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  • Writer's picturerlcorn47

Both Sides Now (From the Far Side)

FaceBook has become a kind of an adult version of the family refrigerator. If you do something you are proud of, or want to show it off, you can slap it on the ole fridge ... or ... post on FB. Unfortunately this post just got a little too long, so I am going to do a little "blog rambling". I have spent the last several months trying to learn how to use Garageband. It is a blast and you really don't need any musical talent to use it. (I might add that it is also terribly addictive.) Instead of starting off with Louie Louie or Mary Had a Little Lamb, I decided to start with one of my favorite arrangements (and apparently one way over my "pay-grade"). After a couple of months, my computer started having the hiccups with the 15+ tracks that I had already started to bouncing down to make room for more. Even though it is not finished (and may never be) I decided to call it quits before my computer did. Anyway, through a little on-line software magic, the BBC was kind enough to loan

me their entire orchestra for as long as I wanted...AND FOR FREE. Whenever the first chair violinist gets snooty, I just replace him or her with the violas. I don't have the time for attitude.

It is like putting together a very large jigsaw puzzle. All of the parts have to fit–in time–in tune–in balance–and sound like music when you are done. There is also the pesky little matter of keeping up with who has the melody before they unexpectedly hand it off to someone else. Then, there are effects, EQ, compression, squeeze, etc. etc, etc.

On the upside, it is an amazing opportunity to create something musical with substantionally less skill than you might imagine. Marcee will come in from time to time and I will be sitting there with tears in my eyes (not that it takes a lot for that to happen). "Did you come up with something you really liked," she would asked sympathetically but without a clue as to why that would be my affirming response.

WARNING: QUICK REGRESSION In 1968, Joni Michell wrote (what in my opinion) is one of the most beautiful pop

songs ever written - Both Sides Now (Clouds). Joni, only twenty-four years old at the time, wrote lyrics that most people can't begin to understand until they have at least several decades of life (and all that goes with it) under their belts. Fifty-four years later, she sang it at last year's Newport Folk Festival. Many of her band members and her back up singers were in tears because 1.) It was an incredible performance. 2.) She now has the decades of life experience under her belt. She lived the life that she had written about so many years ago. 3.) They (probably) knew this was going to be one of the last times Joni might sing this song in concert. The lyrics are more powerful now than when they were written.

In 2000, Joni recorded a live version with a full orchestra with an incredibly beautiful arrangement. If I understood anything about arranging, I would never have tackled this song as a first project. I know the chords to the song, I know where the changes take place, but I don't have a clue as to how the orchestra provides the structure for this song. It is like trying to arrange smoke. (In my mind, the music is like leaves swirling around your feet in the fall...too much?) The instruments each take a turn playing a bit of the melody before quietly handing it off to another section without every really owning it. But armed with an entire orchestra (and borrowing Joni's voice with a cool little piece of software), I think it is a reasonable effort.


One of the unexpected benefits of this process was the unavoidable trips down memory lane. So many memories of the Whithorne Band came along with the experience. I could not record a French horn part without seeing the FH section just left of center/up front. I put in some trumpet notes that are in a range unreachable by humans... but I would think of our trumpet section, most of whom sat to my left....I was pretty far down in pecking order. I knew the basses and baritones were looking over my left shoulder. Woodwinds starred back from directly across the room. It was like having most of my high school friends in this tiny little room with me as I asked them how they might play their parts. Strange, huh? Disclaimers: There are still some wrong notes but I am writing them off to creating an intentional harmonic conflict (and the whole "tension/release" thing). Based on that principle, there is quite a bit of tension that needed releasing, but it is still a work in progress..

I am weeks away from finishing "Here's That Rainy Day" by the Stan Kenton Orchestra, which is another project that has been months in the making. After that a Blood, Sweat and Tears tune. Then... maybe Louie Louie. There is something special about creating music, even if you are only copying someone else's songs, but it is therapeutic. is hard to hang an entire orchestra on your refrigerator with a magnet.

If I have broken any copyright laws by using Joni's voice, song, someone's else's arrangement (or close to it), I apologize and will take the blog down immediately. After all, it is just refrigerator art.

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Mike Coleman
Mike Coleman
20 sept. 2023

Nice blog, Rob! I love your spirit and sense of humor. A good read as well as a good listen. BTW, I read your Titanic book while we traveled in Scandinavia last month. Enjoyed it very much. Imaginative. Engaging characters and dialogue. What's next?

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