Wednesday, January 23, 2008

OPW 2.0

I'm working on a very silly project right now. It is so ridiculous that it is making me punchy. Through no fault of my own I somehow got hired to arrange and Finale copy an entire Broadway style musical. For 6th, 7th and 8th graders!

Yes, I am taking show tunes by the likes of Kander and Ebb, Sondheim et al and creating simplified arrangements for a middle school band and chorus to perform in the spring. Not only that, but there's no sheet music for a bunch of the songs, so I've had to transcribe them from CD before getting to work on the arrangements. I've been given the list of instruments to write for, which is just basic information. In addition I've been given a specific range for each player in the band (all 15 or so of them) because many of them are at fairly rudimentary levels of ability. The cardinal sin here (so I gather) is to write parts that are too hard to play.

Oh, I almost forgot. I've been given about three weeks to do all of this. Ideally, this amount of work should be done in eight, but who's complaining?

The good news (you knew there HAD to be some) is that this project will be quite remunerative. This time of year is death for working musicians, so I am grateful to have something better to do than go snow blind staring at my empty date book.

It just so happens that this week work began on my kitchen rehab. So my house looks like some kind of insane science project and I'm trying to get this work done with sawing and hammering as my background music. It is all so delightfully cacophonous!

I have written about doing other people's work before, and this transcribing/arranging/copying job definitely comes under that heading. However, I am getting to use some musical skills that have been in moth balls for awhile, specifically - arranging for band. I've done plenty of arranging for small groups, string quartets and a few big band charts, but it has been some time since I've had to write for such a large ensemble. The orchestration is pretty goofy as well, since the band consists of whoever happens to show up with whatever instrument they play. I won't bore you with the details, but writing for this lopsided group is a challenge.

My mantra thus far has been: Don't do anything interesting! I've got to keep it simple, plus there's just no time to be avant garde. It is music by the pound for sure. I'm just trying to make sure things are correct, in the right place and transposed properly. It will no doubt sound like hash anyway, given the age level, but I'm hoping that won't be my doing.