JOHN ADORNEY Music Notes - February 2018

 

 

My Mom the Artist

My Mom, Leila Adorney (who would have been 91 this month), was a fantastic artist. Although her artistic skills manifested in many ways, she was particularly adept at capturing people, and she could do it using just about any medium – whether it be with pencil, oil, or caricature. To give you a sense of her ability, below are two samples of her work – an oil portrait she did as a senior at Pratt Institute of Art, and a pencil sketch of me as a baby (it's a somewhat blurry copy, but you'll get the idea – and believe me, that's exactly what I looked like):

 

One day when I was in high school, I came out onto our back porch, and my Mom was just finishing up working on an oil painting of my sister, Kathy. As I was admiring it, she turned to me and said, "A good artist knows when to stop." That little piece of wisdom has been forever etched into my brain.

Many years later, when I began writing and composing music for my CDs, I would often think of that phrase. It's absolutely applicable to the art of composing, and particularly to the arranging process. I think that arranging a piece of music is a lot like painting – the idea is there, but the colors, background, and all the elements that make that idea come alive need to be added. These are the things that are going to give the piece the feeling and impact that the artist is trying to convey.

Often, when I'm arranging a piece, I'll keep adding elements until I get the feeling that I want. Sometimes, I'll listen to what I've done and I feel like there's just too much going on. So I'll start muting different parts and seeing which ones the piece can do without and still hold together while keeping the desired feeling. A big part of this process is not being afraid of "space" in the arrangement (rhythm wouldn't exist without spaces between the beats!). It's very tempting to fill in all those spaces.

And because an artist will view their work differently at different times and while in different moods, the tweaking process can go on forever. That's why it's important to know when to stop.

One day when I was in high school, I came out onto our back porch, and my Mom was just finishing up working on an oil painting of my sister, Kathy. As I was admiring it, she turned to me and said, "A good artist knows when to stop." That little piece of wisdom has been forever etched into my brain.

Many years later, when I began writing and composing music for my CDs, I would often think of that phrase. It's absolutely applicable to the art of composing, and particularly to the arranging process. I think that arranging a piece of music is a lot like painting – the idea is there, but the colors, background, and all the elements that make that idea come alive need to

be added. These are the things that are going to give the piece the feeling and impact that the artist is trying to convey.

Often, when I'm arranging a piece, I'll keep adding elements until I get the feeling that I want. Sometimes, I'll listen to what I've done and I feel like there's just too much going on. So I'll start muting different parts and seeing which ones the piece can do without and still hold together while keeping the desired feeling. A big part of this process is not being afraid of "space" in the arrangement (rhythm wouldn't exist without spaces between the beats!). It's very tempting to fill in all those spaces.

And because an artist will view their work differently at different times and while in different moods, the tweaking process can go on forever. That's why it's important to know when to stop.

 

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Thanks!

John