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Here is a just completed piece in contemplative mood that may be considered a mite romantic in places. Any suggestions or recommendations will be considered very seriously. In the past I have taken on board some excellent comments from CF members that have considerably improved the final article.

If you can spare 6 minutes or so to listen you should surface feeling calm and relaxed, at least I hope so.

Many thanks in advance for taking the time out to listen and maybe comment.

https://youtu.be/yIC-KsKK_14

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Hi Stephen,

No detailed comment to make. It's a lovely piece, wonderful harmony with some most interesting turns. Whether it's me or not I don't know but in 5/4 it seems to float along taking advantage of the rhythmic variation this allows. The way you've spread the chords lets through a lot of light and air; introduced tensions through discord sometimes resolving through a cascade of discords.

Occasionally you give an inner or lower instrument its voice - notable one is bar 64 for the cellos. Can't really say any more. The only thing that seemed out of balance was the piu mosso few bars at the end. True, the piece finally fades out in a morendo with the pauses and diminuendi over the closing chords but my own feelings, if you'll pardon me saying so, is that seemed almost like the start of a new episode to end all too abruptly.

A superb piece. Congrats.

Cheers, Dane.

Hi Stephen,

I gave it four listenings over the past couple of days. Overall, an interesting work which I felt had one major drawback, which I would characterize as "lack of forward momentum." The slow tempo, combined with the spaces in between melodies including some complete silences seem to me to halt the piece, rather than provide a mere pause through which a natural momentum would silently continue. To me this gave the piece a feeling of stopping and starting and being divided into separate chunks rather than being a cohesive whole. 

The chord choices I also found somewhat mystifying, I couldn't feel what you were getting at, and when a new chord appeared, I couldn't see how what came before it lead up to it, though this is always a risk when attempting anything which is off the beaten path (this definitely is) - the risk being that you might be in a different domain or perhaps ahead of your audience. This could also be written off as just a personal taste issue, and perhaps another listener would better grasp/appreciate what you are doing. 

It is quite interesting to see you venture in your recent works into new areas. Thanks for sharing your journey with us!

Gav

I suppose it comes down to expectations. My experience of it was quite different. The likelihood of comparing it with Barber's Op 11 Adagio seemed inevitable but I was closer to Sculthorpe's "Lament" and "Sonata for Strings" which tend to evolve moment by moment. It's a composition habit I'm trying to break away from - like the surrealist poets: relating a word or phrase with just its immediate surround. Not to abandon the approach, just broaden horizons. I suspect the thrust of harmonic movement is different as the harmonisation becomes more remote - a feature of Stephen's composition I found engaging, plus at the slow tempo one had enough time to acclimatise to what was happening as it happened rather than expecting it to move to a particular place. I felt the harmonisation was about tension and release but beyond CPP convention.

But as you say it's a matter of style and taste. I'd love to read other comments. I found nothing in the score to comment on (except I missed applauding Stephen not for the first time for giving the basses some independence, in my earlier comment)!

Hi Gav,

many thanks for your persistence and comments. You are correct, it does meander a bit, maybe I should rename it Meanderthal or similar. I note what you say about the silent breaks - a feature I use sparingly in much of my musical outputs...I like the feeling of anticipation, almost a holding of one’s breath waiting to see what comes next...maybe I have overdone it a bit.

Harmonically I think it’s relatively straightforward- a few anticipations here and there, one or two chromatic grace notes, but as you say, it’s largely a matter of personal taste.

It is of course a work in progress and I will attempt to pummel it into shape over the coming weeks.

Incidentally, the more I play it back the more I like it, maybe like virtually all the best things in life, it’s an acquired taste.

All the best,

Stephen

Hi Dane,

many thanks (as usual) for your interesting comments, and thanks for listening. I agree with your view concerning the piu mosso - it needs to be extended into a full section and then possibly a reiteration of the opening with a codetta to polish it off....although I would then be concerned about the length of the piece - it seems that people’s attention spans are forever shortening. I’ll see what I can do.

Thank you again for your encouraging comments.

Stephen

Dane Aubrun said:

Hi Stephen,

No detailed comment to make. It's a lovely piece, wonderful harmony with some most interesting turns. Whether it's me or not I don't know but in 5/4 it seems to float along taking advantage of the rhythmic variation this allows. The way you've spread the chords lets through a lot of light and air; introduced tensions through discord sometimes resolving through a cascade of discords.

Occasionally you give an inner or lower instrument its voice - notable one is bar 64 for the cellos. Can't really say any more. The only thing that seemed out of balance was the piu mosso few bars at the end. True, the piece finally fades out in a morendo with the pauses and diminuendi over the closing chords but my own feelings, if you'll pardon me saying so, is that seemed almost like the start of a new episode to end all too abruptly.

A superb piece. Congrats.

Cheers, Dane.

Hi Stephen, you have a great piece here, for me certainly it is educational.  I love how you handle 5/4, it sounds natural with a twist, very cool. And a beautiful variety of harmony colors to hold our weak attentions. I'd say go for the length that feels right, it's certainly working here.

Thank you Ingo, I’m very pleased you like it and I find it interesting to see how different people react to the same piece. I guess as Gav says it’s all a matter of taste. Personally I agree with Dane that it’s not quite the finished article so will think it over and adjust it until it feels complete.

Positive comments such as yours give me the confidence to feel I’m not too wide of the mark. Thank you again.

Stephen

Having listened to the piece a couple of times, my reaction is much the same as Gav Brown's.  It's musically skilled, but I just found it hard to engage with it for the reasons Gav outlines.

     I like the feeling of anticipation, almost a holding of one’s breath waiting to see what comes next..

This indeed is a classic way of gaining interest and structure in an adagio; I think most effective example is what is probably the most famous Adagio, the second movement of Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, which achieves exactly the effect of "almost a holding of one’s breath waiting to see what comes next" despite the very slow pace .  It might repay study.

I first studied Rodrigo's works around 50 years ago - what precisely do you think I might learn from his Concierto de Aranjuez (which, incidentally, I hear about 6 times a week on Classic FM)?

Jon Corelis said:

Having listened to the piece a couple of times, my reaction is much the same as Gav Brown's.  It's musically skilled, but I just found it hard to engage with it for the reasons Gav outlines.

     I like the feeling of anticipation, almost a holding of one’s breath waiting to see what comes next..

This indeed is a classic way of gaining interest and structure in an adagio; I think most effective example is what is probably the most famous Adagio, the second movement of Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, which achieves exactly the effect of "almost a holding of one’s breath waiting to see what comes next" despite the very slow pace .  It might repay study.

I just mentioned it as a particularly good example of your description of how to maintain interest in a slow movement.  I thought you might be familiar with it (it's so popular I've heard it on elevators!) but I was keeping in mind that there are other readers of this forum who might benefit from having their attention called to it. My suggestion "it might repay study" was directed at everyone, including myself.

Understood, and I agree entirely that it's a good example of how to use silence effectively.

Jon Corelis said:

I just mentioned it as a particularly good example of your description of how to maintain interest in a slow movement.  I thought you might be familiar with it (it's so popular I've heard it on elevators!) but I was keeping in mind that there are other readers of this forum who might benefit from having their attention called to it. My suggestion "it might repay study" was directed at everyone, including myself.

Well, Stephen, I kind of like it.

The pauses don't bother me. But the abrupt dynamic changes knock me out of whatever calm I may have been in. I have no problem with the harmonic and melodic scheme. Perhaps a more uniform arc might help. Maybe starting out with mid-range instruments and expanding higher and lower as the piece goes on. Or starting low and layering in higher and higher instruments and dynamics. In waves of course. Just something to help with direction. 

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