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Here is my first large theme and variations work for piano. I don't think the score is perfect, but I will make these changes later.

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What a pity that the dynamics are so unbalanced! I know it's the software...

The whole piece is very interesting, there is variety enough. The initial theme is very ornamentated, perhaps a more straight exposition of it... But it's fine. An issue I always worry about is the "excess" of octaves... I'm not very fond ot them, in general.

 

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I'm going to specifically talk about Variation 7 if you don't mind.
Have you heard Pictures at an Exhibition? Not the Ravel orchestration; I mean the solo piano version. The reasons I think the last movement of that piece is ineffective is the same reason I'm not as huge a fan of this movement in yours.
I'm going to start of saying I really, really enjoy the melody transformation in this variation. I think it's beautiful. The accompaniment, however, leaves a bit to be desired. A lot of this comes from the left hand. Because of how you write is as sustained through one or two very slow measures at octave doubling makes me feel like you have this intended as an orchestra piece in a way, as low strings. It would work better there because the envelope of the sound doesn't decay as fast. The piano is great because it can weave around melodies, especially in the beginning of the section. Most of the time it's also on the root chord, which it really doesn't have to be. First inversion chords do wonders in implying a sense of movement. 
When we get to the loud part, all of these issues become a lot more pronounced. Intended to be grandiose, I don't really get that feeling because the ear, while never losing sense of the tonic, loses sense of the specific forms of the functional harmony. The range between the two hands also makes it feel like there's a gap of sound that's missing when listening to it. This becomes especially apparent in measures like 163 with the one moving note being a high suspension without contrapuntal backup.
It's a beautiful section and more while stasis and decay can play an important musical factor, how it doesn't change in style between the two periods forces a cognitive dissonance between styles that implores investment, but clashes with the familiar.

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Thank you @Luis Hernández and @Monarcheon.

12 hours ago, Luis Hernández said:

The whole piece is very interesting, there is variety enough. The initial theme is very ornamentated, perhaps a more straight exposition of it... But it's fine. An issue I always worry about is the "excess" of octaves... I'm not very fond ot them, in general

Should I change some of these octaves?

11 hours ago, Monarcheon said:

The piano is great because it can weave around melodies, especially in the beginning of the section. Most of the time it's also on the root chord, which it really doesn't have to be. First inversion chords do wonders in implying a sense of movement. 
When we get to the loud part, all of these issues become a lot more pronounced. Intended to be grandiose, I don't really get that feeling because the ear, while never losing sense of the tonic, loses sense of the specific forms of the functional harmony. The range between the two hands also makes it feel like there's a gap of sound that's missing when listening to it. This becomes especially apparent in measures like 163 with the one moving note being a high suspension without contrapuntal backup.

Do you suggest I arpeggiate the accompaniment, similar to the next variation, or move the left hand higher. I now understand perfectly the problem with this.

Thank you again. 

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Hi, I don't mean you have to change anything. As I mentioned before in other post, many many octaves make them less effective, because you'll have less contrast. On the other hand, an excess of octaves gives me the impression the composer doesn't know what to do with the inner voices.

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9 hours ago, aMusicComposer said:

Do you suggest I arpeggiate the accompaniment, similar to the next variation, or move the left hand higher. I now understand perfectly the problem with this.

Whatever it takes to get it to move a little more. Loose counterpoint, light arpeggiation. Some composers opt for moving on beats where the melody doesn't. In the bigger section, filling in the middle could be used instead of forcing motion where you don't want it. It's all about balance.

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This piece is fantastic in the truest sense of the word.  There is tons of variety and imagination throughout.  My main misgiving is that some of your harmonic changes feel too abrupt or not properly set up.  Similarly, your melodic lines occasionally don't seem to go where it makes sense.  I think more experience will benefit you in smoothing these things over though.  You clearly have a talent for composition and I admire, even envy, your creativity.   

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Great job. I think my personal favorites were Vars. IV - VI, and X - End. I love the textures of IV, followed by a return to a focus on melody with accompaniment, followed by an energetic variation: smart choices for variations. I think my issues with VII are not only what Monarch mentioned, but also, I think it feels a little "forced" after variation VI, like there should be a middle step between them as a link, that's currently missing. The loss of momentum is too much, like whiplash from a sudden brake. I love that you put an adagio as a variation, but I think it needs something. I think the way it slowly builds momentum again through VIII to the end was very well done, however.

 

I really enjoyed listening to this 🙂

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@aMusicComposer  I'm at work just checking in, but I'll give the score another look this evening and give you an example or two.  Keep in mind, this is just my opinion, and I tend to be rather conservative!  🙂 

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I checked this out again, and I think I may be wrong in my assessment.  Just because something is unexpected doesn't mean it's poorly set up.  I use unexpected harmonic shifts myself.  Just because yours are different from mine doesn't make them bad.  

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@J. Lee Graham Thanks for looking at this again. I do agree with you that some harmonic changes could be better - I can hear some when I listen back, but it sounds better when I play it on a real piano. Perhaps this is the subtle variations of dynamics and tempo that cannot be given on a computer program?

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@aMusicComposer  It's very possible, even likely, that things will sound more natural when you're playing the piece live.  Are you able to play the whole piece, and if so, do you have the means to record yourself playing it?  I for one would love to hear a performance of this piece by a live human, and the composer is a bonus!    

I find that a pretty fair amount of my criticism is based on whether I personally would have done something a certain way, and given the rather narrow tolerances I allow myself, that doesn't leave much room for composers who envision things in ways I'd never dream of, but which just might be perfectly valid.  For this reason I'm often hesitant to critique, but I need to get over that, and just say what I have to say from my own experience and sensibilities.  I just don't want to criticize someone for just being innovative, or expressing themselves in a uniquely personal way, but I'm not always sure whether that's what's going on!  😉   

Taking what I've said with a grain of salt, then, inasmuch as you seem to think some of the harmonic changes could be better, are there any specific places in the piece where YOU are not satisfied?  Where are they?  I'd be interested to see if we agree on some of them, at which point maybe we could figure out how they might be improved.       

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I have thought about recording this, and I have been practising, but it will take me a while to learn some of the more difficult variations.

Speaking about harmony, there are places where I wasn't satisfied:

• Bar 42-45

• Bar 72

• Bar 209-210

Also, the chord progression (that features throughout many variations) D,C,Fm but this sounds better when played by a real person!

Thank you again for taking the time to comment 😀

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Ah, okay.  Now we have something specific to work with.  

I've come up with some ideas about what I would personally do with these passages.  In each of these, the harmony still turns on a dime, which seems to be a characteristic of your work, and that's fine, but I think some of this might anchor things a little better and make them a little more sensible to the ear.  Check them out and see what you think:

 

Variations - Ex 1.jpg

With this one, I would keep the arpeggios in the left hand in measures 42-43 more basic, as shown; in meas. 42 beat 2, doubling the B-flat in the bass doesn't work as well as I think this does, grounding the harmony, and in 43, I think this works better than the tritones you had in the bass.  In meas. 44, I again grounded the harmony on beats 2 and 3.  In meas. 45, notice I continued the pattern you established previously in the "alto" line with an F on beat 2, then resolved down to E.  

Variations - Ex 2.jpg

 

In this example, I thought what I wrote in measure 73 made more melodic sense.  

Variations - Ex 3.jpg

Here, you needed a better transition in measure 209 from A minor to an implied F#7.  I thought the appoggiatura on beat 1 of 210 made better melodic sense.  

Sorry the jpgs are so damned HUGE!  Let me know what you think of these, or something like them, as possible solutions.  

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@DanJTitchener

Thanks for listening and commenting. Glad you liked it! :toothygrin:

@J. Lee Graham

Interesting suggestions, and some that I would not have considered! 

1. Regarding the arpeggios in 42 and 43, I think what you have suggested works well. I had also thought about keeping the left hand in the previous pattern. I like what you have done with 44 and 45. I wonder if I might do this or something very similar in a revision. Obviously you have more experience than me - so your ideas have worked well!

2. I like the moving bass you have added, and the melody works well. I wonder about adding in a semiquaver "countermeasures" during the crotchets (It's difficult to explain, but I hope you see what I mean.)

3. I think what you have done hear is very nice and it fits, but personally I'm not sure about it. I don't like the appoggiatura but I wonder if we could figure out something in between - I know this but needs fixing.

Thanks for making these suggestions - I really value your feedback!

 

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@aMusicComposer  I'm so glad some of what I suggested pleases you!  These are only suggestions, and you do with them as you like, of course.  It's your piece - I wasn't trying to rewrite it, just offer you an alternate way of looking at things you weren't happy with.  You needn't feel any obligation to use any of it, and you can take the germ of the ideas I proposed and make them your own.

I actually do have a great deal of experience, though I am mostly self-taught; when I went to college years ago, the professors wouldn't let me be the composer I wanted to be, so for that reason and others I quit (I never finished my degree) and became an avid autodidact, soaking up whatever I could on my own.  I've been composing since I was 9 years old, and I'm not really a "young" composer anymore - shall we say, I'm much older than almost everyone on this site, though I'm pretty young at heart, and I get along with young people well.  I've been coming to YC for more than 20 years to share my music and to offer whatever support and wisdom I can from many years' experience.  I took a lot of time off over the last few years, but I'm very glad to be back (I think I'm addicted again!), and gifted composers like you keep me interested!  🙂        

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14 hours ago, J. Lee Graham said:

It's your piece - I wasn't trying to rewrite it, just offer you an alternate way of looking at things you weren't happy with.

Thanks for these ideas - there are some that I would never have thought about but work well and that I like!

 

14 hours ago, J. Lee Graham said:

I actually do have a great deal of experience, though I am mostly self-taught; when I went to college years ago, the professors wouldn't let me be the composer I wanted to be, so for that reason and others I quit (I never finished my degree) and became an avid autodidact, soaking up whatever I could on my own.  I've been composing since I was 9 years old, and I'm not really a "young" composer anymore - shall we say, I'm much older than almost everyone on this site, though I'm pretty young at heart, and I get along with young people well.  I've been coming to YC for more than 20 years to share my music and to offer whatever support and wisdom I can from many years' experience.  I took a lot of time off over the last few years, but I'm very glad to be back (I think I'm addicted again!), and gifted composers like you keep me interested!  🙂        

It's sad to hear that you couldn't finish your degree. I am thinking about studying composition at RCS but I do not know what style the professors are most comfortable with - hopefully not just experimental/contemporary! 

You started writing at about the same time I did, although you have been composing for longer. This is a wonderful site, where "young" composers can meet experienced ones like yourself to share ideas and make pieces better. 

It's been a pleasure working with you to improve not just this piece, but my ways of reviewing and criticising my own music - for this is the only real way I can improve. Thank you very, very much for you time and your suggestions, they mean so much to an aspiring composer like myself. 

Thanks again.

Scott

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4 hours ago, aMusicComposer said:

Thanks for these ideas - there are some that I would never have thought about but work well and that I like!

You're very welcome!  

4 hours ago, aMusicComposer said:

I am thinking about studying composition at RCS but I do not know what style the professors are most comfortable with - hopefully not just experimental/contemporary! 

My advice to you, if you'll allow me, is regardless of what kind of composer you are by then (be it somewhat traditional as now, or whatever) is by all means go, and learn whatever they teach you, while remaining true to yourself in your work for yourself alone (as opposed to what you have to write for school assignments).  You don't have to be what they want you to be, but what you'll learn will be valuable for a base of knowledge, if nothing else.  This is something I couldn't see at 18, and I now regret it.  Besides, you definitely don't want to go through life without an advanced degree (trust me on this), and your degree might as well be in a subject interesting to you, and in which you excel (and you do already).

4 hours ago, aMusicComposer said:

It's been a pleasure working with you to improve not just this piece, but my ways of reviewing and criticising my own music - for this is the only real way I can improve. Thank you very, very much for you time and your suggestions, they mean so much to an aspiring composer like myself. 

Oh, you more than aspire to composition, my friend, you have the gift.  The only thing you need is more experience, and perhaps more education.  It's my pleasure to help wherever I can, and it's been a pleasure for me too.  Cheers!    

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On 1/15/2019 at 2:40 AM, aMusicComposer said:

@SergeOfArniVillage

Thank you for this comment. Do you feel that having a link would benefit the flow? I was thinking about another variation to add in anyway.

 

I do think having a link would benefit the flow. Variations that are really sharp in contrast can be very effective, but I think in this case a smoother transition would work better. Just my two cents.

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