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Hello again, friends.

I've been in sort of a composing funk for the past few months, lots of life stressors and, really, an utter lack of motivation to blame. I was hoping to write something on a grander scale but I had to settle for solo piano once again. You know what they say: beggars can't be choosers.

This is the opening prelude to what will likely become another suite for piano. It's written in harmonic language derived from non-heptatonic scales (my favorite, as some of you know by now), and, as such, may sound unpleasantly dissonant. The chords are quartal or quintal rather than triadic, and there's no sense of a home key. It can't quite be classifed as atonal, however, because the note pitches do play a functional role; it is probably best described as modal, which presents a listening experience unusual to ears familiar with tonal harmony. Nevertheless, I hope you find it enjoyable, or at least appreciable.

Feedback and comments are always welcome (so are any questions you may have)! Please, enjoy!

Edited by Tónskáld
name change, live recording
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4 minutes ago, PaperComposer said:

This reminds me of Bartok.  Although the themes and harmony are mostly dissonant - this has it's moments of relative consonance which I enjoyed (the B section).  Thanks for sharing!

Bartok is an idol of mine... I appreciate the likening! Thanks for taking the time to listen and provide a review—I know this isn't typically what you like to listen to.

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1 minute ago, Tónskáld said:

Bartok is an idol of mine... I appreciate the likening! Thanks for taking the time to listen and provide a review—I know this isn't typically what you like to listen to.

Well - I do like Bartok actually, it's just that his solo piano works and chamber works are horrible for me (I deplore his string quartets!).  I mostly enjoy his orchestral music however.  Just saying I think this prelude of yours could benefit from an orchestration which would also possible increase my enjoyment of it if done well.

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Not my usual cup of tea but its a fine brew nonetheless. The dissonance is harsh but not to the point that I cant listen. The bass feels creepy at times and the right hand chord stabs really convey a sense of fright. The melancholic moments help balance the anxiety really well. 

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Very nice.

This kind of harmony it's natural to me. I think it's a mistake talking all the time about consonance and dissonance. In fact, in these (and all) languages it's a matter of tension and relief, and COLOR.

On the other hand, when you take or build up a scale and use it to write a piece like this, it's not atonality. Better, as you said, modality. it's just a mode you have chosen, and you make believe it's real and coherent. And it sounds genuine, unique.

The parts are convincing.

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59 minutes ago, DarrenEngland said:

Not my usual cup of tea but its a fine brew nonetheless. The dissonance is harsh but not to the point that I cant listen. The bass feels creepy at times and the right hand chord stabs really convey a sense of fright. The melancholic moments help balance the anxiety really well. 

Thank you so much for your honest review, and for taking the time to listen! Your comments mean more to me than you probably realize...

When I play these works for friends and family, their response is much the same as yours: it evokes fear and anxiety, almost as if it were the soundtrack from a horror flick. I promise you, I wasn't writing this to scare anybody, lol. I do wish I understood why these chords elicit unease in some people but not in others. To me, these sounds are emotionally stirring, almost poignant. There is a sense of longing found in the dissonance, as if the music can't find the happiness it's looking for. Above all, though, I find these chords to be full of color. They're rich and they're vibrant, like color that's alive and moving.

It isn't the random chaos of atonal music (which holds a different kind of intrigue for me). These notes are carefully chosen from a palette of 8 notes, then combined in ways to enrich the senses, to create a musical color scheme for the ear, so to speak. (At least, that's my intent.) The symmetry here is also beautiful, at least to me.

Or... I could just be crazy. 😜 

I own that this music sounds weird, and I don't think for a second your reaction is invalid. You have your tastes, which are just as important as anybody else's! Thanks again for giving this a listen. It means a lot!

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48 minutes ago, Luis Hernández said:

Very nice.

This kind of harmony it's natural to me. I think it's a mistake talking all the time about consonance and dissonance. In fact, in these (and all) languages it's a matter of tension and relief, and COLOR.

On the other hand, when you take or build up a scale and use it to write a piece like this, it's not atonality. Better, as you said, modality. it's just a mode you have chosen, and you make believe it's real and coherent. And it sounds genuine, unique.

The parts are convincing.

Ah, I just commented about how these sounds create color for me. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one out there, lol!

I also agree with you about focusing on consonance-dissonance too much. Dissonance and consonace are quite relative terms, and their usefulness runs out in works such as this, where nearly all is "dissonance." It is, as you said, more a game of tension and release—at least to me. But the chords were carefully selected to bring color to this piece, not to render it more or less dissonant. My thought behind this is that the ear grows used to the same 8 notes being played and orients itself around them, establishing a sort of "home key," if you will. Thus, despite the lack of outright major or minor triads, the ear begins to gain a sense of which notes "belong" and which ones don't.

Anyway, that's enough weird psycho-music speak for now. I'm very glad you enjoyed this, and even more appreciative you took the time to comment!

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I don't normally listen to contemporary music but I listen to everyone's music here and I really liked your theme here, and I wrote something 'like' a var. (short). thanks for sharing

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The legend returns! And with new music in his innovative harmonic language too.

I don't think you need to think of this a "settling" for something lesser, I found it to be quite fascinating and enjoyable. The harmonic language is unconventional, but it is held together by clear motives and good thematic development. My favorite part was the climax at m.42 that leads back to the "bell tones" at m.47.

Out of curiosity, is this the mode you used? If I'm not mistaken it looks like this was the mode used from the beginning up to m.22, where you started using this mode transposed down half a step. I noticed several other transpositions throughout the piece as well.

image.thumb.png.7e042eeb041db28b21d512f7ee27d516.png

The neat thing about these kinds of modes is they are symmetrical about the tritone, so you can transpose a passage up/down by a tritone while still being in the same mode - a trick I noticed you cleverly used throughout the piece. (m.8 & 9 for example)

It looks like you used a ternary ABA form, with a climax around m.42 at the end of the second theme, which I thought was an effective way to lead back into the first theme.  I really liked the contrast between the two themes. The only thing that felt a little unbalanced to me was m.8-11 (and m.53-56 in the recap.) - I felt like these four bars need a complementary four bar phrase after them before you get into the rit. at m.12. To me this rit. came a little to soon after the fermata at m.7, and I think a complementary phrase that mimics m.8-11 with slight variation would solidify this theme a little better. This is of course only a suggestion, feel free to ignore if you disagree.

I also noticed at m.48 and m.50 it looks like you have a Cb and B natural sounded simultaneously, is the B natural supposed to be a B flat to match the beginning?

image.png.93e7f756ee9f1a5bf5217bd12a152e75.png

On 10/29/2020 at 5:19 PM, Tónskáld said:

The chords are quartal or quintal rather than triadic, and there's no sense of a home key. It can't quite be classifed as atonal, however, because the note pitches do play a functional role; it is probably best described as modal, which presents a listening experience unusual to ears familiar with tonal harmony.

Let me ask you this: since these modes are symmetric, how do you view the functional role of each scale degree? Do you see each degree in the mode as having its own independent function, or do you see degrees and their symmetrical counterparts as having complementary (or even the same) functional role. For example, in the mode I posted above, do you see the E natural and B flat having distinct, independent roles, or do they have some kind of similarity or relationship due to the symmetrical nature of the mode? This might send us down a rabbit hole, but I'm interested in your thoughts.

Thanks for sharing! It's good to see new music from you, and I look forward to the remainder of the suite.

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3 hours ago, ClasiCompose said:

I don't normally listen to contemporary music but I listen to everyone's music here and I really liked your theme here, and I wrote something 'like' a var. (short). thanks for sharing

 

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Well, I'm very honored to be the subject of a variation! And a good one at that! Thank you!

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11 minutes ago, gmm said:

Out of curiosity, is this the mode you used? If I'm not mistaken it looks like this was the mode used from the beginning up to m.22, where you started using this mode transposed down half a step. I noticed several other transpositions throughout the piece as well.

image.thumb.png.7e042eeb041db28b21d512f7ee27d516.png

The neat thing about these kinds of modes is they are symmetrical about the tritone, so you can transpose a passage up/down by a tritone while still being in the same mode - a trick I noticed you cleverly used throughout the piece. (m.8 & 9 for example)

Yes, that is the mode and the correct transposition! And yes, the tritone is the axis of symmetry in this scale, so I often transpose it up or down by a diminished 5th/augmented 4th and remain in the same "key."

14 minutes ago, gmm said:

It looks like you used a ternary ABA form, with a climax around m.42 at the end of the second theme, which I thought was an effective way to lead back into the first theme.  I really liked the contrast between the two themes. The only thing that felt a little unbalanced to me was m.8-11 (and m.53-56 in the recap.) - I felt like these four bars need a complementary four bar phrase after them before you get into the rit. at m.12. To me this rit. came a little to soon after the fermata at m.7, and I think a complementary phrase that mimics m.8-11 with slight variation would solidify this theme a little better. This is of course only a suggestion, feel free to ignore if you disagree.

Yes, it is in ternary ABA form, with the second A being restated in a new "key."

You bring up a good point about the brevity of the first theme's development (m. 8-11, etc.). I feel the same way. I don't think it should be too difficult to inject some material into it and flesh it out. Thank you!

17 minutes ago, gmm said:

I also noticed at m.48 and m.50 it looks like you have a Cb and B natural sounded simultaneously, is the B natural supposed to be a B flat to match the beginning?

Man, you have a good ear! Yes, that should be a B-flat. I probably accidentally deleted it when I was working on the enharmonics. Thanks for noticing!

20 minutes ago, gmm said:

Let me ask you this: since these modes are symmetric, how do you view the functional role of each scale degree? Do you see each degree in the mode as having its own independent function, or do you see degrees and their symmetrical counterparts as having complementary (or even the same) functional role. For example, in the mode I posted above, do you see the E natural and B flat having distinct, independent roles, or do they have some kind of similarity or relationship due to the symmetrical nature of the mode? This might send us down a rabbit hole, but I'm interested in your thoughts.

A bit of both, I think. Despite their symmetry as it were, they are different notes, with different frequencies. However, I can't just compose something in one tritone (E, for example) and transpose it up by a dim5 (B-flat, for example) and call it good; they sound too similar to the ear. I have to include some chordal structure as a sort of anchor for the transposition, typically a quartal that will be transposed up or down a minor 2nd. The truth of the matter is that I have to sacrifice some of the symmetry in order to avoid the mirror within the mirror paradox. Nobody wants to listen to a piece that's just a fractal of itself. Too boring. And not much fun to compose, either. So I spice things up a bit with non-tritonic borrowings that won't become "mirrorized" by the dim5 transposition.

I hope that makes any sense at all...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Updated sound file (live recording). I think it adds quite a few nuances to the piece the MIDI recording doesn't highlight. I changed the ending just a tad (not reflected in the score)... basically just added a few extra notes to that final arpeggio.

@gmm I'm still toying with the idea of extending the theme as you mentioned. Hopefully something will grip me soon and I can improve the flow.

Also, changed the name of the work to "Pluvialion" to better reflect the character of the piece (rain, storm, etc.).

I appreciate feedback if you have it!

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  • Tónskáld changed the title to Pluvialion (for solo piano)
5 hours ago, BC345 said:

Is this style hard to learn? I'm not sure how to describe it, but it has this weird sort of charm to it.

Writing modal music instead of tonal music? I think it's easier than people make it out to be, but I'd still recommend having a working grasp of tonal harmony before trying it. In this particular mode, the "key" is made up of 8 notes; the trick is figuring out how you're going to use those 8 notes.

Yes, I think it has a weird charm to it, too! There's a certain edginess not found in tonal music, a musical progression my ear can't predict. So each new chord is a colorful surprise.

Thanks for your comments!

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2 hours ago, Tónskáld said:

Writing modal music instead of tonal music? I think it's easier than people make it out to be, but I'd still recommend having a working grasp of tonal harmony before trying it. In this particular mode, the "key" is made up of 8 notes; the trick is figuring out how you're going to use those 8 notes.

Thanks for explaining! I'll be sure to read more about it (though it DOES sound hard) 🙂

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