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Ornithology Premiere: Andrew Bird arrangements


I am nowhere nearly as hip as anyone else associated with wild Up, including the guy who tends the bar.  So when Chris contacted me about orchestrating some Andrew Bird songs I had to take an auditory crash-course through the artist’s body of work.  Fortunately, being a fan of acoustic indy pop in the Elliot Smith tradition and self-overdubbing madmen like Jon Brion, I found myself in familiar territory.  I immediately liked Bird’s sense of lyricism, his interesting spins on pop harmonies, and above all his distinctive chamber orchestrations.  This last presented an interesting challenge to an arranger; most orchestrations of pop tunes end up re-concieving the music from scratch, but in this case I’ve expanded the music’s existing orchestral elements, amplifying the big moments while bringing out the color and texture implicit in the songs.  That isn’t to say I didn’t add my own creative touches, but the transformation was prepared by Bird’s own instincts and groundwork.

I selected “Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left” and “Banking on a Myth” for arrangement because both were overtly melodic and divided into dramatically contrasting sections, which makes for fertile ground, orchestration-wise.  wild Up’s makeup is alluringly eclectic, offering less-common instruments like the contrabassoon and harmonium; I realized that these two songs would be well-served by the group’s rich and unusual acoustic palette.  Hope you enjoy!

Michael Gordon Shapiro writes music for film, television, video games, and the concert hall.  His concerto for orchestra and guzheng (Chinese zither) is about to have its digital album release via Hanyi Productions.  Visit Michael on the web at www.mikemusic.com .

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