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Sonata No. 1 in C Major "Summer Love"
1. "Origin of Ambivalence, Chaos" (Allegro leggiero)
2. "After the Coma" (Lento e placido)
3. "Summer's Valediction" (Presto)

This came out to be one of my favorites, and whilst it has been a heap of work, it has been very fun and I learned so much. I present for critique and analysis my first true Piano Sonata, Number 1 in C, "Summer Love", and I ask for 20 minutes of your valuable time to listen. Of course, as many here can probably understand, I suggest you listen through in one session if time allows, as the movements relate to one another, and the entire composition tells a story (much like a movie, it is frustrating to only watch half, right?)

Unlike the last work I posted (A rather simple, not very contrasting Sonatina in the style of mood/relaxing music) this is meant to be a full blown composition, with movements contrasting one another whilst complimenting one another. My Sonatina was geared towards the lower intermediate level, this would certainly be more on the advanced level. The piece is intended to be a true (hopefully good) sit down and really 'listen to' work of music.

I don't have a lot else to say other than to provide a brief summary of the movements. I've intentionally left the movement's titling a little vague and open to interpretation, but there certainly is a story being told- it could be your story too.

1.The first movement is meant to be unstable not only in the emotions it conveys, but also musically and most importantly harmonically. Moments of beauty, only to be met with moments of going off the rails. From a composition standpoint, I really tried to challenge myself by constantly modulating (I think the movement explores 7 key signatures) I also challenged myself by changing the time signature often, but not in a way that makes the rhythm hard to interpret- and hopefully not in a disjointed way either. Much like a key signature modulation, I tried to 'modulate' time signatures by keeping the transitions smooth.

2.The second movement represents more stability- and a certain 'calm after the storm' of the first movement. There are subtle hints of the instability of the first movement but overall the piece tries to remain calm and collected. The movement explores 64th notes that are very tricky and some unconventional rhythms (in my opinion)

3.The third movement nods farewell to the calm, explores the future, and acknowledges (and almost accepts) certain change and a wailing despair- only to be met with these sudden, recurring moments of beauty and passion ( similar to a Rondo form) There is a struggle of clarity over chaos. The entire movement as a whole is almost a recapitulation of all the ideas presented in the first two movements, but it also tries to present them in new forms.

There's always room to improve, all comments welcome. 

Youtube allows you to listen without having to switch between the movements, however, Soundcloud offers better sound quality. The choice is yours!

First movement soundcloud

Second movement soundcloud

Third movement soundcloud

Full Sonata Youtube

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Forgive me for spamming this thread with so many responses, but I felt compelled to voice my opinion on the consonant / dissonant issue.  Perhaps this is a sign of my relative immaturity in the composition art, or lack of "real life" experience, or whatever, maybe it's just heavy personal bias, but I have to say that I find pure atonality rather uninteresting, and somewhat even a turn-off. (This isn't directed at Mike or anyone specific, so please don't get offended.)  It's what some people call "brown music": having thrown out all vestiges of classical consonance/dissonance, from which one may draw such a rich variety of colors, one is left with a bland mixture of brown that tastes about as appealing as it looks.

I see, rather, dissonances as another tool in the composer's toolbox that one may use to great effect, just as consonances could also be used to great effect.  So in this sense I disagree with Mike that resorting to consonance is taking the easy way out; one could just as easily take atonality as an easy way out -- by simply disregarding those annoying fussy details of consonance and dissonance in classical / traditional / whatever system of harmony.  But I do agree with Mike in the sense that whatever you choose to use -- consonance or dissonance or otherwise -- it has to be deliberate.  Falling back on atonality (i.e., blindly disregarding the distinctions between consonances and dissonances) is, to me, just as lazy as falling back on consonance because you dare not tread beyond known territory.  Rather, I say that one should weigh both aspects in the process of composition, and use both to great effect through much careful consideration.

So I don't see consonance as "boring" at all -- it's only boring when composers get lazy and don't think about what they write, just as atonal music can just as easily be boring when composers make it a point to disregard rules of consonance / dissonance, yet don't put much thought into other aspects of the music and thereby produce brown music.  The issue really isn't that tonal music is old and boring and atonal music is new and exciting; the issue is that when composers get lazy, they write boring music, and when they put in the effort, they write interesting music. That's all there is to it. Whether or not it's atonal / tonal / whatever is really just a side issue, and ultimately just a matter of taste.  And IMO, there is much more to be "said" in tonal music, it's just that familiarity has bred complacence in tonal composers and so they churn out cookie-cutter boring stuff.

HS,

No offence taken and I agree with a lot of your last post, but I'd like to just say a few things.

Regarding composing atonally,  consonance and dissonance are discerned as such and are exploited for unrest and repose.  An aural sensitivity to their effect and placement is critical in a successful work. Admittedly it may be hard to hear if one is not familiar with a lack of gravity, but it's a bit unkind to call it bland - if anything, the lack of a tonal pull makes you cherish every intervals quality in a more intimate way. There is no disregard of the consonant/dissonant relationship, more a finer appreciation of the relationship between the two.

Just for the record, I write in an extended tonality and will very rarely distribute equally all 12 tones in a regular fashion alla true atonality or dodecaphony. In fact my harmonic principles are based on exotic/synthetic scales and chords derived from them. So you see, I'm still a traditionalist at heart.

My post to David may have been misleading. I love consonance and do not find it boring at all. I only found the 1st 3 chords, for want of a better word, lazy. (sorry David, but HS planted the word in my head, because his last paragraph is spot on).

I too spotted the horn theme in the 2nd mvt. from Sibelius' 5th, so there you go David, another reason to push a little harder.

 

David,

You are doing damn well at composing so far. I think you are producing better music than I did at your age. My thirst for ever more complex harmony was there from the start, it's just that  I had to make a living writing pap for media. You have not failed at all here, you're on a path and have moved several large steps forward imo.

Very well done David, enjoyable and impressive at the same time, which is quite an accomplishment really.  The comments of others here are perceptive and valid and that's why we post stuff here, to get away from the well meant but questionable comments we get at home.

 
Others have better perceptions about this piece than I do and I certainly respect that, but they are minor quibbles except for maybe the thought that as good as this work is, it doesn't quite stand apart from the influences that have brought you to this point. No great revelation there, I'm sure we all are looking for our own style, and you should be very happy with your progress so far!

I liked the third movement most.  Very flowing and restful, ethereal. The only objection I would have is the agitato at m95.  It seemed too extreme and foreign to the rest of the piece.  The other interludes between cantabiles seem to blend better. But really, can you read the C# sections with all the accidentals and double sharps and flats in a single measure.  There has to be a simpler way to notate this.  Or maybe just take it up to G maj.  For example m 111, if C## is notated at D nat. you eliminate the next D nat and the C#.  There are so many accidentals which are unnecessary.  I'm all about simplicity in notating and reading.  M126, why isn't the Ab and Bb simply G and A?  You could eliminate about half the accidentals and make this a piece people would enjoy playing.  I enjoyed listening, but some sections would not be fun to play. 

     This is somewhere between modern and romantic.  Certainly there is nothing technically difficult but would be somewhat of a challenge for some pianists.  With simpler notation the challenge would be worth the effort.



Lawrence Aurich said:

I liked the third movement most.  Very flowing and restful, ethereal. The only objection I would have is the agitato at m95.  It seemed too extreme and foreign to the rest of the piece.  The other interludes between cantabiles seem to blend better. But really, can you read the C# sections with all the accidentals and double sharps and flats in a single measure.  There has to be a simpler way to notate this.  Or maybe just take it up to G maj.  For example m 111, if C## is notated at D nat. you eliminate the next D nat and the C#.  There are so many accidentals which are unnecessary.  I'm all about simplicity in notating and reading.  M126, why isn't the Ab and Bb simply G and A?  You could eliminate about half the accidentals and make this a piece people would enjoy playing.  I enjoyed listening, but some sections would not be fun to play. 

     This is somewhere between modern and romantic.  Certainly there is nothing technically difficult but would be somewhat of a challenge for some pianists.  With simpler notation the challenge would be worth the effort.

Duly noted Lawrence, and I am in full agreement after taking your suggestion into account. I think the confusing notation resulted from using transposing functions in the notation software. While I went through the full score a good amount of times with a fine comb, I simply wasn't looking for things like that. I should have kept that in mind and not relied on the technology so much. The measure 111 as you suggested is almost embarrassingly confusing with the way that is notated. 

I am obviously largely influenced by Romantic music, as you can tell- and yes, lots of modern influence as well. I think we as composers pull from any and all influences, whether consciously or subconsciously. 

Thank you very much for your feedback and suggestions, I appreciate the time spent.



Ingo Lee said:

Very well done David, enjoyable and impressive at the same time, which is quite an accomplishment really.  The comments of others here are perceptive and valid and that's why we post stuff here, to get away from the well meant but questionable comments we get at home.


Others have better perceptions about this piece than I do and I certainly respect that, but they are minor quibbles except for maybe the thought that as good as this work is, it doesn't quite stand apart from the influences that have brought you to this point. No great revelation there, I'm sure we all are looking for our own style, and you should be very happy with your progress so far!

Thanks Ingo for listening and taking a moment to share your thoughts on the piece. It makes my day when anyone, anywhere finds something I wrote enjoyable, and that's really why I write, and I think why many of us write- to have others hear our expressions of ourselves and our thoughts and emotions. 

I am, once again, in agreement that the piece does lack a lot of the "David Lilly" style. I can probably pick apart almost every thought in the piece and trace it back to the original influence I got the idea from. I am ok with this though, because eventually I'll learn how to take these ideas and completely make them my own. And I'm also OK with it because this was my first attempt at a full blown Sonata, so, I may have aired too much on the side of caution and did not creatively stray far enough away from some influences. That is a fair critique and probably one I needed to hear because the same thought was in the back of my head. This piece is actually way more in a Romantic period fashion then I usually write in. If I am to write another Sonata it may focus less on trying to slave to a period influence and be completely modern. We will see. 

Nikola,

I am happy to explain. For me music is an intense expression of the most powerful inner passion I can think of. It can be in the form of a simple soft melody, or it can be in the form of a rumbling tympani roll into to an orchestral climax. The simple soft melody better be really good, and the orchestral climax better be really powerful. Sure, melody is music. But what you do with that melody is where the magic comes in. I am, indeed, saying that there is more to music than music. Music is unfettered, tends to make its own rules, soars higher than we can possibly imagine, and lives in a magic realm that we can only dream of. The fact that we can approach it and draw upon some of it's aspects is nothing short of amazing to me.

As composers, we have a responsibility to honor the music. To humbly approach it with the respect it deserves. Then let it flow through us. It needs us to be conduits to the world.

Is that too much mumbo jumbo? 

Music doesn't have to have a melody. But it takes digging deeper in to that magic realm to make that work. The right four chords with proper voice leading can be better music that a melody alone. I've written plenty of music without intentional melody. That music is harmonic structure, first. Some melody might suggest itself, but that might not be my primary goal.  Besides, a good melody is hard to write, so I seldom do.

David's piece, despite being piano music :), is a good one. I never meant to imply that it, isn't. 


I think Bernstein does that in his Symphony #1, too. My understanding is that was his approach to his "serious" music (at least early on) before it become more theatrical.

Mike Hewer said:

HS,

The only technique I can think of  that could be considered close to what you are suggesting was used by Bernstein in his 2nd symphony, 'The Age of Anxiety'. He uses a form of variation technique in the first mvt.,whereby there is not a single theme that is developed, rather he has an initial idea, then the next variation takes a snippet of this, develops it and during that development, he  finds another interesting idea that becomes the basis for the next variation and so on. It's a kind of rolling variation that is not tied to a structured theme and has immense potential when it comes to symphonic developmental processes.

H. S. Teoh said:

Mike, your comment gave me an interesting thought.  What about writing a piece where the motif actually doesn't matter? Where the "point" of the piece lies in how the motif is treated, the overall structure, etc., and where you can substitute the motif with just about anything else and the piece still "works"?

Hmm.  Ingo says, "I'm sure we all are looking for our own style", and David replies, "the piece does lack a lot of the "David Lilly" style." and "If I am to write another Sonata it may focus less on trying to slave to a period influence...".

Well, to each his own, I suppose, but my stance is that I don't care to "look for my own style", because I already have my own style.  The way I write is uniquely my own, and I am not at all bothered by the fact that it happens to be easy to trace my influences. So what? I care to write good music. I don't care to deliberately avoid what I fear others may perceive as someone else's style.  I feel that I don't have to try to be different from everyone else, because I'm already different.  The way I treat, say, a given theme, let's say a melody fragment from one of Beethoven's symphonies, just for argument's sake, is guaranteed to be very different from the way Beethoven treated it.  Perhaps you may say that's because my compositional skills are nowhere near Beethoven's, and I'd agree, but even if my skills were at the level of Beethoven's, I still wouldn't develop the melody the same way he does, simply because I am not him!!  I find this common thought of "I want to find my own voice" and "I want to be different" and "I want to be unique, just like everyone else" (har har) rather silly and quite irritating, in fact, and IMNSHO a sign of weakness and insecurity.  Why can't I just be who I am without fearing that I might just happen to be the same as others?  Why do I have to base my self-worth on avoiding what others have done?  Why not rather avoid something because it was badly done, rather than the fact that it was done at all (and it may actually be a very good idea to begin with)?  I don't see period influence as slavery in any way, not even metaphorically; I see rather that the fear of being the same as others is actually the real slavery. Just my arrogant opinion,  of course. :-P

Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest.  This wasn't directed at anyone in particular, so I apologize in advance if I offended anyone.

"I'm sure we all are looking for our own style" is a sweeping generalization and sweeping generalizations are logically fallacious because they fail to allow for any exceptions.
 
H. S. Teoh said:

Hmm.  Ingo says, "I'm sure we all are looking for our own style", and David replies, "the piece does lack a lot of the "David Lilly" style." and "If I am to write another Sonata it may focus less on trying to slave to a period influence...".

Well, to each his own, I suppose, but my stance is that I don't care to "look for my own style", because I already have my own style.  The way I write is uniquely my own, and I am not at all bothered by the fact that it happens to be easy to trace my influences. So what? I care to write good music. I don't care to deliberately avoid what I fear others may perceive as someone else's style.  I feel that I don't have to try to be different from everyone else, because I'm already different.  The way I treat, say, a given theme, let's say a melody fragment from one of Beethoven's symphonies, just for argument's sake, is guaranteed to be very different from the way Beethoven treated it.  Perhaps you may say that's because my compositional skills are nowhere near Beethoven's, and I'd agree, but even if my skills were at the level of Beethoven's, I still wouldn't develop the melody the same way he does, simply because I am not him!!  I find this common thought of "I want to find my own voice" and "I want to be different" and "I want to be unique, just like everyone else" (har har) rather silly and quite irritating, in fact, and IMNSHO a sign of weakness and insecurity.  Why can't I just be who I am without fearing that I might just happen to be the same as others?  Why do I have to base my self-worth on avoiding what others have done?  Why not rather avoid something because it was badly done, rather than the fact that it was done at all (and it may actually be a very good idea to begin with)?  I don't see period influence as slavery in any way, not even metaphorically; I see rather that the fear of being the same as others is actually the real slavery. Just my arrogant opinion,  of course. :-P

Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest.  This wasn't directed at anyone in particular, so I apologize in advance if I offended anyone.

H. S.

You said, "I care to write good music." Exactly! How many times have I said that?

There is the case of a composer who isn't on the forum anymore. He wrote music that was very well crafted, playable, and really very good. But it seemed like every melodic and harmonic device, every cadence, every turn of a phrase,and modulation technique was borrowed from other composers. I felt like I was listening to a conglomeration of every early classical composer that ever lived. I made the mistake of saying that his music was very good, but didn't have an original idea in it. I can't blame him for not taking it very well. I wouldn't have, either. He explained that it was the kind of music he liked to play so that's what he liked to write.

I agree that we already have our own voice. That voice can change over time.

 

That voice has to change or you're pushing up daisies before your time.  Your criticism of that composer was probably justified in that he continued to write in the same style without progression.  I certainly noticed a progression in the symphonies of Beethoven.  It is obvious that he went from relatively simple to complex, from short melodies to longer ones.  But is increasing complexity a sign of maturity or improvement?  In this computer age we could make the opposite argument. In fact is too easy to load a score with all types of trills, turns, impossible riffs an unplayable rhythms  which add nothing and indeed distract from the experience of music.  So many scores would be improved by simplification not added complexity.  So what does finding ones voice really mean?   Maybe it's separating the chaff from the grain, sifting the sand from the gold and knowing which is which.

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