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Everything posted by stewboy

  1. This piece started out as the opening bars to movement II, which came to me while trying to sleep one night. The basic idea of movement III is one that I've had in my head for a couple years, ever since I wrote my first wind band piece in 2016/17. After that, movement I started with just me putting down notes to see what would happen. I've tried to experiment more with having instruments 'bleed' into each other (you can see this mostly in movement II), which is something I don't see much in most wind band writing. I haven't really pushed my harmonies that much (by my standards anyway) - I'm a bit reluctant to do that in a wind band context, because I don't think there's as much leeway as there is in the orchestral world, and I don't even feel a strong need to just yet. At the same time, though, I'm really proud of quite a lot of this piece, and I think it shows a few things that you can do with harmonies without necessarily pushing them to their absolute limits. I've tried to play around a bit with traditional wind band expectations, especially with regards to percussion, and I will continue to do so. I've always wanted to give a melodic solo to the temple blocks, for instance, and finally did so here in movement III. I also rebelled a little against using bass drum/cymbals in the traditional accompaniment oom-pah way, which is why I gave them a solo too. I worry a little that the movements are a little short, because I think each one could potentially go on for a full 5-6 minutes at least with their material. However, short individual movements is pretty common in wind band writing, and if the piece as a whole has a consistent feel and sound then I think it still works.
  2. I liked a lot of this! There were a few moments here and there where the chord progression or the melodic contour felt a little contrived and unnatural - for example, bar 70, or bars 121-122 (I liked the general idea behind it, but I felt it wasn't pulled off convincingly enough). Otherwise I mostly liked the harmonic unpredictability of the piece and I think you should continue with that sort of thing and see where it goes in future, but I couldn't get a feel for the piece's structure and I never really knew where it was going, even though I felt like I was supposed to know. I also could only really pick out one piece of musical material, which was the main melody. There might have been secondary ideas that recurred throughout the work, but if there were I didn't recognise them. I definitely think a piece of this length could afford to have more motifs, or to play around more with the existing one.
  3. This is something that crops up in every single artistic community. I'm part of the online community for the game 'Doom' (the one from the nineties) and it has a very active modding/mapping scene. There was a forum thread recently where someone expressed exactly the same thoughts as you, but referring to level creation instead. The community has been around for a long time, and by now there are a lot of really incredible mods out there that people have spent years on, and it's easy to look at those and think 'Why should I create anything at all?' I've tried my hand at that sort of thing myself so I know the feeling. The answer is to maybe try rethinking what your goals are. We can look back at the greats of any art form - music, painting, poetry, plays, etc - and think 'How will I compare to them?' But is that really your ultimate goal? Music is slightly different then the other forms, because depending on what your target market is, they might be extremely selective of playing new music (orchestras) or much more welcoming (wind bands, solo pieces, etc). So if you want to write for professional orchestras, maybe you do need to compare yourself a little to whoever else is already out there. But apart from that, there's plenty of room for new music in this world. I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you set out to become the next Beethoven, a household name internationally, you'll certainly be disappointed. But if you just set out to create some interesting sounds that you like, and to maybe try and entertain some people around you with them, then you'll still feel fulfilled and you might even surprise yourself. That's certainly all I've ever wanted to do. Also, music created by someone alive, someone who you know, will always have its own appeal that music written in the past will just never have. Keep in mind, for every 'great' composer that we know about today, there would have been dozens more at the time all writing their own music, just as there are hundreds of composers out there today getting stuff performed every day. It's also a mistake (that I think people sometimes make) to think that just because we only remember certain names today, that they were the only 'good' composers at the time. There would almost certainly have been many more who were very decent, who just set out to do what they loved, who were known within their small community and were happy enough with that, but they didn't have the lucky breaks that the more famous names had. Also, if you're feeling depressed after comparing yourself to a few composers of the past, just wait until you study more over the years and find all the other hundreds of really good composers! Believe me, it just gets worse in some ways, but it also gets better - you eventually realise that it's far better to carve out your own little niche than to try and have the whole world.
  4. stewboy


    This is the first string quartet I've ever written. I generally don't enjoy string-only ensembles, maybe because I didn't really grow up around strings at all. So writing this piece was really like pulling teeth a bit. I only really started to be okay with this piece when I was about three quarters of the way through and I finally got kind of a sense of the overall structure - before that I was floundering and feeling lost the whole time. This piece was written for a collaboration with the University of Stirling Art Gallery, which is running a Refugee Week in June with artwork and the like about refugees and their stories. I couldn't think what to do, but eventually decided to take an old Latvian folksong ('Jūrā gāju naudu sēti') and see how I could transform it, since two of my grandparents were refugees from Latvia. This is also something I've never tried before - taking someone else's musical material and working with it.
  5. I think I felt a little bit constricted by the march style in that way. I do like experimenting harmonically but I didn't want to go to my usual extent in this piece - also because the band might have found a more harmonically varied piece a bit more difficult. The piece did end up winning the call for scores - there was only one other piece submitted to it as it happens and it just wasn't as interesting as mine, but the band members I spoke to did all say that they really liked my piece and I'm fairly confident it would have won even if more pieces had been submitted. I took a fairly low-quality recording with my phone at the performance last week. They took it a little fast to begin with, but the second half came off quite well I think. I ended up having to make a few adjustments to the piece on recommendations from the conductor after I went to a rehearsal. In particular, I had overscored for the cornets (especially the soprano) which made the piece sound fairly top-heavy and a little unbalanced. I took out an occasional bit from the cornets here and there in the final score. https://soundcloud.com/fotytoo/the-juggler-1/s-ssklN
  6. I haven't seen the original work, so I'm just looking at this as a concert band piece. I think the opening develops too slowly - I think it would sound better if four bars were cut out and the vibraphone came in at bar 5. I found the glock/oboe rhythm at 96 quite interesting. If you were intending this to be played by a real band, I would kind of recommend just having the glock play it - the reason being it's a very hard rhythm to play, and even I would probably find myself very slightly fudging it. Which would be fine if I was the only player with it, but two players fudging the same unison rhythm can end badly. Another thought I have is that it doesn't seem like it changes enough. You've got plenty of tempo/rhythmic variation, and you change up the chords, but you don't have any dynamic variation and you often use the same combinations of instruments. These things will come more naturally to you as you get more experience in writing - an idea will come with a specific sound/dynamic/colour in mind. You're also generally using the full range of registers available within the concert band - more ideas for variation would be using only the high register or the low register.
  7. My master's degree is starting to draw to a close, and I'm very aware that every piece I write now will be one of the last while I still have my tutor. For that reason, I've really tried to push myself beyond my current boundaries wherever possible. This piece, while not incredibly 'contemporary' sounding I suppose, in some ways represents the culmination of my efforts and explorations while at this institution. I've pushed my harmonies and chord progressions as far as I'm personally willing to right now, and also used some new string techniques that I'd not really explored before. Some of this piece, especially the second half, is definitely among my favourite music I've ever written. I've still kept to my usual style of working with very short bits of material and seeing where I can take them, but this piece is roughly divided into three or four smaller sections which have their own separate ideas as well. I've also become very interested lately in sounds that 'morph' over the course of a single note. Usually, that just means fading multiple instruments in and out on the same note. I feel that this is an area that isn't adequately explored in a lot of the more widely played contemporary repertoire, especially in more amateur-aimed music. This piece will be performed at the start of May by a professional ensemble (including a very skilled concert pianist, fortunately). It'll be conducted, which is why I put the piece in this section. I've put it on Soundcloud as well if that playback is working better than this site for whatever reason. There's a couple of really minor changes between the score and the recording, because once you start polishing the score in Sibelius you often kind of ruin the playback.
  8. A clarinet tutor at my uni put together a clarinet choir and was looking for a student here to write a piece. One of the lecturers put my name forward because he felt that my style would fit the group well. So, I tried to just write a piece in my normal kind of slightly jazzy style. I did my usual thing of creating a few motifs and attempting to build a whole piece out of them, seeing which ways I could twist them and play around with them. I haven't yet sent it to the group, I probably will in early 2019.
  9. There was a recent call for scores put out by the Edinburgh University Brass Band for a new concert march, and I'd been looking for an excuse to write something for brass band for a while. The march genre is one I've had quite a lot of experience in as a performer and so the style came fairly easily to me. I haven't submitted this yet, but I probably will fairly soon.
  10. Yes, I feel like there's a little bit of metal percussion overuse. I've played pieces in band where there were cymbal rolls all over the place and that annoyed me a little - I feel that overuse of these percussion effects can lead to them losing their effectiveness. I think in particular, the triangle notes in bars 24 through 29 felt superfluous. The glock was also starting to feel overused by bar 53. Changing the role of the instrument can help. I liked the glock at bar 74, for example, because it was clear that it was a supporting role. Doing that gives the piece more variety of colour. I stopped noticing the triangle later on in the piece because it too became part of the texture, and it became a welcome addition instead of feeling old. Using a particular percussion instrument all throughout a piece isn't always necessarily a bad thing. John Mackey is one composer who tends to rely on the same percussion instruments quite a lot. His 'Aurora Awakes', for example, makes extensive use of the vibraphone and marimba throughout its second movement (about 6-7 minutes worth of music). I think the reason it works there is the reduced attack of those instruments, and the fact that the piece only draws attention to them when they first come in, before then fading them into the musical texture. A glock sticks out a lot more. Having said all that I did enjoy your piece, and there were some really nice unexpected colours in there!
  11. A while ago I decided that writing for wind band was something I wanted to seriously pursue. After a couple false starts this year, I finally got going on a second wind band work (after 'Aviary', which was performed twice last year), and gradually worked on it over the last two months. It's now become my longest single-movement work so far, and I'm quite proud of a few of the ideas in it. I'll soon be sending it around to a few conductor friends of mine to see if anyone will be willing to play it, but I'm pretty sure that someone will somewhere. The score still needs a bit of polishing here and there but I'll leave that for if/when I have to make some presentable parts.
  12. It certainly would be playable by pianists who had a very good sense of rhythm. I've actually performed 'Fractalia' myself and I personally would be fine with playing this piece, at least rhythmically speaking. I think for me, your piece doesn't do enough interesting things harmonically. 'Fractalia', being for percussion ensemble, has a much greater range of timbres available to play around with, and one of the attractive aspects of it is the contrast between the out of sync marimba playing, and the in-sync untuned instruments - but even having said this, I would understand if an audience member found 'Fractalia' too boring. Another piece that I've performed comes to mind as well, 'The So Called Laws of Nature' by David Lang - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELN47gnPUVg. It has the same idea - all four players have the same part, but rhythmically displaced by various amounts. The piece has a very effective climax about 9 minutes in when the drums all sync up after being chaotic for so long. However, I personally feel it is not worth the 9 minutes it takes to reach that point. I think the piece stretches out its idea for far too long. (It's also ridiculously difficult to play.) There's still some lessons you can take from it though. Extended chaos builds tension, which you can choose to release at your discretion, but the most effective way to release tension from chaos is to become orderly. Constant rhythmic displacement, by itself, isn't really enough to sustain a piece - unless you want to do what Steve Reich did in 'Drumming', and go absolutely all-out on the rhythmic displacement and ignore all else. It's good that you have split your piece into a few distinct sections - this provides some sort of contrast - but the piece as a whole doesn't sound very coherent to me, and I think your harmonic language isn't helping. It's often quite unclear what the harmony is supposed to be or where it's going. One thing you can do is to have less notes in each phrase, or chord. 'Fractalia' has quite simple, spaced out chords, and this is very effective when you have the same phrase displaced against itself. Runs and scales like you've written (especially with the pedal down - consider taking that out maybe!), when overlayed with each other, can easily become messy and confused. I've often used this overlay technique when I write electronic music, and I almost always use it on arpeggios or on very limited melodies. I do think that this general idea is a good one to have in your toolkit though. A great piece could well be written that uses this idea, but it would have to incorporate other musical aspects as well. 'Nagoya Marimbas' (also by Steve Reich) is another good piece to look at which uses this idea - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OrfZI-JRXY. Reich also uses very simple chords and arpeggios, and the displacement is always very carefully considered. In this example, there's no point of sudden order to release the tension from the chaos - but it's not really needed.
  13. It got performed last week by members of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, here's the recording!
  14. Thank you guys! I think I'm getting pretty good at taking a short idea and making the most of it.
  15. This was written for a collaboration project between the masters students at my conservatoire and some postgraduate astronomy students from another uni, each of whom was working on their own project. Each composer chose an astronomer, to write a piece in some sort of response to the astronomer's research. We had a given instrumentation, which was essentially wind quintet + string trio + electric guitar, and we were free to write for any combination. I decided to just write a wind quintet, since I like writing for winds. I think the rest of the composers all wrote for the full ensemble. My partner's project was to do with how stellar clusters form and grow. Specifically, he was trying to modify an existing simulation to add in another factor (some sort of gas) which has not previously been considered in the growth of stars, just to see if it actually does make a difference. The inspiration I took from this was to do with the general growth of stars (rather than his specific project, which was kind of uninspiring musically). I had the idea to create a piece which starts relatively chaotic, and gradually becomes simpler and calmer while still in some way retaining its initial character. The way I tried to do this was to have one single motif represent the star, and have it present throughout, becoming slower every now and then. This is meant to represent the star forming out of a flurry of gases, and becoming larger, slower, and more predictable over time. It's probably the most 'dissonant' of my pieces so far, which made it very difficult to work on, as my usual musical instincts weren't always present. I'm quite proud of myself for pushing through it though - I think allowing myself more dissonance has really allowed me to experiment more, and I'm happy with the resulting piece. The score isn't quite 'final' yet, I've still got to get some feedback from my tutor before I tidy it up and send it off.
  16. Yep that's completely fine! It's actually surprisingly unusual to play two timpani at once. There's nothing difficult about it, and I certainly wish more composers did it, but I'm just letting you know. I think the reason might be that the timpani generally supports the bass, and having notes close together in the bass can occasionally get muddy - but there's no intrinsic problem with that. Mostly, timps might get written in octaves or 5ths. As long as you're aware of what you're doing though there's no problem with writing them in 3rds or less. The other thing I notice about the part (and it's in other parts too) is your tendency to write quavers in sextuplets, for example starting in bar 108. This is technically correct but can be a little misleading. When I read the part in my mind, my instinct is to play them in the space of a crotchet instead of a minim - and then the last quaver triplet, oddly enough, gets played as a crotchet triplet because I subconsciously realise I have two beats left! I think my brain sees the '6' and automatically assumes that they are semiquavers, because 95% of the time I only see sextuplets with semiquavers. Writing these as separate triplets would be better - even in a full bar of triplets, the safest way of writing them is generally as four separate triplet groups. The same goes for crotchets - it's more common to write a crotchet sextuplet as two separate crotchet triplets, although it's not quite as confusing as the quavers.
  17. Wind bands are extremely widespread and are often happy to play new compositions, even if just once at a rehearsal. I've played student compositions myself while in my uni wind band, and I've had a composition played by them. However, this isn't quite a wind band piece - for example, the standard wind band orchestration includes 2 flute parts, 3 clarinet parts, 2 alto sax parts, 3 trumpet parts, and so on. It's flexible, but having 1 of each part makes it seem like it's for a very specific ensemble. Yes, the timpani part is unplayable as is, because most of the time only 1 timpani is able to go down to that range of E and below, and you've written 3 notes in that range. Putting it up an octave would help, but it's also rare to get the top timp going up to a C.
  18. My last piano miniature (Haze) was a little short, so I started another one intending on making a longer miniature, but then it turned into a full-blown piece. My tutor remarked that it felt very much like the first movement of a sonatina, and I've never attempted one for piano so I thought I would try. I'll start work on a middle slow movement next!
  19. Here's another piano miniature, because I'm slightly overdue for one. Emphasis on the 'miniature' this time - it's only 80 seconds or so! It basically only explores one idea/texture though, and was just an excuse for me to play around with some chords. (As are a lot of my pieces, to be honest!)
  20. @pateceramics Ask and ye shall receive!
  21. Thanks! My tutor said he liked the beginning and the ending of the piece, but he found the middle less convincing. In particular, he said that ending the melody at bar 47 left an unanswered question which I didn't adequately return to, and suggested I add a couple more bars to it. I'll have a think about it.
  22. I agree, it's quite nice harmonically, there's very little that sounds 'wrong' to me. My issue is that it doesn't really do anything all that interesting. It doesn't tend to modulate, or go on journeys. I think bar 31 of the minuet was the first bar that really stood out colour-wise because of your harmonic choices. To be honest, I probably wouldn't enjoy an actual Haydn quartet all that much, so maybe I'm not the best judge here, but I would very much encourage you to start branching out and experimenting with the harmonies and structures of later periods, because you clearly have a very good foundation. Perhaps play around with sonata form. One harmony that stood out in a bad way was the F in the cello in bar 12 of the adagio. I'm not sure exactly why it sounds out of place, but for me, leaving out the F and just going Bb for a crotchet, then leaping up to the other Bb would work better there. Bar 37 of the adagio also felt slightly off, probably because of the Ab in the second violin part. The finale definitely felt the most 'fun' for me, and I think that's where you really started to play around a little with appoggiaturas and a little more experimental harmony. Keep going in that direction! I will also say though that the ending didn't feel satisfying, like it arrived too soon without a conclusive finish.
  23. This is a work I've been looking at on and off for a few months now. It began its life as the opening few bars in my head for a week until I wrote them down. I decided that I wanted to try and write a very light-hearted and maybe (hopefully) occasionally humorous piece, while still keeping it interesting and musically varied. It's quite clearly very 'Candide'-inspired, but I tried to take it in my own direction as well. I'm also using this piece for another subject at uni, where I have to write an essay about some aspect of critical practice, and I'm talking about humour in music in general, and what my approach has been towards composing this piece. I'm happy to share the essay once I finish it in a week or two, if anyone would be interested in it! There are still a few notation issues to work out before I can submit it as part of this year's composition portfolio for my degree, such as the pedal lines, but now that the music is basically complete I wanted to share it with people anyway. I've also got a soundcloud link if people prefer that player - https://soundcloud.com/fotytoo/serious-music-for-violin-and-piano/s-Howou.
  24. I had a little difficulty picking out the form of the melody that came in about 0:19. I couldn't really hear where it was going or where it landed. The F minor at 0:40 was very welcome (and I would have preferred it to come a little earlier). I would have loved to see you experiment with different chords apart from I, IV, and V by now, because they have grown a little monotonous, although the changes in orchestration and texture make up for that a little. I think 2:18 is the first time you change chords, and I'd have preferred that to come earlier as well, or even bringing forward the horn soli at 3:24. Overall it sounded very nice, and there was a little variation, but it didn't really take me on a journey. I think you're getting too comfortable in the colours that you've built up (although they are very pleasant indeed), or too unwilling to change them. Some other changes that could build tension or change colour could be rhythmic variation (taking out the constant movement of the crotchets if you've written in 3/4, or taking out the quavers, or making a few bars be entirely quavers), instrument colour variation (pizz in strings, giving melody to a combination of instruments, going to a much different register of the instruments, etc), harmonic variation (going on a wandering harmonic journey, modulation, harmonizing the melody), or some counterpoint (have two melodies going at once, or have an instrument start the melody a bar after a different one starts). I think the one that grated on me the most was probably the rhythm - by the end I was really sick of the rhythm you've given to the strings most of the piece.
  25. I've done another piano miniature - I'm still trying to do one every week or two. This one is pretty light and playful again.
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