Archive for May 2014

Around The World In 80 Plays

Given that we write music on different continents and share it numerous times per day via the wonder of the world wide web, I suppose that the ease in which the material is transported over the Atlantic should alert us to how straightforwardly end users the world over can immediately access our music.

Still, it always fascinates both of us to see the enormous variety of ways in which editors and supervisors use our music to promote products or within programs in countries the world over. Thanks to new technologies available to writers and publishers, we are able to listen to virtually every usage of our music just a few minutes behind real time – and it’s become an enjoyable pastime to seek out videos of the usages to put in our “collection’.

Here’s one example we found the other day.
It’s a Spanish supermarket advert- but if you listen really carefully at the end you’ll hear the dulcet tones of Mr Jeff Meegan witih the tag line “One True Love” – which is the title of the song we wrote for a recent Big Band album. This was recorded with the Rob Parton Big Band conducted by David, and written by the two of us in 2012.

More examples to be posted when we see them!

Recording Dixieland – A New Orleans tradition

The first thing we did once we found out we were going to be recording a Dixieland album in New Orleans was to start listening to Dixieland music properly. There are several ways in which a person can listen to music. Obviously, sometimes we listen for pleasure but any composer will tell you, sometimes we listen to “get under the hood” of a musical style, to get a sense of what makes a genre tick.

The Makings of Dixieland
The ubiquitous nature of Dixieland became more and more apparent the more listening we did. TV productions and advertisements for both adults and kids alike seem to feature Dixieland pieces. Closer inspection also brought to light the diverse influences that have widened the boundaries of the style. For example, there is a healthy dose of Afro Caribbean music in New Orleans which has influenced Dixieland jazz, as well as Folk music from France and marching band music (where Dixieland finds its roots). Dixieland, like many other jazz idioms is largely an improvisational idiom. Although we like to carefully prepare scores with specifics for players, we realized up front that we needed to give the players room to stamp their own stylistic interpretations on each work. Our mission in New Orleans wasn’t to ask these musicians to play our music our way, but to play our music their way.

Instrumentation
The line up of instruments is particularly specific for most Dixieland works. Therefore we kept our line up traditional with trumpet, trombone, clarinet, sousaphone, upright bass, piano, banjo, guitar and washboard. One of the unusual things about Dixieland is the use of the sousaphone. What a powerful beast this thing is! The sound was originally based in American marching bands and has a really particular timbre often found on Dixieland tracks, so we split our bass lines between upright bass on some tracks and Sousa on the others. Both played by the marvellous Matt Perrine.

A New Orleans Tradition
Any one of the musicians playing on these recordings would frankly tell you that the music scene in New Orleans has changed vastly over the years. The older generation of Dixieland players have moved on or passed away and the city’s music community feels their loss. That being said, the torch is being carried on by a select few and we had the pleasure of working with some of them on this recording. We worked with a musical fixer, Mark Bingham from Piety Street Studios, to help us find the right musicians. Mark is incredibly well connected and putting our faith and trust in him paid dividends. We ended up with a band comprised some of this generation’s most well known New Orleans musicians.