Sunday, January 10, 2010

Repent, the end is near.

I'm getting close. Oh, so close. I can see it. I can smell it. I can almost taste it. It's really a good feeling. A week ago I finished part 12. That's 12 out of 14. Only two to go.

So why am I not just a little bit more excited? Perhaps it's because there is still so much more work after the music is written. There are 17 musicians that have to be assembled. Rehearsals have to be scheduled around all their schedules. Music has to be worked out. There are master classes I'll be preparing for at some local universities. Publicity to be done. A podcast to do. All kinds of things to take care of. Plus there is just quite a bit of time still until the actual performance.

But I think the real reason why I'm not quite so excited is that there is a bit of anxiety as to how this whole thing will come off. I've spent a lot of hours working on this. A lot. Will it really be any good? We all know that Stravinsky's work is considered a masterpiece. Am I doing this work justice? Stravinsky wrote something new and different. Will my arrangement sound like anything new? Or will it just sound like a bunch of big band charts? By the way, I'm so trying to avoid writing "charts". Not only on this project but in general with my writing for jazz orchestra. Charts are what writers have done for most of the history of big bands. They take a tune, someone else's or one of there own. Then they write an arrangement. They assign melodies and create counter lines. Perhaps introduce new harmony. Compress or elongate phrases. Insert solo sections. Write backgrounds, interludes, intros and endings. And after all is said and done the guys in the band will say "nice chart". But it is still an arrangement, not a composition for jazz orchestra. A tune that is arranged for big band almost always sounds like a tune that's arranged for big band. They virtually never have the feeling or the sense of a journey that can be created by putting paper to pen for the whole band before writing a "tune".

It is this desire or goal in my "original" writing that makes me anxious about this whole project. I would hate for it to sound like charts. No charts! If people hear this and it reminds them of Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson, Woody Herman, or, God forbid, Bob Mintzer, I will have failed immensely. So much of what those bands did though the second half of the twentieth century was to emphasize the showy part of big bands. High, fast, loud, slick. In general I hate that part of big band music. Sure there is physical excitement. And there is certainly a place for that. But I'm far more concerned about the subtleties. The musicality. And most importantly, the emotional content. Deep emotional content. Beauty, grace, joy, anger, wonder. The things of life. Physical excitement generates a more immediate and vocal response from the audience. They will appear to have enjoyed it more than a crowd hearing a more challenging and emotional program. But when the crowd has had a deeper emotional experience it will be a more lasting experience. Emotional content will have them listening intently over and over again, finding new things in the music. Physical excitement brings them back when they are looking for a cheap thrill but rarely rewards this listener with anything more.

So, I'm closing in on finishing the actual writing. After that it's out there for the world to judge. Will I have written music or will it be just a bunch of charts. The end is near. My time to repent is running out. But I think I will follow this road to it's final destination. We shall see if leads me to glory or perdition.

Post Script: Some rehearsal recordings have been posted at Go have a listen and tell me what you think.

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