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Get your head out of the score

Conductors who can't lift their head out of the score are a pet peeve. It usually means they don't trust their own understanding of the material in front of them, which leads to distrust from the orchestra and miscommunication. That self trust is difficult, but separates the wheat from the chaff.

I'm working on a paraphrase of highlights from Tosca this morning and was growing frustrated sorting through all of Puccini's fabulous colorful writing. Specifically, I'm scoring Cavaradossi's aria in the first act (Recondita armonia) - lovely, brilliant writing.

I have repeated pangs of guilt for messing with this, but I'll get over it. I'm frustrated because Puccini doubles a lot of material purely for color and it makes his score look incredibly dense at times, even in the simplest moments.

More specifically, the frustration comes from the temptation to remain as faithful as possible to Puccini's score. But, let's face it - the issue of remaining faithful flew out the window when I decided to make a brass ensemble version.

This is when one of my earliest blog entries comes into play; get the notes into the score, decide on the layers of import, and then make good decisions about how to balance those layers.

This is when it's important to get your head out of the score (in this case, Puccini's original), use your mind's ear and imagine what you have notated for brass will sound like. Give yourself permission to not even try to make your version sound like Puccini's orchestra. Trust your understanding of the material in front of you and make the music sing.

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