Music Composers Unite!
I've never really been a fan of programme music but recently I have had the idea for a symphony describing "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte with a move meant for each character. I plan to have it as two symphonies in four movements each. But I need a little help with a certain aspect. Usually I do like to have a entire work united by a single key but for this I want each movement to have it's own key that represents each character. Thus far I have Mrs. Reed (F# Minor, for her austereness), Adele (E Major, she will be the scherzo btw), Mr. Rochester (F Minor, for it's passion), and Jane (C Major, for her purity). I plan to have St. John Rivers and Helen Burns but I still need a key. I still need two more characters and four more keys. I guess I could have a key repeated but I don't want it to be two movements in a row with the same key. The structure of the two symphonies is to be as follows:
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2
I don' know where I want to put Adele and Helen Burns but I was wondering what other people thought of this and where I should put the rest of the character, who the rest of the characters should be and what keys should they be.
P.S. It's so great to be able to talk with other composers!! All my friends look at me crazy when I try to talk about composition.
This looks like a massive undertaking! I take it that you have been down this road before?
Actually no. I have never written of orchestra before and to be honest I have finished very few compositions. I have usually written for guitar ensemble, strings, and a little piano (still working on that one) but I have tons and tons of sketches for orchestra. I don't plan on finishing this anytime soon or even in the next few years but I do plan to be working on it continuously.
If you have never written for orchestra before, how can you succeed in getting the orchestration right? The idea of writing something for a full symphony orchestra thrills me, I have written lots of different kind of music for this and that, but only a few pieces for a wind orchestra and never anything for a full symphony orchestra. I feel that I would have to study orchestration a lot more, both for wind orchestra and symphony orchestra, and actually write a lot of studies or sketches (or what would you call them) to gain more understanding of orchestration and orchestral timbres, before even thinking of writing a symphony.
This is by no means meant to discurrage you. It's more about me wanting to do what you are doing. And if you have good answers to my doubts, I'd like to gain something from it.
I've always been fond of programme music, late 19th century and early 20th century national composers like Smetana, Dvorak and Sibelius. I'm in the middle of a composing process, where I write tunes for our wind orchestra. Each tune is attached to one theme of our home town. The tunes are programmatic and lend to each other some lead motifs. I feel that when one really gets into the programmatic theme driven composing - as opposed to "absolute" music - one has a good chance to get into the strange inspirational "auto write mode". I'm particularly fond of one melodic theme that came to me, when I wanted to describe the absolute windless calm at the sea outside our town. This melody became the main theme in the middle adagio part of a tune telling about a beautiful replica sailing ship of our town. The rest of the composition borrows themes from other compositions in the suite, telling about old 18th century fortresses of our town. Two of the compositions got recorded last year, but most of these themes are unrevealed to the listener, because I have never explained them to anyone and some themes are borrowed from unfinished compositions. Anyway, they have meant a lot to me during the composing process.
Don't worry, Johan! I didn't take it as discouragement, rather I took it as concern which is understandable. For this past Christmas I received "Principles of Orchestration" by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov and I haven't had much time to read because of school but summer has started so no I have plenty of time to study orchestration.
I like the idea you have for your Suite (I think you said it was a Suite). I personally don't care for my home town but I understand trying to evoke that sentimentality of a special memory or a special place of our childhood. Like how Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony conveys his feeling when he went off into the woods for his alone time. I'm pretty sure Beethoven cherished this time so it only makes sense that he would write about it.
I think your idea is fabulous and I would love to play the part of St. John Rivers in the key of Eb Major. I have very good experience of the kind of repression he practises and the awful results. Eb Major is my favourite key because it is so sensual and I think that, ironically, beneath the reserved exterior of every orthodox Christian, there is a great amount of passion waiting to be released.
I think the idea of a symphony in many keys is absolutely epic. I love Mahler and I think he would shift keys all the time. I've never thought a symphony should end in the same key it begins in. If one views the first subject as masculine and the second subject as feminine, ending in the key of the first subject is completely sexist!
Hope you get back to me, that you're still going ahead with your plan and that I haven't missed the boat!