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My first composition ever (in a classical and orchestral sense)

Hello all,

I just relistened my first try at recreating orchestral music. I did this 6 years ago.

During that time, I was mostly into rockmusic, electronic, ambient and other "technoid" music.

But my love for classical music was growing stronger, I loved filmscores since childhood (basically everything from John Williams and soundtracks like Alan Silvestris Back to the Future for example),but then I discovered Rachmaninoffs 2nd piano concerto and that really opened me up to classical music.

So I annoyed my parents long enough until they finally brought me a digital piano (I played guitar since I was 14, always wanted to sound technically virtuos like Jimi Hendrix and then later like Steve Vai or Joe Satriani, so they knew I was able and willing to spend much time with instruments and that it was not a passing fad).

So after guitar I focused on piano music, basically listened to everything from Rachmaninoff (and others like Chopin or Liszt) and practised many hours from midi files or by ear. I did hours of improvising, up to 6 or 8 hours at the weekends, out of pure enjoyment.

Then I discovered Mahlers Adagietto of the 5th symphony, and that was when I started to really love orchestral music. So I saved up money for buying sample instruments (EWSO).

This was my first try, I had basically no knowledge back then about composing, I only knew about scales (from guitar shredding).

I relistened today and actually think it is not that bad at all!

This is, basically, the very compressed story of my musical life so far and it was always driven by intrinsic love and passion for music that was never really shared in that intensity by my (family or friendship) environment. Today, I wish I would have had a better, professional and earlier musical education, expecially regarding muscial notation.

Long story short, if anyone is interested, here it is:

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Hey Timo-

I agree with you - this is not bad at all!  I'm much better at reading scores than I am at listening to orchestral mockups, but I quite enjoyed many portions of this.  I especially liked your textural changes about midway through when everyone drops out but the solo violin.  Change of texture is so important in orchestral works - otherwise they can get bombastic and overwhelming.  Mahler himself said "If you're losing the audience, get slower, not faster and softer, not louder".

Speaking of Mahler, there was a time when his Adagietto was the most important piece in my life.  I first heard it in "Death in Venice" and I had to watch the movie over and over and over.  That was before the days of YouTube, you understand.  My housemate almost lost his mind and started making threats "If I have to watch Death in Venice again ....".  Now I can listen to it whenever I want without the Thomas Mann influence.  It is an unforgettable movie, though.

Speaking of movies and film scores, I wonder if you've heard the music of Barrington Pheloung?  My favorite watching is British/Canadian murder mysteries.  I fell in love with the Inspector Morse series, mainly because of the gorgeous shots of Oxford and Pheloung's music.  He uses a lot of harp and wonderful string/woodwind voicing and paints an idyllic picture of my dream England that underlies all the murders and gore.  A perfect combination.  ;-)

This theme is reminiscent of an opera piece that also influenced a pop song from the 50's "I Found My Love in Avalon".  I've often wondered if Pheloung meant to compare Oxford and Avalon, even subconsciously.  I like the comparison, myself.  But of course I'm American, dreaming Anglophile dreams.

Hi Julie, I totally get what you mean when you point out the importance of texture changing! This is something I often noticed when composing and often notice on works of other composers, how important it is to vary the instruments, loudness, combinations, timbres and so on in order to avoid a „blocky“ Sound.


I also think a lot about something which is often a bit overlooked in music theory I think (correct me if I’m wrong), which is what I would call „balance“ of the music. With that I mean the questions: when do I get loud? When do I get quiet? How long should I stay quiet or loud? Where does the music need a rest? Does it need a rest at all! Where does it need to get fastert or more lively with oomph and where does it need to get stripped down to only one or two instruments? Sometimes I hear music which goes on for minutes in the same temperament and that makes it a bit robotic and takes away the „breath“ or momentum or swing so to speak. There is much valuable material on harmony, counterpoint, scales, progressions, cadences and so on but rarely do I see people talk about balance (granted it also depends on the style, for some music styles the things I describe as balance is more important than for others I think). I like the music that has quiet, peaceful, contemplative moments and moments of ecstasy in it, but in a natural, organic way!


I can imagine your housemate thought you were crazy when watching Death in Venice over and over again, haha!
I can also get a bit obsessed about particular pieces from time to time... currently I cannot live without listening to Stravinskys Firebird at least once a day :)
But why was it the most important piece during that time? Simply because of its beauty or were there other factors that made it so important to you?
Oh, and I never heard about Barrington Pheloung before, thanks for sharing, I am always on the search for new music!
The Inspector Lewis theme is quite nice and I think you have a good sense of what kind of ingredients the music needs to have to hit my taste!

Timo!

You have so hit the mark with your discussion of "balance".  It's what I call shape, although other people use the word "shape" to mean something different in music.  When my students begin a piece, most of them draw a picture of it (before the first note is written) including just about everything you mentioned.  Where does it get "big" or "small" are the primary questions/considerations. They even put estimated times for the shape changes, based either on a ratio of the entire piece or on actual seconds or minutes. Then they define within each big or small section what is going to cause it to change shape.  It could be dynamics, or speed or texture or any combination of those and other factors - or maybe it's unknown until the notes start to take form. Of course when notes start pouring onto the page, the entire picture can change and often does, but at least they have a guideline and know where they are in relation to the whole.  Before I had them do this "architectural drawing", half of them would say "I don't know what to do next" every other week or so.  Now no one says that - they just consult their drawing.

We also work on "breathing" - not just for the performers but for the emotional health of the audience!   Too much of anything is exhausting, so we like to make sure the audience gets to breathe.  That could be a fermata, or a long note at a cadence, or miracle of all miracles an entire measure of rests!  Lots of breathing room makes a piece really work for me.

You and I speak the same language, I can see.  I've been wanting to write something to this effect that essentially says, we talk too much about melody and harmony and not nearly enough about the architecture of the music.  The wonderful thing about musical architecture is that it is totally independent of tonal/atonal considerations.  It doesn't matter what idiom we write in, the music still needs to have a shape, a sense of direction and a sense of arrival. 

I also adore The Firebird.  It really is one of the most beautiful and satisfying pieces ever written.  Have you seen the ballet version of it with Diana Vishneva?  I watch it about 3 - 4 times each month, and it's required viewing for all my students, young or old, and their families as well.  ;-)  No one objects at all!!  They also all watch Petroushka and eventually Rite of Spring.  No one in my studio is lacking in Stravinsky knowledge!!

You asked why the Mahler adagietto was so important to me back then (around 1998, I think it was).  I think it was because it had such a fin de siecle feeling to it.  Like knowing that your beloved grandmother was dying, and trying to hold onto her lavender scented lace handkerchief.  It was (and is) so bittersweet, so heart stopping in its beauty, so delicate yet strong in its expression.  I still love it, but back then we were at yet another turn of the century and who knew what "2000" and beyond would bring?  So it was particularly poignant.  I like Stravinsky better now, though!

If you want to hear some incredible Pheloung, two of my favorite (musical) episodes of Inspector Lewis are 1) "Allegory of Love" with an underlying subplot of fantasy stories - Tolkien, Lewis, and the group of writers called "The Inklings" and 2) "Dark Matter" which centers around Holst's "The Planets".  I watch these on Amazon Prime, but they are probably also on Netflix.  I often "watch" these with my eyes closed to hone in more closely to the music.

Sorry for talking so much, but I'm thrilled to meet someone who speaks my language!



Timo Schuemer said:

Hi Julie, I totally get what you mean when you point out the importance of texture changing! This is something I often noticed when composing and often notice on works of other composers, how important it is to vary the instruments, loudness, combinations, timbres and so on in order to avoid a „blocky“ Sound.


I also think a lot about something which is often a bit overlooked in music theory I think (correct me if I’m wrong), which is what I would call „balance“ of the music. With that I mean the questions: when do I get loud? When do I get quiet? How long should I stay quiet or loud? Where does the music need a rest? Does it need a rest at all! Where does it need to get fastert or more lively with oomph and where does it need to get stripped down to only one or two instruments? Sometimes I hear music which goes on for minutes in the same temperament and that makes it a bit robotic and takes away the „breath“ or momentum or swing so to speak. There is much valuable material on harmony, counterpoint, scales, progressions, cadences and so on but rarely do I see people talk about balance (granted it also depends on the style, for some music styles the things I describe as balance is more important than for others I think). I like the music that has quiet, peaceful, contemplative moments and moments of ecstasy in it, but in a natural, organic way!


I can imagine your housemate thought you were crazy when watching Death in Venice over and over again, haha!
I can also get a bit obsessed about particular pieces from time to time... currently I cannot live without listening to Stravinskys Firebird at least once a day :)
But why was it the most important piece during that time? Simply because of its beauty or were there other factors that made it so important to you?
Oh, and I never heard about Barrington Pheloung before, thanks for sharing, I am always on the search for new music!
The Inspector Lewis theme is quite nice and I think you have a good sense of what kind of ingredients the music needs to have to hit my taste!

Hey Julie, I am glad you are thrilled, I am too because I feel like I can share my thoughts with people who have the same interest in music like I do. Although I learned here through silent reading, how complicate it can be, when all our different views and perceptions clash.

I agree, "shape" is a much better word for what I (and you, obviously :)) have in mind when talking about things that seems to lack consideration in music theory.

And what a great idea to let your students draw a "music proportion" sketch, I might try that too!

To be honest, I have a very visual mind and music (I got familiar with) creates an object or many objects in my mind. The beauty lies in their proportions and how they rotate and change distance, melting into each other, etc... very hard to explain, but music definately is also a visual experience for me. It can get "touchable" or "stretchable" for me, on an abstract level. (lol I bet you people think I am crazy but it's how I experience it (sometimes)!).

So, since most people here probably already think I am crazy or a phantast (which is probably true) I want to tell you something which will sound even more odd to you... but maybe you can try it yourself or ask your students if they want to try it or if they can relate.

I am talking about swinging... in the most innocent meaning lol. Since childhood my favourite way of listening to music is with closed eyes on a swing - a simple swing like this: It has to be big enough to create this little prickle in your stomach. Now, listening to music while swinging (with closed eyes) drastically enhances the musical experience for me! I cannot prove it and maybe I am crazy, as I mentioned, but I really believe it has an (positive) effect when your body is in motion while listening to music.

I read somewhere, that the cognitive function is increased while being physically active, like when doing jogging for example. Maybe that is connected as well. Or you probably know the image of someone walking back and forth in his room when pondering. Also I think it is a nice coincidence, that vestibular "balance" is getting processed - in our ears ;)! Just a thought, of course.

So maybe I expose myself to some ridicule here when thinking in this rather unorthodox ways about music, but so what, I got nothing to lose; in the end I just share my perception. It must not be objectively true or the same for everyone

One important thing you said: "The wonderful thing about musical architecture is that it is totally independent of tonal/atonal considerations". That is just so true.

I know that from personal experience while improvising on piano: Sometimes I force myself to completly forget about harmony or melody but to completly concentrate on "shape". I use the same "shapes" I would use when playing tonal chords or progressions, but I choose totally random notes - it still sounds good. I can astonish my friends by playing random anythings with closed eyes and still make it sound good or okay. I tell them: "you can play anything and it will sound good" but when they try it, their real problem is not a missing harmony or melody but form and shape (and timing, flow or "feeling")!

In the same way I can show them 3 chords to play and the can't get them to sound good, even if there is wonderful harmony - because they still have no idea how to shape these chords, how to get feeling and flow into them or out of them.

Thank you for the ballet version of The Firebird. I usually don't like all these things surrounding music, (be it ballet, movie scenes, opera scenes or other programmatic considerations), I have a tendency to make music my own and to detach it from its context that the composer intended. I never listened to Wagner for example and thought about any of these mythical stories that are his operas.



Julie Harris said:

Timo!

You have so hit the mark with your discussion of "balance".  It's what I call shape, although other people use the word "shape" to mean something different in music.  When my students begin a piece, most of them draw a picture of it (before the first note is written) including just about everything you mentioned.  Where does it get "big" or "small" are the primary questions/considerations. They even put estimated times for the shape changes, based either on a ratio of the entire piece or on actual seconds or minutes. Then they define within each big or small section what is going to cause it to change shape.  It could be dynamics, or speed or texture or any combination of those and other factors - or maybe it's unknown until the notes start to take form. Of course when notes start pouring onto the page, the entire picture can change and often does, but at least they have a guideline and know where they are in relation to the whole.  Before I had them do this "architectural drawing", half of them would say "I don't know what to do next" every other week or so.  Now no one says that - they just consult their drawing.

We also work on "breathing" - not just for the performers but for the emotional health of the audience!   Too much of anything is exhausting, so we like to make sure the audience gets to breathe.  That could be a fermata, or a long note at a cadence, or miracle of all miracles an entire measure of rests!  Lots of breathing room makes a piece really work for me.

You and I speak the same language, I can see.  I've been wanting to write something to this effect that essentially says, we talk too much about melody and harmony and not nearly enough about the architecture of the music.  The wonderful thing about musical architecture is that it is totally independent of tonal/atonal considerations.  It doesn't matter what idiom we write in, the music still needs to have a shape, a sense of direction and a sense of arrival. 

I also adore The Firebird.  It really is one of the most beautiful and satisfying pieces ever written.  Have you seen the ballet version of it with Diana Vishneva?  I watch it about 3 - 4 times each month, and it's required viewing for all my students, young or old, and their families as well.  ;-)  No one objects at all!!  They also all watch Petroushka and eventually Rite of Spring.  No one in my studio is lacking in Stravinsky knowledge!!

You asked why the Mahler adagietto was so important to me back then (around 1998, I think it was).  I think it was because it had such a fin de siecle feeling to it.  Like knowing that your beloved grandmother was dying, and trying to hold onto her lavender scented lace handkerchief.  It was (and is) so bittersweet, so heart stopping in its beauty, so delicate yet strong in its expression.  I still love it, but back then we were at yet another turn of the century and who knew what "2000" and beyond would bring?  So it was particularly poignant.  I like Stravinsky better now, though!

If you want to hear some incredible Pheloung, two of my favorite (musical) episodes of Inspector Lewis are 1) "Allegory of Love" with an underlying subplot of fantasy stories - Tolkien, Lewis, and the group of writers called "The Inklings" and 2) "Dark Matter" which centers around Holst's "The Planets".  I watch these on Amazon Prime, but they are probably also on Netflix.  I often "watch" these with my eyes closed to hone in more closely to the music.

Sorry for talking so much, but I'm thrilled to meet someone who speaks my language!



Timo Schuemer said:

Hi Julie, I totally get what you mean when you point out the importance of texture changing! This is something I often noticed when composing and often notice on works of other composers, how important it is to vary the instruments, loudness, combinations, timbres and so on in order to avoid a „blocky“ Sound.


I also think a lot about something which is often a bit overlooked in music theory I think (correct me if I’m wrong), which is what I would call „balance“ of the music. With that I mean the questions: when do I get loud? When do I get quiet? How long should I stay quiet or loud? Where does the music need a rest? Does it need a rest at all! Where does it need to get fastert or more lively with oomph and where does it need to get stripped down to only one or two instruments? Sometimes I hear music which goes on for minutes in the same temperament and that makes it a bit robotic and takes away the „breath“ or momentum or swing so to speak. There is much valuable material on harmony, counterpoint, scales, progressions, cadences and so on but rarely do I see people talk about balance (granted it also depends on the style, for some music styles the things I describe as balance is more important than for others I think). I like the music that has quiet, peaceful, contemplative moments and moments of ecstasy in it, but in a natural, organic way!


I can imagine your housemate thought you were crazy when watching Death in Venice over and over again, haha!
I can also get a bit obsessed about particular pieces from time to time... currently I cannot live without listening to Stravinskys Firebird at least once a day :)
But why was it the most important piece during that time? Simply because of its beauty or were there other factors that made it so important to you?
Oh, and I never heard about Barrington Pheloung before, thanks for sharing, I am always on the search for new music!
The Inspector Lewis theme is quite nice and I think you have a good sense of what kind of ingredients the music needs to have to hit my taste!

Damn, our ears (and brains) are spectacular organs! 

https://courses.lumenlearning.com/biology2xmaster/chapter/hearing-a...

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