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https://soundcloud.com/larya/curiosity-rover

     This piece has two good ideas taken not from Holst, but from members of the forum.  Bob reminded me of why I liked the sound track to 2001 A Space Odyssey,  the opening fanfare of Richard Strauss's Zarathustra.  The rest of the movement has a theme which contains all twelve notes of the chromatic scale.

     Another member, whose name I can't remember, the guy with the saxophone, posted a nice piece in 7/8 time.  So the main theme of this piece played by the horn, contains all twelve notes of the chromatic scale and is in 7/8 time.  Actually I put it in 7/4 time to avoid using 64th notes.  The former piece had 7 even beats.  This piece has the standard 3 beats followed by 4 beats.

     It depicts Curiosity Rover the robotic jeep that was launched by NASA in 2012 and is still making tracks in the red dust of Mars. The recurring theme represents Rover facing adversity yet plowing through onward and upward.  It keeps on going and going and going longer than the energizer rabbit.

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This is great Lawrence.

Lots of beautiful moments and nice scoring. The string divisi at b9 reminded me of the score to Scissorhands -  typical film score harmonic movement, but effective.

For b19 in the harp, you should notate the c + g sharps enharmonically to facilitate the playing. Great strings at b22, but at b25 there are 4 oboes! I think there are 4 trumpets somewhere too! Perhaps a little more distribution between brass and horns might be nice.

From b25 on is my favourite part. The theme is hauntingly beautiful and nicely and delicately scored. Bar 35 cf too is effective in its' use of antiphonal technique. It's all very Holstian and none the worse for that.

But, oh dear, please put more detail for performance in your score and parts. I know I've banged on about this before to you and I can see some phrasing in the winds, but it is not enough. The string parts need work too on the bowing as it is non-existent in places. Hairpins are sorely lacking, etc etc...perhaps I'll keep this paragraph and just copy and paste it into all my posts here....:-) You've written a nice piece, but it's let down again by the lack of thought into the important performance details - they are as much a part of composition as the notes themselves. You should be hearing your phrasing as you write it and in the background, the right articulations can make the difference when trying to project foreground material.

Speaking of performance, one thing I'd have done different (for what it's worth)...

I would have put a fermata on the climax chord at b77. and perhaps filter out some of the parts over the length of the pause to make a more effective diminuendo, but that's just me.

Great though Lawrence...

Mike.

Mike,

I agree, if somethings worth doing its worth doing right and, to the best of ones ability but............

Too many here (not Bob in particular) are quick to make excuses for themselves and others which for me seem just laziness. However, you sure do sound like a few music teachers I had as a boy :) Then, I never listened to word they said :)

Ray

Bob, I disagree with your attitude.

We can all benefit a lot from learning and including the important details in our work. Bowing can be learnt to a reasonable degree by just studying scores - I did it and have had no problems in the real world. A composer should always articulate his intent in a score,  even if a performance is unlikely, or the playback can't hack it, or it's just for CF.

One learns from cultivating a state of mind that incorporates details into a score. A learning curve that will help us grow as composers. It's a state of mind, one that educates you through study and gives you composing options - options that lift your music above the mundane. I'm sure some here want to improve.........

Ray...Lol..

Lawrence, I don't wish to derail this, it's just that your music is very good  and it's upsetting to see the score half done. I can't see why you don't put in details as you go along, I use Sibelius and it takes a nano-second to add detail...

Loved the piece, Lawrence.

I can hear and picture in my head exactly how this would sound with a live performance- inspirational, breathtaking. This would surely do in any Tim Burton film just as well as an Elfman score would. (If you had the resources to get a live orchestra record it)

What's even better, even without this being set to picture it does well standing on its own. Musically, it still makes sense without the need for picture. That, to me, is always a sign of well composed film music. I'm sort of picturing my own film in my head of a Mars Landscape as Curiosity wanders about, and this is very, very setting of the mood I envision.
I could feel the 3 beat, 4 beat pulse very well - so even with the odd time signature, that's OK as there's still a good pulse for any listener to feel.

Additionally, I love the choice of odd chromatics and time signature for a piece of this nature. It just is fitting. Your samples did a good job of capturing the phrasing and dynamics you envision as well, while it's never the same as the real deal, I can again easily hear in my head the feel of a live orchestra.

As you're obviously more experienced than me in composition, I have no input in that aspect. I do agree, whilst following the score I thought that more detail is always better. I guess everyone can learn something from someone, so I'll share why I think it's important to be so detailed in notation: I think the music of the greatest composers that has survived (before recordings existed) is highly detailed because it needs to be. They didn't have a recording to show people how it was supposed to sound when the sheet music was distributed from a publisher. So the composers had to rely on their notation to ensure other people would not misinterpret their work. That is why, to me, it is still important to be as detailed in notation as possible. So if you ever do need to print this out and give out the parts to an ensemble, the players know exactly what you mean and there's no confusion. My college professors always stressed this to me that when you ask an ensemble (after distributing the score) if there are any questions, the best feeling is when no hands go up. I think the bar should always be set high no matter what it is you are doing - and I agree, a lot of people on the site seem to toss up pretty lackluster scores maybe because they're in the mindset "This will never be played live anyway". I still disagree and think everyone should do the best they can with absolutely anything, especially on a site like this where we love to nit pick the living daylight out of any and everything!

But just giving in an opinion from a listener's perspective, and it was a great listen. Thanks for sharing this.

Mike,
I'm wondering how I could comment on your post before you posted it?
Spooky!

Mike,

     Thanks for the comments and input.  I don't feel competent to put in bowing markings, but I know I should write articulations.  This was written in 2016 before my New Years resolution to make a better score.  We will see what 2017 brings. 

     You guys do sound like music teachers.  I promise to put in articulations, brush my teeth and eat my spinach.
 
Mike Hewer said:

This is great Lawrence.

Lots of beautiful moments and nice scoring. The string divisi at b9 reminded me of the score to Scissorhands -  typical film score harmonic movement, but effective.

For b19 in the harp, you should notate the c + g sharps enharmonically to facilitate the playing. Great strings at b22, but at b25 there are 4 oboes! I think there are 4 trumpets somewhere too! Perhaps a little more distribution between brass and horns might be nice.

From b25 on is my favourite part. The theme is hauntingly beautiful and nicely and delicately scored. Bar 35 cf too is effective in its' use of antiphonal technique. It's all very Holstian and none the worse for that.

But, oh dear, please put more detail for performance in your score and parts. I know I've banged on about this before to you and I can see some phrasing in the winds, but it is not enough. The string parts need work too on the bowing as it is non-existent in places. Hairpins are sorely lacking, etc etc...perhaps I'll keep this paragraph and just copy and paste it into all my posts here....:-) You've written a nice piece, but it's let down again by the lack of thought into the important performance details - they are as much a part of composition as the notes themselves. You should be hearing your phrasing as you write it and in the background, the right articulations can make the difference when trying to project foreground material.

Speaking of performance, one thing I'd have done different (for what it's worth)...

I would have put a fermata on the climax chord at b77. and perhaps filter out some of the parts over the length of the pause to make a more effective diminuendo, but that's just me.

Great though Lawrence...

Mike.

Bob,

     When I composed for chamber orchestra our cellist was from the national symphony of South Africa of all places.  She wrote in bowing and fingering which was quite a bit different than what I would have done, probably because she knew what she was doing.  Our violinist was a violin teacher, former symphony member, and composer with a long list of published works.  He never wrote anything in his part.  Far be it from me to tell these people how to bow their fiddles.
 
Bob Porter said:

Very nice, Lawrence.
Just between you, me. and the fence post, I know that any score you post here is what your notation software needs to play how you want. This is not a finished score ready to be published, and doesn't need to be. The software doesn't read certain articulations, so for the sake of getting the music on the site there isn't much need to bother. And unless you play violin, your suggestions for any bowing may not be accurate. Every orchestra has someone who goes through all the string parts and marks bowing anyway.
If, and when, this score gets performed, I'm sure all the proper things will get done to it. That may or may not be adheared to.
Much is said on the forum about the "composers intent". Yet I submit that what makes music the greatest art is that there is more to it than that. There is what the composer wants, sure. But there is also what the performer wants, and what the listener wants. And all are in constant flux.

Of this series, I think I like this piece the best so far.

     I would say the chamber orchestra I worked with in the past functioned more the way Bob describes.  We were a collaborative group.  Even if I specified tempo, dynamics, articulation etc.  they would change it.  Sometimes I would protest, but occasionally they would be right.  Sometimes the eventual tempo and dynamics would evolve as we practiced.  I suppose this type of arrangement is different with full orchestra where the director pretty much has the final say.
 
David Lilly said:

Loved the piece, Lawrence.

I can hear and picture in my head exactly how this would sound with a live performance- inspirational, breathtaking. This would surely do in any Tim Burton film just as well as an Elfman score would. (If you had the resources to get a live orchestra record it)

What's even better, even without this being set to picture it does well standing on its own. Musically, it still makes sense without the need for picture. That, to me, is always a sign of well composed film music. I'm sort of picturing my own film in my head of a Mars Landscape as Curiosity wanders about, and this is very, very setting of the mood I envision.
I could feel the 3 beat, 4 beat pulse very well - so even with the odd time signature, that's OK as there's still a good pulse for any listener to feel.

Additionally, I love the choice of odd chromatics and time signature for a piece of this nature. It just is fitting. Your samples did a good job of capturing the phrasing and dynamics you envision as well, while it's never the same as the real deal, I can again easily hear in my head the feel of a live orchestra.

As you're obviously more experienced than me in composition, I have no input in that aspect. I do agree, whilst following the score I thought that more detail is always better. I guess everyone can learn something from someone, so I'll share why I think it's important to be so detailed in notation: I think the music of the greatest composers that has survived (before recordings existed) is highly detailed because it needs to be. They didn't have a recording to show people how it was supposed to sound when the sheet music was distributed from a publisher. So the composers had to rely on their notation to ensure other people would not misinterpret their work. That is why, to me, it is still important to be as detailed in notation as possible. So if you ever do need to print this out and give out the parts to an ensemble, the players know exactly what you mean and there's no confusion. My college professors always stressed this to me that when you ask an ensemble (after distributing the score) if there are any questions, the best feeling is when no hands go up. I think the bar should always be set high no matter what it is you are doing - and I agree, a lot of people on the site seem to toss up pretty lackluster scores maybe because they're in the mindset "This will never be played live anyway". I still disagree and think everyone should do the best they can with absolutely anything, especially on a site like this where we love to nit pick the living daylight out of any and everything!

But just giving in an opinion from a listener's perspective, and it was a great listen. Thanks for sharing this.

When our cellist decided to go to med school I found a goofy girl, Nicole, who was a junior at the conservatory as a replacement.  I had started learning cello on my own but suddenly realized that I had only two years to get up to speed before she graduated.  So I wandered into the conservatory and asked for a good cello teacher.  I was directed to Nadia who turned out to be the principle cellist of the K.C. symphony, previously the principal cellist of the Israel symphony, and before that a member of the Moscow symphony. She was expensive and cancelled every other lesson as she would flit off to some far off country to concertize.  So I ended up taking lessons from Nicole.  She was a good teacher and more on my level.  After two years of lessons we performed Vivaldi's cello duet in G min. with chamber orchestra.  But the other members complained that their parts were too simple (actually they resented playing second fiddle to two cello virtuosos.)  So I wrote my own cello duet and jazzed up the orchestra parts.  We performed it and everyone lived happily ever after.

Bob,

I don't actually want to fall out with you over this. We have a divergence in our opinion as to how music should be presented and no doubt composed. That said, I am posting a robust reply here because there may well be young composers looking for guidance and in my view, your post needs a strong rejoinder.

I have taken some of what I see as contentious quotes out of your post in order to comment specifically, so with apologies to Lawrence....(again)

Actually seeing how they fit together. Is the music playable?

Hence the need for detail. The score only works in real life if those details are understood. A good critique here can't be fully made without knowing if the composer understands about balance in an orchestra. One can point out balance issues, but could be wasting time if the composer knew about them already and just didn't bother including them.

So, then you say that the answer is for the composer to mark his scores as much as he can so that the players will know how his music should be played. To me that is the height of vanity and a destroyer of creativity.


Rubbish. For any young composer here who is reading this please ignore this. This is anathema to the art and craft of composition. We compose for self expression and a need to communicate. Leaving out detail is not communicating with the player. The player has plenty of room for self expression too in this, it's a nice little arrangement that has worked for centuries.

You have obviously never played in live groups where things are changed for many reasons. And believe me, that happens all the time.

I guess 30 years as a pro, working with the finest players the UK has to offer, in some of the best studios in the world and recording scores against the clock whilst having to occasionally make changes for a client doesn't count here. My  preparation was always diligent - hardly any queries from players because my scores and intent were crystal clear. I am merely trying to inculcate a sense of professionalism in score presentation.

You guys are offended by a score that looks half done? Maybe that’s how the composer wanted it.


Naaahhh...not buying that Bob, that just smacks of an excuse. Granted, there are aleatoric scores and no doubt artistic statements that promulgate this, but they are the exception. I'm sure a lot of people here want to know how to do things in the real world, because it is there that they may want to make a living. I've done it successfully and am trying to help aspiring composers by passing on what I've learnt.

Who better to interpret a line of music than the person in the trenches who knows their instrument better than most composers. 

But...surely the composer knows his music best, and if he's written good music, the player will also instinctively get it.

Yes, players know their instruments, but  all competent composers know enough about instruments to get musical results. I play none of the orchestral instruments, but have, through study and discipline been approached many times after a session from players complimenting me on my part writing. Young readers take note - it can be done and it's a great feeling to be vindicated by top players.

Bowing. Sure, mark some bowing in if you must.

Oh good grief Bob, what  negativity for any aspiring composer. The notes are only half of the music, the articulation is just as important. Yes, yes, I know bowings' get changed. But competent bowing will at the very least signal to any interpreter that terrible   "destroyer of creativity" - the composers' intent (sigh).  Your reference to  Baroque/Classical scores is meaningless in the 21stC. Players expect information, they are not mind readers. ( for that matter neither is anybody prepared to give meaningful comments). 

Of course, dynamics and phrasing, and articulation are very important. I never said they weren’t. But for me, in an early posting like this piece, how good the music is far out ways not getting some markings in.

Like I said before, how does one know if a poster understands the balance issues between (say) brass instruments at high dynamics, or any number of such orchestration issues, without full detail? The notes themselves might be excellent, but if they wont sound as good ensemble in real life, what's the point? and what's the point in offering advice? Details Bob, the music is in the details too.

And I know Sibelius very well. Nothing can be done in a “nano second


OK, you got me there, maybe , what,  2" to put a staccato dot in. If for no other reason than to make the playback hit a short note, it's surely worth it. Then you don't fall into the trap of getting used to something through repeated playback. A wrong articulation in the background might then skew your aural perception when scoring foreground, especially when the playback sound sucks to begin with. How many of us I wonder write for what the sample can do and use that as an excuse for not digging deep to see what we want to write.

What I see on this site is that people want to know how to write good music. Heck, I want to know how to write good music. We all should concentrate on writing good music first and foremost. Notation, you can get from a book. How to write good music is something else altogether.

I don't understand how you seem to be able to divorce good music and notation......

There you go Bob, I've tried to keep it civil. The one thing we do agree on though is that Lawrence has written the best one so far.

RAY...I deleted my first post and you were probably responding whilst I was editing. Spooky indeed.

OK, you got me there

Oh, where to start. We should probably start a fresh thread for this, but here goes. I’m up for a friendly chat.

I never said that marking up a score was not important. That it was “just CF”, so who cares. Please read my post. This is a “first run” of a new piece of music. And wonder of wonders, we have a score. Most that post here can’t produce one. I am interested in hearing the music and seeing the parts. Actually seeing how they fit together. Is the music playable? Are the ranges correct? And the biggest one for me, is it good music? If the music is no good, no amount of “marking up” the score is going to make it better.

Write good music. The score can be %100 correct (whatever that means), but if the music stinks, no one will want to play it.

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”  Sure, but who decides what is “right”. If you hand the same piece of unmarked music to ten different people, you will get ten different sets of markings back. Each one is “right”. So, then you say that the answer is for the composer to mark his scores as much as he can so that the players will know how his music should be played. To me that is the height of vanity and a destroyer of creativity. I have heard many versions of the same piece of music, both live and on recordings, that, while they differ greatly, are still great to listen to.

And speaking of recordings. Have you all seen scores from the Baroque and classical period? Many have no markings at all. Not even what instruments are to be used. That’s mostly because if you were a court composer, you had to produce a concert of new music most every week. These pieces were intended to be played once and then packed away. No time or need for niceties. If you believe that because the recording you make is the end-all and be-all, of how your music should be performed, you are living in a fantasy. You have obviously never played in live groups where things are changed for many reasons. And believe me, that happens all the time.

You guys are offended by a score that looks half done? Maybe that’s how the composer wanted it. People on this site seem to think that musicians are too stupid to play something musically. Who better to interpret a line of music than the person in the trenches who knows their instrument better than most composers. And don’t forget the conductor. Musicians follow the conductor. The conductor may have a different idea about how fast or loud or whatever, your music should be played.

Bowing. Sure, mark some bowing in if you must. Read my post above. Learning the violin entails learning how to bow. Not just how hold it, but how and when to bow notes properly. Single notes. Groups of notes. How to play musically. Violinists don’t just pick up their instruments and start sawing away. But because there can be different interpretations, see my post above, so that everyone bows the same.

Of course, dynamics and phrasing, and articulation are very important. I never said they weren’t. But for me, in an early posting like this piece, how good the music is far out ways not getting some markings in.

And I know Sibelius very well. Nothing can be done in a “nano second”. It takes time to write good music. It takes time to add any markings to an orchestral score. I usually don’t add them until I’m done with a section, or several measures. I often change what I’ve written, so adding too many markings “as I go along” is a waste of time. But that’s my work flow.

I know notation. I know how to prepare a score. What I see on this site is that people want to know how to write good music. Heck, I want to know how to write good music. We all should concentrate on writing good music first and foremost. Notation, you can get from a book. How to write good music is something else altogether.

That’s all I really want to say. Write good music. There are many anal distractions that are better dealt with later. Not ignored, just dealt with at the proper time.

And this is a good piece of music.

 

- How many trumpets / trombones do you have in your orchestra?  The start of the score seems to indicate 2 trumpets, and an unknown number of trombones... but m.23 seems to be scoring for 4 trumpets and 4 trombones. 4 trombones is a bit of an unusual number, esp. if you're only writing on a single staff.

- You indicated "horns in F" on two staves, but it's unclear whether you have two pairs of horns, or just one horn each.  The opening bars seem to indicate the latter, but it becomes clear later that you probably had 4 horns in mind.  This ought to be indicated clearly in the score (e.g., "Horns in F I & II / Horns in F III & IV"). And in the monophonic passages you need to indicate whether only one horn is to play the line ("1."), or both ("a2").

- Also, I'm not sure if this is just a matter of different conventions, but it seems a bit unusual to write the second horn staff in bass clef while the first one is in treble clef.  I was under the impression that they should both be in treble clef, transposed.  (The problem with horn parts in bass clef is that it may give the wrong impression of being written in the so-called "old notation" where bass clef means the sounding pitch is a 4th above written rather than the usual modern day transposition of a 5th below.)

- How many clarinets do you have? The beginning of the score seems to indicate only 2 plus a bass clarinet, but then in m.33 you have chords in all 3 staves, which seems to indicate 4 clarinets and 2 bass clarinets?? While 4 clarinet works aren't unheard of, having two bass clarinets seem to be stretching things a bit. Worse yet, in m.35 the number of clarinets appears to multiply to a whopping 8 instruments(!). These resources need to be indicated up-front; you can't just randomly add more instruments in the middle of the piece, the clarinettist isn't going to suddenly multiply into two (or 4) copies of himself (and 2/4 copies of his instrument) in the middle of a performance! :-P

- Where you write chords in the string parts, you should probably also indicate whether they are to be played as divisi. No indications means multiple stops, and if so, they should be checked for playability.

Aside from these scoring issues, though, I quite enjoyed the piece.  I liked esp. the chords you chose; very colorful and interesting!

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