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Jazz educators tell students that transcribing solos will help them learn to improvise. It will certainly improve their ears if they are trying to hear the relationships of pitches in a phrase. It will do little to help their ears if they are using software to move the solo note by note and hunt and peck to find that note.
Students often ask what they should do with the solos after transcribing them. Should they learn it note for note matching articulations. I can imagine this would be very helpful. But has playing non-jazz etudes and pieces note for note with correct style helped them with improvisation? Students who focus just on memorizing other’s work, whether it is jazz solos or classical pieces are typically the least prepared to improvise, even though they may have very well developed technique on their instruments.
In order to improvise, one must get into the thinking behind the notes. That is difficult when dealing with memorizing a 128 measure solo. It might be easier when breaking apart shorter excerpts from that solo. One of my primarily classically trained students transcribed the first 36 measures of a Keith Jarrett improvisation over the chord changes to All the Things You Are from YouTube. She can probably sight read it at tempo, but is unable to improvise using the vocabulary.
I suggested taking excerpts; breaking them down, applying them several places in the progression, finding ways to connect these excerpts, and through this process, develop vocabulary. Attention should be paid to appropriate jazz phrasing, articulations, accents and good time feel.
Jarrett plays this simple line in the first measure of the form. It clearly lines up with the chord – a 5- 3-1 arpeggio idea with one passing tone, which could be expressed as a 5-3-2-1 pattern.
Apply this fragment to the entire progression (only the first eight measures are shown). As the pattern becomes more familiar, try different rhythmic variations.
Here is a line from m.2. It could be described as a descending arpeggio (7-5-3-1) with one pickup note or leading tone, and one passing tone.
Apply this idea to the entire progression. Some rhythmic variations and displacements can disguise the repeated pattern and make it sound more organic.
Jarrett plays this 3-5-7-9 arpeggio in m.4. In the tune itself, this chord is played as a major 7 chord.
This is a very good exercise for connecting all the chords using a 3-5-7-9 arpeggio. These arpeggios can ascend, as in mm.1-2. Eventually, you will run out of range on your instrument. A solution is to invert the arpeggios as in mm.3, 5, and 7. Repeat the exercise exchanging where you play ascending or inverted arpeggios. Several kinds of rhythmic variations can be applied, including anticipation and delayed resolutions. This exercise follows outline no. 1 (see discussion below).
Apply this arpeggio idea to the progression. Some of these excerpts may be too active to be played in every measure. It is a good idea to practice them in alternating measures. This reinforces a sense of stop and go in your phrasing. The example below plays the line in the odd measures and comes to rest on the 3rd in the even measures. (The connection of this idea resolving to the 3rd of the next chord is outline no. 2, discussed below.)
Now play the 3rd in the odd measures with the line in the even measures.
Jarrett’s line from mm.11-12 can be reduced to a simple line that connects the thirds of each chord. Jarrett also plays a 3-5-7-9 arpeggio that connects the octave leap from G to F. (This is outline no. 1, discussed below.)
Practice the line for alternating measures as shown in the previous exercises. Odd to Even:
Even to Odd:
There are three common lines found in music from the Baroque period to the present. They may appear with out embellishment or may be highly figured. (I have written a book that deals exclusively with these structures: Connecting Chords with Linear Harmony, Hal Leonard, Inc.)
Outline No. 1 connects the 3rd of one chord down to the 3rd of the next.
Outline No. 2 begins with an ascending 1-3-5 arpeggio and the 7th resolves to the 3rd of the next chord.
Outline No. 3 begins with a descending 5-3-1 arpeggio and the 7th resolves to the 3rd of the next chord.
The three outlines are shown below for a G7 to C progression. The outlines are used anytime the chords progress down a fifth. Almost the entire progression for this piece is based on chords resolving down a fifth, so these basic outlines will be essential vocabulary.
OutlineNo.1 OutlineNo.2 Outline No.3
Jarrett strings two outlines together in mm.13-15. It is interesting to hear how Jarrett’s rhythmic displacement creates interest, but it is better to begin practicing them as they line up with the chords. When the lines become more familiar, experiment with displacement (both octave and rhythmic) and with various levels of embellishment.
Jarrett Line Basic Outline No. 2 & No. 1
Outline No. 2 applied to the progression using alternating measures.
Even too odd:
Jarrett Outline No. 1 Basic Outline No. 1
Jarrett outline no. 1 idea sequenced through the progression using alternating measures. Odd to Even:
Even to Odd:
Jarrett plays a 3-5-7-9 arpeggio in m.17 followed by outline no. 2 in m.18.
It may be easier to see as shown belowb. In the second setting below, a Bb replaces the An in the descending arpeggio over the D7. The B is more colorful and suggests chromatic voice-leading from the B .
The basic 3-5-7-9 arpeggios are followed by outline no. 3 in the exercise below. A very basic shape is shown on the top line. The bottom line is more embellished and rhythmically interesting and may represent how it might be in an improvised solo. It is important to be able to play the basic shapes before attempting to embellish them.
This exercise is the reverse of the previous one. This one begins with outline no. 3 followed by a 3- 5-7-9 arpeggio. The basic shapes are shown on the top line and more embellished and rhythmically active lines are shown on the bottom.
TRIADS & NEIGHBOR TONE GROUPS
Jarrett plays a simple triad shape in m.23. The basic idea is 3-5-1. Jarrett uses a neighbor tone group before playing the E.
Upper neighbor tones are usually diatonic and lower neighbor tones are chromatic. A simple 3-5-1 arpeggio is sequenced below for the progression.
Jarrett uses another 3-5-1 arpeggio in m.35, but begins with a neighbor tone group around the 3rd.
Apply this idea to the progression. As it becomes more familiar, try other rhythmic placements of the line.
The two neighbor tone groups could be combined in numerous other ways over any basic triad shape. Jarrett used a neighbor tone group around the root in m.23 and around the 3rd in m.35. The exercise below combines those groups and applies them to the progression.
ALTERED DOMINANT LINES
Jarrett plays an interesting embellishbmebnt #of outline no. 1 in mm.24-25. Jarrett’s embellishment calls.
Basic Outline No. 1Shape Jarrett’s Embellishment
This line is also useful resolving to major and may be applied to any of the V7 – I cadences in the progression.
Writers keep journals. Jazz improvisers and composers should keep notebooks of simple and embellished lines as a way of cataloging, fostering and keeping track of creative growth. All of these exercises can be transposed and used in other standard jazz progressions. Many of these exercises can be combined with one another in interesting ways. (For instance, try using one of the triad patterns with neighbor tone groupings to lead to the altered dominant line, then using another variation of the triad pattern when resolving to the I or i chord.)
All of these lines in Jarrett’s improvisation can be found in many other jazz solos, yet we can recognize his solos as uniquely Jarrett. As you internalize these common lines your own unique way of putting them together will emerge. Keep the metronome on and keep practicing!
10 Ninna nanna per adulteri (From “Cuore di mamma”) 30:25 – 33:27 11 The Trio (From “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”) 33:29 – 40:41 12 Il pinguino (From “Vamos a matar, compañeros”) 40:43 – 43:40 13 Come Maddalena (From “Maddalena”) 43:42 – 52:52 14 The Strong (From “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”) 52:54 – 55:16 15 My Fault? (From “My Name is Nobody”) 55:18 – 01:00:06
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Baden Powell short biography
For almost half a century, the Brazilian born guitar player Baden Powell has been one of the key musicians among his country’s jazz scene. However, Powell’s work demonstrates a mastery of many classical guitar styles, from the South American tradition of flamenco to interpretations of the composer Johann Sebastian Bach.
Nevertheless, on the whole Powell built his reputation as an innovator of bossa nova or the marriage of Brazilian sambas and jazz, often aided by the poet and lyricist Vinicius de Moraes. Although his popularity in the United States has never truly expanded beyond jazz and guitar aficionados, Powell’s name has been virtually a household word in Europe from the early 1960s, when he relocated to that continent for several decades.
Born in the a small shantytown, called a favela in Portuguese, Powell grew up amongst a musical family. His father Lino de Aquino was a fairly successful violinist, and his grandfather had been an important orchestra leader. Seeing that the young Powell had an attraction to musical instruments— he had been caught stealing his aunt’s violin—Lino decided to sent his son to study with the nationally famous composer and guitarist Jaime Florense. Florense, under the stage name of Meira, had made a name for himself in the 1940s as an accompanist for many Brazilian radio stars and immersed Powell in a vigorous diet of trade secrets of the classical musician.
All the while, the budding musician was seduced by the sounds of jazz musicians such as saxophone player Charlie Parker and pianist Thelonius Monk.
By the mid-1940s, Powell had become something of a minor child star in Brazil, largely through the help of Florense. “When I was nine, my father entered me in a radio amateur hour contest—without telling me,” Powell remembered to Guitar Review writer Brian Hodel in 1990. “I had been playing only two years, but I played well.” Powell won the contest, and the publicity gave Florense a lever with which to boost his protégé into other engagements.
In 1947, Powell appeared in the first ever Brazilian television program, performing jazz pieces on an electric guitar. After this point, Powell would carry out his work almost exclusively through acoustic instrumentation.
Although Powell began playing professionally at the age of fifteen, it was not until the late 1950s that he began to take himself seriously as a composer, after his song “Samba Triste” became a popular hit for the singer Lucio Alves in 1956. However, it was not until his experience with the congealing school of bossa nova found in the Bar Plaza district of Rio de Janeiro that helped Powell develop his own flavor of songwriting.
While the exact origin of bossa nova is debated, it gained international fame in the 1960s through the work of artists such as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao and Astrud Giberto, Chico Buarque de Hollande, and Powell himself.
In the early 1960s, Powell began his partnership with Vinicius de Moraes, who was already Brazil’s foremost poet. With the delicate, sometimes nostalgic mode of Powell’s music accompanied by the understated lyrics of Moraes, the duo became instrumental in defining what bossa nova meant to the world. Although his reputation in his own country had peaked upon his teaming with Moraes, Powell was celebrated even more in Europe, where the cool jazz flavor of bossa nova raged in many clubs.
“In Brazil the audience is affectionate, but it is a very select group,” Powell told Hodel. “In Europe, the same people who attend a rock concert will listen to Artur Rubenstein, jazz, everything. There is just so much culture!” As a result, in 1963 Powell moved to Europe, which remained his base of operations for three decades.
Toured Brazil playing guitar at Florense’s suggestion, 1947; had first success with Lucio Alves’s recording of song “Samba Triste,” 1956; met lyricist and partner Vinicius de Moraes, 1961; moved to Europe to record with artists such as Herbie Mann, 1963; toured Europe as a band leader, beginning in 1966; recorded in New York City with American saxophonist Stan Getz, 1967; performed at the Berlin Guitar Festival, 1967; recorded bossa nova styled album La Grande Reunion with Stephane Grappelli, 1974; recorded acclaimed album Seresta Brasiliera, 1994; released retrospective record The Guitar Artistry of Baden Powell, 1998.
Awards: second place in first Festival of Brazilian Popular Music for song “Valsa do Amor Que Nao Vem), written with Moraes, 1965; fourth place in Festival of Brazilian Popular Music for song “Cidade Vazia,” written with Lula Freire, 1966; won French Golden Disc Award for album Le Monde Musical de Baden Powell, 1967’; won Biennial Samba Competition with “Lapinha,” written with P.C. Pinheiro, 1968.
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Who doesn’t know Mozart’s “Sonata facile” of 1788?
Yet those who practice this extremely popular piano sonata in C major will realize that it is by no means so “easy” to play. Its nickname does not come from Mozart, but from the title page of the first edition, which was printed only posthumously. No cause for premature celebration, however: in his own autograph catalogue of works, Mozart himself identified it as “a little piano sonata for beginners.” “Mozart is a touchstone of the heart. If I want to show my love to a dear person, I sit down at the piano and play for her a piece of Mozart”.
In these words the great Mozart interpreter Edwin Fischer expressed an essential message: every note Mozart wrote is a reflection of his character – affectionate, sensitive and yet at the same time powerful and virile, abounding both of inspiration and an early acquired masterly control comparable in some ways only with that of Johann-Sebastian Bach. Mozart’s ability to express the deepest thoughts with the fewest notes is why it is so difficult to play his music properly.
Technical prowess alone won’t do it. It requires the ability of a feeling heart to express music as an affectionate communication between performer and listener. Anyway, this one K. 545 is a beautiful not so easy Sonata, but also, and this is remarkable, the perfect composition for fingers practising through elementary scales.
The first movement is written in sonata form and is in the key of C major. The familiar opening theme is accompanied by an Alberti bass, played in the left hand. A bridge passage composed of scales follows, arriving at a cadence in G major, the key in which the second theme is then played. A codetta follows to conclude the exposition, then the exposition is repeated. The development starts in G minor and modulates through several keys. The recapitulation begins, unusually, in the subdominant key of F major. The Alberti bass that began as a C major triad at this point becomes an F major triad, followed by a left hand F major scale pattern which emulates the rhythm of the previous right hand A minor scale.
According to Charles Rosen, the practice of beginning a recapitulation in the subdominant was “rare at the time [the sonata] was written”, though the practice was later taken up by Franz Schubert.
Lang Lang short biography
Born: June 14, 1982 – Shenyang, Liaoning, China
The Chinese pianist, Lang Lang, was normn to a musician father, Lang Guoren, a Manchurian, who specializes in the erhu, a traditional Chinese stringed instrument. At the age of two, Lang watched the Tom and Jerry episode The Cat Concerto which features the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 by Franz Liszt. According to Lang, this first contact with Western music is what motivated him to learn piano. He began lessons with Professor Zhu Ya-Fen at age 3. At the age of 5, he won first place at the Shenyang Piano Competition and performed his first public recital. When Lang was 9 years old, he was near his audition for Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music, and, having difficulties with his lessons, was expelled from his piano tutor’s studio for “lack of talent”. The music teacher at his state school noticed Lang’s sadness, and decided to comfort him by playing a record of W.A. Mozart‘s Piano Sonata No. 10 in C major, K. 330; she asked him to play along with the second movement. This reminded Lang of his love of the instrument. “Playing the K. 330 brought me hope again,” he recalled. Lang was later admitted into the conservatory where he studied under Professor Zhao Ping-Guo. In 1993, he won the Xing Hai Cup Piano Competition in Beijing and, in 1994, was awarded first prize for outstanding artistic performance at the fourth International Competition for Young Pianists in Ettlingen, Germany. In 1995, at 13 years of age, he played the Op. 10 and Op. 25 études by Frédéric Chopin at the Beijing Concert Hall and, the same year, won first place at the International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians in Japan, playing F. Chopin‘s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra in a concert broadcast by NHK Television. When 14, he was a featured soloist at the China National Symphony’s inaugural concert, which was broadcast by China Central Television and attended by President Jiang Zemin. The following year he began studies with Gary Graffman at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
Lang Lang has given sold out recitals and concerts in many major cities and was the first Chinese pianist to be engaged by the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Wiener Philharmoniker and some top American orchestras. A Chicago Tribune music critic called him “the biggest, most exciting young keyboard talent I have encountered in many a year of attending piano recitals”. Lang has been praised by musicians and critics around the world – the conductor Jahja Ling remarked, “Lang Lang is special because of his total mastery of the piano… He has the flair and great communicative power.” National Public Radio’s Morning Edition remarked that “Lang Lang has conquered the classical world with dazzling technique and charisma.” It is often noted that Lang successfully straddles two worlds – classical prodigy and rock-like “superstar”, a phenomenon summed up by The Times journalist Emma Pomfret, who wrote, “I can think of no other classical artist who has achieved Lang Lang’s broad appeal without dumbing down.”
Lang Lang’s performances have also been criticized. His performance style has been referred to as having “soggy rhythms and heavy phrasing,” and as being “truly boring”, “just bad” and “unendurable”. Critics who feel that his playing is vulgar and lacks sensitivity have given him the nickname “Bang Bang”. Pianist Earl Wild called him “the J. Lo of the piano.” Others have described him as immature, though praised his ability to “conquer crowds with youthful bravado”. His growth in recent years was reported by The New Yorker: “The ebullient Lang Lang is maturing as an artist.” In April 2009, when Time Magazine included Lang Lang in its list of the 100 most influential people, Herbie Hancock described his playing as “so sensitive and so deeply human”, commenting: “You hear him play, and he never ceases to touch your heart.”
In 2001, after a sold-out Carnegie Hall debut with Yuri Temirkanov, Lang Lang travelled to Beijing with the Philadelphia Orchestra on a tour celebrating its 100th anniversary, during which he performed to an audience of 8,000 at the Great Hall of the People. The same year, he made an acclaimed BBC Proms debut, prompting a music critic of the British newspaper The Times to write, “Lang Lang took a sold-out Royal Albert Hall by storm… This could well be history in the making”. In 2003, he returned to the BBC Proms for the First Night concert with Leonard Slatkin. After his recital debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Berliner Zeitung wrote: “Lang Lang is a superb musical performer whose artistic touch is always in service of the music”.
Lang Lang is a featured soloist on the Golden Globe winning score of The Painted Veil and can be heard on the soundtrack of The Banquet. He has recorded for the Deutsche Grammophon and Telarc labels.. His album of L.v. Beethoven’s Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 4 with the Orchestre de Paris and Christoph Eschenbach debuted at No. 1 on the Traditional Classical Billboard Chart. In 2008, he was the pianist on Mike Oldfield’s 2008 album “Music of the Spheres”. In 2010, he signed with Sony for a reported $3 million. In December 2008, Lang partnered with Google and YouTube in the project YouTube Symphony Orchestra. Lang has also recorded piano works for the video game Gran Turismo 5’s soundtrack, mostly under the “Classical” subgenre. This included versions of Danny Boy, Beethoven’s 8th Piano Sonata, and one of the game’s intro pieces, the 3rd movement from Prokofiev’s 7th Piano Sonata.
Finally, he has performed for numerous international dignitaries including the former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, President Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, President Hu Jintao of China, President Horst Köhler of Germany, Prince Charles, as well as Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Polish President Lech Kaczynski.
Lang Lang has performed at various open-air venues, including Central Park New York, Hollywood Bowl Los Angeles, the Ravinia Festival Chicago, Theaterplatz in Dresden and Derby Park Hamburg. In July 2007, he played at a concert from the Teatro del Silenzio, Lajatico, Italy, hosted by Andrea Bocelli. He performed “Io ci sarò” with Bocelli, and F. Liszt‘s Hungarian Rhapsody. The performance is available on a DVD entitled Vivere Live in Tuscany.
In December 2007, Lang performed at the Nobel Prize concert in Stockholm. ollaborating with Seiji Ozawa, he appeared at the New Year’s Eve gala opening for the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing. He also participated in the opening concert at Munich’s Olympic Stadium with Mariss Jansons, marking the commencement of the World Cup, and in a celebratory concert for the closing of ’08 Euro Cup finals Lang Lang played with the Wiener Philharmoniker under Zubin Mehta in front of Schönbrunn Palace.
In 2008, an audience estimated at up to a billion people saw Lang Lang’s performance in Beijing’s opening ceremony for the 2008 Summer Olympics where he was promoted as a symbol of the youth and future of China. During these games, he was also featured on the German TV station ZDF and made several appearances on NBC’s The Today Show Summer Olympics broadcasts. In the opening ceremony he performed a melody from the Yellow River Cantata with year-old Li Muzi. Lang also collaborated with a German band Schiller to record “Time for Dreams”, used to promote some coverage of the 2008 Olympics broadcast in Germany. In February 2008, Lang and jazz pianist Herbie Hancock performed together at the 2008 Grammy Awards, playing George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. The two were again brought in by United Airlines for the reintroduction of their “It’s Time to Fly” advertising campaign with a series of new animated commercials aired during the 2008 Summer Olympics. In April 2008, he premiered Tan Dun’s First Piano Concerto, subtitled “The Fire”. Hancock and Lang continued to collaborate with a world tour in summer 2009. Lang played at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for US President Barack Obama and at the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Oslo the next day.
Lang Lang has made numerous TV appearances including The Today Show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Good Morning America, CBS Early Show and 60 Minutes. He has featured in publications including The New Yorker, Esquire, Vogue (Germany), The Times, Financial Times, GQ, Die Welt, Reader’s Digest and People. Lang holds the title of the first Ambassador of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. Lang Lang was featured in the award-winning German-Austrian documentary Pianomania, which was directed by Lilian Franck and Robert Cibis. The film premiered theatrically in North America, Asia and throughout Europe, and is a part of the Goethe-Institut catalogue.
In 2010, he was featured at the Carnegie Hall’s China Festival and performed with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra on New Year’s Eve at Avery Fisher Hall. In 2011, Lang opened the Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall performing with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. He played F. Liszt‘s Piano Concerto No. 1 and F. Chopin’s Grande Polonaise Brillante. In June 2012, he played F. Liszt‘s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 and Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace. In 2012 Lang Lang gave a master-class to a select few pianists at the Royal College of Music featuring Lara Ömeroğlu and Martin James Bartlett.
Lang Lang’s autobiography, Journey of a Thousand Miles, published by Random House in eight languages, was released in the summer of 2008. Delacorte Press also released a version of the autobiography specifically for younger readers, entitled Playing with Flying Keys.
Awards and outreach
Lang Lang has received many awards and made many television appearances. He appeared in Time magazine‘s 2009 list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, and in Gramophone magazine’s Hall of Fame in 2012. In 2008, the Recording Academy named him their Cultural Ambassador to China. More recently, Lang Lang has been chosen as an official worldwide ambassador to the 2010 Shanghai Expo. Lang Lang was appointed by the United Nations’ Children’s Fund (UNICEF) as an International Goodwill Ambassador in 2004. The Chinese government selected him as a vice-president of the All-China Youth Federation.
The Financial Times reported that Lang is “evangelical in his efforts to spread the popularity of classical music.” In October 2008, he launched the Lang Lang International Music Foundation in New York with the support of the Grammys and UNICEF. In May 2009, Lang Lang and his three chosen scholars from the foundation – Charlie Liu, Anna Larsen, and Derek Wang, aged between eight and 10 years old – performed together on The Oprah Winfrey Show.” In June 2011, Lang Lang was engaged by Telefónica to make appearances concerning culture, technology, education and social commitment. On July 22, 2012, Lang carried the London 2012 Olympic torch through Hornchurch on its Redbridge to Bexley leg. On August 24, 2012, he was awarded the Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for his engagement in the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival.
Video Game Music. Well, that website is really unbelievable! Want to get your favorite game’s OST? Have you ever wanted to listen to that melody you have in mind? This website provides hundreds of thousands of Video and PC games soundtracks for easy download in MP3 format.
Video game music is the soundtrack that accompanies video games. Early video game music was once limited to simple melodies of early sound synthesizer technology. These limitations inspired the style of music known as chiptunes, which combines simple melodic styles with more complex patterns or traditional music styles, and became the most popular sound of the first video games.
With advances in technology, video game music has grown to include the same breadth and complexity associated with television and film scores, allowing for much more creative freedom. While simple synthesizer pieces are still common, game music now includes full orchestral pieces and popular music. Music in video games can be heard over a game’s title screen, menus, as well as during gameplay. Game soundtracks can also change depending on a player’s actions or situation, such as indicating missed actions in rhythm games, informing the player they are in a dangerous situation or rewarding them for certain achievements
Video game music can be one of two options: original or licensed. In order to create or collect this music, teams of composers, music directors, and music supervisors must work with the game developers and game publishers. The popularity of video game music has expanded education and job opportunities, generated awards, and allowed video game soundtracks to be commercially sold and performed in concerts.
Many games for the Nintendo Entertainment System and other early game consoles feature a similar style of musical composition that is sometimes described as the “video game genre.” Some aspects of this style continue to influence certain music today, though gamers do not associate many modern game soundtracks with the older style.
Pieces designed to repeat indefinitely, rather than having an arranged ending or fading out (they however create an atmosphere, especially in important scenes of the game. They introduce a philosophical dimension in the game, as they may introduce questioning in the mind of players, in relationship with their next action).
Pieces lacking lyrics and playing over gameplay sounds.
Limited polyphony. Only three notes can be played simultaneously on the Nintendo Entertainment System. A great deal of effort was put into composition to create the illusion of more notes playing at once.
Although the tones featured in NES music can be thought of emulating a traditional four-piece rock band (triangle wave used as a bass, two pulse waves analogous to two guitars, and a white noise channel used for drums), composers would often go out of their way to compose complex and rapid sequences of notes, in part due to the restrictions mentioned above. This is similar to music composition during the Baroque period, when composers, particularly when creating solo pieces, focused on musical embellishments to compensate for instruments such as the harpsichord that do not allow for expressive dynamics.
For the same reason, many early compositions also feature a distinct jazz influence. These would overlap with later influences from heavy metal and j-pop music, resulting in an equally distinct compositional style in the 16-bit era.
In an unrelated but parallel course in the European and North American developer scene, similar limitations were driving the musical style of home computer games. Module file format music, particularly MOD, used similar techniques but was more heavily influenced from the electronic music scene as it developed, and resulted in another very distinct subgenre. Demos and the developing demoscene played a big part in the early years, and still influence video game music today.
As technological limitations gradually lifted, composers were given more freedom and with the advent of CD-ROM pre-recorded soundtracks came to dominate, resulting in a noticeable shift in composition and voicing style. Popular early CD-ROM titles were released with high-resolution graphics and recorded music. Since the audio was not reliant on a sound-card’s synthesis, CD-ROM technology ensured that composers and sound designers could know what audio would sound like on most consumer configurations and could also record sound effects, live instruments, vocals, and in-game dialogue.
As the divisions between movies and video games has blurred, so have divisions between film scores and video game scores. Adventure and fantasy movies have similar needs to adventure and fantasy games, i.e. fanfare, traveling, hero’s theme and so on. Some composers have written scores in both genres. One noted example is U.S. composer Michael Giacchino who composed the soundtrack for the game Medal of Honor and later composed for the television series Lost and wrote scores for movies such as The Incredibles (2004) and Star Trek (2009).
Many original composers have publicly exhibited their music through symphonic concert performances. Once again, Koichi Sugiyama was the first to execute this practice in 1987 with his “Family Classic Concert” and has continued these concert performances almost annually. In 1991, he also formed a series called Orchestral Game Music Concerts, notable for featuring other talented game composers such as Yoko Kanno (Nobunaga’s Ambition, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Uncharted Waters), Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy), Keiichi Suzuki (Mother/Earthbound), and Kentaro Haneda (Wizardry).
Following suit, compositions by Nobuo Uematsu on Final Fantasy IV were arranged into Final Fantasy IV: Celtic Moon, a live performance by string musicians with strong Celtic influence recorded in Ireland. The Love Theme from the same game has been used as an instructional piece of music in Japanese schools.
On July 6, 2005, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra also held a Video Games Live concert at the Hollywood Bowl, an event founded by video game music composers Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall. This concert featured a variety of video game music, ranging from Pong to Halo 2. It also incorporated real-time video feeds that were in sync with the music, as well as laser and light special effects. Media outside the video game industry, such as NPR and The New York Times, have covered their subsequent world tours.
On August 20, 2006, the Malmö Symphonic Orchestra with host Orvar Säfström performed the outdoor game music concert Joystick in Malmö, Sweden before an audience of 17,000, holding the current record of attendance for a game music concert. Säfström has since continued to produce game music concerts around Europe under the names Joystick and Score.
From April 20–27, 2007, Eminence Symphony Orchestra, an orchestra dedicated to video game and anime music, performed the first part of their annual tour, the “A Night in Fantasia” concert series in Australia. Whilst Eminence had performed video game music as part of their concerts since their inception, the 2007 concert marked the first time ever that the entire setlist was pieces from video games. Up to seven of the world’s most famous game composers were also in attendance as special guests. Music performed included Red Alert 3 Theme: Soviet March by James Hannigan and Shadow of the Colossus by Kow Otani.
Since 2010, video games-themed “pops” concerts have become a major proportion of the revenue in many United States concert halls, as traditional classical music performances decline in popularity.
On March 16, 2012 the Smithsonian American Art Museum‘s “The Art of Video Games” exhibit opened featuring a chipmusic soundtrack at the entrance by artists 8 Bit Weapon & ComputeHer. 8 Bit Weapon also created a track called “The art of Video Games Anthem” for the exhibit as well.
Other pop songs based on Space Invaders soon followed, including “Disco Space Invaders” (1979) by Funny Stuff, “Space Invaders” (1980) by Playback, and the hit songs “Space Invader” (1980) by The Pretenders and “Space Invaders” (1980) by Uncle Vic. Buckner & Garcia produced a successful album dedicated to video game music in 1982, Pac-Man Fever. Former YMO member Haruomi Hosono also released a 1984 album produced entirely from Namco arcade game samples entitled Video Game Music, an early example of a chiptune record and the first video game music album. Warp‘s record “Testone” (1990) by Sweet Exorcist sampled video game sounds from YMO’s “Computer Game” and defined Sheffield’s bleep techno scene in the early 1990s.
Video game music has become part of the curriculum at the degree, undergraduate, and graduate levels in many traditional colleges and universities. According to the Entertainment Software Association, there are over 400 schools offering courses and degrees in video game design in the United States, many of which include sound and music design. Berklee College of Music, Yale University, New York University, and the New England Conservatory have all introduced game music into their music programs. These programs offer immersive education in music composition, orchestration, editing and production.
Similar programs have gained popularity in Europe. The Utrecht School of the Arts (Faculty of Art, Media and Technology) has offered a Game Sound and Music Design program since 2003. The University of Hertfordshire has a program in Music Composition and Technology for Film and Games, Leeds Beckett University offers Sound and Music for Interactive Games, and dBs Music Bristol teaches Sound for Games and Apps.
More informal institutions, like the training seminars at GameSoundCon also feature classes in how to compose video game music.
Extracurricular organizations devoted to the performance of video game music have also been implemented in tandem with these new curriculum programs. The Gamer Symphony Orchestra at the University of Maryland performs self-arranged video game music and the Video Game Orchestra is a semiprofessional outgrowth of students from the Berklee College of Music and other Boston-area schools.
Academic research on video game music began in the late 1990s, and developed through the mid 2000s. Early research on the topic often involved historical studies of game music, or comparative studies of video game music and film music (see, for instance, Zach Whalen’s article “Play Along – An Approach to Videogame Music” which includes both). The study of video game music is also known by some as “ludomusicology” — a portmanteau of “ludology” (the study of games and gameplay) and “musicology” (the study and analysis of music) — a term coined independently by Guillaume Laroche and Roger Moseley.
A prominent figure in early video game music and audio research is Karen Collins, who is associate professor at the University of Waterloo and Canada Research Chair in Interactive Audio at the University of Waterloo Games Institute. Her monograph ‘Game Sound: An Introduction to the History, Theory and Practice of Video Game Music and Sound Design’ (MIT Press 2008) is considered a seminal work in the field, and was influential in the subsequent development of video game music studies.
The Ludomusicology Research Group is an inter-university research organisation focusing on the study of music in games, music games and music in video game culture, composed of four researchers: Michiel Kamp, Tim Summers, Melanie Fritsch, and Mark Sweeney. Together they organise an annual international conference held in the UK or Europe (at the time of writing, the most recent was the Ludo2017 conference held at Bath Spa University).
The group was founded by Kamp, Summers and Sweeney in August 2011, who have also edited a collection of essays based around the study of game sound entitled Ludomusicology: Approaches to Video Game Music, published in July 2016. They also edited a double special issue of The Soundtrack and initiated a new book series for the Study in Game Sound and Music in 2017.
In September 2016, Tim Summers’ book ‘Understanding Video Game Music’ was published by Cambridge University Press. Fritsch officially joined the group in 2016. She had edited the 2nd issue of the online journal ACT – Zeitschrift für Musik und Performance, published in July 2011, which included ludomusicological contributions written by Tim Summers, Steven B. Reale and Jason Brame. She had been a regular at the conferences since 2012 and published several book chapters on the topic. Whereas Kamp, Summers and Sweeney have a background in musicology, Fritsch’s background is in performance studies.
The North American Conference on Video Game Music (NACVGM) is an international conference on video game music held annually in North America since 2014. It is organised by Neil Lerner, Steven Beverburg Reale and William Gibbons.
In late 2016 the Society for the Study of Sound and Music in Games (SSSMG) was launched by the Ludomusicology Research Group in conjunction with the organisers of the North American Conference on Video Game Music and the Audio Mostly conference. The SSSMG has the aim of bringing together both practitioners and researchers from across the globe in order to develop the field’s understanding of sound and video game music and audio. Its focus is the use of its website as a “hub” for communication and resource centralisation, including a video game music research bibliography (a project initially begun by the Ludomusicology Research Group).
The Ludomusicology Society of Australia was launched by Barnabas Smith in April 2017, during the Ludo2017 conference in Bath, UK; it aims to “offer a centralised and local professional body nurturing game music studies for academics, people in industry and game music fans alike in the Australasian region.”
Creating and producing video game music requires strong teams and coordination among the different divisions of game development. As the market has expanded, so have the types of jobs in game music. The process often starts with the game designer, who will have a specific musical theme or genre in mind for the game. Their options include contracting original composers or licensing existing music, both of which require other music experts.
During the arcade and early console era (1983 to the mid 1990s), most game music was composed by full-time employees of the particular game company producing the game. This was largely due to the very specialized nature of video game music, where each system had its own technology and tool sets. It was not uncommon for a game company like Capcom or Konami to have a room full of composers, each at their own workstation with headphones writing music.
Once the CD-era hit and studio recorded music became more ubiquitous in games, it became increasingly common for game music to be composed by independent contractors, hired by the game developer on a per-project basis. Most bigger budget games such as Call of Duty, Mass Effect, Ghost Recon, or Lost Planet hire composers in this fashion. Approximately 50% of game composers are freelance, the remaining being employees of a game company. Original score and soundtrack may require the hiring of a Music Director, who will help create the game music as well as help book the resources needed for performing and recording the music.
Some music directors may work with a game’s Sound Designer to create a dynamic score. Notable exceptions include composer Koji Kondo, who remains an employee at Nintendo, and Martin O’Donnell, who worked at Bungie until early 2014.
The growth of casual, mobile and social games has greatly increased opportunities for game music composers, with job growth in the US market increasing more than 150% over five years. Independently developed games are a frequent place where beginning game composers gain experience composing for video games. Game composers, particularly for smaller games, are likely to provide other services such as sound design (76% of game composers also do some sound design), integration (47% of game composers also integrate their music into audio middleware), or even computer coding or scripting (15%).
With the rising use of licensed popular music in video games, job opportunities in game music has also come to include the role of a music supervisor. Music supervisors work on behalf of a game developer or game publisher to source pre-existing music from artists and music publishers. These supervisors can be hired on a per-project basis or can work in-house, like the Music Group for Electronic Arts (EA) that has a team of music supervisors. A music supervisor is needed to not only help select music that will suit the game, but to also ensure the music is fully licensed in order to avoid lawsuits or conflicts. Music supervisors may also help negotiate payment, which for artists and songwriters is often a one-time buy out fee, because games do not generate music royalties when they are sold.
A growing trend is to contract artists to write original songs for games, to add to their value and exclusivity, and once again supervisors can be a part of that process.
Video game fans have created their own fan sites “dedicated to the appreciation and promotion of video game music”, including OverClocked ReMix and Rainwave.
Fans also make their own song remixes and compilations, and have built online remixing communities through the ease of internet distribution.
0:07 Hush Hush Hush (Henry Hall) 2:55 Heebie Jeebies (Boswell Sisters) 5:30 The Haunted House (New Mayfair Dance Orchestra) 9:09 Dancing The Devil Away (Arden & Ohman Orch) 12:12 Mysterious Mose (Rube Bloom & His Bayoo Boys) 15:30 Minnie The Moocher (Cab Calloway) 18:41 Spell of the Blues (Frederick Vettel) 21:39 Ghost of a Chance (Ted Fio Rito) 24:57 Them’s Graveyard Words (Bessie Smith) 27:33 The Nightmare (Cab Calloway) 30:14 Ghost Walk (Borrah Minnevitch) 33:08 Got The Jitters (Don Redman & Orchestra) 36:02 Midnight, The Stars and You (Al Bowlly with Ray Noble’s Orchestra)
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Erroll Louis Garner (June 15, 1921 – January 2, 1977) was an American jazz pianist and composer known for his swing playing and ballads. His best-known composition, the ballad “Misty”, has become a jazz standard. Scott Yanow of Allmusic calls him “one of the most distinctive of all pianists” and a “brilliant virtuoso.” He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6363 Hollywood Blvd. His live album, Concert by the Sea, first released in 1955, sold over a million copies by 1958 and Scott Yanow’s opinion is: “this is the album that made such a strong impression that Garner was considered immortal from then on.”
Garner was born with his twin brother Ernest in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on June 15, 1921, the youngest of six children in an African-American family. He attended George Westinghouse High School (as did fellow pianists Billy Strayhorn and Ahmad Jamal). Interviews with his family and music teachers (and with other musicians), plus a detailed family tree are given in Erroll Garner: The Most Happy Piano by James M Doran.
Garner began playing piano at the age of three. His elder siblings were taught piano by Miss Bowman. From an early age, Erroll would sit down and play anything she had demonstrated, just like Miss Bowman, his eldest sister Martha said.[ Garner was self-taught and remained an “ear player” all his life, never learning to read music. At age seven, he began appearing on the radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh with a group called the Candy Kids. By age 11, he was playing on the Allegheny riverboats. In 1937 he joined local saxophonist Leroy Brown.
He played locally in the shadow of his older pianist brother Linton Garner.
Garner moved to New York City in 1944. He briefly worked with the bassist Slam Stewart, and though not a bebop musician per se, in 1947 played with Charlie Parker on the “Cool Blues” session. Although his admission to the Pittsburgh music union was initially refused because of his inability to read music, it relented in 1956 and made him an honorary member. Garner is credited with a superb musical memory. After attending a concert by the Russian classical pianist Emil Gilels, Garner returned to his apartment and was able to play a large portion of the performed music by recall.
Garner made many tours both at home and abroad, and regularly recorded. He was, reportedly, The Tonight Show host Johnny Carson’s favorite jazz musician, appearing on Carson’s show many times over the years.
Garner died of cardiac arrest related to emphysema on January 2, 1977. He is buried in Pittsburgh’s Homewood Cemetery
Short in stature (5 feet 2 inches [157 cm]), Garner performed sitting on multiple telephone directories. He was also known for his vocalizations while playing, which can be heard on many of his recordings. He helped to bridge the gap for jazz musicians between nightclubs and the concert hall.
Called “one of the most distinctive of all pianists” by Scott Yanow, Garner showed that a “creative jazz musician can be very popular without watering down his music” or changing his personal style. He has been described as a “brilliant virtuoso who sounded unlike anyone else”, using an “orchestral approach straight from the swing era but … open to the innovations of bop.” His distinctive style could swing like no other, but some of his best recordings are ballads, such as his best-known composition, “Misty”, which rapidly became a jazz standard – and was featured in Clint Eastwood’s film Play Misty for Me (1971).
Garner may have been inspired by the example of Earl Hines, a fellow Pittsburgh resident but 18 years his senior, and there were resemblances in their elastic approach to timing and use of right-hand octaves. Garner’s early recordings also display the influence of the stride piano style of James P. Johnson and Fats Waller. He developed a signature style that involved his right hand playing behind the beat while his left strummed a steady rhythm and punctuation, creating insouciance and tension. The independence of his hands also was evidenced by his masterful use of three-against-four and more complicated cross-rhythms between the hands. Garner would also improvise whimsical introductions—often in stark contrast to the rest of the tune—that left listeners in suspense as to what the piece would be. His melodic improvisations generally stayed close to the theme while employing novel chord voicings.
Pianist Ross Tompkins described Garner’s distinctiveness as due to ‘happiness’.
Garner’s first recordings were made in late 1944 at the apartment of Timme Rosenkrantz; these were subsequently issued as the five-volume Overture to Dawn series on Blue Note Records. His recording career advanced in the late 1940s when several sides such as “Fine and Dandy”, “Skylark” and “Summertime” were cut. His 1955 live album Concert by the Sea was a best-selling jazz album in its day and features Eddie Calhoun on bass and Denzil Best on drums. This recording of a performance at the Sunset Center, a former school in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, was made using relatively primitive sound equipment, but for George Avakian the decision to release the recording was easy.
In 1954 Garner composed “Misty”, first recording it in 1955 for the album Contrasts. Lyrics were later added by Johnny Burke. “Misty” rapidly became popular, both as a jazz standard and as the signature song of Johnny Mathis. It was also recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Ray Stevens and Aretha Franklin. Clint Eastwood used it as the basis for his thriller Play Misty For Me.
One World Concert was recorded at the 1962 Seattle World Fair (and in 1959 stretching out in the studios) and features Eddie Calhoun on bass and Kelly Martin on drums. Other works include 1951’s Long Ago and Far Away, 1953’s Erroll Garner at the Piano with Wyatt Ruther and Fats Heard, 1957’s The Most Happy Piano, 1970’s Feeling Is Believing and 1974’s Magician, on which Garner performs a number of classic standards. Often the trio was expanded to add Latin percussion, usually a conga.
In 1964, Garner appeared in the UK on the music series Jazz 625 broadcast on the BBC’s new second channel. The programme was hosted by Steve Race, who introduced Garner’s trio with Eddie Calhoun on bass and Kelly Martin on drums.
Because Garner could not write down his musical ideas, he used to record them on tape, to be later transcribed by others.