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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quick note on musical arrangements

Work has sporadically continued on this project, now with a new collaborator, Renee. We've talked about various things, including somewhat narrowing our focus to specific versions of Hair that will help us keep focused on the most essential plot points, character development, etc. While opening her mind to other musical arrangements than those of the Hair revival produced by the Public Theatre, I discovered the official YouTube channel of Galt MacDermot's company, MacDermot Music LLC (also known as Kilmarnock Records). Included on that channel were some unique arrangements of Hair tunes that proved to be a great influence. I think we'll be drawing on some of these for our dream script. Below the jump, arranged in show order, are the clips I found.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Characters: How I See Them

Commonly, with a screenplay, a list indicating the cast of characters, with a brief (usually one-line) description of each, will be included.  As my script is based on the musical Hair, one would think there would not be such exposition, but in the world of Hollywood, all must be explained to within an inch of its life.  Some people have been asking me how my script will view the characters, and if they will take their cue from any specific production in particular.  Well, here's the scoreboard at present!

Musical Arrangements (Part Deux)

I delved a little the last time I wrote in this blog (which was... yikes, a year ago! Sorry folks!) into the question of musical arrangements for my proposed film of Hair.  One of the first things I did was to collect multiple cast recordings and think about what I wanted from each version of the show.  Hair has had many productions over the years, each with a certain amount of flexibility to the arrangements, and I liked a different thing about each.  Guided partially by Randy Bowser's representative guide for his successful Oregonian production in 2000, I've come up with what I believe to be a definitive way I want the film's music to sound.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Quick Note on "The Adults"

Hair, in large part, has always been about the kids' point of view. It's an antithesis to a lot of Establishment views. But Hair was not fully an anti-Establishment polemic. It tried to understand the adults' point of view as well, something that was lost (with time) due in large part to the Tom O'Horgan staging. With the film in my head being fairly realistic, one of the obvious questions to be posed is how the parents will be portrayed in my script.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Musical Arrangements

In 1979, when Hair was initially "adapted" (using that term loosely) for film, the show's musical arrangements were slightly revamped by composer Galt MacDermot to fit in with a more timely sound. The bass was more prominent, the horns were ever-present, and the soundtrack seemed at times to have a bit of a disco-fied, funky sheen. I agree with James Rado when he says on his website that the film's musical arrangements "definitely [...] lacked [...] the authentic 60's feel." Rado goes farther and considers it an error of judgment for any stage production to heavily base their orchestrations on the film's arrangements.

I don't completely agree with him on that point. In my opinion, the film had some inspired moments of musical arrangement that should really be considered "standard practice" when it comes to staging Hair. One example noted by even the film's detractors was Cheryl Barnes' dynamo performance of "Easy to Be Hard," which sounded better slower and with more vocal bravura (to say the least) than the rendition on the original Broadway cast recording. It seems to me that the folksy arrangement of the song on the Broadway recording is kind of fast, a little swiftly paced coming as it does after an argument between Berger and Sheila. (I do prefer the key of that Broadway arrangement, but that's another story and it really delves into minutiae.) Another arrangement I like from the film is the slightly lengthened version of "Aquarius," because it allows one to insert the new verses from the London 1993 version into it without making the song any longer than it already is.

It seems, in spite of James Rado's insistence that the sound of Hair's score should live in the Sixties, that there have nevertheless been attempts at updating the material. An early version of James Rado's website at, for example, listed a project called Boombox based on his and Gerome Ragni's lyrics and writings, including songs from Hair and new pieces composed by MacDermot, with an updated hip-hop flavor, in a paragraph on upcoming projects at the end of an article on Hair's history. (Don't look for it now; the project was scrubbed from the site. No clue if it's still in the works.) Similarly, when Michael Butler was looking to produce a touring revival in the early half of the 21st century, some articles on theater websites reported that MacDermot would be taking Hair's musical arrangements in a similar direction to Boombox, the production otherwise taking the same "period piece" approach. MacDermot is long used to hip-hop, his work having been sampled by such rappers as Busta Rhymes, Run DMC, Handsome Boy Modelling School, DJ Vadim, DJ Premier, Oh No, and MF Doom in some of their work.

The more I listen to parts of Hair, with MacDermot's later collaborations in mind, the more I see the funk roots. It's not like rap (or hip-hop) is a particularly new phenomenon. The original production of Godspell incorporated an early form of rap in the telling of a parable, suggested by a cast member who witnessed the birth of rap on the streets of Chicago in the early Seventies. Another (slightly more funky, for various reasons) rendition of rap was seen in Mae West's memorable delivery of the Otis Redding classic "Hard to Handle" as Letitia van Allan in the film Myra Breckenridge.

With this in mind, the temptation within me is clear. In large part, I don't want to stray much from the Sixties arrangements and feel, but would songs like "Colored Spade" benefit from this treatment? (Note that I am not saying Hud should channel Mae West [to me, that's really more Woof's job], just that the "patter" styling with the funk arrangement resembling early day rap/R&B would suit his number well.) It's an interesting thought, and one to be played with.

At the moment, I'm sort of taking the approach of Randy Bowser's 2000 production: listen to as many Hair recordings as one can, write down what parts of which arrangement to draw from, add in your own ideas, and (as per my last blog entry) when in doubt, throw in some DisinHAIRited.