Music Composers Unite!
Ok, I'll admit I just joined. I think I'm getting the hang of this forum: this section (Music Analysis and Critique) is for pieces where the poster wants to find out people's reactions to a piece and why they felt as they did. The Suggestions Wanted forum is for pieces where the composer is open to making changes and so suggestions for improving the work are welcome. I will try to keep this distinction in mind in future comments.
One of the reasons I joined was to find good contemporary composers. Not the ones who are already famous, but the less well-known composers who are nevertheless producing great music. Mostly, I've been disappointed when I've searched at random, but I've added three composers to my SoundCloud list since arriving here.
I am about as amateur a composer as you can find, but I run my pieces by people who are professional musicians and they think to feel they are worth listening to. My knowledge comes from listening to music, from playing piano (poorly) for almost 50 years and from going through a bunch of books on composing and instrumentation.
Bottom line: I'm sure I have a lot to learn, so I welcome critique, analysis and suggestions for improvements. I many not apply any of the suggestions to this composition, but they will help me in future compositions.
As an introductory piece, I'm posting Recess, which is (I hope!) a fun, humorous piece about one schoolyard recess period. In some cases, the music may suggest specific actions (the recess bell, a jump rope game), but it is not always strictly representational.
The MP3 is 13MB and the file limit is 7MB, so here is a SoundCloud link:
Rodney, thanks for your comments.
I've thought of doing a piece based on nursery tunes. For this piece, I chose to not directly incorporate any specific tunes. I did listen to some children's counting songs to get a sense of the rhythm.
I just tried measures 73/74 three ways: as is, all oboe, all clarinet. In the end, I preferred it as is, but I could easily live with any of the three versions. I appreciate your suggestion of consciously selecting an instrument to fit the mood.
Yes, it would be wonderful to have some friends who could come play my pieces. Hmmm... I have a wind controller and I can actually play some of the parts, but haven't figured out a good recording system. But that's a long story...
I will check the measures starting at 35 and see what I can learn by playing around with the arrangement. I appreciate your observation as these are some of the subtleties I would like to know more about.
Thanks for much for your time and comments!
Welcome to the Forum! This is a delightful piece and I would be hard pressed to come up with any meaningful suggestions for improvement. Stylistically, you nailed mood and imagery that you were trying to convey. From a player's standpoint, this would appear to be an enjoyable and rewarding piece that is not overly challenging. It is an intriguing effect to have the Horn and Bassoon alternate and share the eight note bass line and it would be interesting to see how live players would handle that. (I say that because my claim to fame as a long standing member of a local mandolin orchestra was my uncanny ability to throw the entire orchestra into chaos with my utter inability to play a sustained vamp on the upbeats in time). Whether it is intentional or not, I hear a few different stylistic influences coming through in this piece ranging from Wagner to Stravinsky to Copland. All in all very enjoyable. Looking forward to hearing more!
Thanks! It's fine that you couldn't find any way to improve it :-)
None of my pieces are overly challenging. The music I hear never seems to require virtuoso technique.I think that's because I don't have the skill to picture a complex sound and then know how to create that sound with notes. Composers like Chopin or Debussy always seem to be performing magic with the notes they lay out on the page.
The horn/bassoon interplay started out as a way to have long ostinato passages without having to worry about anyone running out of air, but it had the side effect of creating a somewhat funny sound, which fit the piece nicely.
As for those influences, the one I hear in this piece (and it was not intentional) was Nino Rota, the Italian movie composer who wrote for Fellini (and others, I'm sure).
This is a nice fun piece.
I did feel that, after a lively start, it meandered and lost interest between 50" and 1'40". lack of rhythmic pulse?
Thanks, Michael, especially for identifying the offending section so precisely. I listened and I get what you are saying. It's fascinating in the you picked the section of music I first wrote. After I wrote this section, I heard kids taunting each other and I decided to make the piece about a recess period at school. Perhaps the sections of music created by picturing kids playing just naturally had more energy than the original abstract starting concept.
The comments have slowed down. I do hope others will impart their wisdom, but I thought it might be good to review what I've learned so far. That's the point, after all.
One thing I learned is that, for most people, the piece doesn't appear to have major problems and is appreciated in the way I intended. I base this on comments here and elsewhere. I would love to get some feedback from a group of, say, 10-year old kids, but haven't heard of any kid reactions.
Rodney's comment encourages me to think more consciously about which instrument I choose to carry which musical line. Sometimes, I have a lot going on and I assign instruments based on which staff happens to be open. I may want to think a little harder about who does what.
William pointed out the hollow sounds made when two (or sometimes more) instruments are playing in unison/perfect fourths/perfect fifths. I think this kind of problem is best caught by having a well-trained ear—it's difficult (for me, anyway) to find this problem from reading the score. While the sound may be fine as is, the piece might be just slightly more polished if I paid attention to these subtleties—the difference between a good amateur and an experienced pro.
Michael's comment addresses another subtle problem. For him, the problem wasn't subtle, of course—the piece lost energy after a good start. While most people haven't mentioned a similar reaction, I did listen again with this section in mind. I think it's OK to have a little meandering, but I did notice that the majority of the piece does have a bit more of a "rhythmic pulse" and perhaps adding a little of that into the passage in question might better maintain the energy of the piece. These are supposed to be kids in a playground, after all. The broader lesson is to perhaps review the work as a whole (once all the pieces are there) and make sure that each part supports the whole in the best way it can.
This advice is all good. It's all fairly subtle stuff and it's will be a while before 1) I can catch these problems on my own and 2) I understand how to fix them. I think my next piece will go into the Suggestions Wanted forum—I think I can learn more working through some revisions with the group.
Very nice, Antonio. Lively, and holds interest. However, I just don't connect it to children at recess. For some reason (and this could be my warped mind working) I connect it to a solitary activity, such a chasing a butterfly, or flying a kite.
Very enjoyable, however.
All the best...
I connect it to a solitary activity, such a chasing a butterfly, or flying a kite.
That sounds like a wonderful image! Thanks for listening.