Re-composition #1 – Will O’ the Wisp

Gil Evan’s was well known for his ability to take fragments of melody or harmony and make an entirely new piece from them. Some of his arrangements became so different from their original that the term re-composition becomes more appropriate. Whilst Will O’ the Wisp from Sketches of Spain is quite recognizable from the original piece it is still significantly different enough that calling it an arrangement seems to diminish it.

The piece Canción del Fuego from Manuel de Falla’s ballet, El Amor Brujo provides the musical material for Will O’ the Wisp.

Audio examples are below.


Gil largely keeps the melody the same as the original except for the change in meter (3/8 to 3/2).

Original melodyrecomp1a.JPG

Will O’ the Wisp melodyrecomp1b.JPG


As mentioned earlier, Gil has changed the meter from 3/8 to a swung 3/2. This was most likely for playability and so that the swung quavers wouldn’t have to be notated as semiquavers. Other than the meter change the main melody is almost identical to the original.

The accompaniment in the ‘B’ sections in Will O’ the Wisp is almost entirely static which is distinct from the original. The change in rhythm here highlights the different harmony and melody which helps to add interest through contrast from the other sections.


Original ‘B’ section – notice the continued rhythmic momentum


Harmony and Orchestration

The harmony is similar to the original but is altered slightly to suit the new instrumentation and rhythm.

Simplified reduction of the opening of Falla’s Canción del Fuego

recomp1c.JPGReduction of Will O’ the Wisp – bar 9


In the last section Gil invents a new more dissonant harmony over a B pedal which is his own creation. The motivic material is derived from earlier in the piece. Miles improvises over this section until he re-states the main theme at the closing of the piece.



Both pieces alternate between ‘A’ and ‘B’ sections. The amount of repeats in each is slightly different. The main difference in the piece however that Gil composes a entirely new introduction and ending. Part of the introduction reappears before the final new section. It contains various clues to the rest of the arrangement and especially the accompaniment:

  • The melody starts on beat 2 so the first interval we hear is the perfect 5th from the B to the F# which strongly indicates the accompaniment
  • Parallel chromaticism which is used in the accompaniment again
  • Pedal point on the pitch ‘B’
  • The pitch ‘G’ on beat 2 and



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