April 12, 2020

Deconstructing the sound of Gene Puerling

by Albert Carbonell


Eugene Thomas Puerling (March 31, 1929 – March 25, 2008) was a vocal performer and vocal arranger. He was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Puerling created and led the vocal groups The Hi-Lo's and The Singers Unlimited. He was awarded a Grammy Award for Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices in 1982 for his arrangement of "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" (as performed by The Manhattan Transfer). He died just six days before his 79th birthday, due to complications from diabetes.
Puerling's vocal arrangements and chord structures were classic and instantly recognizable and his ability of vocal arranging techniques and unique style have contributed and mentored many other singers and groups, including Take 6. John Neal of Harmony Sweepstakes said after his death: "As a craftsman of the art of blending and harmonizing the human voice in song, Gene has no equal".
Vocal arrangements by Gene Puerling: an analysis of the musical resources employed.
Paulo Roberto Prado ConstantinoUNESP Marília - p const @ bol.com, en Abstract: It analyzes the resources used by Gene Puerling (1929-2008) for the conception of his vocal arrangements, which occupy a prominent position in the literature of vocal music. The analysis of his work is done with the help of authors such as Callahan (2000), Sebesky (1984) and Ades (1966). Puerling's innovative approach to the Hi-Los and The Singers Unlimited groups would influence the next generations of arrangers and vocal groups, making it one of the pillars of the arrangement vocal of popular music in the second half of the 20th century.Keywords: Vocal arrangement. Gene Puerling. Musical analysis. Popular music.Gene Puerling's Vocal Arrangements: An Analysis of the Musical Resources EmployedAbstract: Analyzes the resources employed by Gene Puerling (1929-2008) to create their vocal arrangements, which occupy a prominent position in the canon of vocal music. The analysis of his works is done with authors like Callahan (2000), Sebesky (1984) and Ades (1966). Their innovative approach with the groups The Hi-Los and The Singers Unlimited influence of the following generations arrangers and vocal groups, converting it into one of the pillars of the vocal arrangement of popular music in the second half of the twentieth century.Keywords: Vocal arrangement. Gene Puerling. Musical analysis. Popular music.1. IntroductionThis work aims to demonstrate part of the resources commonly employed by arranger and singer Gene Puerling [1929-2008] in his works conceived for The Singers Unlimited group [1971-1980]. This text, pioneered in Portuguese, justified by the purpose of placing Puerling in its place in the literature of the vocal arrangement of popular music, given the influence it would exert in the following years. Eugene Thomas Puerling was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1929. Having formed some smaller groups during their passage through the American equivalent to teaching medium, in the 1950s he would bring together the Hi-Los group, a male quartet that would cross the following two decades with a solid career recognized by the public and critical in theUnited States. At the height of its popularity, Hi-Los performed regularly at the American television at Rosemary Clooney's show, which provided her with great national visibility, in addition to occasionally accompanying famous soloists like Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra. In the late 1960s, a significant portion of the northern arrangersAmericans and Europeans, when designing their vocal arrangements, was strongly linked to resources and techniques identified with doo-wop, girl groups, R&B or rock. The Arrangers involved with jazz employed block harmonization techniques (GUEST: 1996,142 and ADES: 1966, 223), also known as soli (ALMADA: 2000, 133), coming from the instrumental treatment given to the big bands of the United States in the first decades century, or a hybrid of these with the compositional resources of concert music(SWINGLE: 1997), based on rules of harmony and counterpoint such as those found in Schoenberg's treaties (2001a and 2001b), for example.Gene Puerling stood out in this scenario for being able to obtain vocal arrangements consistent, with a variety of musical textures and fluidity of melodic lines, through a more free adaptation of the voice conduction in the parts, obtaining different results that would expand the limits of the vocal arrangement approach.Their last and definitive group, The Singers Unlimited, was born in 1969 to record jingles for advertising agencies in the United States. According music writer and critic James Gavin (2005, sn.), the demo of the song Fool On The Hill(1972) was a business card for these agencies when it ended up being discovered by the famous pianist Oscar Peterson, who took them to their first recording in a long-play format in a studio in Germany.Working with engineer Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer in the studio in Villingen, Puerling would benefit from the recent multitrack recording technologies, that would allow you to operate numerous overdubs in your arrangements 1. The group had only four members, but who could now transform into eight, sixteen or twenty vocal lines. The formation of Singers Unlimited, which featured singers Don Shelton, Len Dresslar and singer Bonnie Hermann, as well as Puerling himself, regularly recorded in the period between 1971 and 1981, about fifteen LPs and other singles. Included in this catalog are four albums dedicated exclusively to arrangements in a capella format. Your collaborators in the vocal pieces accompanied by an instrumental section were equally important, featuring names like Oscar Peterson, Art Van Damme, Roger Kellaway or Robert Farnon. In his arrangements for Singers Unlimited, Puerling had the opportunity to revisit the American songbook, in addition to outstanding works that ranged from Tom Jobim to Beatles productions and other relatively recent recordings of the period. Your flirtation with the rock and fashion songs was present, which is evidenced by the fact that- 2 - 3 of the hits of the time, like We've Only Just Begun, Try To Remember or You've Got a Friend, in addition to a considerable number of Beatles songs, like the ubiquitous Yesterday, Eleanor Rigby and Here There and Everywhere.Having made the first considerations, we will proceed to a brief analysis of the devices and techniques employed by Gene Puerling in his arrangements, in the next lines.2. the development if we take for granted that the listener's interest in musical material vocal arrangement depends, on a fundamental level, on the balance between repetition and variation to establish contrasts, it is necessary to recognize how to create such a balance. SecondSchoenberg, excess repetition is boring if its advantage is not exploited: the emphasis(1991, 146).In general terms, the creation of contrasts and the emphasis on certain material music involves the disposition of one or more of these terms: rhythmic excitement, change inharmonic tension level, texture difference, change in registration or presentation of new tones (SEBESKY: 1984, 04), among other devices.A brief discussion follows on some of the procedures that promote variety and interest in Gene Puerling's arrangements. The reference to the duration of events in pieces, taken from the available recordings, will appear in the text in brackets to facilitate theQuery.2.1 Use of block techniques in a spread position Especially in the passages of greater dramatic intensity or in the moments of the climax of the song, Puerling makes use of a freer disposition of the voices in the block, in compared to more traditionally systematized techniques such as spread position or spread(PEASE & PULLIG: 2001, 125).Its treatment is closer to linear techniques 2, as systematized by Dobbins (1986) from the courses and notes of Herb Pomeroy and other scholars of jazz composition, where the resulting harmonics come from more fluid lines:- 3 - 4 Example 1: Autumn in New York (1974) by Vernon Duke. Arrangement by Gene Puerling (1975).As noted, there is no concern about crossing voices or jumping very wide intervals within the same melodic line. Resolutions on appropriate intensity or balance between voices, as in this example, were usually noted in the score.2.2 Elaboration of dynamics in the conduct of voicesThe use of dynamics in the conception and elaboration of the arrangement is related to the separation of the listening plans, allowing the arranger to highlight possible foci in our perception. (SEBESKY: 1984, 04).The elaboration of the intensity between vocal parts in the arrangement is an important factor in Gene Puerling's conception for adequate conduction of voices. Changing the balance noise contributes decisively to the effect obtained from harmonization, especially in the case of superior voices over the main melody, also called the lead. In his work, alternating dynamics between voices seek to ensure: a) The predominance of the main melody, especially when it does not present itself in the highest voice, and the rest of the voices sound en bloc (with the same rhythmic division). This, for example, you can hear the lead, stronger, over the rest of the block harmonic, even in moments where dissonance is presented with emphasis:- 4 - 5 Example 2: Here, There and Everywhere (1972) by Lennon and McCartney.Arrangement by Gene Puerling. Transcribed by the author. [2: 01-2: 27]b) The enhancement of a melodic line in a lower voice, concerning the melody main, even in brief periods. The following example is quite simple, but illustrative, because the tenor's first four bars, in traditional choral form, are valued in terms of intensity, for the next four bars, the soprano's voice resumes the role: Example 3: Joy To The World (1972), a traditional hymn with lyrics by Isaac Watts, arrangement by Gene Puerling.Transcribed by the author [0: 01-0: 10]- 5 - 6 This alternation of the main melodic line in different voices is a way of maintaining the listener's interest, due to the constant alteration of the timbres and the line main melodic. Associated with changes in dynamics or tonality, it enhances your resources to create contrasts. (CALLAHAN: 2000,114).Puerling, by adding a superior voice to the main melody, usually avoided that this immediately consecutive line establishes a minor or tritone second with the lead. However, in some situations, obscuring the melody, in favor of highlighting a more homogeneous harmonic block, as an effect in certain passages.2.3 Gradual transformations in textureGradual transformations in texture 3 are conceived by Puerling by adding or gradual suppression of one or more voices, which end up leaving or finding themselves in a single melodic line, in unison. Its employment highlights the perception of a gradation of harmonic density, in addition to enriching the sections of the piece.Analyzing as an example the arrangements designed for four mixed voices, the addition of elements can start from one or more voices in unison, unfolding in two, three or four distinct melodic lines, evolving into the homophonic texture: Example 4: More I Can Not Wish You (1972) by Frank Loesser, arrangement by Gene Puerling. Transcribed by the author. [0: 01-0: 21]- 6 - 7 The suppression of elements starts from the inverse principle: a harmony of four parts can be diluted in just an interval relationship, and finally, in unison. Gene Puerling normally uses the procedure to rarefy the harmony of a stretch texturally dense, after the occurrence of many simultaneous harmonic events.2.4 Add instruments to reinforce or elaborate harmony In reduced vocal formations, a possibility for the enrichment of harmony is the use of musical instruments, which have timbres not very contrasting with the human voice or that can be more easily mixed with vocals in a recording. Especially in block harmonic textures, tend to be subtle the small timbrístic variations, and the ear accepts the results as a viable structure under the harmonic perspective.As pointed out by Sharon and Bell (2012), Callahan (2000) or in the adaptations Ward Swingle's (1997) vocals of varied works, the possibilities are many. In the example below, with one more instrumental voice, in addition to the four present in the vocals inSATB 4 formats, Gene Puerling can reach the upper structures of the chords with tranquility, namely the 9th, 11th or 13th extensions. We can cite as an example more the use of the double bass or keyboard, performing the deepest voice of a sentence: Example 5: We've Only Just Begun (1973), a song by Roger Nichols and Paul Williams, arrangement by Gene Puerling, taken from the original score (1977). [1: 50-2: 03]2.5 Modulations between sectionsModulations between sections are a feature commonly explored in vocal music a capella, as a way to emerge a greater number of harmonic possibilities, the which is desirable, especially in long or very repetitive pieces (CALLAHAN: 2000,- 7 - 8 107). Puerling modulated in different sections to obtain harmonic and timbristic variety, in short pieces or arrangements of longer duration.Depending on the desired effect, I experienced more or fewer modulations sudden, from a formal point of view 5. When organizing the final modulation of a section, he normally considered: a) The gradation of contrast appropriate for the section. Recurring modulations by ascending or descending minor third, which offer a strong contrast between sections, for example. This pattern and other alternatives can be heard in their arrangements for Fool On The Hill (1972), Killing Me Softly With This Song (1974), Emily (1972),Anything Goes (1980), Ah Bleak & Chill The Wintry Wind (1972), Deck The Halls (1972),to cite some examples of his acapella works; b) The addition of notes necessary for the desired effect (passage notes, chromatisms, suspensions, resolutions), similarly to the treatment is shown by Ades (1966, 147) or Levine (1995, 303);c) Transformations in the musical texture, supporting the effect of modulation, alternating unison and homophonic or polyphonic passages; d) The addition of additional times, changing the original time signature and intensifying the dramatic effect of modulation.3. Final Considerations To present the technical resources used by Gene Puerling in the elaboration of his vocal arrangements continues as a desirable goal for other more extensive analyzes, because the reflections of his work can be heard in diverse groups like the Beach Boys, BR6, Take 6, The Real Group, Aquarius, New Swingle Singers, Manhattan Transfers, or our arrangements by Clare Fischer, Jonathan Rathbone, Phil Mattson, and Raimundo Bittencourt. So many possible considerations about his work are made impossible by the short breath of this text. Given the scarcity of specific sources on a vocal arrangement in popular music, and more specifically on the work of Puerling, the difficulties for the composition of the present study were doubled. What can be summarized, besides the justified historical interest and didactic that his arrangements awaken, is the variety of the musical material used, which helped to consolidate an arsenal of musical tricks to ensure the listener's interest, especially in acapella formations. Interestingly, on his journey of more than fifty years of uninterrupted production, Gene Puerling would not open the way for vocal percussion or- 8 - 9 imitation of musical instruments by human voices, which were abundantly exploited by arrangers in the decades following The Singers Unlimited, preferring to deal with the melodic, timbristic, harmonic and rhythmic elements, creatively arranging them in their constructions.
References: ADES, Hawley. Choral Arranging. 2.ed.Delaware: Shawnee Press Inc., 1966.AH, BLEAK & CHILL THE WINTRY WIND.Alfred Burt (composer). The SingersUnlimited (interpreter, vocals).Germany: MPS, 1972. LP. Christmas. ANYTHING GOES. Cole Porter(composer). The Singers Unlimited (performer, vocals).Germany: MPS,1980. LP. Acapella III.CALLAHAN, Anna. The Collegiate A capella Arranging Manual. Milwaukee: Hal Leonard &Contemporary A capella Publishing, 2000.DECK THE HALLS. Trad., Séc. XIX. The SingersUnlimited (performer, vocals). Germany: MPS, 1972. LP.Christmas.DOBBINS, Bill. Jazz Arranging and Composing: a linear approach. Rottenburg: AdvanceMusic, 1986.EMILY. Johnny Mandel and Johnny Mercer (composer). The Singers Unlimited (performer, vocals).Germany: MPS, 1972. LP. A capella. FELT, Randy. Rearmonization Techniques. Boston: Berklee Press, 2002.FOOL ON THE HILL. John Lennon and Paul McCartney (composer). The Singers Unlimited(interpreter, vocals). Germany: MPS, 1972. LP.GAVIN, James.In tune.New York City:2005. Available at:<http://jamesgavin.com/199/35/35.html>.Accessed on 02 Mar. 2014.GUEST, Ian. Arrangement - practical method .v. 1. Rio de Janeiro: Lumiar, 1996.HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE. JohnLennon and Paul McCartney (composer). TheSingers Unlimited (performer, vocals). Germany: MPS, 1972. LP. Acapella.JOY TO THE WORLD.Traditional, with lyrics by Isaac Watts (composer). TheSingersUnlimited (interpreter, vocals). Germany: MPS, 1972. LP.Christmas.KILLING ME SOFTLY WITH THIS SONG. Charles Fox and NormanGimbel (composer).The Singers Unlimited (performer, vocals). Germany: MPS, 1974. LP. Acapella II.LEVINE, Mark. The Jazz Theory Book.Petaluma: Sher Music, 1995.MORE I CAN NOT WISH YOU. Frank Loesser(composer). The Singers Unlimited(interpreter, vocals). Germany: MPS,1972. LP. Acapella.OLIVEIRA, Joel B. Linear arrangement: an alternative to traditional arrangement techniques in a block. Campinas,2004. 136f. Master's Dissertation in Music. Institute of Arts, UNICAMP, Campinas, 2004.PEASE, Ted & PULLIG, Ken. Modern Jazz Voicings. Boston: Berklee Press, 2001.PUERLING, Gene. The Gene Puerling Sound. Delaware: Shawnee Press Inc., 1975. Sheet music.____. The Sound of The Singers Unlimited. Delaware: Shawnee Press Inc., 1977. Sheetmusic.SCHOENBERG, Arnold. Fundamentals of Musical Composition. SãoPaulo: Edusp, 1991.____. Preliminary Exercises in Counterpoint. SãoPaulo: Via Lettera, 2001.____. Harmony. São Paulo: Unesp,2001.SEBESKY, Don. The Contemporary Arranger. Revised Ed. Van Nuys: Alfred PublishingCo., 1984.- 9 -SHARON, Deke; BELL, Dylan. Capella Arranging. Milwaukee: Hal LeonardBooks, 2012.SWINGLE, Ward. Swingle Singing. USA & Canada: Shawnee Press Inc.,1997. WE'VE ONLY JUST BEGUN. Roger Nichols and Paul Williams (composer). TheSingersUnlimited (interpreter, vocals). Germany: MPS, 1973. LP. Four of Us.
1At a time when Protools or Autotune were not yet available tools, Singers Unlimited stood out for the above average quality, in relation to the other vocal groups of the moment.In addition to the multitrack recording available in his studio, the fundamental contribution of the engineer Brunner-Schwer was offering the mix a kind of reverb and ambience that helped support the music a capella de Puerling in its passages with longer notes or in the pauses, filling with a kind of sound residue the moments between phrases. This kind of sound would be the equivalent of Phil's wall of soundSpector for a vocal section, in order to strengthen and reinforce the timbres and ambience of the recordings.
2About linear arrangement techniques, it is recommended to read Oliveira's excellent master's dissertation(2004).
3 Texture can be recognized, in a simplified way, as the arrangement of musical events in a time and according to aspects such as intensity and timbre, which modify the results sound effects obtained.
4Abbreviation from the English language, commonly used in vocal scores to designate the four mixed voices in suits: soprano, alto, tenor and bass .
5Additional information on the use of modulation can be obtained synthetically in Ades (1966,147) and Felt (2002, 34).- 10 -
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