Monday, December 7, 2009

Finished Editing!

I am now done, done and done. I added a million dynamic markings, pedal markings, ritardandos, a tempos, slurs, tenutos etc.. I'm sure it would have been helpful for the performers to have had a copy like this at the concert. Sadly I was still mulling over and agonizing over little details so a lot of their performance indications were just given verbally. Now I hope to have little ambiguity in my score. I was very specific about when to change tempo and dynamic but the speed at which the performer grows or falls back can be free. It is not long before another indication appears so the liberties that can be taken are limited. I also provided a lot of places for performers to breathe, re-group and take said liberties...within reason.
It's really exciting to have another composition finished and very close to getting bound. Although, I think it might be a good idea to show it to a singer before I do to double check if a couple markings make sense or are placed in the right spot in the score.

CMC 50th anniversary concert

It was definitely cool to see a concert of entirely music from the only the past 30 years and it is probably something I would not have necessarily been interested in before this course. I even tried at one point to listen to the pitch clusters that would ring out from the instruments and, thinking back to earlier in the semester, would rate them on their tension level. I found that although the pieces were atonal for the most part, a lot of it was still "catchy" and only select parts involved extreme dissonances.
I also paid close attention to how the pieces were each constructed. ( In the future I would like to try and write more cohesive pieces that have a common thread throughout the whole piece. I think, my concept of a tonality/ rhythmic freedom is almost limiting because I don't want anything to be predictable.) Anyways, my point is that the pieces that night were not predictable and the returning material was more enjoyable every time it came back and things were still different and interesting to my ear. I thought the pieces were really charming, even humorous at times but also very beautiful and atmospheric.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Concert time!

I also just want to write a quick word about the concert. Everybody sounded really great and seeing all the ideas well prepared and presented was awesome!

Besides it being great to see the pieces come to life, I know for my piece it also pointed out some parts that needed clarification in the score for the performers to be able to learn it. It helped point out some accidentals or rhythms that would be more easily read in a different way. Also, because my piece was quite disjointed in some ways, the transitions were particularly difficult to stay together on. When they were done in time, I then discovered that I did not like them quite as much. Practically the entire piece is meant to feel quite free and breathy so I ended up adding about 3 fermatas in places and allowed for either the clarinet part or voice part to breathe and start again. I think it worked well in performance!

Thanks again Mary-Beth and Emily!!

Finishing the piece

I realized I never concluded talking about how I came up with the ending. I wanted to continue dealing with each line of text uniquely. I was definitely trying to have a very free-feeling vocal line that was never really predictable, and almost sounded as though the singer was composing it while singing. I think that probably could have been accomplished with more cohesiveness in the music as well but I am still quite fond with the overall result.
I felt like the second half made more sense with the clarinet, or at least felt more like 3 equal parts than the first half. I think this was because I wrote the first half just trying to get an outline for chords and melody which turned into an established piano part and the clarinet had to fit in there somewhere. The solo, in the second half, and a lot of the duet-like motifs between the clarinet and the voice are probably my favourite parts. I love the way the timbre of voice and clarinet blends together. Also, Emily (singer) said that the second half was much easier for her to learn because of the interplay between the two instruments.

I chose to end it with a bit of a question mark, as opposed to a very satisfactory resolution which the uplifting last line of "dancing with the daffodils" might suggest. I like this poem and how it suggests either finding simple pleasures in life and thinking happy thoughts but I thought I would just conclude with the piano and clarinet having a last word after the daffodils to maybe point out that the narrator is still alone. This is not necessarily a depressing reminder but just a recall to the many times I characterized solitude throughout the piece, especially since that is how the poem and piece began!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Project numero 2

I picked the poem, "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" by William Wordsworth for a couple of reasons. I like how the words fit together and I like all the opportunities to create images such as wandering, solitude, floating, hills and valleys, flashes, pensive/ vacant moods and dancing and fluttering.
Although the first line could indicate a rather sad poem, it grows to be quite uplifting and light and I'm excited to have the same gradual build with the music. It's for a soprano voice (maybe a mezzo, I'm not quite sure on that), clarinet and piano.

So far, I'm pretty pleased with the chord outlines and the melody that I have. The depiction of wandering alone through some sort of nature scene I believe is there with the voice line relatively unsupported. I definitely think I will add some more "help" for the singer to find pitches and be re-affirmed that she's on the right one. Also, I'd like the parts where it is really only voice with complete silence in the other instruments to be only on significant parts that clearly express being alone. The rest of the time, it may be long tones in the clarinet or some chord pulsing in the piano.
The piece will start of "recit"-like and then grow more grounded and dance-like only to return to an open, airy feel and finally will close with a brief return to the dancing and fluttering and what not.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Theory of Everything (musicworks)

“James Tenney and the theory of everything” by Gary Barwin

I really liked this article. I like the many examples of how music has served as our perception of the world around us since the beginning. I like the idea that the percieved openness and freedom often associated with atonality is really just an awareness or a willingness to accept that there is more that we do not know. Music having many other dimensions than those that are most obvious is perhaps an indication of how many the universe may actually contain.

This article discusses in detail James Tenney’s perception of the universe by looking at his 1984 work, “John Cage and the Theory of Harmony”. Throughout history, music has been used as a metaphor for current ideas about nature, space and time. Music has served as a way to express our notions of the divine and of science. The boundlessness or complexity of music is supposed to represent what we might not understand. One example is the polyphonic pieces with multiple texts of the medieval era. The church believed that god could perceive relationships that humans could not. There is even a quote from Scheonberg stating that “ [in] musical in [Swedenborg’s] heaven, there is no absolute down, no right or left, no forward or backward.” (Swedenborg is mentioned in the article as being a theologist.) Scheonberg’s music clearly reflects the idea that if there can be space with no gravity or direction then there can be music that reflects that as well.

The concept of space and time that James Tenney (an america music theorist (and composer)) describes is multi-dimensional. There are generally an accepted three dimensions to our universe with time acting as a possible fourth. The fact that James Tenney can classify about 6 dimensions when sound/music is produced, a real physical production in space, shows that there is a definite possibility of a universe with many many more dimensions.

The dimensions of music include:

frequency or pitch (low->high)

amplitude (low->high)

timbre (overtone structure) (dull->bright, pitched->not pitched) (timbre in itself is multi-dimensional)

duration (short->long)

morphology (change of sound from initiation to fade-away)

order of succession

In considering this concept of musical multi-dimensions, remember that some are not physically perceptible even if based on the physicality of sound production but they do occupy a conceptual space. For example two instruments can play the same pitch but they are each occupying their own space and not interfering with each other.

The main point of this article is that through music we can appreciate and imagine other dimensions to our own universe. After all, if we used to think it was flat and we have come this far, there must be must more we are not yet aware of.

One thing that I will follow up is mentioned at the end of the article. There is a quote from one of Scheonberg’s atonal pieces (“I feel the air of a new planet.”) Other than hinting at that of the unknown, I am very interested to hear what atonal music with voice sounds like so I would like to look it up. Especially with the project quickly approaching!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sand sifter

I have finally completed my first piece. Although it seems a little backwards, I was never sure what to do with my first piece until I had an idea of where I was going. I decided to call my first piece, "sand sifter". It's meant to simulate rolling waves of water as well as the swooshing of sand followed by frustration of not being able to find anything in the sand but having the odd sparkle jump and catch the eye. I kept a lot of the same chords from my very first playing of the piece but I have reworked the rhythm of the chords to help with the imagery. The most difficult part is figuring out the perfect ornaments and chords to simulate a sparkle amongst the mess but I hope I can get it right.