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No finished score for this yet, but I figured I'd put the track here in case anyone's into it. If you liked my last post, Adventures, you should be fine. Again, very much inspired by classic adventure film soundtracks and their composers from the 70s-90s. I think the backstory to this was probably a bunch of good buys pelting into the heart of an evil enemy fleet to plant a bomb or do heroic things or claim a gift voucher or something.


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Also Sprach Zarathustra  at :22 is a guilty pleasure for me too. There is a sudden diminuendo at 1:18 that I thought was very effective

I might take out the Strauss mention actually, so no-one gets ideas! - that section is similar in approach but musically owes a lot more in inspiration to something like David Arnold's score to Independence Day (especially in that it's a melody that is reprised fully later but introduced originally with only a single root note.) Damn Strauss, taking all the good stuff out of the toybox first.

Glad you like the dim., I try not to have all guns blazing throughout my pieces and introduce at least a modicum of different moods rather than four thousand taikos.

Fredrick zinos said:

Also Sprach Zarathustra  at :22 is a guilty pleasure for me too. There is a sudden diminuendo at 1:18 that I thought was very effective

Well as Rembrandt is said to have remarked, "if you want to brighten up the whole room, use black paint." Nice contracts make fortes more intense.

Or to quote the oft-repeated mantra of the singer in my old covers band, "Light and shade!" Then, straight into Honky-Tonk Woman. Great times.

Fredrick zinos said:

Well as Rembrandt is said to have remarked, "if you want to brighten up the whole room, use black paint." Nice contracts make fortes more intense.

I used to have one of those. $89.95 at FAO Schwarz.(remember them?) Great ice breaker at parties

I remember reading in a book on composition/orchestration that if you want a passage to sound loud, you don't necessarily need to crank up the dynamics; just make the preceding passage softer. An f following a passage in pp sounds much louder than fff following a passage in ff, even though the fff has more physical volume.

It's all about contrast.

I too like this better because of the soft passages that lend impact to the loud.

Also like that at one point you start a cresc and then p subito. Very Beethoven BTW.

Anyway, I decided to listen to this piece and review it even though I have a long backlog of pieces I want to review. (It's growing too long and I'll probably never catch up, so I'm just going to go for random review order now.)

Nice dramatic opening... an interesting mix of scifi-like drama (with those chords spaced a tritone apart) with lighthearted, almost humorous, exuberance. Sounds like a soundtrack to a fun-filled journeying scene.

At 0:18, the solo theme (the "Strauss theme") sounds suspiciously reminiscient of the first piece you posted here... Any relation, by any chance? ;-)  Seems you modified it suitably to be effectively a different theme, though.

Around 1:30, liked the dramatic sound, like highlighting an emotional climax in the scene.

Starting around 2:00, I felt that the cymbals/snare drums were a little overused. I'd hold back a little in how much they're used, and reserve them for the key moments rather than pretty much every phrase.

Around 2:10 to 2:19, I felt the trumpets sounded a little too bare up in their high register alone. For what I perceive to be a climactic point in this piece, I think the rest of the brass should back them up a little. IOW, fill out the harmony a little more on the brass. Either that, or reduce the gap between brass notes, i.e., use closed chords rather than open chords. Just my $0.02, of course.

Liked how the piece sputters itself to an end, in a kind of lighthearted way.

Overall, a fun-filled scifi-like romp. Liked it. Didn't really sound like a heavy battle or anything serious like that, though; I think it sounds a bit sparsely scored, and so more suitable for light-hearted, fast-moving action rather than something heavy and serious.  I'd go for the gift voucher backstory.  With random brightly-colored alien bug props randomly popping up and being summarily smashed / shot / blown up / kicked off the stage by the heroes, as they make their way to the souvenir shop on turbo-charged jet-equipped shoes across a brightly-lit, futuristic city filled with actors in humanoid alien rubber suits and fancy headdresses.

As ever, your critique is much appreciated HS. I'll respond not with the intention of disagreeing but to shed light on some of the reasons, which you might or might not find interesting. You probably won't :D

0.18: oddly it wasn't any kind of conscious copy of Adventures. As I said to FZ, it's probably more the instrumentation that triggers the association as there's that very similar section with solo trumpet. Added to that, my favourite adventure themes are those that use chordal/arpeggio based intervals with wide spacing, which was again what I did here.

1.30: thanks. That section (1.18 - 1.48) to is my favourite from this piece.

2.00: as far as I remember, I needed some non-tonal way to get back into the theme. Not using the percussion as a bridge made it all sound quite jarring. and it needed to maintain the rhythm, so it couldn't have been a timp roll or something. Maybe an Also Sprach Zarathustra-style timp bam BAM bam BAM.

On a percussion side note, I'm really enjoying limiting my percussion usage with these pieces - snare, cymbals, bass and timp (well, plus chimes, crotales and other tuned perc). I don't want it (by it i mean my entire output) to start sounding like modern trailer music and being restricted to more traditional orchestral percussion is probably giving better results than if I had access to Zimmer-y toms and taikos. I want to write something just with timpani, to restrict myself further.

2.10: yeah, it could be bigger and more supported. I can't remember if the trumpets are all playing in one octave or if half are lower. I guess it just felt right - while I try to have discrete beginnings and endings, I'm also trying to write music that sounds like it came from a film, where the rise and fall is dictated by the action rather than trying to write an encapsulated piece. So the climactic point in Darkfleet probably came about 40 seconds before the end of the piece! However, my most recent piece was just plagued with similar balance problems that took weeks to reconcile.

Out of interest, what does "sparsely scored" mean to you? Is it a bad thing? :/

I'd go for the gift voucher backstory.  With random brightly-colored alien bug props randomly popping up and being summarily smashed / shot / blown up / kicked off the stage by the heroes, as they make their way to the souvenir shop on turbo-charged jet-equipped shoes across a brightly-lit, futuristic city filled with actors in humanoid alien rubber suits and fancy headdresses.

A Beethoven comparison, thanks! I had to look up what "subito" meant, so if I did something good it was probably by accident. Which part was that, out of interest? Around 0.55?

Michael Lofting said:

I too like this better because of the soft passages that lend impact to the loud.

Also like that at one point you start a cresc and then p subito. Very Beethoven BTW.

On the contrary, I find these discussions of the reasons behind things, why you did this and not the other, very interesting.  It's the kind of thing that helps put the music in context, to better understand why it's the way it is, regardless of whether it was effective or not. It also makes for a more interesting discussion than just "I don't like X, but I like Y".

As for 0:18, I guess it's sorta like the so-called "horn fifths", that probably sounded original the first time it was used, oh how many hundreds of years ago, but has since been used by pretty much anybody that ever wrote for brass section that it has become a generic method rather than a unique identifier of a piece.  Still, I can't help noticing how similar it is to Adventures.  Maybe next time you should experiment with intervals other than perfect 5ths? Maybe something that begins with a leap of a 6th might generate a unique motif (or kind of unique -- I'm sure somebody has thought of this before) for your next piece?

About 2:00: maybe it's not so much the use of percussion itself, but more the fact that the cymbal sound has already been heard a lot, so using it again here sorta borders on being cliché.  Maybe if you threw in an unexpected drum rhythm, or a tam-tam strike for epicness, :-P that might work better?

2:10: understood. I probably think more in terms of concert pieces than movie soundtracks, so my comments are probably all biased in that direction.  So take it with a suitably-sized grain of salt. :-)  But anyway, having a climactic point 40 seconds before the end can be made to work, as long as what follows doesn't make it sound like more is coming. :-)  It's not always that straightforward to figure out how to pull this off effectively.  A general thought off the top of my head is to reduce the instrumentation -- use sparser textures, less instruments, etc. -- and perhaps range (you don't want to have a note that's higher than what happened in the climax, unless it's one of those unconventional inverse climaxes that "peak" in low notes, otherwise your audience may think another climax is coming). Basically, you want the stuff that comes after the climax to sound "smaller" in some way than the climax itself, so that you don't ruin the effect of the climax.

By "sparsely scored" I just mean that the instrumentation is generally not as "full" in sound as your stereotypical fortissimo tutti, where everybody is bowing their arms out, blowing their lungs out, and hammering away at their drums like mad. Doesn't have those powerful swelling brass chords that threaten to swallow you up. A texture that isn't as thick or "busy". Chords that aren't filled out in every note across a 4-octave spread.  The overall register is generally in the upper range. Etc.. Basically, the opposite of the kind of stuff that makes the music sound heavy and dark.  It's not necessarily a bad thing at all, mind you; sparsely scored pieces (or passages) are easier to listen to, and aren't so heavy on your ears.  They have a lighter overall mood, and, arguably, more pleasant to listen to.  It's just that the title "Darkfleet" seems to imply some heavy, serious stuff going on, like some heavy-duty action, epic battle scenes, and the like, or something like Star Wars' Imperial March. But I found instead a generally light-hearted piece that's almost playful in some places.  It doesn't mean the piece is bad or anything (on the contrary I think it's quite well done), just that it doesn't quite live up to its title. :-)

Dave Dexter said:

As ever, your critique is much appreciated HS. I'll respond not with the intention of disagreeing but to shed light on some of the reasons, which you might or might not find interesting. You probably won't :D

0.18: oddly it wasn't any kind of conscious copy of Adventures. As I said to FZ, it's probably more the instrumentation that triggers the association as there's that very similar section with solo trumpet. Added to that, my favourite adventure themes are those that use chordal/arpeggio based intervals with wide spacing, which was again what I did here.

1.30: thanks. That section (1.18 - 1.48) to is my favourite from this piece.

2.00: as far as I remember, I needed some non-tonal way to get back into the theme. Not using the percussion as a bridge made it all sound quite jarring. and it needed to maintain the rhythm, so it couldn't have been a timp roll or something. Maybe an Also Sprach Zarathustra-style timp bam BAM bam BAM.

On a percussion side note, I'm really enjoying limiting my percussion usage with these pieces - snare, cymbals, bass and timp (well, plus chimes, crotales and other tuned perc). I don't want it (by it i mean my entire output) to start sounding like modern trailer music and being restricted to more traditional orchestral percussion is probably giving better results than if I had access to Zimmer-y toms and taikos. I want to write something just with timpani, to restrict myself further.

2.10: yeah, it could be bigger and more supported. I can't remember if the trumpets are all playing in one octave or if half are lower. I guess it just felt right - while I try to have discrete beginnings and endings, I'm also trying to write music that sounds like it came from a film, where the rise and fall is dictated by the action rather than trying to write an encapsulated piece. So the climactic point in Darkfleet probably came about 40 seconds before the end of the piece! However, my most recent piece was just plagued with similar balance problems that took weeks to reconcile.

Out of interest, what does "sparsely scored" mean to you? Is it a bad thing? :/

I'd go for the gift voucher backstory.  With random brightly-colored alien bug props randomly popping up and being summarily smashed / shot / blown up / kicked off the stage by the heroes, as they make their way to the souvenir shop on turbo-charged jet-equipped shoes across a brightly-lit, futuristic city filled with actors in humanoid alien rubber suits and fancy headdresses.

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