Sunday, April 11, 2010

Entry 15. DONE.

Well, it certainly took me long enough to get this bugger finished. I think all it took was getting my mind off other negative things- like what else I have due, the conducting exam tomorrow, my recital on friday, etc. etc. etc. Not that these things are negative- I'm just stressed and worried, and I think that took away from my ability to concentrate on composing this piece.

It's more or less exactly what I wrote in my last blog entry- klezmer mixed with indie folk/pop. Two strange genres for concert band...I think it would have been interesting to hear it played live, but I missed that opportunity and had I pushed myself to finish it in time for the MUN Wind Ensemble reading, I wouldn't have what I have now. It's actually a big surprise, seeing where it went- I had originally planned on having a klezmer dance suite which turned into klezmer music mixed with jazz, which turned into klezmer music mixed with indie pop/folk. And to think I'd been writing a symphony first. Ouf. Craziness.

But it's done. All the markings, dynamics and whatnot too. I'll probably go over it a few times tonight just to make sure I haven't left anything out, but does it ever feel good to be able to say that it's done!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Entry 14. Try- just a little bit harder

I'm giving the band piece another shot, seeing as I think it deserves another one. I've done a lot of redirecting in it, guess, moving stuff around so that it flows better. I've moved it back into its original form, with the rubato opening followed by the quick, dance-like section with the percussion, and I've done my best to develop that into something fairly big before bringing it down for a kind of B section (if you don't count the introductory rubato section). Here's the form, more or less.

A: Main theme, in Klezmer music-style, using the tonalities and rhythms which are idiomatic of this genre with the exception that it switches to 4/4 time every three bars. It's in a harmonic minorish/gypsey mode type...Thing...Yeah, I was never good at theory.
B: The texture comes waaaay down to pretty much just clarinets and flute, then it expands to involve french horn kind of doubling what the clarinets have goin' on, and then the sax section comes in with long notes to make more harmonic back up and help to build it. Meanwhile, the melody goes from flute to oboe to trumpet and back again, and then the trumpets double the clarinets and the brass comes in on uhm...Well t's in 6/8 time, so the brass comes in on beat 4 and holds until beat 6. There's a bit of timpani and the glock mirrors the melody later on. It sounds kind of like an indie pop/folk song, which I like- I was advised that it's cool to write a piece in a certain style, but take it where we don't expect. I think going from Klezmer to Indie pop/folk is a pretty big- but really likeable- jump.
A: back to the main Klezmer style, but maybe with a bit of the B section poking through if I can fit the two together.

I really like the B section. It has some of the flippy rhythm things that klezmer music has, so I'm trying to tie it to the first section a bit so t's not too surprising, but I would really like for people to REALLY notice the change in style- I think A flows into B well, despite the fact that they're such different styles of music and it goes from that harmonic monir/gypsey thing to go to a major mode. Yep, I'm going with tonal music on this one, as much as I love atonal music writing, but I think it'd be a good idea to revisit tonality and explore it while keeping in mind the freedom I can have with it. You can make some pretty neat tonal stuff if you step outside of I IV V I.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Entry 13. I am terrible.

Yay for commitment issues. That's right, with a week left in this class I've taken a spur-of-the-moment turn and have begun writing for string quartet. Why? Because I'm too stressed right now and don't have any real goal in mind for the band piece, and it's just become really tangly and ugly so said screw it, I'll finish it when I have time but right now I need something I can write and finish in a week and not hate. I'm abandoning this half-formed composition-child and am forsaking it for a string quartet- a Scherzo Tarantella.

I like tarantellas, or is the plural form tarantelli? It's lots of notes, and over that I can stretch a nice though feverish melody maybe. I'm, not really sure- I've just got an idea and I'm going with it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Entry 12. Klazz music.

So I didn't get to present my composition in class day seeing as my dinosaur computer is on the verge of dying for good (Oh yes, it's been resurrected a number of times) but I've done some playing around with it since I presented it last, which was two weeks ago.

I'll explain my absence first, since it's kind of an interesting story. See, my roommate's little sister was in for about a week and a couple of days, and she thought my fish were pretty cute- I have two goldfish named Stop and Roll (Drop died last year) and two platys named Ghetto and Zombie. Of course, Zombie died, may she rest in peace. Since platys are generally best kept with a few of their own kind, I took my roommate's little sister with me to pick out two more fish. I picked out one and she picked out the other and they were named Light Saber and Satine respectively. (In case you were wondering about the strange names, I'm not completely at fault- Yes, I names Stop, Roll and Ghetto, but Aiden told me to name Zombie and Light Sabre accordingly, so I did.)

On the way home from the Village pet center, we stopped in the music building for a minute. I decided to check on the fish and SURPRISE- Satine had a baby. Platys are livebearers so the babies are born live, as opposed to being born in an egg. Unfortunately, mom-fish usually eat their young unless they're seperated from them so by the time we got home, she'd eaten that baby and whatever other ones she'd had along the way. We put Sabre in the community tank and Satine in her own tank in a floating plastic hatchery, where she could have the babies which would fall down through a kind of grate into a safety area below where she can't eat them. Overnight, she escaped- how she did so I'll never understand because it had a lid on it- and ate whichever babies she had while outside of the hatchery. Luckily, three babies survived the night in the hatchery and once Satine was moved into the community tank, they had free reign of their own tank.

So I had three unexpected newborn fish fry (funny name for baby fish, eh?) and no baby food for them. Since it was more or less a life and death situation, I rushed out the next morning- thursday morning- to go back to the pet store, get baby food and some fish medicine and tap water conditioner just in case it was needed and brought it home so that they didn't starve. I'd already had one fish die and I wasn't going to let these three little guys die, not after they'd survived the HUNGRYMOMRAMPAGE.

So that's why I wasn't in class last Thursday- I'm sorry, and I know I was supposed to present my piece and didn't give any warning that I wouldn't be there (I had no idea any babies were even going to live through the night) but I couldn't let the babies die. If you're curious, they're about twice as big now, as they're a full week old, and they just had their first tank cleaning and handled it well. Sam named them Hidey, Heaty and Howdy. Hidey hides in the plants, Heaty likes the heater and Howdy's pretty curious and friendly. They all look the same right now but once their colours start to show we'll actually be able to assign names.

Enough about fish, though.

I've prolonged the introduction and it was while doing that where I made a mistake but listened to it, and thought "Hmm, that chord sounds jazzy...WAIT A MINUTE!!" I'd been having trouble making my piece Klezmer-ish, but not completely Klezmer-ish...So I figured that it'd be neat if it was Klazz. Klezmer and Jazz. So I'm putting some jazz chords and rhythms in, while keeping a klezmer melody- sometimes switching the two. It's fun, and I feel like I've got good direction with this now.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Entry 11

Ouf, the end of the year is creeping up on us like...Well, I'd quote the Beatles and say it's creeping like a nun, but I've never seen a nun creep (maybe they're all closet-Facebook-creepers) so I don't think I'll go with 'creeping like a nun.'

The band piece is coming along alright. For some reason, it seems like such a bigger task this year as opposed to last year, though I'm writing a lot less music this year...It's probably just because I've got more on the go this year, and a lot of it is creative stuff so my creative juices are constantly being asked for more. It'd be nice to just have a day or two where I wouldn't have to do anything creative or analytical. I think this is why I work in a bakery in the summer.

But enough of the rambling- I've decided pretty much for sure that it's not going to be a suite- I think I'd need more time to write a suite, and I don't mean that in the sense that from now until April I won't have the time- I mean, we're given 3-5 minutes to work with, and a suite is generally longer than that so that the pieces in the suite aren't only like a minute long each. There's still the rubato intro, followed by the very slow oom-pah section which speeds up to the main theme which used to come right after the rubato section. It just seems to flow more this way and it'll hopefully make it not quite so...Disjunct, and I won't leave unfinished sections everywhere.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Entry 10.

All cower in fear- the compositional ADD (or is it ADHD?) monster has struck again. Either that or my fear of commitment. Probably both. Yeah, probably both. But whatever the cause, I've decided to put the symphony on hold, because I do not have time for all of these projects, seeing as I was currently working on two big ones, and formulating plans for a thid which would be my end-of-the-year orchestration and arranging class assignment- take a piano piece and orchesrate it.

What were my two big projects? One was the symphony and the other was yet another piece for band. I'm interested in submitting another composition this year, having learnt so much from writing one last year. Both of these are very big and both would have a deadline so rather than putting myself into complete overdrive I've decided to kill two birds with one stone and just do the band piece.

I realize that there are others in the class writing a band piece who want to hear theirs played by the wind ensemble and that there is only enough room for 5 or 6 people to have theirs played. This being said, I don't want mine to be one of them, seeing as I've made the decision to write this piece fairly late in the game and I had the chance to hear one of my pieces last year too. MIDI playback will do just fine for me, and it's fairest this way.

So what am I writing now? I'm letting my compositional ADD have a fairly loose rein and writing a suite- either two or three different little pieces but they're all connected by segue. I had initially planned to do a suite of dances from various countries/cultures, but decided that I might do best just sticking with one style and have chosen Klezmer, so it'll be a suite of Klezmer dances. I don't want them to be too cliche or too abstract- hopefully I'll be able to get in a good blend, y'know, the best of both worlds.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Entry 9. Tips about the Gower composition


Having had the experience of writing for the Gower Community Band last year I figured it'd be helpful for all those writing this year to give a bit of insight into techniques which might make it easier for the composer, conductor and the musicians.

1. EDIT EDIT EDIT. Then edit again. Sometimes you'll swear you've put an accidental in and when your program plays it back it sounds right but there's no accidental marked in. Mine did this oodles- there were wrong notes all over the place. Of course I'm working with Finale 2005. Even pro-Finale people, I imagine, would recoil at the mention of using a program which dates back five years.
2. Amount of instruments: I'm not exaggerating when I say that there was a really strange though not surprisingly out-of-balance instrumentation found in the Gower band- for popular instruments like flute and clarinet especially, there were 8-10 people where we'd usually expect 2-3. There was a fair amount of trumpet players, I think 3 trombones maybe 4, Several sax players, but very few bass clarinets (Katie Noseworthy played it) I don't think any bassoons, one maybe two oboes, a few horns, one maybe two tuba players, and I think three or four percussionists. This being said, here are some tips:
- if you want a solo flute line, definitely write it in. Otherwise you'll have 10 flautists playing it and making 10 people play the same thing at the same time isn't very wise when it's an exposed part.
- exposed parts- definitely solo.
- Don't go crazy with percussion- I almost had to step in and play with the band but due to time constriction, I couldn't. So I'd say three to four percussion parts would be enough unless you've got one person playing two parts which needs to be indicated on the score in order for it to be seen easily.
3. Range- keep in mind that the age range goes from I think 11-70 and not all of these people are professional or able to play big ranges. Here's a basic outline that I was told to stick to for instruments where range is often a problem:
-trumpet: Don't go too high above the clef, or stay there for prolonged periods of time.
-french horn: I wouldn't write anything above written G5 (sounds C5) and nothing too noodley.
-trombone/tuba: noodley writing is discouraged- these guys really a simple but groovy bassline, same as the tuba. Nothing too high above the bass clef, and tricky slurs were a bit of a no-no too.
4. Dynamics: Generally, the sound is loud- I was warned by Jill Abbot about this, but didn't find it was a huge problem. However, with a big group like this, a certain range of dynamics is expected, and some dynamics- aka pppp- are out of the question due to the sheer number of people playing. If you want something to be soft but with a full concert band range of sounds, try using 'soli,' where one person from that section plays by themself, though it's not necessarily a solo seeing as in each other section someone else is playing by themself. So cut back on numbers and indicate a dynamic, and when you want a big sound, have a tutti but definitely make sure that you write dynamics appropriate o balance out the sound- a trombone playing FF could quite possibly cover up the sound of a clarinet playing FF unless you've taken register into consideration and put the trombone in a lower register and the clarinet in a higher one.
5. Rehearsal numbers- make sure they're very clear and put them in places which make sense- in other words, at the beginnings of phrases so if the conductor decides to start at H, the poor clarinetist isn't in the middle of a wicked run.
6. Idiomatic stuff is best. Leave runs and whatnot to instruments where dexterity is more expected and long notes to insturments which would normally be given such things.
7. Consider the level of your piece- high schoolish. In other words, certainly don't write stuff you'd be intimidated to play. Something that looks nice on the page can sound absolutely wonderful and intricate without being lip-busting. It looks great when you glance at a score which is black with notes but you have to be realistic and merciful! Some of the people in the band are very capable of playing tricky stuff while others are still on their way to getting there.
8. Appeal. I don't kno how many people in the Gower band came up to me and said that at first they really disliked the piece- which is my fault, seeing as I wrote something with a great amount of dissonance which isn't what they were used to playing. I'm not saying screw dissonance and atonality and write something tonal and predictable, but people will enjoy playing something they like much more than playing something which looks good on the page, and the audience will also like the piece more if it has appeal. The Gower people were very stuck on finding the melody- so make it findable. I didn't- my melodies were hidden and that was something I wish I'd changed before I submitted it. If you want your piece to stick with them, I'd say give them something that attracts people- but with your own personal seal on it. Not the animal, though. Seals bite. What I mean is make the work yours, but when you're writing for an ensemble it is wise to take into consideration what they habitually play, what they're capable of playing, and what they'd probably like to play/hear.

Hope this helps! If you're writing for the band and have any other questions please feel free to ask!