November 7, 2020Collaboration (Arranging)
Let’s start here. This is a proverb from the Bible: “As iron sharpens iron so one person sharpens another.” It is from the Book of Proverbs (27:17).
I am again going to focus on “work-for-hire” arranging (& orchestrating).
As I have written before. This type of work is collaborative. Not unlike other work in the music industry.
Unlike concert commissions this kind may be a bit more difficult. Usually in concert commissions the commissioner is hiring a composing “artist” and (for the sake of keeping things simple) tends to let them go about their “art” (style, etc.) without a lot of demands. If a violinist commissions a violin concerto they obviously expect certain things like the music to include violin! There may be other requests but less so “demands”.
As I said in a prior blog, many of my clients (commissioners) are songwriters. And also as I said before, what you get from them may be a very complete song sometimes (perhaps often) not. I have worked with both extremes. Collaboration can be a wonderful process or painful or some of both.
Some years ago in pursuing my Masters degree I had to take a class that was very difficult with 10 books to read, tons of assignments etc. but rewarding with an excellent teacher. The class was taught at a seminary that I also taught composition/music tech at. It was basically a class on how God works with human artists (I’m simplifying a lot). It focused on God commissioning the tabernacle. Now, seems to me that God could have just said “here it is guys” and plopped it all down on earth perfectly complete. But nope, he commissioned the work with specific demands to be carried out by humans. That alone is a weird thing to think about—¦.God choosing humans with their imperfections to carry out His work, but—¦He did.
Now, I wasn’t there to know, but I might imagine that though God gave detailed specifics, humans, being “human” might have added some minor touches? I don’t know and I’m not going to get into a theological discussion about that (theologians love to argue).
Years ago I studied Schillinger system which to this day is what I believe to be the best overall “scientific” approach to music theory. It uses a lot of science, a lot of math and yes, I do believe music (and all art) have specific scientific principles but because “humans” apply it, it is also “art”.
You might say that one of the things I enjoy about musical art is its imperfections? You say “WHAT”???
You Flauding? Mister perfectionism!!! Yes, let me explain. It is in the human application of the science (es) that we get the art. This is what we may in simpler terms call “style”. The choices one makes within the science including ignoring the science (you know like Schoenberg thinking one day atonality will be just like tonality? – that’s a whole other can of worms ).
Here’s a very simple example. I own quite a lot of technology including music samples. They are basically perfect in pitch and I can program them perfectly in time, etc—¦.All can be quite “perfect”. However, I prefer real humans performing my music even with the slight imperfections. A great string section, even a great studio section has a cast of greater or less greater (I hate putting this way but you know what I mean) players – various vibratos (you don’t want them scientifically the same – nor bow movements (sometimes) again—¦etc, etc—¦ we could go on and on with examples – I won’t.
The same is true of choirs and I could go on but let me kind of wind myself backwards.
God, being God could have set down perfection on earth with the tabernacle requirements. Nope, He “chose” to involve humans. I don’t know “why”. I don’t need to know why – He did.
I believe He still does like us humans doing music and art.
The point it is: It was a collaborative. So, let’s go back.
If you are going to do “work-for-hire” music you will be doing some form of collaboration. Either accept that or do your own art (I do both). And sometimes collaboration gets messy. In my last project I had a number of disagreements with my client. Oh, let’s be frank, some downright hang up the phone arguments. It was a very extensive project – like any relationship, the longer it goes, the more likely the disagreements.
The bottom line (if you will) is, at the end, if the product is better on account of it, the prior differences can be worked out—¦ iron sharpens iron.
No one likes to be told “go back to the drawing board” but that’s what is often required.
Collaboration is tough work. Sometimes you have to be a mind-reader. Many of my clients are not all that schooled in what they do and that can make communication difficult. One little technique I have used over the years is to “use their language” when possible. It is frustrating when multiple people are talking about the same basic subject but using different terms. I have, and probably you have been in those conversations—¦maddening!
In my last project, my client-songwriter would use certain terms that, unless they were way off, I would adopt his terms to communicate with him better. I learned years ago as a producer-conductor-music director to adjust my verbiage to whom I talk with. If I’m talking with a recording engineer I may use terms like go to “1 minute, 45 seconds” rather than the “first chorus”.
In the case of my last client who was a singer-songwriter measure numbers were somewhat meaningless for the most part because he would sing everything so I used his “lyrics” to make sure we were talking about the same section – this was especially useful in the vocal soloists recording sessions. There were a number of people in the remote sessions via Zoom and Audio Movers as well as phone calls/texts being used. These were pro session singers and given a good vocal part (or lead sheet-which I made sure they had) they were fine. But with several creative types in the session using their own music terms communication things got weird (time/money potentially wasted) so, as the producer I had to (diplomatically) step in and clarify things. It all worked out but the Zoom videos could make a good comedy reel (?).
Yes, collaborating can be tough, but—¦it can also be wonderful in that the contributions of different collaborators can add up to something better than the individuals involved.
And in my case, yes, I do ask God to be involved and truly believe He is and we meet daily to collaborate.
That is another subject—¦