AS VIVID AS THE CHARACTERS ARE in Victor Wooten’s nurturing novel, The Music Lesson, his new 7-CD audio version puts voice to name and music to word with exhilarating results. Among those joining Wooten in the acting and playing cast are brothers Roy, Regi, and Joseph, Steve Bailey, Bela Fleck, Howard Levy, J.D. Blair, and Chuck Rainey (great as the gruff-voiced Uncle Clyde). In addition, the Flecktones perform a stirring version of one of Wooten’s finest compositions, “The Lesson,” which was first heard on Victor’s album Palmystery.
What led you to create an audio version of The Music Lesson?
I just thought it would be fun. I also want to get into film and TV scoring, and I felt this would be a great place to start. My goal was to enable people to see and hear the story, as well as the lessons inside the story.
How did you go about scoring the book?
I knew the song “The Lesson” would be the main theme, so I went chapter by chapter to see where it should be, based on what was happening in the text. The cool thing was that I could move the dialogue in order to fit the music—a luxury you don’t have in film scoring. There are a few places where the dialogue pauses so the music can accent what’s being said. The other challenge was to figure out where there should be no music, so as not to undermine its effectiveness.
In addition to the underscore music and the actual examples performed by the characters, I came up with the idea of putting one measure of music at the beginning of each chapter, so when you put them together, you get a song.
How did you record the music?
Most of the time it was just me in the studio. Everyone else was added one at a time, and I put it all together. I used my Fodera Yin Yang and Tenor basses for the most part; I also played my Fodera Monarch, N.Y.C. 5-string, and fretless, a Spellbinder Piccolo bass given to me by Stanley Clarke—a very cool instrument that looks like an overgrown mandolin—my old Italian y-size upright, my Compito fretless 5, a Ribbecke Hafling acoustic bass guitar, a Taylor fretless ABG, and a tiny bass made by Marleaux. I plugged all the basses direct into my Control 24 board, which has Focusrite preamps in it.
On “I Am Music!” and “Five Words” the character Music has her words echoed by bass.
That’s something I first did on my Yin Yang CD, when my daughter Kaila was 13 months old. I heard her voice as being so musical, I learned it on bass. I decided to have Music’s voice have the same effect. This time, I used various basses, as well as keyboards and guitar; you can hear the instruments changing as she speaks. I’d just figure out the pitches and record them one phrase at a time. I used fretted basses mostly, so there was a lot of string bending involved to get the in-between pitches. It’s actually a really good ear strengthening exercise.
Victor Wooten’s The Music Lesson