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About 2 decades ago, my dear father improvised a tune to the words of Psalm 1 (KJV) for a group of rowdy young teenagers (including yours truly) to sing. In order to keep our fickle interest, he employed a wide variety of moods, tempo and key changes, and a metrically-complex melody.

The first score attached below is my transcription of this tune, along with the lyrics. It's a best-effort transcription from memory, as I don't have the original score (and there may not have been one), and I did take some liberties to fix some accents on the wrong syllahbles, etc..

The orchestral arrangement of this tune (second score and sound file attached) was done over the past 3 or so weeks as an exercise in orchestration, and tries to convey the moods associated with each passage (not indicated in the transcription). I took further liberties in a few places (e.g. "writing out the fermata") to reflect how we actually sang it.

Feedback I'm looking for:

- Weaknesses in orchestration, suggestions for improvements;

- Do the string slurs/bowings make any sense?

- Do brass/wind phrasings make sense, can they be improved, etc.?

- Does this work well as a self-contained, standalone piece? Currently I envision this piece as purely instrumental, but might it make sense to rework to be a choral piece? Or perhaps something one could sing along with?

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Hi Bob,

Thanks for your honest feedback!

You're probably right that I wrote for far too many instruments here... There were places where I found myself wondering what else to use all those extra instruments for. Probably a sign that I'm overdoing it. :-P The brass section can probably be cut down to 2 Hn + 2 Tpt + 3 Trb, I think, or maybe 4 Hn + 2 Tpt? I'm not sure what to cut from the winds, though. Any ideas?

Any specific tips on string bowings? I've no idea how to write string bowings... should I just write legato over entire passages and leave it up to the section leaders to figure out the details?

(Bringing this back to the thread where belongs via techie black magic, hope you don't mind...) ;-)

You're right that it's sort of like a series of smaller pieces strung together. I like your description of it as a series of scene changes... it reflects the way I view the underlying text. Or rather, the way I (and I believe my dad) approached it in this instance: taking the "landmarks" in the text and elaborating each of them into a musical scene. Kinda like zooming into specific points of interest in a panorama.  Except that, as you said, the panorama part is a bit lacking (perhaps even missing?).


Bob Porter said:

[...]

I enjoyed your piece. If it has any shortcoming (only in my view) it would be that  it seems like it is made up of several smaller pieces. Each piece has it's own style and mood, and several adjectives come to mind. Including some you mention. And there are no bridges between them. We are in one piece, then suddenly we are in another piece. Like a series of quick scene changes. Each scene is excellent in and of itself. But I'm not sure what holds them together. Maybe being held together is not what it's about. Maybe this piece is like a bunch of memories rolling around in my head. A stream of consciousness, perhaps.  

So the idea is to arrange for downbows to happen on downbeats and other important notes, and leave upbows for everything else? (And obviously upbows/downbows must alternate, unless explicitly want a retake which causes a break in the notes. Right?)  Any other points to keep in mind?

Well, you already warned about the very midi-ish sound. Good of you to warn, because you're right. So let's just ignore that.

I think your father did a great thing in getting this in your head, and although I dont know his original, you have done a great job writing it down. It sounds like a psalm should sound in my opinioin. Majestic. Nice, the trumpets halfway. I like it, great piece of music.

Psalm-worthy!

Thanks, Erwin!

Teoh,

I listened with great interest.  Congratulations on getting this done from a piece improvised by your father and with such significance to you from your youth.  The themes are so attractive and lively!

As you'd expect, I am not the person to provide feedback to those particular questions.  Except perhaps a bit on the last one. 

I do feel the piece could be made longer, as it feels rather short.  (I wonder whether Paul is reading this and chuckling.)   I think it can be stand-alone but would benefit from being prolonged, perhaps even by simply presenting some of the same themes again (?)

I think the piece could be made choral, although I really have no experience with choral, as you know.  Maybe others (for example, Susan or Michael) could provide their opinion on that topic.

In the segment 1:17-1:25 I was reminded of your threnody piece.  Am I off the mark on that comment?

Thank you so much for sharing this piece with us, Teoh.

Mariza

Hi Teoh,

My last thought first:

I find it some how like a Bach choral out of which a whole cantata may spring forward, so I definitely think, like Mariza already suggested, that is a bit brief. I think you should use the text and definitely make it a vocal piece for mixed choir and expand each little section into a separate movement.

 

Regarding the phrasing and slurring of wind and brass I don’t see any mistakes there. I would slur my crotchets (and their subdivisions) into two rather than four within a bar, but that is only a personal preference, yours works well also by the look of it. (A lot here has to do with personal preference and I tend to slur for all wind instruments having a recorder or flute as a point of departure which works ok with all wood wind but not so much with brass, in which case there are three ways to think (trumpet, horn and trombone) and sometimes all three necessary if the phrase material is too complex, but here there is not such need.

 

Regarding string bowing and articulation I think it needs a bit of reconsideration. Nothing of what you wrote is unplayable but perhaps some editing into more detail can be done. Again here it is a personal preference, but I tend to slur mostly the notes taken on one single string, use lots of open strings as alternatives to stopped notes and change bow direction when I am on a different string. I would also avoid long slurs or extend them across bars so as to give the piece a more baroque character. Of course all this has to do with musical context and effect that one wants to achieve, which are both things that take priority and should not be easily compromised.

Just as a little example of what I mean see attached files of your opening material for strings the way I would work on them, but still I stress, it is only my view, not necessarily more valid, just different.

 

All in all I enjoyed the spirit of the piece very much, but do consider expanding it into something bigger in length, with all the structural implications included.

Thanks for sharing.

Attachments:

It has been brought to my attention that Bob (in the 2nd comment quoted below) may have been addressing Fred rather than me, and I have mistakenly taken it as being addressed to me. If so, I apologize for the mixup.  What I said about this piece still stands, though. :-)

H. S. Teoh said:

(Bringing this back to the thread where belongs via techie black magic, hope you don't mind...) ;-)

You're right that it's sort of like a series of smaller pieces strung together. I like your description of it as a series of scene changes... it reflects the way I view the underlying text. Or rather, the way I (and I believe my dad) approached it in this instance: taking the "landmarks" in the text and elaborating each of them into a musical scene. Kinda like zooming into specific points of interest in a panorama.  Except that, as you said, the panorama part is a bit lacking (perhaps even missing?).


Bob Porter said:

[...]

I enjoyed your piece. If it has any shortcoming (only in my view) it would be that  it seems like it is made up of several smaller pieces. Each piece has it's own style and mood, and several adjectives come to mind. Including some you mention. And there are no bridges between them. We are in one piece, then suddenly we are in another piece. Like a series of quick scene changes. Each scene is excellent in and of itself. But I'm not sure what holds them together. Maybe being held together is not what it's about. Maybe this piece is like a bunch of memories rolling around in my head. A stream of consciousness, perhaps.  

Thanks, Mariza & Socrates, for taking the time to listen and comment.

So the overall impression I'm getting is that people feel this piece is too short (or perhaps the orchestration / instrumentation is too large for something of this length) and should be expanded.  You're all probably right. :-)  When I started on this project, it was mainly to give myself an exercise in orchestration, and my dad's quirky little tune was the ideal candidate as it involved all sorts of different moods and characters.  I tried to stay true to the original tune as much as possible, so I didn't develop the melody at all, merely orchestrated it as-is.  As a standalone piece, though, as many have pointed out, it seems to fall on the short side.

Perhaps one way to alleviate this is to have alternating instrumental and choir/vocal sections. Maybe an intro quoting some melody snippets, then a soprano/tenor entrance, then an brief orchestral interlude, then choir, etc., I don't know. I'll have to think about this. :-)

Socrates, thanks for taking the time to work with my string parts. It sounds quite bouncy and more lively than what I wrote, and I quite like it. I'm undecided which mood I want in that passage, though. More food for thought, I guess. :-)  Thanks for the tip on slurring across all notes on a single string (up to bow length, of course). Never thought of it that way before. Guess I have a lot more studying to do w.r.t. writing string parts! Or watch more videos of strings playing to get a better idea of how things are bowed...

It seems a nice plan is forming into your head already!

H. S. Teoh said:

Perhaps one way to alleviate this is to have alternating instrumental and choir/vocal sections. Maybe an intro quoting some melody snippets, then a soprano/tenor entrance, then an brief orchestral interlude, then choir, etc., I don't know. I'll have to think about this. :-)

Well, it's just a vague idea at the moment... it will need more work to flesh out into something workable. I probably won't get to it immediately, though, since this will be a larger change that just polishing up a few loose ends. I've been working on this piece for the past 3 weeks, and feel like I should postpone any large-scale changes for later, and work on something else for a change. Maybe it's high time I revisited my overture, or my puppet army march.

Hello, my friend, let's see if I can piss you off just like the last three people that I have commented on their pieces when I was just offering help. It sounds as though you have your choral. So why not consider a separate melody that could weave in and out of the different sections like Bach did for his pieces such as "Sleeper's Awake," https://youtu.be/IIOH2sCW13U "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring," and "Sheep May Safely Grace." I even used this for concert band works for arrangements of "Amazing Grace." This technique tends to glue everything together, create wonderful polyphony, and expands the overall form giving it both richness and depth.

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