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The Flowers That Bloom in Spring


pateceramics
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Moderate difficulty and modest ranges for all vocal parts.  There are a few notes of divisi for every part but the tenors.  I'd love to hear what you think, and pianists, let me know if the piano reduction would be better with any notes moved to the other hand.  (I'm not a pianist).  Thanks for your thoughts!

The text follows the lifecycle of the bumble bee.  Unlike domesticated honey bees, out of the whole colony, only new bumble bee queens survive the winter each year.  Each new pregnant queen must carefully select a nest site after emerging for winter dormancy and start a colony all alone.  For the first few weeks of spring, she must divide her time between laying eggs, gathering and preparing nectar and pollen, and warming and caring for her new offspring.  If her nest site proves to be too far from a continual succession of blooms while the weather is still cool, her babies will succumb to the cold while she is away from the nest gathering food for them.  Until the first generation of workers are old enough to take over some of the tasks of caring for the group, allowing for grocery trips further from home, and warm temperatures and the flood of summer flowers makes comfort and food supplies more sure, her nest's survival is tenuous.  But if all goes well, by the time summer wanes, hundreds of her children will be busy among the blooms, and her own new queens will be preparing to disperse and carry on the cycle the next year.  

It's also important to remember that although we may see hundreds of bumble bees out in the garden, genetically speaking, each nest counts as one individual.  One reproducing queen:  one set of genes being passed down.  All those workers don't generally count.  So when you are thinking about the survival of a bumble bee species, you need not just lots of bumble bees, but lots of bumble bee nests in an area in order to have the genetic diversity that allows the population to continue in a healthy way.  Too few nests, each headed by a single reproducing queen, and even though you see tons of bees on the landscape, they may be in danger of slow local extinction from inbreeding.  You can help!  A mowed lawn, a sea of mulched flower bed, or a paved parking area is not bee habitat.  None of these provide nesting sites or food.  Bumble bees need drifts of fallen leaves to hide their nests under in summer, and for the queens to pass the winter under.  So don't rake at least part of your yard, or compost your leaves in a big pile on site.  Thick clumps of long grasses are also popular nesting sites.  If you could hide a rabbit in it, it's probably thick and clumpy enough.  Cohabitating with chipmunks in their holes is also popular, so tolerate those cute little guys in your yard.  And be sure to have plenty of native flowering plants in your yard.  Our local bees evolved with our local plants.  Often plants from other continents don't have the right flower shape for them to access, bloom at the wrong time, or don't provide the right nutrition they need to thrive.  Humans mess around with breeding flowers for color and size so much, that often we end up breeding flowers that actually contain no nectar or pollen.  Oops!  No food there at all!

 

Edited by pateceramics
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Hi @pateceramics,

The opening is refreshing. I love the middle section. They are in unison and really depicts how busy and homogenous the working bees are. I just find the bridge to it a little bit abrupt with the means of an F major chord though.

I notice there are quite a number of parallels throughout the song. Is that your intended sound? I find it quite fine to have these parallels, since it adds the earthly feeling.

B.32 and 34 seems quite weird for me with a D-A# augmented fifth resolved, then move to a perfect fifth of E-B. I find the sound really in clash with each other.

And to end on a second inversion chord. What is the implication of that? Is that to minimize the stability of the ending?

For the piano part I find it absolutely fine in terms of playing it. No problem on that.

Thanks for sharing!

Henry

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3 hours ago, Henry Ng Tsz Kiu said:

The opening is refreshing. I love the middle section. They are in unison and really depicts how busy and homogenous the working bees are. I just find the bridge to it a little bit abrupt with the means of an F major chord though.

I notice there are quite a number of parallels throughout the song. Is that your intended sound? I find it quite fine to have these parallels, since it adds the earthly feeling.

B.32 and 34 seems quite weird for me with a D-A# augmented fifth resolved, then move to a perfect fifth of E-B. I find the sound really in clash with each other.

And to end on a second inversion chord. What is the implication of that? Is that to minimize the stability of the ending?

 

Thanks so much for taking the time to give it a thorough listen, Henry.  I really appreciate your comments.  Yes, I did want an abrupt transition at bar 15, as we go from a pretty, wistful discussion of flowers:  "ah... the flowers are gone so quickly, such a shame..."  to the main theme of the text:  "the survival of the bees in early spring is precarious... how terrifying to be a mother bee in spring..."  I wanted a sharp turn in the music there to a feeling of anxiety, that then steadily builds.  

Measure 32 and 34, I wanted to feel a bit creepy.  The vegetation is growing so fast and thick and strange at certain times during the summer that it is a little unsettling how quickly it shoots up.  Think Audrey 2 from Little Shop of Horrors.  Is it wonderful, or is it worrying how fast the vines twine around the porch railings and scale the trees?  

The second inversion at the end was mainly about the bass part.  I wanted the basses to have a chance to proceed down the staff and majestically unfurl their low range, for a feeling of contentedly sinking into a warm bath.  I tried the ending a few different ways, but this was the one I liked best.  

Thank you for your thoughts, and I'm glad to hear my piano reduction looks okay!  

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1 hour ago, pateceramics said:

Yes, I did want an abrupt transition at bar 15, as we go from a pretty, wistful discussion of flowers:  "ah... the flowers are gone so quickly, such a shame..."  to the main theme of the text:  "the survival of the bees in early spring is precarious... how terrifying to be a mother bee in spring..."  I wanted a sharp turn in the music there to a feeling of anxiety, that then steadily builds.  

Oh now I get it! The abrupt chords espress what you want to espress!

1 hour ago, pateceramics said:

Measure 32 and 34, I wanted to feel a bit creepy.  The vegetation is growing so fast and thick and strange at certain times during the summer that it is a little unsettling how quickly it shoots up.  Think Audrey 2 from Little Shop of Horrors.  Is it wonderful, or is it worrying how fast the vines twine around the porch railings and scale the trees?  

I do feel creepy with those strange chords. Great job here!

1 hour ago, pateceramics said:

The second inversion at the end was mainly about the bass part.  I wanted the basses to have a chance to proceed down the staff and majestically unfurl their low range, for a feeling of contentedly sinking into a warm bath.  I tried the ending a few different ways, but this was the one I liked best.  

I would have probably end with a low E though, but if that's your favourite one, then this will be good!

Thank you for your clarification!

Henry

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I like your language, it's tonal but modal/spicy. I really like the chord at bar 15, very cool!

One thing is I would have liked to have heard more individual voices, or parts where there's only two singing. A more sparse texture in spots could have really given this a more dynamic feel, but then again I complain about that all the time. In general I think it's always good for music. 

Piano reduction looks fine and logical to me. Great stuff here, thanks for sharing!

21 hours ago, pateceramics said:

Cohabitating with chipmunks in their holes is also popular, so tolerate those cute little guys in your yard.  And be sure to have plenty of native flowering plants in your yard.

If I ever have my own yard, my own little piece of ground, you'll be happy to know I'd make it bee heaven

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6 hours ago, Thatguy v2.0 said:

One thing is I would have liked to have heard more individual voices, or parts where there's only two singing. A more sparse texture in spots could have really given this a more dynamic feel, but then again I complain about that all the time. In general I think it's always good for music. 

That's a good point, and something I do generally try to do.  Not sure why I didn't really get there on this one!  Thanks for the thought!  And, hurrah for your future bee paradise! 🙂

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi. Just like that guy above, I don't own my own yard but I'll keep your words in mind. I also agree with Henry of the playability on the piano reduction.

• The piece is modest in its range as well as you say its difficulty is, and in this case I like it that way, as every work doesn't need to be bombastic nor extreme at all. Still, it felt pretty static to me, perhaps because of the already pointed abundance of parallel phrases, and some abrupt silences (one at the beginning of the piece for example). It would be really nice if you managed to do an actual performance of this. This way we could see the piece at its full expression, but obviously we all know here that it's kinda difficult to get your pieces performed.

• While I get some dissonances and the reason behind certain decisions since you already commented them, I expected some tension release on, e.g: M29-33 because of the lyrics and as a contrast with the preceding section. 

Kind regards,
Daniel–Ømicrón.
 

Edited by Omicronrg9
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On 1/29/2023 at 7:56 PM, Omicronrg9 said:

Hi. Just like that guy above, I don't own my own yard but I'll keep your words in mind. I also agree with Henry of the playability on the piano reduction.

• The piece is modest in its range as well as you say its difficulty is, and in this case I like it that way, as every work doesn't need to be bombastic nor extreme at all. Still, it felt pretty static to me, perhaps because of the already pointed abundance of parallel phrases, and some abrupt silences (one at the beginning of the piece for example). It would be really nice if you managed to do an actual performance of this. This way we could see the piece at its full expression, but obviously we all know here that it's kinda difficult to get your pieces performed.

• While I get some dissonances and the reason behind certain decisions since you already commented them, I expected some tension release on, e.g: M29-33 because of the lyrics and as a contrast with the preceding section. 
 

Thanks for the feedback, Omicron.  It's always a relief to hear that I've managed to pull off a playable piano part.  

Yes, the groups that are interested in performing works they find on the internet by unknown composers are generally looking for something less virtuosic in my experience.  The groups who specialize in very difficult new music tend to already have working relationships with well-established composers, who write commissions just for them, or the money and reputation to go solicit works in a contest.  But there are a lot of talented groups out there who would love to premiere a piece, if it doesn't take all the rehearsal time away from the rest of their concert repertoire.  Virtuosity is good for impressing contest judges and college admissions committees, but there are fewer groups outside of those conditions willing to take a chance on performing difficult pieces, so I like to have some works available at a variety of difficulty levels.  Most of the music world has a limit to how much rehearsal time they can commit to any one piece.  

The pauses are just written in breaths.  Since final consonants for singers fall on the rest, the piece shouldn't sound as gap-y in performance as it does in the demo.  Directors spend a lot of rehearsal time dictating how the choir should mark up their scores for breaths, so when I have an opinion about where to put one and how long to make it for good breath support, to add a little rhythmic variety to the line, or to keep the text from sounding muddy with a big group or an echoey concert space, I like to go ahead and write it in.  (Directors will absolutely change what you write if it doesn't work well for the group, the space, or the tempo they are taking, which is totally fine, but if you go ahead and let them know what you were picturing, a lot of people find that helpful to get feel for what they might do with a previously unperformed work).  Where I don't have a strong opinion, I don't mark them and leave people to make their own decisions.  The beginning of this piece is marked "rubato," so I was trying to offer some potential shape to the phrasing.  Where the phrases could tumble on, one after the next, as parts of a larger whole, and where you could have a little lift, with each phrase its own separate unit.  I hope that makes sense.

I really struggled with what I wanted to do with this piece.  The emotional peak happens after measure 33, so I didn't want to let up on the gas pedal and release the tension too soon, we have to have our cracking thunder, hordes of songbirds, and armies of bees before we can relax, but I agree, it does feel like a long time to go without an emotional break.  I spent a lot of time fidgeting around with how long to make the preceding section, but ultimately this is what I ended up with.  Mainly, I didn't want listeners to assume a piece about flowers and bees = pretty and sweet.  I wanted to challenge that idea, and help people feel worried on behalf of the bees, and to see a bee's eye view of the flowers where everything in the landscape is huge and strange, and even frightening.  I wanted deep unease and foreboding.  So it ended up with a compromise:  trying to create and sustain tension, without being unduly difficult for singers who don't have perfect pitch to sight-read.  I'm still not sure how I feel about the end result.  Hopefully someone will perform it, and then I'll let you know!  Thanks for taking the time to give such a detailed review!  😄

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