To me, nothing evokes human emotions more than music. As I’ve written in the previous entry on “Making a ballet routine”, music and flying is what makes team ballet flying so much fun. Granted, one can do an individual ballet routine with music but it’s the camaraderie with flying in a team that just tips it. It’s all about the people.
I’m putting down thoughts in my head when it comes to music selection and mixing, what moves, what doesn’t and what things I’d look out for.
The team currently has 4 pieces of choreographed routines. We are working on a routine for the 5th piece.
- “Faithfully” by Journey
- “Symphony No. 9 – The New World” mix by Dovrak
- “Ip-Man” mix from various tracks from the “Ip Man” soundtrack
- “Sway” by Michael Buble
Throughout the years, I’ve got from various teams and experienced fliers on their approach to their ballet music. I think some of them are really valuable, while you could get by with others. I’ve always worked with these inputs at the back of my head and putting some of mine into the mix as well. Here are my criteria for music selection, not in order of importance.
“Starters, mains and desserts…take your time to savor.”
While I’ve not be too analytical on how many beats per minute would work in different wind conditions, my preference tends towards a moderate-slow piece for 2 reasons.
It is generally easier to work with a slower music piece than a fast one. A slower piece would be more forgiving in a wider range of wind conditions. We could fly a slow piece in light-wind situations and if wind picks up, a switch to vented kites with higher brake settings would still be able to work the slower piece reasonably well. Conversely, it would be very difficult to work a fast-paced piece when the wind is light. You’d be back-tracking frantically to keep the kites flying to the fast tempo and risk running out of ground space. This is related to the kites you have, dual or quad-line, standard or vented, line weight etc. Judge what works best!
The second reasoning that I could provide is that a slower piece would allow the audience more time to absorb what the team is trying to show in the routine. It’s like going to a 3 course dinner, going from starters to mains and ending with a dessert, savoring the taste of each and not rushing from beginning to end.
Having said that, do keep in mind that it is still important to have variety, both individual music pieces as well as the repertoire of routines. We do have both fast and slower-paced pieces that we could pick from, depending on what works best in the particular situation. The “Sway” routine has a faster beat that would not work too well in low wind conditions, while “Faithfully” and “Ip-Man” are more forgiving in low to moderate conditions.
At this juncture, you might have encountered a dilemma where you’d just have to select a piece of music but somehow or other it’s too fast or slow? I’d just touch on modifying the tempo of the music piece here. Some teams have the same piece of music at different tempos to suit different wind conditions. While I’ve done slight changes to music tempos of ~5-8% changes, my opinion of this is that too much of a change would actually be detrimental to the music. It can be highly dependent though.
Key points: Same piece of music with different tempos for different wind conditions, not too fast but not too slow or boring.
“What’s your frequency?”
I’ve listened to types of music like classic rock, British indie, punk and pop from my growing up years. I’m still a rockabilly at heart and that’s what moves me. (Yes, I could get to sleep listening to Led Zeppelin not because it’s boring or what, but because it relaxes me). Having said that, I’m not huge fan of metal while I’m alright with classical genre.
So the question is do you simply pick from the genre of music you like?
I do not have the perfect answer but personally, I’d stay away from genres that are more obscure. Having gained a little experience in music selection, I could make a quick judgment if that genre would be suitable.
Remember that I’m talking about music genre here and not the actual music piece yet. Granted, I’m sure there you could fly to metal music but I wonder if the general audience would be able to relate to that. Spending that little time selecting the correct music genre and paying attention to general audience tastes might make the routine easier to swallow. For illustration, the music for the “Ip-Man” routine (For the uninitiated, Ip-Man is actually Bruce Lee’s kungfu teacher) was selected primarily for the Berck-sur-Mer festival. My reckoning is that an oriental-sounding piece would make for an interesting listen in a western cultural environment. Well, turns out that we’ve got positive compliments for that! J . By the same reckoning, the music for the “Sway” routine lends a swinging Cha-cha dance feel. With variety within our repertoire, we could select the piece to fly to that would hopefully, set us apart from other demos.
Key points: How would the general audience react to it? How would the team react to it? Especially for pieces with vocals, be aware of cultural differences. What’s acceptable in your culture could be perceived as vulgar in another country. Would a particular genre work better in a specific festival?
“Sour, sweet, bitter and hot spices”
Another aspect of the music selection would be the mix of elements within the music piece. These elements can refer to a myriad of things like tempo, volume, stops, mood etc. Think of a four-movement symphony that starts off with an opening, then a slow movement, followed by a trio and ending with a fast allegro climax.
In my opinion, a piece of music with a variety of elements in it is much more interesting for the audience. Unexpected instances create contrast and if used effectively, could mean the difference between a good routine and a great routine. Of course, the key word here is “used effectively”. The routine would need to take advantage of these interesting instances to create excitement. The point I’m making here is to select a music piece that has more of these interesting instances that could be used to plan interesting moves within the routine. This is a reason why many routines have used movie soundtracks or classical pieces as these types of music generally have more changes of mood and beats within. Comparing an emotive, classical piece with volume swells, powerful intros and builds up to an exciting climax to a techno piece with a straight-beat tempo is a no-contest. However, it is not to say that a routine with a techno piece would be much worse-off. You could definitely pull off a great routine with a straight-beat techno piece still.
Key points: Mixing different pieces together for variety, nothing too soft that you can’t hear it on the flying field.
In my final closing, here’s a takeaway that I would offer:
The music is only part of the story. A great piece of music doesn’t guarantee a great routine. It just creates more opportunities for which to work a routine on.