Don't Get Caught Up In Your Dreams (overture)

As you may know, I've been working on the orchestral music for the next Parks & Recreation album. We thought it would be well in keeping with the doctrines of Postmodern Pop to open the song Don't Get Caught Up In Your Dreams with a full on overture, classical style. So, I've finished the first draft of the overture and I thought you might be interested to know how I went about it. But first a warning: this post will contain a spotty, extremely lo-fi Garage Band MIDI audio file, and a follow along score to download in PDF format. Won't that be fun? Let's go!

So, the first step was to decide on what instruments we were going to be dealing with. We decided on a string quartet -two violins, a viola, and a cello- trumpet, alto saxophone and tenor saxophone. Seven instruments. Great. So then I sat down and wrote out the main melody of the song on paper. From that melody, I found several little melodies, or motives, that I could use as fodder for composition of the overture. Of those little motives, I decided three were most identifiable with the main melody. In addition to the melodic motives, I also used harmonic motives. In other words, there's a really whacky chord that appears in the bridge of the song, we'll call this chord Linda. Well, I thought Linda should show up as often as possible in the overture. And since every chord has a scale associated with it, most of the overture contains melodies that use this scale. Got it? So the building blocks for composing the overture were 1) melodic motives derived from the main melody of the song 2) harmonic motives; i.e. Linda and the scale she's built on.

But there's one more thing: shape. The overture had to have a structure. So the next step was to come up with a shape for the overture. I decided on an intro, followed by a minuet, followed by some transitional material which would get us to the main song. In classical music, the shape of a piece is determined by melody and key. Same with in our overture. The intro is in the key of E, the key of the song. Then, after the chord Linda sounds, we move to D for the minuet. (FOR THE MUSIC GEEKS: What's significant about D is that the chord Linda is a D Major chord with an E in the bass.) Okay, so the minuet is a classical form made up of a theme, A, which is sounded and repeated before a second contrasting theme, B, shows up, after which A is repeated again. For the B theme, incidentally, I moved to the key of B Minor for contrast. Right, so the minuet happens and then you hear some transitional material leading up to Linda again, which then brings us to the main song. Neat, huh? Here's our structure:

INTRO (key of E)| Linda | MINUET (keys: D-b-D) | Linda | TRANSITION (various to E)

Simple. Now, all of the decisions I make about what the individual instruments will do at any given moment would be too hard to write about, I think. Instead, I'll just leave you to imagine that part. There are so many combinations and combinations of combinations that it would be a long, boring (that is, longer, even more boring) diatribe to go into it.

To hear what all this gobbledygook sounds like, albiet as a cheezy sounding MIDI file, click here. To download the follow along score, click here.