a little less conversation

ensemble baritone sax, two trombones, electric guitar, tenor voice, two soprano voices, and stomping & clapping
duration ~2:50
score PDF, 202KB
performance history 08/16/2010 by ASM and Opera On Tap at City Winery (Elvis Tribute to End All Elvis Tributes)
date completed 07/28/2010
era ASM

background

Growing up, I never heard this song. My first exposure to it was in a 2002 World Cup commercial (I’m a World Cup fan), which was itself a remix of the original. So when ASM discussed doing a joint premieres show with Opera On Tap (OOT) to celebrate the anniversary of his death, that was the first song that came to mind, because it was early summer and I was watching the 2010 World Cup.

I wanted to place this somewhere between the original and the remix in terms of aesthetic, but apparently I had Led Zeppelin’s “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” on the brain (not that that’s a bad thing). Once again I slaved a non-bass instrument to perform bass duties (this time, baritone saxophone), and once again I gave into my pop desires, veering left from chamber music (not that I have an idea what would be “chamber” about an Elvis show).

I was taking more liberties with improvisation in this piece, having the saxophone do it in the verses and having the trombones do it to chaotic climax in the bridge. But for the majority of the arrangement, it’s all about the beat and the Elvis. There were extensive notes for the performers, which says more about the intent than I could describe:

I can’t decide if this should be rocky or campy. I think it works either way.

BARITONE SAX:
At measure 74, go ahead and be the reference pulse; let the trombones drown you out as necessary.

TROMBONES:
At measure 59, only one person should sing (unless the sopranos are overpowering). Falsetto as necessary is fine.
At measure 68 (letter C), that is not unison – the singing trombonist gets to come in later.
At measure 74, I would pace it – don’t get so far out in the ten repeats that there’s nowhere to go in the subsequent 10 bars.
At measure 109, that’s a quarter-tone sharp.
At measure 111, that’s intended to be a low growl.

STOMP/CLAP/SNAP:
This should be done by a group of at least 4 people – but not so loudly as to drown out the instruments. Should be kept strong and steady.

GUITAR:
Gain: not metal, but enough grit to qualify as rock.
Measure 86, should be an F# power chord with 3 high strings open.
Measure 87, that’s an F minor chord (sorry about the key).
Measure 106 on, feel free to bend into that G ending every other measure from an F# or so.

ELVIS:
I usually opt for a more pop approach, but I think this tune could work either way (pop or classical sound).
Measure 88 (before D), the “hyeyaw” should be like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvlxRvhCB_A at 1:21 [More of a “haw” but you get the gist]
Letter D, this should *only* be falsetto if this is sung totally straight; otherwise, this should be pop.

SOPRANOS:
Sorry this is not more overtly interesting (but see below).

ALL SINGERS:
This shouldn’t be the Elvis show. Singers are pretty much equals, but opposites. Some hamming goes a long way.
If Elvis does a dramatic pose (and he should, in key places where it’s appropriate), the Sopranos should also – either at the same time or immediately thereafter in rhythm – but in the opposite direction.

Useful poses (I really like the pointing move):
1) classic vegas move
(3 other links that have since been removed)

The form is basic song form (AABA). The only twists, aside from the improvisation (which is rather restrained), are that the trombones and guitar are used as strategic dissonance. In the early part of the song, their combined chords are F minor (atop an E major riff) and C major (atop an A major riff); in the latter part, they make it even more pronouncedly strange, ending with quarter-tone sharp nudges and growls in the trombone, while the guitar closes the song with an A dominant (no 5, add 4) – for a piece in E major.

It was performed by Vaughn Lindquist, Anne Ricci, Amberleigh Aller, Pat Muchmore, John Wriggle, Drew Fleming, and Jeff Hudgins. 3/7 OOT, 3/7 ASM, 1/7 Drew Fleming.