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8 minutes ago, Mister Red said:

Lots of good ideas in this, and clearly you have a definite vision of what you want. I will add some observations that may provide a little help. I’m only metioning things that jumped out at me the most, up to bar 52.

Yikes! So much information to process here... which I'm appreciative of, but bear with me as I work through all these tips.

9 minutes ago, Mister Red said:

1) Your orchestra is so big. I wonder if it is really warranted for this piece. I know that using lots of instruments is fun, but you could also strive for an economy of means with a regular size orchestra to hone your craft.

Perhaps. I'm a minimalist and I strongly dislike using large orchestras. This one came from a "modern orchestra" suggested template, of which I shaved off around half the instruments. That being said, I agree that there are some sections that could still be trimmed... but I don't have an orchestra in mind to play this, so I don't really have the impetus to make this smaller. Appreciate the tip, though!

15 minutes ago, Mister Red said:

You have an abundance of articulation marks and hairpins. You might want to be more judicious about that. When you reach a saturation point, symbols and signs start to mean less to the musicians. Micromanaging every performance nuance is an easy thing to fall into, and all composers struggle with it unless they're lazy.

I've read conflicting things about this and I'm not sure which advice to follow. Personally, I'm not a micromanager, so my tendency is to just not notate things in the score. However, I've read that lazy composers don't take care to notate exactly how they want a sound produced. I guess I'll have a look at some more modern scores to get a better idea of how it's all done.

21 minutes ago, Mister Red said:
  • You’re notating stems in opposite directions quite a bit when it’s unnecessary. If all the voices have the same rhythm, dynamic, articulation, effect, and there is no voice crossing, just use one stem for all the notes;
  • In several places you put “1 only” where just “1.” will suffice.
  • You have some entrances here and there that do not have a dynamic.

Yes, I agree with all this and will address.

23 minutes ago, Mister Red said:
  • Upper strings, bar 14, the subito effect will come off better if you do not tie into it from bar 13. And the dotted quarter in bar 14 should be a quarter tied to an 8th, with a terminal dynamic on the 8th.
  • Bar 16 in the upper strings, the rhythmic notation needs to be fixed.

Ah, yes, I'll make these corrections, as well.

25 minutes ago, Mister Red said:

Tam-tam, bars 20 – 22, the player might be confused as to whether you wanted a roll or a hit. Plus which you have a dangling tie, which I think you meant to be an open tie. If you want a hit in 20, you can just notate a quarter and attach an open tie. And it’d be better to let the percussionist choose the mallet here, it being an abrupt forte hit, and a tam-tam is somewhat resistant to this.

I guess I don't know the difference between a dangling and open tie. And the mallet thing, if I leave it up to the percussionist, do I notate that or leave it blank?

27 minutes ago, Mister Red said:
  • In bar 22, you have floating dynamic markings, i.e., not clearly associated with any metric unit.
  • The bassoon notation in 23 is confusing. It looks like you could just get rid of “1 only” and allow bassoon 2 hold onto that G, unless I’m misunderstanding your intention.

Oversights on my part. Thanks for pointing those out!

28 minutes ago, Mister Red said:
  • Bar 24, Notation: those phrase marks on the cellos col legno should be deleted. And instead of the molto marcato symbols, you could have the resting divisi play just those notes that you now have marked as accented, but…
  • Bar 24, Orchestration: I don’t know why you want only half on the col legno anyway, as it is such a slight effect in any case. The timp part is going to obscure it, plus which, the timp and harp part here is contradictory to the col legno. You’d be better off having all the cellos play the col legno,and have the timp play with wood mallets. The harp at the very low range has a very long decay, so it’d be better to mark the harp notes staccato and include the technique text “dampen.” Again, otherwise you’ll have an ill-defined texture between that and the other stuff you’ve got going on down there.

Wasn't sure how overbearing the entire cello section would be playing col legno, but I understand your point about the competing timpani and harp. Great advice about dampening and "staccato-ing" the harp, I'll definitely do that! 

As to the marcato, I envisioned those notes being struck slightly harder and longer than the others, hence the notation. How might that effect be notated?

34 minutes ago, Mister Red said:

Any non ordinary manner of playing that is only indicated by technique text should be repeated on each new stave in parentheses (e.g., pizz., col legno, sord., etc.)

Did not know that. Thank you!

34 minutes ago, Mister Red said:
  • Harp, bar 28, the Gb pedal indication needs to be vertically aligned with the note to which it applies.
  • Bass Drum, bar 47, secco is contradictary to tieing the note into the following downbeat.
  • Violins, bar 48, the phrase marks are way too long. At most you’d only put eigtht of those notes under one bow, but four would would be better.
  • Timps, bars 51 & 52, the dynamic markings are an example of notation that is way too fussy, plus which the two seccos. You can mark the timps staccato for that.

Yes, I'll address those issues, as well. Thanks for pointing them out! If you find any more, feel free to let me know!

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1 hour ago, Tónskáld said:

However, I've read that lazy composers don't take care to notate exactly how they want a sound produced.

That's what I meant. In other words, I was remarking that you are very far from being lazy. Sorry if I was not clear there. I meant it as a compliment.

Anyway, regarding the balance between having enough notation but without overdoing it, it can definitely be tricky. And it can be made worse by the fact that all the things professional musicians know to do, the software that plays your samples back doesn't know to do, so when you're writing at a computer, you tend to put in more notation to give you more what you're after. There are so many performance nuances that accomplished musicians put into a performance that notation doesn't even exist for, and they're accomplished at understanding what the music needs as long as the context is clear and you've made them understand what you're after.

And be careful looking at modern scores. Some are well balanced in their approach, and some are not. Moreover, one composer's preference or one publisher's house style is not necessarily the only way or the best way to write something, so comparing an array of sources is necessary. The best guide for some things, many things, is the players themselves, whenever you are around them. I have yet to meet one that doesn't tell me even more than I asked about.

As an example of what you can learn from musicians for example, some timpanists (not all) prefer to be told what the composer wants rather than how to do it, unless it is a particular effect. So, they might rather see terms of technique or expression such as "pointed," "dark," "dry," etc., rather than "hard mallets," "soft mallets," etc. There are things timpanists can do without even changing mallets to affect the tone, articulation and decay. Placing the strike points closer together or farther apart, playing a couple of inches nearer the edge or nearer the center, legato stroke vs. staccato stroke, plus which there is more to mallet design than just the hardness of the head. But that also does NOT mean that mallet indications should be avoided. Just trying to provide examples of ways musicians think about things.

Or, with harpists, they don't really need some of the phrase marks that composers add. Many will tell you that SOME of the phrase marks are superfluous and just clutter up the score.

I'll give a couple of examples of superfluous articulation marks in your score.

In bar 17, low brass, those molto marcato marks. The low brass are already going to do that, so just writing marc. next to the dynamic is sufficient.

In bar 19, trumpets, the marcato accent is unnecessary on account of the context, tempo, dynamic, the nature of trumpet articulation, and since it is a standalone note. Musicians will tell you that the symbols become less meaningful once they reach a certain saturation. But I should say, so you don't misunderstand me, you didn't overdo it everywhere or in every instance. And the desire to communicate your intentions to the musicians is a good one.

Bar 52, trumpets don't need the a2, as it was already clarified a couple bars prior. In that same bar, low brass staccatissimo mark is contrary to the duration. The duration should just mirror what the trumpets have there, an 8th. And if you want it short, a staccato dot is all you're gonna need for those instruments there. And if you do put a staccato dot, you should probably put on in the trumpets on that same metric location to unify the effect.

To a couple of your questions:

A dangling tie looks like the note was meant to be tied into another note, but that the note was never entered. An open tie should only be as long as few spaces.

The cellos col legno beginning at bar 24, at pp that effect is barely going to be there anyway. You're mostly just making it thinner, and col legno is a very transparent effect in and of itself. You've just come off of a loud part, and you always need to guard against something sounding anemic in a context like the one you've got going. But like I say, if you want them divisi, then you're better off using the lower divisi to play just the notes you want accented, in which case you're orchestrating the effect in addition to notating it. Irrespective of that decision, the notation will be less cluttered if you toss the unnecessary phrase marks, and the staccato dots too, since a col legno tap is already as short as it gets. So, just a regular marcato (not molto marcato*) accent on the desired notes is all you need.

(*You're overusing molto marcato accents throughout the part of the score I saw, which means that when you really need a molto marcato you probably won't get one.)

Further...

A lot of your triplets are not notated as such.

It looks like you have a buzz roll or Penderecki tremolo sign on the 8th-note of your cymbals part in bar 52.

Red alert on the Contrabassoon from 59 to 62: No can do. The pp at that range isn't possible, much less the extended diminuendo to niente. Even for the bassoon right before that, the pp is questionable. Tchaikovsky just barely gets by with pp down there in the opening to his 6th symphony.

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1 hour ago, Mister Red said:

That's what I meant. In other words, I was remarking that you are very far from being lazy. Sorry if I was not clear there. I meant it as a compliment.

Anyway, regarding the balance between having enough notation but without overdoing it, it can definitely be tricky. And it can be made worse by the fact that all the things professional musicians know to do, the software that plays your samples back doesn't know to do, so when you're writing at a computer, you tend to put in more notation to give you more what you're after. There are so many performance nuances that accomplished musicians put into a performance that notation doesn't even exist for, and they're accomplished at understanding what the music needs as long as the context is clear and you've made them understand what you're after.

And be careful looking at modern scores. Some are well balanced in their approach, and some are not. Moreover, one composer's preference or one publisher's house style is not necessarily the only way or the best way to write something, so comparing an array of sources is necessary. The best guide for some things, many things, is the players themselves, whenever you are around them. I have yet to meet one that doesn't tell me even more than I asked about.

As an example of what you can learn from musicians for example, some timpanists (not all) prefer to be told what the composer wants rather than how to do it, unless it is a particular effect. So, they might rather see terms of technique or expression such as "pointed," "dark," "dry," etc., rather than "hard mallets," "soft mallets," etc. There are things timpanists can do without even changing mallets to affect the tone, articulation and decay. Placing the strike points closer together or farther apart, playing a couple of inches nearer the edge or nearer the center, legato stroke vs. staccato stroke, plus which there is more to mallet design than just the hardness of the head. But that also does NOT mean that mallet indications should be avoided. Just trying to provide examples of ways musicians think about things.

Or, with harpists, they don't really need some of the phrase marks that composers add. Many will tell you that SOME of the phrase marks are superfluous and just clutter up the score.

I'll give a couple of examples of superfluous articulation marks in your score.

In bar 17, low brass, those molto marcato marks. The low brass are already going to do that, so just writing marc. next to the dynamic is sufficient.

In bar 19, trumpets, the marcato accent is unnecessary on account of the context, tempo, dynamic, the nature of trumpet articulation, and since it is a standalone note. Musicians will tell you that the symbols become less meaningful once they reach a certain saturation. But I should say, so you don't misunderstand me, you didn't overdo it everywhere or in every instance. And the desire to communicate your intentions to the musicians is a good one.

Bar 52, trumpets don't need the a2, as it was already clarified a couple bars prior. In that same bar, low brass staccatissimo mark is contrary to the duration. The duration should just mirror what the trumpets have there, an 8th. And if you want it short, a staccato dot is all you're gonna need for those instruments there. And if you do put a staccato dot, you should probably put on in the trumpets on that same metric location to unify the effect.

To a couple of your questions:

A dangling tie looks like the note was meant to be tied into another note, but that the note was never entered. An open tie should only be as long as few spaces.

The cellos col legno beginning at bar 24, at pp that effect is barely going to be there anyway. You're mostly just making it thinner, and col legno is a very transparent effect in and of itself. You've just come off of a loud part, and you always need to guard against something sounding anemic in a context like the one you've got going. But like I say, if you want them divisi, then you're better off using the lower divisi to play just the notes you want accented, in which case you're orchestrating the effect in addition to notating it. Irrespective of that decision, the notation will be less cluttered if you toss the unnecessary phrase marks, and the staccato dots too, since a col legno tap is already as short as it gets. So, just a regular marcato (not molto marcato*) accent on the desired notes is all you need.

(*You're overusing molto marcato accents throughout the part of the score I saw, which means that when you really need a molto marcato you probably won't get one.)

Further...

A lot of your triplets are not notated as such.

It looks like you have a buzz roll or Penderecki tremolo sign on the 8th-note of your cymbals part in bar 52.

Red alert on the Contrabassoon from 59 to 62: No can do. The pp at that range isn't possible, much less the extended diminuendo to niente. Even for the bassoon right before that, the pp is questionable. Tchaikovsky just barely gets by with pp down there in the opening to his 6th symphony.

 

Thank you for spending so much time on this. I'm sure you have much better things to do, yet the attention and care you've given to my lowly little composition warms my heart. I'm excited to implement some of these changes!

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5 minutes ago, Tónskáld said:

Thank you for spending so much time on this. I'm sure you have much better things to do, yet the attention and care you've given to my lowly little composition warms my heart. I'm excited to implement some of these changes!

You're welcome. Gave me something relaxing to do for half an hour this afternoon. Can't go anywhere. Have no jobs to work on. Banks are closed today so I can't commit armed robbery. Etc.

Best wishes for your piece.

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Very fascinating piece! I especially liked the harp and strings at the beginning of the second movement (starting at measure 110). I wondered if I might ask you a technical question related to this? 

The harmony from m. 110-112 suggests F Lydian to me, and changes several times from m. 113-118. However, the harp continues the same figure in F Lydian, without seeming to adjust to the changes that occur in the strings. I was curious why you decided to keep the harp the same? Not to suggest there is anything wrong with it, I'm just curious what your thought process was.

I also noticed in m. 119-120 there are some accidentals in the harp that are not necessary (the naturals on beats 3 and 4 of each measure). And also m. 120 in the Cello has some extra rests in the second voice that can be removed.

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2 hours ago, gmm said:

The harmony from m. 110-112 suggests F Lydian to me, and changes several times from m. 113-118. However, the harp continues the same figure in F Lydian, without seeming to adjust to the changes that occur in the strings. I was curious why you decided to keep the harp the same? Not to suggest there is anything wrong with it, I'm just curious what your thought process was.

That is a very perceptive question, and I'm glad you asked it! 

The short answer is that the harp doesn't handle key changes very quickly and I had to ask myself whether changing the pedals—and therefore increasing the difficulty for the harpist—was really worth the new sounds it would create. I decided I would go easy on the harpist.

Yes, the harp is tuned to an F lydian scale. This is only because it couldn't accommodate the 8-note scale I was using, so I had to omit one of the notes. The strings continue on in the same "key" while the harp maintains its lydian tuning.

(As a point of information I should mention that the scale I used has intervals of 1/2 step, 1/2 step, 1/2 step, 2 steps, 1/2 step, 1/2 step, 1/2 step, 2 steps. This means it can only be transposed 6 times, 4 of which you were able to hear in this symphony.)

3 hours ago, gmm said:

I also noticed in m. 119-120 there are some accidentals in the harp that are not necessary (the naturals on beats 3 and 4 of each measure). And also m. 120 in the Cello has some extra rests in the second voice that can be removed.

Yes, thank you for the feedback! I'll make those changes in the score.

Thanks for taking the time to listen!

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Posted (edited)

 

16 hours ago, Tónskáld said:

The short answer is that the harp doesn't handle key changes very quickly and I had to ask myself whether changing the pedals—and therefore increasing the difficulty for the harpist—was really worth the new sounds it would create. I decided I would go easy on the harpist.

I woul d think a few pedal changes would not be too much to ask of your average harpist. Consider the below from Pines of Rome (three bars before Rehearsal 16 in the 3rd Movement). The last measure alone would require four pedal changes. 

 

1801430533_PiniDiRomaHarp.thumb.PNG.b3524ca3c68edd8a7d2ed6a3cdb78237.PNG

 

For example, you could have the D pedal in the sharp position during m. 110-112, then in m. 113 switch the B pedal to the flat position and play D-sharp (enharmonic to E-flat) in the arpeggio. Then you could switch the B pedal back to natural in measure 116. It looks a little weird on paper but I think it should work. See below:Harp.thumb.png.f007da06a5ec80c9ec5aedf265476ef0.png

 

Or however you would like to do it. I think something like this might add a little "shimmer" to this section.

I hope I'm not out of line in suggesting this, I merely offer this out of appreciation for the wonderful piece you wrote. It's your composition, you are of course free to completely disregard everything some random stranger on the internet said.

 

16 hours ago, Tónskáld said:

(As a point of information I should mention that the scale I used has intervals of 1/2 step, 1/2 step, 1/2 step, 2 steps, 1/2 step, 1/2 step, 1/2 step, 2 steps. This means it can only be transposed 6 times, 4 of which you were able to hear in this symphony.)

Like this? This is Messiaen's seventh mode of limited transposition, correct? Just want to make sure I understand.

717695880_ModeofLimitedTransposition.PNG.468f86eb31e9c2ea2b63799f91ff331c.PNG

Edited by gmm
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Aw, thank you again for all the time and effort you've put into this! The changes you suggest are very intriguing; I'll check to see if the proposed notes "obey" the scale I was using (I can't remember which transposition I was in at the beginning of that movement).

19 hours ago, gmm said:

I hope I'm not out of line in suggesting this, I merely offer this out of appreciation for the wonderful piece you wrote. It's your composition, you are of course free to completely disregard everything some random stranger on the internet said.

I don't think you're out of line at all! You've been very gracious and respectful in your comments—plus, I think there is merit to what you're suggesting. I haven't written much for harp so any suggestions are always very appreciated.

19 hours ago, gmm said:

Like this? This is Messiaen's seventh mode of limited transposition, correct? Just want to make sure I understand.

Close! The scale I used is actually Messiaen's fourth mode.

Hey, thanks again for the feedback. I really do appreciate it!

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1 hour ago, Tónskáld said:

Aw, thank you again for all the time and effort you've put into this! The changes you suggest are very intriguing; I'll check to see if the proposed notes "obey" the scale I was using (I can't remember which transposition I was in at the beginning of that movement).

And by all means, experiment and come up with something you like. There's nothing special about what I came up with. My main point is that the harp is more than capable of a few adjustments to tuning, even while playing, so that shouldn't keep your piece from sounding the way you want it to sound. 

 

1 hour ago, Tónskáld said:

I don't think you're out of line at all! You've been very gracious and respectful in your comments—plus, I think there is merit to what you're suggesting. I haven't written much for harp so any suggestions are always very appreciated.

I found this link about the harp when verifying some of the points in my above post. It has a ton of great information about writing for the harp. 

https://www.harpspectrum.org/harpworks/composing_for_harp/composing_for_harp.shtml

 

1 hour ago, Tónskáld said:

Close! The scale I used is actually Messiaen's fourth mode.

The below is from Wikipedia, is this the mode you used? Sorry, I must have just misunderstood from your original post. This is a style of writing I haven't experimented with much, so I'm always interested in understanding the thought process behind the composers who use it. 

image.thumb.png.a26de823fcf5baa54ea6ae9fc418405e.png

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mode_of_limited_transposition#Messiaen's_list

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53 minutes ago, gmm said:

I found this link about the harp when verifying some of the points in my above post. It has a ton of great information about writing for the harp. 

https://www.harpspectrum.org/harpworks/composing_for_harp/composing_for_harp.shtml

Very helpful! I've only read a few paragraphs and I'm already better educated!

54 minutes ago, gmm said:

The below is from Wikipedia, is this the mode you used? Sorry, I must have just misunderstood from your original post. This is a style of writing I haven't experimented with much, so I'm always interested in understanding the thought process behind the composers who use it. 

image.thumb.png.a26de823fcf5baa54ea6ae9fc418405e.png

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mode_of_limited_transposition#Messiaen's_list

Yes, that's the one! I've written several pieces in this mode (check out the more recent Tone Poem as a more lyrical example) and have been surprised at how pleasant-sounding these symmetrical scales can be. It introduces a very different way of managing chord progressions, since the PAC and IAC are functionally absent in these harmonies, and I've quite enjoyed mangling my way through transpositions on the diminished fifth rather than the perfect fourth or fifth. It's new and different to my brain and ears, but I find it exciting, experimenting with what chords and progressions make the pieces flow the most naturally.

Tthat's enough geeking out from me for now, lol. Again, I seriously appreciate your feedback and look forward to your thoughts and comments!

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On 6/27/2020 at 12:35 PM, Tónskáld said:

Yes, that's the one! I've written several pieces in this mode (check out the more recent Tone Poem as a more lyrical example) and have been surprised at how pleasant-sounding these symmetrical scales can be. It introduces a very different way of managing chord progressions, since the PAC and IAC are functionally absent in these harmonies, and I've quite enjoyed mangling my way through transpositions on the diminished fifth rather than the perfect fourth or fifth. It's new and different to my brain and ears, but I find it exciting, experimenting with what chords and progressions make the pieces flow the most naturally.

Who said the harmony has to be Functional? 😉 

On 6/27/2020 at 12:35 PM, Tónskáld said:

Tthat's enough geeking out from me for now, lol. Again, I seriously appreciate your feedback and look forward to your thoughts and comments!

Thank you for sharing. If I find some time I'll look deeper into some other sections that jump out at me.

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On 6/26/2020 at 3:39 PM, gmm said:

 

I woul d think a few pedal changes would not be too much to ask of your average harpist. Consider the below from Pines of Rome (three bars before Rehearsal 16 in the 3rd Movement). The last measure alone would require four pedal changes. 

 

1801430533_PiniDiRomaHarp.thumb.PNG.b3524ca3c68edd8a7d2ed6a3cdb78237.PNG

 

For example, you could have the D pedal in the sharp position during m. 110-112, then in m. 113 switch the B pedal to the flat position and play D-sharp (enharmonic to E-flat) in the arpeggio. Then you could switch the B pedal back to natural in measure 116. It looks a little weird on paper but I think it should work. See below:Harp.thumb.png.f007da06a5ec80c9ec5aedf265476ef0.png

 

Or however you would like to do it. I think something like this might add a little "shimmer" to this section.

I hope I'm not out of line in suggesting this, I merely offer this out of appreciation for the wonderful piece you wrote. It's your composition, you are of course free to completely disregard everything some random stranger on the internet said.

 

Like this? This is Messiaen's seventh mode of limited transposition, correct? Just want to make sure I understand.

717695880_ModeofLimitedTransposition.PNG.468f86eb31e9c2ea2b63799f91ff331c.PNG

 

 

This works well!!!!!!!! Awesome work here!

 

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