Friday, December 6, 2013

Song #436 of 9999 - Gigantic by Pixies

Song #436 of 9999

Title: Gigantic
Artist: Pixies
Year: 1988
Album: Surfer Rosa

Every once in a while I get a request to arrange music for a wedding, usually for a string trio or quartet. It's the same client every time and, while he has the usual stuff covered (Vivaldi's "Spring," Pachelbel's "Canon," etc.), he knows I'm up for arranging just about anything—for a price. And people really want to put that personal stamp on their wedding. If that means processing to the theme from ABC's Pushing Daisies, so be it! (That's a real gig—I did not make that up.) I've arranged Paramore's "Hallelujah," stuff from West Side Story, Phantom of the Opera and Fiddler on the Roof, "At Last," "All You Need is Love"—the list goes on. One particularly memorable job from 2007 consisted of several instrumental tunes from Amelie and The Pixies' "Gigantic."

If you really want to get to know a piece of music intimately, break it down into little parts you assign to single-line melodic instruments. Before the re-imagining process, wherein one tries to find a way to express Black Francis's guitar feedback on 2nd violin and decides whether to try to notate the slightly flat singing of Kim Deal, you've got to sit down and transcribe every note the band played. This is time-consuming but illuminating. For me, part of the fun of turning "Gigantic" into a string quartet was balancing the expectations of the people who would choose such a song for their recessional with how far I could push stodgy string players to let loose. For this tune, I wrote in hand claps, "gruff" bow noises, and simulated feedback and suggested beneath the tempo mark (Medium Rock) that "Ideally, players should stand and try to rock out a little."

Sadly, I never get to hear these performances. I usually ask whether the chart was well-received and so far I've received no complaints. Such is the way of one-and-done custom arrangements, I suppose. In the meantime, I've built quite a collection of these oddities so maybe it's time to take them for a spin with some of my more adventurous students.


  1. "wherein one decides whether to try to notate the slightly flat singing of Kim Deal"? MIAOOWWWWWW!!!! :)

    1. Hahahaha. I really didn't mean it as a slam. It's part of the style and not ineffective. Since this was more of a post of reminiscence, I didn't really talk about the song in analytical terms but, listening to this now, it's hard to ignore how influential this record must have been on Nirvana and how strikingly
      original it was in 1988.