Wednesday, November 23, 2016

8.) Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered

Hello!  I'm pleased to share with you the 8th recording of the 24 Standards project.  The song is Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered by the classic American songwriting team of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.  It's from a musical called Pal Joey, which I haven't seen I'm sorry to say.  My favorite recordings of this song are those by Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald.  There's also one I found by Bill Snyder & His Orchestra.  I hadn't heard of Bill Snyder before, but I enjoyed his version.

This song presented a challenge in my desire to effectively represent the lyrics in my arrangement simply because there are a lot of lyrics - three full verses and choruses.  So I decided to focus on my favorite verse and chorus which happen to be the ones that Sinatra sings.

As I proceeded to arrange the song, an opportunity presented itself for a "Chopinesque" treatment of the bridge.  I few months ago I became obsessed with a video of Martha Argerich performing Chopin's Scherzo No. 3 at the Chopin International Piano Competition in 1965.  Her winning of this competition brought her international fame.  I encourage you to check out the video - her playing is stunning and effortless.   What I love about the Scherzo No. 3 is the very simple melody alternating with the "rainfall" phrases in the upper register.

When I first saw this video I was inspired to pull out the score and see what was happening, and perhaps learn to play the piece.  What I discovered was that the rainfall had a very different sound at the very slow tempo that I was able to do.  The questions that arose were "Was Chopin able to sit down and improvise the rainfall phrases?  If so, did he need to play them slow in order to write them down on the page?  OR, was he able to sit away from the piano and write these phrases note for note on paper and know exactly how they would sound at a faster tempo?"  My theory is that there was both happening, but moreso it was the latter.  I think that what separates a "heavy" classical composer and a guy like me is the ability to do this.  While I might attempt it, and yes, have a rough idea of what I write will sound like,  I really don't know until I sit down at the piano to play it.  And most often I'm composing at the piano anyway - figuring out what notes I want by playing them, then writing them down.   But if you look at the output of the great composers it seems there simply isn't time for this checking everything at the piano, and my guess is that Chopin often worked that way.  The only evidence of otherwise is that Chopin's music is often eerily well suited to the hand - the flashy phrases are usually easy to play and make the pianist sound impressive.   He obviously was a pianist.  Another theory is that some other genius transcribed his improvisations and then Chopin later organized it.  His music often does sound improvisational.  Maybe you know how he worked, and maybe it's been researched at written about.  I'm just speculating, but if you know, please share....

Anyway, after spending a couple weeks with the Chopin score it was obvious that I would need a lot more patience and time and miracles to sound like Argerich!  I gave up, but it left an impression, and I remembered the concept when I arrived at the bridge of Bewitched.  What's so interesting is how different it sounds when played slow.  In my emulation of the idea, there was a definite leap of faith.  I only hoped that the phrases would sound how I wanted them to at a faster tempo.  I think it worked.  But to be sure I'll have to forget about it for a while and come back in a month and see how they sound.  Right now it's all too fresh.

I guess all that we know is that the artistic process is very personal and very different from individual to individual.  And that's a lovely thing.  I really love hearing about how others do their work and I hope you enjoy reading about my process a bit.  One thing for sure is that we need to be making and appreciating honest art more than ever.

Apologies for the mic distortion at the end of the bridge.  I got a little louder than expected there.  

Thanks for reading!  I hope you enjoy Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered.