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The Arcana (Vol. 1)

Noah Brode

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Hello! This is a suite of seven miniatures for string quartet inspired by the illustrations of the Major Arcana of the Rider-Waite tarot card deck, first published in 1910. I don't personally believe in fortune-telling (though there's no judgment from me if you do), but the illustrations in this deck of cards are simply gorgeous.

There are 22 Major Arcana in all, from Number 0 (The Fool) to Number 21 (The World), so I decided to split up the work into three volumes. The Fool (No. 0) will make an appearance as the introduction for each volume, since this card typically is used to represent the person receiving a tarot card reading.

This first volume is roughly 10 minutes long, in 7 movements of various lengths. Form and harmony are in a looser style than I'm normally accustomed to writing in. I tried to write in a style that could be considered 'timeless', if that makes sense. This is a first draft; there may be errors in the score. Any and all feedback is welcome. The MP3 and score were produced with MuseScore 3. Thanks for listening!

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@Noah Brode

It's funny that I find this piece based on tarot cards seeing as i'm playing Persona 5 and a lot of the characters are based of these same tarot cards. Nice piece, here are a few things to think about!


1. That ostinato in 7/4 should be notated differently. The 14 eighth notes all barred together just look weird and difficult to keep up with? Why not separate that by the beat you want, like 3, 3, 3, 3, 2., or maybe even better a 9/8 and and 5/8. I'm just not sure 7/4 makes sense.

2. Perfect fifths on string instruments like at measure 38 are often hard to play because the fingering is weird, so you may have some real issues trying to stay in tune in that passage. If you absolutely want to have it like that, the ensemble will try to make it work, but there might be some sloppiness there. Some glissandos in that section might sound a bit broken because they will have to cross over the strings to get them.

3. At mm 157, do you want the trill to just be on the down beat or continue through out the two measures? I would extend a line through both measures if the later is the case.

4. At 161 the double flats are just unnecessary. I understand it's important for the sake of harmony, but I would rather just see notes rather than waste time trying to translate all of that, moreover, perhaps you can just avoid changing the key signature so suddenly. Just change the signature at 167 rather than have so many, I'm not sure it necessary between such as small space, even if you are really modulating.

Nice piece! would love to hear it with real instruments!

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@Morgri Thanks for listening and reviewing! All of your comments are on-point.

1. I think I'm going to keep it in 7/4 but divide up the eighth note groups in a way that matches the rhythm (3,3,3,3,2 as you mentioned), so thanks for the tip there. Never even occurred to me.

2. This is really great advice. I'm not a string player so I've basically been operating under the oversimplified principle that any interval of a fifth or larger is OK with double stops. It's a shame because I like to use quintal stacks (which I think also happens later in this set, in 'Hierophant') and this seemed like a perfect way of doing that. I'll have to read more about how this would actually be accomplished on the instruments... 

3. Got it, thanks!

4. Fair point 😅 I have a tendency to over-modulate, like even when the tonal center is only staying in a certain place for a few measures. My thinking was that it would be easier for performers to 'get' what was going on in my head if I did that... but you bring up a really good counterpoint. 

Thanks again for your review and kind words! I honestly really appreciate the level of detail.

I would also love to hear it live, haha 😄

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