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Lessons with Wayne Scales


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Welcome to lessons. I would like to start by getting you to write something using a very limited amount of material, in order to focus on different ways to 'spin out' basic building blocks and experiment with a motivic approach to composition. So, the assignment is to compose a piece for piano up to 3 mins in length, using maximum two different motifs of no more than a bar's duration. The rhythmic and pitch content of these motifs is up to you but I would like you to write them out at the head of the score to show what you are working with. You may derive as much additional material as possible from them but it must all be clearly related to the original. Ideally, I will be looking for everything in the music to be able to be shown to be derived from one of the motifs. At the same time, the composition must work as a 'piece', and of course be playable.

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There we (hopefully) go. I've included the motifs at the top. As you can see, I used one for the melody, and one for the accompaniment, just to fit the requirement that everything in the music must be derived from that material. The main motif is based on how the sellers in the market in Moore Street, here in Dublin, shout as they try to sell their fruit, veg, flowers, &c. When they shout, they always seem to do it in a variation of that rhythm, and they drop a major second at the end, for some reason. One of the developments of the motif (the one with cross-barline beaming) is based on an actual variation that they seem to throw in every now and then. On the whole the piece is meant to portray the YC user johnbucket walking down the cacophony and confusion that is Moore Street, with the sellers shouting on all sides of him, hence both the repetition and stretto of the motif, and the use of something in-or-around JB's style of writing, including some neoclassical things and a bit of Bach.




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That is a hilarious piece :laugh: I liked a lot of what happened in the friction between the notes here, although sometimes it got a little bit too ridiculous even for me (like at measures 26 & 27).

It also looks really difficult to write something like this, where everything is derived from one bar of material for your motif. I don't think I even could write like that -- it'd drive me crazy, personally.

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It certainly works as a 'piece'. The quasi-bitonal flavour of the harmony had hints of Satie, Milhaud, Ives, Stravinsky, etc and was a good way of depicting the (presumed) cacophony of a market-place. It was a nice touch to use as one of your motifs 'found' material.

A few points, in no particular order:

The main concern with this piece is that the motifs are not devised and deployed equally. The first seems to provide most of the melody in the right hand and the second the accompaniment figure in the left. In fact the second is constantly repeated as an ostinato and never appears clearly in the right hand or in any melodic context. It seems that you had in mind to write a melody-and-accompaniment texture and limited the motifs to this role. It’s not a fault as such, as the texture does work, but there are a lot of untapped possibilities in this task that I think you may not have considered. As one example, you could have devised two motifs of equal melodic interest and then intentionally confined them to one in each hand, both competing for attention. Instead the texture remains consistent throughout. This is something I will return to later. For now I might add that a better scheme would have been to find a contrasting street-cry and use that as the second motif. It would have only added to the atmosphere of the piece.

I would have liked you to have been more strict with your derivation of material. Although much of it is clearly derived, I can see many things in the music that I cannot easily link to one of the motifs in one step. Part of the difficulty is that – again - your initial motifs are so extreme in focusing on one function or another that it is quite a difficult task to combine them and still make them recognisable and work in these functions. Strictly speaking, the only interval you can derive from the first one is a major second as most of its potential is rhythmic. The second is the exact opposite, as it has little rhythmic development available (all the same note values) but a lot more ways to develop the pitch content. Because you have devised both motifs with a particular function in mind, it instils in them a hierarchical place in the texture and thus limits how they can be used. The motifs in a Bach invention are devised in such a way as to not be limited to any particular role, so what starts as being the continuo line can become the top melody and vice versa. Bear in mind this isn’t the same as just flipping the material between the hands; the ‘continuo’ line just happened to start off in that register and was always meant to have equal importance in the overall texture and scheme of the piece.

This feeds into the next point: as mentioned the texture of the piece is similar throughout. Again this is largely as a result of the motifs having too definite a function. Both hands also inhabit similar areas of the keyboard for the duration of the piece and the the majority of material orbits around pitches rather than moving in a definite direction. There are very few ‘directional gestures' where new registers are opened up or withdrawn from. This could be as simple and obvious as an ascending scale to a new part of the keyboard or a protracted move to a new register over several pages and areas of material. As a slight deviation, a brilliant example of the latter is the prelude to Act One of Wagner’s Lohengrin, (which is also a masterclass in how to derive a large contrapuntal work from practically a single melody). The piece starts in the highest register of the strings and flutes and over the course of ten minutes gradually opens up to the full orchestra occupying its entire range and then retracts back to the strings of the opening. This derives its effect from every element being meticulously controlled by the composer so that new instruments and registers appear to be added seamlessly (even four minutes into the work the double basses, bassoons and all brass have yet to play). A more pertinent example for the piano is in Brahms’ Second Rhapsody. The development section has long sections that confine the texture to the lower part of the keyboard in a sombre tone, which only adds to the great effect when the opening section returns, crashing around almost the entire keyboard.

I rather dislike direct repeats of anything but the shortest sections, even in works by the greats (tellingly, they get rarer and rarer through nineteenth-century symphonic literature). It will enhance a piece greatly to add some new element to a repetition, however small, even putting one hand up the octave. This gives the music a sense of direction and not taking steps backwards to re-tread the same ground.

To summarise:

  • Motifs need to be more adaptable and less designed for a particular role.
  • Be more inventive when repeating things, or else avoid direct repetition.
  • Use more contrast generally, but with particular regard to texture, register and direction of gestures

I’m going to set another assignment which takes this exercise further. I want you to write three pieces of no more than a minute’s duration each: one for piano; one for ‘cello and one for a percussion ensemble consisting of: three toms (tuned to high, medium and low), woodblock, snare drum and five temple blocks (tuned to approximately E, D, C, Bb and A) and played by a single percussionist. The constraints are:

  • You can only use a single motif of no more than seven notes (but with as many internal rests as you wish) in each piece. It must have as many different rhythmic values as possible. You should again show them at the head of the score and all material must again be derived from the motif. The motif used in the piece for percussion does not have to include pitches.
  • You must only use irregular time signatures
  • Each hand of the piano must be monophonic, ie no chords are allowed within a hand. The ‘cello may play chords but they must be performable on the instrument.
  • Use of extended techniques are encouraged

I am looking for, in general; innovative textures; a sense of motion through the work; contrasts of dynamics, activity and register and idiomatic writing for the instruments.

If you need guidance on how to write for percussion (conventions of notation, sticks etc) look at the following site The Orchestra: A User's Manual or message me and I’ll help.

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Here we are. I have mp3's for the first two; but the 'cello one sounds crap and you'll probably only want the piano one, anyway, once you see the scores. I've only included a score for the percussion, since I don't have the samples, and I didn't include a key because I simply adopted your suggestion. I included some old and some new ideas in each little piece as appropriate (e.g., lack of dynamics and expressions &c. in complex counterpoint, and arranging the 'cello piece so as to reflect the title in the form by arranging it according to the two divisions of the beats of the time sig., making it a bit poetic) and occasionally developed the motifs continuously rather than going back each time (especially in the percussion piece).

'Cello PDF

'Cello MP3

Piano PDF

Piano MP3

Percussion PDF

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In this piece I really still need a graphic showing what pitch and notehead corresponds to what on the stave. Difficult to remember. Also no indication of sticks and a disappointing lack of dynamics – bear in mind that these become much more important when your pitch range is removed. There was some attempt at contrasting rapid changes between the instruments with using just one or two, and you really make the player work to get round the ensemble, possibly asking a little too much agility at times. I feel you try to use the sounds of the instruments too much like normal pitches and write melodies with them but this isn’t necessarily a fault. But this was on the whole rather conservative for a percussion piece. You could have had sudden changes of dynamics, accents, really spiky and jazzy rhythms and things that make it fun and give it a sense of bravado. The rhythms are rather staid and do not allow the player to shape the phrases expressively – also rather tiring to play with both sticks together on a rhythm for long periods. We might look at percussion later on a you will see how the practicalities of playing shape the style of writing for these interesting groups of instruments.


The piano piece was an interesting attempt at mixing old and new ideas. However, you missed the instructions to use a motif only seven notes long and to use as many rhythmic values as possible. The motif itself is a mixed bag: ironically the first seven notes are highly arresting to the listener with the wide leaps and different rhythms, but the scales that follow really don’t work well here for several reasons. First, they are rhythmically bland compared to what we’ve just heard. Having set up a syncopated rhythm, you write a distinctive quaver-semiquaver-semiquaver figure. Having heard all this, the ear is crying out for more semiquavers to carry the motion through, but none are forthcoming. What you write hear is like tearing away at the start of a race and then suddenly deciding you will jog along in no hurry. It might be possible to carry off what you’ve written by making it clear it’s a humorous gesture – staccato quavers and a sudden drop from forte to piano might do it. The scales are also disorientatingly tonal compared to the start of the motif, which creates a disjointed feeling this close to the start, and finally, repeated notes in general are not idiomatic to the piano. Had you left the motif as the seven notes, this could have led to some highly interesting developmental ideas. For a piece of this length, the tiniest motif can still provide sufficient material.

You picked up on why I constrained the piano writing to exclude chords – it was to encourage counterpoint which is precisely what this piece is comprised of. I think, however that even when writing counterpoint you need to have more of an idea of the tonal scheme of the music so that the texture has something to be structured around. It’s good you’re writing with the level of chromaticism you are, but make sure the harmony moves logically. Also, don’t feel that you have to use only the rhythmic values or intervals in the motif. You can introduce other ideas as long as they are in some way related to it.

The decision not to write any dynamics has both strengths and weaknesses. When I played this through I found myself ‘composing’ dynamics into the music and it does allow the player a degree of freedom. However, I don’t think that because you are aiming to imitate an older style means you have to exclude expressive markings. Stravinsky added many devices to his orchestrations of baroque music, yet in a way that sounds completely natural to the music. With the modern surface style the music is in, a performer will be expecting possibly very precise expressive markings.

The tonal-sounding ending sounds odd because it is unprepared. I think you would have had a stronger ending deliberately leaving off on a bare seventh which would fit the nearly-whole-tone character of the rest of this piece. Either that or gradually introduce more conventional chords as the piece approaches the end.


The cello piece was possibly the strongest of the three. The motif is the exact opposite of what I have said about that in the piano piece: it forms a natural-sounding contour of tension, beginning with two pairs of resolving intervals of a semiquaver and then a final tailing off (but not complete dissipation of tension, which is even better) through the semiquavers. This is a vital piece of craft in composition and you have created very strong starting material that has a coherent idea. Notice that the real motif of this piece is actually just an interval of a semitone. I would strongly recommend starting with a simplified version of the opening line though. It’s very difficult at the start and perhaps more suited to the violin, and would be better with minimal chords or even down an octave until bar 5. The cello can play most of what you have written, but it will be a very pinched sound, unsuitable for playing at piano and difficult to move between chords. I might run a lesson specifically on writing passages of string chords in future, but for now I will only comment on the piece in terms of compositional merits. The tonal scheme of the piece and the way in which chords move into each other I can find very little fault with. The phrases move naturally into each other, there are no about-faces in the creation and dissipation of tension and you also provide this on a micro-level by avoiding putting a chord on every note, which creates an alternation strong-weak effect. Also, the shape of the motif is a motif for the overall shape of the music (if that makes sense), moving gradually down the register of the instrument, only adds to its structural strength. The only thing I would say is that the you could think a little more contrapuntally and have some of the held lower notes tied over obvious points movement to create suspensions in the harmony and greater freedom of parts. This could also lead to more obvious use of distinctive parts of the motif (particularly the downward semiquavers). But this is a minor criticism.

Key strengths to note in this piece:

· Motif contains both creation and dissipation of tension.

· Sufficient contrast of rhythm to avoid repetitiousness and maintain creation and dissipation of tension.

· Motif and piece have an overall direction but are interesting because it is not a straightforward linear progression. You add ‘interruptions’ in both melodic contour and harmonic tension which make the music interesting.

· Motif and piece in general avoids complete resolution until the end, which allows the progression of the music to continue and keep the interest until the end. You should only ever provide complete resolution at the end of a piece or section, because it makes continuation impossible. This is a fundamental point in composition.

It will be a little while - 1 1/2 weeks perhaps - before I can set another assignment, but in the meantime listen and analyse some different pieces for solo instrument and see how they work. In the next lesson we will be looking at the function of different types of melodic material and how to create a lot from very little.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The quartet score looks nice and at first glance seems quite playable and idiomatic. But don't just give the cello all the fun! In answer to your question; the cello and indeed any other string instrument can go very high indeed as long as the notes are approached sensibly, and you could definitely write above Bb. The important thing to remember is that above g (above bass clef) the cellist has nothing to rest the thumb against and has to find pitches by 'feel'. This can be done with remarkable accuracy but is limited by the fact that there are fewer available places to stop a particular pitch than in the neck positions. It is inadvisable to write anything which requires the hand to leap more than once in succession. To use bar 100 of your quartet as an example, the first two beats are easy because they can all be played in first position. The third beat's triplets will require the hand to move to play the Bb: either back into 'half position' on the A string or up the D string, probably stopped by the middle (second) finger, both of which are easy. However the final four notes are difficult to find at the speed required. If the player played the Bb on the A string, he has no choice but to leap up to find the G. From the D string it is in the same position across to the 4th finger on the A. From here it becomes more difficult. The most sensible way to get from the G to the following C here would be to leap to finger the C with a first finger so the third can play the E above, and then another leap to get the first finger on the F natural to finish the phrase. This isn’t overly hard for a good player but it does require two leaps to play the figure and demonstrates the sort of thought process that a player goes through. Luckily this bar moves in one direction and has relatively small leaps, and the crescendo helps too. What is often hard in scores by inexperienced or non-string players is when we are asked to make wide leaps between chromatic intervals in different directions. To be safe it is best to stick to a fourth as the maximum interval when climbing and to use tones and semitones in between wider intervals so the hand can settle into a position before preparing to leap up further.

When writing really high it is inadvisable to avoid very small intervals unless you have to. The reason is that unlike a piano keyboard the spacing between pitches gets smaller in relation to the position up the string, so the fingers must get proportionally closer together to play any given interval. It also gets harder to play without an intense sound, as the vibrating string length is so short, and even with premium strings and a good bow a true piano becomes impossible above the top line of treble clef. Harmonics are another option as they produce a pitch an octave above the stopped note they are over. See the finale of Saint-Saens’ First Cello Concerto (after figure O) for an example of an otherwise fiendishly high scale achieved relatively easily through harmonics.

If you can get hold of Instrumentation and Orchestration by Alfred Blatter there is an appendix with a useful primer on string fingering.

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Thanks for the info, Siwi; I've been waiting for the library to get its copy of Blatter's book for a while, in fact!

As regards to the 'cello having all the fun; each movement of this will have it's star!

Now, I've been doing some counterpoint with Chris, and I was assigned to write two compositions based on first species counterpoint - one apparently breaking rules, and one not - and Chris was delighted with the former piece and suggested I touch it up and show both versions to you, as he says it'd be a great little piece to have in my portfolio. I'm having a little bit of trouble incorporating some of his suggestions, but, since you are so busy, I think it'd be a good idea for me to do my best with that and then post it here for your verdict and as a sort of jumping off point for a lesson, if that suits, since it takes the onus off you and puts the ball in my court, in terms of lesson material. I'll begin in this vein and post when I can, unless you're averse to the idea and tell me to stop or you post something else in the meantime.

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Yes, go ahead with that. If you don't know me well enough already, I consider counterpoint to be one of the most important aspects in classical music composition, so I thoroughly encourage this. In addition, he and I will be looking for different things in the compositions (I will comment on the overall shape and the development of material and motifs).

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Bah. I've tried, and I can't seem to incorporate some of Chris's suggestions without sounding blocky and unnatural. I might be relying too much on samples or something, but I dunno. In any case, I've linked both versions, though they're almost exactly the same at this point, and included the suggestions Chris gave me:

Rests for breathing space

Added - I thought the phrasing would be enough, since it sounded okay in playback, but nah.

Being careful with the close voicing, even though viola's pizz.

I decided to keep this, because I didn't throw it in there without thinking; I was aware (or, at least, I thought) that the fact that the viola is pizz. would make it work.

Instrumental potential: trading roles

Some arco accompaniment

These two I just couldn't introduce without sounding clunky.

Get rid of the D in the last measure in the violin and have the viola keep its note

The viola's note was originally pizz., so I arco'd it and just gave the violin a tie with its dim.

One last thing: I don't know if I should feel that I'm cheating a bit, using this piece, because, whenever I write a piece that isn't for the piece's sake, I try to pack as much learning and/or experimentation as I can in, and the reason I chose the viola pizz. accompaniment with melody above was because I wanted to practise that idea for use in another (specific) piece. Granted, it's a different melody, with bigger instrumentation, and it's only the idea I'm using, but with the same key, so I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Anyhow, any help you can supply is greatly appreciated.



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Ha-ha! I'm sure it's co-incidence, but the melody of the opening four bars are almost identical to the slow movement of Mozart's A major piano concerto (No.23, K488). Anyway...

The viola's accompaniment sounds a little strange and there are several pitches which seem out of place. The E's in bar 2 are very odd against the D and F of the violin, and the end of bar 4 does not move at all convincingly as we are expecting C sharps. There are numerous other examples. The main issue is that the violin's melody is incredibly tonal and diatonic whereas the viola part seems indecisive: it is half traditional (rhythm) and half modern (pitch) which means it neither combines or contrasts properly. Had you used either an equally chromatic violin melody or a viola part that contained complex rhythms as well as disjunct intervals and other modern devices (which would also raise it above merely being subsidiary accompaniment) this would work better. I can see a little of what you were thinking in attempting to introduce more chromaticism than would be sound in strict counterpoint, but it needs more thought about how to make this work. I've attached two possible openings based on these ideas - the first giving the violin a much more chromatic and disjunct line, the second keeping the viola's actual pitches but giving it almost complete rhythmic freedom from the bar-line and the violin. These are extreme examples, of course, but I can't see any other way to achieve the necessary improvement other than fairly substantial rewriting of the original viola part to make the harmonies progress more naturally. This is rather difficult to teach as it replies on the judgement of the composer alone. Perhaps you might want to approach this by writing block chords under the violin line and then arpeggiating them, playing the whole thing through on the piano so you can tweak them until the chord progressions sound right. This doesn't exclude the sort of chromaticism you have already come up with, just that it must work convincingly as an accompaniment and have some kind of forward momentum.

I understand this originated as a counterpoint exercise and one in which you were trying to push the boundaries from what is academically correct, so if you want to stick to that aim and even revert to more conventional harmonies you may disregard my suggestions. By the way, I am tempted to agree with Chris' suggestion that you should omit the viola note on the last bar: it seems like an interesting and atmospheric effect with which to end the piece and avoids ending on a dissonance - unless you desire this of course.

I am preparing a lesson based around the study of a piece by Haydn and how he combines small sections derived from common material into a whole, which I think would make a good progression from the motivic work we've done so far.



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I'm just looking at the work of wayne-scales and in both of the pieces (the original and the edit), he has the violin and viola end on an octave D (violin plays d above middle c and viola plays the d in first position on the c string). This isn't a dissonant interval at all. And look at his part writing, he doesn't approach the octave in a dissonant manner either. Thus, I'm not sure where you're getting that it's dissonant here. The only issue I see is that he does have a parallel octave at this point in the A moving to D in both parts - an easy fix really.

Jason A Woodruff

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  • 2 weeks later...

Eh... Not great... I think I've hit a roadblock in terms of inspiration and motivation! But I imagine you'll really like it, so far, in terms of how all the melodies are developed organically from a main few motifs or things derived from them, which, in turn, flowed pretty naturally (I feel) from the main motif of the entire work as a whole.

I know my form and general idea, but I'm lacking in execution 'cause I suddenly realized that I don't know what the hell I'm doing!

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Hey siwi,

Sorry about this, but, after I got an updated MP3 version, I realized that I had the dry slider way down, oddly, and I have real hassle with getting mp3's from Finale on my computer (presumably because of specs and stuff), so it's always pretty touch-and-go whether I'll get one or not; so the fact that I was able to get one at all without ages and ages of crap is kinda lucky; I've included the wet mp3, and an (not that much) older version of the piece with a dryer mp3, and the score.

Just for your info, this piece is meant to be the kind of 'main' movement in a four-movement string quartet, with each of the movements supposed to represent one of the four major periods in classical music, with each instrument being the main focus of different movements. I was originally going to go for style copies; but, since I've put so much work into this particular movement and it went beyond the bounds of Romanticism, I'm going for a sort of neo approach, instead; though I'd really prefer the style-copy route... The form is based on seven episodes, each tonally centred around a a triad in the key of C major (the key of the whole work: C = century symbol, so I want to put the word 'quartet' inside the C like the way it's done with numbers to represent centuries, so I can pretend that I'm clever), descending from A, and I've gone as far as D minor. The C major section is just going to 'treat' the themes so far, as best I can, in counterpoint and stuff, and the last one, in the Locrian mode, is just going to be a shortish coda along the lines of the detaché duo bits in G major and F major, 'cause there are tons of groups of threes in the pieces, before going atacca into the final 12-tone movement.

The first four notes of the melody in the first violin (A G# A B - which I gather is a sort of universal motif, frequently used by Palestrina, I've read, and definitely present in some Beethoven, I've seen, and I'm not sure if I'm imagining that I've heard it as the opening to a Haydn symphony) is the main motif of the whole work, and each movement is supposed to develop the motif continuously in different ways, to link the whole piece together, and I think that most (if not all) of the main themes can be traced back to this motif through steps that are explicit in the piece. The movement is meant to be incidental, too, by the way, if that matters. It may not be the best piece ever written; but, I'm actually pretty damn happy with what I have so far of it, and I've gotten some lovely comments about it from members here.

I'm finding it hard to put my finger on my exact problem, at this point. I have pretty crap ears, so I'm always a little bit unsure how pieces would fare in performance, or if the mood would be captured like I wanted it in my head. I think, right now, I'm afraid that the 'cello solo part in the D minor section isn't sad enough (which actually sounds like a pretty stupid problem, to me, even as I write it), and I'm unsure how I'm going to work (technically) the following two sections. Lastly, if you don't find this rude, I'd be really appreciative if you could give your advice regarding technical matters only (stuff I could've read in a book &c. and just done myself but didn't), because, for my proper pieces, it really bothers me to have to put in a musical idea that wasn't my own just because I wasn't good enough to think of it, 'cause I'd like all the good ideas as well as all the not-so-good ones to be of my own steam, so I can have at least some music that's completely mine, no matter how it turns out.

Thanks very much for any help and/or comments you can offer.


Older (but dryer) MP3

Newer (but wetter) MP3

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  • 2 weeks later...

The concept of the piece is quite original and the structure of this movement definitely so. In both these aspects and the surface style of the music there is a certain reminiscence of Shostakovich. I think the overall structure (once you have finished the end) will work and in general the proportions of the different sections are effective. There are practically no technical issues with the actual string writing, in fact when reading your note above I was expecting it to be much harder than this. Generally the material is put to good use and seems to sound coherent which is good as you have intentionally set out to use linking devices and motifs. I do not get the impression there is any 'filling' in the music or anywhere where it gets stuck at all.

The opening adagio section is some of the best work I have seen from you. Although it is a simple texture the movement of harmony and, by extension, the maintenance of tension and line is very well controlled. The subito piano at 36-7 is particularly effective. Holding back the entry of the cello is a particularly good device in this respect. The viola's double stops will require a little thought from the player with regards to fingering but they are performable. I think the only slight improvement that could be made is to introduce a little more dramatic movement in places to heighten the tension still further. Particularly at the climax of 32-36, the inner parts are rather static and perhaps octave leaps or tremolo or something would do something here to remedy this.

I think the following presto should be taken faster than on your MIDI (possibly your intention too) in order to heighten the disjointed effect of having a sunny, tonal and contrapuntal passage follow a slow, intense and chromatic section. There are a few moments where the harmony is a little awkward, mostly as the music sounds as if it will modulate and then stays in the same mode as before. The only real weakness of this section is that it reaches the dissonant climax and the return to the opening cello figure (which are good) too soon. It does not feel like a completely natural progression to this idea, especially the join of 94-95, even though the effect is meant to be sudden. All that really needs to happen is that the presto idea needs to have a another section of development before this where chromaticism and a build-up of activity is advanced towards this point in a more drawn-out way. I think some counterpoint will be necessary here as the adagio idea relies for its effect on a sudden return to a slow chordal texture, so having the opposite texture just before it will heighten this dramatic device. The cellist will need a little rubato in order to play the solo here securely.

The following held chord may be a little louder than pppp in performance due to the technical difficulty of playing high chords quietly (you could consider using mutes though). I am not entirely convinced by the held chord in the context it is here. It initially sounds a little too stable for its function, but then again it is the start of a move back into another major-key section so perhaps it is structurally necessary.

The introduction of chromaticism into the waltz section is more what I would like to see in the gavotte section earlier as it seems quite natural and is integrated into the textures well. I would reconsider the notes the violin 1 ends its phrases on in 194 and 198 as they result in unclear chords with the rest of the quartet, which spoils the harmonic movement through here. Again the sudden climax is well-handled as its tonality and fits with what has come before (the bars leading up to it were very Mahler landler-scherzo I thought!) Octaves in violin 1 should be fine at this speed but the grace notes less so when so high up. You could get one of the other players to play a grace note chord on their first beat to get almost the same effect. 218-228 needs more rhythmic movement as it is too static for the level of intensity required here, particularly looking at what follows. The texture at the end with the return of the cello solo is quite effective however possibly the reason why this doesn't sound sad enough is that it is rather 'three-in-a-bar'. The cello could have much greater rhythmic freedom from the viola in this incarnation of the material. I will leave it to you as to how to end this movement but I imagine you have planned a quiet ending.

So, good work, particularly with regard to linking areas of disparate material into a narrative whole. I think in general you could be more ambitious with the way in which you use texture, as you have a good grasp of writing for the quartet and it would serve the dramatic needs of the piece. I can't say that there are any real roadblocks to this being a successful and intelligent composition when completed, it needs revision in a few places rather than a radical rethink.

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  • 1 month later...

This is what I have for the second movement of the piece. I might make mnior changes sometime in the future, if I feel that I need to, but it's pretty much complete as it is. I've provided a score, mp3, and MIDI.

The piece is meant to be the second movement of the quartet, and to represent the Classical period of music history. It's in what I hope is a pretty standard sonata-allegro form, and it's lively character is picked up in the next movement by a section in the same key. The main theme begins with the perennial four note motif (four notes, four movements, four instruments, four styles/periods, four centuries of music), and, as with the third movement, this crops up a lot throughout the movement, and forms the basis for most of the sections, themes, countermelodies, and developments. As the work as a whole expresses four a lot, and the third movement expresses three, this movement expresses two in the extended binary nature of sonata-allegro, the fact that there's two main themes of contrasting nature, the whole Classical 'antecendent-consequent' thing really lent itself to the concept, each section is clearly and cleanly divided into two (I hope), there's two main keys, a time sig with two strong beats, and lots of things are paired in the development; also, the main motif itself is easily divided in half, and that's not just a coincidence, really, 'cause it works for the numbers of all the movements, i.e., there's clearly only one idea going on (stepping), the thing is divided in two halves (step down, step up), there's three tones (C, B, D) and there's four notes (since C is repeated).

I'm tolerably pleased with it, as it is. I had another completely different version that I ditched, though I took a chunk from it and used it here.




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I think this would benefit from increased activity in the instruments that are accompanying. The first violin carries the melody a lot in classical-period quartets but the typical repeated quavers are a bit overused here. Have a look at Haydn Op.33 and Beethoven Op.18 for some alternative ideas. Often even when playing quavers the other instruments 'jump out' at cadential points, the cello will often have an arpeggio which creates a little bit of movement. But in general you have very little that carries across the beat, and you could incorporate suspensions and other devices which would provide more independence of parts. As it stands I can hear too much of the chords changing bar-by bar, particularly in the exposition.

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