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Topic: Big production number from "Tom Sawyer" featuring COMB

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  1. #1

    Big production number from "Tom Sawyer" featuring COMB



    "CELEBRATE"
    --photo from a 1973 movie version of "Tom Sawyer" starring Johnny Whitaker and the late, great Celeste Holm

    (click image for MP3)

    "Production Number: A specialty number in a musical usually performed by the entire cast of singers, dancers, and actors. As a production number continues, it usually keeps getting bigger, with new pieces of scenery added, special costumes, etc. - it becomes a big Production that grows out of a simpler, quieter beginning."

    That definition describes how "Celebrate" figures into my adaptation of "Tom Sawyer," though it's on scale appropriate for this short, medium-sized show. It's towards the end of the show, and is one of the show's most energetic numbers. After it, the dramatic high point of the plot unfolds in the famous cave scene.

    Directly after the court room scene which ended in a fight between Tom and Huck, the scenery changes around Tom, returning to the tree shaded St. Petersburg street which has been the show's primary location.

    Judge Thatcher, his daughter Becky, Aunt Polly, and the entire company pours on, happy to find Tom, the boy they've been looking for. In honor of Tom's bravery in the court room where he saved Muff Potter from hanging, the whole town is having a special holiday. It's "Tom Sawyer Day." There's to be a parade, a big picnic, and then to top it all off, everyone's going to explore the huge, seemingly endless McDougal's cave at the edge of town.

    Thatcher starts the song off, then various characters have solos, and naturally, the full chorus joins in often.

    Here are the pages of the script, to make it clear who's who and what's going on. The PDF pages display in a scrollable preview window at BOX:

    "Tom Sawyer" script - "Celebrate"

    Instruments Used

    From "COMB" - Garritan Concert and Marching Band - That's probably the Library least represented in the music posted here in The Listening Room:

    Piccolo 2 groups
    Flute 2 groups
    Clarinet 2 groups
    Flugelhorn group
    Cornet group
    Trumpet group
    Horn group
    Trombone group
    Euphonium group
    Tuba group
    VDL Police whistle
    Bass drum small
    Cymbals
    3 snares
    VDL Brass glock


    From GPO:

    Horn solo
    Horn overlay
    SAM Horn section
    Full strings
    1st strings
    2nd strings
    Violas
    Cellos
    Basses
    Solo v1
    Solo v2
    Solo viola
    Solo cello
    Solo bass
    Tympani


    From Garritan World:

    5 Fifes
    Dulcimer
    Jaw harp
    Fiddle
    Banjo


    From Garritan Jazz and Big Band ("JABB"):

    Bass trombone
    Flugelhorn
    Tuba solo

    Plus:

    Garritan Stradivari Solo Violin

    Kore acoustic guitar
    Dimension bass

    Cakewalk TSS drums-brushes

    Broomstick bass


    Randy

  2. #2
    Senior Member Frank D's Avatar
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    Re: Big production number from "Tom Sawyer" featuring COMB

    Ahhhh ... The Wait Is Over!

    I was looking forward to this one and now you've posted it AND were gracious enough to include the scene description, script exerpt, and the full instrumentation ... fantastic.

    I just love when I have all the tools to help visualize what's going on in a staged musical number. We really need to listen in 3D when it's music for the stage.

    I'll enjoy this for a few days then check back in with my comments ... thanks for posting this and all the theater-junkie goodies along with it!

    Frank

    (PS: Impressive list of CoMB instruments! All those groups!)

  3. #3

    Re: Big production number from "Tom Sawyer" featuring COMB

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank D View Post
    Ahhhh ... The Wait Is Over!

    I was looking forward to this one and now you've posted it AND were gracious enough to include the scene description, script exerpt, and the full instrumentation ... fantastic.

    I just love when I have all the tools to help visualize what's going on in a staged musical number. We really need to listen in 3D when it's music for the stage.

    I'll enjoy this for a few days then check back in with my comments ... thanks for posting this and all the theater-junkie goodies along with it!

    Frank

    (PS: Impressive list of CoMB instruments! All those groups!)
    hehe, great, Frank - Glad you were looking forward to this. And really, I'm not counting on an essay in reply - Just knowing you had a listen will suit me fine. So, thanks for letting me know you've seen the thread and have grabbed the stuff.

    Randy

  4. #4

    Re: Big production number from "Tom Sawyer" featuring COMB

    Yo Randy! I don't know how you get all of that instrumentation to work so well. "Randy, your my hero". None of the music sounds cluttered at all. I know that you don't use all of the instruments all the time, but even when you use a lot of them, they sound well distributed and balanced. I want to do some things with more instrumentation, but I dread the work effort that is involved. (articulations, dynamics, tempo etc.) Do you play the stuff live into Sonar and then distribute to instrument parts? Also, do you go into each instrument track for articulations, etc. If you have 15, 20 or more instruments playing at the same time, it just seems like such a daunting task.

    Anyway, another great contribution from the pen of R. Bowser. Thanks for the post. Jay

  5. #5

    Re: Big production number from "Tom Sawyer" featuring COMB

    Quote Originally Posted by jaynkate01 View Post
    Yo Randy! I don't know how you get all of that instrumentation to work so well. "Randy, your my hero". None of the music sounds cluttered at all. I know that you don't use all of the instruments all the time, but even when you use a lot of them, they sound well distributed and balanced. I want to do some things with more instrumentation, but I dread the work effort that is involved. (articulations, dynamics, tempo etc.) Do you play the stuff live into Sonar and then distribute to instrument parts? Also, do you go into each instrument track for articulations, etc. If you have 15, 20 or more instruments playing at the same time, it just seems like such a daunting task.

    Anyway, another great contribution from the pen of R. Bowser. Thanks for the post. Jay
    First of all, in case it's of interest to you, Jay, or anyone else, here's the instrumental version of this number:

    Celebrate - instrumental

    It's from the same project file as the vocal demo, only the vocal tracks are muted, and volume automation on the instruments' bus has been erased where I kept ducking the tracks under the vocals.

    What a great post, Jay - Thank you for it.

    There's a large degree of too much humility implied in your response though - You have shown tremendous facility in juggling many instruments, like in your top notch "A Nice Girl Like You" posted a little while back.

    Nevertheless, I appreciate you admiring the mix in "Celebrate." Every time I'm in the mixing phase of a new project, I find a new set of challenges, since no two situations are ever quite the same. And in the middle of that mixing phase, which stretches out for quite a few days, then re-checking again after a week or so of not listening to what I have, so I can come back fresh to it - I always hit some moments of feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. It's a constant challenge for me to get the cohesive results I want. Eventually I stop and call it "Fine for now, good enough for now," but it's always a compromise. There are always bits of orchestration that end up getting either a bit lost, or very lost, for instance.

    To that point about things getting lost - Something I think we always need to keep in mind when dealing with a large number of instruments, is that there are choice bits in our arrangement which we can love by themselves. Solo bits that we're especially proud of - But ultimately what those bits are really doing is contributing to the arrangement as a whole. There's no way that each phrase will be distinguished on its own in the final mix, and that's the way it should be. The sound of a mix is the cumlative effect of all the instruments playing together. And yet, I for one face that over and over, every time I'm trying to put together a project. I have to re-learn that lesson, "oh yeah - this can't sound like a bunch of solos competing with each other, the unique blend of all these instruments playing together is what the achievable goal is."

    Answering your questions, and some tips:

    --Do I play live into Sonar and then distibute to the instrument parts? - Well, not quite like that. For the most part, when I'm working on each instrument's line, I'm playing that particular line, with the intended instrument, and recording it in Sonar. I think your question is asking if I play some sort of generic lines and then copy and paste them into the tracks of instruments I want to use.

    BUT I do usually start with just a piano part. First step for songs like these in "Sawyer" is to write the actual song with not much thought or care about what instruments will eventually be in the arrangement. I just work up a simple piano track, and another piano track for the melody line. I'm focusing on the chord progression, melody line, and rhythm. A few arrangement ideas inevitably come up during this first phase, so if a connecting phrase occurs to me, or a bit of harmony, I'll put that in this piano track also.

    Then, I start playing other instruments as they occur to me, as I play back that basic piano rhythm track. Bass is almost always the first instrument, sometimes coupled with drums developing at almost the same time. Then I just work my way through a list of potential instruments, playing each one against the piano track. The acoustic guitar came early in this arrangement, starting with the quieter middle section.

    Sometimes I'll play/record in large sections, not giving a whit about my timing, and then I'll go back through the track in Piano Roll View, and with Snap off, adjusting notes that were too far out of the pocket. Often though, I work in very small sections, one measure at a time even. A harmonic line for an instrument has occured to me, and I'll go back over that measure many times, recording the idea over and over until its acceptable.

    And then as the list of instruments grows, naturally the lines that develop them are spring boarding not only from the basic chord progression piano track, but also from all the other tracks developed to that point.

    And so on - Weeks of daily work for this number, for instance.

    --Do I get into each track and edit articulations etc. - For sure, that's a Major part of the MIDI work, more time consuming than writing the bits in the first place. Velocities are always scrutinized and edited as needed, and the MIDI controllers (majority of which I record from my keyboard in real time) have their data refined. Virtually every note in a piece has been touched with my cursor before I'm through. All of that doesn't feel like dreary drudge work to me though, I suppose partly because I've been doing it for so long. I just want to make the most I can out of the MIDI version of a piece, and so work each track until it sounds fine when soloed.

    When I've worked on all the tracks that have ended up in a project, I make several passes through with data from all tracks displayed at the same time in the PRV. I look for places where the ensemble timing is either too perfect or too sloppy, and move notes as needed. A neat thing in Sonar's PRV is that using the right hand menu, you can choose which track can be edited even when you're displaying more than one track at a time. That avoids the problem of adjusting a note on one track and accidentally moving the note on another.

    IMPORTANT TO KEEP IN MIND - You said it seems daunting to do a lot of editing on so many tracks. Part of what has to happen, of course, is just to jump in and start doing it - working through each track, instead of fretting about the Big Picture of the project and getting overwhelmed at the amount of work involved.

    But it's important to understand that in a project like this quasi-Sousa inspired number, a great deal of doubling is going on. If you look at the list of instruments, when 2 group patches for an instrument are listed, they're each playing basically the same data. Sometimes it works to just put the 2 groups on the same MIDI channel and have them driven by the same track. Often, though, I make a second copy of one track, and mess it up slightly ("Random Time" CAL routine in Sonar) so the timing is a tiny bit different. And of course a second instrument which is duplicating another instrument needs to be de-tuned slightly in ARIA to make the effect of a larger instrument group more natural sounding. And often I'll add a soloist to play similar data as a group, like in this, the Horn solo and its Overlay track are playing tracks based on what the Horn section patch is playing. After all that doubling, the amount of original data tracks is almost half - much less daunting.

    Strings I often develop from one initial Full Strings track, then I go through and select groups of notes appropriate for each section patch to play - and then add soloists to give a more natural sound to each of those groups.

    Adding detail to the Tempo Map where needed is something that develops all through the editing process. In Sonar, with Snap off, drawing in swoops of tempo data can result in natural ritards, fermatas etc.

    After I've done what I can so the project's sounding good playing in the MIDI realm, then I bounce all the tracks to Audio. I mute and archive the MIDI tracks, and also hide them so they don't clutter up my work space. I turn off all the synths used. Then there's the whole new phase of actually mixing the project, using only audio tracks - and I always find many more opportunities to make things sound better once I'm in that audio realm. I can adjust relative balances to a better degree, and with volume envelopes I can fix moments where some notes may have still ended up too loud or soft - etc.

    It's still a lot of work, but there I've outlined the major things I do that make the work load not quite as big as it may seem on the surface.

    Closing note - I'd say it takes me a minimum of 2 weeks to work up something like "Celebrate." Sometimes more time, sometimes less. I just keep working on it until it seems acceptable - even though I remain highly critical of the results forever after!

    Thanks for your post and questions, Jay - Hope you enjoyed my Novel of a reply!

    Randy

  6. #6

    Re: Big production number from "Tom Sawyer" featuring COMB

    Randy, your insights are great. I guess there really is no way around the detailed editing of each track. I always do that for my songs, note by note articulations and all of that stuff, but I have been working with at most, 8 instruments. I think I am going to jump in (head first, or is it feet first) and work on a piece with more instrumentation. Hopefully the time spent on it will please me some.

    Thanks for the great reply on this. (even if it is a novel). Jay

  7. #7

    Re: Big production number from "Tom Sawyer" featuring COMB

    Quote Originally Posted by jaynkate01 View Post
    ...

    Thanks for the great reply on this. (even if it is a novel). Jay
    hehe--Thanks for letting me know you actually read all that!

    Just remember, as I said in that novel, there were far fewer basic MIDI tracks in this project than it could seem. Doing bits of editing on duplicate tracks only takes minutes, as compared to the hours put in on the originals. And doubling is always a big part of bigger projects.

    I suppose I could add that the better the original tracks, the less editing involved. And to always record CC data in real time - that yields much more organic results, and takes a fraction of the time meticulously hand drawn data does.

    Carry on, Jay!

    Randy

  8. #8

    Re: Big production number from "Tom Sawyer" featuring COMB

    Randy, you just keep getting better and better and belting 'em out...

    Bravo!

    And the production on this! Incredible. Holy cow, I cannot even imagine being anywhere near that good... rofl!

    And I don't mean just the mechanics. The depth of thought behind this, the dimension of it, is just superb.

    With great admiration,



    David
    -----
    David Sosnowski
    www.DavidSosnowski.com

  9. #9

    Re: Big production number from "Tom Sawyer" featuring COMB

    Quote Originally Posted by Mabry View Post
    I don't know anything about musical theatre but I know what I like...and I like this! And also Randy's:
    http://www.northernsounds.com/forum/...featuring-COMB

    I'm kind of combining two responses in one here because I don't have anything in particular to offer about either of these works as they are both above my compositional-arranger-virtual-instrument-and-DAW-user pay grade but the sheer craftmanship and knowledge - and first and foremost, the musicality..Well done, Randy and Frank and well done to all forum members and all musical explorationists everywhere!
    Cool, Mabry - Since your post was in reply to both Frank and me, I wanted to thank you here on my thread for taking the time to post a reply.

    Basically, music for theatre has always been considered low-brow, at least among many academically trained musicians and composers. For decades, Broadway tunes were a major sub-category of Popular Music, and of course pop is just too primitive for more serious minded composers to listen to or think about.

    Things have changed enormously of course, and now all that great show music which was once pop is now part of the past. Few young people care about it, "Glee" notwithstanding, and the classic Broadway style isn't heard as much anymore as the theatre versions of radio pop - music that would never have made it to a professional stage not that many years ago.

    But drama has been, and will always be at the heart of music that makes its way to a stage. Bypass the brain and go straight to the heart - that's the goal. That's why theatre music has never really been considered a "fine art"--but I love that direct simplicity of the concepts. Over the years, records of show tunes have out sold classical music by far, and that's because the general audience has been grabbed by it. And to me, what greater thing can an artist do than actually touch people's lives? The more academically inclined can go about their business of creating their explosions of tone collisions, playing it for each other, continuing to leave the rest world out of the equation - but I sure wouldn't want to be locked up in those ivory towers with them!

    Glad you enjoyed my "Celebrate," and I dare Anyone to not admire Frank's magnificent virtual orchestra version of a Berlin overture. His recording is the sort that has to make anyone realize that we can use our digital tools to go far beyond mere "mock ups" and "renderings"--we can make music which stands on its own.

    Randy

  10. #10

    Re: Big production number from "Tom Sawyer" featuring COMB

    I don't know how you had the patience to put all that together, but it is blended so well that you would never know so many instruments were used. Nicely done Randy.

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