The Augmented Fifth – 4/8/2018
Sunday, April 8, 2018 – Issue 23
What’s that? You say that we can’t possibly have the time to perform three shows at once? Well that’s where you’re wrong, bucko! We’ve got some old and some new this week so feel free to bring something blue for us to borrow when you come see our shows this week!
Edgewood Middle School
$20 General Admission, $10 Students
Arranging for Alash – written by Parker Nelson
So as most of you know by now, Fifth House received a grant from The MacArthur Foundation’s International Connections Fund to work with the Tuvan throat singing group, Alash Ensemble, next season. This is an incredible opportunity for both groups and we have already begun to schedule meetings and workshops to understand each other better. Obviously, this project is leading towards, at the very least, live performances together. Through some initial meetings, Dan and the rest of the artistic team have pinpointed some of Alash’s songs that we will adapt for Fifth House for our first in person visit in just two weeks! I have been tasked with creating the arrangements and transcriptions for this first meeting and, as luck would have it, I’ve just finished those today!
This project marks the third time I’ve done arranging projects for Fifth House. I get a lot of questions about tips and tricks, books that I reference, and other techniques that I use to give these arrangements substance and frankly, keep them from sucking. Funny enough, I wouldn’t say I have any formal training in arranging which seems to surprise people. What I do have, is training in how to listen for specific things. I studied in my undergraduate with a professor who considered the horn repertoire to be largely terrible (I tend to agree). Because of that, he encouraged me to go out and find music by great composers that I could adapt for myself. Not only would this make my music making more desired by others (allowing them to see something they couldn’t see or hear anywhere else), but I would grow into a better musician by being deeply exposed in compositions of great composers. I mean, who would you rather listen to, Ludwig van Beethoven or Alec Wilder? Because of this, I began to listen to music in a much different way. I began to listen beyond technique, notes, and chords but pay close attention to sounds and how I can mimic those sounds on my own instrument.
The best example of how I was able to break my comfort zone of working only with horn, to all of the different instruments is noticing those moments when sounds overlap. Have you ever noticed those times where a resonant clarinet sound can sound just like a horn (perhaps you’ve even mistaken instruments when listening to recordings, I know I have)? Or perhaps, a bassoon and a cello create a very similar timbre in specific musical lines and dynamics? These are the things that help me to make instrumentation choices and inform my decisions when making new arrangements; i.e. am I consciously imitating, or consciously making a 180 with my musical decisions and why?
Because I had gained a different perspective on what to listen for, I then graduated to learn how to manipulate music in practice and with notation. That part took the most “practice”. Sitting down with Finale for the first time and learning what I was able to do, or learning how to best communicate to a musician the sound or technique I want them to use took the most time. But that’s honestly the least important part of the job. For those wanting to do more arranging, I would suggest listening to the music that they listen to when their practice is over and thinking about how they would play that on their own instrument. For me, it’s jazz and funk. You can never go wrong with a little Oscar Peterson or Stevie Wonder (see below).
As far as the Alash project goes, the skills I outlined above were really the only crutch I had. This is Eastern music being adapted for Western instruments and notation. The music is also carried by aural tradition and I would be shocked (and maybe a little annoyed now) to find that anyone had dictated it in Western musical notation. For those reasons, sitting down and writing out melodies, bass-lines, and counter melodies was step 1. From there, I could make choices about who in the group would be best suited to play each line. No surprise that the more ancient the instrument can sound, the better. Lots of flute playing low, airy figures and stray percussive figures in other instruments.
In an attempt to not bore everyone to death, I will wrap this up but saying that this has been a very unique experience for me and far different from any other project I’ve done so far. These arrangements and transcriptions will surely change after meeting Alash in person and I’m really excited to see where they go by working with the composers themselves!
WHERE IN THE FIFTH IS UNCLE TRAVELING MATT?
From the journal of Uncle Traveling Matt:
“With all of the travel and performances on the horizon, I was told that I need to start practicing and pulling my weight. Here is a photo of my honing my skills on this metal behemoth. With any luck, I’ll be able to make a sound by the time our concerts roll around. In any case, I’ll be at all of the performances so please come say hello! I do love a good picto-ma-graph.”
RANDOM MUSIC WE’RE DIGGING THIS WEEK
Put a little funk into your life this week.
Charlene made a very big announcement! Congratulations!
Our first Americana education show was this past Thursday and we received rave reviews. Congratulations to Charlene, Herine, and Katherine (and Danny!)
Our Spring Deborah’s Place residency began on Tuesday and we are really excited to bring a brand new project to faces both old and new to our programming!
Herine and Parker had an awesome meeting with our partner teacher for our NBJ residency, Ms. Rizzo, and found out that we will have to brush up on our ukulele playing because all of our students will now all have access ukuleles!
Eric survived another busy week at Seward Elementary
Or awesome education intern, Meghan, did some heavy lifting with grants this week. Thanks Meghan!
Herine unfortunately missed a chance at becoming internet famous by not filming her son crying into his kazoo.
Deuce wore a makeshift fez and played toy cymbals. We’re only an organ grinder away from being able to take you out to the park for money
Dan got to spend some time at PAX East and I’m certainly not jealous or bitter. Why would you even say that?
Katherine got some extra practice time while the rest of us did some just oh-so-pleasant group tuning work with drones.
THIS WEEK IN HAIKU
Journey at San Jose State,
Sleep when you are dead!
Every time we go to a college campus, there is always some difficulty navigating. Buildings often look the same, GPS doesn’t work, and more often than not, I sheepishly end up asking where I’m supposed to be going. Here’s a simulation of what could very well happen on our trip to San Jose State this week.
Vampire women have incredible makeup skills considering they can’t use mirrors to see their reflections.
What is it good for?
Lemon Raspberry Pancakes (thanks for birthday breakfast, Herine!)
Sweet Maple Cafe
We’ve got some really exciting projects coming up and they don’t happen overnight! Get ready for some new arrangements for our Alash project very soon!
Way to take no prisoners on that bass clarinet!