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Composers who aren't great musicians?

Alex Kulak2
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Composers who aren't great musicians?#26
Posted: 2/8/17 at 12:03pm

JRB also orchestrates, arranges, and conducts a lot of his shows. That would all take pretty advanced music theory.

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Composers who aren't great musicians?#27
Posted: 2/8/17 at 12:55pm

The opera singers I know personally do read music, but many of the better Broadway singers I know do not. (Yet I--who can neither really sing nor play an instrument--can read music and even took a couple of semesters of music theory.)

I've never really understood why such "non-readers" didn't just pick it up over the course of their careers, just like little kids learn to read by looking at the page while somebody else reads to them. It seems it could only be more convenient if they could read.

That being said, I'm in awe of people who can listen to a song once or twice and then sing it without reading the notes.

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Composers who aren't great musicians?#28
Posted: 2/8/17 at 12:55pm

Jenn - yes, that is who it was: John Williams. Thanks. And no, you're incorrect about JRB. He's an exceptional musician and can read/write music exceptionally well. 

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Composers who aren't great musicians?#29
Posted: 2/8/17 at 1:00pm

Just to clear some things up: John Williams definitely reads music.  The guy is brilliant, highly educated,  and does his own orchestrations, which you can't do (easily) without reading music.  I think maybe you're thinking of Danny Elfman?  I'm fairly certain he doesn't read music, as he's a pop/rock musician first and foremost. 

As for JRB, he does indeed use transcribers/assistants, but that's because of the time it takes, not the talent.  He's also well-educated and writes and reads music.  But yes, he plays what he feels, records it, and sends it to his transcribers, who use audio software to slow that craziness down, increase the bass as needed, etc., and put it into Finale, the industry standard program for creating sheet music. 

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Composers who aren't great musicians?#30
Posted: 2/8/17 at 1:16pm

Finale doesn't notate from an audio (wav, mp3) file, but it can convert a MIDI file into notation.

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Composers who aren't great musicians?#31
Posted: 2/8/17 at 1:27pm

I...know?  What I meant is that he makes a recording of it (wav, mp3, whatever) and sends it to his assistants, who listen to it and transcribe it into Finale.  They use audio software to help slow down the song or bring out parts that are difficult to hear.  He's definitely not making a MIDI file.

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Composers who aren't great musicians?#32
Posted: 2/8/17 at 1:43pm

I can't imagine how that's faster or more efficient than him just writing it down as he writes it. If he can, that is (I'd imagine he has the ability). I mean, it's not like he's a particularly successful composer, busy 24/7 with his few performing gigs, or the occasional brief Broadway show.

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Composers who aren't great musicians?#33
Posted: 2/8/17 at 1:54pm

I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not so I'm going to exit this thread.  All I know is I just wrote a musical and am crazy busy just trying to put together the staged reading; I can't imagine how busy he must be with concerts, writing, two kids, meetings, and just everyday human stuff.  It's way, WAY faster to just write what you feel and leave the transcribing up to someone else.  Finale isn't advanced enough to take exactly what you play into it and spit out perfect sheet music; it takes time to go in there and clean things up.  I can absolutely understand why he does it that way, and I would too, if I had the finances to hire someone to do it for me.

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Composers who aren't great musicians?#34
Posted: 2/8/17 at 2:02pm

I think that you think that he's much better off financially than he really is...

JennH
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Composers who aren't great musicians?#35
Posted: 2/8/17 at 2:03pm

This has actually become an educational thread.

As for JRB, ok it seems I'm wrong, but again I wasn't 100% about him. When I say makes sense, I mean look at a score and try telling me how it functions in terms of music theory rules we all learned bak in the day. What is cool is that his music SOUNDS tonal but when i look at a score, I can't make any music theory sense out of it

Now I was only guessing Williams, because I THINK i heard that years ago, but his scores whether they're "stolen" or not, are too brillliant to be written by someone who doesn't read music, so I had a feeling that was incorrect. 

Elfman? I'm pprreeettyyyyyy sure he does...but again I could be wrong. I mean, we all know "Nightmare" is nothing short of brilliant and while it bounces all over the place in terms of tonality, I can at least make some sense of it. And Corpse Bride is a darn good score too...just putting that out there.

And Geveston, you're my hero. I never understand that either, you'd think at some point it'd be picked up naturally to a small degree. As they say, DOING in the best teacher.

And certainly technique isn't everything, but reading music is the whole damn basis of being involved with music in whatever form. It'd be like a dentist not knowing the very basics of caring for teeth. It's the fundamentals that are necessary but for whatever reason in this business not knowing these fundamentals has become not only the norm, but acceptable. heart and soul are important, but if one just wrote a score without really knowing what it is theyre doing or going for except "make it sound goood and soulful for the audience" just to make it more accessible to them, then it is really a fine tuned (no pun intended) score with nuance done with great care? This is why I adore Menken. His material is perfectly accessible to the general masses but it's also nuanced but deceptively so. Deceptively simple. Its the what makes much of his material pretty damn genius. Once he knows a musical pallette to bounce off from, he can pretty much do anything and for that, he's a more versatile composer than he's given credit for. 

 

Updated On: 2/8/17 at 02:03 PM
sweeneytodd2
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Composers who aren't great musicians?#36
Posted: 2/8/17 at 2:11pm

Alan Menken has not noted his own scores for years. He records himself singing and playing the piano part and a team of assistants notates and arranges. 

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Composers who aren't great musicians?#37
Posted: 2/8/17 at 2:53pm

I remember reading an interview with Cameron Mackintosh a while back and he said Claude-Michel Shoenberg doesn't read or write music. However, he can play any of his compositions in any key (i.e., for him, from any starting note).

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Composers who aren't great musicians?#38
Posted: 2/8/17 at 3:39pm

Great post Mr. Nowack.

Stephanatic
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Composers who aren't great musicians?#39
Posted: 2/8/17 at 5:26pm

newintown said: "I think that you think that he's much better off financially than he really is..."

What does that have to do with anything? It is a fact that Mr. Brown pays people to transcribe what he plays. Not because he is incapable of notating what he composes (he did this all on his own for many, many years), but because it's easier. That's all there is to it. 

 

In fact, here is a excerpt of a call he put out over the summer looking for more help:

 

"Hey all: I need a major ass-kicking piano transcriber. I mean like someone who could accurately transcribe the pitches of lizards farting. Someone with extraordinary rhythmic accuracy, real sense of how to intuit what hand might be doing what, total monster I-can-nail-this-even-though-it-was-recorded-underwater-with-a-dictaphone kind of worker, and not an eternal procrastinator but someone who just gets the fvcking job done, and done correctly.  This is for my music, so you folks here know the level of complexity we're talking about.  Recommendations?"

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Composers who aren't great musicians?#40
Posted: 2/8/17 at 5:49pm

JennH said: "And certainly technique isn't everything, but reading music is the whole damn basis of being involved with music in whatever form. It'd be like a dentist not knowing the very basics of caring for teeth."

I must admit I'm surprised that many great musicians can't read music. I picked it up from some very fragmentary piano, trombone, and violin lessons at various points in my life.

However, I think a better analogy is poetry. Can someone who can't read and write be a great poet, reciting compositions aloud for others to write down? I think the answer there is definitely yes, and I'd say the same principle would hold for a composer.

 

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Composers who aren't great musicians?#41
Posted: 2/8/17 at 8:10pm

I believe Elfman has learned to read and write music, but his early classic scores were written with a "work tape," a multi-tracked, minimally orchestrated scratch track recorded on a synthesizer. You can hear his work tapes on the deluxe versions of the soundtracks in the Burton Music Box.


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