Jump to content

J. Lee Graham

  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Everything posted by J. Lee Graham

  1. 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.
  2. @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!
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. @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!
  6. 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!
  7. 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.
  8. @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.
  9. 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!
  10. @Bill Jones Thanks very much! Very glad you enjoyed it. And regarding a live performance: from your mouth to God's ears!
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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!
  14. 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.
  15. @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. 🙂
  16. Interesting thread. @SSC, you're amazingly knowledgeable, and more importantly, you're articulate with it. I think you've helped Ali a lot here.
  17. 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.
  18. 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!
  19. 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!
  20. 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.
  21. @Noah Brode Thanks for listening and commenting, Noah! I really appreciate it! I'm very glad to hear this. Holding attention with this kind of material is a challenge, and smooth modulations can be tricky, but I think I was able to pull some good ones off. My favourite is the one from C to E-flat near the beginning. I'm so glad you enjoyed all that fluff I threw in! I had fun with that, and learnt a lot. I had never written for glockenspiel before, and it was an interesting experience. I tried hard to make this piece sound as fun and festive as possible. I think you're right, I could have done more of this. Viennese-style waltzes do indeed tend to be somewhat violin-centric affairs; but the masters in this style do toss the tune around more than perhaps I did. I used the 'cello a lot in this, actually, but for some reason, no matter how high I put the volume on them, the 'cellos never really come through. Neither do the double basses, and they really should, because traditionally the bass line is in the double bass throughout, and it needs to be strong. Something I'll need to work on with my software. I believe those places are where Finale threw in an error and screwed me over...I mentioned it in my opening comments. I can't seem to delete these aberrant time signatures, so I'll probably have to redo the entire score (I probably should anyway). I'm sorry they were confusing. Yes, Finale has its challenges and it's not perfect, but a few of the things it does well, it does very well indeed, and "human playback" is one of those things I've been very happy with more often than not. The "Viennese Waltz" setting is particularly effective. Let's say that it's not without precedent. A very famous example of one with an extended introduction in duple metre (cut time) is Johann Strauss II's "Kaiser-Waltzer" (Emperor Waltz) Op. 437 (1889), which opens with a slow march. Similarly, Franz Lehár's "Gold und Silber" (Gold and Silver), Op. 79 (1902) begins with a short march section in common time. It was these examples that gave me to believe that I could get away with one myself. Not all Viennese waltzes begin with an introduction, but many do; I believe they served as time intervals during which dancers could catch their breath, check their dance cards to see who had the next dance with them, and so forth. Again, I really appreciate you listening and commenting to such extent. I had begun to make peace with the idea that nobody would, which makes your review an especially pleasant surprise. Thanks again!
  22. @aMusicComposer I never paid a dime to upload my stuff, though they do request that you make a donation. Yes, but there is never any guarantee of that, especially nowadays. I'd rather get my stuff out there to the public by any means than wait until I'm famous, but to each his own, of course.
  23. @Theodore Servin Thanks so much! Yes, that opening movement is very vigourous - the last movement too, actually, though maybe a little lighter touch. I'm honoured that you compare me to Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven in any sense, so thanks again, and I'm really glad you thought the ensemble worked well. I may indeed post some of the others in the set.
  24. I knew if I searched I'd find a thread about self-publishing - something I've been thinking about for a long time. I'm in the same position. I gave up the idea long ago that I was ever going to support myself with composition. I've made more from commissions than I'm ever likely to from sales. I'm more interested in getting my music out there to people who will play and enjoy it. I'd also rather not end up on the ash heap of history, completely unknown when I leave this plane of existence. I have not utterly given up on establishing my own web presence, but I know nothing of website development, and the cost of having someone else put something together is prohibitive - and even once you have something up, how do you drive traffic to it if no one knows your name or anything about you? Herein lies the problem, indeed. How does one stand out from such a crowd? I tried SheetMusicPlus, but there are so many thousands of composers and works on there that I despair of ever getting noticed. I have not tried Really Good Music though, and I might give that a closer look. One option I have explored that perhaps people here have not considered is posting my stuff on IMSLP (The Petrucci Music Library) at https://imslp.org/. In part because it's free, and also because it's a veritable treasure-trove, it's the first place a lot performers go to when they're looking for something, and IMSLP's "wiki" structure is such that one can search for works in a lot of different ways, including by style, genre, and instrumentation. I have found stuff on there by obscure composers that I never would have found any other way - some of it existing only in manuscript copies, and never before published commercially. Most of what's on there is in the public domain; but living composers are allowed to post their work in the database using something called a "Creative Commons License," which I gather allows people to use your music free of charge while you the composer retain the rights to the work. I don't understand all the legalities involved, but I haven't really cared as long as I retain my rights to my music. I only hope I'm right in my understanding. I have uploaded several of my works on IMSLP, just as an experiment (my page is here: https://imslp.org/wiki/Category:Graham,_J._Lee), and some of them have been downloaded hundreds of times, which is very exciting to me; the dissemination of my music in that kind of volume is some assurance that my recognition is growing. Even more exciting are the performances I have received internationally that never would have happened had I not made my music openly available. That I know of, my Duet for Viola and 'Cello has been performed twice, and has been included in a comprehensive listing of works for that instrumentation; and my Trio for English Horn, Viola, and Contrabass has been performed once - in Venezuela, of all places. At any rate, uploading to IMSLP is something to consider if you are looking for visibility but are not particularly concerned about making a buck. Does anybody know more about IMSLP and the "Creative Commons License" business? If so, I'd be interested in learning more about it.
  25. @aMusicComposer Thank you very much. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, and that you found the ensemble well blended. That was a major concern. I may post more of these later, but I didn't want to saturate the site all at once. This one was the last to be conceived, and is among the best, so it's a good representative of the set.
  • Create New...