NOTES ON THE SCORE
by Ethan Iverson (excerpt from his blog DO THE M@TH)
1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The original album ended with an unprecedented effect, a very long chord. Fifty years later, perhaps a similar chord is a good place to begin…
2. Magna Carta. A formal invocation of personalities from the LP cover.
3. With a Little Help From my Friends. When Ringo sang it, he was on top of the world. Our version is more vulnerable.
4. Adagio. In the age of Tinder, a Lonely Heart advertisement might seem hopelessly quaint. But everyone has always needed to find a match.
5. When I’m Sixty Four. In between 6 and 4 is 5. All three (counts to the bar) are heard beneath the music-hall scuffle.
6. Allegro. A single offhand line of trombone from “Sgt. Pepper” germinates into a full-fledged sonata form.
7. Within You Without You. George Harrison’s sincere study of Indian music aligns easily with another Harrison interested in bringing the East to the West: the great composer Lou Harrison, one of Mark Morris’s most significant collaborators. The hippie-era sentiment of the lyric remains startlingly fresh and relevant today.
8. Scherzo. Glenn Gould said he preferred Petula Clark to the Beatles. Apparently Gould, Clark, and a chord progression from “Sgt. Pepper” all seem to have inspired this mod number.
9. Wilbur Scoville. The first thing we hear on the LP is a guitar blues lick, here transformed into a real blues for the horns to blow on. Wilbur Scoville invented the scale to measure heat in hot sauce: The original Sergeant Pepper?
10. Cadenza. After seeing Bach’s Brandenburg 2 on the telly, Paul McCartney came into the studio and told George Martin to add piccolo trumpet to “Penny Lane.” Indeed, detailed references to European classical music are one reason so many Beatles songs still stump the average cover band.
11. Penny Lane. Not on the original Sgt. Pepper album, but nonetheless originally planned to be, and of course especially relevant to the city of Liverpool.
12. A Day In the Life. Theremin nocturne, vocal descant, apotheosis.
13. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Another unprecedented effect on original LP was a reprise of the first theme, which is part of why it is called the first “concept album.” Our later vantage point enables us to project into the next decade, the 70s, and conjure a disco ball. Thank you, Beatles! Thank you, Sgt. Pepper!
Quotes on the music from Iverson:
“The Pepperland score is a suite of chamber music performed by some of New York City's finest iconoclasts. Half the piece is arrangements of the songs we all know, half is brand new danceable pieces responding to the strong undercurrent of classical music present on the original album.”
"Pepperland is an evening-length work meditating on the classic Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. When crafting the original masterpiece, Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, Starr and Martin took cues from classical, jazz and world music, resulting in a complex set of songs. This new score for an unprecedented chamber music ensemble of voice, theremin, soprano sax, trombone, and keyboards will tease out and elaborate on Pepper's non-rock and roll influences. Arrangements of half a dozen songs from the album will intermingle with Pepper-inspired original pieces written especially for Morris’s profound understanding of classical forms: Allegro, Scherzo, Adagio, and the blues."