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It's kinda late for this, but I've been wanting to do this yet never got around to it until now.  This is my contest entry for last year's Heat contest.  It didn't win any awards, but I'm not exactly surprised, given that it was done in a hurry and I didn't put too much effort into it (we just had our son last year and it was a huge adjustment to our lifestyles -- meaning, in this context, that I had much less time / energy to put into composing, especially something of an orchestral scale).

Anyway, excuses aside, I'm mainly looking for feedback on the quality of writing, orchestration (esp. instrument balances, which I'm almost certain is off because I succumbed to believing the midi rendering), and any structural / stylistic issues.  Please don't bother with the audio quality -- I know it's not exactly the greatest production, but that's not my focus anyway.  And I'm not really looking to revise this piece, but I will greatly appreciate any feedback as lessons for the future.

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Now in the present climate it's just as well you didn't name this 'the melting of a snowflake'

Sorry, couldn't resist, I'm bad

I like this more every time I hear it.

Couple of comments on the score

Where you break from the minim alternations to writing the semi quavers in full use crotchet alternations where possible (b17).
Some parts in the wind and brass marked for 1 or a2, others not.(b23).

I would have used a bass trombone instead of the second tenor.

I'm old fashioned but would prefer all instruments in the same keys with accidentals. Not including transposed, why are the trumpets in B and the horns in E on the last page?

Thought some swells here and there would add to the interest like b23-26. Also accents at start of each alternations.

Cheers Mike L

I'm melting.  I'm melting.  Ding dong the wicked old witch is dead.
Ray said:

Now in the present climate it's just as well you didn't name this 'the melting of a snowflake'

Sorry, couldn't resist, I'm bad

Thanks, Mike!  I'm glad somebody likes this piece. :-P

Question about the alternations: e.g., in m.17, where there are 3 pairs of alternating E and D, should I write it as alternated crotchets + semiquavers e d e c#, or should I write it as alternated dotted crotchets + semiquavers e c#?

The 1/a2 markings in m.23 are actually carried over from the previous pages. But you're right, since there's been a long stretch of rests, I should repeat those indications again just for clarity's sake.

As for the trombones: that's a neat idea, I'll look into that.

As for the key signatures... the reason I wrote them the way I did was because this piece is polytonic, so different instruments may be playing in different keys.  I suppose I could standardize everything across the board (e.g., write in C or D throughout), but then that would make some of the parts harder to sight-read.

I'm not so sure about swells in mm.23-26... the intent there was to provide a "warm" or "thawing" sound, but not overly "hot" (dramatic).  That's why I reserved the brass crescendos until m.49.

@Lawrence: not sure whether you're replying to Ray or to the piece, maybe both?  In any case, your comments do match very well with the melodramatic mood of this piece. Thanks for listening!

Hi HS,

Mike L has made good points, especially re Bass trombone as you have stepped out of the tenors register.

Bowing is sadly lacking. As a result I can't gauge what you had in mind for the strings in places. For example, the first few entries, given their dynamic and tempo would be effective in 1 bow per bar and given the title, did you ever consider the first string entries bowed sul pont, to give a nice cold effect? The fingered trems at b21 cf would be better bowed at 2 beats each as well. The semis in the strings at b20 should have more bow changes to help the cresc. or even detache perhaps! As you've marked 'gradually warming', they could slowly move their bows from s.p. to ord to literally warm the sound.

Apart from the register issue above, the brass spacings would work ok. At b22 I would have thinned out the horns blanket around the 2 bone solos, but this is subjective and not a criticism.

The music at A is ok, but vlas need slurs. Wind and horns are a classic combo at b33. I'm not a fan of the pizz figure staying as such from C cf. If it was mine, I'd bow that figure and even double each note with a semi and use separate bows, to give it more interest. Also, I'd mark the vlas measured trems up to say mf.

At b63 the strings are ff and there is some thematic work in the wind. How do you feel about reducing the strings on each key change and then crescendoing them through to the next key change? This would give the lower material in the wind a chance to poke through a bit more. Or perhaps doubling the low winds would be a better way to go if you want to sustain a ff.

At B75 cf. the balance is all wrong. I think brass would dominate here at ff. The wind might be swamped a bit, but what are you after here? I would at least put the 2nd flute up to unison with the first and the 2 bassons in unison at the higher octave. I'd probably even put the clarinets up an octave. 

Is vln 1 to be divided at bar 75?

Regarding the multiple keys, it is much better to do what Mke has suggested, keep it all in one key and use accidentals.It is too confusing as is, players have no problems with accidentals. You can of course change keys, but let the wind change to the same key and use accidentals. Doing this will also firm up in their mind, the role of their motive.

Hope some of this is useful to you...:-)

I had some more thoughts...

The opening wind could perhaps be partially fluttered, perhaps the flutes, to create an icy feel.

At b59 why not double clt2 with 1 or  2 horns to help it along?

Bsn 2 at b64 could be at a disadvantage against the strong vc/db octave at ff. Why not give that part to the dbs and let bsn2 double the vcs!

From b57 to  b74, the 2nd vlns have a boring part. Why not alternate with the vlas to give interest, perhaps alternating at the key changes.

At bar 72 I would have given the lower motifs to the dbs and cellos too (basically the bone parts). I think it would add some clarity  and is a better part than semibreves.

At B 75, if the wind need to be prominent, I'd suggest you re-space as in my previous post or double with trumpets. They could be muted for colour.

Scoring is very personal HS as you know, it's as subjective as the notes themselves. Some of my thoughts here are subjective and you can of course ignore them, but some are practical too.

Hmmm! Mike, I know you mean well but, when does such advice become collaboration? This is why I stick to the simple production issues. Either composers work it out for themselves or, they crash and burn or........, they collaborate.

Fair point Ray.

Funnily enough, I tend to think of scoring asa  production value in the context of critique of others work. You'll notice that I didn't mention the notes themselves as that is really none of my business.

Hi Mike,

Sorry for the late reply, power outage yesterday which broke my computer, only got back online now.   Thanks so much for your comments!!! This is exactly the kind of feedback I'm looking for.  I haven't had the chance to look at them in detail yet, but just wanted to say I appreciate you taking your time to work with my score.  Since I'm new to orchestral writing, I probably made a lot of newbie mistakes here. :-P  Will definitely look over your comments carefully once I get the time.  Thanks again!

That was quite impresssive. I could hear the drops falling of the icecube (nicely done!)

One very little thing... When you repeat the theme, I would have the second time finish the theme half a note higher. ;) So in stead of D-A-A-D, D-A-A-D, I would do D-A-A-D, D-A-A-D#, or even D-A-A-D, D-A-A-C# (the last time)... ;)
But that is only my opinion, of course .

True...............but you do use the word 'alter' :)

Mike Hewer said:

Fair point Ray.

Funnily enough, I tend to think of scoring asa  production value in the context of critique of others work. You'll notice that I didn't mention the notes themselves as that is really none of my business.

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