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Not Yet Lost (a Piano Sonata)


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I started this music in Spring of 2016, during a difficult time in my life. It took me three years, on and off, to finally finish it. During that time my second son was born, and I changed careers. So this music guided me through many life experiences, and was in turn inspired by those life experiences. As a result the sonata takes the listener on a real journey through my wants and hopes and dreams and emotions. It’s a tour of my psyche.

This music is riddled with hope. It’s everywhere you turn in this sonata. It’s the main theme of the whole damn piece. Turns out my psyche must have a lot of hope in it.

Oh there’s other themes too: love and healing and time and growth. They all wind around each other, they are all intertwined.

This sonata is also really dang long. I started to say something, then had more to say, then more and more and more. The story takes its time to unfold. If you listen to this whole piece, you will drink deeply from my well of creativity.

I hope this music inspires and touches you.

All feedback is welcome!

 

Layout of the piece:

Movement 1: Lovejail

Movement 2: Looking for a Sunset Bird in Winter

Movement 3: Not Yet Lost (Theme and Variations)

-Theme: Mazurek Dąbrowskiego

-Variation 1: Amoroso

-Variation 2: Gavotte

-Variation 3: A Joyful Adventure

 

You can read about the composition process of this music here.

 

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This is a monumental work! I listened to it in its entirety to get a good idea of how things flowed. Your rhythms are fun and engaging, and I also appreciated the quirky harmonies throughout. It was certainly a pleasant journey through your psyche! It is a bit long for a forum such as this, I think, particularly if you want specific feedback. It might have helped to submit each movement separately—something like bite-sized chunks.

My overall impression is that, despite the use of compelling rhythms and rich harmonies, the movements are rather disjointed from each other. It seemed to me that each was a piece within itself. However, it is your work and you can categorize/organize it in the way you see fit. Again, it was a pleasant listen and one that I hope is rendered live in the near future!

Thank you for sharing!

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I just listened to the first movement.  It is quite fun and quirky!  The angular left hand figurations sometimes remind me of some kind of horse-trot or like a horse or donkey kicking its hind-legs. LoL  It has quite an unusual approach to dissonance, harmony and melody and always seems to throw you a curveball whenever the ear learns to expect something.  The influence of jazz seems unmistakable here.

The second movement is an interesting succession of sonorities, motives, and melodies.

The last movement is a theme and variations on the Polish National Anthem?!  I thought the point of presenting the theme to the listener is to familiarize them with the theme so that the variations can take them on a journey that ventures farther and farther from the theme while staying related somehow but here you present the theme in a quite disjointed and interrupted way, obscuring the original melody and I'm not sure the listener will be able to follow the variations without being familiar with the melody how it was originally meant to be heard.  This is a great idea however to do some variations on this theme.  I am Polish so already familiar with the theme. (=

In the first variation it's very difficult for me to recognize any semblance of the original theme.  Maybe you intended to do a very distant variation of the theme.  There are lots of pauses in the music that interrupt the flow of your ideas making it harder to follow the musical logic of this piece.

Your Gavotte does not have the traditional 4 8th note anacrusis that usually defines the beginning of Gavottes.  You can of course call your variation whatever you want but it doesn't sound very dance-like to me.  Although many composers have composed these dance forms as instrumental pieces not meant to be dance-like just as the scherzo is only marginally related to the minuet.

Your variations might be related to the original theme in some way that only you know about since you composed the piece but I can't detect how just by listening to these.  With theme and variations pieces, the fun in listening is in actually being able to hear the relation between the variations and the theme which is not accomplished here.  It sounds like you really do know what you're doing however and you're also probably an accomplished pianist.  I'm just giving you my impression of the musicality of the piece from my perspective.  You can take it or leave it of course but that's my opinion.  Thanks for sharing!

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4 hours ago, Tónskáld said:

This is a monumental work! I listened to it in its entirety to get a good idea of how things flowed. Your rhythms are fun and engaging, and I also appreciated the quirky harmonies throughout. It was certainly a pleasant journey through your psyche! It is a bit long for a forum such as this, I think, particularly if you want specific feedback. It might have helped to submit each movement separately—something like bite-sized chunks.

My overall impression is that, despite the use of compelling rhythms and rich harmonies, the movements are rather disjointed from each other. It seemed to me that each was a piece within itself. However, it is your work and you can categorize/organize it in the way you see fit. Again, it was a pleasant listen and one that I hope is rendered live in the near future!

Thank you for sharing!

 

I am so thankful that you took the time to listen through the whole piece, especially because right now I only have computerized audio. Thank you for investing your time in my music.

You are so right about the disjointed nature of each movement in relation to the others. I struggled with that as I was working on this... started to get the feeling that I was putting too much content into this music, trying to stuff too much meat into the sausage until finally it just looked unseemly. When I started out writing this, I certainly did not intend for each movement to clock in at 20 minutes, but I think the music got away from me. I just wrote and wrote and wrote until I had said everything I wanted to say, but definitely at the expense of advanced planning. The music quests and wanders and goes where it wants, and as a result the movements start to feel like independent pieces on their own... I suppose I was controlled by the music rather than controlling it. Once it was all done, I looked back over the whole thing, and said to myself, "I'm glad I wrote all this, because clearly there was something in my brain/heart that had to come out, but the next thing I write is going to be more compact, more planned, more cohesive." It's all about learning lessons as you go!

Thanks again for listening!

Edited by Seni-G
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10 minutes ago, Seni-G said:

I am so thankful that you took the time to listen through the whole piece, especially because right now I only have computerized audio. Thank you for investing your time in my music.

You are so right about the disjointed nature of each movement in relation to the others. I struggled with that as I was working on this... started to get the feeling that I was putting too much content into this music, trying to stuff too much meat into the sausage until finally it just looked unseemly. When I started out writing this, I certainly did not intend for each movement to clock in at 20 minutes, but I think the music got away from me. I just wrote and wrote and wrote until I had said everything I wanted to say, but definitely at the expense of advanced planning. The music quests and wanders and goes where it wants, and as a result the movements start to feel like independent pieces on their own... I suppose I was controlled by the music rather than controlling it. Once it was all done, I looked back over the whole thing, and said to myself, "I'm glad I wrote all this, because clearly there was something in my brain/hear that had to come out, but the next thing I write is going to be more compact, more planned, more cohesive." It's all about learning lessons as you go!

Thanks again for listening!

I think I enjoyed reading about the musical journey as much as I did listening to it! I discovered your blog and couldn't help but read entry after entry. You are (apparently) also a gifted writer of words as much as you are a writer of music!

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2 hours ago, PaperComposer said:

Your variations might be related to the original theme in some way that only you know about since you composed the piece but I can't detect how just by listening to these.  With theme and variations pieces, the fun in listening is in actually being able to hear the relation between the variations and the theme which is not accomplished here.  It sounds like you really do know what you're doing however and you're also probably an accomplished pianist.  I'm just giving you my impression of the musicality of the piece from my perspective.  You can take it or leave it of course but that's my opinion.  Thanks for sharing!

 

Thank you so very much for the feedback! I completely agree about the variations not really sounding anything like the theme. I really went back and forth about whether I should even call them variations, or come up with some new term like "inspirations" or whatever. 

This is hard to describe in words: I wanted to take the hope contained in Mazurek Dąbrowskiego, and create variations on that. In other words, the variations are not so much variations on the musical theme (melody) itself, but instead on the theme of the music: the idea that something that seems lost is actually not yet lost, a hope for the future, a hope that we can build something worth building. That's what Mazurek Dąbrowskiego expresses, and that's why I chose it, not because of the melody. I took the melody in the theme and dismantled it, and sprinkled the component parts throughout my variations, but you're right on the mark that the variations don't sound like the theme. But they do express love, hope, excitement, eagerness, etc. That's the reason why, in the end, I still called them variations... even though I knew that's not really what they are.

I really appreciate your thoughts! Cheers!

Edited by Seni-G
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@Seni-G Ah - that does clear things up quite a bit!

8 minutes ago, Seni-G said:

I really went back and forth about whether I should even call them variations, or come up with some new term like "inspirations" or whatever. 

 

That actually seems like a great idea to call them "inspirations" or some other terms could be "recreations", "reinventions", "re-generations", or "fabrications".

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3 minutes ago, PaperComposer said:

@Seni-G Ah - that does clear things up quite a bit!

That actually seems like a great idea to call them "inspirations" or some other terms could be "recreations", "reinventions", "re-generations", or "fabrications".

 

Ohh I really like those! I might just have to steal one of those. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well this is a good example of how being able to do something doesn't necessarily mean you should do it. As it so happens with many long-form pieces from people, the piece is finished much earlier than the composer realized and in the end it just ends up spinning its wheels to no effect. My brain turned off halfway through the first movement and as I started hearing the second I went ahead in the score and it just never ended, but I kept seeing new bits keep popping up over and over. There is some of it that I can attribute to a certain jazz improv influence, but there's a lot of stuff which the only explanation I can think of is that they're just ideas slapped together without much thought about what sense they make together.

 

I think the most evident sign of this is the constant general pauses that show up dotted between every segment. This stop-and-go thing is tiring to hear, specially in something that's supposed to have a coherency across a long span of time. My usual advice with stuff like this is CUT CUT CUT CUT CUT. Literally remove large sections of this, streamline as much as possible. Cut until you can't cut no more. I know that's a really harsh thing to say, but honestly, realistically, do you expect people to sit through this whole thing? Think of it in terms of a concert. Every time the music has a general pause out of nowhere (and there are MANY general pauses!), everyone is just going to think the player literally forgot the part that's supposed to come next, and then when it continues into something totally different, it completes the effect.

 

If your second movement is more than 20 minutes long I need to see a very very good reason for that, not just "i had lots of ideas!" Either you're doing something experimental or it's something for an orchestra or opera, or there are other extra-musical elements that need the time, whatever, I need an actual reason. From what I see you could've EASILY cut the second movement in two or three smaller segments. It would have made them also easier to develop and make coherent. Or, you know, just cut half the general pauses and work on actually making things transition.

 

Then the theme and variations bit is its own thing, and I, again, don't understand why this needs to be tacked on to the already enormous 20 minute second movement. The overall duration of the piece is, what, around 50 minutes? Probably an hour considering actual human performance. It's basically an entire concert on its own, so here's the question, would you sit through this hour long piece in a concert and know that it's the only thing in the program? Contrast and compare to other "established" pieces that last as long, symphonies, etc. Why are those things as long as they are? How's the material handled there? In an orchestral setting, you always have the excuse of the orchestration taking a large amount of time, since you can literally repeat many things and change the arrangement to make very different sounding music. This is also true of something like, say, a chamber symphony or even a string quartet. Nevermind stage works like Operas and Musicals, where the actual stage tempo dictates that you need a lot more music to fill up the stage actions. Even a "fast" opera is at least an hour.

 

I'd like to see a 25 minute "cut" of this work, cuz there's a lot of really cool things you start and then forget. But, as it is, maybe it's best if you just work on a new work altogether that doesn't have as much baggage.

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On 11/15/2020 at 4:06 PM, SSC said:

Well this is a good example of how being able to do something doesn't necessarily mean you should do it. As it so happens with many long-form pieces from people, the piece is finished much earlier than the composer realized and in the end it just ends up spinning its wheels to no effect. My brain turned off halfway through the first movement and as I started hearing the second I went ahead in the score and it just never ended, but I kept seeing new bits keep popping up over and over. There is some of it that I can attribute to a certain jazz improv influence, but there's a lot of stuff which the only explanation I can think of is that they're just ideas slapped together without much thought about what sense they make together.

 

I think the most evident sign of this is the constant general pauses that show up dotted between every segment. This stop-and-go thing is tiring to hear, specially in something that's supposed to have a coherency across a long span of time. My usual advice with stuff like this is CUT CUT CUT CUT CUT. Literally remove large sections of this, streamline as much as possible. Cut until you can't cut no more. I know that's a really harsh thing to say, but honestly, realistically, do you expect people to sit through this whole thing? Think of it in terms of a concert. Every time the music has a general pause out of nowhere (and there are MANY general pauses!), everyone is just going to think the player literally forgot the part that's supposed to come next, and then when it continues into something totally different, it completes the effect.

 

If your second movement is more than 20 minutes long I need to see a very very good reason for that, not just "i had lots of ideas!" Either you're doing something experimental or it's something for an orchestra or opera, or there are other extra-musical elements that need the time, whatever, I need an actual reason. From what I see you could've EASILY cut the second movement in two or three smaller segments. It would have made them also easier to develop and make coherent. Or, you know, just cut half the general pauses and work on actually making things transition.

 

Then the theme and variations bit is its own thing, and I, again, don't understand why this needs to be tacked on to the already enormous 20 minute second movement. The overall duration of the piece is, what, around 50 minutes? Probably an hour considering actual human performance. It's basically an entire concert on its own, so here's the question, would you sit through this hour long piece in a concert and know that it's the only thing in the program? Contrast and compare to other "established" pieces that last as long, symphonies, etc. Why are those things as long as they are? How's the material handled there? In an orchestral setting, you always have the excuse of the orchestration taking a large amount of time, since you can literally repeat many things and change the arrangement to make very different sounding music. This is also true of something like, say, a chamber symphony or even a string quartet. Nevermind stage works like Operas and Musicals, where the actual stage tempo dictates that you need a lot more music to fill up the stage actions. Even a "fast" opera is at least an hour.

 

I'd like to see a 25 minute "cut" of this work, cuz there's a lot of really cool things you start and then forget. But, as it is, maybe it's best if you just work on a new work altogether that doesn't have as much baggage.

 

Thank you for the feedback! You've hit the nail on the head with this one. Great advice!

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