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October SATB a cappella

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This song uses the words of Robert Frost's Poem October

When Reviewing this things, I'd love any, but I'd really appreciate if someone could tell me specifically about:

- The harmonies

- What stands out (both bad and good)

- And whether you think I followed the words properly

Here is the Poem:

O hushed October morning mild,

Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;

Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,

Should waste them all.

The crows above the forest call;

Tomorrow they may form and go.

O hushed October morning mild,

Begin the hours of this day slow.

Make the day seem to us less brief.

Hearts not averse to being beguiled,

Beguile us in the way you know.

Release one leaf at break of day;

At noon release another leaf;

One from our trees, one far away.

Retard the sun with gentle mist;

Enchant the land with amethyst.

Slow, slow!

For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,

Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,

Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—

For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

Edited by Some Guy That writes Music
Edited the music
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The thing that stands out the most to me is that the strong syllables of the text don't always line up with the strong beats in the music.  That's a very easy thing to adjust by paying attention to how long you make the last note of the preceding phrase.  

For example, at measure 11, "The CROWS above the forest call; ToMORrow they may form and go."  If you speak that line of the poem out loud, the biggest stresses are on "crows" and the "mor" of "tomorrow."  There are smaller stresses on the "for" of "forest," "call," "form," and "go."  Notice that the two lines have exactly the same syllabic stress pattern.  (Well done Mr. Frost).  

So you probably want your biggest stressed syllables ("crows" and the "mor" of "tomorrow") on beat one, and the minor stressed syllables on beats one or three, if it's a 4/4 section.  

4 ......1.......2...3......4....1....2.....3....4....1......2.....3.....4......1.........2....3

The crows a-bove the for-est call; To-mor-row they may form and go.

Just shift the phrase so that "the" becomes a pick-up and it feels much more rhythmic.  If you want to intentionally break this rule to help illustrate a text about disorder or jaggedness or chaos, doing it in a piece with accompaniment works well.  Then the accompaniment can preserve the structure of the meter and be stressed accordingly, and the vocal lines can have stresses on the off-beat that really stand out in contrast.  Or for an a cappella piece, you can have one voice part stick to the stresses implied by the meter and another voice part pull against that with stressed syllables on the off-beats.  That feels more intentional that what you have here currently, which could be heard as sloppy rhythm by an audience who doesn't have the score in front of them.  Adding more accents is another way to have stressed text syllables on off-beats and have it feel intentional.  

Your lines are very intuitively singable and the piece has a nice feel to it.  Robert Frost's work is always nice to put to music.  Are you familiar with Randall Thompson's 'Frostiana?'  That might be a good place to look for inspiration for future vocal music.  Nice job!  

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  • 1 month later...

The use of Dorian is pretty nice and ancient-sounding; a lot of Bach's early stuff is actually edited from the Dorian mode because back then people weren't sure if Aeolian or Dorian would catch on as the contrast to Ionian.
That said, if there's one thing to say, I'd suggest a reexamination of the stratified chords you have. In this case, places like the A7 in the 2/4 and some places where the F#m7 is lead away by close harmonic motion. It can sound a little surprising and hinders the arc the piece otherwise has. Nice job.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I like this.  One thing that struck me, though, is that your use of dissonance is sometimes somewhat surprising (unless that was the whole point, of course).  For example, from bar 39 onwards: relatively harmonious progress followed by this - to my ears - very sudden clash in 42.  I feel the work could benefit from a clear harmonic vision: either tonal, neo-modal or atonal, rather than combining those elements at (sometimes) surprising moments.  Just my 5 cts, of course.

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  • 1 month later...

You made some bold choices here and I applaud you for it. I tend to agree with Joachim and Monarcheon that some of the dissonances are a little shocking but it may be because we're not listening to a live choir. I think the human touch might fix a few things. That being said. I enjoy this greatly. You've created a fairly haunting soundscape that is especially appropriate for the tone of the poem. 

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