As mentioned in the previous post, we are privileged to have Carol Matz answer a few questions on pianoways this week.
Carol is well known as a composer and arranger for the piano. Her pieces have the winning blend of sounding good as well as being comfortable to play.
You can listen to some of these on her YouTube channel.
Pianoways: Carol, could you please describe the journey a soundtrack makes from the movie theater to an arrangement in a sheet music book?
Carol Matz: Sure! It actually starts out with a legal process that the publishing company has with the movie company. The soundtrack is one of the last things completed, and so often the publisher doesn't receive the score right away. But once it's received, it goes to a team of transcribers who listen to the soundtrack and view the score, and make a literal transcription for 2-3 staves (a third if vocal is included). After that, the arranger takes the transcription and listens to the music, and makes it playable for whatever level of difficulty is appropriate for piano students. It's a very fun thing to do!
P: I love the way you capture the rhythms and harmonies of the songs and movie themes. What are your guidelines?
C: Writing for piano students requires following many parameters, depending on what musical concepts students know. Often, the music must be "straightened out" so that it's not difficult to read (with lots of 16th notes, etc.) However, most of the original sound can be preserved. I like to be as true to the music as I can, and I'm careful to listen to the soundtrack to be sure my arrangement highlights the composer's intended harmonies and emphasize the correct melody and countermelody lines.
P: You are both a composer and an arranger. Could you tell us how you start working on a new piece?
C: Composing for piano students, I actually start with some very "cold" information, such as the number of pages and the instructional level. From there, I choose certain elements for the student level, such as time signature, key signature, pedal or no pedal, etc. So often I will think: "I'd like to write a piece in 6/8 in the Key of C Minor... okay, maybe I'll write a tarantella..." and go from there! Generally I start playing the piano to see what comes up. I actually write with a pencil and paper at an acoustic piano! I can't seem to think as well at a computer!
P: What is your own favorite composition so far?
C: I'm really enjoying teaching a recent composition of mine called "Stormy Ocean." I live in South Florida and although it's beautiful most of the time, we get some pretty dramatic thunderstorms."Stormy Ocean" is a late-elementary piece that features a left-hand melody, which I think is so important for students; since students' bass clef reading is often not as solid as treble clef, I think it's important to emphasize LH note reading. I'm including this composition in my next level of the "Interactive Piano Method®" (Level 2B) so please watch for that!
P: Thank you so much Carol, for taking the time and answering these questions. Looking forward to your next pieces!
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-Movie Themes at the Piano