Again About Monk Suite?

Yes, again! I’m done—or as done as I can be within my current limits—with notating Monk Suite. No audio yet, but I still wanted to post a note about getting the input done, and about the process and what it was like. 

Some of the dynamics and articulations were already entered, but a lot were missing: rookie mistake, at least for through-composed jazz, where you often end up being better off fully entering stuff so that when you copy and paste it, you only have to adjust what you’ve done before. Still, adding the articulations was dead easy, and even dynamics didn’t take long, though it was trickier. The main reason for any trickiness is just that it’s hard to interpret balance: should the clarinet line that’s doubling the melody be mf like the melody line, or mp (just adding a little color) or will that get lost in the stuff being played by another section at mp? Your woodwinds and brass are individual instruments, where the strings are full sections, and so there’s a kind of density and richness you need to balance, too. I may end up making adjustments to these markings when I have access to better playback.

That, however, is out of reach for now: the new version of Musescore works easily with external VSTs (like the free Spitfire Audio BBC orchestra), but I’m only replacing my ancient, decrepit Mac when I can get an educator discount on the new Mac Mini, and that’s not for a few months yet. For now, I can only run an older version of Musescore that doesn’t integrate as well with sample libraries, so I’m settling for the built-in soundfonts for now.  Needless to say, I’m waiting till I have access the samples before sharing this, so it’ll be a few months before I post anything here from it. 

As for other concerns, the transposition issue was almost a non-issue: in digital music notation, it usually except, except for the occasional need to respell things enharmonically or find the odd note that’s suddenly been pushed out of the range of the instrument. Finding those is easy: like a spelling mistake, they’re automatically marked. (You can even set the markings to reflect the expectations one has from beginner ensembles, all the way to professional ones with fancier instruments that have extended ranges or whatever.) For Monk Suite, most of the things that were pushed out of range were on the low end of a given instrument’s range, and generally it only happened with viola, bass, cello, and the horns, as well as once or twice with the bassoon. 

It only hit me while notating all that that, oh, yeah, I totally had been taking hints from Steve Lacy about how to make Monk work with multiple voices. I saw him play live once, and the band shocked me. (I saw the Octet live—or, well, Irene Aebi was ill and couldn’t sing at the time, so it was actually a septet at that show. Anyway, seeing Lacy and Steve Potts improvising counterpoint to one another’s lines changed how I heard Monk in ways that I can see clearly reflected here.)

Right, that’s wrapped up and I think I’m going to take a break before I start inputting the next thing. I’m so close to having input all of the old scores I’ve been carrying around for decades—the ones I still have—that I’m likely to do that last piece before I move on to a new project. We’ll see, though. I may try expand Monk Suite, adding a few more movements: I think arranging “Epistrophy” for chamber orchestra and quintet would be a pretty interesting challenge. “Nutty” and “Friday the 13th” also seem like fertile ground, and I was surprised recently when it hit me as odd that I’d never even considered arranging “Straight, No Chaser,” a Monk tune I always included anytime I was picking songs for a set back in the day. (I suspect it was just a sense that it was more of a jamming tune, a short blues, and I wasn’t sure I could get a classical chamber orchestra to do what I would want on it.)  “We See” is also something I can see twisting into some very, very odd interpretation… maybe. I guess we’ll see. 

That said, I’m also studying up on arranging for big band, and I may try tackle a project of that nature instead. 

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