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Disco orchestration

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Disco orchestration

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Disco orchestration illustrates the richness of musical production techniques that went into the production of classic disco music.

The sound of a disco song, as with the sound of a song of any genre of music, depended on the particular tastes of the artists, and - if relevant to the genre - the arrangers, producers, and even the orchestra conductors, and even still the concertmasters dictating the type of stylized playing method of each section of the orchestra, down to the engineers and mixers who assembled all the elements to make a fluid, cohesive sculpture of sound through melodic continuity. Even without a very knowledgeable ear for music, one can distinguish the stylings of Van McCoy's The Hustle (1975) from those of Silver Convention's Get Up and Boogie (1976), the former written, arranged, and produced by Van McCoy, who also conducted the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, fashioned even further with the specific stylings of the orchestral elements by concertmaster Gene Orloff; the latter was written, arranged, and produced by Michael Kunze and Sylvester Levay, who conducted the Munich Symphony Orchestra, and which was fashioned even further with the specific stylings of the orchestral elements by concertmaster Fritz Sonnleitner. Here, one can only imagine the New York sound, as produced by Van McCoy, on Silver Convention's Get Up and Boogie, and the funky Munich sound, as produced by Kunze and Levay, on Van McCoy's The Hustle.

As such, many regional sounds of disco developed during the mid-1970s, as a result of collaborative efforts of many individuals with a legacy of formal education and training in music theory and orchestration, whose educational backgrounds laid the foundation for the musical genre that was to burst forth onto the dance-music scene into what would come to be regarded as designer music. It can be noted that many of the conductors and players of the large city symphony and philharmonic orchestras responsible for the grand productions of disco were seasoned veterans of orchestras throughout the country, some even going back to the big-band era.

  • The Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra was the foundation of the Philly Sound, which represented an ebullient mid-tempo style that retained the funky characteristics of the sound of the streets of inner-city Philadelphia, however, elevated to a polished form with interwoven arrangements of lead and background singers in triple-harmonies with lush arrangements of woodwinds, horns, and strings, as heard by groups such as MFSB, The Three Degrees, The Ritchie Family.

Principle arrangers, producers, and orchestra conductors that derived from Philadelphia included Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff, John Davis, Richie Rome, Norman Harris, John McFadden, Gene Whitehead, Victor Carstarphen, Jack Faith, Bunny Sigler, Dexter Wansel, John Usry, Bobby Martin.

  • The New York Philharmonic Orchestra was the foundation of the New York Sound, which branched into four main arms:
    • One characterized by the mid-tempo, richly-hued stylings and bubbly beat of The Hustle, as in songs such as
      • Odyssey's Native New Yorker (1977), arranged, produced, and conducted by Charlie Calello, with Gene Orloff, concertmaster
      • Gerri Granger's Can't Take My Eyes off of You (1976), arranged, produced, and conducted by Bob Crewe, with Gene Orloff, concertmaster
      • Vicki Sue Robinson's Turn the Beat Around (1976), arranged, produced, and conducted by Warren Schatz and George Andrews, with Gene Orloff, concertmaster
    • One characterized by the mid-tempo operatic orchestrations of
      • Maynard Ferguson's Pagliacci (1975), arranged, produced, and conducted by Jay Chattaway and Bob James, with David Nadien, concertmaster
    • One characterized by the mid-tempo, funky baselines and orchestrations of
      • Roberta Flack's Back Together Again (1979), arranged, produced, and conducted by Eric Mercury and Arif Mardin, with Gene Orloff, concertmaster (the style providing the music bed for rap)
    • One characterized by the up-tempo, latin-infused, extravagantly-orchestrated stylings of
      • Wing and a Prayer Fife & Drum Corps.'s Baby Face (1975), arranged, produced, and conducted by Stephen Schaeffer and David Horowitz, with David Nadien, concertmaster
      • Samantha Sang's From Dance to Love (1979), arranged, produced, and conducted by Meco Monardo, Tony Bongiovi, and Harold Wheeler, with Irving Spice, concertmaster.

Principle arrangers, producers, and orchestra conductors that derived from New York included Van McCoy, Brad Baker, Charlie Calello, Harold Wheeler, Warren Schatz, Tony Bongiovi, Meco Monardo, Michael Zager, Dennis King, Randy Muller, Jeff Lane, Michael DeLugg, Tony Camillo.

  • The Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra was the foundation of the Los Angeles Sound, which branched into four main arms:
    • One characterized by the mid-tempo funky orchestrations of
      • Carrie Lucas's Dance with Me (1979), arranged, produced, and conducted by Don Cornelius, Dick Griffey, and Leon Sylvers, with Janice Gower, concertmaster
    • One characterized by the "New York-style" mid-tempo, extravagantly-orchestrated rhythms of
      • Love Unlimited Orchestra's My Sweet Summer Suite (1976), arranged, produced, and conducted by Barry White and Gene Page, with Jack Shulman, concertmaster
      • Tavares' Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel (1976), arranged, produced, and conducted by Freddie Perren and David Blumberg, with Paul Shure, concertmaster
    • One characterized ty the New York-style mid-tempo bubbly beat and spicy orchestrations of
      • Phyllis Hyman's You Know How to Love Me (1979), arranged, produced, and conducted by James Mtume and Reggie Lucas, with Gerald Vinci, concertmaster
    • One characterized by the New York-style uptempo beat with multi-dimensional orchestrations of
      • High Inergy's Shoulda Gone Dancing (1979), arranged, produced, and conducted by Donnell Jones and Gerald Lee, with Assa Drori, concertmaster.

Principle arrangers, producers, and orchestra conducters that derived from Los Angeles included Gene Page, Barry White, Dave Crawford, Bruce Miller, Freddie Perren, Paul Riser, Hal Davis, Skip Scarborough, Jerry Peters, Laurin Rinder, Mike Lewis, Carl Davis, Sonny Sanders, Simon Soussan, Don Cornelius, Dick Griffey.

  • The Miami Symphony Orchestra was the foundation of the Miami Sound, which was an effervescent mid- to uptempo style that represented the colorful Latin heritage of Miami, as in songs such as
    • Rice & Beans Orchestra's You've Got Magic (1977), arranged, produced, and conducted by Pepe Luis Soto, Tato Rossi` and Hector Garrido, with David Chappell, concertmaster
    • Miami Sound Machine's You've Broken My Heart (1978), arranged, produced, and conducted by Thomas Fundora and Carlos Oliva, with Bogdan Chruzcsz, concertmaster.

Principle arrangers, producers, and orchestra conductor that derived from Miami included Cory Wade, Bert Dovo, Clarence Reid, Willie Clark, Freddy Stonewall.

Other large symphony and philharmonic orchestras in cities across the United States, Canada, and Europe were the foundations of a vast number of disco productions, including:

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra, whose principle arrangers, producers, and orchestra conductors included: Brad Shapiro, David Van De Pitte, Mike Theodore, Lawrence Payton, Dennis Coffey
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, whose principle arrangers, producers, and orchestra conductors included: Donald Burnside, Edmund Lee Bauer, Danny Raye Leake, Curtis Mayfield, Gil Askey, John Dubiel, Chuck Jackson, Marvin Yancy, Dr. Cecil Hale, Richard Evans
The Nashville Symphony Orchestra, whose principle arrangers, producers, and orchestra conductors included: Moses Dillard, Jesse Boyce, Lloyd Barry
The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, whose principle arrangers, producers, and orchestra conductors included: Isaac Hayes, Johnny Allen
The Memphis Symphony Orchestra, whose principle arrangers, producers, and orchestra conductors included: Lester Snell
The Boston Symphony Orchestra, whose principle arrangers, producers, and orchestra conductors included: Jonathan Klein, D.B. Shrier
The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
The Montreal Symphony Orchestra, whose principle arrangers, producers, and orchestra conductors included: Tony Green, Denis Lepage
The Quebec Symphony Orchestra, whose principle arrangers, producers, and orchestra conductors included: Dominic Sciscente, Michel Daigle, Jacques Lafleche, Lee Gagnon, Pete Tessier, André Gagnon
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, whose principle arrangers, producers, and orchestra conductors included: Ian Guenther, Willi Morrison, Eric Robertson, Pete Pedersen, Harry Hinde
The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
The London Symphony Orchestra, whose principle arrangers, producers, and orchestra conductors included: Biddu, Gerry Shury, Pip Williams, Ian Levine, Fiachra Trench, Peter Yellowstone, Larry Page
The Paris Symphony Orchestra, whose principle arrangers, producers, and orchestra conductors included: Cerrone, Don Ray, Alec Costandinos, Raymond Khenetsky, Alan Hawkshaw, Claude Carrere, Alain Wisniak, Charly Ricanek, Daniel Vangarde, Michaele Lana, Guy Delo, Paul Sebastian, Jean-Luc Drion, Jean Kluger, Ralph Benetar, Biram Benelux, Jacques Morali
The Munich Symphony Orchestra, whose principle arrangers, producers, and orchestra conductors included: Thor Baldursson, Frank Farian, Michael Kunze, Sylvester Levay, Juergen Korduletch, Mats Bjoerklund, Stefan Klinkhammer, Anthony Monn, J.-C. Friederich, Tony Lester
The Berlin Symphony Orchestra, whose principle arrangers, producers, and orchestra conductors included: Werner Drexler, Eric Thoner, Joaquim Heider, Uli Roever, Karl Schmitz, Ralf Novi, Charles Orieux, Ingo Cramer
The Milan Symphony Orchestra.

Contents

The decreasing use of orchestras in the Post-Disco period

The transition from the late-1970s disco styles to the early-1980s dance styles can be illustrated best by analysis of the work of specific artists, arrangers, and producers within each region, respective to the timeperiods. For example, Patrice Rushen, whose major works - Haven't You Heard from 1979 and Forget-Me-Nots from 1982 - contrast sharply to demonstrate emphatically the changes from the 1970s to the 1980s. The orchestral elements of Haven't You Heard, from rhythms and woodwinds to horns and strings, were co-arranged by Patrice Rushen, who also arranged the near-minute-long extravagant string arrangements for the introduction of the song, whose 100-piece Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Charles Mimms, Jr. and Reggie Andrews, with Charles Veal, Jr., concertmaster. In stark contrast, however, the number of names involved in the symphony orchestra and the orchestral composition of Forget-Me-Nots totals zero. The break in Forget-Me-Nots serves virtually no purpose except to make the song longer, for, with neither orchestration nor orchestral build to bring listeners back to the melody, the excitement of the song, like the amount of planning in its melodic structure and harmonic composition, is zero. The synthesized arrangement mimicking a type of string arrangement of Forget-Me-Nots involved the arduous task of striking a solitary note on an electronic keyboard, from a recording artist, no less, with the talent of having produced Haven't You Heard just a couple of years before.

Thousands of examples illustrate the change from the luxuriant disco sound to the generic dance sound occurring from 1979 to 1980, just a few of which are:

Madleen Kane
Forbidden Love/Thunder in My Heart (1979); orchestrations arranged, produced, and conducted by Thor Baldursson and Michaele Lana, with Fritz Sonnleitner, concertmaster of the Munich Symphony Orchestra
Cherchez Pas (1980); orchestrations: none
Grace Jones
Don't Mess with the Messer (1979); orchestrations arranged, produced, and conducted by Tom Moulton and John Davis, with Don Renaldo, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra
Pull up to the Bumper (1981); orchestrations: none
Kleeer
Winners (1979); orchestrations arranged, produced, and conducted by Dennis King and Woody Cunningham, with Gene Orloff, concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra
Get Tough (1981); orchestrations: none
Aretha Franklin
Ladies Only (1979); orchestrations arranged, produced, and conducted by Van McCoy, with Gene Orloff, concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra
Jump, Jump, Jump to It (1981); orchestrations: none
The Whispers
And the Beat Goes On (1979); orchestrations arranged, produced, and conducted by Dick Griffey and Leon Sylvers III, with Janice Gower, concertmaster of the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra
It's a Love Thing (1980); orchestrations: none
Evelyn Thomas
My Head's in the Stars (1979); orchestrations arranged, produced, and conducted by Ian Levine and Fiachra Trench, with David Katz of the London Symphony Orchestra
High Energy (1981); orchestrations: none
Stacy Lattisaw
When You're Young and in Love (1979); orchestrations arranged, produced, and conducted by Van McCoy, with Gene Orloff, concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra
Jump to the Beat (1980); orchestrations: none
Miquel Brown
Symphony of Love (1979); orchestrations arranged, produced, and conducted by Alan Hawkshaw and Don Ray, with David Katz, concertmaster of the London Symphony Orchestra, and Albert Speguel, concertmaster of the Paris Symphony Orchestra
So Many Men, So Little Time (1982); orchestrations: none
Vicki Sue Robinson
What's Happening in My Life (1979); orchestrations arranged, produced, and conducted by Warren Schatz, T. Life, George Andrews, and Sam Peake, with Gene Orloff, concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra
Hot Summer Night (1981); orchestrations: none
Billy Ocean
American Hearts (1979); orchestrations arranged, produced, and conducted by Ken Gold and Lynton Naiff, with Harry Bluestone, concertmaster of the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra
One of Those Nights (Feel Like Gettin' Down) (1981); orchestrations: none
Angela Bofill
Angel of the Night (1979); orchestrations arranged, produced, and conducted by David Grusin and Larry Rosen, with David Nadien, concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra
Too Tough (1982); orchestrations: none
Earth, Wind and Fire
Boogie Wonderland (1979); orchestrations arranged, produced, and conducted by Maurice White and Al McKay, with Janice Gower, concertmaster of the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra
Let's Groove (1981); orchestrations: none.

The revival of orchestration in the 1990s and 2000s

Many producers during the 1990s and 2000s attempted to make their disco music as authentic to the 1970s sound as possible. The following examples illustrate the revival of orchestration:

  • Mude o Baile (2002) and Superpoderosa (2002) by BsB Disco Club: violins by Igor Macarini and Luiz Carlos, cello by Guto Guerra, trumpet by Moisés Alves, tenor and alto saxophones by Anderson Pessoa, trombone by Lucas Borges, arranged by Marcos Tani and Ricardo Boy
  • Last Days of Disco (2003) by Alcazar: orchestration by the Stockholm Session Strings, arranged by Jesper Nordenström
  • Cosmic Girl (1996) by Jamiroquai: strings scored and conducted by Simon Hale, arranged by Simon Hale and Jay Kay
  • Spend Some Time (1994) by The Brand New Heavies: string arrangements by Aaron Zigman and Andrew Levy, flute by Mike Smith
  • Should I Let Him Go? (2000) and You Turn My World Around (2000) by The Company: violins by Aaron Meyer and Adam LaMotte, viola by Leslie Hirsch, cello by Lori Presthus, all from the Portland Philharmonic, arranged by Bradley Swanson and (for the latter) Bryan Everett

Websites


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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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