Song sheets: the barebones to guide music making

On my first day of taking the intermediate ukulele course in Hawaii, I was surprised to witness the entire class playing and singing along. We were sight reading and sight singing, skills that take years to master for musicians.

That morning at Maui College in January 2016, all we had in front of us was a single sheet of paper that contained the lyrics, chord names, and chord diagrams. No music notation. No Italian words about tempo and dynamics in italic. No tablature. No abbreviations. No other music symbols. How could a single sheet of paper with minimal information guide music making?

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College students react to “Following the Ninth”

Part two of Kerry Candaele’s Beethoven trilogy is under way. I pledged $35 for the Kickstarter Project which ends on May 19th, 2016. The way this crowd funding works is that if the goal is not reached, the fundraiser gets nothing. It’s my sincere hope that my friends and readers click on the above link and preview the next film in the making. It’s about Beethoven’s only opera – Fidelio.
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Alive Inside: getting the playlist for the music of memory

Inspired by the 2014 documentary “Alive Inside,” Anne Ku tries to create a playlist for elderly residents by sight-reading popular music from different eras, TV themes, broadway, movies, and the charts.

The 78-minute documentary “Alive Inside” is a fascinating account of the effect of familiar music on eliciting memory in the elderly, awakening them from their otherwise passive state of being. Released in 2014, the film “follows social worker Dan Cohen, founder of the nonprofit organization Music & Memory, as he fights against a broken healthcare system to demonstrate music’s ability to combat memory loss and restore a deep sense of self to those suffering from it.”

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Rose Concert 2015: Father’s Day, the Brain, Alzheimer’s Disease

Anne Ku connects the themes of rose, Father’s Day, the brain, and Alzheimer’s Disease to pay tribute and raise awareness at the Rose Concert 2015. She premieres Emre Aki’s “Little Angel” dedicated to his daughter.

Two years ago, I gave my first Rose Concert at Roselani Place, a home named after the rose in central Maui for elderly residents. When I ran out of songs about the rose, I ventured into songs about other flowers like jasmine, cherry blossoms, etc.

This time, on Friday June 19th, I also paid tribute to Father’s Day (Sunday June 21st) and National Alzheimer’s Disease and Brain Awareness Month. Call it a concert to celebrate the beautiful minds of Aaron Copland, Maurice Ravel, and Scott Joplin.

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Music from Movies Concert

When choosing music to play for a concert, it’s important to have a theme, tell a story that not only introduces each work but also links them to each other. Balance the familiar with the unfamiliar; slow and fast. Variety is the spice of life.

For the record and to avoid repeating the same program in the future, I’m documenting what I played for the concert I gave on Friday 28th February 2014. I had contemplated the possibilities of piano music from movies a few days earlier.

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Academy Awards Concert

To prepare for the Academy Awards Concert I’m giving on Maui, I thought about the different kinds of music used in movies.

Over the years, I’ve collected quite a portfolio of music to suit all occasions. Music from movies, in particular, fits well as background and foreground music. I’ve used several in my most recent concert on Valentine’s Day, for love songs proliferate radio, TV, and cinema.

To precede tomorrow’s Academy Awards ceremony, I decided to put together a concert of movie themes.

At first, I selected works I have and love. These include classical pieces that existed well before their being chosen for the movies. Chopin’s famous posthumous nocturne in C-sharp minor was used in “The Pianist” and Rachmaninoff’s piano solo from the “18th Variation on a Theme of Paganini” was played many times in the movie “Somewhere in Time.” More recently, Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” was strategically placed in “Twilight.” There are countless classical works that preceded the movies and whose composers, long dead, never saw the light of day to receive royalties or recognition. Yet somehow these movies revive those classical works, bringing them new context and new audiences.

That was my initial idea — to introduce instrumental music that inherit new meaning as a result of their selection and placement in movies. After hearing Bach’s harpsichord concerto in “Hannah and Her Sisters” one may associate that piece only with that movie, for instance.

To counter pre-existent music chosen for film, I intended to also play music written specifically for movies which take on a life of their own. For instance, Whitney Houston made Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” more famous than the original version and the movie it was used in — “The Body Guard.” It stands separately as a song in its own right. Other songs written for film have gone to hit the charts as singles the world over.

Then there is the specific genre of so-called “film music.” You’d recognise it when you hear it. Some of my fellow composition classmates at the KMT (Kunst Media Technologie in Hilversum, Netherlands) wrote such music and aspired to continue doing so after they graduated. I was impressed how they, after only a few years of study, managed to score orchestral music that echoed a familiarity not distant from James Horner and John Williams. For many composers, film music is the breeding ground for new compositions.

When I sat down to put together my one hour programme for tomorrow afternoon’s concert, I discovered that I had enough music to cover just the Oscar winners of best original score and song. There was no need to include the nominees that did not win or works that did not get nominated or works of movies that did not get nominated at all.

I wanted to play Dan Coates’ wonderful piano solo arrangement of “Miss Celie’s Blues” from the movie “The Color Purple.” But that 1985 nomination lost to “Say You, Say Me” from “White Knights.” In the end, I decided that I really should propose another concert — Music from Movies for Mother’s Day — to include all those works I had prepared but discarded for tomorrow’s Oscars.

The programme for the Academy Awards Concert at Roselani Place in Maui goes as follows:

  • 70th Academy Awards Winner of Best Original Score – 1997 – “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic
  • 65th Winner – 1992 – “A Whole New World” from Aladdin
  • 54th Winner – 1981 – “Arthur’s Theme: Best That You Can Do” from Arthur
  • 49th Winner – 1976 – “Evergreen” from A Star is Born
  • 46th Winner – 1973 – “The Way We Were” from The Way We Were
  • 43rd Winner – 1970 – “Love Story” from Love Story
  • 42nd Winner – 1969 – “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • 38th Winner – 1965 – “Lara’s Theme” from Doctor Zhivago
  • 38th Winner – 1965 – (Scoring of Music – adaptation or treatment) The Sound of Music
  • 29th Winner – 1956 – “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)” from The Man Who Knew Too Much
  • 12th Winner – 1939 – “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz

I have several arrangements of “Over the Rainbow” – from Dan Coates’ arpeggiated piano solo to a jazzy soul version, one by Keith Jarrett, and ultimately, the ukelele version by Iz which stayed at number 1 in Germany for 12 non-consecutive weeks in 2010. It’s a nice way to end an afternoon in central Maui.