I’ve put together a medley of three bits from Detroit in a simple promo video. This contains the Overture to Act I, where Eddie Powell introduces the neighbourhood, the aria ‘Tear Down The House’ which ends of Act II and the finale to Act III ‘Evergreen’.
Evergreen is a mix of live tracks from rehearsals summer 2012 with a number of studio overdubs. You’ll note the vocal track has slightly different lyrics from the libretto.
There are a lot of sections with loooong notes. Hiiiiigh notes. Unfriendly to those who have to breathe to make noise. Whenever I get this stuff rehearsed it’s either with pros who tell me to what I can do with my chop destroying stupid parts (unless I open my checkbook—in which case they’ve never heard anything quite like it.) Or, I can get unsuspecting children.
God Bless The Future Of Our Children. Who Are Our Future.
The great thing about young people is that, despite what you may have heard, they will happily bust a gut for anything they think is vaguely interesting. (Maybe it’s the same gene that makes ’em join the army.) The other great thing is that the ones who can play, can really play. It’s crazy how well they do the fundamentals. Soul? None to speak of. But the kind of notes I want played are soul-destroying anyway so that’s no problem. We’re takin’ that hill boys.
There is the famous parable of Le Sacré Du Printemps where the opening bassoon passage is supposed to sound wild and screechy and out of control—because at the time, the notes were at the extreme end of the instrument’s range. Nowadays? High school kids hit those notes cleanly and sweetly. So when you hear that passage today played cleanly and sweetly Stravinsky rolls in his grave.
The irony, dear reader, is that I lamented so deeply finding anyone to play my little orchestral pieces. Why? Because I figured it would take ‘pros’ to do it. Nope. Kids work fine. And as we have entered an age of Michael Jordanesque musical chops, there are absolutely no places to make a living with it. Rod Serling could write that kind of story.
The Great Disruptor Of The Bell Bottomed Noisemakers
We hear a lot about ‘disruptions’ in various industries. Music had its ‘great disruption’ (sounds like a Dr. Who episode, right?) back in the 70’s. Musicians have been quite efficiently replaced by each new generation of lower-priced machinery. The strings were first in the 70’s. Then the drums in the 80’s. Real bass gave up in the 90’s.
(The exception to this law of nature are guitars. Guitars were replaced in the new millennium by dancers after the advent of Living Colour. Not the band, the TV show. Dancers are to hip hop what guitars used to be to rock.)
Back to those boring, chop-busting parts. One of my fave anecdotes of all time: In the last iteration of Frank Zappa’s band with real horns, the trumpet player complains of the super-long and super-high notes and jokes with Zappa’s wife that he’s going to organise something of a mutiny. Her quote, “You don’t know Frank very well do you?” Zappa was well known for handling civic unrest very efficiently. And when the horn section made their complaints known and even added how the parts they were playing were ‘so boring… like synthesisers…’ Frank fired them. He had already had a demo of a wonderful machine called the Synclavier, which cost only $250,000. Being a good businessman he amortised their salaries over a year or two and figured he’d just get a Synclavier that could play anything he programmed into it, sans bitching.
My point in recounting that tale of woe is not to make fun of anothers misfortune. We’ve all been punished severely for our hubris for so many things. My point is that we’ve reached this place where the music biz is kinda like outsourcing to China. You should be able to get all the low-priced, high skills labour you want to do the most outrageous musical projects with casts of thousands. Scads of young people are being educated with mad skills that composers should be able to afford.
In other words, there are enough talented high school, college and post-end-of-life (everything after the age of 25) players to populate a thousand Symphony Of A Thousands. We’ve got the vast Interwebs. Craigslist. Cell phones. Technology that allows me to record people in New York, Seattle and Vienna all at the same time for the cost of a Verizon data plan. And yet? Organising people to play written music of any kind is tougher than finding an honest used car dealer. Tougher than ever.
I have come to the conclusion that this is part of the general societal downfall and there’s nothing to be done except to note the irony and move on. After all, if the part writing was less boring it would be a lot more tragic. We’ll get ’em next time. 😉