Thursday, December 31, 2009

What do you wanna do with your life!?

There was a time, way back in the day, when MTV (Music Television) actually played music videos instead of constant re-runs of "The Real World", "Parental Control" or "MTV Cribs". Who cares about these pathetic people? Anyway, one of the classic videos was by a hair band named Twisted Sister. At the beginning of the video a boy of about 13 years of age is in his bedroom with his father spewing angry verbage at him, saliva flying everywhere. After mentioning something about carrying an M-16 in Vietnam the dad concludes his diatribe with the question "what do you wanna do with your life!?"

As I was in the early stages of this project I did a lot of listening to "Rite of Spring" and lots of following along with the score. Each part was quite different in melodic material, harmony, tempo, instrumentation and length. This would beg the question as to what I wanted to do with this part. Some parts are quite difficult to figure out what to do with in arranging it for a jazz band. Others a little more obviuos. Part two, "Dances Of The Young Girls" was painfully obvious. And the answer was the same as the one given by that 13 year old boy in the Twisted Sister video. "I wanna rock!!!!!"

Yeah, that's right, I wanna bang my head. The basses in the orchestra are sawing away, all powerful downstrokes, on these open fifths, the notes E and B, sounding much like an overdriven electric guitar slung down to the knees of some long haired, pimply face teenage boy rocking out in his parents basement. Well guess what? A jazz band has an electric guitar. And drums!! The French Horn punches get coverd by most of the horns like a second guitar punching in some crunchy power chords. A dancy little stacatto line by the English Horn is played by three saxes, playing it with more punch and some rhythmic variation making it more syncopated. The basic chord over the open fifths is an Eb 7(#9). Nice dissonance. The over that the bassons arpegiate a C major triad and an E minor triad. This is covered by tenor 2 and bari, again with a little rhythmic variation. The oboes play an almost fanfare type line. How much fanfare can an oboe produce. Enter 2 trumpets double by screaming guitar.

Now an eighth note part in the cellos in covered by trombone 3 & 4 and a triplet part in the violas is covered by trombone 1 & 2. The parts are typical string parts in that they play without break and the rhythm remains static. I not only syncopate the rhythm but I also turn it into a hemiola. Both parts play a three against four figure. The bass is covering the actual Stravinsky bass part and is also playing three against four. However, it doesn't really have anything to do with what the bones are doing. On top of that trumpets 1 and 2 cover an arpegiated line in the piccolos and A and Bb clarinets. The saxes are continuing the english horn part and this all stacks up into some serious rock and roll cacophony.

Now trumpets 1 & 2 play a high descending line and the whole band comes together for two punches and we are back to the intro vamp for four bars. And now ladies and gentlemen, the guitar solo. A screaming solo on Eb 7(#9)/E. Backgrounds used are figures from the piece. A bassoon line again for the saxes. And again the rhythm is changed. Little bleaps and blops in the piccolos are given to the trumpets and become more forceful. The solo climaxes with two fermattas on #9 chords. Then it's off into double time swing. A descending line is handed off through the sections as it descends further. The same english horn line from before appears and now the syncopation is changed slightly to make it a swing figure. The same strange bassoon arpegios are there two played by the tenors with a new alteration to include a change in placement using anticipation.

At this point in the score the first real melody of this part appears in the french horns. I give it at first to the trumpets. A swing version, but a singable melody. Finally. A few little odds and ends appear and the melody gets repeated. Here I give this line to the saxes 1-3. I do it in cannon form. The three parts stack well. Here another melody emerges in the C trumpets in two part harmony. This melody will appear again in part four. I score it for trumpets. Imagine that. Meanwhile, the bones are again playing a three over four type figure.

These melodies suddenly stop and the violas begin a tricky chromatic sixteenth note line. I'm in double time so the 16ths become 8ths. The line is too long without fro horns to play without a break so it gets handed back and forth between couplings of alto and tenor sax. Now the first "melody" gets screamed over a dominant pedal and we send the trombone off on a solo excursion. Typical background figures, sometimes relating to the piece, accent the last solo chorus. After this solo the band is in overdrive to the end. Couplings of saxes play a melody echoing back and forth. The bones play an E min 7 (b5) and D7 back and forth in swinging punches. These were french horn chords. The bari, piano and guitar cover a viola line, two different groups of four descending notes, which becomes very swinging. I just have to put in small breaks so the bari player can breathe. The oboes have a chromatic 16th note line that goes up and down over four beats, covering an interval of a minor sixth. This gets played and repeated by the trumpets. Trumpet 1 takes it up an octave every other time. The bass is playing a written line of quarter notes and the drums are swinging hard with a back beat at this point. The band is at a full romp.

This romping feel reminded me of a recording by The Either/Orchestra of a Henry Threadgill composition called "The Hard Blues". On their version they come to a tight, hard ending. It cuts quick and short. However, it's a false ending. They come back in with no prep and end it again. Then once more. Perhaps a tip of the hat to Basie's "April In Paris" without the "One more once". I decide this is a good idea for this chart and have three false endings with varying lengths of silence before the music returns. The fouth time is a charm. (The real ending)

So, Twisted Sister just might dig this part. And if I ever do a video of Rite of Spring for MTV perhaps I'll spoof their video and have a little talking head of Igor pop up and shout, "I wanna rock!" But I'm not about to wear spandex.

1 comment:

  1. Correction :

    "The Hard Blues" is by late great saxophonist Julius Hemphill not Threadgill