The musical mind of Jorge Calandrelli

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Photo from Jorge Caladrelli official website

My contact with Jorge Calandrelli has been through the analysis of his work and brief correspondence. I recently had the special opportunity to analyze his score of “I’m in the mood for love” for singer Barbara Streisand. I would like to offer some different cultural insights from a non-emotional intellectual perspective. When I asked Jorge about his approach to his work, he told me that he tries to start an arrangement with high counterpoint lines which complement the melody and then search for harmonies that blend those lines together.

I believe this intellectual interplay between the two lines in the beginning are clues which provide him a musical roadmap as a guide to achieve linear or horizontal movement to base his arrangement and harmony upon. After deciding that musical compass, he maps out the emotional territory of orchestration. I believe it is at this point that he sees a visual representation of the final musical map where he simply fills in the details in order to find his road back home. This confirms in his mind that his work is complete. What I find most unusual and perplexing is the seemingly disciplined spontaneity that comes across as an eloquent playfulness of musical theory. It seems effortless, yet upon careful analysis, one finds it is the mark of a master who presents the complex as simple. In this way, Calandrelli’s approach is a kind of “Musical Ikebana,” The rare Japanese art of flower arranging, where the goal is to create floral presentations in which the true beauty lies in knowing what not to add to clutter the effect.

In the history of art, there are visionaries who provide what Aristotle called “First Principles.” Every great painter, sculptor and composer has an “artistic signature,” which although sometimes not evident to the man himself, is revealed to others through his works. As an example of these “signatures,” in the world of contemporary master film composers, John Williams’ use of modeling wide melodic interval forms in ethnic, historical and classical styles provide him with an ideological musical palette before any of the compositional harmonic ideas are conceived. Ennio Morricone’s use of thick cluster harmony as a way of suspending time as 16th century fugue melodies are guided through an innocent “Heroic romanticism.” Jerry Goldsmith’s use of layered sound textures of resonant overtones as a harmonic concept, with multiple time signatures and extreme dynamics as a melodic concept.

The “signature” of Jorge Calandrelli, is in his brilliant use of the synchronicity of counterpoint as a linear tool to create implied forward movement which holds the listener and makes him want to see how this harmonic resolution ends, which never does, therefore holding the listener’s interest in wanting to hear the next phrase. He accomplishes this as a notational Merlin, where his talent as a musical story teller chooses specific harmonic passing tones which provide a horizontal movement to the vertical harmony. Jorge’s insightful use of relative minors in the harmony provide him with the ability to use the same passing tones utilized as the 7th, 9th, or 11th or suspension against the melody, creating fresh themes of variation. Tonal mixtures of low woodwinds and french horns allow no overtones in the harmonic series which would accentuate the over 2K (two thousand hertz) frequency band, therefore not interfering with the vocalist range of 500 hertz to 4 thousand hertz. He balances the orchestra with the precision of a mastering engineer. This is his genius. In all, a very intellectual approach at creating a fluidity of movement while leaving space for emotional harmonic exploration. A very thought out approach where the lines of foreground and background are clearly defined. There is never any ambiguity of form of who is carrying the melody.

I theorize that because of the enormous time he has conducted, through the bio-feedback of the recording studio playback, he has unconciously created a self imposed conductor and mixing engineer filter in his mind. This becomes his “final word,” to himself, and is evident in his work. This factor is as relevant as his musical expertise. I attribute part of his popular and industry success to his ability to arrange great songs with a fresh, musically surprising, yet comfortable predictability. Success leaves clues, and with Calandrelli, those clues are deeply hidden in the score and in the smiles of his listeners. Audiences are unconsciously moved by the subtlety of his heart driven intellect. This is what makes him invaluable, in demand and irrisistible to great singers.

In a more visual sense, it could be said that Jorge Calandrelli weaves a kind of “protective musical cocoon” around the singer, which through beautiful linear counterpuntal movement, keeps the listener permanently intrigued and fascinated. The singer then metamorphasizes into a melodic butterfly, which Jorge releases to fly through the eloquent orchestral colors he has chosen. If a musical elixir of tailored arrangements could exist for vocalists, Jorge Calandrelli would own the patent on “emotional elegance of movement.”

Darryl John Kennedy

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