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This is the finale to the series, 2016 a Spacey Odyssey, though I'm going to name it something different like, A Journey into Space. If all eight pieces are played in sequence it would run just over an hour.

I have used ideas from Holst's the Planets in six of the seven previous pieces. In this piece I've held closer to Holst's Uranus because I think it is his best and most innovative movement. I did not look at Neptune as it seems somewhat nebulous, vague, and ill defined, (I don't get it.)

These are my impressions of Holst's work, and ideas I have gleaned and used, though only as seen in the Planets. First of all he has a large modern orchestra, 16 reed parts, two harps, two tuba parts, 8 timpani, etc. In Mars he uses the structure of Ravel's Bolero with ostinato bass line in the first or fifth of the key, with melodies over it. I used the same idea. Mars is in 5/4 which gave me the idea to use 7/8 in a later piece. (The actual 7/8 came from T.T. Gaudowski).

I think the major sound to Holst and to the space genre is the sixth and sometimes seventh chord. An ominous melody played with sixth chord accompaniment over an ostinato on the first or fifth would describe Mars and other parts of the Planets.

In Venus Holst plays a melody over accompaniment alternating between I and IV or I and V, at one point he alternates between a seventh and a ninth chord. It is difficult to attribute originality but it may be a first in music. Copland used the technique extensively. Holst also ties chords over bar lines which gives the feel of syncopation or things being out of sync, a technique I have run across in Stravinsky and Copland.

Mercury has two cute ideas. First he takes a quick theme and breaks it into segments giving different instruments about a measure each. Then he intersperses runs that will start at the bottom of the orchestra and run through the various sections to the very top or go top to bottom. This piece was my inspiration for Sputnik.

Jupiter, probably his most popular work has great melodies. At some point he has almost the entire orchestra playing melody in two or three octaves. To me that is a bit of over kill. Another good idea in Jupiter, he takes a descant part by the treble instruments and fragments it, giving a note or two in each measure to each instrument. This imparts a quirky, rhythmical and accented feel. I have come across this idea in Copland as well.

I didn't glean any new ideas from Saturn, but did note some rhythms that seem to come out of Ravel's Jeux d'eau.

In Uranus he uses an accompaniment that repeats every three measures against a theme that runs in four measure segments. I used the same idea in the finale.

Holst is an innovative composer incorporating ideas from Ravel, R.V. Williams, and Wagner, (though I don't hear Wagner in the planets). He influenced modern composers like Korngold, Copland, and J. Williams. Certainly he is one of the greatest composers of the 20th century.

All comments are welcome on The Planets or The Spacey Odyssey.

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Hi Laurence,

The practical difficulty of following these type of piece and commenting is that one has to go from sound file to score and back again many times, even having two screens open, that is why I have sometimes requested an XML instead so that it’s loadable into any sequencer.

Well, now that I had my little moan, here are some thoughts on a first hearing/score-viewing.

 

Obviously a lot of good work has gone into this piece and in general I like it quite well.

PRESENTATION

I have to say that I usually prefer non transposing scores (in C), as I don’t see any real need for transposing ones which are more difficult to read, (I mean, one could still provide transposing individual parts for the instruments requiring them).

This score could do with a bit of cleaning up. Lots of collisions in various markings but especially on dynamics, hairpins, lines etc. I usually move such marks beside a note (in the left) if they are too low, so that they don’t obscure the view or hide notes in the next staff, or sometimes a general optimizing of the whole score can solve a lot of those problems.

No final bar line? I suppose the piece is finished as is (?)

 

SOUND FILE

I like very much the opening melodic/rhythmic motives.

bars 23-24, 27-28 Harp and tuba basses creating 4ths on 2nd beat in 1st bar of the pair and 5ths in the 2nd (nice effect and its resolution 4th=>5th) finally concluded in 31-32 with the avoidance of the 4th.

c 1'00'' end of section with half-close followed by new section (I like that as an unexpected element-the expected would be to return to the tonic :-) )

and again the same thing at 1'15''

Nice flow from section to section!

 

The more light texture of the section beginning at bar 45 (c. 1'21'')  with harp and WW provides a well thought out contrast to what has gone previously! I like the way the bassoon and horn take the first role, to be followed by the violins and then by almost complete strings and WW. The entry of the timps. on bar 65 is also quite effective in this section.

 

The passing into the faster section on bar 73 did not bother me so much in terms of tonality change but I felt it would have been more effective if it was done by a gradual acceleration in tempo. (But it’s only an opinion). Obviously this is a central developmental section and is well constructed and all the elements well explored and manipulated. Here I felt that in certain places the harmonic writing was too dense, struggling the melodies involved. I don’t know if this is a result of the samples involved in the mock up or of the actual dynamics involved in those passages.

Nice climax and harmonic resolution of this section at bars 100-101 !

 

The new-final group of sections (I call it a group cause it climaxes 2-3 times) that starts in bar 109 with the fast passages on WW which later become bridge passages and, the new tempo change is very pleasant and unexpected both rhythmically and melodically, although the accompanying rhythm uses only basic 6/8 material. The main melodic material passing to many instruments, I fell, has a decisive character and  it's very much suited to the horns and answering trombones and trumpets, then followed by WW and strings. I thought it is very energetic and meant to be majestic, involving the melody in many interesting ways. Well done!

But… it seems inconclusive harmonically, do you want it like that? Not that it bothers me a bit, I quite like it, cause I use inconclusive endings all the time.

 

All in all I like this piece well, Laurence. I have not heard your complete set of this works, but I think that you are up to something quite inspirational and of big artistic value.

Keep it going and thanks for sharing.

lots of good ideas Laurence and some decent scoring in places. The score presentation does indeed need to be cleaned up as Socrates says. The playback does this music no favours whatsoever as it has nothing to do with what the piece would sound like in real life, but I bet you could improve the sound a little with some judicious balancing here and there to make your musical intention more clear. My favourite bit is around b47 cf.

Well, Dave, I cannot fathom how it qualifies as a comment to Lawrence's piece, but I like the video very much and I already shared it in the face book :-)

'Love it Dave

Dave Dexter said:

L A, for me, this was too earthbound. I hear 'seafaring' and not space odyssey.

That is the 'general impression' I got from a 1 time listening. No matter how you / we

intellectualize what we intend to compose, the bottom line will be what the listener hears.

The raw essence of the music has to 'translate', no matter the history, or the intent, or the

influences it pays homage to. There is no universal 'grasp' of music. It's an individual 'thang'.

That's my 2 cents, but it's yours for free.   : >}   RS


Socrates,

     Thanks for you careful attention and astute comments.  The score does have a double bar ending, but the kooky pdf cut off the last measure.  Harmonically the piece should end on E, but I thought it would sound more modern this way.  Try as I may, I can't do much more about cleaning up the score.  Probably the solution is to upgrade to Finale. Thanks again.
Socrates Arvanitakis said:

Hi Laurence,

The practical difficulty of following these type of piece and commenting is that one has to go from sound file to score and back again many times, even having two screens open, that is why I have sometimes requested an XML instead so that it’s loadable into any sequencer.

Well, now that I had my little moan, here are some thoughts on a first hearing/score-viewing.

 

Obviously a lot of good work has gone into this piece and in general I like it quite well.

PRESENTATION

I have to say that I usually prefer non transposing scores (in C), as I don’t see any real need for transposing ones which are more difficult to read, (I mean, one could still provide transposing individual parts for the instruments requiring them).

This score could do with a bit of cleaning up. Lots of collisions in various markings but especially on dynamics, hairpins, lines etc. I usually move such marks beside a note (in the left) if they are too low, so that they don’t obscure the view or hide notes in the next staff, or sometimes a general optimizing of the whole score can solve a lot of those problems.

No final bar line? I suppose the piece is finished as is (?)

 

SOUND FILE

I like very much the opening melodic/rhythmic motives.

bars 23-24, 27-28 Harp and tuba basses creating 4ths on 2nd beat in 1st bar of the pair and 5ths in the 2nd (nice effect and its resolution 4th=>5th) finally concluded in 31-32 with the avoidance of the 4th.

c 1'00'' end of section with half-close followed by new section (I like that as an unexpected element-the expected would be to return to the tonic :-) )

and again the same thing at 1'15''

Nice flow from section to section!

 

The more light texture of the section beginning at bar 45 (c. 1'21'')  with harp and WW provides a well thought out contrast to what has gone previously! I like the way the bassoon and horn take the first role, to be followed by the violins and then by almost complete strings and WW. The entry of the timps. on bar 65 is also quite effective in this section.

 

The passing into the faster section on bar 73 did not bother me so much in terms of tonality change but I felt it would have been more effective if it was done by a gradual acceleration in tempo. (But it’s only an opinion). Obviously this is a central developmental section and is well constructed and all the elements well explored and manipulated. Here I felt that in certain places the harmonic writing was too dense, struggling the melodies involved. I don’t know if this is a result of the samples involved in the mock up or of the actual dynamics involved in those passages.

Nice climax and harmonic resolution of this section at bars 100-101 !

 

The new-final group of sections (I call it a group cause it climaxes 2-3 times) that starts in bar 109 with the fast passages on WW which later become bridge passages and, the new tempo change is very pleasant and unexpected both rhythmically and melodically, although the accompanying rhythm uses only basic 6/8 material. The main melodic material passing to many instruments, I fell, has a decisive character and  it's very much suited to the horns and answering trombones and trumpets, then followed by WW and strings. I thought it is very energetic and meant to be majestic, involving the melody in many interesting ways. Well done!

But… it seems inconclusive harmonically, do you want it like that? Not that it bothers me a bit, I quite like it, cause I use inconclusive endings all the time.

 

All in all I like this piece well, Laurence. I have not heard your complete set of this works, but I think that you are up to something quite inspirational and of big artistic value.

Keep it going and thanks for sharing.

Thanks for listening.  I'm probably maxing out the capabilities of Finale Print music.
 
Mike Hewer said:

lots of good ideas Laurence and some decent scoring in places. The score presentation does indeed need to be cleaned up as Socrates says. The playback does this music no favours whatsoever as it has nothing to do with what the piece would sound like in real life, but I bet you could improve the sound a little with some judicious balancing here and there to make your musical intention more clear. My favourite bit is around b47 cf.

So you want me to say that on rare occasions even the kitchen sink can be a welcome addition to any musical composition.  Well I'm not going to say that.  This piece makes me want to take kitchen sink lessons, but the sink won't fit in my cello case.  Probably John Cage is applauding from his grave.  Though this piece is almost as good as his 4 min. of silence.
 
Dave Dexter said:

Roger,

     Interesting point.  I focused solely on making a smooth transition from the somber movement preceding it to the big climax at the end.  Bringing in the quirky sounds of the previous movements never crossed my mind.  This way the ending is somewhat generic and not specific to the space theme.  I may go back and pick out the stuff that sounds like My Favorite Martian and incorporate it into the ending.  Good idea.
 
roger stancill said:

L A, for me, this was too earthbound. I hear 'seafaring' and not space odyssey.

That is the 'general impression' I got from a 1 time listening. No matter how you / we

intellectualize what we intend to compose, the bottom line will be what the listener hears.

The raw essence of the music has to 'translate', no matter the history, or the intent, or the

influences it pays homage to. There is no universal 'grasp' of music. It's an individual 'thang'.

That's my 2 cents, but it's yours for free.   : >}   RS

Regarding score writers with decent sounds and very close to Finale and Sibelius (I believe one day it will leave them behind even in score-writing features), have a look here Lawrence. It is completely free to download and it’s improving all the time, see if it suits you. You can even open an account and upload your pieces in their site, or participate in the new initiative "Open Score". Both MuseScore and Open Score, I believe will crack down seriusly one day on the power and monopoly of expensive score writers and expensive commercially available music scores.

https://musescore.org/

I like this. Lots of fun, and nicely scored.

I have to admit, though, that I had a hard time connecting the music to the title.  I struggled with associating the music with the idea of a space shuttle flying off into that great final frontier... the music was enjoyable to listen to, but it didn't immediately impress upon me the idea of space. However, the section starting from m.109 does sound a bit more space-y; the fast fluttering figures in the winds did evoke in me the image of maneuvering in space, perhaps a space probe or something extending from the shuttle and tumbling about in a gravity-free environment.

I think perhaps part of what threw me off with the other sections is the persistent marching rhythm throughout the piece. I think the regularity of the marching rhythm felt a bit too "anchored" for something that ostensibly should be taking off into the vast unknown out there. Perhaps a more adventurous rhythm might have worked better, something less regular, less anchored, and more exciting out there in the final frontier.  Or perhaps this is just a routine shuttle mission that the crew are  just sitting back and enjoying, there's certainly that possibility. :-D  But IMO it would have been more exciting to listen to if you had employed a more interesting / adventurous rhythm.

And finally... I see that you're working mainly from notation; Mike is currently running a contest where the winner will get a chance to hear his work "performed" with more realistic, high-quality samples programmed by the expertise of Mike and Ray.  Maybe you might be interested to sign up? Mike has graciously extended the deadline till the end of the year, so there should be plenty of time to come up with something suitable. Perhaps you might get to hear how one of your pieces might sound like in a live performance! (Well, not quite live, but pretty darned close, judging by the demo Mike put up.)

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