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Thoughts On MGMT ‘Kids’ For Orchestra

“Control Yourself / Take only what you need from it.”

When I arrange songs for orchestra I tend to center in on one line throughout the song. Even when I arranged Radiohead I loved the line “Can’t take it with you”. I’ve done a lot of bigger named artists and received a lot of press – and so now I would like to mix it up a bit with a killer band from Brooklyn! Also, the video is amazing, so I put my arrangement to it.

The lyrics “Control Yourself / Take only what you need from it” meant a lot to me, but not because of the context of the song. Rather, I think its a great cry from myself out to people I’ve met in my life. I’ve been taken advantage of and disappointed at times in my life – and I imagine myself saying “take what you need from me”.

MGMT ‘Kids‘ was at the request of Kelly Sutton from Hack College. He mentioned to me about this song, and it slowly grew on me. Unsure how it would sound for orchestra, I was anxious to see if I could pull it off. So I had the basses and cellos play the synth bass line, and maintained the strong drum beat throughout the composition. In addition, I shortened the interlude, because that wouldn’t have translated well with a 90 piece orchestra. The vocals were carried mainly by the violins, which were doubled by the flutes and clarinets when appropriate and to give it variation.

Everything turned out how I heard it in my head, but then I came to a problem – what should I do with that FAST synth line before the last chorus?! A violin section can’t play THAT fast. So I did a ‘For Orchestra’ first – introduced the Xylophone. This added another dimension to the arrangement, was possible to play, and sounded much more fluid.

The harp player punctuates these lyrics in the last chorus, and creates a crashing crescendo and tension throughout the piece. I always like how something so beautiful can create an effect so powerful. Perhaps that’s why it’s powerful – because you don’t expect it. Then I have the flute play a single note by itself to conclude the composition.

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