, or the presence of critical details. Not at all. What Mr. K knew deeply was that, with the target properly identified and guiding principles deeply understood, “Just Starting” would allow us to build momentum towards the goal (even if it was slowly), and to make and learn from mistakes (and he completely accepted that mistakes would be made- there was no perfect plan!).

Roland history is full of examples where the first, and sometimes even the second and third versions of a new product were not well accepted, but the willingness to start, then learn from mistakes, eventually brought artistic and commercial success (V-Drums, V-Studio, and our current range of digital video solutions are but a few examples).

What’s in a letter? In the world of music, if that letter is K as in ” Mr. K”, or “Ikutaro Kakehashi”, founder of Roland Corporation and inventor of the legendary “808” drum machine, well, everything.

Postscript: As a result of his commitment to sharing freely, Kakehasi-san’s vision for a future of Inspired Creativity will live on through the efforts of thousands worldwide, hopefully including myself – PM

The Shift: Wrestling the Ethics of Streaming

I am a musician and writer. I don’t make a living off of my content, but many of my friends and customers do. With this in mind, I have always purchased the music and media I consumed (okay, there was that brief period before Battlestar Galactica was airing on Canadian television where I might have experimented with torrents…).

With my precious music, even as my friends were listening to everything under the sun for free as they tapped services like Napster and Limewire, I paid for every disc, and then every download, without exception.

With this in mind, as Spotify and Apple Music launched in Canada (and facing incredible temptation), I began to wrestle in earnest with the ethics of streaming. I immersed myself in the arguments, admittedly leaning towards the voice of the artist/content creator. I read as much as I could about the distribution of revenue and the “fractions of pennies” creators were receiving per stream.

And then The Shift hit me…

As it had done and continues to do in so many aspects of life and business, technology had disrupted the music industry in a profound and permanent way, and there would be no turning back. More than the Compact Disc, more than the download, more than digital/satellite radio, streaming had triggered a paradigm shift in media distribution and consumption. No Turning Back.

Lamenting the passing of a revenue model based on the the sale of physical media is pointless- it will be akin to mourning the demise of the internal combustion engine 10 years from now, or arguing against Microsoft’s imminent dominance of the consumer over Apple (am I being provocative?). While the shift was triggered by technology- lightweight data, high bandwidth, always-on and connected mobile devices- its staying power is supported by generational culture.

For most Millennials and Gen-Z’s, “ownership” of physical items is not nearly as important as it is/was for Gen-X and Boomers. In the Experience Economy, ownership really means “ownership of access”- I can get my data, my music, my movies wherever and whenever I want. What is “owned” is the access to the data, not the data itself. Combine that with the power of choice- there is nothing I can’t listen to, the moment I discover it- and the argument is beyond compelling; it becomes a paradigm shift. The Shift. 

Please understand that my deep care for the content creator is stronger than ever, and it is from that deep caring place that I applaud the thousands of artists that have recognized The Shift and are exploring totally new ways to sustain themselves (the return of the live show, merchandise, house concerts, licensing, and more). I also believe there is a role for the governments of advanced economies to play in bringing new levels and types of support to the content creator in this emerging Conceptual Age (thank you, Dan Pink), but this may be the subject of a future post.

Now please excuse me as I check to see what the human curators at Apple Music have picked for me to enjoy this morning…