What the composer/arranger wants...

Discussion in 'Jazz / Commercial' started by stewmuse, Dec 26, 2004.

  1. stewmuse

    stewmuse Pianissimo User

    Apr 28, 2004
    NW Chicago
    ...is only partially relevant.

    Many of you know that I am a writer (comp & arranging). As such, you might think that I am very much in the "play what's on the page camp." I am not.

    How many of you REALLY only play what's on the page? Are all of the following always marked in your part in a clear and specific manner?
    1. dynamics - not just the starting pitch of a phrase, but each specific crescendo or decrescendo you might play over the course of the phrase;
    of course, exactly how loud is piano or forte?
    2. vibrato - speed, style, width, when to start or finish?
    3. sound - bright, dark, widening, thinning?
    4. articulation - does the front of a note "bounce" or is it "flat," exactly HOW short or long do you play each note
    5. pitch - esp. jazz, do you ever bend a note at all
    6. rhythm - exactly how does notate a laid-back feel?
    7. who's most important at each moment
    8. How fast or wide is that shake?

    These are just the things that immediately popped into my head. There are many other specific questions and situations that come up regularly. Most of the answers to these are simply arrived at by PLAYING the song in the way that sounds best to you, your fellow musicians, and your director. There is rarely only one right answer.

    The arranger may have had (hopefully, anyways) specifically personnel or levels of musicianship in mind. I know that in writing things for my high school band (I direct) I put things in that are specifically playable by my personnel, even if I'd love to have it up an octave or in another fashion. Maybe the band he wrote the chart for didn't have a strong lead player, so he didn't put anything upstairs. That doesn't mean he wouldn't necessarily want it. Your personal EXPERIENCE should provide you these answers. If you don't really have the experience or familiarity (thru recordings, etc.) of a particular genre, tune, band, or arranger, then you should play it safe and stay close to the page.

    Obviously, the disposition of your band leader is of paramount importance, and should be a significant factor in your decisions.

    As an aside, I can't remember HOW many times I've been in a group where someone asked question of the conductor and was told "that's the way the comp/arr. wanted it." First, it's most likely that he/she doesn't really KNOW that person, or even their style. Secondly, it's often those same conductors who will simply ignore other specific instructions by the writer (esp. tempos). Again, let your personal experience and skills dictate when you change the music at hand.

    MUSICandCHARACTER Forte User

    Jan 31, 2004
    Newburgh, Indiana
    My late father-in-law and late mother-in-law were extraordinary musicians in the Hollywood music industry and in church music. My father-in-law, Jack Halloran, was the director of music for the Dean Martin show, did the choral music for many movies (including How the West Was Won, etc.). My mother-in-law was an excellent piano player and composer, plus she accompanied the Robert Shaw Chorale.

    Now she would often write church music -- outstanding stuff. Jack was the church choir director and she was the organist/pianist. She would write something and then the "battle" would ensue.

    Jack said, once the composer was done, it was up to the director to make it work for the group. My mother-in-law, Ellarose, always argued "Why did I write the dynamics and tempo markings then?"

    It was great two see to very accomplished musicians have the little fun together, but it always brings up the question, who interprets the music. Is the composer the primary person, the director, or the player? The answer is "yes." I direct our community band and my church choir. I take fast tempos faster than written and slow tempos a bit slower. I am weird that way.

    Sometimes, the band and the choir actually follow me :whistle:

    Good subject!

  3. Robert Rowe

    Robert Rowe Mezzo Piano User

    Dec 24, 2004
    If I'm playing for someone (leader, conductor, composer, etc), I want to know how they want it played ... and usually try to do so -- unless I believe I can contribute an interesting alternative (rarely).

    When playing my own material (for performance), I "modify" it as I go, and/or when "the feeling" moves me.

    When playing someone else's material, I try to find an interesting variation on the theme. I am reminded of Ray Charles' rendition of "America, The Beautiful". I literally "cringe" when hearing the supposed- "divas" do "The Star Spangled Banner" ... lots of showing-off and vocal gymnastics .... best they save that stuff for Sunday mornings in the Gospel Choir.

    It's refreshing to hear genuine "expression", with an original sound.... I work very hard at it.


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