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Songs Without Words, Opus 19


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Good evening everyone,

I had the good fortune of having my piano tuned for the first time in well over a year a couple of days ago. I'd almost forgotten how nice it could sound and feel! Anyways, given the wild hot/cold weather we've been having here it'll probably only last a week before keys start sticking and the action starts creaking again, so I thought I'd better take advantage of this little window of piano bliss. Here's a link to a collection of five piano character pieces. Written in late 2019, it's my most recent work, and actually the only thing I've written in the past four years or so. As one would expect from the title, these are melody-oriented and not formally complex. Hope you enjoy!

 

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Posted (edited)

I'll just review Daybreak for now, I'll come back and review others later!

 

Regarding the very start, the leaning C sounds to me like it struggles to get started. Maybe because the flowing arpeggios start immediately at the B? Perhaps the first note being an A could help, perhaps not, perhaps you could just ignore that paragraph of text!

But once it gets started...how beautiful! May I ask what piano you have? 

While this is quite a straightforward tonality, you show why that was popular for hundreds of years - it's so engaging and emotive to hear. I love the harmonic twists between minor and major, such as at 0:39.

When that anacrusis returns at 0:54, it sounds much more natural. I think this is because of the flowing arpeggios underneath. 

I like the beginning of a storm at 1:10! That episode is probably the most exciting for me.

I don't think this movement needs any improvement. Congratulations on writing a beautiful piece!

 

Okay, here is a review for "Restless Night:"

 

The slightly hesitant, halting phrases at the beginning remind me a little of Janáček. I think it's a really engaging opening although the perfect cadence at the end (3.03) sounds a little "bolted-on." Maybe the progression Cm-F would work better than C-F.

The fluttering triplets that are introduced in the accompaniment are really interesting too. The modulation from F minor to ~G is splendidly pulled off. 

Perhaps on the whole, it just has the feel of a small work. I think if you were to expand it any more, you'd want to introduce some contrasting material but "not formally complex" suggests they this was not the intention. It's a wonderful character piece as it stands!

Again, there's not much criticism to give. I particularly enjoyed the variety of textures, different voices taking the melody, etc. throughout the movement. Thanks for sharing!

aMC

Edited by aMusicComposer
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Thanks for taking the time to listen, aMC. Judging from your remarks, you have a good ear. Regarding that cadence you mentioned in no. 2, it's plagal (unless you're referring to the two chords that precede it). C minor would work just as well here - it would just be a minor change to the melody. The leap down is preferable to my ear, simply because it's somewhat more unsettled than a step. But I like the minor dominant replacement and had someone else written this piece and used it there, I'd find it effective. This definitely isn't a piece I'd consider expanding. Some musical ideas are better served by brevity - this is one of them.

Regarding the piano, it's a Baldwin SF-10. It used to belong to my former piano teacher. He was kind enough to sell it to me at a significant discount. It's a great instrument - though its big voice probably contributed in no small way to my developing tinnitus 10 years ago. Since that time I've only been able to play with musician's ear plugs (which are quite awesome, actually - I wish I'd known about them sooner).

Best wishes!

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Hello again! Great to see you're back on the forum, with more wonderful music. I quite enjoyed these pieces, as always, they're so polished! The melodic quality is really high in these pieces. I really liked the second one in particular, I really liked the creative harmonic progressions and pianistic textures of that one - restless, melancholic, impassioned. I could hear you used the introductory theme/motif from your Piano Trio as the theme for the "Sunset" piece, that was a nice touch (that one is really beautiful and moving). Also, your playing is really good - I like how you shape the melodic lines and differentiate between the voices. It's cool to watch you playing, too.

But also, I'm sorry to hear you have tinnitus. I imagine it must be a struggle for you as a musician, and in your private life too; though I'm glad you're able to counteract it with some useful tools, like the musician's earplugs you mentioned.

Thanks again for posting! I always look forward to hearing your works! Also, you've gained a new YouTube subscriber 😉

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Thanks for the feedback, Theo. Glad you enjoyed them. Tinnitus is indeed a nuisance I could do without, and it bothered me a great deal when it first developed but no longer interferes with my life in its current state. The hardest thing about the condition now is the constant fear that it may suddenly worsen for no apparent reason. Mine had been stable for the better part of the 10 years I've had it, but last year I developed an ear-flapping response to certain higher-pitched sounds. I've since learned it's a hyperacusis symptom - and though it's also something I've learned to live with, the idea of developing full-blown hyperacusis is the stuff of nightmares for any musician.

If you don't already have a set, I'd pick up some musician's plugs. Lots of things can cause hearing problems, but noise is still the no. 1 issue, and we musicians are at significantly increased risk for obvious reasons.

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8 hours ago, pianist_1981 said:

This definitely isn't a piece I'd consider expanding. Some musical ideas are better served by brevity - this is one of them.

Definitely - I think you made the right decision to keep it concise and effective!

8 hours ago, pianist_1981 said:

Regarding the piano, it's a Baldwin SF-10. It used to belong to my former piano teacher. He was kind enough to sell it to me at a significant discount. It's a great instrument - though its big voice probably contributed in no small way to my developing tinnitus 10 years ago. Since that time I've only been able to play with musician's ear plugs (which are quite awesome, actually - I wish I'd known about them sooner).

Interesting, I've never really seen/heard a Baldwin. They're not common at all in the UK (I don't know where you are, maybe it's uncommon for you as well!) That's great that it could go to a new home, especially for someone your teacher knew well.

That's a big shame about the tinnitus - I really don't think that musicians (especially young musicians) are warned about the problems enough. At an orchestra course I went to a couple of years ago, we were able to buy earplugs from them at a (heavily) discounted price which was really very helpful!

aMC

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Yeah, for all intents and purposes Baldwin went out of business quite some time ago. They're now a shell of their former self. I think they were primarily sold in North America. They've got a big, rich sound though most people find the action inferior to other names. That isn't a concern with this one, as it was retrofitted with a Renner action when my teacher purchased it. Apparently this is much better than the factory Baldwin action.

The nicest thing about Baldwins is the balance. They patented a system that naturally amplifies the upper register, and so you don't have to work as hard as you normally would to balance the top end against the bass. It's a world of difference playing a Baldwin compared to the European makes, or even American Steinways. But it comes with a price - there's plenty of ring up there with no dampers, and so it can be muddy and less clean and precise. Lots of people don't like that. It may have played a role in why the pianos never became that popular.

One of the nicest pianos I've ever played is a 9-foot Baldwin that was donated to a local church. The acoustics play a role in that - it's a big space and the piano sounds exceptionally beautiful in there. Receiving that donation instantly turned the place into the go-to location for chamber and solo recitals in this city.

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On 7/14/2021 at 12:45 PM, CyberPianist said:

Your songs without words, I think, continue in some part the tradition of Mendelssohn. You also perform your works very well. I really enjoy your music. Thank you!

 

Indeed. I can say that writing these gave me a new appreciation for what Mendelssohn accomplished in writing so many of them. You'd think it would be easy to put these short pieces together. Then you try it and find that it's much more difficult to write something compelling in short form than it would seem to be. There is a great deal of truth in the notion that there is a difference between simple and simplistic. I threw out an awful lot of ideas that just didn't work.

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27 minutes ago, pianist_1981 said:

Indeed. I can say that writing these gave me a new appreciation for what Mendelssohn accomplished in writing so many of them. You'd think it would be easy to put these short pieces together. Then you try it and find that it's much more difficult to write something compelling in short form than it would seem to be. There is a great deal of truth in the notion that there is a difference between simple and simplistic. I threw out an awful lot of ideas that just didn't work.

 

I think it's always a challenge to do something that you want to make really artful and intriguing. There are no easy ways to achieve such goals.

And what to choose, big form or small, these or those means of expression, depends on many human qualities and life circumstances. In one period of life, large forms may be better, and in another, only miniatures, and so on. In the end, I don't think these things are major, but trying both is certainly good for the experience.

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