The Little Things

Posted: March 23, 2013 in Uncategorized
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The Little Things

I got a call this morning from our magnificent orchestrator, as I do every morning before she begins work on another tune. Even though we’ve gone though the score, she always takes the time to ask any questions that may clarify her orchestral ideas about the particular song she sets out to work on that day. Now I should preface this, I come from a background heavily weighted and influenced by music theory. She, in addition to being a brilliant musician, having studied as a classical pianist, is no stranger to analysis. But her question about a particular harmony really struck a chord (bad pun).

The Memory Show is not necessarily characterized as a conventional Musical Theatre score. Some songs have pan-tonal aspects and some use straightforward harmonic progressions. The piece as a whole uses and develops themes to drive the dramatic arc of the show. However, sometimes when I write I: 1) write without knowing what the hell it is theoretically and 2) over complicate. On the former, I think that’s ok sometimes. You like the sound, write it down. But this was unnecessarily weird and unstable in a song that is dramatically and tonally stable.   Also, interestingly enough, this is a song that has been performed many times outside the context of the show and hasn’t changed a note since our first draft and no one ever mentioned this particular harmony (not that it was any one’s responsibility to, just was interesting).  On the phone she patiently waited while I figured out how it was supposed to function and I, unsurprisingly, discovered that she was totally correct. It was a pretty thin and unfulfilled (or I suppose unresolved) tritone substitution (so that the two bars should be acting as II-V that deceptively resolves to IV as the tune continues).

In order to make this not only more stable and clear, but also to complement the overall goal of creating a more groove based tune I decided to simplify and go straight from II-V(susb9) and then walk the bass down to Ab through an altered Am7.

Nothing groundbreaking, just a small example, not only of how great collaboration can be, but how a piece is never done, just finished for now.







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