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There's a certain Slant of light


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This is a piece I wrote for a competition in my area. I entered it in the vocal ensemble category, here is the description I had to write for my submission:

"The poem which was used as the text for this piece deals with themes of heaviness and despair. While the music is written in the major, a mode some would consider to have connotations of lightness, it is here used to convey a sense of hopeful melancholy. The poem speaks of a weight associated with winter, and of a despair and questioning of existence. Due to this, it could be that Emily Dickinson was describing a kind of seasonal depression, a heaviness that’s associated with winter and is easier to bring to mind when your surroundings suggest it. Another reading is that she is speaking on the inevitability of death, and how that sense of despair is an unavoidable part of the human experience."

Please let me know what you think of it, feedback is extremely valuable to me and I really like hearing other peoples thoughts on my music.

Edited by mercurypickles
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Another nice one. As I said in response to "Night" you seem to have the knack for choral work. This one sounds slightly hymnal but I see no problem with that as the words will give the ultimate meaning when performed.


My only suggestion - I suspect you're doing the rendering from the notation software. If so, it might be worth preparing a second version of the score with some rests here and there as if pauses to breathe, just for rendering alone while publishing the score you have here. A break here and there may enhance the effect even if it's just a semiquaver rest (1/16 note).

Again, well done. Have you submitted it for the competition?

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  • 1 month later...

This sounds really nice.  I might suggest an edit to the meter.  

In some bars, your 6/4 clearly splits in to two big beats of 3 quarter notes, like in measure 3: "winter afternoons."  But in other places, it just as clearly splits into 3 big beats of 2 quarter notes each, like in measure 38:  "like the Distance."  6/4 is usually considered a meter that divides in half into two 3-beat subdivisions, (like measure 3).  It can encompass the other pattern as well, but when it does, you want to make that clear with the way you notate your rhythms.  Don't do a tie across the middle of the measure in those spots where when you speak the rhythm, you clearly feel three 1/2 note stresses in a row.  Write them as three 1/2 notes to signal to the musicians that the rhythm here is contrary to the typical 6/4 meter. Notating them more specifically helps people make sense of the score correctly on the first sight read and helps the conductor make the choice to conduct two small three patterns or a big three pattern at a glance, so they can be most helpful to anyone with a head out of the score.  Save the tie across the center of the bar for places where the rhythm is more complex and people are furiously counting away.  

The other option is instead of putting it all in 6/4 as you have done, you can use a mix of 3/4 and 3/2 to help both the conductor and the choir organize their stresses better on the first read-through of the piece.  

Try to speak or sing through each line while conducting and see where you fumble.  Those are the spots that probably need an edit to the way you notated them.  

If you like learning about this sort of detailed score-craft, I really recommend Elaine Gould's book "Behind Bars."  She was an editor for years at one of the big music publishing companies, and a few years ago she turned all her little post-it-notes and binders full of instructions for the baby editors on the staff into a fantastically helpful book about best practices in notation.  

This sounds great and deserves a score that helps musicians give it a great performance. 🙂

Edited by pateceramics
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