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A very mediocre short piece


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Good afternoon everyone! It's been a while since I've posted, so I thought I would come back with something fairly simple. A little while back I entered a small online composition contest. I was tasked with writing a 90 second piece of music to describe an image (pictured below). Sadly, I was not selected as a finalist... (hence the thread title lol) So I thought I would post my entry here for some feedback. 

There are two main themes I tried to develop, first in the trumpet at 0:04, and the second in the strings at 0:09. I only had 90 seconds, but I managed to make it into a quick ABA form.

A couple of questions for feedback:

  • What was your favorite part? Least favorite part?
  • Do you feel the piece describes the image?
  • Any critiques of technique, e.g. harmony, melody writing, counterpoint, orchestration, voice-leading, etc.?
  • Do you have any comments of the quality of the performance in the audio file? I really want this to be a decent representation of how the piece would sound if it were performed live, since it is unlikely it ever will be. Feel free to put your "conductor hat" on and critique the "orchestra".
  • Any critiques of the presentation of the score? Or the score video?
  • Are there any composers this reminds you of, that I might enjoy listening to?

Sound libraries: All winds and strings are VSL Synchron, all percussion is Spitfire Percussion.

Score video: 

 

The image:

image.thumb.png.6c64b5be21afe55e0a1fbe3e4e938723.png

Score:

Competition Score - Transposed Score gmm.pdf

Edited by gmm
Added Score
PDF
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I love this short "piece" as the opening of a longer piece. I think the competition of a 90-second "piece" is quite ridiculous. How can you produce something great within that time limit? Maybe you can ask Mahler or Bruckner to do that, LOL.

I don't think it "mediocre" at all. I love the overall atmosphere, lively with the spirit of spring. I do find it describe the image well. I would like the horn to play the trumpet theme (or motive?) as well as to give some warmer flavour.

I think the overall is already great, not weird at all! I hope you can develop it to a longer piece! With that grand image, I don't think 90 seconds will be enough to describe it. Keep going!

 

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@Henry Ng Thanks for your kind words! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

2 minutes ago, Henry Ng said:

I would like the horn to play the trumpet theme (or motive?) as well as to give some warmer flavour.

The horns actually do echo this theme at 0:33 in unison with the cello, and at the very end around 1:20.

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15 minutes ago, gmm said:

The horns actually do echo this theme at 0:33 in unison with the cello, and at the very end around 1:20.

I didn't look at the score because that's too small😝. I am sorry I didn't notice that because I just focus on the strings🤣.

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What was your favorite part? Least favorite part?

My favorite part was your mood change, at around 55 seconds in. The transition was so beautiful and elegant. My second favorite part was the beginning, I feel you draw the listener in right away. You do a really good job introducing your motif and making it stand prominent.

Do you feel the piece describes the image?

Yes indeed. Your crescendos, and trills are what help with the image I believe.

Any critiques of technique, e.g. harmony, melody writing, counterpoint, orchestration, voice-leading, etc.?

I feel melody (motif?) was just about right for this mood. You repeat it just enough times to let the listener know its the theme, and you break it up with your secondary theme at around 55 seconds in which is a good break for the listener. Orchestration seems fine to me, I'll have more to say about the quality of the recording.

Do you have any comments of the quality of the performance in the audio file? I really want this to be a decent representation of how the piece would sound if it were performed live, since it is unlikely it ever will be. Feel free to put your "conductor hat" on and critique the "orchestra".

The quality is really excellent. But as you know, us composers have a great ear for this stuff, and especially me because I am big on realism in recordings, and it is something I am advocating in my Music Jotter endeavor.  The first thing is to make sure your instruments are a bit more balanced and sharp. The french horn is something I could hardly hear. I also want to hear woodwinds, they need to be "wetter" and much more pronounced. The treble has to be sharper and more audible in general. And the hardest part to get sounding realistic are the strings. I think the trick is making your instruments sharper, better balanced, wet sounding (this probably has to do with the quality of your reverb), and make sure your audio is at a -9db to -6db level.

Take a listen to this recording for reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVeaAhYluOc. Listen to the oboes here, they are VERY clear and beautiful. If you can emulate that a bit better in your recordings, you should win your next competition! 😉

Any critiques of the presentation of the score? Or the score video?

I would upload the PDF in the post so people can take a closer look.

Are there any composers this reminds you of, that I might enjoy listening to?

Frederick Delius was quite good with imagery in my opinion, and this piece does remind me of his style.

Overall Comments

Overall, I love it! I think if you didn't win, perhaps the judges were looking for something else, or maybe they were a bit too elitist, who knows. But the piece is excellent in my opinion, and I am quite impressed with your ability to make your recordings sound more on the realistic side. I too, am a believer in making your recordings sound as realistic as possible.

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Hey, good to hear some music from you again!

I'm curious if you'll develop this more, since it ends right where I felt like it was just getting started. To me, it would be a waste of an awesome idea, so maybe at some point you'll grace the forums with an extended version.

Overall I think you did a great job depicting the picture, it felt like entering a new town in an RPG type of game. I like your development of themes, especially the second theme in the strings serving as a counter melody or harmony to the first theme, then it getting it's own room to shine in the B section. 

Orchestration is wonderful as always, but the winds felt a bit buried at times. I know a lot of it was for effect and color, but it was hard to hear sometimes when you gave them the themes to play. Just a thought, could be the rendering, I dunno.

I always like the score videos, but it was kinda hard to read. Maybe have a score showing only the parts playing? I always dig the pdf too. 

Anyway, glad you're around again, I'm always a fan of your music!

- #1 gmm fanboi

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I really enjoyed the work ... my only comment is the pace of the work ... you only had 90 seconds to create an arch ... the initial opening - mid-section development and conclusion.  So the work is great as an opening for an extended work ... the weakness is the ending which comes to abruptly and doesn't tie things up neatly in the 90 second time frame.  However, to do so is a very difficult task indeed!

Mark

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----Not at all mediocre.

But too short to answer your first three questions. It needs cries out for development. It's well scored and balanced.

As a rendering it's fine, relying on you to be happy with the balance as is.

The score looks fine as far as can be seen.  

It is reminiscent of the opening of Ravel's Daphnis Suite #2, even down to the divisi strings and has that mood of daybreak about it! 

Nice piece. But now...expand upon it!

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@chopin

On 10/30/2022 at 8:10 PM, chopin said:

My favorite part was your mood change, at around 55 seconds in. The transition was so beautiful and elegant. My second favorite part was the beginning, I feel you draw the listener in right away. You do a really good job introducing your motif and making it stand prominent.

...

Yes indeed. Your crescendos, and trills are what help with the image I believe.

...

I feel melody (motif?) was just about right for this mood. You repeat it just enough times to let the listener know its the theme, and you break it up with your secondary theme at around 55 seconds in which is a good break for the listener. Orchestration seems fine to me,

Thanks man! I'm glad you liked it. I put a lot of effort into motivic development so I'm glad you appreciate it.

On 10/30/2022 at 8:10 PM, chopin said:

The quality is really excellent. But as you know, us composers have a great ear for this stuff, and especially me because I am big on realism in recordings, and it is something I am advocating in my Music Jotter endeavor.  The first thing is to make sure your instruments are a bit more balanced and sharp. The french horn is something I could hardly hear. I also want to hear woodwinds, they need to be "wetter" and much more pronounced. The treble has to be sharper and more audible in general. And the hardest part to get sounding realistic are the strings. I think the trick is making your instruments sharper, better balanced, wet sounding (this probably has to do with the quality of your reverb), and make sure your audio is at a -9db to -6db level.

Take a listen to this recording for reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVeaAhYluOc. Listen to the oboes here, they are VERY clear and beautiful. If you can emulate that a bit better in your recordings, you should win your next competition! 😉

Yes as I listen more closely the balance is not exactly where I would like it to be. I might go back and try to clean that up if I decide to expand this.

When you say at -9 to -6 db, do you mean peak or loudness? I believe YouTube limits the loudness at around -14 db...

On 10/30/2022 at 8:10 PM, chopin said:

I would upload the PDF in the post so people can take a closer look.

Will do

On 10/30/2022 at 8:10 PM, chopin said:

Frederick Delius was quite good with imagery in my opinion, and this piece does remind me of his style.

Thanks for the recommendation and link. I've listened to a little Delius but I need to give him more attention it seems...

 

On 10/30/2022 at 8:10 PM, chopin said:

Overall, I love it! I think if you didn't win, perhaps the judges were looking for something else, or maybe they were a bit too elitist, who knows. But the piece is excellent in my opinion, and I am quite impressed with your ability to make your recordings sound more on the realistic side. I too, am a believer in making your recordings sound as realistic as possible.

Thanks again! I'm not too broken up about not winning lol, there were several hundred entries so it was largely a numbers game anyway. I had fun, that's what matters to me.

And yes, realism is very important to me to. I'm putting a lot of effort into getting better at mockups at the moment, so it's good to hear people are noticing.

 

@Thatguy v2.0

On 10/31/2022 at 9:50 PM, Thatguy v2.0 said:

I'm curious if you'll develop this more, since it ends right where I felt like it was just getting started. To me, it would be a waste of an awesome idea, so maybe at some point you'll grace the forums with an extended version.

Yes I do like these themes quite a bit. I'm working on a couple of big projects at the moment, maybe I'll some attention towards this once they are complete...

On 10/31/2022 at 9:50 PM, Thatguy v2.0 said:

Overall I think you did a great job depicting the picture, it felt like entering a new town in an RPG type of game. I like your development of themes, especially the second theme in the strings serving as a counter melody or harmony to the first theme, then it getting it's own room to shine in the B section. 

Thanks! I'm glad you noticed the B theme is an extension of the String melody in the A section.

On 10/31/2022 at 9:50 PM, Thatguy v2.0 said:

Orchestration is wonderful as always, but the winds felt a bit buried at times. I know a lot of it was for effect and color, but it was hard to hear sometimes when you gave them the themes to play. Just a thought, could be the rendering, I dunno.

Yes, as said above, I think the balance is not to my usual standard. If I return to this I will give it more attention.

On 10/31/2022 at 9:50 PM, Thatguy v2.0 said:

Anyway, glad you're around again, I'm always a fan of your music!

Thanks! Good to hear from you buddy.

 

@MJFOBOE

14 hours ago, MJFOBOE said:

I really enjoyed the work ... my only comment is the pace of the work ... you only had 90 seconds to create an arch ... the initial opening - mid-section development and conclusion.  So the work is great as an opening for an extended work ... the weakness is the ending which comes to abruptly and doesn't tie things up neatly in the 90 second time frame.  However, to do so is a very difficult task indeed!

I'm glad you like it! Yes 90 seconds is not much to work with, maybe I'll return and expand this in the future.

 

@Quinn

6 hours ago, Quinn said:

----Not at all mediocre.

But too short to answer your first three questions. It needs cries out for development. It's well scored and balanced.

As a rendering it's fine, relying on you to be happy with the balance as is.

The score looks fine as far as can be seen.  

It is reminiscent of the opening of Ravel's Daphnis Suite #2, even down to the divisi strings and has that mood of daybreak about it! 

Nice piece. But now...expand upon it!

Thanks for listening! I like Daphnis et Chloe quite a bit, but I don't know that I've ever listened to the Suites, I'll be sure to check them out.

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On 11/4/2022 at 11:23 AM, gmm said:

When you say at -9 to -6 db, do you mean peak or loudness? I believe YouTube limits the loudness at around -14 db...

I'm talking about peak. For audio the -9db to -6db levels seems like a good peak to set it at. When I was creating my livestreams I think I had mine at around -6db but then I just read that Youtube will lower the volume automatically if it is too loud anyway.

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  • 3 weeks later...

    I thought this was a very EFFECTIVE piece.   Thoughtfully constructed,  and within the time allowed, varied and spot on as far as emotional/atmospheric tone.

 

                The style reminded me of John Barry --say Out of Africa.  Can't say this is particularly accurate, but just a subjective impression.  The short melody really is a motif that might be used in film scoring---giving a great deal of flexibility to the composer while being just long enough to be memorable.

 

                 Great work.

 

     

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44 minutes ago, Rich said:

The style reminded me of John Barry --say Out of Africa.  Can't say this is particularly accurate, but just a subjective impression.  The short melody really is a motif that might be used in film scoring---giving a great deal of flexibility to the composer while being just long enough to be memorable.

Thanks man, I'm glad you liked it, and I'm glad the motives are memorable!

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