Music Composers Unite!
I have the exciting but terrifying opportunity to have a piece performed by a professional concert band in late February. It is to mark the 50th Anniversary of Concorde.
I am not a particularly experienced composer, so this has been quite an undertaking! It came about after I volunteered to write a four-minute piece for a parade band, but in the end he asked for 5-6 minutes for full concert band. Obviously, I couldn't say no, but I didn't realise the size of the task at the time!
At the moment, it is pretty much where I want it to be in terms of structure, but I need to dig into the weeds in the score, in terms of phrase lengths, dynamics, harmony and the voicing of some chords.
The venue has a very large screen, so it is going to be performed alongside footage/pictures and general information about Concorde, hence the cinematic approach I've gone for.
I'd be very grateful for some feedback!
Had a slight problem reading the score as I have only a 15" laptop screen but I gave it a play through. I think another problem was the production itself that doesn't allow too good a balance. A conductor would sort that out. These timings are approximate, I jotted them from the mp3 player.
After a good opening, at 1'10" the texture got blurry, there seemed too much happening.
1'43" Really started letting go at this point. Nice.
2'18" This really sounded majestic. This suggests you'd spotted the score to particular images of Concorde. Seems to have the quiet collossus about it, if that makes sense.
Good build up before the recap at around 4'02". Perhaps it came to too much of a standstill just before the recap but there could be reasons for this. The recap started fine but again at 4'30 it got blurry.
The ending was fine if it's what you want. Again depends on the images. A fuller chord (around the middle to lower register would have been more conclusive (just in my view).
I suspect the few awkward spots are down to balance but it may be possible to remove some elaborations from the score at those points, perhaps turning some instruments to doubling what's going on elsewhere. The faster, rhythmic sessions sound good.
A pretty ambitious score and generally well constructed.
I may have to add to this /correct it later, my computer is playing up right now. I don't want to lose this reply!
Thanks for the detailed feedback, I really appreciate it.
You're right about blurriness - I had blamed this on it being midi but now that you mention it, too much is going on. I will trim some of the ideas here and also at 4'30 as you say.
With regards to the images and videos of Concorde being displayed, the idea is to theme the images and text as follows (gradual shifts more so than precise moments):
Opening - concept art/design documents/quotes about concorde
First rhythmic section - images of Concorde being assembled
Introduction of the main theme - Concorde take off, leading up to sonic boom when everything drops out but the horns followed by bass drum and low brass hit.
Woodwind with first theme inverted - Concorde in the clouds, soaring
2'18 - this is to link to a section covering the decline of concorde and the Air France Flight 4590 crash. I have included some allusions to the opening of Le Marsaillaise, not sure how well they come through!
You are completely right about the end, I just ran out of time to tweak it, and wanted to post this to get some feedback prior to my submission of a draft score. I think a fuller chord in the lower end will help. I want there to be a resolution, which is undermined by the flute and piccolo triplets, but I think I need to estabilish the resolution more thoroughly.
Anyway, thanks again so much for taking the time with this, I really appreciate it, and I think you're completely correct about the blurriness.
Hi James, congratulations on getting this opportunity! I think your piece sounds good and should do just fine for what it's purpose is. Dane has pointed out some issues, I would add that you should check some phrase lengths for breathing problems. At measure 16 the clarinets start a passage that goes about 30 measures. Players will find ways around long phrases but in general 30 seconds is a pretty long breath to hold. You could give each chair a break at certain points and let the others fill in to cover when necessary, writing that in saves them having to deal with it. Good work!
Hi Ingo Lee, thanks for this. It's slightly embarrassing as I'm actually going to be playing one of the clarinet parts...!
I will definitely be looking at those phrase lengths and also the lower brass phrase lengths in my next revision.
First impressions are very good....I can see/hear where you're coming from with your description of what you're trying to achieve.
My only observation is one of playability - it's already been mentioned but some of the phrases are far too long - one of the worst examples is the euphonium expected to hold a sustained C for 6 bars towards the end. I'm a wind player and so are you, so we both know that phrasing is related to how long a breath can be sustained before the players turn blue and then gently expire - it's a heck of a messy job for the cleaners of the auditorium after the concert.
Much of the tricky work in the clarinets over multiple bars would be exhausting so it's up to you as the composer to make it do-able. As already suggested, you could split the desks to allow the players to catch their breath, but also remember the old technique of allowing sustained notes in the wind instruments whilst having a snare drum snap out the rhythm...it's an old ploy because it's very effective.
I hope this helps to make an effective and pleasing composition performable. Well done indeed on getting the job!