Musical Arrangements

Occasionally I experiment.

It can be interesting to change instrumentation and to a lesser extent structure to see what happens. So I took Bach, who wrote music that is highly structured, where instrumentation is flexible, and started changing things.

This is my performance of Goldberg Variation #1. This was originally written for klavier, but I split the range so that most of the lower notes are played by koto. For the higher notes, I created my own musical instrument by mixing samples of flute, shakuhachi and pan chiff. And I added a triangle on the upper end. So you’ll hear a “ting!” that accents the high notes. I recorded it without much preparation, and noticed later that I was rushing the tempo. Please ignore this. I’m too lazy to fix it. Also, the sound is messed up. Sorry.

The result is recognizable as Bach, if a little sacharine for my taste. Not too different from a million other people who’ve taken Bach and redone the instrumentation.

However, I can take this idea further, with strange results.

Take an ordinary Bach prelude and add a violin chorus, with bells. To makes this a bit more interesting, add harmony: the violins play in perfect fourths. In other words, if I play C, the violins play C and F: perfect fourths. In the original score of this prelude, there are never more than two notes being played simultaneously. But what previously would have been, for example, G and E-flat played together, becomes G-C-E-flat-A-flat in ascending order, with bells playing the G and E-flat quietly.

This introduces a new level of dissonance to the piece without significantly changing the structure (I could argue that I’m just increasing the sound level of a harmonic that already is there in the violins), and the bells just add a kind of percussiveness. To me this sounds like Bartok.
Download Bach for violins.

So why limit yourself this way? We don’t need melody that much. I split the range, with the higher part of the range (roughly the right hand) being assigned to electric bass to maintain a bit of melody. The lower range had each note assigned to a different piece of the drum set.
So download this and hear what a change in arrangements can do to a baroque piece. Remember, I’m playing straight, just having assigned different instruments. No additions or changes.

Mummy on the Silk Road


Episode one of NHK’s New Silk Road series covers the ancient civilization of the Takla Makan desert, in the center of the Eurasian landmass, currently in China. There is a mummified woman with European facial features, who is still beautiful even though she’s been dead for over 3,000 years (stunning because this is definitely not what you expect in a mummy).