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This is a tone poem inspired by a work penned by Icelandic poet Jónas Hallgrímsson in 1843. His poem speaks to the frailty of life, the uncertainties that threaten us, and the watchful eye of God. The imagery evoked here is of a lone seagull flying out across the sea under moonlight, who meets his untimely demise in the jaws of a lurking shark. The phrase "Máninn er hátt yfir sæ"—the moon is high over the sea—anchors each stanza of the poem, providing a sense of steadfastness against an otherwise bleak tale.

This I chose to be the title of the tone poem, and I hope the proceeding aural onslaught captures the evocative imagery of the source poem. Do let me know your thoughts and feelings about this work. The harmonic language is my own, but I sometimes question whether it suits its purpose in storytelling... Even if you don't feel qualifed to comment on the technicalities of the piece, your insight into the tone poem's emotional depth (or lack thereof) is just as valuable to me.

For those with more theoretical savvy, I've also attached the score and would greatly, greatly appreciate feedback regarding that. I've tried to make it as succinct as possible but I know I've overlooked things.

Thanks in advance for your thoughtful input!

 

Edited by Tónskáld
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Man I loved this piece, a lot of great things to talk about.

First of all, tone poem complete haha. Your piece was very true and idiomatic to the context your were going for. The strings especially created the sensations of waves and winds. Have you heard the piece "The Swan of Tuonela" by Sibelius? Some of the oboe and clarinet lines reminded me of the longing melodies he uses, awesome job at creating a picturesque world!

I also really enjoyed the sustained dynamics in the strings, great use of an instrument that can sustain forever while still keeping those lines interesting by swelling their volume. It's a nice pulse effect! The harmonics in the strings after what I can only assume was the section where our bird friend meets it's demise was really cool too. In general, what I'm getting at is you use the orchestra brilliantly to create a sparse and unsettling atmosphere. 

However, I think it would benefit you to thicken the orchestra as well in some spots. For instance, you have hits in the strings before the harmonics section I mentioned that use this chord:

F# C# G       B F      C F# B

What a cool chord to use in this moment, and it's fine as it stands. But the tuba's play the Bb (A#?) and the bassoons play B nat? It's a cool percussive effect, but I think you would get a much stronger root of the chord if they were all doubling the F# (or whatever the root of your chord is :D), and then you have all of the dissonance you want with the minor 9ths and split 5ths you desire. 

Also you mention your our own musical voice. I think that's what we are all striving for, and you have definitely developed your own unique personal style. What I would suggest is that you make that a bit more clear in your writing. I guess it just depends on what you're going for. If your plan is to have an orchestra perform this, your score looks incredibly clean and tidy. You don't need any help there! I didn't care for the giant time signature changes (no worries, just a style preference), but as I read on it grew on me. I'm more concerned with the enharmonics. The cello at one point was reading F# for a while, and then all of a sudden switched to Gb. It's just harder to follow along with, but honestly I know that most of us here aren't getting these wonderful orchestral ideas performed and we have to rely on sound samples, but for the future I would kind of map out the language and tendencies of accidentals to keep it more consistent in how you're thinking about your piece, and then if you have to import into Sibelius or Finale or whatever you use, it's much more clear to you how you want the enharmonics to appear. 

The only other thing I would watch out for is the breathing in the winds. There are several long legato passages where I would be worried about the steady stream of eighth notes, but to be fair I'm not a wind player so I would always ask their opinions on any lines I'm unsure of. More importantly, Mozart said it best when he mentioned how rests are more important then the notes themselves. I know you were going for an atonal approach, but something as simple as removing a few eighths out of a set of 16 or so will a lot of times give an easy way to create syncopation and more phrasing to the great lines you've given.

Overall, any qualms are small for me and you absolutely achieved a wonderful tone poem that had me captivated from the beginning. 

Thanks for sharing!

 

 

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5 minutes ago, Thatguy v2.0 said:

Man I loved this piece, a lot of great things to talk about.

First of all, tone poem complete haha. Your piece was very true and idiomatic to the context your were going for. The strings especially created the sensations of waves and winds. Have you heard the piece "The Swan of Tuonela" by Sibelius? Some of the oboe and clarinet lines reminded me of the longing melodies he uses, awesome job at creating a picturesque world!

That's very kind of you to say. The swaying strings were absolutely an attempt to recreate waves/wind. I have heard "The Swan of Tuonela," but only once perhaps. Sibelius in general, though, is a favorite composer of mine, so I'm tickled pink that, of all composers, this work would remind you of him!!! 

7 minutes ago, Thatguy v2.0 said:

I also really enjoyed the sustained dynamics in the strings, great use of an instrument that can sustain forever while still keeping those lines interesting by swelling their volume. It's a nice pulse effect! The harmonics in the strings after what I can only assume was the section where our bird friend meets it's demise was really cool too. In general, what I'm getting at is you use the orchestra brilliantly to create a sparse and unsettling atmosphere.

Thank you again.

9 minutes ago, Thatguy v2.0 said:

However, I think it would benefit you to thicken the orchestra as well in some spots. For instance, you have hits in the strings before the harmonics section I mentioned that use this chord:

F# C# G       B F      C F# B

What a cool chord to use in this moment, and it's fine as it stands. But the tuba's play the Bb (A#?) and the bassoons play B nat? It's a cool percussive effect, but I think you would get a much stronger root of the chord if they were all doubling the F# (or whatever the root of your chord is :D), and then you have all of the dissonance you want with the minor 9ths and split 5ths you desire. 

I will take a closer look at that. For the most part, the chords are all quartals or quintals, but I daresay they could be thickened up by doubling as you mentioned. Thanks for the tip!

10 minutes ago, Thatguy v2.0 said:

Also you mention your our own musical voice. I think that's what we are all striving for, and you have definitely developed your own unique personal style. What I would suggest is that you make that a bit more clear in your writing. I guess it just depends on what you're going for. If your plan is to have an orchestra perform this, your score looks incredibly clean and tidy. You don't need any help there! I didn't care for the giant time signature changes (no worries, just a style preference), but as I read on it grew on me. I'm more concerned with the enharmonics. The cello at one point was reading F# for a while, and then all of a sudden switched to Gb. It's just harder to follow along with, but honestly I know that most of us here aren't getting these wonderful orchestral ideas performed and we have to rely on sound samples, but for the future I would kind of map out the language and tendencies of accidentals to keep it more consistent in how you're thinking about your piece, and then if you have to import into Sibelius or Finale or whatever you use, it's much more clear to you how you want the enharmonics to appear.

Great advice once again! I'm going to sit down and go over those enharmonics with a fine-tooth comb. 'Twould be nice if we developed a better, less confusing way of indicating chromatics (cough, cough: Schoenberg), but for now I'll just have to wade through it.

15 minutes ago, Thatguy v2.0 said:

The only other thing I would watch out for is the breathing in the winds. There are several long legato passages where I would be worried about the steady stream of eighth notes, but to be fair I'm not a wind player so I would always ask their opinions on any lines I'm unsure of. More importantly, Mozart said it best when he mentioned how rests are more important then the notes themselves. I know you were going for an atonal approach, but something as simple as removing a few eighths out of a set of 16 or so will a lot of times give an easy way to create syncopation and more phrasing to the great lines you've given.

Stupid human lungs. As Beethoven once said, "Do you think I consider your wretched [lungs] when the spirit moves me?" No, in all seriousness, I do agree with you. I'll take a look at those passages. And the rest idea is brilliant. It crosses my mind sometimes when I'm composing, but I really need to use it more. Thanks for the tip!

18 minutes ago, Thatguy v2.0 said:

Overall, any qualms are small for me and you absolutely achieved a wonderful tone poem that had me captivated from the beginning. 

Thanks for sharing!

Thank you for taking the time to listen and give such in-depth feedback. That means a lot to me.

And I'm glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

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 I was going to comment how the strings created this effect of waves very well done, but I see is already taken 😉! Well If it doesn't matter, I'm going to repeat it anyways, I think you did a great job with creating a universe in a musical composition. The beginning already creates a splendidous dark feeling and you can really feel the presence of an immense sea in front of you. When the strings begin with this pattern:

ezgif.com-crop.png.1e2b5dc7e254a1f70d1038fd586ad08e.png

then immediately you feel those waves. By minute 2:10 I got goosebumps being a MIDI!! I can not imagine what would have been the feeling hearing live, and again in minute 5:30 the same, as well, I would love to hear the "storm" (or at least is what I felt when I heard it) live. Overall is super well accomplished. After the storm, then reapers the bassoon playing the two-tooo-tooo-tooo from the beginning and I think it was necessary as It have the piece more coherence (not in the bad sense though). Then in the minute 9:30 there is such a sense of "resolvance" and accomplishment that I can even see the northen lights with those cresendo and decresendo and the horn and everything and how it slowly fades out.

I think is a very well accomplished piece, lately I've been listening a lot to Sibelius (the 7, 6, 5, 2 symphonies and Tapiola) and I have to agree with @Thatguy v2.0 because it does have a flavour of late Sibelius.

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18 minutes ago, Hendrik Meniere said:

 I was going to comment how the strings created this effect of waves very well done, but I see is already taken 😉! Well If it doesn't matter, I'm going to repeat it anyways, I think you did a great job with creating a universe in a musical composition. The beginning already creates a splendidous dark feeling and you can really feel the presence of an immense sea in front of you. When the strings begin with this pattern:

ezgif.com-crop.png.1e2b5dc7e254a1f70d1038fd586ad08e.png

then immediately you feel those waves. By minute 2:10 I got goosebumps being a MIDI!! I can not imagine what would have been the feeling hearing live, and again in minute 5:30 the same, as well, I would love to hear the "storm" (or at least is what I felt when I heard it) live. Overall is super well accomplished. After the storm, then reapers the bassoon playing the two-tooo-tooo-tooo from the beginning and I think it was necessary as It have the piece more coherence (not in the bad sense though). Then in the minute 9:30 there is such a sense of "resolvance" and accomplishment that I can even see the northen lights with those cresendo and decresendo and the horn and everything and how it slowly fades out.

I think is a very well accomplished piece, lately I've been listening a lot to Sibelius (the 7, 6, 5, 2 symphonies and Tapiola) and I have to agree with @Thatguy v2.0 because it does have a flavour of late Sibelius.

What a beautiful review, Hendrik! I'm very humbled and glad that the piece evoked such images in your mind; it was my intent but I'm never exactly sure how it comes across to the "audience." You seem to have picked up on everything I was going for, and that makes me smile! 🙂  I especially like the way you described the end as "the northern lights." I wasn't specifically thinking of them when I wrote it, but it absolutely fits the picture!

Ah, here we are again at Sibelius. Being compared to such a composer is a huge compliment (to me), and I thank you for that! I've been told on a few occasions that my music has a "Nordic" sound to it, whether that's because of Nordic composers' influence or simply a similarity in our cultural values, I don't know.

Once again, thank you for this wonderful review. I love hearing what others felt during the music, and your review was particularly delightful.

Best,

Jörfi

 

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Your description heading the topic is most apt. The piece reflects the tensions, the mood, the chill very well. It's murky, dark, threatening but for all that, beautiful. The close, the way it evolves from bar 147 toward the final sustained chord before fading out completely is superb.

No point in adding to the comments already made. Just one small technical one: Bar 137, it would be difficult to get a ppp out of a bassoon playing that deep in its register. 

Excellent work. Hugely atmospheric. A pleasure to listen.

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This is an incredibly on its own, particularly in expressing the core theme of the poem of the frailty and uncertainty of life.  However, I have to say, it regards to portraying the story of the poem I'm not sure I could really "see it" due to the lush (and well done) orchestration that to me would fit a more grander scene.

 

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3 hours ago, Quinn said:

Your description heading the topic is most apt. The piece reflects the tensions, the mood, the chill very well. It's murky, dark, threatening but for all that, beautiful. The close, the way it evolves from bar 147 toward the final sustained chord before fading out completely is superb.

No point in adding to the comments already made. Just one small technical one: Bar 137, it would be difficult to get a ppp out of a bassoon playing that deep in its register. 

Excellent work. Hugely atmospheric. A pleasure to listen.

Thanks, Quinn. It was a pleasure to read your comments!

Yes, thank you for the feedback regarding the bassoon. I'll need to adjust that passage, and another one where the poor bassoonists have to give up breathing for a few minutes. I just can't seem to convince people that music is more important than breathing. 😉 

I appreciate your taking the time to listen and for the feedback.

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1 hour ago, bkho said:

This is an incredibly on its own, particularly in expressing the core theme of the poem of the frailty and uncertainty of life.  However, I have to say, it regards to portraying the story of the poem I'm not sure I could really "see it" due to the lush (and well done) orchestration that to me would fit a more grander scene.

 

 

Thank you very much for the kind words!

As I sat back and tried to listen to this piece "through the ears of others" (whatever that means), one of my concerns was that it was overdone; too grand, just like you said, for the scenes I was trying to convey. It never hurts to be more subtle, and that's a skill I'm trying to develop as a composer. Anyway, I think your concern is quite valid, and I thank you for your honesty.

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great peace, i think the playback doesn't do the piece justice! I think IRL it would sound absolutely amazing. I honestly don't even know what i would do to make it better, other people have said the right things i think. anyways, keep going and have a nice day

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20 minutes ago, Leonardo C. Núñez said:

great peace, i think the playback doesn't do the piece justice! I think IRL it would sound absolutely amazing. I honestly don't even know what i would do to make it better, other people have said the right things i think. anyways, keep going and have a nice day

Thanks, Leo! (Or what do you prefer to be called?) I appreciate your taking the time to listen and comment!

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1 hour ago, Left Unexplained said:

I wish I had the balls to make dissonant music

Let it be known forthwith that I do not enlist the services of such organs when making my music.

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19 hours ago, Left Unexplained said:

I wish I had the balls to make dissonant music

 

I make dissonant music, and i don't think i have very big balls. If you like the sound of dissonant music you should just start writing it. Maybe listen to some of the famous composers of the impressionism, neo-classical and expressionism. You can start like i am doing now, imitate them.

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46 minutes ago, Leonardo C. Núñez said:

I make dissonant music, and i don't think i have very big balls. If you like the sound of dissonant music you should just start writing it. Maybe listen to some of the famous composers of the impressionism, neo-classical and expressionism. You can start like i am doing now, imitate them.

Would y'all please stop talking about balls on my thread??? Lol.

Seriously, though, writing dissonant works of music ought to be the result of your process and not the reason. The scales I use are non-heptatonic and symmetrical, so my harmonies tend to be dissonant (lots of stacked fourths). The chords required to produce cadences (both perfect and inauthentic) don't exist in these scales, and the music comes across as eerie and dissonant in most places, or non-CPP at least.

I don't think I'm ballsy per se, but I do recommend learning how music fits together before you begin tinkering with its underpinnings.

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Here's a link to the YT video with a score. Might be easier to follow along with than downloading the PDF of the score. (Also trying to get my channel off the ground so hoping the double exposure will boost the views. 🙂 )

Thanks for watching!

 

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Hello Jórfi

Another wonderful piece! The first 3.5 minutes were particularly brilliant. Your development as a composer is amazing. I like your tonal language, and am particularly impressed by your orchestration ability.

 Otherwise, I have not very much critique to come with. Perhaps only one thing: I found the ending of the piece to be a little bit abrupt (but this is only my personal feeling).

Great work!  

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3 hours ago, panta rei said:

Hello Jórfi

 

Another wonderful piece! The first 3.5 minutes were particularly brilliant. Your development as a composer is amazing. I like your tonal language, and am particularly impressed by your orchestration ability.

 

 Otherwise, I have not very much critique to come with. Perhaps only one thing: I found the ending of the piece to be a little bit abrupt (but this is only my personal feeling).

 

Great work!  

Thank you, once again, for your kind words and encouragement.

Yes, the ending needs some adjustment, in my opinion. In my head it is much softer but I couldn't get the rendering just right in the mixer. Perhaps a real orchestra could do it better justice.

I appreciate your taking the time to comment. It means a lot!

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18 minutes ago, maestrowick said:

Bravo.  Make the Doublebass 8vb at the end!

 

Oh, good catch! I think I'll split the celli at the fifth and move the basses down an octave like you suggested. Make it sound a little more spread out.

Thank you!

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  • 3 weeks later...

I really like your ominous harmonic language.  Somehow you keep it fresh without reusing too much of the same chords (even in the beginning where you basically alternate between two chords it doesn't sound boring).  Later where you change from a chordal approach to more of a melodic one is welcome to my ears.  Great job!

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Another interesting and thought-provoking piece! You have a very unique harmonic language. Would you mind talking about some of the harmonic devices you used? It sounds like you use some more Modes of Limited Transposition?

On 6/13/2020 at 5:13 PM, Tónskáld said:

Seriously, though, writing dissonant works of music ought to be the result of your process and not the reason. The scales I use are non-heptatonic and symmetrical, so my harmonies tend to be dissonant (lots of stacked fourths). The chords required to produce cadences (both perfect and inauthentic) don't exist in these scales, and the music comes across as eerie and dissonant in most places, or non-CPP at least.

So since you don't have typical CPP cadences available, how do you handle cadences? Could you perhaps point to a few examples of how you used cadences? This is the thing I have always struggled with when listening to this kind of music. My ears are searching for some kind of harmonic resolution that never comes (unless the cadence is prepared in some other fashion, using changes in dynamics or orchestration for example), maybe because I'm so used to the typical dominant-tonic relationship. I always have trouble understanding where one phrase ends and another begins.

To give you an example, from the beginning all the way to Rehearsal A, the chords in the lower voices are pretty much entirely carried by the low strings, bassoons, and clarinets, while different voices enter and exit with the melody (the oboe, then the violins, flutes, etc.). Since the overall texture doesn't change much, it's hard for me to tell when phrases begin and end. For example, in m. 13-18: is this three separate phrases, with the flute carrying the melody in 13-14, then the oboe with a new phrase in 15-16, and a third phrase in the flute in 17-18? Or is m. 15-18 one phrase, begun by the oboe and finished by the flute, with the flute in m. 13-14 leading into this phrase? Or is it one long phrase from 13-18 passed between the flute and oboe? Since the overall texture doesn't change, and there are no dominant-tonic resolutions (unless I'm missing them), it's hard for me to tell, and this entire section kind of runs together from a phrasing standpoint, at least to my ears. Is there something I'm not hearing?

The section from Rehearsal B to C, on the other hand, has much clearer phrasing to me, which I think is due to the more varied orchestration throughout this section. After the climax at Rehearsal B, you drop the orchestration down to just a clarinet and bassoon, which prepares me to hear a new phrase starting at m. 37 when the rest of the orchestra comes in. Then at m. 41, the orchestration changes again to a much more sparse texture which tells me the last phrase ended and another one has begun. The contrast also makes it more satisfying when the rest of the orchestra returns in m. 47, indicating the start of another phrase. Overall I had a much easier time feeling where the phrases begin and end through this section than the preceding section. Even though there no harmonic cadences, the cadences occur due to changes in dynamics and orchestration. 

Please don't take any of the above as negative! This is an idiom I haven't written in, so I'm asking this for my educational purposes. Since you're a composer with a well developed language in this style, I'm interested if you have any insights that might help me listen to and understand this music better. 

 

Another thing I was curious about was how you were thinking of the rhythm in the 7/4 time signature - whenever I hear music in odd meters like this, I tend to think some kind of grouping of 2's and 3's. (For example 3-2-2, or 2-2-3, or even 3-4, for 7/4). I interpret the oboe melody at the beginning as a 3-4 in m. 5, then 4-3 in m. 6-8, was this your intent, or something else? 

 

On 6/20/2020 at 9:36 AM, Tónskáld said:

Yes, the ending needs some adjustment, in my opinion. In my head it is much softer but I couldn't get the rendering just right in the mixer. Perhaps a real orchestra could do it better justice.

I also thought the ending was a little abrupt, but I think it's because up to this point we haven't heard the Lydian sonority you used starting at Rehearsal J (unless I missed it somewhere) and it contrasts sharply with dissonant harmonies in the rest of the piece. You might try using a similar texture earlier in the piece. That way when the listener hears it at the end it will be familiar, instead of something they haven't heard yet. 

Did you make this in a DAW, or is this Sibelius playback?

 

Thanks for sharing! This is a phenomenal work and I look forward to hearing more.

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22 hours ago, PaperComposer said:

I really like your ominous harmonic language.  Somehow you keep it fresh without reusing too much of the same chords (even in the beginning where you basically alternate between two chords it doesn't sound boring).  Later where you change from a chordal approach to more of a melodic one is welcome to my ears.  Great job!

Aw, you're too kind! Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for taking the time to listen and comment!

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