This tune is an adaptation of “Gliding Dance of the Maidens” from the Polovtsian Dances by Alexander Borodin. I heard it one day on the classical music radio station and thought it would sound nice on the NAF.
From my first hearing, I was getting a swing rhythm in my head, and for a jazz hound, the original title can’t help but lead to thoughts of Herbie Hancock’s classic “Maiden Voyage”. I wondered if there was a way to combine this late 1880s melody with 1960s jazz harmony with 21st century technology? Hmmm. The game was afoot.
The first task was to see if the melody was accessible for NAF. I started by finding a MIDI file online, extracted the melody and transposed to find that the range indeed fit on the NAF except for the very top note, a “D5” which had to be substituted out for a “Bb4”. Here’s the entire melody in my NAF notation:
Next, I pulled the MIDI melody into Band in a Box to see if it could be reharmonized to use the chord progression from “Maiden Voyage”. That wasn’t really possible but what I did borrow from MV was the “quartal harmony” theme. Basically, this means there are lots of suspended 7th chords. If you stack three fourth intervals together (e.g. A D G C) and move the bottom note up an octave, you get DGAC, D7sus4. MV is almost all 7sus chords, but here the main vamp is D7sus to C7sus and then it veers off from there, eventually ending on an Fmaj9.
Instrumentally, the song is in “D” played on a gCEA tuned ukulele, Cocobolo Ukuleles Super Concert #001. The low note of the melody is the root, so the ideal candidate NAF was my D4 in Eastern aromatic cedar by Mark Bickett. This puts the vamp relative to the flute as A7sus to G7sus ending on Cmaj9.
With the arrangement figured out, the realization step was a fairly typical session in Propellerhead Reason, making use of two new instruments in Reason 10, Radical Piano for the main keyboard part and Humana for some vocal pads in places. This production was also my first use of what many would consider a studio staple: the transient shaper.
Here it is being used on the ukulele track. The track just wasn’t “gliding” enough. The transient shaper is mainly being used to reduce the intensity of the attack portion of notes and strums. You can get some of the same effect using standard compressor techniques, but it is so much easier to dial in the desired result with this special purpose unit. As with everything in Reason, the controls can be automated and you can see the green rectangles around the Attack and Speed settings. This was done to really clamp down in a few spots that were jumping out. Also notice the slight decrease in the sustain portion. This was just to make a little more space in the mix for other parts and make a nice blend. As you can see, it took a good bit of work to keep this punchy little uke from dominating the whole song. 🙂
For the video, I’m combining a simple airborne video in the background with a Wizibel rendering in the foreground processed with various effects in LumaFusion.