Tag Archives: arranging

The Swamp Effect

I have a horrible habit. At some point in every project, things start not sounding … right. Good. Emotional. Whatever. The train has jumped the track, and is off wandering through antique stores on State Street. I’ve lost my way.

At this point, I do the same thing, every time.

I do more. I do everything. I take every idea, and make it louder. I double it. I do it in octaves. I do it with a triplet backing rhythm. I add 3 string samples and 2 pads, on top of 3 more loops and a delay. I start putting out frantic midnight calls for friends to play overdub parts, stacked, with overdrive and double-stops.

I add piano, add flamenco guitar, add horn swells and swirly synths, a B3 solo, 6 passes of backing vocals, and a Taiko. With reverb. Then a reverse Taiko with even more reverb.

Then I put a limiter on the main bus, a 6:1 multi-band compressor, then another limiter. Then I turn my mains up. I turn on the sub, then add another low string sample.

The swamp effect takes hold, and whatever spark of inspiration birthed the process has been completely, utterly, horrifically buried in a morass of crap.

Save as.

Rename.

Delete.

Repeat.

Toxic

Christmas music is in the air, and so what better time to drop the awesome bomb on ya’ll. This is an arrangement I did last year for the Cal State LA master’s program, and I never got around to posting it. The assignment was to take a well-known song, and arrange it in a style totally unrelated to the original. Behold what I hath wrought!

Toxicity

Sing, Ye Christmas Choirs

Working on the opener for the big APU Celebrate Christmas concert. It’s going to be a big epic choir & orchestra setting of “Do You Hear What I Hear?”, building up into a new anthem that I just finished last night. I’m kind of loving this.

Sing, Ye Christmas Choirs

Sing, ye Christmas Choirs
Ring, ye wild bells ring while darkness flees

Sing the Light of Heav’n
Sing of peace o’er all the earth while darkness flees,

O sing, ye choirs
O sing, ye choirs
Ring out, ye wild bells ring

Ring out Christmas bells
Ring out songs of joy for God has come

O Son of Israel
O Zion’s Daughter, sing! our God has come

Brightest of Adam’s wandering sons
Joined with the light of the holy one,

O sing, ye choirs
O sing, ye choirs
Ring out, ye wild bells ring

What’s That Stank? Oh, It’s Just This Christmas that I’m Laying Down

To me, my men and women of valor! To me, in my hour of need! To me, and aid me, so that I don’t have to do my own work!

I’m writing a big epic opener for the 2010 APU Christmas Concert, with soloists, handbells, orchestra, choirs, the whole shebang. The piece opens with “Do You Hear What I Hear” sung by antiphonal choirs, and then into the final verse of that song:

Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace people everywhere
Listen to what I say
The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light

The piece is not quite epic enough to sustain the energy through the end of the piece, so I’m looking to transition from the song “Do You See” to something else. This is the part where you help me out. Any suggestions?

Book of Eli

What we do, part 2.

This was done by a freshman. He stripped the existing music from the film trailer for “Book of Eli” and rewrote his own score. I’ll say it again. This his first year, first time he’s ever taken a music class. He came to APU on a football scholarship, took music fundamentals last semester and found out he was pretty good at this stuff, and then 3 months later, this.

Beat It

It’s the end of the year, time again for student projects. This was done by my Production Techniques class. Everything you hear, all of the instruments, the recording, the mix, everything was done by our students. It was arranged and produced by Sean Beck.

VOLUME UP!

Beat It

This is what we do!

And That, Son, Is What We Call “Pro”

I had one of the most satisfying recording sessions ever yesterday. We were recording keyboards and drums for a handful of song demos, all part of a new musical being written by the lovely and talented Abby Miller.

It was me and three other very talented people, including a drummer, Aaron Sterling who is part of the new LA Wrecking Crew – he plays on every record coming out these days, it seems like. He and Abby wrote some of the songs, Abby and I wrote some of the songs, everybody there had a different stake in the project.

What blew me away was how seamlessly everyone moved between their different roles, from arranger to producer to sideman. On some songs, Aaron was producing the session, it was his tune, and I got to be just a keyboardist (I love that). On the next tune, it was mine, and I was telling him what to do. The engineer (our very own Mr. Chris Steffen) and Abby moved through the cycle too, from engineering to arranging, from writing to tracking vocals.

The only thing that nobody did, all day long, was bust out an ego. Chris and I talked for a few minutes after the session, and we agreed that it would be impossible to try and do something like that if anybody had brought a rock-star vibe along with them.

There is a beautiful balance between having deep pride in your work, and no ego about what you do. I want to learn how to live in that place. I believe it’s called being “Pro”.

New Notes

I took a risk yesterday, and it paid off in a huge way.

I met with the Dean of the school of music, and we negotiated a big shift in my responsibilities in the School of Music. I am stepping down from my role as Director of Small Groups, and taking on the role of Staff Composer. A big chunk of my job from now on will be to compose new music and do some arranging for the ensembles in our school. In the last year, I’ve had several ensemble directors come ask me to write or arrange something, and I’ve had to say no to some of them because of the time constraints, and because they didn’t have room in their individual budgets to pay for new music. This solves both problems in one glorious swoop. I now get to say “yes!”, they get to have new things written specifically for them, I have time to do it, and they don’t have to decide between paying for new music or paying for scholarships (or whatever else they spend money on).

I have loved my role at APU since day one, and I didn’t think it was possible for it to get even better, but this is like a dream come true.

School, Again

Well, it was a long and arduous process (I had to pay $50), but I was finally accepted as a graduate student at that most prestigious of all schools, Cal State LA (Go Golden Eagles! Or whatever!). Looks like I was wrong about never going back to school again …

As I went to drop off my transcripts at CSULA, I saw two girls feeling each other up outside the admin building. I think this is going to be a little different experience than my first master’s degree; at Biola, the lesbians are still in hiding.

I’m going to be getting a Masters of Music in commercial music, with an emphasis in arranging. I’m actually looking forward to it, for two reasons. First, I need some outside impetus and set parameters to move my writing along in new directions. Second, I feel like this is as close as Professors ever get to a “student teaching” experience, where we get to see someone else do their thing, and learn from them. I’m interested in the content, but also in the methods and techniques of the teachers.