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Monarcheon

Minerals, for Solo Piano

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This is kind of a piece I had written before knowing much about theory, but knew enough about composition and form to formulate a coherent piece. It didn't help me get into Oberlin so I'd love to hear why from you!

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I LOVE IT

I think is coherent, with changes, variation and modulation. The harmony by fourths is effective, and beautiful sounding.

And the title is great!

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Assuming that the ideas are organized more or less like this: ABCDA'B'C' (I do not like this type of analysis by itself, but I want to have letters by which to refer to the ideas), I think that the "A" material is very strong. Here's what I like about it:

The tonal material manages to be ambiguous while being fully diatonic. It is presented as if it were in a minor pentatonic mode on G#, but then you decide to introduce E# and all of a sudden the pentatonic accompaniment is reinterpreted as if belonging to the Dorian mode from the same tonic. It's a subtle effect, but the real touch of genius occurs when you introduce a B natural in the bass. By asserting it so strongly the whole thing suddenly takes on somewhat of a Lydian character because of the perceived change in tonal center, but the effect is not so strong as to completely diminish the Dorian sound. So really, for a moment it is in neither Dorian nor Lydian. But then you do something clever… You introduce sporadic A#s into the accompaniment, so that it ceases to be purely pentatonic. After all, the pentatonic character of the accompaniment is what makes all this magic possible; because of its neutrality and lack of disposition you can choose which notes to add to it to make it change meaning. So now the music is undeniably in Dorian, right? Hold on… where is the E# I was expecting in measure 5? It never came! Now the A# takes on a totally new meaning and you start to emphasize D#, shifting the music in the direction of the Aeolian mode. It seems that its dominion is uncontested until, sure enough, the B natural returns in measure 7 to turn everything up on its head again…

I would also like to note that the rhythm contains similar tricks. It was clever to set this kind of material to 7/8 time, because the mind is less adept at subconsciously counting its beats. It is actually fairly well-behaved irregularity if you are paying attention, which is why it is necessary to disturb the balance, which you do with the accents in measures 3 and 4. This is just enough to make you go: "Huh?" and question the pulse. This of course coincides roughly with the entrance of the E# for the second time and the change to the Aeolian region. You realize of course that accenting any of the "foreign" notes directly means instant death, and instead shock the audience before their arrival, to provide a cushion for them. This makes them smoother without ruining their effect. You of course also seize the opportunity as you are going into the Aeolian region to change the time signature, and again when reintroducing the B in the bass.

The same praise goes for your treatment of the " A' " material, in fact the way that it is varied from "A" is very cool. I won't labor you with an in-depth analysis but I will continue to study it in my own time. I also love the entire section marked "Poco meno mosso" at the end. There is one minor point that I want to mention, which is that the B natural in 74 clearly belongs to both voices, or at the very least the lower one - not the upper one. The ear follows it as if it belonged to the lower voice but it isn't written that way - the pianist would play it with the left hand anyway, which is why it is disturbing that it is only written in the upper voice. I recommend moving it into the lower staff and cross-staff beaming it. I find it especially poignant when the material from "C" (at least, I consider it to be very loosely derived from "C") is played in polyrhythm with the original accompaniment from "A", transposed. It is a brilliant effect. Seriously, I am very impressed with all of the ideas that are going on in these sections. It is fully on par with Debussy and Ravel in engineered fogginess…

The rest I do not find convincing. Rather boring actually, as it descends into the worst kind of sentimentality with very in your face motivic material and little subtlety. The worst moment is the G# in bar 36. A leading tone - in Aeolian? That's so Classical… I thought you were trying to avoid the leading tone, like Debussy when he began his explorations? These sections are not terrible by any means, of course, but I wish to express the contrast I feel between them and the ones I described above. It is like they belong to a different piece…

I hope my thoughts were summarized somewhat intelligibly. Good luck with your writing, you have a very natural grasp on it.

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7 hours ago, Gylfi said:

The rest I do not find convincing. Rather boring actually, as it descends into the worst kind of sentimentality with very in your face motivic material and little subtlety.

I hope my thoughts were summarized somewhat intelligibly. Good luck with your writing, you have a very natural grasp on it.

 

I sincerely appreciate the time you put into this review. It's so nice to see, truly! I'm assuming by "the rest" you mean the B' and D sections? I'll try to address them below.
Hm... that leading tone G#. I seem to have a bit of a habit for coming out of more atonal sections with too much tonality, huh? My subconscious, not really helpful, argument would be that it's done to draw a parallel to the ending G major section in which the leading tone is also used after the quintuplet, however I do see what you mean that the shift is unnecessarily jarring.

The m. 74 B natural was put in the left hand to distinguish it from the right hand's ostinato, as it carries on from the E -> D from the measure prior. 

I was taught that the best way to get an audience reaction is to introduce contrasts, and I see this a lot too; in Schelomo, the second main theme is brilliantly rewritten in a completely tonal light in the Largo section, and in Elgar's cello concerto, the first movement takes a massive shift into a jauntier feeling which is done quite well. Perhaps I just took it too far!

I don't want to sound like I'm necessarily defending myself, because I do really find this helpful. I just think it's nice to know the original intentions despite what you may not find particularly quality in certain aspects.

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9 hours ago, Monarcheon said:

I sincerely appreciate the time you put into this review. It's so nice to see, truly! I'm assuming by "the rest" you mean the B' and D sections? I'll try to address them below.
Hm... that leading tone G#. I seem to have a bit of a habit for coming out of more atonal sections with too much tonality, huh? My subconscious, not really helpful, argument would be that it's done to draw a parallel to the ending G major section in which the leading tone is also used after the quintuplet, however I do see what you mean that the shift is unnecessarily jarring.

I mean B, to some extent C, D and B'.

Please forgive my wording, I of course meant artificial leading tones. You might argue that the Aeolian mode with an altered leading tone is a mode like any other, but its sound has become too polluted. There is nothing wrong with it, it serves fantastically in many contexts, but it is a bit too sobering in this one.

9 hours ago, Monarcheon said:

The m. 74 B natural was put in the left hand to distinguish it from the right hand's ostinato, as it carries on from the E -> D from the measure prior.

No, you misunderstand. I am in fact referring to that ostinato. Its B sounds as if it belongs to the lowest voice, leaping up a sixth. I also notice I missed one, in measure 70, it sounds as if the B in the ostinato also belongs to the lower voice and is moving to A. I am only reporting how my ears interpret the tones they are presented with; perhaps you feel differently, but I allow myself to claim some minor authority as a connoisseur of voice-leading to say that it goes against sensation. Not in a contrived contrapuntal way, just incorrect, sorry to say. If you beam it so that it belongs to both voices the playing is simplified and it looks cleaner in my opinion.

9 hours ago, Monarcheon said:

I don't want to sound like I'm necessarily defending myself, because I do really find this helpful. I just think it's nice to know the original intentions despite what you may not find particularly quality in certain aspects.

Undoubtedly! Thanks also for mentioning Schelomo, I have never heard of it and will definitely give it a look.

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