My first step in brainstorming a character's leitmotif, or theme, is to make a list of adjectives describing that character. Usually this starts off pretty generic ("evil" or "beautiful" ) but I try to dig deeper by imagining what this character cries about when under the influence and not garnered by inhibition. I then make a play-list of songs that express a similar aesthetic to what I am aiming to express with the arrangement and orchestration of the leitmotif. Instrumentation usually comes easily as most character traits can be stereotyped by instruments.
In Cheshire's case, a few adjectives I used include: seductive, disloyal, manipulative, self-serving, burned, approval-seeking, lonely, martial-arts-bad-ass (2nd only to Lady Shiva as far as villainesses go).
The decision to use to the alto sax was not a hard one. Mainly because I hear Johnny Hodges playing his long, drawn-out scoops as an equivalent to the sex appeal I believe Cheshire uses to manipulate. Plus to me, alto sax is a feminine, yet strong , bad-ass instrument (as opposed to the feminine, more delicate flute or masculine tenor sax).
Here is the leitmotif I came up with, with accompaniment, kept simple, played by the midi piano:
Very short and to the point, but in need of some expansion. In my original orchestration, I included an 8 bar B section with open trumpet solo. The idea, I think, was to reference Deadshot's pursuance of Cheshire (in Villains United), but now that I think about it, did Deadshot pursue her? Didn't Cheshire and Catman hook up and Deadshot go after Scandal? I must admit, I don't remember and really need to pick up the trade as my original issues are buried deep on my comics shelf. Regardless, the trumpet solo did not work.
What I strive for in this rewrite, is not so much a redo of Cheshire's theme, but to take out the trumpet solo and expand upon her theme within the brass. I'm also adding a french horn into the mix as I'm trying to make that part of my standard instrumentation. I don't want this song to go too long; none of these vignettes should longer than 3-4 minutes. Again, just glimpses into their lives a la Lorne.
Here's the original recording:
Dustin Cicero (alto sax) nails what I'm going for, but as you can hear, the trumpet solo is lacking and the overall length is too long as the song drags. I need to expand the melody and trim the solo. I'm definitely going to add more backgrounds behind the solo. Perhaps I should go into double time? Suggestions welcomed!
Basically (as I alluded to before) what I see when I hear this in my
head is this: Cheshire standing on Lorne's stage, dressed to the
nines, hair falling across her eye, bolting out a slow, heartbreaking
song with a deep voice a la Fiona Apple, with perhaps Johnny Hodges standing to her side, filling in her silences with slow, scoopy screams, the smoky room unable to turn their eyes away, Cheshire completely aware of this, ready to manipulate anyone she thinks can be advantageous to her. Very 1930's, very film noir.
To achieve this I need what, dear reader? Please give me your perspective of Cheshire. Let me know what songs you associate with her, and what you would expect to feel if you were Lorne and could read her as she sung in your karaoke bar. I'll take your suggestions and in a month or so, have a reading of the revised music and will report back with recordings and maybe a little video.
Thank you, in advance, for being a part of this creative process!
Actually, forget the priest and the rabbi, and lets make that a karaoke bar.
Lorne's karaoke bar, "Caritas" to be exact, and you the listener have Lorne's incredible ability to read the aura, feelings, emotions, past and future of anyone who braves the mic.
After a few courage-inducing rounds, each member of the Secret Six take their turn singing their favorite 80's power ballad. With each musical performance, you the listener feel something new for each villain, an ounce of compassion perhaps, an intellectual respect or perhaps a deeper, more profound fear.
I've been focusing on Cheshire and found myself explaining her leitmotiv as a smoky bar, Cheshire on a small stage wearing a sexy, black (or green) dress, singing seductively into the mic a la Jessica Rabbit. I realized I was picturing Lorne's bar "Caritas" (I've been watching a lot of Angel recently!) and then it hit home what exactly I was trying to do with this suite. I want the listener, upon hearing the BCJO play one of these vignettes, to have a new understanding of the character in the same way Lorne can "read" a person who sings.
A lofty, albeit geeky goal and completely abstract way to go about composition. But it excites me and I appreciate any inspiration I can find towards the masochistic task of composing.
So tell me, fellow geek, what qualities or insights should be musically expressed? And more importantly, what power-ballad would each Secret Six villain sing at Lorne's karaoke bar?