Sunday, December 5, 2010

The End

In the time since my last blog I've finished the Overture for trombone quartet. I find it to be sort of a strange piece because I was pulling it in a couple of different directions. What I wanted to do was set a tone for the rest of the piece (which ultimately I plan to write) however I was also trying to use the motives from the later movements in the overture. I think that this was not the best course of action but by the time I realized this it was too close to the deadline to try to fix it so that will be a job for another time.That said, I think that the piece turned out very nicely for what it was.

It was in sonata form but only loosely. I made a couple of changes like making the codetta at the end of the exposition into a sort of altered exposition repeat. Also, the recapitulation is very short and doesn't really give that sense of resolve that comes from closing by return.

I wanted to write this piece in a tonal sort of idiom as I don't have a whole lot of experience writing tonal music. I also wanted to plan the piece out as much as possible ahead of time as I always feel like when I compose I'm just feeling around in the dark and not really being entirely in control of my work and not knowing where I'm going with it until I'm there. I still experienced some of this sensation but not quite as much.

I began by writing the four leitmotives that would represent the different aspects of the story, those being the man, the boat, the sea, and the storm. Then I made a rough formal outline which I changed to sonata form shortly after. Then I dove in using a rough harmonic plan that I made up, but that was one of the things that wound up kind of getting tossed out the window.

This piece uses a lot of chromatic mediant relationships and some doubly chromatic ones, I found that these types of chord changes have a very dramatic and colorful sound which is exactly what I was going for with the piece. There are also some instances of chromatic planing which I found to also serve the colorful sound.

I wanted to write a piece that was in the tonal realm, was more or less planned out, and was generally accessible but still striking to the ear. I actually feel like I more or less accomplished this with the Overture. Although I think that what I may do in the future is break it down and use the different sections as material for the other movements of the work and write a new overture that isn't based so heavily on the same material and is more of a mood setter.

Anyways, that's all for that piece. I'm very much looking forward to hearing it performed in the new year.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

New post, new piece.

A couple of weeks ago I began to write my second piece of the term. It is for trombone quartet and is meant to be an overture to a story that I've come up with about pain and healing. The story is about a man who has a deep love and respect for the ocean who decides to set off one day on a boat and live on the water. After a while, a storm picks up and destroys his boat leaving him clinging to a piece of debris. At this point he has lost his love for the sea and feels deceived and betrayed. Over time though, he comes to peace realizing that it's not the fault of the sea, because it has a life of its own, so to speak. He realizes that nothing is permanent and that when a storm comes along the only way to weather it is to have the right mindset and to accept that there is no changing the past and move on. Upon realizing this, his love and respect for the sea returns and he decides to give himself to it by letting go of the debris and drowning himself in it.

It's a bit of a dark story but I think that there is a lot of beauty and a lot of truth in its darkness. I guess the trick for me is to capture that in music.

ECM+comp 4100 piece = MC2(squared)

On the 17th of November six of the ECM members who were in the city on the Generation 2010 tour were kind enough to read through our pieces for us. It was nothing short of incredible to hear my piece played live by such high calibre musicians. And they were sight-reading! That blew me away.

Overall, I was fairly pleased with how it went. Everything came across the way that I'd hoped it would. The only thing that I would change is the piano part at the very end where the pianist is to sweep the strings inside the piano with their hand. This lacked the punch that I was going for and made the ending fairly anti-climactic. That said I could also make a note in the score asking the pianist to dig into the strings to get a really raucous sound but I'm not sure what exactly I'll do.

Despite this one little hitch (which was totally a compositional issue, not a performance one) the reading of my piece went excellently. What a treat!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Captain's Log November 14th, 2010

Well, it's been quite the while since my last post and a lot has happened between then and now.

When I last posted I was just launching into the B section of my piece. This consisted of a pedal G# in the piano and some pseudo-pointillistic flute licks. These were combined with sweeping upward arpeggios in the piano hinting at the windy sort of atmosphere to come which was essentially the goal of my B section.

Following this I brought back the A section material in a contrapuntal texture with the flute, viola and horn with the percussion commenting here and there. Though this was a return of the A material, I did my best to vary it even further than before. One of the ways that I did this was I derived a couple of chords from the A section pc set and planed those chords on a newly composed melody. I also played fragments of the A theme creating melodies from the fragments beginning on different pitches.

From there I created my C section which was where I created the chaotic, windy atmosphere. I wanted this section to be in very strict time in order to contrast the lack thereof in the rest of the piece. Thus the chaos brings order. This section is composed of steady, quiet bass drum hits underneath a texture of sweeping upward runs beginning in the piano but quickly joined by all of the other instruments one by one. As the chaos and dissonance grows the rhythm falls apart until the various voices drop out one by one leaving just the bass drum signifying the "slow heart".

Overall, I'm fairly happy with the piece and am very much looking forward to hearing it in real life and not through the MIDI playback on sibelius.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Two in one

I've presented my piece twice since my last blog post and have recieved some very good helpful feedback during the two sessions. The presentation before last involved some technical points such as placement of the 8va symbol and the like. Aside from that the comments mostly centered around the use of dynamics and articulations, specifically as a means of varying material. During the following week I added these in and have been quite pleased with the results. I also added more material to the piece that week. I was thinking of this new material as a sort of B section for the piece however, Justin brought up the point that the two sections sound quite similar and that at the end of the "B" section it sounded like a point of transition. I agree with this idea and now plan to build a new, more contrasting B section from here. Also, at the beginning, it was suggested that I play around with the timbre of the repeat of the opening quintuplet figure. I have a couple of ideas concerning this and we will see how that goes.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

An Experiment

I presented my piece to the class on Monday and it was fairly well received; bearing in mind, of course, that it was very much in the infancy stages. I've decided to step outside my comfort zone with this piece and compose it aprogrammatically. Generally, when I compose a piece I have an image in mind that helps me to shape the piece in form and content. This time I've decided to just dive in without an image in mind and it's proving to be very difficult. I feel like it lacks direction.

The comments that I recieved were that I should vary the material sooner using inversions, octave displacement and the like. It was also recommended that I make the opening rhythm easier to read by turning the quintuplet figure into a pickup and to also use the triangle to punctuate the rhythm and show the downbeat. This turned into an idea to use the triangle to play with the downbeat and fool the listener. The idea of using timbre changes as another means of variation was also suggested.

I'm trying to base this piece more so on rhythm and color than actual pitch or harmony as another step outside my element. It's hard going but I feel like it's good experience.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Composition 4100: take two

Having not been able to attend the second class of the semester I was unable to hear some of the music of my peers. Which is somewhat disappointing as I'm interested to hear how things are going. Hopefully we can come to some kind of agreement on a third session time that works for all.

I have an idea for my first composition of the term which is to compose a 12-tone piece using intervallic themes for the pitch class sets. That's about as developed as my idea is at this point but I hope to have something to present on Monday. I have yet to figure out exactly how to treat such an odd assortment of instruments, but I feel confident that if I can write music that works for this instrumentation then even just by virtue of the oddity of the ensemble, the piece will be unique. It certainly is exciting to write for such a rare group of instruments, and such a prestigious group of players.