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Gardener

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Gardener last won the day on August 4 2011

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  1. And since not everyone here might be aware of what a syntonic comma is: A syntonic comma is the "difference" between a just major third as you'd find it between the fourth and fifth harmonic, and the major third you'd get by stacking four perfect fifths on top of each other. This, and the other most known comma (the pythagorean comma, which is the difference between 12 stacked fifths and a just multiple octave), are some of the major "problems" that many tuning systems in our history sought to "solve", which resulted in various temperaments.
  2. Any brass instrument would make you easily familiar with that interval, but to a lesser degree, most instruments offer rather natural access to it (such as strings by use of natural harmonics). It appears already rather low in the harmonic series, so it's not usually too difficult to get. It is merely dependent on harmonical/melodical context. There's no single, clearly-defined frequency ratio for either interval that would distinguish them fundamentally. The exact "size" of an augmented 2nd or a minor 3rd would depend entirely on the music it is used in and on performative practice. So when people say they "like the sound of an augmented 2nd", they aren't truly speaking of -sound- that is distinct from a minor third, but of a certain implied context (particularly, the aug 2nd implies an interval that tends towards an outward resolution rather than being a consonance).
  3. I know that's an old post already, but since this has been necro'd anyways: I'm curious to hear as to why this is "the obvious one".
  4. Personally, I consider it common courtesy to give all composers the benefit of the doubt to assume that they do have good reasons for whatever they're doing. Whether you agree with their reasoning is another question, but I find it a little cheeky to accuse someone like Ferneyhough of doing what he does just for random lolz. Or, sometimes, in the exact opposite situation: A general pause. That happened to me once in an orchestral piece. I thought I was clever by setting a page turn right after such a general pause, thinking "well, nobody has to play here, so it's no problem". Well, what I hadn't considered was the actual performative effect of this. Imagine the whole orchestra coming to a sudden, dramatical halt in the music, a moment of silence. And then everyone turns their pages, possibly with a little noise, completely destroying the pause. Similar problems arise when the performers have to perform other actions during such a pause: Putting on mutes, for instance. A whole string section putting on mutes will create some noise, and even if it doesn't, it will be a visual distraction, so better lay out your music in a way that they can put on their mutes when it's being hidden by other things going on at the same time. Since we're talking about orchestral setups here, let's add some considerations for orchestral percussion writing to this: Unless you are writing for a very limited set of percussion instruments, the setup of your percussion instruments is something a composer must be very aware of. You can't just write for 20 different percussion instruments for one percussionist and expect them to be able to switch around between them without delay. You need to actually consider how they can be placed, what paths the percussionist(s) need to take to get from one to the other at a given point in your music, what kind of sticks/mallets the percussionist(s) will have at each moment in each hand, etc. For instance, if you have a timpani tremolo followed by a bass drum hit, the percussionist may be able to play both with the same sticks in his hands. But if you follow it up with a triangle hit, that's a lot more problematic, since the player has to pick up a triangle stick first. So consider what your percussionists are doing at every moment. Where do they walk, what do they have in their hands, how do they move around. It's very likely that in the end, the percussionists will do it totally different than you thought and find different solutions for everything. But at least, your thinking will guarantee that there -is- a working solution to playing your piece.
  5. One of the loudest symphonic pieces I ever heard was Zemlinsky's Lyric Symphony. I don't remember if it ends loudly though. Probably doesn't. Zemlinsky prefers his loud stuff in the middle. The loudest ending of a piece I ever heard was one of my own anyways! (Not orchestral though, electronic.) People who were at the performance still look at me reproachfully whenever they remember it :P It was a real eardrum-buster!
  6. Oh, I do hear you. I never meant to imply you were wrong for writing the way you did. If you write music that seeks to emulate the music of the 18th century, then writing in a way appropriate for instruments of the 18th century is perfectly adequate. I'm not saying you must write music that is comfortable and easy to play on a modern horn. I just wanted to explain where the problems might have come from (since this thread is about peculiarities of certain instruments, after all, and not deficiencies in the performers). We all have to decide again and again how many compromises we are willing to make in order to guarantee a satisfying performance. There are groups of composers who are extremely pragmatically oriented and only write things that will produce the maximum effect with minimum rehearsal time. And there are more idealistically inclined ones who may often write things that are problematic, hard to play, and which may surely "fail" during a performance. Most composers tend to find themselves somewhere in the middle there, both not wanting to compromise their musical ideas too much, yet still wanting a reasonably successful performance. Personally I'm all for encouraging people to dare being a bit on the idealistic side there. Writing things of which you don't know for sure whether they'll "work". Writing things that may stretch the limits of what your performers expect and are used to. Writing things that may actually require more rehearsal time than your performers will likely be putting in. I say this because I believe it is a good thing when there's challenge in music. There's already way too much comfort, relaxation, and routine in the musical scene. Yet, of course, I'm aware that this comes at a high price. Namely, unsatisfying performances. I don't think there's any composer who hasn't witnessed them, in varying degrees. Now, you also raise another point: That the very same performers would have performed a Mozart piece with the same difficulty much, much better. This is sadly true as well. I think the primary reason for this is a form of personal vanity: If people hear a Mozart piece badly played, they'll immediately blame the performers. They know that Mozart "is supposed to be a master", so it couldn't have been his fault, so anything that sounds bad falls back on the performers. This gets even more pronounced if we're talking about a popular piece that many people know, which they have heard performed by other musicians, which they know from CD etc. This creates a certain pressure on the musicians to practice hard, because they are competing with all the other performances of the same music. The same kind of pressure doesn't exist when musicians play music of a less famous composer. Nobody knows the music, so people won't compare it with other performances. And since the composer isn't already famous as a "master", people will be more likely to hear weaknesses in the performance as errors on the composer's part, rather than the performer's. That is a problem every contemporary composer faces, but it depends of course a lot on the work ethics of the performers. There are luckily also plenty of musicians who take their job seriously enough to put in their best efforts regardless and present even an unknown composer's pieces as well as they possibly can. At least, if financial management decisions don't totally cut away all rehearsal time...
  7. There are several things to consider here: As siwi said, it is wrong to assume valve horns have made horn playing easier. They have made certain -specific- things easier, such as chromatic play, producing equal timbres for all notes, and greater flexibility in the lower range. But you have to consider that a modern hornist on a double horn (while having a lot of tunings available via valves) is still mostly forced towards the lower tunings, as the vales only ever lower the base tuning. This means that the high range on an ordinary double horn is always more problematic than on natural horns, which why most professional horn players, when playing baroque/classical music in high registers, will either: 1. be really good at the highest range. 2. Play it on a descant horn (high F) or a triple horn. 3. Play it on a natural horn. (I'm not sure how it is in the U.S. but over here most period music is played on natural horns anyways. Most hornists in the greater orchestras own a natural horn and can play it.) 4. Or even: leave it to people who are specialized in music of that time, and happily continue playing their Strauss :P Playing baroque and some classical music on an ordinary double horn can be tough because of the common high range, and yes, it's often going to cause problems. (Both because modern horns are built wider, and because the natural tones in a high register on lower base tuning are so close together that you'll miss notes much more easily. And you often -have- to use such lower base tunings, because modern horns aren't really built for too elaborate stopping techniques, so you'll -have- to use your valves.) While I don't own a natural horn (they're so expensive :() I've played them plenty of times and it's simply awesome how easy certain stuff is on them. (Plus, I absolutely love their sound.)
  8. Since I first heard Varèse's Déserts I'm in deep love with major 9ths. I could do intimate things with them all day (and night) long! I also like perfect 11ths and double-octaves.
  9. In Switzerland, but the teacher I'm speaking of is from Holland and lived in the US for a great part of his life, so I don't really know where he picked it up. I don't think the majority of the teachers over here teach transposition by clef, but there are a few. I think it has both advantages and disadvantages. Primary advantage: If you know it well, it's really fast, because it removes one step from the whole process. Instead of first reading a G, then transposing it by a minor third down to an E you just read an E right away. Transposing by interval might be easily fast enough if you're just reading a single voice, but if you have to play a whole score on the piano, you'll want every speed advantage you can get. Primary disadvantage: It can get kind of messy when you have lots of accidentals in addition to key signatures. This is especially prevalent in music that isn't classically tonal, but polytonal or not bound to any tonality at all, etc. Transposing a 12-tone piece by clef never quite makes sense, because essentially, when you transpose by clef you always have to change the imagined key signatures. And this only really fits for music that -has- a key, to me. So all in all, intervallic transposition seems more versatile, whereas transposition by clef is probably faster for music it applies well to. Probably best to be able to do both! P.S. To be honest, I never -really- got into the clef transposition thing. I always cheated a bit in those lessons. The teacher would point to a part in a score and ask me "what clef would you read this in", so I would answer with what he wanted to hear and then secretly transpose by intervals anyway :happy: Yes, I was a bad, bad student. I just had more pressing things on my plate than practice every day for score playing lessons.
  10. Then there's also the practice of learning to transpose by means of reading the music in imagined other clefs. My score-playing teacher was an adherent to this method and forced me to learn all those clefs for this purpose. I'm not personally a huge fan of that way of transposing, but still, it is a rather widely spread method which certainly has its advantages.
  11. If it was only the case that "no confusion arises" if a conductor uses strictly transposed note names. But alas, that often isn't the case. When I'm reading a horn part in an orchestra and communicate a note with other musicians, I instinctively always transpose my score to C. I always communicate sounding notes, not written. Many conductors do the same -even- if they are reading from a transposed score, and personally I think that's the clearest way of communication: "Your sounding D" is crystal clear. "Your written E" -may- be clear, but there are always cases when, say, the conductor is reading from a different edition than the player where a specific place might be notated differently. That's why I find, in order to avoid confusion, it's best to always talk about the sounding notes, not a specific notation. This becomes especially pronounced when a conductor is talking to a whole group of instruments. He won't say "please, woodwind section, play this chord for me that is an E-major chord for you Bb clarinets and a D-major for you bassoons and an A-major for you Englishhorn". He'll say "play this D-major chord", and the players are supposed to transpose this, because honestly, that's the quickest, most efficient way to communicate this information. It is, in such cases also -important- that the musicians don't just read their note and play it, but understand its function in the current harmony. A Bb-clarinetist who plays a sounding F# in said chord will have to realize that he's playing the third of a D-major chord and not just "a written G#".
  12. I think it's too simplified to just say "scores have to be transposed". That depends on several circumstances. But let's go through things to consider in order of importance: 1. Whatever you do, concert pitch or transposed, the first and most important thing is to clearly write it on top of the first score page. A conductor should be easily able to deal with both concert pitch or transposed scores. What a conductor can not be supposed to silently accept however is having to spend half a hour trying to figure out whether the score is in concert pitch or transposed. In doubt, more information is preferable to less information, when it comes to such central things. 2. Ask the conductor. If you have a conductor who is willing to perform the piece, ask what she or he prefers. There are many different preferences, depending on the style of music, the country you're living in, etc. 3. If you don't have a planned performance for your piece and thus can't ask the conductor, decide for yourself, but optimally (if you're writing the piece on a computer) lay it out in such a way that you can still change it around if needed. Personally, I write all my scores in concert pitch, with the exception of arrangements, which are often kept transposed. I do this after discussing the matter with several conductors, many of which affirmed that they preferred transposed scores for tonal music, whereas concert pitch was preferred for music without a clear tonal centre. This has, of course, some reasons: In traditional, tonal music it is generally very easy to transpose voices mentally to get an idea of how the whole piece sounds. If a horn has a written "C" in a Haydn symphony, that will in most cases mean: "tonic!" There is thus a very direct correlation between harmonic function and the notes you see written in the transposed score. Furthermore, it allows you to see the instrumental ranges more clearly, and spot which notes are going to cause more problems due to high/low pitch etc. In a piece that has nothing to do with common practice tonality, the situation changes somewhat, and even more so the more it moves away from equal temperament and traditional instrumental techniques and notation. In a highly complex Ferneyhough score, no conductor will actually follow an individual voice precisely when conducting, since there's simply too much information to take in. Instead, he will focus on larger things. Keeping everyone together. Watching the dynamic balance and overall timbre, etc. Additionally, you might have many instruments playing in unusual ranges. And microtonal harmonies. And so on. Transposing -that- stuff on the fly for several instruments at once is something no conductor is likely to enjoy. Here, the conductor will generally want to see as quickly as possible the overall density in the various registers, for which a concert pitch score is usually the best choice. But as I said, in the end it comes down to individual preference on the conductor's part, as well as to local customs. (P.S. Take note however. Even if you write a concert pitch score, instruments that play in a different octave than they sound are still transposed. A contrabass will still be written an octave "too high", and a piccolo an octave "too low", etc. It is generally advised to write this, too, at the top of your score if you write in concert pitch.) P.S. Hi guys!
  13. Well, as Gixander said, there is -some- variation in how the appoggiatura is played. Your original point about accentuation was actually quite good - except that you'd typically accentuate the appogiatura -itself- somewhat. In your first example, not the B would be accentuated, but the C, if anything at all. Sometimes, this accentuation is done dynamically, but sometimes also rhythmically, by making the duration somewhat longer. So contrary to what one might think, in the second bar of the example in the OP, the C might actually be played a bit -longer- than in the first bar, especially in a slow tempo (think some lyrical Adagio movement, for example). This is similar to all kinds of suspensions, which traditionally have often been somewhat prolonged and accentuated for a more intense expressiveness (such as the typically baroque sighing motives). In slow tempi, having a series of regular sixteenth or eighth notes "swing" a bit (i.e. using "notes inégales" by making the first note of two longer and the second shorter) is a frequent practice anyways, especially in French baroque music.
  14. How does "being intended as dance music" make a difference? Can there be no commercial disco, techno, whatever? Isn't it often exactly the existence of a beat that separates music "meant as a dance" from other kinds of music? And is most baroque music commercial (a basso continuo, especially when played by a harpsichord, often provides quite a strong beat), while a lot of later music isn't? Of course, historically speaking, you even have somewhat of a point in making a distinction based on having beats: In medieval and renaissance music, the vocal sacred music was considered the "high art" whereas instrumental music that often contained much stronger "beats" was more seen as "mere entertainment", and this separation did somewhat carry over the centuries. But only through the connection beat -> dance -> entertainment. I'm not sure where "commerce" or "art" actually enter the field.
  15. But are those extremes ever truly present in practice? Any composer who composes music for a commission, competition etc. will be bound by certain guidelines imposed on him, including in most cases instrumentation, duration, sometimes even a specific idea/topic, the abilities of the performers, his own time and financial restraints, the performance space and available equipment, and so on. "Writing music as one sees fit" is very often just not the whole reality, art music or not. Sure, there are composers who went pretty far in the direction of "writing as they saw fit" without caring much about practicability, available resources etc. (such as Ives), but that cannot be said for most "art music". Even composers of the past who were extremely vocal about setting themselves apart from "entertainment composers that were just in for the money", such as Schumann, often found themselves writing pieces of a specific sort (such as short, easily playable chamber music), because their publisher wanted it and because it sold well. And on the other side, a film composer who writes according to the specifications of a director etc. will still have his freedoms - in varying degrees, depending on the circumstances. So all in all, I think it's hard to draw a distinct line between "commercial music" and other music like that - even though I agree that there clearly are noticeable differences between how different composers see their job. There are composers who describe what they are doing simply as a "supply of services" under the direct artistic control of their director/whoever, whereas there are other composers who describe themselves as "independent artists". But often, these vocal distinctions are less a precise reflection of the reality, but a conscious, almost "political", choice in order to set themselves apart from other (perceived) groups. Reality is much more continuous than that.
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