Steelband Panorama 2012

 

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Dr. Jeannine Remy - Steelband Music Arranger, Adjudicator, and Educator speaks on Panorama and more

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

by When Steel Talks

In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks, steelpan musician, adjudicator, arranger and educator, Dr. Jeannine Remy—the 2012 arranger for Hatters Steel Orchestra—shares her overall thoughts on Panorama...

Global:

WST - At Panorama, you have had the role of educator, performer, adjudicator, commentator and arranger. Which role do like best and why?

Dr. Jeannine Remy
Jeannine Remy

Jeannine - “Whatever hat I am asked to wear, I try to do my very finest work in the best interest of the art form.

“I love what I teach and I get great pleasure from teaching my students. We here at the Department of Creative and Festival Arts at the University of the West Indies (UWI) encourage our students with extreme enthusiasm to achieve their musical goals, and dreams… whatever they may be. I can safely speak for the UWI music faculty in saying we are overwhelmed with great joy and pride when one of our past or present students succeeds in the field of music.

“No one can take away the pleasure of performing, which is something I will do the rest of my life. If I have no other commitments, you can be assured that you will find me playing tenor pan in Invaders.

“As a judge I try to write as many specific and helpful suggestions on the judging sheets as possible to assist the band or arranger in what is being heard out front, what could be improved upon, or what worked really well. As a judge your voice is only one of many, and sometimes the team may or may not be on the same page. Pan Trinbago did call me to judge this season but I told them I was unavailable this year.

“I really enjoy commenting and being able to explain to the public what is going on. It is like being a judge without having to give marks. The arranging is my creativity escape, which I absolutely love to do, regardless of the results. I would have to say this is my greatest thrill.”


WST - This year you are arranging for Hatters. Your tune of choice is “Madness” by David Rudder. Why this tune?

Jeannine - “Yes, I am a “Mad Hatter” this year.  Well, Hatters agreed that they wanted a tune that everyone knew and that the average listener could hear and understand the motivic and harmonic development. The choice was made before many of the new pan calypsos came out because the band is currently reorganizing itself after not getting out of their panyard with another arranger. They wanted to get started early. The music is fully scored and with the help of Kevin McLeod and Marcus Ash, is being taught and drilled in two different locations. I have always liked David Rudder’s music and can relate to all of his musical elements.”


WST - What is different for you this year, this time around as an arranger?

Jeannine - “Well, the last time I arranged for a band was in 2010 for Pan in the 21st Century with Sforzata. They were still locked into a written contract with another arranger so I said “yes” to the judging, commenting and even drilling (of Invaders). But this year I am back in south [Trinidad] trying to get Hatters out of their panyard as the band picks up the pieces and starts fresh.

“What is different for me is the fact that I have been living and absorbing the culture since I moved to Trinidad, and my growth as an arranger has slipped into my arrangements now. I agree with Liam Teague’s statement, in that creating a work just for the pleasure of winning should not mandate the arranger’s creativity. What is different for me this round, is that I have combined my “Trini” knowledge with my “theoretical” knowledge. I am using the re-harmonization of “Madness” as a form of text-painting…extended chords and some percussive dissonance.  Also the melodic hooks of the tune are continuously hammered home both rhythmically and motivically. I love to modulate and change feels, so you will hear those elements in my arrangement. I am not conforming to a mold of trying to sound like someone else; instead I am being my rebellious self and expressing it through my music.”


WST - Describe your creative process?

Jeannine - “For years and years I have listened to panorama arrangements and have always been amazed at the talent of both our past and present arrangers. The roots of my creative process came from studying steelband music at NIU (Northern Illinois University) under people like G. Allan O’Connor, and Clifford Alexis. I would not be here in Trinidad if it weren’t for those two people. Then playing in Invaders under various arrangers and witnessing their methodology was very impressionable for me as both a player and arranger.

“For me, I start an arrangement by listening to the verse and chorus, identifying the harmony and melodic hooks. If I hear a song and can sing possible variations in my head, then I know I won’t be stuck for an idea -  that is why it is important to let the arranger choose the piece, otherwise you are forcing creativity. I begin by transcribing the melody, chords and bass line off the original recording thereby creating a lead sheet. I score everything in Sibelius onto my computer. By doing this one internalizes everything in the tune.  Most people wait to put on the introduction, but I do not. I feel that the introduction is like meeting someone for the first time; it is impressionable and sets the tone of the whole arrangement.”


WST - Do you ever feel the need to compromise your music to satisfy the judges?

Jeannine - “As a judge I have always rewarded arrangers for their creativity and applaud them for it. Arrangers need to be individual, creative, and not hindered about what people say when they know in their own hearts their music is good.”


WST - Name three great ‘panorama songs’ that you didn’t arrange, and what made them great?

Jeannine - “Charles Ives once said something like this: “If you listen too hard you will miss the music.”  I firmly believe that every arranger has something different for me to listen to and appreciate. I have too many favorite panorama songs but I can say “Boogsie” Sharpe and Ray Holman are my favorite arrangers.” 


WST - What do you listen for in a panorama piece?

Jeannine - “I listen to everything, from clarity of sound, creativity, use of engine room, to the general feeling and excitement the arrangement renders through the players.  I generally become bored when a piece stays in one key too long. I love the element of shock, something that catches me off guard, and something that is not predictable. I can always tell when somebody “cuts” and “pastes” music into their arrangement.” 


WST - What is the cultural significance of panorama music?

Jeannine - “This is a topic for my steelpan history class.  Without going into the panorama syndrome and panorama mentality, I believe that the role and personnel of the steelband and their dedication to one particular band, has some of the elders scratching their heads. Although the panyard is a social setting where many researchers want to do ethnographic research, it now has a changing role as Pan entrepreneurs move from band to band seeking out ways to make money for panorama. I am not saying that is good or bad, but I am saying that it is a cultural change related to panorama.” 


WST - Should the music attempt to reflect, rebuke or reshape the society?

Jeannine - “I believe that the Pan songs composed for panorama can reflect the “signs of the times” as their lyrics tend to tell a historical story that dates the song. Music is a form of expression and it can depict the feeling and mindset of society at a particular place and time, and in fact can be very influential in reshaping the youth.”


WST - Contrast Bradley, Ray Holman, Jit and Tony Williams, both musically and culturally?

Jeannine - “The above-mentioned gentlemen are all musical geniuses. They are all revolutionary in their own right. Some of their music is scored for students to analyze. Here is what I find most interesting about these arrangers:

“Clive Bradley: His ability to set the listener on the edge of his chair throughout his entire arrangement. If you want to learn about motivic development, listen to his arrangements. Although he was not a ‘pannist’ (sorry Dalton Narine that’s how I spell it), his keyboard knowledge and use of harmonic development were superb.

“Ray Holman: I love Ray’s harmonies, especially his use of the double tenor that assists the melody and harmony with a very sweet touch. He is very meticulous with his chord voicings and any young arranger should study his music (Changing Time double CD).

“Jit Samaroo: Jit treats the entire steelband with equal importance. His musical lines in the mid-range voices would have any English teacher calling it a run on sentence. Unlike our grassroots arrangers, Jit’s music proves that an academic arranger can make the entire steelband an orchestra (check out Original Notes).

“Anthony Williams: He is responsible for the form of the panorama tune, using modulations, and featuring different instruments to play the melodic lines (his scores are available at the Blue Edition and Canboulay Publications).”


WST - If you could change one thing about panorama, what would that be?

Jeannine - “One thing… I think the players should be paid more for their hard work. Other things… I am not quite sure the small, medium, and large band categories are working. The single pan bands are more like mini small bands complete with racks and the word “traditional” is now confusing. The judging sheets are a mess.”


WST - Have women finally arrived in Pan as it relates to Panorama?

Jeannine - “By all means, I invite you to read the following articles as sample thoughts of women in pan over the decades:

Naipaul, S. “Own Instruments And Plays Them.” Evening News 6 Feb. 1950: 5.

Unknown author, “Will Women Run this Man’s World?” Express Pan Magazine 9 February 1969: p. 14 Print.

Gonzalez, Sylvia. “Steelband Saga: A Story of the Steelband the first 25 years.” POS: Ministry of Education and Culture, 1978: p 27-29.

“Steelbandsman of 40s a pariah, an outcast Yet youths then, fearing the violence, began to admire his bravado, to identify with him.” Trinidad Guardian 11 Dec. 1989.

“All Girl Steelband set to win Pan Ramajay.” Newsday 21 May 1994: p. 9.

Unknown Author, “Pan Woman” Panorama ’97 Supplement 26, Jan. 1997:5 Print.

Allen-Agostini, Lisa. “Watts serious about pan music.” Sunday Express 8 Mar. 1998: 6+.

Darway, Norman. Stories in Steel: the true account of the invention of the steelpan and the emergence of the steelband movement. 2005, page 96.

“Don’t forget to read Kim Johnson’s “The Illustrated Story of Pan” which also has a section on women in Pan. A special good luck to all the ladies arranging for panorama this year.”


 

Dr. Jeannine Remy - Senior Lecturer in Music
Department for Creative and Festival Arts
University of the West Indies

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