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Hi everyone,

Since a few days I'm composing this symphony in the classical style to make myself acquinted with basic composition techniques again and I'm having some trouble. Everything up to measure 24 sounds fine to me, but the transition to B-flat major that occurs from measures 25-28 sounds a little abrupt and not as delicate as the rest. Next comes my second subject in measure 29 however the orchestration doesn't sound quite right. Anyone has some suggestions for me?

Thanks in advance!


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Do you have a recording, export, mockup etc?


Marijn, you are obviously writing in a Mozartean style here, so my suggestions are all in the vein of what he does frequently.  

The piece is Eb-Major and you are modulating to Bb-Major (dominant) for a new subject.  I see a couple possible ways to help the transition, some or all of which might work:

1) you could make it a little longer (always helps to try when something seems abrupt!)

2) you could rework the cadence at m 28 to a half-cadence in Bb major (i.e., end it on an F Major chord to set up Bb Major in m 29)

3) you could change the 2nd beat in m 28 to an F-Major chord (this is I like particularly, since it is in keeping with the tonic-dominant-tonic chords that open the movement). 

In all cases, I would recommend trying some more F-Major harmony to indicate the arrival of Bb Major.  Right now the suggestion of Bb Major is with the melodic appearance of A natural. But this note is mostly just part of scales over a static Bb major harmony, without offering much of a sense of the *key* of Bb-major. What if you replaced the D's in the bass of m 27 with C's, to give that measure some tonic-dominant-tonic-dominant harmonic movement?  A thought.

Hope that helps.  It was sort of a *ding* insight to me in school when I figured out that the best way to modulate to a new key was often not to get to the key itself but to its dominant.

Here's the soundfile!

Hi I uploaded the file

Gav Brown said:


I can't comment on the music, but I will suggest watching your playability. Your horn part seems a near-endless run of staccato notes, which would probably tax most players. Even if you're not planning on getting it played, writing parts that are realistic, that require stops for wind players etc, will force you down the kind of alleys you're interested in.

Bit harsh. As pieces go, yes, this might as well be called "Fauxzart", but as another composer who's written some consciously Mozart-esque stuff, the mentality isn't only to parody or write for the sake of it. Mozart's style more or less epitomises a general concept of "classical" in many minds, so writing in that style if you like the sound has many uses.

Ray said:

I'm trying to think what possible use there would be for such parody but nothing comes to mind. Anyone needing music from that era would just use music from the era so that leaves only one reason for producing this. Because you can and you enjoy doing it. Fair enough but sorry, for me, I'd rather listen to the masters.

Ray, if one is learning about composition, one of the ways, it seems to me, is studying styles from past eras, and even mimicking, to see clearly how it was put together.. It seems quite natural part for the process for  young composer.  

Being one who plays the music of others (as well as my own) - with each piece i couldn't help but look at how it was put together.. 

It was an innocent question posed by the OP. 

Marijn, you asked this forum for specific advice about a particular passage of an unfinished work.  In my response I avoided any comment on style, because 1) you didn't ask for comments on that and 2) by your profile, you are 16 year old composer and to me, a 16-year-old trying his hand at a Mozartean-style symphony is a worthwhile exercise.

However, since Ray has felt the need to dismiss your efforts so harshly, I would like to contribute the following:

You will always be free to write any music you wish, but if your goal is to move beyond composing as a personal hobby for your own personal enjoyment, you will need to challenge yourself to expand beyond the Mozartean toolbox.  Fair or not, "modern Mozart" appeals to a very few number of people and you will most likely be overwhelmed by a sea of criticism like Ray's (though your composition teachers would hopefully be a bit more polite about it). 

I don't know your story, but if you happen to be drawn to 18th/early 19th century classical music and have had trouble getting into more modern works, I would recommend you seek out early 20th c. composers like Prokofiev ("Classical Symphony"/Romeo & Juliet), Sibelius (Symphony #2/#5), Rachmaninoff (2nd Piano Concerto/Paganini Variations) and even some of the neoclassical Stravinsky (Pulcinella).

You seem oddly touchy about this. Ignoring the arguments for self-improvement, tuition, etc:

Simply liking the style and wanting more music in said style (as in, you can record a blues guitar album despite SRV having already done so)

Composing something with flavours of typical "classical" tropes combined with one's own style

Composing fresh melodies in the familiar ground of these tropes so we're not limited to the relative handful of established pieces by "the masters"*

Eroding the mindset that once a certain era/period is done, or a certain master died, the style most typical of that era, period or master should not be attempted or touched again. Frankly I find such an attitude ridiculous, though equally ridiculous is the contrary attitude that modern classical music should only be written in that specific range of styles

*A subset of this use is soundtrack work. Music which sounds authentically [period, composer, style] but which is not subject to the baggage of 200 years' listening is of some use to the makers of period dramas, docus, films, games etc. Some directors will simply drop in some Mozart; some will consider that approach lacking integrity and commission something new.

Ray said:

Name them?

About the transition to B-flat major:  to my ears, by m.17 the music was already ready to modulate to Bb, but you pulled it back with a Bb 7th chord, thus reinforcing Eb as the prevailing key. As a result, when you then try to move towards Bb immediately afterwards in m.24, it sound somewhat awkward.  My suggestion would be to rewrite m.17 so that it stays in the key of Bb major, i.e., don't write Ab notes anymore, but write A instead to begin to push the music away from Eb major. You may not need to explicitly write A notes here, but definitely avoid writing Ab, because that will immediately pull you back to Eb.

One way to do this would be to change the high Ab in the 1st violins in m.18 to Bb, and then in the next bars do arpeggios on an F major chord (instead of Eb major) to begin establishing Bb as the new prevailing key, and so on. Then in m.24 you could actually move towards F major temporarily, so that when the 2nd subject enters in Bb, it will sound firm and solid (due to the (implied) cadence F -> Bb).  As Driscoll said, sometimes the best way to modulate to a particular key is actually to modulate to its dominant key, which then sets up a perfect cadence into the target key.

About the orchestration of your 2nd subject: what about it sounds "not quite right" to you?  It's hard to give concrete suggestions since the way you wrote it could work, depending on what you want to achieve.  If you specifically want to achieve a Mozartean sound, I highly recommend studying Mozart's scores to see how he did it.

As for "going beyond Mozart":  that is if you want to appeal to a wider audience and/or make a living out of composition (and therefore need a large enough audience to make a viable career).  Otherwise, I see no reason not to continue writing what you love to write.

But having said that, though, I encourage you to put your best efforts into writing whatever style it is that you wish to write.  Never become complacent or content with what you've done, but always strive to do it better.  A good composer is never a lazy one.  As Driscoll said, learning to write like Mozart did when you're 16 can be a very good exercise.  However, don't just leave it at that.  Strive to outdo Mozart -- probably nobody actually will, but the process of trying to do so will force you to learn a lot.  Don't just be happy to sound approximately like him.  Dig deeper, study his work and see if you can penetrate his thought behind each piece. Why did he write these notes and not some other notes?  How did he develop his ideas? How were they presented? Why did he orchestrate this motif this way, and not some other way?  Don't be happy with just textbook answers to these questions.  Dig into it yourself and find answers for yourself.  Try modifying one of his pieces and listen to the effect. Compare it with the original.  Then study it to find out why he didn't write it your way. Etc..

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