Ben Folds on Concerto

  • 1 Replies
Ben Folds on Concerto
« on: September 24, 2015, 03:21:22 AM »
From his Facebook a few hours ago:

Having just been told my new album tops the US Classical and Classical Crossover charts, Iíd like to share some thoughts on it.
So many beautiful compliments on this piece of music. Thereís no greater satisfaction to me than creating a piece of music that means something to me, that finds a home in hearts of people I would probably hate in traffic.
Iím honored of course and with a straight face. Iíve never been in a club or a genre and that has more than often presented a commercial and social challenge. Iím lucky to still have a job. So, yes, Iíll take this little moment of number one-ness with my sights set on bringing people to the real masters of orchestral and chamber music and putting asses in seats of our great symphony halls.
Iíve done a lot of talking with press, as we do, on the release of this album and I havenít quite felt that Iíve said it right yet. The truth is, the Concerto For Piano and Orchestra on the new album, is simply expression. I mean every note of it. I had the opportunity to express myself using the incredible tool of a symphony orchestra and I put my heart into it. Itís certainly not terribly lucrative! Sure, we all have something to prove, but quite honestly I never thought this thing would survive past one performance with the Nashville Ballet and Nashville Symphony Orchestra who commissioned the piece, during a tipsy dinner in late 2012. Iíd been regularly doing pops concerts with orchestras around the world for the past decade, and my feeling was that I should come to their side of the fence and create an exclusive piece. To create something that was made of my melodies, but not a rethinking of my old material, seemed appropriate. I would compose a piece, perform it with the Nashville Symphony and Ballet, and have something to add to my orchestra shows.
One night became three, all sold out. Then night six. All in Nashville, the home of country music. Thatís a lot of tickets to a piano concerto. It felt profound. Iím not saying the piece alone felt profound, but the encouragement and support did, along with the piece. It told me people do not want to dumb it down as much as is presumed. Despite the challenge of orchestrating and composing a 21 minute piece of music, this concerto was in many ways effortless. I didnít have to argue or beg to do it. I could say it was the path of least resistance, but more accurately it was the path of greatest encouragement. I even tried to quit a few times. Fear of failure at something as lofty as a piano concerto drove me nearly ill. But with such kindness and expectations, I had to stick with it.
Every day of 2013 found me waking with little rest as I was churning melodies and orchestration. I could hope to achieve 15 seconds of finished orchestration a day. I had a co-orchestrator, Joachim Hoarsely and he taught me a lot. I needed those lessons but I also put nearly every note of orchestration into this piece personally (NOT the norm for a rock guy composing for orchestra), with the guidance of someone who knows the orchestra. I might have otherwise sent a french hornist to the emergency room for lack of oxygen. Or arranged flute mimes that would never be heard. Arrangement and orchestration are two different things. Iím a good arranger. Iím an orchestrator in training. Some of our great composers have been neither. Some have been orchestrators first. Creation is some ambiguous stuff.
There are three moments which often get standing ovations at my orchestra concerts: one movement from the concerto, getting the audience to sing perfect three part harmony, and my speaking on the survival of the symphony orchestra. Not when I play my hits. The enthusiasm for the institution of the Symphony Orchestra is more incredible than you can know. People intuitively understand that the orchestra is the symbol of civilization itself. 60, 80, 110 players - all trained at gun point and full of passion - playing in Ďconcertí, in Ďharmonyí (concepts that so many politicians would love to harness). Itís now time that the symbol of civilization itself, the symphony orchestra, can inspire and remind us how working together makes something more beautiful than the sum of itís parts. In truth, we need that institution more than it needs us. Thatís what I feel from the audience, and thatís what I get from the universal encouragement not to dumb down, but to smart up.
I grew up playing with orchestras. At the age of 10 I was playing percussion and timpani in a youth orchestra, and school orchestra. My full tuition scholarship to University Of Miami was helped by my having been awarded first chair in nearly every state and regional orchestra and wind ensemble I could audition for from 8th - 12th grade. My regular chores at home included patching up walls where Iíd punched through or thrown sticks through the dry wall (once I was unlucky enough to punch where a wall stud was, breaking my hand badly). Many whoíve worked at their craft that hard can relate to that frustration. I studied theory and composition. I made up songs in my head from the time I could walk and finally could peck them out on a piano when I had access to one. I dropped out of college when I realized I made more money playing night time gigs than my professors. I was c*cky, and I was ready to make my own music. I often regret not having stuck it out, but thatís a whole other essay for another time. Kids, stick with your studies.
I donít know what my concerto is. I know what it isnít. Itís not in the legacy of classical music directly via mid 20th century atonalism, and itís not in the family tree of rock music. Itís not from movie score, as I am ashamed to say I see about one movie a year and never remember the score. (That said, I believe there are some masterpieces born of movie scores) Itís not revolutionary either. Itís earnest. Itís my life. Really, when we listen to common pop music, we donít think about whether it will last. We just enjoy it or not. The same should hold true for a piece of ďclassicalĒ music. We will never know what holds up beyond our lives. We can only express our experience, honestly. I made that piece for me and for human beings living now. I have a melodic, perhaps genetic, thumbprint. Itís called a style and itís dead honest. This piece is my paddling ferociously to allow melodies to swim in a sea of orchestration. I have a lot to learn. There are masters among us. I am not one of them. However, I have the gift of honesty of melody and there are many incredible composers who can develop a mediocre melody until you weep at the sight of something soaring, despite all gravity and chance. I am a pop musician and nothing without a melody worth repeating like Gertrude Stein. I am a melody whisperer. I aspire to develop like a master one day and I will keep at it. At moments, I do this in my concerto. At moments I opt out, as if it were a suite or a medley. I drop the needle on my favorite composers, but so do Dr Dre or Kendrick Lamar. Iím allowed. Itís 2015 bitches. I tip my hat. Ultimately, back to paragraph one, I feel and I express and this piece is where I was at when I composed it. Itís not that different from any of my songs.
Why the straight face, as a rock musician, while receiving the news that I had a glorious week of number one on classical charts? Because I want those who encouraged me, those who are curious, those who are passionate, those who are intimidated by Ďclassicalí music, by the orchestra, to come to love the masters, past and present, of orchestral music. I want every person who comes to my gig to be moved the way I am by composers who have created beyond their ability to make such high art. I want people to feel civilization in music and surrender more than three and a half minutes to the rollercoaster of orchestration, poetry and life. I want to know that thereís something just beyond MY ability, that I can eek out one day that can move people like Iíve been moved. The encouragement from orchestras, audience, business, and now a simple chart, gives me a bit more fuel and hopefully gives other pop artists some fuel to keep smarting up rather than dumbing down. I bow to the composers and performers, #2-40 on this weekís brief chart, who do this all the time and I want to bring human beings to that music.
Finally, and ultimately, I want to get rich as f*ck and ride around in a stretch limo with a hot tub and bikini clad bitches. But for now, I will be moving on to a piece I have tumbling in my head, for university orchestra and choir.
Thank U God and Prince.

Re: Ben Folds on Concerto
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2015, 08:35:18 AM »
I read that this morning. I love the way he thinks. I honestly am beyond proud of how he follows his instincts musically instead of following what he should be doing to be considered popular or to make the most money possible. I like Paul McCartney on Facebook and constantly have news of his album reissues in my newsfeed, and while I love the Beatles to death, so much of his solo material (a 45 year career) is garbage. Unimaginative, dull, no chances taken. Then I look at someone like Ben Folds who has every step of the way in his career made sure not to repeat himself or go against his artistic instincts. Time tends to filter out what really is good. People will look back on Ben's career with much respect.

disclaimer: Paul McCartney has some decent solo songs