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October 13, 2010 4:31 PM   Subscribe

Richard Grayson is a (now retired) composer and classical improviser. To give you just a taste, Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" in the style of a Tango, "Heart and Soul" a la Mahler, "Take the A Train" as a Chopin Funeral March.
posted by non-kneebiter (43 comments total) 67 users marked this as a favorite

 
Baroque Star Wars
posted by griphus at 4:37 PM on October 13, 2010


Holy shit James Bond theme and Pink Panther theme as double fugue
posted by griphus at 4:38 PM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Muppets theme song as a fugue.

Holy shit, I'm going to spend my whole evening listening to these.
posted by bewilderbeast at 4:41 PM on October 13, 2010


Surely these musical improvisations are just a sideline for Dick Grayson.
posted by hippybear at 4:48 PM on October 13, 2010


Part of what's interesting is that as each piece goes on it stops being a joke. You can hear the crowd stop laughing and start settling in to listen to something beautiful, new and familiar at the same time.

Try Darth Vader's theme from "Star Wars" in the style of Beethoven. Victor Borge would have gotten the cheap laugh and stopped after 20 seconds. Grayson is putting emphasis on the idea of writing a piece in the style of Beethoven, just so happening to use the Imperial March as a theme.

Classical musicians used to do this all the time, taking a snippet of popular music and fancifying it. Compare Salieri's 26 variations on 'La Follia di Spagna.'
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:51 PM on October 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


Try Darth Vader's theme from "Star Wars" in the style of Beethoven.

..which leads to this powerful rendition of the Imperial March
posted by stbalbach at 4:56 PM on October 13, 2010


This is... wow...
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:04 PM on October 13, 2010


I'm fascinated by the scribblings he does on staff paper before playing.
posted by roll truck roll at 5:14 PM on October 13, 2010


Not bad, but I grew up on Tom Lehrer's variations on Clementine, which is funnier I think.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:14 PM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Cheesy, corny, gimmicky, showy and brilliantly entertaining.
posted by victors at 5:15 PM on October 13, 2010


A renaissance galliard improvised around the cell phone ringtone of some random guy in the audience.

We loves you forever, non-kneebiter.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:22 PM on October 13, 2010


This is the reason I stopped playing the piano.
posted by hincandenza at 5:38 PM on October 13, 2010


I liked "Singin' in the Rain" in the style of Wagner and Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" in the style of Mozart.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:39 PM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Please identify the artist who performed the rendition of 'Holiday in Cambodia' in the style of Rachmaninoff which I heard on the radio years ago?
posted by ovvl at 5:45 PM on October 13, 2010


Oh come on, that totally does not sound like the melody to Heart and Soul.
posted by ovvl at 5:47 PM on October 13, 2010


These are amazing. Although the Darth Vader/Beethoven one quotes other bits of Beethoven more than B. himself would probably have done. Still, as pastiches/homages, just lovely.
posted by Bardolph at 6:05 PM on October 13, 2010


Did no one ask him to do the Batman theme, or did he just say no and roll his eyes?
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:19 PM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


but, but, Rhapsody in Blue is already in the style of Debussy!

improvisation used to be a huge part of the western music tradition. in the baroque period all musicians were expected to be able to improvise. cadenzas in classical concertos are meant to be improvised. it's too bad improvisation has been mostly relegated to jazz, because independent of style, it's always special to hear spontaneous music from a competent musician that will never be performed the same way again.

this guy is bad ass. nothing cheesy or corny about his approach.
posted by mexican at 6:39 PM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why do you people only tell me about people who do these sorts of things after they've stopped doing them?

At least this one's still alive.
posted by ErWenn at 6:49 PM on October 13, 2010


Swan Lake ska version by Madness.

I love this genre-bending stuff.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:03 PM on October 13, 2010


ErWenn, I think he's a retired composer, but an active improviser.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:09 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Classical musicians used to do this all the time, taking a snippet of popular music and fancifying it. Compare Salieri's 26 variations on 'La Follia di Spagna.'

If you love variations, try the completely absurd take on La Folia by the Atrium Musicae de Madrid. It's a staple of audiophile collections, partly because of the superb recording by Jean-Francois Pontefract, but also because Atrium goes batshit insane in their variations, adding synth parts and one section where a chainsaw inexplicably cuts in.

But on top of that it's just a lovely piece of music. I wish more modern classical was more like it.

[/derail]
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:12 PM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Try Darth Vader's theme from "Star Wars" in the style of Beethoven yt . Victor Borge would have gotten the cheap laugh and stopped after 20 seconds. Grayson is putting emphasis on the idea of writing a piece in the style of Beethoven, just so happening to use the Imperial March as a theme.
Yeah, that was pretty amazing, especially knowing it was just the guy sitting there coming up with this off the top of his head.
posted by delmoi at 7:16 PM on October 13, 2010


ocherdrago: Ah, that's good to know. This guy is awesome.
posted by ErWenn at 7:17 PM on October 13, 2010


Also, is it just me, or does he look like James Lipton's older, skinnier brother?
posted by ErWenn at 7:18 PM on October 13, 2010


"Girl from Ipanema" in the style of Poulenc is amazing.
posted by oozy rat in a sanitary zoo at 7:24 PM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Did no one ask him to do the Batman theme, or did he just say no and roll his eyes?

It is, indeed, awesome that he shares a name with Nightwing.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:24 PM on October 13, 2010


Thats freaking amazing that he's taking requests. I imagine the more complex fugue stuff he write in advance right?

Also, shouldn't playing a Tango version of Wagner automatically initiate a Mossad investigation?
posted by condour75 at 7:27 PM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I imagine the more complex fugue stuff he write in advance right?

I may be confusing my classical music, but I seem to recall that fugues are relatively "easy" to improvise. You basically play a theme and then play a number of increasingly complex variations on that theme. For example, you might play the first theme at regular time, then start the theme again at half time (playing both at once) and then, perhaps, invert the theme (if such a thing is possible) and play all three at the same time.

Hopefully, somebody who actually knows what they're talking about will correct me here, but this is part of what makes fugues awesome.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:37 PM on October 13, 2010


Yeah he nails Poulenc, although I think little of the Jobim remains. He basically keeps the rhythm of the melody and the first few notes. I think I'm more impressed with the planned stuff than the improvised stuff.
posted by condour75 at 7:41 PM on October 13, 2010


And if this is all improvised, I'm fucking floored.
posted by condour75 at 7:43 PM on October 13, 2010


A great peice not quite in this vein, but with a lot of hidden quotations is the "Missa Hilarious" by P.D.Q. Bach (aka Peter Peter Schickele). Sample.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:43 PM on October 13, 2010


I love "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair" as interpreted by Beethoven.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:03 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


If fugues are "easy" to improvise, I don't understand what "easy" means. I always found them extraordinarily hard to play, and they were written down, note for note.

I am totally floored by this. The complexity and nuance of his improvisations is staggering, and he nails the manner of each composer perfectly. Wow.
posted by huzzahhuzzah at 8:04 PM on October 13, 2010


I may be confusing my classical music, but I seem to recall that fugues are relatively "easy" to improvise.

I think you are confusing your classical music.
posted by dfan at 8:16 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. Easy, my ass! Most impressive.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:20 PM on October 13, 2010


Good Vibrations in the style of Bartok doesn't sound much like the Beach Boys song to me, but it does make me want to listen to more Bartok.
posted by John Cohen at 9:37 PM on October 13, 2010


In the description of the Good Vibrations video, he admits he got the chords wrong on that one.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:53 PM on October 13, 2010


Fugues can be improvised, but it's not easy. I know Bach used to do it, and I'm sure other compsers could as well.
posted by archagon at 9:54 PM on October 13, 2010


In the description of the Good Vibrations video, he admits he got the chords wrong on that one.

Now I can at least hear what he was trying to do. I was assuming he'd start at the beginning ("Ah, I love the colorful clothes she wears..."), but he's just playing the chorus ("I'm picking up good vibrations...").
posted by John Cohen at 10:43 PM on October 13, 2010


Wonderful stuff, and makes me proud to have gone to Occidental College (where he taught from 1969 to 2001). Thanks for the post!
posted by languagehat at 7:46 AM on October 14, 2010


Please identify the artist who performed the rendition of 'Holiday in Cambodia' in the style of Rachmaninoff which I heard on the radio years ago?

Possibly related: Richard Cheese did a lounge rendition on (IIRC) his first album.

With sleigh bells!
posted by gimonca at 3:15 PM on October 14, 2010


Thank you, that Richard Cheese reference led to the piano version I was thinking of by DJ Lebowitz.

Which eventually leads to the story of former Dead Kennedys drummer 6025 trying to be "the Captain Beefheart of gospel music."
posted by ovvl at 9:04 PM on October 15, 2010


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