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Quartet for Strings in One Movement


Sahil Sidhu
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I have written a quartet for strings on which I would like the honour of some of your criticisms. This work has sprouted from almost a year and a half of counterpoint study. It is similar to a fugue; that is, it does tend to have fugal aspects; however on the whole, this is mostly a work of counterpoint with many interesting hidden ideas embedded within it. I can understand if you are unable to listen to the entire work, as it is almost 16 minutes long; however, if you give me some feedback on even a single contrapuntal passage, I would be greatly indebted to you. Thank you for your time and I dearly hope you enjoy this work.

On a side note, this recording that I have here does not take into consideration single note dynamics which is indeed frustrating; however, it is the only soundfont I could find that effectively does some of the counterpoint justice (that is, so it is not too muddy sounding).

Edited by Sahil Sidhu
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Okay, that was pretty crazy honestly. I guess you got a lot of inspiration from Beethoven's Op.133 because it has a similar aura but still being very original.

 

I think the overal structure of the piece is good and there are some very interesting passages. As an advice I will tell you that if you used retrogradation always make sure it sounds natural and if you use the inversion and it is a real inversion then check it sounds like if it was a normal melody or subject. The piece doesn't sound atonal (I don't know if you intended that) so I think the overal tonal shape and cadences should be more clear, because there are a lot of passages where the direction of the action isn't clear and I don't see a justification (Idk, if you wanted to create a confusing passage or a crisis then release it in some way). 

 

Anyways the piece is really long and I imagine it took you a looooot of time to compose it. It is really hard to make more than 600 measures of music that sound totally natural. But your piece was great from an intelectual point of view, I think it is just a matter of time and experience to transform that into a piece like tho one Beethoven wrote. (Maybe not that good, but Beethoven is a giant. But that is the mindset I would follow.)

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Thank you so much for listening!

16 minutes ago, Ivan1791 said:

I guess you got a lot of inspiration from Beethoven's Op.133

Wow! That is a very astute observation. The study score of Beethoven's Op. 133 recently arrived at my doorstep and so I have been studying it with great assiduity. 

16 minutes ago, Ivan1791 said:

As an advice I will tell you that if you used retrogradation always make sure it sounds natural and if you use the inversion and it is a real inversion then check it sounds like if it was a normal melody or subject.

I can absolutely understand your point about the retrogrades and inversions. The theme that is introduced in m. 363 was deliberately written to be rhythmically and melodically confusing (both in inversion and proper form). However, other than that, I tried my best to make the manipulations sound convincing. I will perhaps go back and listen to each voice individually again to make sure it sounds natural.

16 minutes ago, Ivan1791 said:

The piece doesn't sound atonal (I don't know if you intended that) so I think the overal tonal shape and cadences should be more clear, because there are a lot of passages where the direction of the action isn't clear and I don't see a justification (Idk, if you wanted to create a confusing passage or a crisis then release it in some way).

Well, a new style I am acquainting myself with is that of using polytonality (not exactly atonality) to create a sense of musical conflict. Later on, I simply use the whole tone scale. As the music progresses (much like a waltz I wrote not too long ago), I tend to degrade the sense of tonality and allow each voice to have its own unique idea. The only difference is that in the beginning all voices were in harmony with their own lines; however, they soon lost that in due time which hopefully creates a sense of madness or confusion (an idea I got from the coda of Chopin's Ballade No. 4).

16 minutes ago, Ivan1791 said:

Maybe not that good, but Beethoven is a giant.

Well, if I can even be 10% as good as he was, I'd be happy. Thanks for your criticisms, it was most helpful!

Edited by Sahil Sidhu
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1 minute ago, Sahil Sidhu said:

Thank you so much for listening!

Wow! That is a very astute observation. The study score of Beethoven's Op. 133 recently arrived at my doorstep and so I have been studying it with great assiduity. 

I can absolutely understand your point about the retrogrades and inversions. The theme that is introduced in m. 363 was deliberately written to be rhythmically and melodically confusing (both in inversion and proper form). However, other than that, I tried my best to make the manipulations sound convincing. I will perhaps go back and listen to each voice individually again to make sure it sounds natural.

Well, a new style I am acquainting myself with is that of using polytonality (not exactly atonality) to create a sense of musical conflict. Later on, I simply use the whole tone scale. As the music progresses (much like a waltz I wrote not too long ago), I tend to degrade the sense of tonality and allow each voice to have its own unique idea. The only difference is that in the beginning all voices were in harmony with their own lines; however, they soon lost that in due time which hopefully creates a sense of madness or confusion (an idea I got from the coda of Chopin's Ballade No. 4).

Well, if I can even be 10% as good as he was, I'd be happy. Thanks for your criticisms, it was most helpful!

 

Yes, listening to the voices individually is always a good idea when writing a piece with as much counterpoint as the beast you created haha.

 

The use of polytonality is really interesting in counterpoint. Although I think it is important to make sure there are good correlations between the harmonies used in one key and the ones used in another one, because if not the music sounds like two tracks playing at the same time, and if that lasts too long it is hard to tell why the composer decided to do that. 

 

And I imagined you were inspired in Beethoven's Grosse Fugue because or the general structure of the piece, the size, the style and some passages where you used long trills and a pedal.

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47 minutes ago, Ivan1791 said:

some passages where you used long trills and a pedal.

I don't usually reply a second time to someone, but I thought this was interesting. I can only assume you're referring to m. 669 to m. 673. This is actually where I signed my name.

In the second violin section, that actually spells out my name (each set of six notes corresponds to one letter). The E-flat pedal is used because the first letter of all my three names begin with the letter 'S' (Es = S); and also this is 42 semitones away (the sum of my birth date 13+06+20+03=42) from an A, which has an integer frequency (a more natural choice given the prominence of numbers and integers in this section). This is also the reason I ended the work in E-flat minor

The second violin part has to do with my perspective on how the entire universe operates on the shape of a circle (cycle of life, the approximate shape of planetary bodies, gravitational pull, a symbol of unity and infinity; which makes a reference to time, wholeness, and etc.). Take the distance (in semitones) from each individual note and the nearest E-flat below it and this will yield a number for each packet of six as demonstrated below:

image.png.a6a103581ebc8eded48f4b289699e927.png

This will yield a number. If one considers this 6 digit number as a decimal (because otherwise the 0 at the start will be redundant), then you get 0.16534. Divide pi (the number pertaining to the concept of circles) by this decimal and you will get a number very close to an integer (in this case 19). Once each packet of six has been attributed an integer, one can see the corresponding letter of the English alphabet to find my name. 

My name is again signed in various spots such as m. 674 to m. 676 (S-A-H  S-D-H) and m. 323 to m. 324 (same concept as before).

I don't know if you noticed that; but still, I am writing this here for anyone else viewing the work in the future.

Edited by Sahil Sidhu
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35 minutes ago, Sahil Sidhu said:

I don't usually reply a second time to someone, but I thought this was interesting. I can only assume you're referring to m. 669 to m. 673. This is actually where I signed my name.

In the second violin section, that actually spells out my name (each set of six notes corresponds to one letter). The E-flat pedal is used because the first letter of all my three names begin with the letter 'S' (Es = S); and also this is 42 semitones away (the sum of my birth date 13+06+20+03=42) from an A, which has an integer frequency (a more natural choice given the prominence of numbers and integers in this section). This is also the reason I ended the work in E-flat minor

The second violin part has to do with my perspective on how the entire universe operates on the shape of a circle (cycle of life, the approximate shape of planetary bodies, gravitational pull, a symbol of unity and infinity; which makes a reference to time, wholeness, and etc.). Take the distance (in semitones) from each individual note and the nearest E-flat below it and this will yield a number for each packet of six as demonstrated below:

image.png.a6a103581ebc8eded48f4b289699e927.png

This will yield a number. If one considers this 6 digit number as a decimal (because otherwise the 0 at the start will be redundant), then you get 0.16534. Divide pi (the number pertaining to the concept of circles) by this decimal and you will get a number very close to an integer (in this case 19). Once each packet of six has been attributed an integer, one can see the corresponding letter of the English alphabet to find my name. 

My name is again signed in various spots such as m. 674 to m. 676 (S-A-H  S-D-H) and m. 323 to m. 324 (same concept as before).

I don't know if you noticed that; but still, I am writing this here for anyone else viewing the work in the future.

 

Damn, that's pretty crazy then. xD Maybe I heard Bach's motif too?

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Very interesting to hear counterpoint in this tonal language. It definitely feels modern and new, in a good way. Cool!

I love the point that the craft of polyphony is so powerful that it can make way for so much different music, that's my experience anyway.

Maybe it can be a good idea to space out some lines, make some variations between more busy polyphonic parts and more simplistic (single lines). I think that way it's easier for the listener to focus on the lines and to register what's going on. Also see if you can build more continuity by re-using some ideas.

Good luck.

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Thanks so much for listening to my work and thank you for your compliments. Now, on to your criticisms.

11 hours ago, Olov said:

Maybe it can be a good idea to space out some lines, make some variations between more busy polyphonic parts and more simplistic (single lines). I think that way it's easier for the listener to focus on the lines and to register what's going on. Also see if you can build more continuity by re-using some ideas.

That is a very good point; thanks for bringing it to my attention. I think that, in order to create a better sense of form, I should perhaps vary the complexity at times. I think I should write a section such as the Poco adagio in the actual contrapuntal sections with proper strict counterpoint again; perhaps, exploring some of the themes in various other manipulations. I will definitely seriously consider implementing your advice.

Thank you so much! Your advice is invaluable.

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I’m not going to pretend I listened to the whole thing start to finish. So before I provide my feedback I must accept I don’t nearly have the whole picture you have tirelessly presented us with.

The experience was a bit out of the ordinary for me, as someone who is mostly accustomed to the textures of the classical and baroque period. In such music, stability is closer to home and one can reasonably expect when it is to return (although good composers armed themselves with tricks to subtlety deceive those expectations. The better their skill, the more persuasive those tricks were). 
This music, on the other hand, offers something fundamentally opposite. For a start, it is virtuosic and stability is offered in rare, unpredictable glimpses. Whilst I’m wholly impressed by your skill to compose such a complex work of such magnitude and contrast, I must ask which was most important to you when you composed it: you, or your audience? 

Edited by Markus Boyd
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