Quotes from Billy Strayhorn and Thad Jones

I found these on one of my hard drives today. Not sure of the source, but the words are pure gold:

Billy Strayhorn – 1962

” I have a general rule about arranging. Rimsky-Korsakov is the one who said it: All parts should lie easily under the fingers. That’s my first rule: to write something a guy can play. Otherwise, it will never be as natural, or as wonderful, as something that does lie easily under the fingers.

Duke and I approach everything for what It ls. You have the instruments. You have to find the right thing · not too little, not too much. It’s like getting the right color. That’s it! Color Is what it Is, and you know when you get It.”

Thad Jones – 1977

“I have never formally studied arranging. The things that I have written I have acquired through experience, but talent is not all. You have to work at it. Having somebody like Ellington as a guideline certainly didn’t hurt. Unconsciously, I guess, I have patterned myself after him, but at the same time I know I must express certain thlngs for myself. That is the area I try to focus my attention on, trying to bring out the best that’s in me.

I spent a lot of time listening to European music as well as jazz. I study music of European composers, their technique and their creativity. It gives me a flow and balance, effect, harmonics, a sense of the dramatic. Now when I sit down to write a composition, I have an idea of the form the piece will take. I believe that when you write something that you should write fully wherever the line takes you. “

Birdsong

Recently, I was very happy to come across this excellent performance of my composition, “Birdsong” by the TN 2013 All-State Women’s Choir.
Originally written for treble voices (children’s choir) and piano, this composition was a 1993 commission by Bill and Eva Bettger, directors of the Colborne Street United Church in London, Ontario CANADA. It is published by Boosey and Hawkes. The text comes from a collection of poems written by children who, while incarcerated in the Terezin Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia during WW II, wrote of their experiences and dreams. This young author writes of the beauty of the world rather than of the horrors and destruction of his or her present circumstances. The text’s positive and uplifting message is all the more striking when placed against the backdrop of war and the loss of personal freedom.

I made some changes to the original poem for musical purposes. Repeated some lines, and added or changed a word. Can’t remember what the specific changes were. Long time ago! The hyphens are there, as this is a copy of the poem in the form I needed to use to fit the music. They weren’t in the original.

He does-n’t know the world at all
Who stays in his nest and does-n’t go out.
He does-n’t know what birds know best
Nor what I sing a-bout, Nor what I sing a-bout, Nor what sing a-bout:
That the world is full of love-li-ness.

When dew-drops spar-kle in the grass
And earth is a-flood with mor-ning light. light
A black-bird sings up-on a bush
To greet the dawn-ing af-ter night,
the dawn-ing af-ter night,
the dawn-ing af-ter night.
Then I know how fine it is to live.

Hey, try to o-pen your heart to beau-ty;
Go to the woods some-day
And weave a wreath of me-mory there.
Then if tears ob-scure your way
You’ll know how won-der-ful it is
To be a-live.