SebastianViola

String Quartet No. 1 "New York" [COMPLETE!]

6 posts in this topic

Hey guys it's been a little while. I got caught up in other things, between working on a Youtube channel and prepping for auditions I've been busy and fell behind in the composing department. However I've been getting right back into it and now I gladly present to you my first full string quartet after about 3 and a half months of off-and-on work, finally fleshing out an idea that I've had for over a year.

It has four movements and is approximately 20 minutes long.

In-depth description for those who want to read it:

This quartet, as it is titled, is intended to invoke a picture of New York City. The initial motif in the first movement I came up with shortly after visiting NYC last year when I first got the idea for the piece and represents the movement of a train. When the sfz into sustained note is introduced instrument by instrument this marks the arrival at the city. What follows is an ambling, happy stroll through the bustling city. The second movement brings in an even livelier mood, trying to capture the busy excitement. The third movement gives some contrast with a more dramatic, almost melancholic tone. I picture the city on a cloudy rainy day, as people pass with somber expressions and the city seems to slow. The final movement bids a farewell to the city, giving several big solos, reintroducing the first motif briefly before it's conclusion.

 

Edited by SebastianViola
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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

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I actually like the very mechanical feel you achieve here, but I would be curious if you considered adding a more flowing melody over the top at any point.  A simple solo with rhythmic diversity that defies the strict pattern you establish here layered on top of this kind of structure could add some real pathos, particularly if it was only in one section of the piece.  Here we are constantly at street level in the city.  What if we zoomed out for a few minutes and focused on the flag floating on the top of a very tall building above the traffic?  Or a took the point of view of a single person looking out a window?  The constant motion of the city is still present, but our point of view shifts to something with a different perspective.  The solos that you have incorporated in the last section still fit a pretty tight rhythmic pattern currently.  What if they were more varied?

That's just what I would be exploring if it were my piece, though.  This is very nice and you don't need to change a thing.  You've managed to achieve something busy, but trance-like with your rhythms, and your harmonies are very pleasing to the ear.  Nice job sustaining interest in a long piece!  I always run out of ideas, personally!  :D

 

 

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I dug the the ostinato vibe, but I particularly enjoyed the moments when the piece lost that mechanical feel, and the sound stretched out a bit. Those moments displayed some subtle artistry. Mvmnt. 1., measure 42 was an example of this. It felt like you were painting an image with music during that moment.

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Thank you all for your comments!

On 1/28/2017 at 9:01 AM, Marc O'Callaghan said:

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.

Thank you! I'm glad what I was going for came across.

On 1/28/2017 at 9:01 AM, Marc O'Callaghan said:

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.

That is a good point. Though I did intend it somewhat, as I wanted to give the whole piece a feeling of circular movement, it is also partially due to my inexperience. When I find a new technique (in this case, giving more texture and interest to melodies by giving a fast moving undercurrent) I tend to overuse it. I think particularly in the first movement the repetitive pattern that is in the cello and later violin does get pretty inane. The triplets in the cello with the viola solo I do like though as I want it to have a sense of unease and building, whereas for the cello solo I did give it a much more relaxed backdrop.

On 1/28/2017 at 9:01 AM, Marc O'Callaghan said:

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!

Thanks :)

On 1/28/2017 at 0:52 PM, pateceramics said:

I actually like the very mechanical feel you achieve here, but I would be curious if you considered adding a more flowing melody over the top at any point.  A simple solo with rhythmic diversity that defies the strict pattern you establish here layered on top of this kind of structure could add some real pathos, particularly if it was only in one section of the piece.  Here we are constantly at street level in the city.  What if we zoomed out for a few minutes and focused on the flag floating on the top of a very tall building above the traffic?  Or a took the point of view of a single person looking out a window?  The constant motion of the city is still present, but our point of view shifts to something with a different perspective.  The solos that you have incorporated in the last section still fit a pretty tight rhythmic pattern currently.  What if they were more varied?

This is a really good point and something I hadn't considered much. I do think that I should spend some more time studying rhythm as I generally struggle to come up with interesting variation when it comes to that. I do think the cello solo in the last movement, though not very rhythmically diverse, does fit into the idea of zooming in that you are trying to get across.

On 1/28/2017 at 0:52 PM, pateceramics said:

That's just what I would be exploring if it were my piece, though.  This is very nice and you don't need to change a thing.  You've managed to achieve something busy, but trance-like with your rhythms, and your harmonies are very pleasing to the ear.  Nice job sustaining interest in a long piece!  I always run out of ideas, personally!  :D

Thank you a lot. I do think I will make a few small revisions, but it is very satisfying to complete a piece of this scale. It boggles my mind how great composers can write grand masterpieces that go on for an hour or more (and often is a fairly short span of time).

21 hours ago, Seni-G said:

I dug the the ostinato vibe, but I particularly enjoyed the moments when the piece lost that mechanical feel, and the sound stretched out a bit. Those moments displayed some subtle artistry. Mvmnt. 1., measure 42 was an example of this. It felt like you were painting an image with music during that moment.

 

The fact that I could get across an image with my music (even despite the shoddy MIDI) makes me really happy. Thank you.

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I think you have created an excellent feel for the atmosphere of a large bustling city that never sleeps Interesting textures, rhythms and harmonies in contrast and occasionally in agreement very much reflective of the competing sensory demands and interests from large cities. What I find really well done is the overarching cohesiveness. It really defines the experience. The final resolution in the last movement is a nice and appropriate conclusion. This is quite an accomplishment from my perspective. Most important is I really enjoy listening to this work.

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