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Topic: "The Pirate King" by Gilbert and Sullivan ala "TOM SAWYER"

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  1. #1

    Exclamation "The Pirate King" by Gilbert and Sullivan ala "TOM SAWYER"


    "The Pirate King"
    image from the 1938 MGM movie "Tom Sawyer"
    (click for MP3)

    This public domain song that I worked into the show came to me as a fun brainstorm during the period I was writing the show. Tom's dream of becoming a pirate is referred to several times in the book, and a favorite passtime is to have mock sword battles with his buddies. So it popped in my head, "The Pirate King," or, by its proper title "Oh better far to live and die" from "The Pirates of Penzance"--! That'd be perfect. So, I went about writing some new lyrics and adapting the number for the show. What emerged was a countrified, twangy version of Sir Arthur's originally much more dignified music.
    -----------------------------------------
    Tom, Huck and Josh have rafted to Jackson's Island, and they're in 7th heaven, finally free from meddling grownups, and from the dangerous Injun Joe in particular. When they start talking about Pirate lore, Tom announces he's going to become a Pirate King! This song and choreographed dual emerges.
    --------------------
    Here are the Garritan instruments used. I don't think we've had examples of some of these before in The Listening Room -like the Washtub Bass and the Bottle Blow.

    Some notes about putting this project together are below the list of instruments:

    Accordion-JABB
    Dulcimer-WORLD
    Harmonica-JABB
    (with Sonitus Wah Wah automated)
    Banjo-WORLD
    Washtub Bass-WORLD
    Bottle Blow-WORLD
    Jaw Harp-WORLD
    Full Strings-GPO
    Tympani-GPO


    NOTES: The Washtub Bass in WORLD is fun, very raw, hardly what one would call pretty or even in tune. It sounds like --well, like the real thing! To make it more musically useful, I doubled it with a Sonar bass, so the Washtub is adding a nice thump while the layered bass keeps the tone center more clear.

    By this point in the show, I've often used the Garritan Accordion, Banjo, Jaw Harp, Dulcimer and Harmonica. As with all the Sawyer songs which include Harmonica, I use a Sonitus Wah Wah plug-in on the instrument's audio track to emulate the playing style of Harmonica players. It's a plug-in primarily intended for guitar, but it can do a nice wah on any sound source. With the auto wah turned off, I automate the control, playing the wah on another pass over the track. This was a topic recently on another LR thread (link below) where I posted a Sonar screen shot and an isolated Harmonica track from one of Sawyer's songs:

    Jay's "In a Timely Manner" - post #5


    Whistling is prominent in this track. I used two instances each of two different sound sources. One of them, "The Shepherd" is still available online, 6th instrument down on the page linked to below. It's a free VST instrument featuring a pretty nice whistle. "Super Spook Keys" is also on that page, a virtual Theremin I've used before:

    The Shepherd

    Besides 2 instances of The Shepherd, I also layered in 2 instances of an SFZ instrument I made from my old Casio CZ synth's whistling patch which still sounds very good.

    One more part of this production was to add Spoons as part of the rhythm track. Musical Spoons are of course used in several genres of folk and country music. I isolated 7 single spoon clacks from a recording I found online, then loaded them into the Sonar Cyclone, a "groove sampler" for triggering bits of audio and loops via MIDI. In essence, Cyclone did what could have been done in ARIA if I would have made the Spoons into an SFZ instrument. It was great fun playing the resulting Musical Spoons instrument in real time.

    Here's a few seconds of the Spoons track isolated where you can hear they sound a bit like Castanets:

    Musical Spoons

    Adding drums, and doubling the strings rounded out the project.

    Randy

  2. #2

    Re: "The Pirate King" by Gilbert and Sullivan ala "TOM SAWYER"

    Now this is one playful little tune. Oh, if I could only be a PIRATE KING! I guess I am destined to be stuck in front of my computer instead. Oh well. I listened to the harmonica (along with the other instruments of course) and it really sounds good with that wah and bend. I am definitely going to get that technique down. Nice one Randy. Thats a good idea using G & S material.
    Jay

  3. #3

    Re: "The Pirate King" by Gilbert and Sullivan ala "TOM SAWYER"

    Quote Originally Posted by jaynkate01 View Post
    Now this is one playful little tune. Oh, if I could only be a PIRATE KING! I guess I am destined to be stuck in front of my computer instead. Oh well. I listened to the harmonica (along with the other instruments of course) and it really sounds good with that wah and bend. I am definitely going to get that technique down. Nice one Randy. Thats a good idea using G & S material.
    Jay
    Thanks much for your post, Jay - This is probably one of the best known G&S tunes, a perennial favorite. When the idea popped in my head to use it, I hesitated for a bit, second guessing myself, but my wife gave me a resounding DO IT! when I told her about the idea. Then the two of us had fun playing around with new lyrics for Tom, since the original verse wouldn't do.

    It was great fun to do - As was putting together this post with all the links. I'm glad you're digging the Wah Wah Harmonica concept. Experiment with recording the automation in real time, moving that control with your mouse, so you can get the feeling that you're holding a harmonica and using your hands to produce the sound.

    Randy

  4. #4

    Re: "The Pirate King" by Gilbert and Sullivan ala "TOM SAWYER"

    Randy, every time you post I say to myself, “School is now in session. Let’s listen as the professor speaks.” I love the vocal work in this composition and how you took your own voice and created a professional sounding choir; absolutely wonderful. And as always, the down home Americana of this work speaks directly to my heart.
    ~Rodney

  5. #5

    Re: "The Pirate King" by Gilbert and Sullivan ala "TOM SAWYER"

    Quote Originally Posted by composingatnight View Post
    Randy, every time you post I say to myself, “School is now in session. Let’s listen as the professor speaks.” I love the vocal work in this composition and how you took your own voice and created a professional sounding choir; absolutely wonderful. And as always, the down home Americana of this work speaks directly to my heart.
    ~Rodney
    That's a wonderful post, Rodney. Thanks for it--glad you enjoy my "mash up" of Gilbert and Sullivan!

    Randy

  6. #6
    Senior Member Frank D's Avatar
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    Re: "The Pirate King" by Gilbert and Sullivan ala "TOM SAWYER"

    Well, there ya go AGAIN, Randy!

    These songs are all so enjoyable and nail the most important qualities required of good musical theater songs: They tell that little piece of the story in an entertaining fashion, advance the plot, and then not belaboring the point by getting right the heck out when what needs to be said has been said. Short and sweet, attention span of audience should = 100%.

    Your arrangement drips with musical theater style: Starting with dialogue, sequeing into the prologue with rubato underscoring then accompanying the prologue in start-stop sections with lots of rubato on the cadences, then, finally, taking us into the in-tempo refrain/chorus of the updated, spirited G&S foray.

    As I listen, I can see the motion on stage this piece calls for, especially the little dance interlude (love the spoons and the 'jaw' harp on the finale!). Also, thanks for posting the "educational" links ... I had read the excellent wha-wha one in Jay's thread, but liked the whistling/spoons samples as well.

    Fun listen!

    Frank








  7. #7

    Re: "The Pirate King" by Gilbert and Sullivan ala "TOM SAWYER"

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank D View Post
    Well, there ya go AGAIN, Randy!

    These songs are all so enjoyable and nail the most important qualities required of good musical theater songs: They tell that little piece of the story in an entertaining fashion, advance the plot, and then not belaboring the point by getting right the heck out when what needs to be said has been said. Short and sweet, attention span of audience should = 100%.

    Your arrangement drips with musical theater style: Starting with dialogue, sequeing into the prologue with rubato underscoring then accompanying the prologue in start-stop sections with lots of rubato on the cadences, then, finally, taking us into the in-tempo refrain/chorus of the updated, spirited G&S foray.

    As I listen, I can see the motion on stage this piece calls for, especially the little dance interlude (love the spoons and the 'jaw' harp on the finale!). Also, thanks for posting the "educational" links ... I had read the excellent wha-wha one in Jay's thread, but liked the whistling/spoons samples as well.

    Fun listen!

    Frank
    I could listen to you talk all day - go on, say mooooore. hehe.

    Wonderful write up, Frank. I really dig the way you dig theatre and how musical theatre works. Even in this stripped down, simplified format, I've naturally been hoping that the results are stage-worthy. Keeping that family audience 100% with the show from start to finish was one of the biggest goals, with no time for long, overly complex scenes or numbers. Hopefully there's enough character study still left in the fast paced script for talented performers to flesh out the lovable characters I know they can be.

    Thanks also for letting me know you enjoyed the "educational" part of this thread. It was so enjoyable needing to delve into some thing I never had before this project, like piecing together the musical spoons in this number, the tap dancing in the "Golden Dreams" number, figuring out a way to get a sampled harmonica more natural sounding - all that stuff, and so now it's fun to pass on some info that could inspire other people to try new things like that.

    Randy

  8. #8

    Re: "The Pirate King" by Gilbert and Sullivan ala "TOM SAWYER"

    Another superb sounding song, you never disappoint. I love the almost off-key 'solo' near the very end. Makes me think of a comedy moment if someone on stage has a banjo and says 'wait, I can play this...' and proceeds to mess it up, but thinks they are great. (my imagination runs off).

    As Frank said it just drips of musical theatre expertise, wonderfully arranged, performed, and sounding.
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  9. #9

    Re: "The Pirate King" by Gilbert and Sullivan ala "TOM SAWYER"

    Quote Originally Posted by Plowking View Post
    Another superb sounding song, you never disappoint. I love the almost off-key 'solo' near the very end. Makes me think of a comedy moment if someone on stage has a banjo and says 'wait, I can play this...' and proceeds to mess it up, but thinks they are great. (my imagination runs off).

    As Frank said it just drips of musical theatre expertise, wonderfully arranged, performed, and sounding.
    Oh man oh man, I always appreciate it when someone takes the time to write a post in response to music I've posted (since we all know the percentage of listeners is much larger than that of the listeners who also respond) - but your post here, Graham, is one I especially am tickled by.

    Naturally, I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the effort - but your description of that funny bit right towards the end is So Spot On!--

    This track has two stringed instruments, Banjo and Dulcimer. In the spotlight in that bit you so aptly described is the Dulcimer. Up to that point it's been playing a line which a Dulcimer could reasonably play, but then the rest of the band halts for it to play a lead, and what comes out really couldn't be played on a Dulcimer - it's a guitar-like lead line, full of small pitch bends and blue notes - a country blues lick which cracked me up when I came up with it. I almost edited it out during a more serious, objective moment of studying what I'd done with the track, but my better sense (the one with a sense of humor) prevailed, and I left it in. I like, for one thing, how it's the sort of thing that MIDI driven music excels at - Anything is possible. What can be actually played by a live band be darned - the Sound's the thing, wherein I'll catch the humor of the king!

    On stage, pretty much what you described is what should happen - the cast momentarily freezes while this instrument goes briefly mad - then they all burst into life again as the song finishes - cued by an aptly timed twang on the Jaw Harp.

    That's the sort of fun this song is intended to embody - Warmed my heart to see that you got it all so completely, Graham.

    Randy

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