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Crisis in the City for Coloratura and Orchestra


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One of a set of 5 contemporary pieces written for wordless voice and orchestra - in this case the voice acts as a solo. In some others it's integrated as an instrument. Medium-sized orchestra: double winds, triple brass, 4 horns, guitar, percussion and strings.

Originally the set was titled Crisis in the City but now just this piece carries the title.

Atonal, through composed - beware if you don't like high voices.

Not much use posting a score as it runs to 28 staves which would make it awkward to read on a small screen. 

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From the title I assume that you don't have an aversion to adjectives such as "creepy" being used to describe your work?  I do have to say the brass chords in the beginning sound quite urban.  You use a large instrumentation but only very sparsely at any one spot which is a great approach.  The voice makes its entrance amidst a flurry of activity from the percussion which sounds almost like some kind of collision took place.  Sometimes the chords in the brass imitate car horns to me (1:51).  I love the melodic interplay between the solo voice and other instruments such as guitar momentarily taking over the melody (1:29).  Throughout you quite often give the strings some well placed glissandi - to me sounding like they represent intrigue.  The melody for the voice is quite lyrical and at times can seem like it's imitating screaming or at least surprise (some of the more staccato notes sound quite emotional).  It certainly does sound like a crisis and nothing seems resolved by the end of the piece - the final chord being just a restatement of hopelessness.  Quite a busy piece saturated with plenty of meaning.  Nice job!

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Damn. Pretty cool piece

I like how the strings sort of shine through in some areas

Was this a live recording? or digital I can barely tell

But yeah a cool challenging listen, would be interested in hearing more

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On 9/28/2020 at 6:39 PM, PaperComposer said:

From the title I assume that you don't have an aversion to adjectives such as "creepy" being used to describe your work?  I do have to say the brass chords in the beginning sound quite urban.  You use a large instrumentation but only very sparsely at any one spot which is a great approach.  The voice makes its entrance amidst a flurry of activity from the percussion which sounds almost like some kind of collision took place.  Sometimes the chords in the brass imitate car horns to me (1:51).  I love the melodic interplay between the solo voice and other instruments such as guitar momentarily taking over the melody (1:29).  Throughout you quite often give the strings some well placed glissandi - to me sounding like they represent intrigue.  The melody for the voice is quite lyrical and at times can seem like it's imitating screaming or at least surprise (some of the more staccato notes sound quite emotional).  It certainly does sound like a crisis and nothing seems resolved by the end of the piece - the final chord being just a restatement of hopelessness.  Quite a busy piece saturated with plenty of meaning.  Nice job!

 

Many thanks for listening all through and your comments - most appreciated. Pleasing that it made sense. It's an impressionist piece so is to some extent reliant on timbre and a varied texture. Also pleasing that you felt the lack of resolution. Rather it's as if the listener-posing-as-observer turns away.

It was quite difficult to get it balanced (the mixing) let alone writing it!

Again, thank you.

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3 hours ago, marsbars said:

Damn. Pretty cool piece

I like how the strings sort of shine through in some areas

Was this a live recording? or digital I can barely tell

But yeah a cool challenging listen, would be interested in hearing more

 

Thank you for your comment and listening through.

It's digital all right though I'd love to hear it performed live. I might just put a score + set of parts together to send to the BBC. Though it's atonal I don't anticipate performance difficulties. The voice represented the humanity in the turmoil.

Glad that the mood of the piece came across.  

Cheers,

Quinn.

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Very interesting. Lots of cool sonorities and effects used throughout. Nicely done!

On 9/28/2020 at 6:47 AM, Quinn said:

Atonal, through composed - beware if you don't like high voices.

Atonal can mean a lot of things. Do you have some kind underlying structure for how you organized the harmony? Like twelve tone rows, etc.? Just asking out of curiosity.

 

On 9/28/2020 at 6:47 AM, Quinn said:

Not much use posting a score as it runs to 28 staves which would make it awkward to read on a small screen

Why not? I'd be interested to analyze a few parts I liked.

 

14 hours ago, Quinn said:

It's digital all right though I'd love to hear it performed live.

Sounds like VSL, correct?

Thanks for sharing , I enjoyed listening!

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On 9/28/2020 at 5:47 AM, Quinn said:

Not much use posting a score as it runs to 28 staves which would make it awkward to read on a small screen.

I'm actually really curious what you did in a few spots, I'd love to see the score no matter how it looks. Even posting a midi would be cool too. I love the sparse texture in the orchestra, it gives a very unpredictable color palette with such a wide range of choices in timbre. I'm also interested in your approach to atonality. I would have loved one or two tutti passages, but great work overall. I've never written vocal passages of that nature, very intriguing to hear!

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On 10/1/2020 at 6:08 PM, Thatguy v2.0 said:

I'm actually really curious what you did in a few spots, I'd love to see the score no matter how it looks. Even posting a midi would be cool too. I love the sparse texture in the orchestra, it gives a very unpredictable color palette with such a wide range of choices in timbre. I'm also interested in your approach to atonality. I would have loved one or two tutti passages, but great work overall. I've never written vocal passages of that nature, very intriguing to hear!

 

 

On 10/1/2020 at 3:23 AM, gmm said:

Very interesting. Lots of cool sonorities and effects used throughout. Nicely done!

Atonal can mean a lot of things. Do you have some kind underlying structure for how you organized the harmony? Like twelve tone rows, etc.? Just asking out of curiosity.

 

Why not? I'd be interested to analyze a few parts I liked.

 

Sounds like VSL, correct?

Thanks for sharing , I enjoyed listening!

 

I don't know what the F's going on with this site. It's really quite annoying. Not only is there nothing on how to split up a quote using BB code but I replied in full to gmm, refreshed the page and my post disappeared. 

Now I come back to reply to thatguy and it's done a multiple quote thing.

What the heck is going on. 

I'll sign out, sign in again and see if it clears the stuff.

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On 10/1/2020 at 3:23 AM, gmm said:

Very interesting. Lots of cool sonorities and effects used throughout. Nicely done!

Atonal can mean a lot of things. Do you have some kind underlying structure for how you organized the harmony? Like twelve tone rows, etc.? Just asking out of curiosity.

 

Why not? I'd be interested to analyze a few parts I liked.

 

Sounds like VSL, correct?

Thanks for sharing , I enjoyed listening!

 

Let's try again..... I'll be as brief as I can in case I lose my reply again.

Sincere thanks for listening and your comments.

I called it atonal in the general usage of the word, the a = not, as I know a lot of composers here work with keys and formal classical structures. They may feel uncomfortable with this more free approach. There's no special organisation of the harmony except perhaps an avoidance of unison doublings (which I look on as equivalent to consecutive octaves unless a whole passage is in unison). I use 7ths a lot, adjusted diminished chords and sometimes the Locrian mode as a basis. Just ordinary stuff really to avoid key although there are moments of tonal centre.

The score is a problem because my daw's notation view is pathetic. I have no control over pdf production. It'll print a max of 10 staves per page. With this score each page would take up 3 pdf pages, hence being such a nuisance. I sometimes do a short score of each instrumental section. One day I'll buy notation software but it's appalling value for money (to me). I can't go with musescore as it seems to object to multiples of the same instrument on one stave.

But...thanks again for your most encouraging comments.

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On 10/1/2020 at 6:08 PM, Thatguy v2.0 said:

I'm actually really curious what you did in a few spots, I'd love to see the score no matter how it looks. Even posting a midi would be cool too. I love the sparse texture in the orchestra, it gives a very unpredictable color palette with such a wide range of choices in timbre. I'm also interested in your approach to atonality. I would have loved one or two tutti passages, but great work overall. I've never written vocal passages of that nature, very intriguing to hear!

 

Many thanks for your comments and listening. 

I suppose it's in the nature of an impressionist piece that you have a broad range of timbres that you draw on according to the changing mood of the piece. The voice in this piece was meant to be the connection with humanity though in recent things I've included the voice as an instrument, inspired by the slow movement of Nielsen's 3rd Symphony.

Scores are a problem with my daw. As I mentioned to gmm up there it's refuses to let me decide how many staves I can put on a page. It means you'd have to keep flicking up and down between 3 pdf pages per page of score. The orchestra isn't that big but in the former VSL player version, legatos are monophonic so sweeps of à3 on, say, violins 1 take 3 staves. It changed with the VSL pro player but converting one to the other is a bit of a chore. I was thinking of writing this one out by hand which I could then photograph to turn into a pdf. I haven't yet decided whether to submit it for performance because of the unusual resources.

Thanks again for listening. 

Cheers.

 

Edited by Quinn
crikey, even the edit button's been hidden away.
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1 hour ago, Quinn said:

I can't go with musescore as it seems to object to multiples of the same instrument on one stave.

From my personal experience with MuseScore 3 you can have up to 4 separate voices on one staff although I don't know how feasible it would be for each of those voices to have their own dynamics...

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I love this. It has (to my ear) influences of Berg and his óperas, Strauss, .... but also yourself. The treatment of the brass is beautiful and all the colors.

The role of the soprano is difficult not only because of the atonal intonation but also of the high register. I think she must take the high Eb which is good for a coloratura soprano.

The result is quite theatrical, even there are no words. Thanks for sharing.

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On 10/3/2020 at 8:02 AM, Quinn said:

The score is a problem because my daw's notation view is pathetic. I have no control over pdf production. It'll print a max of 10 staves per page. With this score each page would take up 3 pdf pages, hence being such a nuisance. I sometimes do a short score of each instrumental section. One day I'll buy notation software but it's appalling value for money (to me). I can't go with musescore as it seems to object to multiples of the same instrument on one stave.

Can you export a MIDI file from your DAW? I can import a MIDI file into Sibelius and see what that looks like, then post the pdf on here for you. It might take a little cleaning up, but it's not a very long piece so it shouldn't be that big of a deal. If you're ok with that of course.

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On 10/4/2020 at 9:36 AM, Luis Hernández said:

I love this. It has (to my ear) influences of Berg and his óperas, Strauss, .... but also yourself. The treatment of the brass is beautiful and all the colors.

The role of the soprano is difficult not only because of the atonal intonation but also of the high register. I think she must take the high Eb which is good for a coloratura soprano.

The result is quite theatrical, even there are no words. Thanks for sharing.

 

Hello, Luis,

Thank you for your most generous comments and listening through. It's pleasing enough that it makes sense. I can 'kind of' see where the Berg connection comes from but I would never dare to compare myself with Berg whose meticulous attention to detail is beyond doubt. In fact, Lulu was my first opera and I think I sat there with my mouth open for most of it. Just a tragedy that he passed away so young. 

Yes, the coloratura would be one of the barriers to getting it performed. Jane Mannings and Edda Mosers don't grow on every tree. (Edda Moser made a beautiful job of Henze's Cantatas and though I haven't listened to them recently I suspect they had some remote influence on this piece. Your comments made me wonder why I called the set of pieces "Cantatas" even if they are wordless.

Again, thank you for listening. Much appreciated.

.

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21 hours ago, gmm said:

Can you export a MIDI file from your DAW? I can import a MIDI file into Sibelius and see what that looks like, then post the pdf on here for you. It might take a little cleaning up, but it's not a very long piece so it shouldn't be that big of a deal. If you're ok with that of course.

 

It'll take some work, cleaning out the keyswitches then grouping the instruments in their brackets; get them in the conventional order in a score. While transcribing stuff to the daw, tracks (staves) 1 to 5 from the top are strings. I'll also need to condense the number of staves.  I'll have a go later on.

Thank you for taking an interest.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 10/6/2020 at 7:23 PM, Luis Hernández said:

Just because your piece is very "dramatic" in an operatic sense. I really imagine it as part of an opera...

 

Your thoughts are giving me ideas - and I have to take care they don't run out of control. This piece was one of a set of 5 "cantatas" written over 18 months. I can't pass them off as cantatas because they're wordless. But I listened through the series last night and I bow to your perceptions. They're probably closer to opera than "music for orchestra with voice" pieces. You spotted a possibility that I didn't.

Thankfully perhaps, I have no librettist so I can't go any further now - but if I find myself in the mood I could well run up an overture, distilling such themes as there are from the pieces and pondering if better continuity could turn them (or with new material) into a larger work. For instance, along the lines of Henze's Das Floss der Medusa (a lovely work and I'm not influenced by his style at all).

Thank you.

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