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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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Well, if you happen to work with an orchestra that basically plays in the way you like, then most of the work is already done, right? ;-)  But I wasn't saying that composers brutalise musicians to get the right result... obviously you have to be realistic and work with them in a reasonable way. But compared to, say, the performance of classical music, a lot more leeway for interpretation is present in the latter, and one might even say musicians have come to expect that to a certain extent.  Though even then, truth be told, most of the more overt interpretational changes are initiated by the conductor, and he usually has far more precise requirements as to exactly how he wants the musicians to execute a certain passage.

This feels right to me and is what keeps the art of performing music alive. I think it was Britten who said to Shostakovitch, that they (as composers) always play their music too fast (they where both brilliant concert pianists!). Which just goes to show that sometimes in the fog of composition, we can get somewhat blinkered in our vision and probably miss out on some beautiful, interpretive finer point that will be musically obvious to a second opinion. Even something as simple as not seeing the expressive potential of a piu cresc. or a little rubato can easily be missed by the composer

 ( this applies even more so when one works purely with limited samples and playback devices ).

A performer will instinctively infuse the music with his own aesthetic sensibility,  that's why we need performers - they almost always elevate the music and give it new life beyond the composers' intentions.

Bob said...

All I'm saying is that I could write something I wanted played just a certain way. I'm satisfied with the result. The performance is just how i want it. The recording or file completely serves the intended purpose. But I also believe that someone could take that score and, even using the same markings, produce a better performance. Better even to me. It would have nothing to do with any lack of skill on my part. But rather the different vision used by the other person. Which is why I ask if I am the only person that knows how my music should be performed. Maybe, maybe not.

Obviously I care, but I wouldn't have the right to object. If an orchestra buys the music or some volunteers perform it or someone covers it, I can't then turn up and tell them to do it differently. That's the "all bets are off" moment you've mentioned before.

Bob Porter said:

Dave, you say that you want your music played a certain way for a certain purpose. I get it. No problem from me. But then you say you don't care what happens to it after that. Kind of cold, don't you think? Poor music :)

Just in case it hasn't been obvious and people think I hate musicians, I absolutely agree. The cumulative experience and interpretation of a player or ensemble is vital. I may know how I don't want it performed and can say so, but they know fifty different ways that I do.

Mike Hewer said:

A performer will instinctively infuse the music with his own aesthetic sensibility,  that's why we need performers - they almost always elevate the music and give it new life beyond the composers' intentions.

Bob Porter said:

[...] But I also believe that someone could take that score and, even using the same markings, produce a better performance. Better even to me. It would have nothing to do with any lack of skill on my part. But rather the different vision used by the other person. [...]

I like this very much.  Which is why I welcome different interpretations of my pieces, even those that I disagree with (like Mike Hewer insisting that my fugue in C#m should be played at 90 bpm. ;-)  I still don't agree, but at the same time I'd love to hear someone play it that way, even just to hear what it'd sound like).

Guys, I just returned from a long weekend so need some time to catch up on this thread.  Probably we should try to decide what standards we should apply to scores posted on the forum as opposed to standards for a finished score.  I don't think they are the same, but I know I have not spent much time editing my scores or even producing a respectable score for the forum.  Get back to you tomorrow.

I think the idea of stating if the score is a "playback" score or a "finalized" score may help.

Then we do not have to possibly quarrel over notation issues if the poster states it's not a finalized score, or not a score intended for use by live musicians.

A solution, as someone else mentioned, could be to have two versions in your notation software - one version to make the playback sound closer to what you desire which is then intended to be rendered for audio, and then another version where the score is noted as it would be if in a live performance situation - for us to follow along with as well.

Actually, all you have to do is to state that it's a rough draft score, and we'll let it rest. :-)

Generally, when you post something for critique, it helps to indicate what kind of feedback is wanted / unwanted. A lot of my posts, for example, indicate that the midi rendering is rather poor, because I'm looking more for feedback on the composition itself rather than the production quality. Some people post here asking specifically for comments on production quality, because that's what they're working on. That helps direct commenters as to what area of the music they should comment on.

Similarly, you could just say that you're not looking for feedback on the score but on the musical content.  That would help prevent (or reduce) the frustration of getting lots of feedback that you're not interested in, or isn't your primary concern.



Mike Hewer said:

 

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.

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,

     You make all good points.  I was in B flat and suddenly out of the blue I put in sharps.  Was I trying to fool the musicians?  These kind of mistakes are inexcusable in any kind of score. 

     I would like to use a fermata or a break/pause but neither of these signs work on my program so I either tie in an extra measure or use rests for a break.

     Thanks for all your excellent comments.

David,

     Thanks for listening and for your comments.  There are parts of notation I need to improve on and spend more time editing.  On other aspects, I feel it is not part of the composers perogative to notate bowing especially if he does not play the instrument.  The same with fingerings.  I once wrote a technically difficult part for piano and put in fingerings.  Our pianist who was the size of a football lineman had fingers as wide as the white keys.  He completely ignored my fingerings which is probably the way he treated most fingerings written for normal size hands.
 
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.

Bob,

     How do you know Jack Benny was a good violinist.  Of all the years he appeared on stage with his violin I never heard him play a single note.
 
Bob Porter said:

Lawrence,

Great stories. It is indeed humbling to be exposed to great musicians.

I played in a church orchestra where the 1st violinist  was a Hollywood studio musician, as well as having done some time in various symphonies around the country. Oh and he was also Jack Benny's teacher. Yes, Jack Benny was a good player.

My family took lessons from the former second violinist from the Moscow String Quartet. She had the greatest stories about the KGB.

I was fortunate to be around these folks.

H.S.

     I have used the same template for the last maybe 30 pieces.  So the score labels never match the actual instruments.  I really never know how many instruments are available until we start to practice.  For instance, today I am talking with a band director about doing some pieces from my opera.  The band has no strings, so I will most likely condense the string parts for keyboard.  You do what you have to do. 
 
H. S. Teoh said:

- 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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