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HomeCraftsRise’s Musical Accompaniment and Arrangement

Rise’s Musical Accompaniment and Arrangement

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The cast of Rise. Photo Credit Peter Kramer. Courtesy of NBC.
The cast of Rise. Photo Credit Peter Kramer. Courtesy of NBC.

From executive producer and showrunner Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights, Parenthood) comes this gripping high school musical drama series as English teacher Lou Mazzuchelli (Josh Radnor) unexpectedly takes over the drama program to push the bounds of self-expression and creativity going against the grain by putting on a more risqué production in the musical Spring Awakening. As the show uses the music from an existing musical, the numbers must the fit the length of the scene and episode through a precise musical arrangement. The music arranger provides musical variety by reconceptualizing the harmony, melody, and formal structure of each song to match the needs of the episode in selecting the right portion to use, understanding how much, finding out the chosen performers, writing new parts, combining the original and new portions, and varying vocal arrangements. Music Arranger Tom Kitt (Pitch Perfect) supplanted his expertise and personal experience from previously working with high school musicals and drama camps to assemble this melodic arrangement for Rise.

Auli'i Cravalho as Lilette (left) and Damon J. Gillespie as Robbie (right) Photo Credit Peter Kramer. Courtesy of NBC.
Auli’i Cravalho as Lilette (left) and Damon J. Gillespie as Robbie (right). Photo Credit Peter Kramer. Courtesy of NBC.

Music arrangement with everything else evolves from the script and the writing process. Kitt expanded, “It really came from Jason Katims and his team of writers. The writers had great knowledge and expertise about what they brought to the table. It was really up to the writers to choose which songs they were going to feature in an episode as it was building toward the final episode which was the performance of the musical. They tried to pick songs that would allow the characters to develop their performances and also have some kind of connection to the themes that were explored in each episode. The script would be broken down with all the music moments. That’s when my part of the process would begin, we would have a music meeting and talk about all those moments, analyze what the actual cut of each song was going to be, and how it was going to be performed. Most of the songs throughout the season came from Spring Awakening.”

The choice selection of a song or songs must be arranged in a way to pinpoint that desired and specific emotion for the scene. “I think that Spring Awakening brings its own emotions. It’s such a visceral experience seeing that musical and it’s just so beautiful. On top of that, the songs in the show speak to the characters and what they’re going through. When you see certain songs from the show happen, it informs the character’s arc within the season. The song is doing two things at once which is really fantastic,” the arranger expressed.

Auli'i Cravalho as Lilette. Photo Credit Peter Kramer. Courtesy of NBC
Auli’i Cravalho as Lilette. Photo Credit Peter Kramer. Courtesy of NBC.

As mentioned, portions of the songs are modified to fit the necessities of each episode. The music arranger described, “The biggest modification would be the length of the songs. In the last episode there’s a song in the show called “Mama Who Bore Me” and then there’s a reprise of it, one is more of a ballad and the other is much more upbeat. I found a way to meld them together as one would flow into the other, it still felt like it had a form that could really get a sense of a completed song. There are great moments in the ninth episode where we have different versions of the censored song.”

“I love what musicals say about the world and in terms of how a song can just bring new light to the human experience. To have this kind of show where you see the process and then you see how a musical speaks to young people, it’s a love letter for arts education which is extremely important today. I think it’s very special,” Kitt highlighted.

All Photos courtesy of NBC.

Music Arranger Tom Kitt on set playing piano. Photo Credit Virginia Sherwood. Courtesy of NBC
Music Arranger Tom Kitt on set playing piano. Photo Credit Virginia Sherwood. Courtesy of NBC.
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