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J. Lee Graham

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Everything posted by J. Lee Graham

  1. Bump! Just letting y'all know that I've attached a live recording of this piece hereto if anyone would like to hear it. @Ali Jafari, you might find it of interest!
  2. @aMusicComposer: Thank you very much as well for a great review! 1. I’m surprised nobody has raised an eyebrow about the second note of the opening motive – an augmented second from the tonic – kind of a sexy melodic interval for this period, perhaps, but I fell in love with it, obviously, and I think I made it work stylistically. 😊 2. This is actually my favourite movement of the four, and I think the best written, but I’m keeping in mind what you’ve said about the harmony maybe being more interesting. I’d still like to think the secondary material, while also simple in basic harmonic structure, is interesting enough in content and texture to mitigate the simplicity of the main theme, but I do see what you mean. 3. I’m so glad everybody loves this minuet! I was inclined to think of it as one of my better ones, and especially now. 4. Again, harmonic complexity. I’m going to have to take this to heart, and do some more listening to even more music of this period to see if I can latch onto some of the more interesting harmonic things they were doing between 1790 and 1800 or so – and not just Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, who were the big three at that time, but some others. I’m not them, but maybe I can get a bit more adventurous within the confines of the style and my own sensibilities. I’m really gratified that, as you said, “no instrument becomes redundant at any point and the balance is good throughout” in this piece. These are two of the qualities that are the most difficult to accomplish writing for this ensemble, as I’m sure you are discovering since you’re writing a sextet as well. We’re trained to manipulate harmony in four parts (or less), so what indeed does one do with the extra two parts in a six-part chamber work, in which all the parts really need to contribute equally? Some advice for you: this ensemble is obviously middle-to-low heavy in overall tessitura, something even two violins playing their hearts out can’t entirely mitigate; therefore, watch low-pitched chords and harmonic relationships carefully, but don’t be afraid of them, because handled with care, they can add uncommon richness to the texture. Also, something I could probably have done a bit more of myself, though I did try: be sure to thin out the texture to five, four, or even three parts occasionally, as all six parts playing constantly can be wearying on the ear. I’m currently working on a fun little “Divertimento a 7” (Italian: “a sette” = in seven parts) for Clarinet, 2 Horns, Violin, Viola, ‘Cello, and Bass, and I’m actually having a lot of fun thinning out this potentially rather thick texture as often as practicable, throwing material back and forth between the instruments and making sure that everybody sits out periodically while still having plenty of interest to do. It’s a challenge, but the results are very rewarding. Thank you again for your time and attention! I really appreciate it.
  3. @celloman99 Thanks so much for a great review! 2. I think I know what you mean here as far as getting away from “everyone doing the same thing at the same time,” which is what I was trying to do in the secondary section – there is a lot more motion and push-and-pull here, which I was hoping would be enough. I’m not big on polyrhythms in music of this style, for obvious reasons, but I’ll keep what you’re saying in mind. 3. This movement definitely does have a clearly defined structure, because it’s a Minuet, and the form is fairly strict. You seem to have really enjoyed this movement, and that’s very gratifying – a lot of people write dance movements off. 4. I’m a string player myself, and I’m not very worried about most of the 16th note runs in this movement. I wrote this for advanced players, and I really wanted to give them some challenging stuff to do. Interesting that you thought there was more going on harmonically in this movement – it might just be that it’s all going by so fast that it just sounds that way. It’s definitely a frenetic movement. Thank you again so much for this! I really appreciate it.
  4. First of all, I’m sorry it took me a few days to get to this. C’est la vie! What a nice piece! Beautiful chords and sonorities, particularly in the slower sections. I realize you’re intending flutes to play the “bird calls” part of the piece (not heard here), but I think the accompaniment now in the strings might sound even better with a slightly larger orchestra – a few winds, maybe a few brass, to add even more colour. I wish I had more advice to give you about the overall sound being clamourous with all the part there, but I’m not very good at dealing with the vagaries of electronic playback in my own work, and am seldom completely satisfied. Good luck working with that.
  5. Yes, that's an excellent notion, or even 'cellos and basses (in octaves). You don't want something that will get in the way, just a bit more foundation to the harmonic rhythm that's going on. BTW, I was just teasing about the key you chose. It's just that many members of an average orchestra, especially in the strings, will find their eyes glazing over when they see six flats in the key signature. Any more than 3 or 4 flats perplexes string players. That said, a good professional orchestra wouldn't even bat an eye it this, or almost anything else you set in front of them.
  6. @Monarcheon I don't know how I missed your comments! I'm so sorry I didn't say anything before now. Thanks for pointing out some spots for me to look at - I may see if I can improve those spots somehow. Thanks again!
  7. Fantastic! First of all: E-flat minor? You're cruel and inhuman, but I think the orchestra will forgive you. Tremendous drama and pathos here. I just love your thematic material! One minute I'm hearing Mendelssohn's influence, the next a little Tchaikovsky. At times during the triplet semiquaver noodling in the violins and violas under the main theme, I found myself wishing there were more in the way of a foundation in the bass - not that what you have doesn't work, it was just something I found myself waiting for, and you were very sparing with it. And what an ending! I wasn't expecting that at all! My compliments on a wonderful movement!
  8. I usually shy away from the challenges here because my music is so stylistically specific, but this sounds interesting just as you've proposed it, Noah.
  9. @Simen-N Simen, coming from you, one of the best Baroque-Revival composers I know of, what you say is quite a compliment indeed! Thank you very kindly! I really like how the Gloria turned out as well, and the Sanctus at least as much. 🙂 By all means, keep trying the stile antico thing!
  10. There is a legend about a dialogue between Mozart and a young composer that went something like this: Young Composer: "Herr Mozart, I am thinking of writing a symphony. How should I get started?" Mozart: "A symphony is a very complex musical form and you are still young. Perhaps you should start with something simpler." Young Composer: "But Herr Mozart, you were writing symphonies when you were 8 years old!" Mozart: "Yes, but I didn’t have to ask how." This story is almost certainly apocryphal, but that doesn’t mean it is not very much the truth. You’re probably going to think I’m not being very helpful, and I’m usually very positive and encouraging; but I don’t believe there is anything anyone can tell you here that is going to edify you sufficiently that you’ll know how to write something as complex as a piano concerto upon reading it. As demonstrated above, If you have to ask how to write something, you’re not ready to write it. As Mozart may or may not have done with his young friend, I would urge you to try and write simpler things first before trying to tackle a piano concerto. I read elsewhere that you’re only 13 years old, and you have only been composing for a year and a half. Give yourself some time writing smaller things before trying this. You’ll know when you’re ready to move on to bigger things. However, since nothing I say is likely to stop you if you have your mind set on trying to build Hoover Dam with a box of Lego, as it were, @aMusicComposer has given you some wisdom about not expecting too much from your first effort (with which I concur), as well as some good advice about studying a book on orchestration – and Rimsky-Korsakov’s is a great one for what you seem to be envisioning. As for planning in advance, it appears you already know something of what you want to do as far as basic things like key, metre, tempo, and instrumentation go. Now all you need are some ideas, and no one can teach you how to come up with those. Good luck to you, and keep us informed of your progress!
  11. Something really rare and special: the mechanical organ playing in the video below may be considered the world's oldest "recording" of a musical performance, forasmuch as Joseph Haydn wrote the music for it and (more importantly) personally supervised its programming in 1793, some 226 years ago! It provides us with fascinating and valuable clues about Haydn's own performance practices, including phrasing, articulation (many notes are much shorter than we might expect, particularly at the ends of phrases, which are noticeably clipped), tempo, and ornamentation. The uninterrupted performance by the organ takes place in the second half of the video, after a documentary segment that is itself interesting and informative. Check it out, and I'll be curious to know what you think! EDIT: I found a score for this on IMSLP, so you can follow along if you like. It turns out that between 1772 and 1793, Haydn wrote no less than 32 pieces for mechanical clock organ.
  12. @JordanRoberts Thanks very much for listening and commenting. I'm getting a lot of feedback that this music sounds authentically Renaissance, and I find that very gratifying! I suppose despite my sometime apostasy in disagreement with some tenets of the Roman Catholic Church, I am at heart still very much a true believer, and as such as devoted as ever. I'm glad it shows, in my religious music anyway.
  13. Sextet in E-flat for 2 Violins, 2 Violas, and 2 Violoncelli 1. Allegro (Sonata Form) 2. Andante teneramente (Sonata Form) 3. Menuetto: Allegro spiritoso 4. Allegro molto (Rondo Form) Style: Late Classical, circa 1790-1800 Composed: 25 October, 2018 - 26 February, 2019 at Austin I was right in the middle of composing my Six Quartets for 2 Violas and 2 Violoncelli this past autumn when the germ for this piece came to me like a bolt from the blue. I very quickly composed the opening movement, and by the beginning of January, the second and third movements were complete. Over the last couple of months I've been working on the last movement intermittently, and completed it just this evening. There aren't very many works for this instrumentation in the repertoire, and aside from a set of six by Luigi Boccherini, none in the Classical style. I think I'll let the music say the rest as I'm exhausted now. I do hope you enjoy this work. I surely had a blast writing it!
  14. @Bill Jones Thanks very much! Very glad you enjoyed it. And regarding a live performance: from your mouth to God's ears!
  15. Thank you very kindly! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Did you think it worked well as a single-movement work? Even harder than you might think. I have accidentally plagiarized both Mozart and Beethoven and have either had to scrap or rewrite sections of what I thought was my music when I realized what I had done. However, it's perfectly acceptable to employ stock period devices and gestures that almost all Classical composers used - I have a whole toolkit full of those I use all the time, and they're part of what makes the style what it is. Authentic Classicism is one of the more difficult styles to emulate in general. I'm one of only a handful of composers the world over who can do it convincingly, as opposed to the great number of Baroque historicists out there, for example.
  16. Sinfonia Concertante in C for Oboe, Bassoon, Fortepiano, Violin, Violoncello, and Orchestra. One movement in three parts: Allegro spiritoso – Andantino grazioso – Tempo primo Scoring: Flute, Principal Oboe, Oboe II, Principal Bassoon, Bassoon II, 2 Horns in C, 2 Trumpets in C, Timpani, Fortepiano, Principal Violin, Principal Violoncello, Strings Composed: January 10 - March 10, 2017 Commissioned by Billy Traylor, Director, Austin Baroque Orchestra. The Sinfonia Concertante is a form that had its heyday of popularity in the second half of the 18th Century. It is essentially a concerto for two or more solo instruments (five in this case) with orchestral accompaniment. It is considered to have emerged from the concerto grosso of the Baroque period, and is a cross-over form incorporating elements of the concerto and the symphony. Ordinarily, as with the concerto and symphony of the same period, it is in multiple movements, usually three or more. However, the present work was conceived as a single-movement work in three contiguous parts, contrasting in key and tempo (similar to an early opera overture) at the request of the commissioner, who also requested that the entire piece be less than 10 minutes long. As is often the case, all the principal players play ripieno with the orchestra when not performing a solo part, and likewise the fortepiano plays figured continuo when not soloing. The instrumentation is nearly identical to that of the Sinfonia Concertante in B-flat (1792) by Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), the addition of the concertatofortepiano being the only difference - again at the request of the commissioner - and I studied that work extensively before and during the writing of this piece. Perhaps the most famous example of this form is the Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra (1779) by W.A. Mozart (1756-1791). There is a lot going on in this piece. Not only is the form condensed, but much of the time the texture is such that there is a very active quintet layered on top of an orchestra, as if it were a chamber work and an orchestral work all at once. I found the feedback I got from the soloists during rehearsals very interesting indeed. The oboist complained that I called for E and E-flat above high-C from him, which for a skillful player should be doable even on a period Classical oboe; and in fact he cracked both of them in performance. The bassoonist was thrilled with her part, saying that what I had written was not only reasonably playable, but very idiomatic for the instrument and a lot of fun to play. The fortepianist (who played my own Peter Fisk fortepiano for the performance) had nothing to say at all, but I got a sense that perhaps his part wasn’t demanding enough, because he was often tempted to rush the tempo. The violinist and ‘cellist both got after me for taking them too high without adequate preparation, which I found very strange; being a string player myself, I know for certain that any player worth his salt should be able to jump to a high position and begin playing without having to be led up there through a series of position shifts, even in 18th Century music. At any rate, I was not persuaded by anything I heard from the players to make even the slightest change to the music, and with a knowing smile I nodded and expressed condolences where necessary, but did nothing to assuage their discomfort where there was any. It is a concerted work after all, and meant to be challenging – and if Mozart had written it, there wouldn’t have been a peep out of anyone. This work was premiered on May 26, 2018 by the Austin Baroque Orchestra – on period instruments! It was my first performance of one of my pieces to have been performed by such an ensemble, and it was most gratifying. I have been trying to get a live recording of the piece ever since, but the Director is hesitant to give it to me because there were a few mistakes made here and there. It was an excellent performance, nonetheless, but he’s a perfectionist. I’ll keep after him! In the meantime, I hope the present electronic rendering will serve. Enjoy, and by all means let me know what you think. EDIT - I managed to obtain an amateur recording of the Austin Baroque Orchestra performing this piece, so I am replacing the electronic rendering I had attached here with it. It's not the greatest quality recording, and there are more problems with the performance than I remember there being (not the least being that in this, the second performance in San Antonio, the timpani were missing), but it has electronic rendering beat, and it gives a good idea of how the piece should sound with live instruments - and instruments of the period to boot. There is a bit of silence and tuning at the beginning - just wait it out!
  17. I should probably post more of my orchestral stuff in this style to give people an idea of how I handle larger forces. One of my six symphonies, perhaps, or my Sinfonia Concertante. Thank you very much again!
  18. Agreed. @Seni-G Real and raw are very good words to use to describe this music. Like Jordan, I didn't always understand quite where you were going, but I enjoyed the ride for sure. What was the significance of the monumental soliloquy for the 'cello toward the end? I did feel like it interrupted the flow some. Otherwise, a really excellent piece, and your written introduction was likewise excellent. My compliments! It's interesting, all this talk about fathers and complicated relationships with them. My father was a brilliant man, but according to my aunt (his sister), he came back from the Korean War a very different person than when he left. Probably to soothe his own pain, he drank to the point of becoming a morbid alcoholic who couldn't hold down a job and was a pretty awful parent a lot of the time. Shortly before my 11th birthday, my long-suffering mother finally gathered up my brother, sister, and me, and she left him. Whenever he came around after that, ostensibly to visit us kids, he'd invariably pick a fight with my mother, if he bothered to show up for his court-ordered visitation at all. When I was 13, I finally got on the horn with him and told him not to come around anymore, that we'd had it with his scraggy and he could hit the road if he couldn't behave any better than that. That took a lot of guts on my part. I was hoping it would shake him into getting help and sobering up, but instead he took me at my word, and we never heard from him again. Fast forward to the late 1990s, and my sister found him somehow, and gave me his email address. I wrote him a cordial email at first, to which he responded cordially. Then in my next missive, I let him have it with both barrels, telling him how difficult growing up without a father had been, and basically blaming him for every horrible thing that had ever happened to me. He never responded to that one, but I felt better having gotten it off my chest. I wasn't going to let him go to his grave thinking everything had been sunshine and rainbows after he disappeared. And go to his grave he did shortly thereafter - I got a letter from a probate lawyer about 9 months after he died in 2001, letting me know he'd left me about $13,000. He turned out to be a better provider in death than he ever was in life. Like you did, about 10 years ago I started a music project in hopes of healing my thing with my Dad once and for all. It was to be a big Requiem Mass in C minor. I got a couple of movements sketched, but I just couldn't finish it. Maybe someday. At any rate, I sincerely hope the man is at peace at last.
  19. @Jared Steven Destro Many thanks! I find it very interesting that you should find anything about this piece "light," as I feel it's one of the heaviest things I've ever written. But relative to some other things one might hear, it probably is very light indeed. At any rate, I'm very glad you found it a pleasant thing to listen to. 🙂
  20. Interesting thread. @SSC, you're amazingly knowledgeable, and more importantly, you're articulate with it. I think you've helped Ali a lot here.
  21. It would be a great pity if this were never performed, but I know getting a really good harpist to do something like this is near impossible - they're all so busy! Maybe a really good student? Hopefully the pianist would be sensitive to the blend, and not drown the guitar. The rule in chamber music is, if you can't hear everyone in the group, you're playing too loudly - it's as simple as that. Of course, we composers must do our best not to make things like blend and balance too difficult, but I don't think there's anything you've written that inherently makes a good blend a problem between the instruments. The players will need to check themselves is all. Even the harp can be too loud sometimes if s/he is not careful.
  22. Ravishing. Such wonderfully lush and sexy music, if you'll pardon my saying so. This is music to make love to on a languid afternoon, with the sun on your beloved's shoulders and white clouds rolling by on the breeze outside. Your harmonic palette feels very impressionistic, and yet it's more than that, isn't it? It's like Ravel and Debussy had a mad, passionate affair, with this resulting. I was so taken with the sensuousness, I forgot to critique, and I just let it wash over me - and what a pleasure. Forgive the sexual references, but honestly, I haven't heard music this evocative in ages, whether it's what you intended or not. Beautiful stuff, my friend!
  23. Fantastic piece, in the truest sense, and a tour-de-force of keyboard technique. I didn't always understand what you were trying to express harmonically, but it didn't matter. The overall effect of the piece is the most important thing here. Well done!
  24. This is perfectly marvelous, Theo, and my compliments on your superb playing as well. As bright and positive as E-flat major can be, how very much darker and more morose the minor seems to me - something rarely heard, possibly because of the technical difficulty of the signature (I'm one of those eccentrics who feels that the various keys have personalities). I hear the distinct influence of Rachmaninoff in much of this piece - the way you handle melody, harmonic development, the way the ideas flow, all seem to bear Sergei's stamp to my ears. And yet you don't let him take over...the piece is definitely yours, particularly in the fugue, which seems very different from what Rachmaninoff might do...closer to Beethoven, at least at first. I somehow wasn't expecting the exquisite ending - so lovely and forlorn and disconsolate. I usually would miss not having a score to pore over while I listen, but it didn't bother me this time. The piece itself, in your beautiful interpretation, was enough. Thank you for a very enjoyable sojourn in the sound world you have created here, and again, my compliments.
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