New Smell: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and The Craft of Arranging

“My thing is change it up completely or leave it alone.” – Robert Glasper For whatever reason, arranging is seen as a lesser craft than composing. I’ve never really understood this. Granted, composing entails the creation of entirely new material, while arranging depends on previously existing source material. Aside from this, though, I see far more similarities than differences between them, particularly when arranging is done with the same creative spirit as composition. Both have the potential to bring something new and wonderful into the world of music, and a great arrangement can take even the most well known song and transform it into something radically unique and refreshingly relevant. Take, for example, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, which is arguably one of the most influential pieces of music of any genre from the past 25 years. Even people who never listen to rock music know this song, and it has been played and covered so often that you can understand if people have grown tired of it. Despite this, there is still fertile ground for creativity within its seemingly constricting bounds. After examining some of the basic musical elements of the original, I will discuss how three unique arrangements more »