Musical Marination


Concert is imminent!

Posted in In Harmony by Rivki Silver on 02/21/2011
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Hello, my badly neglected blog!

Well, there is only one week until the concert.  The big concert.  The BIG concert.

We have twenty songs to present to the world.  It’s going to be fantastic.  There are costume changes.  Staging.  Lighting.

It’s a real thing.

However, between the dishes, the laundry, the children, I’ve barely practiced, and tonight I felt the crunch.  Oh, did I feel it.  So I practiced a bit on the clarinet, as my dear, dear husband helped out with the baby.

I’m very excited for the concert, but also excited for the pressure of this very large engagement to be over.  It’s a lot of work!

That’s all.  Just wanted to put it out there, on my little blog which no one reads.  That’s kind of nice.  No pressure.  🙂

Acquisition: Flute!

I’d been meaning to buy a flute for quite some time.  Maybe even for over a year.  I had taken lessons in university and loved the portability, the sound, and most of all, the lack of reeds.  Occasionally I had a hankering to play, but alas, I did not own one.

Sometimes, when we had a little extra money in our pockets, I would roam through the listings on Craig’s List and dream about buying a flute.  However, the money was always spent on something practical (like food).  Then I had a birthday and got a big ol’ check from my mother-in-law, who instructed me that I was to use it on myself.  I love my mother-in-law.  A lot (and not only because she gave me money, mind you).

Also, now it wasn’t just a matter of me wanting to own a flute (which, on the whole, was a pretty impractical desire), but I could use it for In Harmony gigs.  Sweet.

Still, it took me a couple of months to get my act together and actually purchase a flute.  I knew I wanted a Gemeinhardt, and I discovered that there were better prices on ebay than on Craig’s List.  However, I kept forgetting to check on my items before the time ran out, and lost two opportunities. Eventually, I managed to spot a flute within my general price range which was close to the end of the auction.  And I totally won it.

It was kind of exciting.  Down to the wire, someone else bidding actively, upping my bid amount in return.  Cool.

A few days later, and here she is:

all bright and shiny

Tools for more effective rehearsals

Posted in In Harmony by Rivki Silver on 08/05/2010
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In Harmony meets only once a week for an hour-and-a-half.  That is the time that we were able to carve out of our schedules.  The beginning of our rehearsal time is usually spent shmoozing and discussing various relevant matters and/or pending decisions.  This leaves only an hour for actual music rehearsal.

As we have become more serious about the music we learn, and as we have more (and bigger) gigs lined up,  Rachel and I realized that we needed a way to maximize our rehearsal productivity.  She came up with the brilliant idea that we record the piano part and individual vocal lines (melody, harmony, etc.) and present each member with a CD tailored specifically to the parts they need to learn.

Our first copy was made in an extremely low-tech manner.  Rachel came over to my apartment and we recorded four songs with my outdated mp3 player.  The sound quality was wretched, but everyone agreed that it was a very useful tool, and that it helped in learning the songs.

This past rehearsal, the only members attending were Rachel, Hudy and myself, so we utilized the time (and Hudy’s fabulous recording capabilities) to record two new songs for the next installment of rehearsal CDs.

Any other suggestions for increasing the effectiveness of our limited rehearsal time?

transcribing with an eye (or ear) for In Harmony

Posted in In Harmony by Rivki Silver on 07/27/2010
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Last night I had a short window of time between when my baby went to sleep and went my husband came home from work, so I plugged the CD player into the extension cord, hustled over to the piano, and managed to transcribe the bulk of one song.

I began transcribing songs in 2005, when I was asked to accompany a Bais Yaakov High School girls Shabbaton (I didn’t play on Shabbos, of course.  I think it was on Sunday).  The girls gave me a cassette tape of a rehearsal.  That was it.  I had to figure out the rhythms, chord progressions, melodic and harmonic lines.  It took me forever.  While I had studied rhythmic and melodic dictation in university, this was more grueling and much trickier than I recalled.  More familiar with classical pieces than pop, I made the songs far more complex than needed.  And much more of a headache for myself.

Since that rather inauspicious beginning, I’ve had the opportunity to transcribe a number of songs for various performances, and it has become easier and easier.  I’ve become acquainted with typical progressions in pop songs and familiar with the common rhythms which stymied me previously.

For this particular project I need to transcend mere transcription.  In Harmony, the group for which I’m arranging pieces, has certain considerations which need to be, um, considered.  We only meet once a week for an hour-and-a-half, and the members of the group have widely varied backgrounds, from operatic training to just “liking to sing.”  We are looking at a small late October performance (five pieces or so) and a large late-winter/early-spring concert, where we will be headlining.  Rachel, fellow co-musical director, and I are aiming for around 15 pieces for the large concert.

Currently we have four pieces, and not polished at that.  We have been working on them for months, and the other members of the group are nervous that we will not be able to work up enough pieces in time for the large concert.  The pieces we have been working on are complex, with three- and four-part harmonies, full instrumentation (keyboard, drums, guitar and woodwinds), and musical structure and ideas which have proven trickier to learn than either Rachel or I anticipated.  With these factors in mind, we are aiming to arrange the remaining songs with the following criteria:

The pieces need to be exceedingly easy to learn.  This means cutting out a lot of the nuances which I happen to enjoy, but have proven confusing.  No more than 2-part harmony.  Simple melodic and harmonic ideas which are repeated without variation.  In addition to a score, a simple “road map” detailing the order of verse/chorus/bridge with their respective repetitions.  Doubling parts so that if we need to take voices off and put onto instruments, it will not weaken the integrity of the piece.

Holding these factors in mind, last night I pulled the verse, chorus and parts of the bridge and chord progression off the CD.  I also pulled a potential harmonic line for the chorus.  Now I intend to have another listen, solidify the bridge, chord progressions and see if there’s a harmony for the verse, or if I need to create one.  I will also need to decide if we should keep the song’s structure as is, or if it should be simplified to expedite the learning process.