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Topic: A Study in Simplification

  1. #1

    A Study in Simplification

    "Prelude to Dorian Gray"
    (click title for MP3)

    I'm in the midst of A Very Big Project - re-orchestrating my score for "Dorian-The Remarkable Mister Gray."

    When the show was done here in Oregon, we used the GPO-driven sound track that I created for the show. Those recordings are also being used in the Russian production now in rehearsal.

    But producer Michael Butler and I want theatres to be able to do the show with a live band.

    I had an impossibly huge ensemble on the recordings. There was an average of 64 instruments used. I didn't care about practicality, I was just putting together nice big sounding tracks for the show.

    There's a limit to the size of bands for live musical theatre. Broadway shows now have between 5 and 12 musicians or so.

    I've narrowed down the band to 12 pieces. But that is calling for totally re-orchestrating the show, and for the first time producing printable scores in Sibelius. I'm having to combine instrumental lines and omit some parts entirely.

    The MP3 above is the first new demo featuring this smaller band. The score for this opening number is in Sib now, it just needs a bit more tweaking.

    The instrument line up is now:

    Electric Bass
    Electric and Acoustic Guitar
    Keyboard (Celesta, Organ etc)

    That leaves out Trombones, full string section, full wood section, Tympani etc. The show is sounding much edgier now with this smaller band, and I'm liking the feel of it.

    Two years ago, starting in January of 2007, I started posting all the original recordings for "Dorian." The first thing I put up was "Prelude," and I think maybe 4 people responded to that thread. From there, the audience here in The Listening Room grew - but many of you probably didn't hear this first piece.

    If you're interested in hearing the differences between the Big version and the new Smaller version - here's the original track for "Prelude" that I posted:

    Big Version of "Prelude"

    Hopefully I'll keep getting some help from Forum volunteers as I get the whole show finally down in notation form.

    So, it's a study in simplification - Hopefully I'll be hearing a live band working these charts in the not-too-distant Future!

    Randy B.

  2. #2
    Senior Member fastlane's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Shelton, Washington State

    Re: A Study in Simplification

    It sounds fine Randy. We used about the same instruments minus the strings for Joseph's Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat last summer and it had a pretty full sound. The director wanted timps but didn't have enough room because the orchestra was right up on the stage so he could direct everything.

    GPO is very nice but using real instruments will be like Pinocchio becoming a real boy.

    Have a blast!


  3. #3

    Re: A Study in Simplification


    Looking forward to a new Dorian Journey!

  4. #4
    Senior Member bigears's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Central Illinois

    Re: A Study in Simplification

    Hi Randy, Glad to hear you are back online again, when something goes wrong and you can't find a cure, it can be maddening.
    I like the sound of the prelude with the smaller ensemble. If it doesn't work out, this guy might be available for the gig......

  5. #5
    Senior Member rwayland's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    California Redwoods

    Re: A Study in Simplification

    Well, Randy, I have not yet heard the music, download & upload being a grand study in patience here, but have you considered such things as using trumpet to double on horns? Or is there no opportunity? Or perhaps it would be difficult to find musicians willing and able? I remember in the distant past that I had no particular trouble switching between cornet and sousaphone, so it does seem possible that the trumpet and trombone might be done by the same player.


  6. #6

    Re: A Study in Simplification

    Thanks, Phil - I'm glad you checked this thread out, since you saw the Salem cast performing to my original tracks last year.

    You mentioned the lack of Tympani in your local production of "Joseph"---That's something I had to consider with this score reduction project.

    I made a chart of the instrumentation used in several recent Broadway productions, "Grey Gardens," "Urine Town," "Light in The Piazza" and several others. 5 musicians was the smallest ensemble, 12 was about average. A few shows still use larger orchestras, like "Wicked," but even that orchestra was surprisingly small - On the cast album CD many more strings were added to beef up the recorded sound of "Wicked."

    But after studying these cast albums, I knew I had to get much more realistic about what kind of live band I could expect for a "Dorian" production using live musicians. It'd be great to have a full Percussion section along with the rock combo at the core of the orchestration, but it's not a practical thing to count on.

    So, as I did in this stripped down version of "Prelude," and am doing in the other charts, I'm counting on having only one musician available for drums and percussion - mostly he'll be playing a basic rock drum set, but with a few smaller things available to him, like wood blocks and triangle.

    What was previously played on a Tympani I'm having the drummer play on his Toms - very different effect, but I'm liking the grittiness it lends to the sound. If I demanded Tympani, this busy drummer would be getting up from his kit, going over to the kettles - not practical. Too much space needed, and he would always be needed as little as a measure later back on his drum set - so, no Tymps - all Toms.

    Thanks for visiting, Phil!

    Randy B.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Frank D's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Suburban NYC

    Re: A Study in Simplification

    Hi Randy,

    Your prelude sounded great! Yes, it does sound edgier, but I think more importantly, it really has that musical theater feel and sound to it ... there's no size orchestra or pit that can substitute for that.

    Living in the NYC metro area, I see a fair amount of Broadway musicals and indeed the pit sizes are shrinking. Although I feel your averages are a tad on the low side (I think mostly because your examples are essentially 'classical, non-jazzy'-style shows which probably are a bit larger ... 12-20 pieces) your point is still well taken. On the far side of the moon, in the Fall we saw South Pacific (unheard of original 30-piece orchestrations) and Gypsy (likewise, 25 chairs!), but I hear what you're saying

    Based on the styles of music I've heard on the Dorian selections you've generously posted, I think your new, reduced instrumentation will sound fine throughout. If I have one reservation, it would be that there is no real bass instrument available in any of the winds. Although the horn can cover the low range of a trombone, it wouldn't have the bite in that register. Another possibility is that your clarinet chair could easily double Bb bass clarinet if you needed more ensemble bottom in spots. But since you are using electric bass, it's probably much less of a problem.

    I feel the most important aspect of condensing a pit (besides $$$) is that there is a much more realistic opportunity that you'll hear it performed live, and that alone is worth the price you pay in loss of shadings.

    The orchestrational combo of classical-sounding winds/strings over rock combo rhythm section was a big hit for Wicked ... hope your show fares as well too!



  8. #8

    Re: A Study in Simplification


    You're a better man than I Gunga Din.

    12 players?

    I can see cutting down the Brass section to only 12 players and with some work I could squeeze the woods down to 12.

    Maybe you could hire 12 of John's (bigears) players.

    Well a true lifetime project should last a lifetime.

    Have fun

    "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." Albert Einstein


  9. #9

    Re: A Study in Simplification


    Remake sounds very good with just 12; that is, in the world
    of MIDI. But, I hope you get just as good a "total"
    sound from the real players. Seems like the size of the
    hall will be a big determinent too.

    If I had to bet on this combination, I think I would go
    with the "pro" vote. And, who knows, you may want this
    combination or even smaller for future musical adventures
    if it works out well.

    Good luck with Sibelius

    Jack Cannon--Toshiba laptop, 2.8 GHz CPU, 1.5 GB RAM, GPO4-JABB3-Auth. STEINWAY-Gofriller CELLO-Stradivari VIOLIN-COMB2-WORLD, FINALE 2009/11, RME Digiface, Cardbus, V-Stack---Mac Pro 2.66 GHz CPU, 8 GB RAM, DP 8, MOTU Traveler, MOTU Micro Express.--MacBook Pro 2.2 Ghz CPU, 8 GB RAM.

  10. #10

    Re: A Study in Simplification

    I spend my time participating in so many threads, squeezing in time for the Forum throughout my work day, that I tend to neglect my own music threads!

    THANK YOU everyone who has replied and been supportive of this big project I'm in the mist of, reducing the score for my show.

    Alan said, "...Ah! Looking forward to a new Dorian Journey!..."

    You are one of the most consistently tuned-in "Dorian" listeners, Alan, and I think you know by now how much I appreciate that. Thanks for this message -

    But - I doubt if I'll be posting each new version of the show's numbers. I feel that could be taxing the Forum's patience a bit too much, to roll out new versions of the material I took all of 2007 to post here. Maybe I'll ocassionally post an update with a group of pieces on it. The music is basically the same, "only" reduced to this severely limited number of musicians. The resulting differences may not be all that interesting to people who have heard it all before.

    BigEars - GReat photo you found! I've made reference once in awhile to the old fashioned One Man Band, since as MIDI musicians, we're the technological equivilant of the same. There he is--there we are!--What a hoot!

    And Richard, so good to hear from you. I know how you're living in the middle of the Redwoods, cut off from cable access which makes audio and video streaming impossible. It's always appreciated when you're able to find some time for the laborious download process.

    You said, "...have you considered such things as using trumpet to double on horns? Or is there no opportunity? Or perhaps it would be difficult to find musicians willing and able? I remember in the distant past that I had no particular trouble switching between cornet and sousaphone, so it does seem possible that the trumpet and trombone might be done by the same player..."

    Excellent suggestion! Usually the numbers really need both Trumpet and Horn, but it's quite possible that I could indicate the Trumpet player switching to Trombone on numbers that need more growl and punch. Of course I'm indicating that the Trumpet player switches to Flugelhorn for some numbers, but your suggestion seems possible also, so I'll keep that in mind!

    Gotta run - I'll be back to thank the rest---!

    Randy B.

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