Vinyl Community Collaborative Composing Project

Hey there lovelies! Here’s the page for us to share findings.


Task 1: Please introduce yourself and what you’d be interested in contributing to the project to the gang.

Task 2: Please share your top 5 tracks which must include orchestral arrangers (soul/jazz/RnB/pop of 60/70s). What do you love about the sound? What do you think are the signature elements of the music you’ve selected that we should take note of for our collaborative piece?

Deadline: 28th September.

Best wishes,


Alfonso I’m listening to music by Thom Bell on your recommendation. interesting story too! I wonder what he does now? Would love to see these scores, how do I access them, record labels?

Lord ha mercy this as well:
Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” – The Delfonics – starts with french horn and glockenspiel! That brass!!

Read this interview about his collaboration with Johnny Mathis on the track ‘Coming Home” and this stood out:

“Musically, Bell fashioned an arrangement that further amplified the visual cues in Creed’s narrative. “I intended to meet the obligations of the lyrics of what he’s saying,” he explains. “It’s got to match. If the arrangement does not fit, I’m not ashamed to throw it in the trash. Just because I wrote it doesn’t mean it has to be in there.” Each musical component on “I’m Coming Home” painted a vivid scene: the interplay between the bass and drums summoned a train’s chugging rhythm on the tracks while the strings evoked rolling landscapes glimpsed from a passenger’s window. The soft horns simulated a distant train whistle heralding Mathis’ arrival.”


Ales · September 8, 2018 at 2:11 pm

Hi there,
so I’ll take “task 1 & 2” in a single round and try to keep it brief. I am a writer with a tendency to garrulousness, so I have to pace myself.

So introduction. Telex style. I come from the Czech Republic, but live in Germany since I was a kid. I am not a musician and if Bobbie-Jane hadn’t pointed out that her call (in Mark’s video) is directed at musicians and non-musicians likewise, I would probably not have replied. On the other hand I have always enjoyed creating my own music, which usually turned out to be rather simple or naive, but nevertheless a good experience. In this time and age – with technological means – even a complete layperson can dip into the world of Ambient and all kind of underground music. You can find my stuff here: – it’s basically all for free, which is appropriate. But musically it hardly touches anything Bobbie’s project is about.

I guess I like the idea to create tiny musical sketches and fragments, to see if Bobbie can incorporate them into a larger context. Particularly if those sketches represent rather concret ideas or aspects of culture – in this case specific moments of daily life in a city. It’s a bit of a “terra incognita” for me, which was part of the appeal.

So “Task 2” … I am not very saddle-fast in the world of R’n’B or Soul, even though I like almost everything that has Soul, Funk or Disco in it. But I am not an expert – maybe in 15 years. So I guess my contributions will be either very obvious, or extremely leftfield. Let’s get started. I try to add YT-Links, so whoever cares can have listen.

I have put all tracks into a YouTube-playlist. Theoretically I could add all the other inspirations there.
The URL is:

## 1. Ryuichi Sakamoto: “Kyoto” & “Cemetary”
These are two small (usually overlooked) compositions from Sakamoto’s amazing soundtrack for Bertolucci’s “The Sheltering Sky” from 1990. Nice example of a strong, expressive orchestration that doesn’t need to be overly complicated and beautifully evokes all kind of emotions. Both tracks belong kind of together into one composition. I only found them separated on YouTube, so imagine it without the gap. 🙂

## 2. Klaus Schulze: “Ludwig II von Bayern”
Klaus Schulze’s tenth album “X” from 1978 mixes Ambient-type of music with dark orchestral parts. Again music that doesn’t try to be too complex and derives it’s power from clear musical intentions. Of course it’s all big drama, not without a touch of pretentiousness. But then again – I like pretentiousness.

## 3. Jethro Tull: “Slipstream”
Another orchestral miniature, this time from the seminal album “Aqualung” (1971), that probably everybody knows. But it is a sweet example of orchestral music put to good use. Not all “Prog Gods” knew how to do it properly without looking bloated. But in this case I find the orchestral function quite charming.

## 4. Jean-Claude Vannier: “Le Roi Des Mouches Et La Confiture De Rouse”
Obviously Vannier’s 1972 album “L’Enfant Assassin Des Mouches” is a bit insane, but this part is a great example how orchestra and Rock instruments can beautifully gel together and create an impressive wall of sound.

## 5. The Alan Parsons Project: “Damned If I Do”
Let’s get to my favourite. While I think most of the “Prog-Rock plus Orchestra” expeditions tend to be rather checkered and ill-advised, there was one artistic collective that was just mind-blowing and always on the spot: Andrew Powell’s arrangements for Eric Woolfson & Alan Parsons were the most brilliant and effective use of an orchestra in a Rock music context. There are dozens of examples, but I need to make a choice, so I bite my lower lip, curb my zeal – and pick only one – from the 1979’s album “Eve”. Featuring the mesmerizing Lenny Zakatek from “Gonzales” on vocals.

I hope you are not disappointed. I am sure the other guys will dig up all the good stuff from the world of Jazz and R’n’B. I’m looking forward to that, since those are regions I am still discovering.

Bobbie · September 10, 2018 at 3:22 pm

Thanks Ales! This is great! I will listen to your selections thanks so much for the playlist. I like the idea of you sending sketches for me to respond to. Great! I doubt I will be disappointed. 🙂

Ian · September 12, 2018 at 11:52 am

Hi, I’m a songwriter and have collaborated on many projects and hope that I will be able to contribute on this project too. You can find my music here:

I decided to pick five tracks that got their hooks in me from an early age, and am returning to find out what it was about their arrangements/orchestrations that had such an effect. Although I have been a songwriter for 40 years, I am self-taught, with no formal training, either in practice or theory; when I listen to music I do so as a fan, enthralled by the magic and mystery of music, and so analysing and deconstructing music is a little alien to me. Also, as a youngster, I had no concept of genre (excepting Classical) so I didn’t want to get too hung up on that when choosing these tracks.

Dionne Warwick – Make It Easy On Yourself (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) 1962. From Presenting Dionne Warwick (1963). The version I have is from The Greatest Hits of Dionne Warwicke (sic.) Vol. 2 (1964).
The haunting quality of this song, in the backing track, is very much a case of ‘less is more’ and I now find that this is provided by a vocal chorus, and that this version is in fact the demo (the first of many that Dionne recorded for and with Bacharach). The single released later in 1970 is orchestrated (arranged by Larry Wilcox) and is live. What’s interesting is that it’s the demo that would have been presented to the arranger/orchestrator to work from had Bacharach taken it into the studio to record ‘properly’. With both the demo and live versions available, you can hear how Larry Wilcox approached adding the orchestra. Paul Riser (cf. talk below) says that the one thing he regrets is that none of the demos for Motown were kept.
Album, demo version:
Single, live version:

Dionne Warwick – People (Bob Merrill, Jule Styne) 1964. From Make Way For Dionne Warwick (1964). The version I have – as above.
Produced by Burt Bacharach, it’s the muted trumpet that denotes ‘jazz’ to me, and I find it interesting how much we immediately read into a particular instrument. I now know this was written for the musical Funny Girl and (cf. comments on YouTube below) that the management at the Apollo didn’t want Dionne to perform it because of this, but she did and it went down a storm (hence my not wanting to get too strict about genres).

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – The Tears Of A Clown (Hank Cosby, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder) 1966. From Make It Happen (1967).
Pure genius. I didn’t know that Stevie Wonder had written and recorded just the backing track, produced by Hank Cosby, but couldn’t come up with a lyric, so asked Smokey. I’ve always loved the juxtaposition between the tragi-comic lyric of the clown (based on Pagliacci, the character from the opera) and the celebratory music. The intro is more like an overture (it was the circus theme that inspired Smokey’s lyric) with its calliope motif on piccolo and bassoon, and the real thrill I find is when it drops into the irresistible push and pull of The Funk Brothers’ intro before the vocals come in.

The Four Tops – Reach Out, I’ll Be There (Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Edward Holland, Jr.) 1966. From Reach Out (1967)
Produced by Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier. There is a plaintive feel to the figure played in the intro which, to me, is as much down to the instruments it’s played on (sounds like piccolo and something else but I haven’t been able to find that out); if it were played on trumpet (given the actual notes played) it would’ve had a Spanish/Mexican feel. So, again, choice of instrument can alter perception a lot. And then there’s the timpani mallets hitting the tambourine, such a distinctive sound, especially in the break just before the chorus. Brian Holland’s immersion in classical music apparently had much to do with the orchestration.

Dusty Springfield – The Windmills Of Your Mind (Michel Legrand) 1968. From Dusty In Memphis (1969).
Produced by Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin, and Tom Dowd.
I chose this track because of a pragmatic decision made during the recording sessions that affects the whole feel of the track. Dusty needed space to breathe during some of the longer lyrical phrases, so Tom Dowd and Arif Mardin dropped in some 2/4 bars at certain points to help, and this, to me, lends the track a disorientating feel which suits the song. On Arif’s choice of styles and instruments, he says, “Some of the harmonic structures made me think of gypsies and Hungary. Hence gypsy music violin lines in the beginning and the addition of a Cimbalom, a Hungarian Zither, played with mallets. Strange combination of instruments one might say, considering the presence of a featured bossa nova guitar among other things.” Further; “My speciality being harmony and jazz chords, I suggested a more modern inversion with a touch of dissonance under a certain word to dramatize the lyric content.” This is the opposite to Paul Riser’s approach (cf. talk below) who avoids taking note of the lyrics so as not to mirror or accentuate a line with a musical metaphor.

Finally, the talk below by Paul Riser offers a wealth of insight as he charts his career from his groundings in Classical and Jazz, to joining The Funk Brothers in Detroit as a trombone player (where he found himself very much a fish out of water) to notating lead sheets, to arranging, orchestrating, and then producing, for Motown. He also emphasises the factory element in Detroit where they’d often record up to 30 singles in a week, which meant that decisions had to be made on the hoof and quickly. He now wants to return to some tracks and re-orchestrate them with the luxury of hindsight and more time to do so.
Tour of Detroit Studio:

Bobbie · September 12, 2018 at 1:33 pm

Ooh Ales, Just started listening in to the Sakamoto, “Cemetary” is beautiful. I love the strings at the beginning, scrummy chords! That really grabbed my attention! I’ll keep listening in!

Bobbie · September 12, 2018 at 1:36 pm

Ian, thanks for your generous response! Will gobble this up and listen after Alex’ selection, exciting stuff!

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