Family Jam, from Watch the Birdie (Day 58)

Time to wrap it up, folks – the final songs of Watch The Birdie. First, a little reprise of Get The Picture, reminding us where we started, which segues to the grand finale, Family Jam:


GET THE PICTURE?
IT NEVER LIES.
A MILLION MEM’RIES FLASH BEFORE OUR EYES.
WE TRY TO CAPTURE ONE WITHIN A FRAME…
BUT NOTHING STAYS THE SAME.

WATCH THE BIRDIE,
THE BIRDIE FLIES.
IT ALWAYS DOES SOMEHOW.
THIS NICE DEPICTION
IS JUST A FICTION.
I GET THE PICTURE NOW, BOY!
I GET THE PICTURE NOW!

FAMILY JAM
IT SEEMS TO BE THE WAY A FAMILY AM
JAMILY FAM
IT’S A ROMP, A RANDOM TANGLE
JUMBLE-FUMBLE, ROCK AND WRANGLE
FAMILY JIVE
A CRAZY CHORUS THAT YOU HOPE TO SURVIVE

FAMILY MAN
THERE’S NOTHING MOVES THE WAY A FAMILY CAN
CAMILY FAN
I DIBBLE DABBLE DOUBLE TROUBLE
GAME OF SCRABBLE
GRIN AND GRUMBLE
LAUGH AND BICKER
IS IT TRICK OR TREAT?

STOP AND LISTEN TO THE FAMILY JAM
CHECK OUT THE BEAT
FAMILY CAN… PLAY

Each combo is unique. We have duet, trio, quartet, quintet, so on, plus those who sit in to jam. We got the screamers, the groaners, the scat men, the cool ones and the sweet singers.

“You take out the garbage?” “In a minute.”

“In a minute.” That “In a minute” is perfectly nuanced, attuned.

“Supper’s on.” “I’m coming.” “So’s Christmas.”

A familiar thematic riff. A golden oldie. Jazz is: First note, what follows from that? May be honey or bitter wormwood, but does it flow? If it flows, it’s jazz. It’s family. It’s alive, changeable, magic. On tenor sax—

“Mom!!!”

On vibes—

“Rise and shine!”

On percussion— (SFX: dog barks as children fight)

“You will.” “I won’t.” “You will.” “I won’t.”

And on vocals— (SFX: baby cry.) Rejoice in the improvisation.
[Vocal jam, using phrases from earlier scenes and songs.]

THERE’S STRAINED BANANAS WHERE MY BRAINS USED TO BE!

I DIBBLE DABBLE DOUBLE TROUBLE
GAME OF SCRABBLE
GRIN AND GRUMBLE
LAUGH AND BICKER
IS IT TRICK OR TREAT?

STOP AND LISTEN TO THE FAMILY JAM
CHECK OUT THE BEAT
FAMILY CAN… PLAY!!

This composition was inspired by one of the pieces in Bishop and Fuller’s Family Snapshots, the collection of short plays that was the source of the scenes in Watch The Birdie. The metaphor of family-as-improvisation and the jazz deejay’s patter served as a beautiful summing-up of the show but also an opportunity to create a piece with an unusual form dictated precisely by its content.

A few months ago, I had the chance to tackle this piece with jazz musicians for the first time, as part of the work of the New Music Theater Ensemble I coached in the School of Music at UArts. I think the students were baffled by this for the longest time, but once we got to the stage, they seemed to click into the idea, as you will see from the video below, shot in our December 2014 concert. You’ll notice that the musical form in the middle has undergone some additional development; I like this much better and hope to incorporate these changes into Watch The Birdie the next time it’s produced. I hope that’s soon!

If you missed them, these are the songs already posted on Project 194; the links on the right are songs chosen at random from previous posts. Want to contribute to my interactive composition, “Hear My Song?” Read more here. Want to receive daily songs delivered direct to your inbox? Sign up here!

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