Reversing the band adaptation (1)

Since we have a “young band” score to start with, the next step to restoring the full brilliance of the orchestral score, is finding the differences between the two and seeing if there is any pattern to them. We can do this with visual inspection and a cursory listening, and then a more detailed listen.

Instrumentation differences

Rather obvious is the orchestration. No strings, but we do have the saxophone family. I’m also reasonably sure there is no baritone (a “small tuba”), alto clarinet (seriously, how many bands really have these?), and probably the bass clarinet. When writing the band score, John had to find out where to put the string parts… either omit them, or mimic them in the winds, saxophones, percussion, or combinations thereof. He also had find “something to do” for the other instruments even if the color is not needed.

Don’t forget that this was conceived as a vehicle for Whitney, who has enough vocal firepower to project over an entire orchestra. This adaptation doubles the melody everywhere, so, it looks like it’s intended for use without vocalist. Or, a student vocalist who needs the melody doubling to counteract any limitations in technique.

Most, if not all, of this melody doubling is unnecessary. The places where John does so in the original are then color choices. The excess doubling then detracts from the orchestral colors. The jazz-influenced middle section (11-18), is particularly apt here. The soft string, horn. and wind colors are just harmony and countermelody, which lets Whitney use a softer, more intimate tone. This also sets up the contrast for the dramatic “B” section to follow.

Second, concert bands usually have multiple people on a single part, which is rarely true for wind ensemble, jazz bands, and orchestras. So we have to be mindful that the band version is written for that, and adjust backwards accordingly. A unison line on 8 flutes sounds very different than two flutes in octaves.

Ability differences

The main thing with student editions is instrument ranges, as the extreme ends of each instrument are more difficult. We put up with all that difficultly (French horn players can relate here) since they also have the most personality and interesting colors.

Examples: the flute never goes higher than a Db, which is clearly to avoid the complicated altissimo fingerings. But the flute has another usable octave on top of that. Similarly, the top fifth of the oboe, bottom fifth of the bassoon, are missing. The clarinet is missing both the top and bottom octaves due to its wide range.

Lines are either moved around to other instruments to cover the range where it matters, changed octaves, reharmonized into an easier range. That’s just the woodwinds; it goes on for every other instrument. The main point is this is lot of color we need to restore.

Fourth, rhythmic changes and simplifications. The main snare pattern is offset by a sixteenth-note to make it easier to play and for the band to come in correctly. Trumpets replace 32nd notes with sixteenth to avoid double-tonguing. Flurries of 32nd notes on the winds are reduced to glissandos, which can be faked. We can restore all of these those and let the players figure it out.

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