At some stage in their careers, all pop musicians apparently start to wonder what their music would sound like in a symphonic setting. It's no coincidence that its generally later in or towards towards the end of their careers, since few artists have the clout or the cash to rent an orchestra at the beginning.
It's tempting to speculate about the reasons for this phenomena. Could it be that these pop artists are all making a last ditch play at the longevity that orchestral music seems to enjoy. Are they looking to find new fans? Are they simply genuinely interested in what such an experiment would sound like? Maybe its for all or none of these reasons.
Antonio Carlos Jobim, the undisputed boss of bossa, did it in 1976 with his Urubu album, apparently as a tribute to the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. Think of Yellow Shark, Frank Zappa's final album before he passed away. More recently, hip-hopper Kanye West did it with his 2006 album, Late Orchestration. And just last year (2010), Sting released his Symphonicities album of symphonic reinterpretations of some of his biggest hits - recording and touring with no less than the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orcherstra. And the list goes on.
On the opposite end on a scale of notoriety and hopefully nowhere near the end of my career, I can now add myself to the list. And no, I'm not at the point in my career where I can afford the services of a symphony orchestra - on the Groove Suite you'll be hearing sample-based orchestral strings and piano. My copy of Audiobro's LA Scoring Strings is a recent acquisition, and one I made whilst working on the soundtrack for National Geographic Asia documentary. I've been really impressed with the level of realism that can be achieved with it. It's not going to fool everyone, but it's at least close enough to the real thing that it doesn't disturb.
The Groove Suite is unashamedly loop-based and repetitive. It's derived from my MoShang Live Online series of recordings. I've been performing original material in the online virtual world of Second Life since 2006 and have been releasing hour-long recordings as a weekly podcast for more than two years now. For the Groove Suite, I selected a number of musical phrases from previous podcast episodes and rearranged them for piano and strings. Hip-hop and acoustic drum loops were reinterpreted on solo cello and bass. The basic rhythmic patterns were reproduced in a key appropriate to the song, with kick drum hits placed an octave below and snare hits an octave above.
I imported all of the loops into Ableton Live which allowed me to trigger and rearrange the loops on the fly in a live performance. This recording of the Groove Suite is the result of my only performance of the material to date and was made on Saturday, June 25th 2011 at the venue Music Island in Second Life.
Taichung, August 2011