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Let The Earth Grow Wild


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This one is a first for me in many respects.  I don't think I've ever written a choral a capella piece like this before.  I also came up with the Earth Day themed words to this myself (I thought about doing some kind of religious Latin text but I don't speak Latin and am not that religious so there goes that idea).  The method for writing this piece is also quite a bit different for me and a first in this particular way of utilizing dice.  I used a 12-sided musicians die to determine the key I would be writing in (A) and then used two regular 6-sided dice to come up with figured bass numbers.  Near the end I decided to modulate so I rolled the 12-sided die again and it landed on Ab.  Let me know if you like it or not!  Also - if you have any pointers or observations I would love to hear them as I don't usually write for choir despite having been in one at one time or another.  I put some breath marks in the beginning of the piece but didn't continue throughout the whole piece being kind of unsure as to where they should go.  Thanks for listening!  The words are in the pdf.

For an updated (revised and extended) version of this choral piece go here:  

 

Edited by PeterthePapercomPoser
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I really like it! It seems like a super interesting experiment, using the dices for composing. I think almost any kind of progression or musical context can be made beautiful if given enough effort and time, and this is a good way of practicing that kind of compositional variety. I also like the lyrics, simple but poetic and effective!

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8 minutes ago, JorgeDavid said:

I really like it! It seems like a super interesting experiment, using the dices for composing.

Thanks!  I kind of got my inspiration for using dice this way in writing music from the following video:

I happen to also have a large variety of different dice that I can use in ways not exemplified here.  I have 4-sided, 6-sided, 8-sided, 12-sided, and even 20-sided dice.  Of course, not all of the dice have obvious uses in music.  I just bought a set of dice intended for fantasy-rpg games.  But my 12-sided musicians dice had to be purchased online.

14 minutes ago, JorgeDavid said:

I think almost any kind of progression or musical context can be made beautiful if given enough effort and time, and this is a good way of practicing that kind of compositional variety. I also like the lyrics, simple but poetic and effective!

Thanks for your comments!  Yeah - after coming up with the basic harmonies I was going to use with 6-sided dice determining the figured bass numbers, I went through a couple of different drafts before finally arriving at the 3/4 version I used.  Adding the words and a bass voice was the very last step.  I feel really lucky that it sort of worked out!  LoL - not surprising since I used dice.

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Yes, a very nice madrigal styled piece if perhaps short. The twists of harmony are most engaging and the piece is well-crafted. It just flows. Hopefully this won't be your last choral piece.

You have some impressive results with the dice. Aleatoric, eh?! 

All good.

Cheers!

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39 minutes ago, Quinn said:

Yes, a very nice madrigal styled piece if perhaps short. The twists of harmony are most engaging and the piece is well-crafted. It just flows. Hopefully this won't be your last choral piece.

Thank you!  I hope it won't be my last choral piece.  As for the length - I didn't know how long I could sustain the piece in a homogenous way using my limited abilities (so far) with the dice that I have learned.  I thought for example that the piece should continue from where it ended in Ab in a more contrapuntal way but I didn't know how to facilitate that kind of composition with the dice.  Also - I didn't know what kind of words I could come up with to continue to the piece. 😕

42 minutes ago, Quinn said:

You have some impressive results with the dice. Aleatoric, eh?!

Well - as the video explains in more detail - there is lots of room for interpretation by the composer so it's not just pure luck and for some of the chords I used I didn't roll any dice at all and just knew what I wanted already for a satisfactory conclusion to a phrase or some other reason of voice leading or resolution etc.  Thanks for your comments!

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Congrats on your first foray into choral writing!  If you wanted to clean up your score a bit, following current conventions for your text will help it look its best.  

Single syllable words spread over multiple notes, including tied notes, are written with an extender after the word like this:  "And___," "Let___."  Use a slur over the notes to make it clear that they all go to the same syllable.  

Multi-syllable words spread over multiple notes get hyphens within the word:  "Nat-u-ral-ly."  Use dictionary conventions about how to break up syllables, (just look each word up in an online dictionary that shows it broken up into syllables):  "Nat-u-ral-ly," instead of "na-tu-ra-lly."   If the last syllable of a multi-syllable word stretches over multiple notes, including tied notes, it gets an extender at the end:  "Nat-u-ral-ly___."  

Any punctuation or capitalization in the original text source should also appear in your score.  (Since this is your own text, you can do whatever you want).  If you repeat a word, a phrase, or a whole line of text, separate the repetitions with commas and then end with whatever punctuation was in the original.  If you repeat text that starts with a capital, you can choose to just capitalize it the first time, or capitalize each repetition.  "Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear..." or "Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you.  Happy birthday, dear..."  Just be consistent within the piece.  

As for adding breaths, you can put them all in and know that choral conductors may instruct their singers to disregard some of them if they have enough people to stagger breathe and prefer to carry the sound through instead.  You can put some of them in that feel particularly obvious and leave the singers to decide the rest for themselves, or you can put none of them in and let the conductors decide what they want.  You can mark them with as you have done:  ' .  Or you can shorten the note duration and add a rest to show exactly how long a breath should take.  You can even put a suggested breath in parentheses to indicate that someone might want to breathe there, but then again, they might not:  ( ' ).

Personally, I try to mark any breaths that feel particularly necessary.  If there is a long phrase where there is no good place to breathe, I make sure to mark best spot to breathe just before it, so everyone will be well-prepared to make it through the long phrase gracefully.  If all the singers are moving together in rhythm homophonically, then it's usually easy for the conductor to conduct a breath that everyone will follow, so I don't need to mark it, and if I do mark it, I don't need to specify exactly how long it should take with a rest.  Everyone will just follow the conductor and the conductor may decide to push or pull the tempo and want to change the length of the rest a little for expressive purposes.  Best not to mark it at all, or just mark a breathe without specifying the duration of the rest.  But when there is a lot going on rhythmically and the piece is polyphonic, different parts may need to breathe at different times, and the conductor may be too busy keeping everyone together to clearly cue a breath for each part, so I am more likely to mark a breath where it seems to make sense, or just add a rest to the part to show exactly how long it should take.  Hope that's a help!  

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Wow - thank you for that long and helpful response!  That's exactly what I needed I think - I might just sit down and revise this piece according to your advice sometime in the near future. 

20 minutes ago, pateceramics said:

Multi-syllable words spread over multiple notes get hyphens within the word:  "Nat-u-ral-ly."  Use dictionary conventions about how to break up syllables, (just look each word up in an online dictionary that shows it broken up into syllables):  "Nat-u-ral-ly," instead of "na-tu-ra-lly."   If the last syllable of a multi-syllable word stretches over multiple notes, including tied notes, it gets an extender at the end:  "Nat-u-ral-ly___."

Somehow though when I pronounce "naturally" I don't see how I can possibly include the 't' sound as part of the first syllable - it sounds like it belongs as the beginning of the second one ("na - tu -ral - ly").  I don't know why the dictionary splits the syllables the way it does but it just sounds much more natural the way I have it LoL.

I also have a question - with a choral score like this usually everyone sings from a copy of the whole score rather than individual parts - is that correct?  So, let's say the music is homophonic - can I write only one set of dynamics for the whole choir or does each individual part within the score require separate dynamics?

Thanks so much for your comments!

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, PeterthePapercomPoser said:

Somehow though when I pronounce "naturally" I don't see how I can possibly include the 't' sound as part of the first syllable - it sounds like it belongs as the beginning of the second one ("na - tu -ral - ly").  I don't know why the dictionary splits the syllables the way it does but it just sounds much more natural the way I have it LoL.

I tend to agree. With fairly long notes the singers would sing Naaaaaa- tuuuuuu-raaaaaa-lyyyyy. sort of thing, not cut off the first vowel:

Nat     uuuuuuuu-raaaa-lyyy etc.

One has to use one's instinct at times. Sometimes the phonetics suggest something different from an official 'splitting' of words. Sometimes even part of a phrase or word is ok if it seems to fit. Of course, ultimately it'll be settled when it's performed. (Things sometimes get changed in the cold light of live performance!).

As it stands it's pretty good wordless and is worth congratulation for the rendering.

(Edit: I too have a set of dice including a 12. I'll have to experiment!)

Edited by Quinn
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I'm sure there is a rather complex set of rules with a lot of historical precedent about how dictionaries split syllables, but the rule is to follow the dictionary.  You are right, you wouldn't pronounce it "nat-u...", you'd pronounce it "na-tu...," but this is why musicians are always reading ahead in the score.  If you aren't reading ahead, you'll get notes wrong, rhythms wrong, miss dynamics, get behind the beat... and you'll also mispronounce lyrics.  

Of the dictionary rules I know, one is that prefixes and suffixes are always split off from root words as their own complete unit, so you get "in-tens-i-fy" instead of something like "i-ntens-if-y," you always split between double consonants, so "nat-u-ral-ly" actually obeys the double consonant rule and the splitting of a suffix rule, and then there are some rules about how you divide up chunks in words that aren't so clearly suffix or prefix.  

Partly I think the rules are meant to help chunk words into parts so that we pronounce the vowels correctly, even if we aren't reading ahead, since in English the way we pronounce our vowels is variable, but often follows a pattern based on the consonants around the vowel.  If "pattern" was chunked as pa-ttern, you might read the first syllable as "pa" rhyming with "father," but if you chunk it as "pat-tern" then you intuitively read it as "pat" rhymes with "hat."  It's a rule for a reason, even if we don't always know the exact reason.  (My neighbor edits dictionaries for a living, so she might be able to tell you why). 🙂.

If you want a good guide to this sort of stuff, I highly recommend "Behind Bars" by Elaine Gould.  She was an editor at one of the big music publishing companies for decades, and had sets of handouts for the junior editors she supervised to keep everyone consistent, which got longer and longer until they turned into a doorstop of a style guide book.  It explains the current way major publishers do everything from writing extended techniques properly for timpani, to when to write a rhythm as two tied notes instead of a longer dotted note, to what order to put different combinations of instrumental parts top to bottom on your score.  It's not that people can't read the music if you do things other ways, but some ways are clearer on the page for one reason or another, (she often explains why), and if we all do things the same way, people get used to the pattern and don't have to think about it.  Spelling rules don't always make the most sense, but if we all agree to spell everything the same way we get used to it and don't have to stop and puzzle over what someone was trying to say.  And when there are rules that the major music publishers have agreed to, if you ignore them without a good reason, your score looks like a social media post about conspiracy theories full of WEIRD all-Caps, LIKE YOUR CRA-zy relative wrote it.  

And yes, each choral part always gets its own set of complete dynamics, even if it's homophonic.  Two or more parts don't share dynamics.  (They can share lyrics, though).  That's another rule.  Order "Behind Bars."  You'll love it! 🙂

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  • 2 weeks later...

I followed the dice video and it sheds a different slant on using dice. The bias is tonal and he came up with some good ideas.

I've been using a die to create tunes and fragments. Although I have a 12-sided die; can assign a chromatic note to each number I firstly used a 13-sided die. If I threw 13, that would be 'end of sequence. I eventually went to a 15-sided one so there was a greater chance of ending a sequence. The problem was with 12-sides, repetitions of notes gradually came into it - something I wanted to avoid so shorter sequences reduced that.

It was surprising how often a sequence turned up something tonal/diatonic. Like, I got Bb Db F, a Bb minor triad. Another: E G D C# (rootless dominant 7th of D with a passing note). But I don't cheat either and started a composition with what turned up. Not that I'd entertain Schonberg's strict doctrine but just the thematic stuff is enough..

Altogether interesting. 

.

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