Perfect Day

This day was a perfect day
Leaves fell, I forgot myself…

Edward Plumb, Frank Churchill, Paul Smith, Oliver Wallace: names from a bygone era of cinematic orchestration, the zenith of which seemed the near-exclusive purview of Walt Disney Pictures. Bambi, Cinderella, Pinocchio, Alice In Wonderland, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves – these scores followed a now faintly remembered rubric governing the relationship between music and image. Conversations between winds, brass, and strings mirrored the dialogue of Bambi’s unsure legs and a frozen forest lake, or the happy bustle of mice and birds cutting and sewing fabric for Cinderella’s surprise dress. The responsibility of telling a story was volleyed back and forth between screen and score, while worlds opened up in a wholehearted embrace of wonder and whimsy.

Playfulness is important. We forget ourselves.

This past autumn, I was brought in to write orchestral arrangements for a new Shaking Through episode featuring Cassandra Jenkins. Upon hearing the demo of “Perfect Day”, it was immediately clear that Cassandra and I (and Sam Owens, who co-wrote the song and offered some of the initial arrangement ideas) shared a deep fondness for the lush whimsy and gestural flourishes that so characterized the type of orchestration referred to above (and as it turns out we’re all total suckers for Debussy and Van Dyke Parks). With this is mind and in ears, I set to work.

I love working with artists of all stylistic and aesthetic persuasions, but it’s a particular treat when approaches and musical proclivities overlap to the extent that they did with Cassandra and Sam. The fruit of our collaboration is finally available for public enjoyment. Click here to listen to ‘Perfect Day’. As with the afore-posted “Toynbee Suite”, all arrangements were brought into vibrant and sparkling existence by the brilliant Dark Horse Orchestra. Click below to view the pair of stunning videos from Weathervane Music.

Toynbee

Toynbee

This summer, I had the unique opportunity to write orchestral arrangements for Lushlife, moniker of the extraordinary hip-hop artist Raj Haldar, who had been invited to create a piece for Shaking Through, an audio/video series curated by Weathervane Music. ‘Toynbee Suite’ is Raj’s extended meditation on the infamous Toynbee Tiles, mysterious license-plate-sized tiles of unknown origin, embedded in streets and sidewalks all over the country, and even in South America. The cryptic and inscrutable message of each tile is the same:

Toynbee Idea
In Kubrick’s 2001
Resurrect Dead
On Planet Jupiter

The piece is divided into four movements, one movement per line, and all of Raj’s formidable word-smith prowess is aimed at spelunking the impenetrable nature of the Tiler’s words; of trying to ascertain what vision of human and cosmic flourishing could account for such heroic but obscure measures, such urgent but opaque lengths taken to communicate.

Writing for any artist is always a fun challenge. You are trying to crack the code of a particular artist’s vision while maintaining the integrity of your own aesthetic. This piece was that challenge squared: I interacting with the rich and clear artistic tableau of Lushlife, but I was also interfacing with the rich but decidedly unclear message of a bracingly sincere and single-minded Tiler. It was both invigorating and bizarre.

With that, click here to listen to ‘Toynbee Suite’ in its entirety (arrangements executed with soul and precision by the inimitable Dark Horse Orchestra), and click below to see the short documentaries about the making of. All are terrific.

Meet you on Planet Jupiter…