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Hey!

This is a project I did as part of my Quick Write Challenge. I was inspired on a tour of some caves in Kentucky, thinking how nifty it would be to have a performance in such a resonant space. The cave idea transformed into something almost as metaphorical as literal, and hence this was born. Let me know what's strong and what needs to be stronger!

Thanks y'all,

Gustav Johnson

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1. This was the strongest of your entries. The articulations were kind of strange. Maybe a soundfile export problem, but the placement of slurs was interesting, and didn't come out in the file. Reminds me of this for some reason: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJJb2SoBl_A
If there's one thing I would change it would be the spacing and feel of the piece. It feels close to engaging for me, but not quite. A lot of your phrase spacing in this one kept taking me out of the atmosphere and the buildup to a natural chord progression was almost there, but not quite.

2. Your portion at m. 28 is awkward since you're using the minor 6th with the dominant chord when the dominant note and subdominant note are present. A lack of percussion I think is what took away from the impact of this one. Subtle cymbals or timpani rolls or tam tam hits could have helped, especially when the brass come in alone. I'm also a little confused as to why you ended the last phrase only 1/4 in, but that's okay.

3. I feel like this was the weaker of the all of them. The middle interlude section of this one is what threw me off the most. I know it's technically the same tempo, but loses a lot of the charm and support of the beginning and end. The feeling of rise in that section was a bit jeopardized by the chords you used in that section as well. I can see what you were trying to do, but it felt very fragile.

4. m. 7: In your dominant chord you have both the major and minor third in your chord. The section at 9, I was confused about kind of feel you were going for a little bit... it felt urgent but wasn't backed up by percussion or incredibly high notes in the woodwinds, but it also felt like a kind of drag down, but wasn't supported by descending low tones. It just felt it lacked direction.

5. This one jumps all over the place... there's a definable climax which is nice, but everything around that seemed to keep starting and stopping which is my main problem with, for example, the Wicked soundtrack (especially Defying Gravity). It loses the feeling of putting on the brakes and starting again (which is perfectly fine in some cases) and ends up becoming frustratingly inconsistent. You had a good idea with the pitched percussion, but maybe some more would have been nice.

Engraving problems... staff spacing is important. Even if nobody is ever going to perform this, it's always nice to have things spaced out well.

Also, I see that you're a band teacher, so I'll defer to you on this, but there seems to me to be a lot of breathing issues, especially in your ostinato in the final one. Were you planning on stagger breathing? It would almost be necessary.

A lot of good ideas for a quick write series, I'm impressed. Maybe some development would have been nice in addition.

Cheers!

 

Edited by Monarcheon
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Thanks for the super detailed feedback! I actually really struggle with my phrasing and "phrase spacing," as you call it. It's something I would love dearly to improve upon. Any suggestions for exercises or materials to look at/listen to to help with that? I'm impressed with your ability to get into this much detail so quickly--are you a composer by profession?

To address your question regarding stagger breathing, that's common practice in the band practice world when groups have a long sustained or ostinato section. I trust the musicians to make a good musical decision.

Thanks again!

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1 hour ago, Gustav Johnson said:

To address your question regarding stagger breathing, that's common practice in the band practice world when groups have a long sustained or ostinato section. I trust the musicians to make a good musical decision.

Hahaha, yes, that's what I thought might happen!

1 hour ago, Gustav Johnson said:

I actually really struggle with my phrasing and "phrase spacing," as you call it. It's something I would love dearly to improve upon. Any suggestions for exercises or materials to look at/listen to to help with that?

It's more of just having something for the audience to latch onto. I was taught the concepts of "waiting time", where the residual atmosphere of the piece should leave enough space to not be absent, and "repeated time", the point where a certain figure becomes very obvious, and thus obnoxious. For phrasing, it's all about waiting time. Classical and baroque composers, for the most part, liked having things going on at all times, and didn't worry about it much. In your case, in an effort to create a relatively literal atmosphere, you added some space between lines and melodies so the background could sink in. Waiting time, however, adds up; it's not always based on one certain instance. That's why it felt a little more empty than I would have hoped.

1 hour ago, Gustav Johnson said:

I'm impressed with your ability to get into this much detail so quickly--are you a composer by profession?

I'll do commissions when people want them, but am trying to get my teaching certificate right now. I appreciate the comment though, I like to think my time learning music has been put to good use!

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1 hour ago, LostSamurai said:

The sound of your timpani is so powerful I love it. Do you use a VST for timpani or do you do live recordings?

 

It's actually whatever sound set came with Sibelius 7! I don't know much about sound engineering or mixing, but I have figured out through tinkering how to adjust some of the settings to make some of the drums sound closer to a live sound. I've done the most tinkering with Taiko drum settings, similar to the epic sound you were going for in your composition "seventh insignia."

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I was using Stormdrum 2, which I'm having difficulty sending the channels to the mixer board since it can only be channeled to inserts 1-12, in which the program (Hypersonic 2, which I use for the majority of the instruments I have playing in a piece) use...which are inserts 1-12. So it's either route Stormdrum 2 for mixing or Hypersonic. This is all in FL Studio, I don't know much about Siberius.

Anyway, although I do love the drums, when it comes to a cavern, I'm thinking the drums along with the rest of the instruments could stand a bit more reverb and possibly a certain delay effect. Couple this with a higher "Attack" which fades in to a note before you can really hear it. I would also say lower the volume on the drum without sacrificing it's power and sustain the reverb more to give almost an echo effect as you would hear if you yell inside of a cave.

I can hear a lot excess frequencies that can be cut out to make the instruments more clearer which can be done using a parametric equalizer. I don't know if VSTs can be imported in Siberius but in case they can, definitely look into getting one. More reverb plus excess frequencies means it can sound a bit cluttered, which I can definitely hear as I play these. 

To better explain frequencies, for instance a kick drum, doesn't use a lot of treble but without a mix it will have both bass and the "excess" treble in there. So with an EQ you can cut out the treble which will make the bass sound of the drum clear.

But that is mixing...so it might be a good idea to kinda research on some mixing tips as it would make your piece sound more clear and have a fuller sound.

When it comes to live performances, in my experience, the mixing and sound design is done before the performance even starts so the band doesn't have to worry about the sound as much as keeping up the tempo as the rest of the band. 

I would say I'm better at mixing than orchestration but composing is fun so I do it anyway hahaha.

Edited by LostSamurai
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