Tuesday, September 29, 2009



This tune, which we'll call The Monument Song (by Jim Bauer) totally sucker punched me in the solar plexus when I saw/heard it (performed by the sublime Nancy Anderson) in an Off Broadway show a few seasons ago. It's such a unique piece. Especially for musical theatre. The lyrics are true poetry and incredibly poignant. 

It's also extremely simple melodically, but the orchestrations (which I've remained true to, with Mr. Bauer's permission) are in a way, subtley complex. I mean, it's not every day you hear a musical theatre orchestration for accordion and pedal steel guitar*. 

*The pedal steel guitar is very common to country tunes- it's that...sort of 'wailing sound' in pretty much every Garth Brooks song ever recorded? In country songs, your ear doesn't register it anymore because it's always there- but in a musical theatre tune? It really really comes alive because it's such an unsual sound.

For this very reason, I am loathe to admit that there is absolutely nothing I have or can do to even come close to that sound. It's kind of devastating. I have tried everything. Every patch. Finessed in every way possible. It's just not within my capability to manufacture that sound respectfully. 

I have to figure out a way around it.
If i can't replicate it properly, i will have to substitute it with something equally as 'emotional'.
Which sucks at the moment.
But I'm sure the answer will come.

In the meantime...

I'm sitting here.
I'm looking at the arrangement.
There's parts for:
piano (check)
accordion (check)
bass (check)
medal steel guitar (feck).

I figure, I'll record all the tracks I have instruments for first.

The print is small.
Even with my glasses on...the instrument lines are blurring together.
I get out the highlighter markers:
Much better.

I lay down the piano track.
I've really underestimated the difficulty of the piano chart.
It takes me quite a few passes, and a lot of patching to finally get it where i want it.

I listen back.
The garage band metronome is drilling a hole into my eustachian tubes all of a sudden.
What's happening?

wait a minute...
why is the metronome bothering me now when i'm listening to the playback...
and not when i was playing....
oooohhhhh no.

I listen more closely...

Ohhhh crap.
It's because I play like a complete dick cheese when it's on!
That's why it's bothering me on the playback.

The metronome ATE MY BRAIN!

No nuance.
No nothing.
Just boring, totally metered playing on my part.
I was trying so hard to get the notes right...
that it's completely devoid of feeling.

*Sondheim sidenote:
When we were rehearsing SWEENEY TODD, Sondheim came to our first runthrough (thank you very much). Obviously, we were all shitting our pants at just running it all, let alone for the master. So in an effort to be as perfect as possible, we played that gorgeous score like we had ten maypoles shoved firmly up our asses. Afterwards, Sondheim graciously said,

"You're all too respectful of my music. I would rather you play more wrong notes and play with more emotion, than play every note correctly but without the proper degree of feeling."

I believe Mr. Sondheim would not approve of my latest take. At all.

Just to appease the sadist in me...
I listen again to the piano track without the metronome on. 

Oh sweet baby Jesus in Heaven.
it's even worse.
The militance is even more pronounced.
It's like...Patton played it. Blindfolded. With his elbows.

Forget it.
not even remotely good enough.
it's 90 minutes of work gone, but fuck it.


I decide to use the metronome to get me into the piece through intro-
and then get rid of it.
Obviously, I can't be trusted with it on.

an hour later....

a few more patches...
very good.

a few more patches...
i'm very pleased indeed.


i lay down the bass.
Again, in the show it was I believe, an electric bass guitar that was used which has...
a really nice sustain to it.

But the electric guitar patch I have in garage band is really, 
well, let's say ACDC would find it "a bit too much", so-
I go for a traditional Upright Bass patch and finesse it with bass amp, auto wah, treble reduction features and a shit load of reverb. 

It's actually pretty cool sounding. 
I really like it. 


I look at the clock.

I really want to press on.
And i know if i don't i'll just lie in bed with the remaining accordion track swimming through my head anyway.

But i swore i wouldn't play any more acoustic stuff after 11pm.
it's so uncool of me neighbor wise.


it's only take me 20-30 minutes tops.
it's an easy track, this one.
plus, i can play real quietly...
it's a real quiet kinda song.

i break out the beast and strap 'er on.

An easy 20 minutes.
no surprises, just a straight shot.
aaaannnnd done.

Ok i'm putting her to bed for tonight.
tomorrow, I'll tackle the pedal steel guitar issue..
until then, my lovelies...

sleep tight.


1 comment:

  1. Oh, honey. Had I only known. You were probably reading off the full score I made for the show. Supposed to be printed on 11x17. Or I could've just sent you copies of the parts. That probably would've been easier. Still, I can't wait to hear it!