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Topic: OT a question for anyone who's done an arrangement

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  1. #1

    OT a question for anyone who's done an arrangement

    This is a question for anyone who has asked for permission from a publisher to do an arrangement:

    how did it go?

    I'm asking because I would like to arrange (well, I've already started work on it... at least partially for my own pleasure) a piece that is published by Schirmer Inc.

    I looked at the application form, and it requests dates of concerts... we don't have any dates yet. Only "possible dates".

    They ask for the name of the group performing/commissioning it... we don't have a name (yet), and aren't technically "commissioning" the arrangement.

    They ask for the venue where the arrangement will be performed... well, we only have one planned so far, but we'd LOVE to play it in further concerts later in the year.

    So, do publishers generally demand exorbitant prices for this type of permission?

    It's a short piece, maybe 4-5 minutes, and reduced from full orchestra to a piano quartet.

    It's not like I want to publish the arrangement. Although, if people WANT this sort of arrangement of this piece in particular I'd be happy to cede it to Schirmer, along with the score and parts. As far as I'm concerned, the more people play music by this composer, the better.

    But I have no pretensions that my arrangement is "publisher worthy".

    Anyway, should I (ok, legally, I know I SHOULD) bother requesting the permission? Will I simply be shot down anyway? Or will they ask a gazillion dollars' fee?

  2. #2

    Re: OT a question for anyone who's done an arrangement

    Michel, I've done a few of these and copyright holders' responses are all over the map. I did an arrangement of a Jamey Aebersold piece - requested permission - and he said "sure no problem. I'm happy you asked, most people don't." He was great and signed a permission freely with no fee.

    I requested permission from author Ray Bradbury to set his "The Halloween Tree" for woodwind quintet, with spoken parts. After some lengthy explanation to clarify what I wanted to do he granted permission freely as well.

    On the opposite side I was asked to arrange a work published by Oxford University Press and you'd think they were protecting their delicate virginity from the evils of the world or something. They wanted concert dates, a HUGE fee at the top as well as subsequent performance fees, and on-going reports for this and that and...well it was too much and I dumped the project.

    Then there are those things with disputed rights. I wanted to set some poetry by American poet Robert E. Howard (the creator of Conan - but the author of some fantastic poetry). I requested permission and was told it was in public domain. I did the piece and then submitted it to a publisher who wanted confirmation of the rights. I went back to my source who I found was being sued for copyright infringement of Howard's works by the Howard estate. So the piece was dropped from publication. Now, many years later, it seems the works WERE in public domain and we could have proceeded - but now it is too late - I adapted the work to other words.

    So it's the "wild west" out there when it comes to permissions. It is always better to ask for permission - especially in our &%$&%&$#! litigious society. Best of luck!
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    http://reberclark.blogspot.com http://reberclark.bandcamp.com http://www.youtube.com/reberclark

  3. #3

    Re: OT a question for anyone who's done an arrangement

    My experience is the same as Reber's, though less extensive...everything from "Yeah, sure...send me a CD" to one that wanted a flat fee of $5000 and a percent of sales.
    Most of what I do is for my own brass quintet, for tuba-euphonium ensemble, or for a large brass ensemble that plays pro bono.

    Lotsa sales in all those areas, lemme tell ya.

    I think they set it up intentionally to be a regal PITA and thus discourage people from doing it.


    Snor
    Jim Williams
    Professor of Capitalism
    N9EJR
    Indianapolis Brass Choir
    All Your Bass Sus&Short Are Belong to Us.

  4. #4

    Re: OT a question for anyone who's done an arrangement

    Well, I may as well go ahead and take the plunge and keep my fingers crossed.

    I may post the arrangement here at some point.

    It's the "Intermezzo" from Samuel Barber's opera Vanessa.

    The amazing thing is, the music almost arranged itself. It was the most painless thing I've ever worked on.

    When I look at the myriad of arrangements of Barber's Adagio for Strings, I figure there HAS to be a bit of room for an arrangement of something of his that ISN'T the Adagio for Strings????

    And this is Barber's centenary year, so we would like to include something of his in our concerts. Sadly, he HAS nothing for piano quartet.

  5. #5

    Re: OT a question for anyone who's done an arrangement

    I truly love Barber's music and would love to listen to your arrangement of anything of his. What fantastic music.

    I have attempted something similar with some of the works of Bernard Herrmann - to no avail. They hold those rights tighter than a ... well, tightly.

    Also in the same boat (for me anyway) are the works of Patrick Doyle. I wanted to set themes from his soundtrack to Much Ado About Nothing and could not get anyone to even talk to me.

    I did have success with a tune by Sean O'Riada - "Women of Ireland" ("mna na Heireann") by finding and contacting his son Padraig in Ireland. The interesting thing (to me at least) was that Sean O'Riada wanted to create new "traditional" Irish melodies that would be absorbed into the culture as deeply as the ancient tunes - yet after his death his work still remains subject to permissions.

    Damn, it's always something. I hope someday to be able to pursue both of these endeavors.

    Best of luck in your quest!
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    http://reberclark.blogspot.com http://reberclark.bandcamp.com http://www.youtube.com/reberclark

  6. #6

    Re: OT a question for anyone who's done an arrangement

    another fan of Mr. Barber (grew up in his home town where the high school still uses the Alma Mater he wrote for them)...

    The other's have already put forth what I'd have said, except... sometimes it is better to ask after rather than before. A big part of that choice will depend on how much work is involved on any given project.

    It has been my (limited) experience that a lot of the folks that control the rights to some piece guard it not out of greed or any other malevolent motive, but rather to try to keep some (imaginary?) standard.

    The argument I use when I try to explain to people why they need to respect the intellectual rights of others suggests that many composers might not want their music associated with pornography, or extreme violence. And it is their right to prevent such use. They might similarly not want their work associated with a poor performance, and while I think they are bit quick to judge, that too is their right.

    As an example, since Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings" was mentioned, I've always thought that was one of the most romantic pieces, but after watching the movie "Platoon" I can't really listen to it without recalling the movie. So indeed the placement of that music did affect my perception of it. (Oh, and btw - "Platoon" was a really bad choice for a first date!)
    Bill Thompson
    Audio Enterprise
    KB3KJF

  7. #7

    Re: OT a question for anyone who's done an arrangement

    Actually, when one considers the pride with which Samuel Barber served his country in the armed forces, I am pretty much convinced that he would NOT have approved of the use of the Adagio in the context of Oliver Stone's film, regardless of one's opinion on that particular film.

    As for first dates, when my better half and I saw our first film together, it was Lord of the Rings... and we are both HUGE fans.

  8. #8

    Re: OT a question for anyone who's done an arrangement

    Quote Originally Posted by qccowboy View Post
    Actually, when one considers the pride with which Samuel Barber served his country in the armed forces, I am pretty much convinced that he would NOT have approved of the use of the Adagio in the context of Oliver Stone's film, regardless of one's opinion on that particular film.
    Agreed... it seemed at once both very effective and, very out of place. He was not around to make the choice, and one has to hope that his estate, or whoever oversees such things, made the choice after careful deliberation. It's not a bad film, and it isn't as heavy handed as some others on the topic. I've never read anything that spoke of Barber's opinion of the "Viet Nam Conflict"

    Quote Originally Posted by qccowboy View Post
    As for first dates, when my better half and I saw our first film together, it was Lord of the Rings... and we are both HUGE fans.
    Prolly a much better choice<G>!
    Bill Thompson
    Audio Enterprise
    KB3KJF

  9. #9

    Re: OT a question for anyone who's done an arrangement

    My experience jibes with reber's as well. I've done a lot of arranging of copyrighted music, and the licensing fees range anywhere from $0 to $500.

    I'm currently in a situation where I was commissioned to arrange three songs from a well-known musical for a concert performance by a well-known singer. When I applied for permission to arrange the songs, I was told that I need to submit a copy of the arrangement for their approval. Which seemed a little odd to me; you have to actually arrange the song before you can get permission to arrange it?

    But, whatever.
    Dan Powers
    www.danielpowers.info

    "It's easier to be a composer than it is to compose."
    --Ray Luke (1928-2010)

  10. #10

    Re: OT a question for anyone who's done an arrangement

    Well, let us keep our collective fingers crossed.
    I have faxed off the information request.
    I am praying that Schirmer does not charge too much for this permission.

    I just played through the piano part of the quartet arrangement, and I am VERY pleased with the result. It would be a shame if they refused permission, or charged an amount I could not afford.

    The most difficult thing was keeping true to the original orchestral version. I had to avoid creating any new counterpoint, as much as possible. Thankfully, the original is rich enough in melodic material, and most importantly, internal melodic material (for the inner voices) that I had a wealth of material from which to work.

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