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NRKulus

Midwinter Poem (wind ensemble)

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Here's a band piece I recently wrote. I originally conceived it as a choral piece based on my own words, but I decided the words were bad and the music might work better without them. The beginning has a bit of that familiar "choral piece transcribed for band" feel, but starting about 30 seconds in, I begin to develop the material in more instrumental ways.

 
I've accepted the fact that wind bands aren't always capable of the same nuances of colour as orchestras--especially in softer, more delicate sections. So the composition itself--as well as the orchestration--is a bit simpler than it might be if I had written this for orchestra. But I hope it's still effective. 
 
I'd especially like feedback on the orchestration. Are the contrasts interesting and frequent enough? Does the frequent use of glockenspiel and triangle get annoying or overbearing?
 
P.S. - The sounds are Vienna Symphonic Library - just the basic Special Edition set.
 
SCORE AND AUDIO
 

 

Edited by NRKulus

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It's generally a very good piece. I don't think you use the upper percussion too much. If there's one thing I was to gripe on majorly it would be the overall pitch (as opposed to pitch class) range of the band; it's very constant, even if in different dynamics, and it makes the piece sound a little static. I get that support in the bass or upper voice is pretty standard orchestration practice, but I hate it when it's taught that way. But for a normal band who doesn't care about this stuff, it's a really good work.

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On 11/16/2018 at 9:35 AM, Monarcheon said:

It's generally a very good piece. I don't think you use the upper percussion too much. If there's one thing I was to gripe on majorly it would be the overall pitch (as opposed to pitch class) range of the band; it's very constant, even if in different dynamics, and it makes the piece sound a little static. I get that support in the bass or upper voice is pretty standard orchestration practice, but I hate it when it's taught that way. But for a normal band who doesn't care about this stuff, it's a really good work.

 

Thanks, Monarcheon! I get what you mean about the overall range being static. I think that's a result of this being hastily arranged from a choral piece rather than the way I learned orchestration; nonetheless, your point is well taken.

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Yes, I feel like there's a little bit of metal percussion overuse. I've played pieces in band where there were cymbal rolls all over the place and that annoyed me a little - I feel that overuse of these percussion effects can lead to them losing their effectiveness. I think in particular, the triangle notes in bars 24 through 29 felt superfluous. The glock was also starting to feel overused by bar 53. Changing the role of the instrument can help. I liked the glock at bar 74, for example, because it was clear that it was a supporting role. Doing that gives the piece more variety of colour. I stopped noticing the triangle later on in the piece because it too became part of the texture, and it became a welcome addition instead of feeling old.


Using a particular percussion instrument all throughout a piece isn't always necessarily a bad thing. John Mackey is one composer who tends to rely on the same percussion instruments quite a lot. His 'Aurora Awakes', for example, makes extensive use of the vibraphone and marimba throughout its second movement (about 6-7 minutes worth of music). I think the reason it works there is the reduced attack of those instruments, and the fact that the piece only draws attention to them when they first come in, before then fading them into the musical texture. A glock sticks out a lot more.


Having said all that I did enjoy your piece, and there were some really nice unexpected colours in there!

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On 12/5/2018 at 2:37 PM, stewboy said:

Yes, I feel like there's a little bit of metal percussion overuse. I've played pieces in band where there were cymbal rolls all over the place and that annoyed me a little - I feel that overuse of these percussion effects can lead to them losing their effectiveness. I think in particular, the triangle notes in bars 24 through 29 felt superfluous. The glock was also starting to feel overused by bar 53. Changing the role of the instrument can help. I liked the glock at bar 74, for example, because it was clear that it was a supporting role. Doing that gives the piece more variety of colour. I stopped noticing the triangle later on in the piece because it too became part of the texture, and it became a welcome addition instead of feeling old.


 Using a particular percussion instrument all throughout a piece isn't always necessarily a bad thing. John Mackey is one composer who tends to rely on the same percussion instruments quite a lot. His 'Aurora Awakes', for example, makes extensive use of the vibraphone and marimba throughout its second movement (about 6-7 minutes worth of music). I think the reason it works there is the reduced attack of those instruments, and the fact that the piece only draws attention to them when they first come in, before then fading them into the musical texture. A glock sticks out a lot more.


 Having said all that I did enjoy your piece, and there were some really nice unexpected colours in there!

 

Thanks, Stewboy! The specific bar numbers you gave are especially helpful--thanks for sharing your perspective.

I love John Mackey's percussion writing in 'Aurora Awakes' (although if I wrote for band with a 10 percussionists at this stage in my career, nobody would play it!) And it's a good point: vibraphone and marimba generally blend a lot better and have a less piercing tone than glockenspiel, which is why they can work for extended passages. I've even seen composers use marimba rolls as sort of a substitute for a whole tremolo string section... although this only works when the rest of the band is scored thinly and quietly, of course!

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