Monday, March 15, 2010

If It's Magic

The main challenge of this project is just finding the time to do it, and then finding the time to write about it. The past couple days have been quite productive, which is a welcome change, and finding time to sit down and learn a song has been quite a challenge. At least I'm getting better about picking my song early in the day, so I don't arrive at 11 p.m. thinking, crap, what song do I want to learn at this time. One of these days I'll even manage to plan further ahead, but I'm kind of having fun waking up each morning thinking, "ok, what song do I want to learn today?"

Today's song: "If It's Magic". A Stevie Wonder ballad, very sparse instrumentation, unlike a lot of his funkier tunes. I'm always intimidated to start learning a Stevie Wonder song, but upon analysis, always find how beautifully simple and well-designed they are. Clean. They make sense, structurally.

Memorization: this is the second time I've scribbled myself out my own version of the A-section of a song, with barlines in different places than the official piano-vocal arrangement. The verse starts with a descending bass progression, then three II-V-I's (slightly different variations of that old chestnut each time)... I like dividing the beats so that the II-V's fall in the same bar. That's just me. It made it a little easier for me to memorize than to think about the 6/4 bar here and the 2/4 bar later in the form, and the fact that there are a couple beats missing from the piano-vocal arrangement if you are paying attention to the pulse (albeit "free"-ish) of the recording.

Ok, I will refrain from complaining any more about the book I have until I make sure I don't know anyone who wrote the arrangements... except to say, there are mistakes all over the place! Differences of opinion, yes, but also plain ol' mistakes - typos. Arghh. More in this Stevie Wonder book than I've encountered in other pop piano-vocal books. Also - my thought is, yes, it's my responsibility as a musician to listen and absorb this style of music that isn't always at its best played by a solo pianist of classical heritage... but, I read music, and I buy the book because it saves me time. So yes, it irks me that the 2-bar riff at the end of the form isn't written down (can't remember which song that was), and that the piano arrangement for "Sir Duke" has nothing to do with the groove you hear on the recording. If you're gonna write it out for us note-reading schmoes, do it right!!

I would go on about this matter, but it's after 2 in the morning, and I have a full day tomorrow. Yesterday's song: "Imagine". Another structurally sound, simple song - Lennon's warhorse verse-refrain-bridge form. Yikes, two songs in a row with wistful lyrics pleading for a better world. How is my cynical mind withstanding this?!

I need a review day soon, to reinforce the memorization of my recent songs. One bout of semi-concentration does not permanent make, I find. ...And, speaking of Yoda, I have to say I object to the lyrics in the third verse of "..Magic": "...then with it why aren't we as careful..." Sorry, Stevie. I know it makes it work with the melody of the different verses, but I have visions of intensive Jedi training in the Degova system whenever that line goes by. This is the musical theater composer in me coming out - lyric is everything, but everything. Not so in other forms of music. An observation.

My, I am cantankerous tonight! Criticizing my superiors! I need sleep, and a shower (no hot water from Sunday madrugada until this evening - the boiler got flooded from all the rain on Saturday). Also, I need an up-tempo, stat! It's been a ballady past few days. Good night, moon!

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