To make an arrangement of a musical composition is to rewrite the composition for a new set of musical forces—to rewrite a wind quintet for string quartet, for example, or to transform a string quartet into a piano trio. In the process of arrangement, a piece may be altered in all sorts of ways, but the original composition always remains recognizable.
And arranging is an art in itself—it can be done ingeniously and beautifully, helping us to hear a piece with fresh ears—and it can be done clumsily, and badly. The violinist Samuel Dushkin, who worked with Igor Stravinsky on a number of arrangements for violin and piano of Stravinsky’s orchestral works, once wrote that rather than simply to write what he called “playable music for the desired instrument,” Stravinsky’s goal in arranging was always “to go back to the essence of the music and…[to] recreate the music in the spirit of the new instrument.
A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.