Marc O'Callaghan

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Everything posted by Marc O'Callaghan

  1. Hello all, This is the overture to the Brian Boru cantata I posted the rest of (so far) on Choral & Vocal. As I realise posting 40-ish minutes of music in one go is rather off-putting, especially since I'm not very active on YC myself, let's take things progressively. Further informations on the subject of the cantata itself can be found in my other post, however I doubt you'll really need any as this is purely instrumental. Any kind of comments is welcome, as this is my first major orchestral work. Cheers, Marc
  2. Hello all, I have been absent for a few months, spending most of my evenings working on this project. 2014 was the thousandth anniversary of Irish High King Brian Boru's death. I decided to look his history up in detail and subsequently (around this time last year) realised it would be great material for music. I wanted to explicitly tell his story and the best way I found to do that was by means of a cantata. I wrote the libretto myself without even trying poetry and other niceties (as I said, my goal is only to get the story across, almost as if the piece was a film score). However, any comments on the text are welcome as well. The job is by no means finished, in fact I'd say this is about half the final length, but I would like to have your opinions on what it sounds like so far. Cheers, Marc
  3. I don't have much to add to what's already been said. The music is emotional and well written. You set the mood very well and now that you've explained your wish to emphasise "o vos omnes" I understand where you're going. Just be careful with the nuances you require, not all notes within a singer's range can be sung in all nuances. For instance, in m. 54, you can't ask the Basses to sing a top D piano, they'll most likely switch in head voice, which if they're amateurs they don't master, and it will sound bad. Although this is a crescendo part, so it will most probably sound ok. Similarly, and probably more importantly, don't have them sing a low F fortissimo, because either they won't be able to produce it well and it won't come through (if they're mainly Baritones straining to get the note) or it'll sound like a belch more than like a proper note. In both cases they'll be drowned in the 1st Sopranos who are singing their high Ab at the same time - avoid combining voices in their opposite extremes, because the high part will always cover the low one especially in a choir, where by default, lower notes will be taken p (and it's almost impossible otherwise) and high notes will be taken f because it's easier.
  4. Hello, if this is really one of your first orchestral works you have a lot of potential. There's a lot of good stuff going on here. Demo 55 I liked 55 a lot, am I right in saying Hans Zimmer is an inspiration? A few motives sound very much like his style. Just a note on the score, the correct spelling is spiccato, not spicatto and détaché, not detache, and I'm not sure I understand what you mean when you use one tremolo bar on a sixteenth-note figure: is this just me who doesn't know String techniques well enough (that's quite possible), or did you come up with that notation? I have doubts about it , because as I understand it, it encourages to detach the notes even more, and I'm not sure that's the effect you want, because it doesn't come through in the audio and the legato we hear is exactly what gives the string parts a very flowing sound. Besides, be careful with spiccato at that tempo, I'm not sure of what the effect will be - quick tempos will cause the bow to bounce more and ultimately you might end up with a sort of sautillé that would sound too comical for this piece. During your whole B section, 2nd Violins are above 1st Violins all the time. Sound-wise this is irrelevant, but I would recommend switching the two parts - might as well keep the score simple and consistent. This applies to m. 25 as well, bringing 2nd Violins to top G (and at that speed particularly) is a bit harsh and would not be necessary since the 1st Violins aren't playing anything. Demo 60 Like Ken said, a lot of energy here. Good stuff too. However, I'm surprised by the difference in mood between this piece and the previous one - 55 is very serious and epic and hollywoodian, whereas listening to 60 the first thing that came to my mind was Tom chasing Jerry (absolutely not meant dismissively, I'm just pointing out an interesting difference). So if you did indeed mean this piece to be humorous, you did a very good job and I don't really have anything else to say, but if you didn't specifically, my advice is to be careful with staccato Tuba and Woodwinds, especially in their high range - this will immediately make anything sound comical and, if exaggerated, ridiculous. In section G I liked the contrast between the seriously menacing bass line and the quick rhythms above. All in all, two very enjoyable pieces!
  5. @LostSamurai Thank you very much for your review! Happy I managed to get the emotions I felt through to you. @Adrian Quince Again, thank you very much for your help, I really am very grateful for all those informations and ideas you are giving me. I knew brass didn't like high notes and they probably would not like me for writing that, but I hadn't thought about the tuning question. I suppose I'll bring them down most of the time and if I really need high notes will double them in octaves. Originally, I planned for two Tenor Trombones and two Trumpets, but then assumed it must have been a bad idea when you talked about 3 of each . As you now know, I have no orchestral experience and will, for the time being, have to take your word for it that there's no need for 3, but I'm concerned about the horns - melodically I never use more than 2 voices after that, so finally yes, why not only use 2 instead of 4, but do you think they would still come through enough? I understand your view on the Volga Boatmen, it's true that it sounds very Russian and almost too menacing for what I wanted it to be, just like you said . I think I'll remove those bars, with a few days hindsight they are indeed more of a hindrance to the Laddie than anything else. I'll try to think all this through and reorganise the score like you suggested - and really, with all the helpful comments you have made, don't be sorry for taking time to answer!
  6. @Adrian Quince I definitely see what you mean, and I am going to look for another solution. However, I tend to be more of an Independantist myself, but my argument to use Zadok the Priest is that it has been used widely in coronations and royal weddings outside of England too. Besides, the actual text of the original piece never mentions England itself, all the references are biblical, which I find pertinent insofar as Ireland was a very Christian country.
  7. Well, it's certainly your right to find this piece useless and I'm quite aware of the fact my music isn't brilliant (reviewing amateur music is actually the whole point of YC, in case you didn't know), but at least be polite enough to explain why and what could be done about it. Judging by your other posts you're not a particularly courteous person anyway, so unless you actually have useful tips for me and the rest of us who don't seem to be capable of writing up to your standards (even though you haven't shown us your own abilities yet), I'm not holding you back.
  8. @Adrian Quince I see what you mean about the martial mood not coming through. I've taken things the other way round and instead of trying to produce a fanfare-ish sound at the beginning I took up the tune of an Irish folk song, the well-known Irish Soldier Laddie (a handy song, because it can be sung by drunkards dancing on the tables just as well as enthusiastic soldiers or indeed very homesick ones), and basically I now rather picture the soldiers marching away singing with the drum egging them on. I hope this comes through? I also took up the opening notes of the Song of the Volga Boatmen, which is a motif that really expresses the unrelenting force of the tired army marching on. I also changed a few things in the rest of the piece, I hope it sounds better now.
  9. Many thanks to all three of you for your comments! @Monarcheon I realised there were quite a few involuntary dissonances in there, I believe I have corrected them now. I hope those "unjustified chord modulations" were also bettered in the process - to my ears it sounds more logical now than it did before, but that's only me and the composer is never the best judge (especially when he's not trained!). If you still think some modulations are inappropriate, could you give me an instance, so I can know what you mean exactly? The sudden transitions were meant to show how fast things will change later in the story (from peace to brutal war and back to peace), but I realise it's not very appealing to the listener and tried to soften them up. @maestrowick I know American orchestras use C Trumpets, but as far as I know European ones have kept Bb (as I'm Swiss and writing about an Irish character, I'm assuming the work would be played somewhere in Europe, if it ever was to be performed). I'm not so sure though, so I changed it anyways. @Adrian Quince Thank you dearly for that extensive review, I didn't expect as much! I understand your point on the voices being hard to follow if they all leap at the same time and tried to correct it, but I don't really find any major instances here. If there still are any, would you please point them out? As I said, I've been working so much on this piece these last weeks I probably don't notice things that would seem obvious if it was somebody else's work. The final 16th-note figure is not really meant to sound defined, rather a loud growl behind the orchestra to mark the (quite predictable) end, so I left it with the Bass Drum. Thanks for pointing out I'd left the Tam-Tam in the score, I don't use it anyway. I had trouble adjusting the brass parts to balance them better, as I don't really know those instruments - is the new solution, i.e. mostly the same but with divisi Trombones, an intelligent way to get around the problem? Especially the opening statement was troublesome - I see where you're going when you suggest a single melodic voice, but it seems to me like it would be a pity, there are a few harmonics I like in that part, even though it's far from perfect. I hope the new version is more appropriate. Thank you for the info about drum roll notation - the way I learned it (with the wavy line) goes back to Cecil Forsyth, i.e. in the twenties, so I guess it's a bit outdated now . Answering your question, @Adrian Quince, I intend the overture to introduce the story, as I mentioned above, showing the progression through war and peace and ending in a battle. A few themes I brought into the overture will appear later in the cantata, but that's not the main purpose - rather I intend it to set the ambiance/general feeling of the story. Anyway, as always, any comments on the new version are welcome! Cheers, Marc
  10. Hey, This is very nice indeed, as usual! I have nothing to say, really, except maybe that the accents on "shepherd", "pasture" and "waters" are a bit strange: the rhythm and melody (when the quarter note rises, e.g. b.7) mostly draw attention to the second syllable, which makes it sound like "pastúre" when, as you obviously know, it should be "pásture"; same goes for "shephérd" vs "shépherd" or "watérs" vs "wáters". Not that it's crucial, but I would tend to switch the rhythm and have quarter-eighth instead of eighth-quarter. Similarly, holding the second syllable as you do, for instance, at the very opening or in bars 20-2 with "pasture" is something I would recommend avoiding. Granted, I sing in a French-speaking choir, which means our attempts at singing in English tend to be rather dismal anyway, but from experience and even from hearing native English choirs or singing on my own, having to hold an "er" sound, as will be the case in all three occurrences here, is very awkward (especially with an American accent ). Other than that, I enjoyed this piece very much. Thank you for uploading! Best, Marc
  11. Hey, Good job, you managed to give a very "urban" feeling to your piece. Now, this is not exactly the type of music I'm used to hearing and writing, neither in terms of instruments nor of style, so I can't really say much on the formal part. A few things did cross my mind, though, so here's a few jumbled comments. I liked how you managed to keep a recurring theme throughout the piece. The ambiance you described in your 3rd movement comes out very well, the ostinati really show the dark crowds trodding along in their boring routine. Bringing back the first theme in the last 5 bars is very nice, it concludes the whole visit of the town with that sound of the train leaving. Your use of syncopations is very wise, I think, and very consistent throughout. Something I wasn't really fond of, though, was the fact that there almost always is something fast and repetitive going on (mvt. III, b. 58 ff., and most of the 4th movement). I understand the idea behind it, indeed there always is something happening in a big city and nothing is ever really quiet, but I found it somewhat unsettling (in the sense that there are only very few moments of quiet, although these do give a good contrast) and rather unnecessary/superfluous at times, especially when eighth-note triplets or sixteenth-note ostinati are played by the cello, which shakes the whole structure above as well. This, however, is just a matter of taste: as I said, this is not the kind of music I'm used to anyway, and I tend to prefer quiet themes. Overall, a nice piece giving a very good feel of the daily hustle and bustle in a big town like NYC, I liked it quite a lot. Good work! Best, Marc
  12. Very nice! Indeed, it is less harmonically complex than what you usually write, but it's nonetheless a fine piece of music (doesn't have to be complex to be good!). Nice writing and good performance :)
  13. A well-deserved win, Ken ! Congratulations to all and thanks to the judges for their work.
  14. Hello all, This is my entry for this summer's Shakespeare contest. It is based on two soliloquies from the play Titus Andronicus. Enjoy! Marc
  15. Thank you very, very much for that assessment and your compliments! I am flattered. Yes, I am aware of the potential balance issues due to a orchestration. I meant this both as a challenge to compose something balanced and as a functional wish for as small an ensemble as possible. It was also symbolic, though the symbolism behind it probably isn't obvious - the idea being that each instrument is meant to be on its own, representing the different thoughts that emerge in Titus' mind during the soliloquy, and the only "solid" part is the choir, which represents both his conscience and the Roman population. But I must admit I have never played any orchestral instrument, being a singer and folk musician myself, and as such, I am not really aware of what such an ensemble would sound like live, although I know it's delicate. Many thanks for you review !
  16. Thanks to both of you for your comments ! Criticisms are always welcome! I can see what you mean, but do you have a particular example ? I've been listening to it and working on it so much these last weeks that I may have missed something important in the end x) And don't worry, you master the cello far more than I master orchestration !
  17. I agree with the above - already the cover picture sets the tone (Otto Dix is terrifying). At the first bar, already, I knew this wouldn't be a Bagatelle. Now, the music fits perfectly with the painting and its drama is masterfully written. But you shouldn't call it a Bagatelle, which immediately had me expect a dum-de-dum tralala tune (perfectly fine in itself, I don't mean Bagatelles are not good) - you will agree, however, that this piece has nothing of a gay, bouncing and uplifting tune. The suspenseful part from bar 28 onwards I found really good, it's basically film music material. This definitely deserves to be delved further into, you could make a fantastic longer piece out of it.
  18. This is another entry that frightens me. Fantastic work. You have perfectly captured the various emotions in the different parts of your work - a few motives reminded me of your Inferno Suite. Off-topic: I saw your birthdate on your profile (happy bday for tomorrow, by the way) - I'm sure you'll become something terrific in the next few years, if you already are at this stage now. We are 3 months apart, and it seems to me your compositional style is far more mature than mine. The game is on, this is going to be an interesting competition. Good luck to you Jared !
  19. That's a very nice take on the tune. Love it. Just be careful on bars 20-1, the two bassoons are playing F and E together, which is not very pleasing to the ear. It wouldn't disturb in a more contemporary or "out of the box" style of composition, but in the modal style you opted for in the rest of the piece, it is quite incongruous. It seemed to me there were a few other instances of such dissonances afterwards too, but they are far less disturbing. Overall, this is very good work, and I congratulate you.
  20. Need I say you have set the standard for orchestral composition in this competition ? Not everything in your piece speaks to me, but that is a matter of musical taste and interpretation. A truly masterful work, though no-one expected less from you.Good luck to you!
  21. Again, my problem is the same as with Lentamente, le prime foglie verde pallido, the high notes you request are really very, very, VERY high. The high G6 you request is the highest ever written in the classical operatic register (something of Mozart's, if I recall correctly) - higher notes were written for specific singers in later times. If I am not mistaken, the highest note ever sung was a Bb6, which is not far from what you want here. At the least, I feel the whole of the voice part should be shifted down a fifth, and that would already be quite demanding. I noticed you wrote if able under the last cadenza, which is good in itself - you could consider writing an ossia. But I must impress on you the very small odds of someone singing the original part... I very much appreciate the kind of Baroque touch to the melody, as well as the whole of the musical structure of the piece. On the text, again just a few things - mainly in terms of syntax. I would write it like this: Il mìo pràto di pàce, La mìa òasi nel desèrto, Ìo ti terrò sèmpre vicìna Nei tèmpi di dolòre e paùra In terms of adapting the music to the lyrics, I would recommend avoiding upward movements and long f holds on the last syllable of a word (b. 39, 66, 81 etc.) because it gives the impression the syllable is stressed, when actually in spoken Italian (and prose, at that) it wouldn't be natural to stress it. Although I understand you don't want your line to sound like a recitative either, this will make for a song that does not sound native. For reference I marked the stressed syllables in the text, but as you probably know they are not to be written out normally (except terrò which is a future tense). Anyway, as always, very good work. I enjoyed it a lot.
  22. I agree with Luis in that the range you demand from the Soprano is enormous. We are talking two octaves and a diminished fifth. Most solos, apart from contemporary studies and other virtuoso works do not exceed two octaves of range. For reference, a Soprano voice in the choir is usually given as C4-G5 (and that includes mezzo-sopranos). Although, as you can probably tell from my profile photo, I'm not a Soprano, and by no means a professional singer, I would recommend not going over two octaves for a solo voice. If you are aiming for a coloratura soprano (in which case the topmost note you can securely ask for would be a C6, maybe a D6 if you really wanted to push her - higher notes, as Luis mentions, are possible, but were usually part of an operatic role written specifically for a well-known singer who would sing the part in the premiere), I would not venture below D4 - many sopranos already have difficulty sounding notes below E4. And if you want your A#3, then do not go above A or B5. Requiring the B5 be held for four whole bars on an "e" sound is also harsh (b. 60 ff) - a Soprano solo could do it, I mean, but they would prefer a syllable that ends on a plosive (i.e. "p, c, t") which allows them to initiate the breath far more easily than a vowel. Poetically speaking, I also don't really see why you would stress "e" by holding it so long, considering it just means "and". My recommendation here would be to hold your B5 for 4 bars, but then use the first part of the first triplet as a rest instead of a prolongation. The problem is, in my opinion, your Soprano part seems to be written for an Oboe - no offence meant, it would make for a splendid tone poem indeed: the tune is fantastic. I understand you mean the piece to test the singer's abilities, but apart from Callas or Malibran, I can hardly imagine any "normal" professional singer would reach those limits without the effect and tone colour being detrimental to the music - not to mention to the singer's voice. Other than that, I have hardly anything to say on the music itself - you always write very nice and moving pieces. The melody is particularly suiting for the text and very touching. On the poem itself, however: Italian is not my first language, but there are a few things that would need correcting. I would write it as follows (but the opinion of a mothertongue speaker would be welcome): Lentamente, le prime foglie verde pallido appaiono, Cercando il calore del sole e la pioggia rinnovante. Madre Terra nutre/nutrisce ancora (una volta) i nostri corpi ed anime. One can say both nutre and nutrisce, the choice is yours. Similarly, you can choose to elide vowels (which will happen anyway in singing, because it's hard to pronounce two vowels distinctly one after the other), e.g. cercando 'l calor del sole and ancor. I'm not sure whether una volta is necessary at all in the sentence, rather it seems to me to convey the idea of "one last time" - but don't take my word for that. You might say di nuovo instead of ancora, but I have mixed feelings about that - on the one hand it sounds nicer and more appropriate, but on the other it sounds too modern and not poetic. The help of a native speaker would be needed here. Good work, as always, I enjoyed it very much.
  23. Hello all, This is a small piece in Irish Gaelic from the 18th century (hence the Baroque tag) - the poem is a dialogue between the poet (tenor) and a priest (bass) on the subject of death and godly punishment (or forgiveness) after death. It's scored for one flute, one piano, two soloists and a cello as well as a choir with 2-3 singers per voice. Any advice is welcome, particularly on technicalities on the Cello. Cheers, Marc An_Bás_2.mp3 An_Bás_2.pdf
  24. Thank you very much for taking the time to listen and comment! I agree with the fact that the flute sometimes is obscured in the tutti, but on the other hand, I wanted to keep its tone colour in solo passages. Within the next few days I normally will be discussing the piece with my teacher, and if everything goes well I should be able to perform it at the Christmas concert at my school - a corrected and bettered version :) Thanks for your opinion!
  25. Here's mine. I'm very much looking forward to seeing all of the others' entries too !