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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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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.)

@Socrates: I have been working with Lilypond as my main tool for composition; it's a purely notation program. Its MIDI function was added on as an afterthought, and pretty minimal in functionality (or should I say, barely usable without some major work on my part to make it more palatable). But its score output is ... shall I say, pretty breathtaking with minimal effort?  There are some areas where a bit more effort is required to make things look right, but right now it produces some of the best computer-generated score layouts I've seen yet, and that by default.  It's a non-GUI application, which is good for unrepentant computer geeks like myself, but there is a more friendly GUI interface to it called Frescobaldi, which, from what I've heard, is pretty good.

And IIRC, Musescore may have an export function to Lilypond, or may even be using Lilypond as its score-layout backend.

Anyway, the point is that with things like Lilypond (which is 100% free, btw!) around, I've not found the need for a more commercially-approved notation software. (In terms of producing decent sound output, though, that's a different story.)

I tried some years ago Lilypond Teoh but could not get used quickly to its non-GUI interface, although I was very much impressed by the optical results like you. Yes I would agree that there is no more need for expensive score writers like Sibelius in the face of free programmes like Lilypond and MuseScore. I downloaded MuseScore instead of Lilypond cause I found it much closer to the Sibelius look which I am very much used to, but still I use Sibelius. because speed of entry is of the very essence for me, and I have become fast at it through years of use, but I keep a watchful eye on AVID and I'm going to say good bye for good to them if they try to play any more of their fast tricks on me. I mean, they are still trying (by having installed I don’t know what to my laptop) to make me renew my annual "technical support" subscription, which is completely useless to me, but every time I go on line I get a silly message from Sibelius automatically.

Thanks for pointing me towards Frescobaldi. I will certainly look at it.

Some 20 years ago I composed at the piano with pencil and staff paper. I copied the score, cut it with a scissors and pasted the parts with a glue stick, and distributed the parts to the musicians. Then along came Finale Print Music which was great for chamber music with a maximum of 15 instruments/voices and no director so no good score needed.

About 4 years ago I began composing for full orchestra. That is when I should have upgraded to Finale but not being tech savvy I continued on with Print Music. ( Reading tutorials and learning a new program is about as much fun as going to the dentist.) Probably just opening these files in Finale would alleviate most of the problems. Converting some 9 hours of orchestra music to another format is out of the question.

There is also the factor of continuity. Ten years from now we may want to call Finale for tech support, and we want some assurance that they will still be in business. I am not averse to paying for software or support to assure their business in the future.

You have convinced me it is time to up-grade. It is time to hit the bricks and get music performed. That requires a readable score. Print music doesn't omit blank measures and staves, which makes a few minute orchestra piece 50 pages long, and everything is squashed together. Thanks for the good advice.



Socrates Arvanitakis said:

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/

Hi Lawrence,

This is a screen shot of MuseScore's Style =>General =>Score window, in which you can activate/de-activate some features towards creating multiple bar rests for parts and hiding empty bars in selected passages for scores. It shouldn't be that hard to do. I believe that with good XML files you could transfer all your orchestral music to other score writers with minimal re-editing needs.

Best!

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