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Old 10-28-2015, 06:10 PM
rrayner rrayner is offline
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 718
Default Ruffo's Lament

It feels like forever to me since I started working on this piece, and it is awfully tempting to keep tweaking it, but it is time to cut the cord.

“Ruffo’s Lament” is a departure for me. For starters, it is my original composition -- at least I believe it to be. I have heard so much music over my 70+ years that I cannot be absolutely certain that I am not “borrowing” from some other composer. At Berklee back in the ‘60s, I was a composition major, but almost all of my training involved arranging someone else’s music. There were requisite composition exercises and a small orchestral piece, plus my one attempt at the popular song format, but composing was not high on my list.

This piece is written for a dectet, the size of the practice band a former roommate/classmate of mine at Berklee runs in his free time. Hopefully he and his band will have some fun with it.

It is a non-typical AABA form, non-typical in the sense that each A segment is 16 measures long, instead of the traditional 8 measures. I have called it a lament, due to the somber nature of the lead line and chord structure. The opening A segment at Rehearsal Mark A (RM-A) starts with solo tenor sax and a cymbal roll as support. I can’t simulate the sound I want here, as I can’t get very close to the sound of soft mallets on a ride cymbal. As posted, you will not see the Drums Work part, which is where the real Composer drum sounds come from. To see all parts, click the down arrow to the right of Composer’s Score in the title bar, and select Working Score. The primary Drums staff is the printable version for a live drummer -- in my mind a standard and much more readable format. Please note that the primary Drums staff is permanently muted, as we wouldn’t want to hear the cacophony of sound Composer would produce otherwise (thanks, Sherry).

An additional note -- the opening A segment is marked “rubato”, or free-form without a set tempo. It would be possible in Composer to simulate this, but not really worth the time to put it in. The absence of bass drum marking off the measures provides the feeling without the effort.

In several places in the theme, I tried to simulate a sax gimmick. The final eighth note in measure 2 (concert C5) is kind of swallowed, as the sax player changes from the previous note (concert G4) to the C5. The attack is delayed (a+60); the duration shortened (d=60); and the Note Velocity is set to 55, compared to the neighboring notes that are set to 96. Additionally, I have put a pair of parentheses around these notes to tell the player to de-emphasize the note, i.e., “swallow” the note a little bit. This gimmick is similar to what the Berry Man in Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” does when he peddles his berries -- kind of going falsetto at the end of his chant.

At RM-B, the mood darkens a little bit more, with the addition of the “brass choir”, but a strict tempo is introduced to provide some structure. This structure is minimal however, with the bass drum only on beat 1 and the hi-hat only on beat 2, unlike a standard swing backing that would have the bass drum on beats 1 and 3, and the hi-hat on beats 2 and 4. The ride cymbal provides the drive. Also, I advanced the attack of the hi-hat (a-7) to provide a little urgency to the beat (thank you, Herbert!). At RM-C, which is the B segment of the AABA form, the saxes try to break away a little bit as a trio with a light swing feel, lightening the mood somewhat, but the brass choir returns us to the lament at RM-D, the final A segment of the AABA form.

At RM-E, everyone joins in the party and tries to liven things up a bit, with the heretofore solo tenor being joined in unison by the second trumpet and the optional guitar -- and the drummer starts to “kick it” a little bit. One additional comment for this section -- the drummer is playing a “rim shot” on the 4th beat of each measure. There is no notehead that I am aware of in Composer that depicts this standard for a rim shot, so I have superimposed an enlarged underscore on top of the x notehead on the snare part in the 3rd space of the staff.

This is primarily an ensemble piece, as most of the sections are scored for all six horns -- and at RM-E, the guitar. If you closely analyze the voicings, you will see what we called “four-way close”, the top four horns playing the basic notes of the chord(s) for the measure, with approach notes that go out of the chord structure (a discourse on approach notes would be very lengthy). So the top 5 voices are “four-way close with double lead (down an octave)”, then in this case the 6th horn doubles the 2nd horn down an octave (I do wish I could hear this in a live performance).

There are several places in the Drums part that I have marked “fill”. This is for discretionary filling in of some percussion figures of the drummer’s choice. I don’t profess to have the skills needed to create realistic sounding fills in Drums Work, but I have given it a shot, because I don’t want just a rhythmic beat in these situations. May all percussionists forgive me (any suggestions would be appreciated -- if I like them, I will incorporate them -- please don’t take offense if I choose not to use them, or modify your suggestions). Also, in RM-E through RM-I, I have included an upper voice lead line in the Drums part for the drummer to see what the horns are doing, to allow the drummer to better emphasize the rhythmic figures.

I have utilized the attack and duration variations that I discuss in depth in my “Swing Feel” discourse in “Tips and tricks for using Notation Software products”. For further detail, please see:

You will see a number of horn notes in this piece that have a marcato mark (^) -- Trumpet I in measure 61 for a start. Composer calls the marcato a “strong accent”. In my scoring, these notes are intended to be “fat, but short quarter notes”. Composer normally assigns a duration value of 465 ticks to normal quarter notes, but in this case, I have set the duration to 280 (you will also see a lot of 280 values on the final eighth note of a phrase in my writings). So the duration is short, but not as short as a default eighth note (233 ticks). The intention here is for the live musicians to “sit” on the quarter note for emphasis. I don’t choose to notate it as an eight note, as I feel the accented quarter is easier to speed read than an eighth note and an eighth rest. This notation is a little difficult to communicate in words, but implied in the notation is “don’t rush this note -- wait for the beat to arrive -- when it does arrive, play the note fat and with emphasis”. This is a lot of direction for a microsecond, but experienced swing players know how to make it feel right. Also note that I prefer to keep this particular accent above the staff, regardless of stem direction.

I have deliberately set this score to skip RM-I through RM-M during normal playback, as this section is intended to be an open solo section for the players. It is not important to play through it for the purpose of this Forum (besides, it would be very quiet). When the parts are printed for this score, the rhythm section and all the players will have chord symbols to adlib around in the open solo section, with the band members deciding who will solo. Also, I modulated from C Minor to D Minor for the soloing, just for a change in tonality. At RM-M, after the open solos, I modulate back to C Minor, followed by an ensemble transition back to the main theme, sinking back into the original somber mood of the lament and the inevitable fade to darkness.

I sincerely hope that there will be some folks who will benefit from seeing/hearing this piece.

Ralph Rayner
Attached Files
File Type: not Ruffo's Lament-10.not (819.1 KB, 3 views)

Last edited by rrayner; 11-05-2015 at 12:39 AM. Reason: Cleaned up notation a little bit
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