Wednesday, April 22, 2015

And more music

I'm working on a couple of new pieces for piano. First, from the big book I have of 1920s-1950s "Standards" is "Always" - a waltz by Irving Berlin.

(Again, I don't know whether these are supposed to be the original arrangements as published? No name of an arranger is given so I am assuming that is the case).

"Always" is pretty. It's also, I don't know, to my ears almost a little sad or elegiac - there's certainly a tone of longing in there. (Or maybe it's just that I think it was used in the old (1974) version of The Great Gatsby or some movie like that, where the characters ultimately wind up unhappy). I'm probably seeing it through my own "lens" because the history of the song says Berlin wrote it as a wedding gift to his wife.

I also think it's interesting, while it's clearly meant to be a song involving ROMANTIC love, the chorus could exemplify other kinds:

"I'll be loving you always
With a love that's true... always
When the things you've planned
Need a helping hand
I will understand... always
Days may not be fair... always
That's when I'll be there... always
Not for just an hour
Not for just a day
Not for just a year
But always"

Given the vagaries (as I see them at least) of romantic love, that almost sounds more to me like the promise a parent makes a child. 

Or, seen through another lens that strongly influences my life - I can almost imagine Christ saying those words. Especially the "not for just an hour, not for just a day...." part. 

I'm also working on an arrangement of "A Mighty Fortress." I bought a book of arrangements of "classic" hymns (the arranger is Philip Keveren). It's a challenging arrangement. And I might not have chosen it if I had read his description he had in the front of the book of each of the pieces - this arrangement is inspired by Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition."

I find the more "modern" style of music difficult because you can't "anticipate" (or at least, I can't "anticipate") as well what's going to happen. With Baroque music, I feel like I kind of know what the next chord is or where it's going to go next - I'm working on the second section of this and whoa, the accidentals. So I have to watch very carefully, because I can't always tell if I'm hitting the right note by the sound. 

Also, it changes keys in each section (I suppose, like "Pictures at an Exhibition") so I start out in B-flat and then it moves to D, but D with a ton of accidentals (so possibly B minor, really)


And two more videos. I don't know when or how I first ran across this group (Postmodern Jukebox), but I really like their work. They re-imagine current pop songs as if they were from an earlier era. (They also use the "radio edit" version, which I appreciate, so for example, in the Thrift Shop song, they say "freakin' awesome" instead of the other gerund that Macklemore uses. Of course, Weird Al used "Super Awesome" which always makes me laugh and which I like even better. I mean, the word there is merely used as an intensifier, so why NOT use "super"? I think it makes me laugh because it sounds "so 80s" to me)

Anyway, here's "Thrift Shop" as if it were a 1940s pop song:

I find myself watching the keyboardist in this. I WISH I could do that  - I don't have the confidence and I find I can't come down on the right chord a lot of the time. Maybe with more years of practice? I hope. 

I also love it when people do these kind of reimaginings because I feel like I can understand the structure of the song better - what is essential to the song keeping its character, how much can you change the tempo or style without it becoming something totally different?

Here's another re-imagining they do that I love very much: All About that Bass turned into a burlesque-style song! (I think it's what the pianist does that does it, though the drummer's beat helps)

Heh. I can almost imagine Gypsy Rose or someone strutting around a stage to that. (And anyway, weren't the old burlesque ladies a little bit more generously built than most of the models/dancers of today?). Again, I like this because it amuses and intrigues me to see a song that is so entrenched in one style done in a totally different style - and yet, you can still pick out the melody.

(I like this version better than the original. But then again, I like the chemistry version better than the original.)

Actually, Postmodern Jukebox is pretty amazing - they do a lot of different "vintage" styles (they cover a rap song in Klezmer style and do part of it in Yiddish!). I tend to think this kind of thing (sort of like Weird Al) takes a lot of musicality and a lot of creativity.

(And yes, Charles, before you ask: they have a version of Friday. Kind of done in a slow-jazz ballad style)

Edited to add: I think one of the reasons I like this kind of thing is the whole alternate-universe idea, that maybe there exists an alternate universe where swing jazz remained the dominant pop-music form or something, and life stayed generally more stylish than it is now....the fact that on the version of Friday they did, there's the comment "A little-known live recording from the Blue Note catalog" made me think of the alternate-universe angle.

1 comment:

CGHill said...

"Friday" lends itself to alternative-universe scenarios. First there was the "original" "Bob Dylan" version, slow, lugubrious, nearly as long as "Like a Rolling Stone"; then there was a "Byrds" cover of the "Dylan" version. (Also, there's a Star Wars version: "Solo in the front seat, Luke is in the back seat, gotta make my mind up, which one is my mate?")

The Postmodern Jukebox keyboardist and resident genius is Scott Bradlee.

Weird Al's "Alternative Polka" includes a bit from Nine Inch Nails' famously rude "Closer"; Al handles it with a Spike Jones-esque sound effect.