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So a year ago, I had this idea of composing a suite that would represent different types of weather. I would call this suite Weather Music. But it wasn't until a few days ago that I actually started composing part of the suite. What part did I start composing you might ask? Well, I started composing probably the most intense part of the suite. That's right, I composed the part of the suite that is supposed to represent a storm. I am like exactly a quarter of the way through finishing the piece. But before I even started composing it, I was like:

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Do I want to go orchestral with this? Maybe a string orchestra? Do I want a small ensemble like say a string quartet + soloist to do it? Or do I want to do piano solo? Either of these options could get across the same feeling of a storm. And there are great examples from previous composers of stormy music for all sizes of ensemble from solo to symphony orchestra.

Full orchestra example:

Beethoven here is really getting across the feel of a thunderstorm and the calm after the storm with the orchestra here.

String orchestra example:

Probably the most well known example of a storm represented in music. So well known, that it itself is often called Storm when played without the preceding 2 movements of Summer. There is no calm ending to the music at all.

Piano example:

Not directly a piece representing a storm unlike the previous 2 but it could very well be interpreted as stormy music because of the tempo and all the octaves.

So I had a lot of pieces to go on as to how to get the feeling of a storm across. The only real questions were what key to have the piece in and what to compose the piece for. I eventually decided on piano solo because that is my area of expertise. I mean I am a very advanced pianist and I started composing in my intermediate years, mainly piano works. So it makes sense that composing for piano would be a natural thing for me because I know my abilities and limitations as a pianist. I don't directly know those same things for flute, violin, or any other instrument the way that I do for piano. The only way I know these things for other instruments is by studying the instruments and pieces written for those instruments. This is how come I know that out of all the possible piano-not piano duets that exist, the most balanced is the cello-piano duet. This is how come I know that a forte dynamic in the first octave is impossible on the flute. It has to do with pieces that I have listened to that are written for those instruments and other ways that I study the instruments.

But no matter how good I get at say writing for flute, my piano composition skill is likely to always be superior because I get that skill directly from my knowledge of music notation, music theory, and 10 years of experience playing the piano, no studying piano pieces out of context of playing them required at all. Plus I have several other non-piano works that I am working on(namely my first symphony which might take me a year just to get the piano draft of it finished but that's okay)

Anyway, back to my storm piece. That was quite the digression there but I just felt like I had to get it out. I decided to have it in the key of C minor because it is very easy for me to improvise in the key of C minor and simultaneously get it to sound very expressive. It is almost impossible for me to do that same thing for C major(which is partly why I mostly avoid composing in C major). And stormy is 1 feeling that is very natural to the key of C minor. In fact, just about any emotion that you can get out of a key is a natural emotion in C minor under certain conditions. Even happiness is a natural emotion for C minor.

How I'm getting across the feeling of a storm

So 1 thing that I noticed in common in nearly all pieces of music that I would consider to have a stormy character was octaves. But not just any old octaves. No, the octaves I noticed in stormy music were very fast and they were alternating. Very commonly, I would notice that almost the entire bass line is in octaves(as is the case with the Beethoven examples) or otherwise as in the Vivaldi example, the repeated notes in the bass would get across the same feel as octaves would and the octaves only really exist if you combine the bass and alto lines. So naturally, I took these octaves and applied them to the left hand part of my piece and the only time these octaves would be slow was in chords. Even when I state the Fate Motif, it isn't slow, despite being a rhythmic augmentation of the original motif just because of the fast tempo. I so far have done all these things to get across the feel of a storm:

  • Keep up the momentum of the 16th notes except in certain spots to make the entire piece sound dramatic
  • Use a minor key because the same drama would be hard to get across in a major key, even taking everything else into consideration
  • Use scalar passages with unpredictable leaps to represent the strong wind by giving a chaotic feel to what would otherwise be a normal scale.
  • Use diminished 7ths more often than dominant 7ths just to add more drama
  • Use the Fate Motif as a bass line during some of the scalar passages to represent the lightning flash.
  • Use chord progressions to represent the thunder that comes after the lightning(this is what I mean when I say that the octaves are slow in chords)
  • Have the melody in the right hand outside of scalar passages be staccato to represent the rainfall
  • Under the staccato melody, use fast octaves to give a sense of turbulence, which is very fitting for a storm
  • Use stark dynamic contrast between passages representing thunder and lightning and passages representing rain
  • Creschendo to a loud dynamic
  • Suddenly get quieter
  • Presto tempo(mine is actually on the slow end of Presto, at 160 BPM)

Here is the piece as it is so far. Sound ends at about 1:25 in the MP3 just so you know. Does it sound stormy to you with all the octaves, 16th notes, and the Presto tempo?

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It sounds fast and very pulsating, what I would add to is a bit of variation in the rhythm, alternating between which hand has random stops. Almost like a panning effect, Overall I like the sound.

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30 minutes ago, SilverWolf said:

It sounds fast and very pulsating, what I would add to is a bit of variation in the rhythm, alternating between which hand has random stops. Almost like a panning effect, Overall I like the sound.

 

So you're suggesting that instead of always having the right hand play staccato while the left hand plays octaves underneath, that maybe, in those sections where I play the staccato melody twice before I reach a scalar passage, first it should be played the way I have it written with the right hand playing staccato and the left hand playing octaves, then at the repeat, the hands should switch roles so that now the staccato melody is in the left hand and the octaves are in the right hand?

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More so like a few random pauses in the right hand staccato section. The left hand sounds on point with the octaves timing, but a bit of syncopation in the right hand would add to that, making the staccato articulation that much more dynamic.

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