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6.22.02 Texture & Layers: Music

All of the orchestrations for big Broadway shows are done by only 3 or 4 people, did you know that? I must have assumed, if I ever thought about it, that the original songwriting team decided whether to make their statement with horns or violins and how much brass there should be. You'd think the songwriters would want to map out this emotional landscape, but it must be demanding and tricky enough to bring in a specialist.

I seem to be thinking a lot about orchestration of one sort or another.

My movie-making work got me interested in sound and, increasingly, musical scores. I know nothing about music beyond the do-re-mi I learned in grade school and an enjoyable music appreciation course in college where I learned to follow the score of Beethoven's Fifth and to distinguish the difference between a clarinet and a trumpet. My piano lessons stalled out with the "every good boy does fine" nonsense. I know nothing about structuring and layering. Worse, I know nothing about beats, breaks, and grooves. And, let me tell you, there are precious few resources for 53-year-old white women with no children, who doesn't want to learn an instrument but who want to lay down some tracks (or however you say it).

(All Music Guide is an excellent resource if you can't tell zydeco from Detroit techno -- for those of us who need a written orientation to all we don't know about popular music, those of us who can hear the difference but don't know what we're hearing. And, goodness gracious, did you know you can now go to Barnes & Noble, stick a CD under a scanner and hear all the tracks? How cool is that? No more deaf experiments cluttering my stacks of CDs.)

Anyway, all this has led me to rap music. Yes, you read that correctly. I am currently a tourist in the hip-hop nation, falling asleep to the beats (or is it grooves) of Gang Starr. I heard the producer/lyricist Guru on Studio 360 -- he was interesting and thoughtful, made me see rap in a larger context. I'm listening for the textures and layers. I've always been a lover of collage art.

Studio 360, coupled with the B & N listening station assistance, also has me listening to the score of "Dead Man Walking" for its strange Sufi Qawwali music and "Glassworks" by Philip Glass. "Glassworks" is compelling -- I think the layered repetitiveness of it does something to my brain waves, makes me feel like I'm on speed -- this weekend I finished a mock-up for a friend's website, changed around my retirement investments, lined up our itinerary and some hotel reservations for Japan, exercised, planted impatiens in our dried up flower box, filled all our bird-feeders... zowie.

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