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Some of you will recall that I posted a discussion with the same title as this one a few weeks ago. I am re-posting due to several requests both here on CF and on YouTube to extend the piece. This I have done and now it has stretched from about 7 to 15 minutes in length. In it I have tried throughout to hold the listener's interest by utilising harmonic, melodic and developmental contrasts. All the thematic material has evolved from the initial few phrases to enable cohesion and logical progression. I have discovered a great deal from constructing this - certainly in terms of what instrumental groups work best together; just how forgiving atonal harmonies can be if the voicing is sufficiently diverse; how it is possible to be inventive when developing ideas from small beginnings; and the importance of part writing and counterpoint.

I was also asked to incorporate a greater melodic sense within the constructs of atonality and this I have done with what (to my ears at least) appears to be successful effect.

It is as a direct result of intelligent and thoughtful comments from CF members and elsewhere that I have suffered sleepless nights, this because I have found it nigh on impossible to drag myself away from working towards the finish of the piece....a process I admit to have found both exciting and rewarding.

Ideas and suggestions as to further development of the piece or where you think it might be 'tweaked' to good effect would be received with much gratitude.

Thank you for taking the time out to listen.

https://youtu.be/jKGFcBlUt8Y

 

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Hi Stephen -  A very impressive work here, I very much enjoyed this.  I am envious of your ability to produce an extended work of this quality!  Of course in the age of instant gratification many of us will probably not be able to take the time to listen to this which is too bad.

I'm interested in your approach here, ' how forgiving atonal harmonies can be' for example.  I guess what you are saying is that atonality by itself does not produce a 'modern' sound. I do find that the overall tone of this work becomes mellower as it progresses, there seem to be fewer polyrhythms and strong dissonances and shorter more jagged phrases.  That is not a criticism, developing  your material should move it in different directions certainly.  I personally would have liked to hear more of a recap of your initial sounds (if not a repeat) in the final movement, but that in itself is a 'traditional' approach so that decision is for you only.  Thanks for posting!

Hi Ingo,
Many thanks for being the first (maybe the last?) CF member to grin and bear it and put aside 15 minutes to listen.
You will see that after writing 'how forgiving atonal harmonies can be' I followed with 'if the voicing is sufficiently diverse'. For instance, the three concurrent melodies commencing at bar 248 were given no harmonic consideration at all, and I haven't been interested in analysing them from a theoretical viewpoint - I did add a dominant pedal in the bass to add a little cohesion but I'm not sure even that was necessary. I think the diversity of solo instruments allow this section to work i.e. Piccolo up high, clarinet in the middle and bass clarinet way down low - the space allows the melodies to work both independently and as a cohesive whole - something I was unaware of (other than perhaps subliminally) prior to composing the piece.
You are exactly right about the lessening of the polyrhythmic and dissonant style as the piece progresses - this was intentional: I was discovering in my mental storyline as I wrote that the road to perdition isn't an inexorable process - the journey can be diverted, or halted in its tracks if one recalls happy and positive memories - then there is triumph and celebration at the end of the piece having travelled the road and then managed to divert back to a positive outcome. (I didn't want to comment along these lines initially because such thoughts could be misinterpreted as philosophical claptrap). Incidentally, I did precisely what you suggest (reiterating the first movement at the end of the piece) in my Thema Obscurante and I think it worked well there. In my extending The Road to Perdition I set out wanting to create a big, fat, juicy ending with a good melodic line in the style of Stravinsky, and I hope I've achieved that.
Another reason for the metamorphosis in style from the opening movement, through the middle one and to the end piece, was a comment from Colin Dougall who suggested my original lacked a 'killer' melody (such as much of Prokofieff's works often do) so I set out to show myself that I could actually achieve that - and without sounding too self-satisfied I think I have surprised myself by doing so. I perpetually strive to produce 'that great and memorable' melody and will probably die trying to do so - but the journey is thrilling.

Again, thank you so much for sticking with it and for your incisive comments.

Stephen

Well, I'll try...

Obviously in the general timescale I can’t study the score enough to comment on much detail - LOL, I’ve learned most of my orchestration from studying scores to see how they did it! But I was most impressed with your handling of brass tutti particularly toward the end with that big chorale-like passage.

Generally it seems to cohere well though you might think about some trimming eventually. As before, the sheer energy assails from the opening, exciting, compelling. The variations in rhythmic inflexion you give with the semiquaver–paired accents add to it. Almost martial.

I loved the simplicity of the development at bar 51, noted the Bass Clarinet underpinning the tune in the oboe. The combination works well because of the contrast.

It became a bit confusing briefly at E but caught up again just after, like at F. The WW dovetailing gave the tune a limpid quality,  a nice change without losing the rhythm.

I could go on with similar details but the point is the contrasts seemed about right – the percussion taking a role just after G for instance (in passing I loved the idea of giving the double basses a solo moment as the allegretto emerged. H (It notices - I like giving the DBs independence – not everyone does!))

If you can excuse me saying, I thought the register in which you put the flutes at ‘I’ was a bit low – perhaps a sensitive conductor could make them sound out doubling the horns here with the oboes (or maybe my hearing is going, they didn’t seem to alter the timbre of the passage, the horns still dominant). Are the flutes necessary there?

At N you seem to revert to a more classical/traditional style particularly with that diminished blast on the horns 5 bars after ‘O’! I though "Uh-oh, here comes perdition!" I have to confess, this seemed to clash with the mood at the opening but you do grab it back a few bars on.

The Adagio at Q is very nice indeed.

And then it moves on to that masterful chorale I mentioned – at least it sounds a bit chorale-like to me. Triumphal. It could be that perdition has been evaded after all ! !

A most accomplished work but perhaps a few touch-ups will suggest themselves given time. Just my views though.

:)

Dane, this is great feedback...and not done within a 5-minute time frame either!

I think you are quite right about the flutes at I - they are simply doubling the horns and don't add a huge amount to the timbre - as soon as I've finished this I'll go back and try them at the 8ve. I'm particularly pleased that you like the Adagio - I found it amazing that the Schottische tune in the cellos almost disappeared under the influence of the minims in the oboe (and later the bass clarinet) - an effect that surprised me when I first played it back but something I will keep in my armoury for the future....we never stop learning do we!

The chorale in the brass (I think it's fair to label it thus) was something I aimed at as soon as I started the developmental process and it was the anticipation of writing it that helped me to race through to the end.

I haven't written a great deal of note so far in my life, but I think The Road to Perdition is by far the most effective in stimulating heart and mind in tandem - and that's my aim in all my compositions: to achieve a fusion of intellectual appreciation with emotional engagement for the listener.

Analysis such as you have provided is stimulating and rewarding and I thank you for it most heartily.

Stephen

Dane Aubrun said:

Well, I'll try...

Obviously in the general timescale I can’t study the score enough to comment on much detail - LOL, I’ve learned most of my orchestration from studying scores to see how they did it! But I was most impressed with your handling of brass tutti particularly toward the end with that big chorale-like passage.

Generally it seems to cohere well though you might think about some trimming eventually. As before, the sheer energy assails from the opening, exciting, compelling. The variations in rhythmic inflexion you give with the semiquaver–paired accents add to it. Almost martial.

I loved the simplicity of the development at bar 51, noted the Bass Clarinet underpinning the tune in the oboe. The combination works well because of the contrast.

It became a bit confusing briefly at E but caught up again just after, like at F. The WW dovetailing gave the tune a limpid quality,  a nice change without losing the rhythm.

I could go on with similar details but the point is the contrasts seemed about right – the percussion taking a role just after G for instance (in passing I loved the idea of giving the double basses a solo moment as the allegretto emerged. H (It notices - I like giving the DBs independence – not everyone does!))

If you can excuse me saying, I thought the register in which you put the flutes at ‘I’ was a bit low – perhaps a sensitive conductor could make them sound out doubling the horns here with the oboes (or maybe my hearing is going, they didn’t seem to alter the timbre of the passage, the horns still dominant). Are the flutes necessary there?

At N you seem to revert to a more classical/traditional style particularly with that diminished blast on the horns 5 bars after ‘O’! I though "Uh-oh, here comes perdition!" I have to confess, this seemed to clash with the mood at the opening but you do grab it back a few bars on.

The Adagio at Q is very nice indeed.

And then it moves on to that masterful chorale I mentioned – at least it sounds a bit chorale-like to me. Triumphal. It could be that perdition has been evaded after all ! !

A most accomplished work but perhaps a few touch-ups will suggest themselves given time. Just my views though.

:)

Well Stephen,

You have achieved the impossible. It's hard enough to get me to listen to complete works of any significant length all the way through but I listened to this one all the way through twice. I of course recall your first posting of this piece and would say that the extra sections you added seem to me to greatly enhance the piece, especially the softer sections. I was concerned as I listened to the opening "Psycho-stab" that it would continue on past my interest in hearing it, but you provided contrast and new color sufficient to keep me going. It is clear that you have a strong grasp of orchestration, and even though this is a new area for me, I am enough of a listener to know that it is well done and effective. Your hand in shaping the piece in the direction you wanted it to go seems very present at all times, by which I mean I hear a careful attention to detail and conscious  choices being made to attain an effect that was, in fact, attained.

As I know this you stretching your compositional wings into atonal/non-traditional tonal realms, I can say that it is an auspicious beginning and hope you continue this new journey -

Best,

Gav

Thanks Gav for overcoming your natural proclivity to listen to nothing lasting more than a few minutes (I think a lot of people on CF follow a similar route, including me, simply because we are all so busy and short of time) - but this piece is virtually 15 minutes long and you listened to it TWICE - I'm honoured. But of course you know it's your comments a couple of years ago about my first attempt at Thema Obscurante that provided the encouragement to further pursue this particular style of composition. Initially I was a little wary of doing so because it was out of my comfort zone but now I seem to be grasping it full on and am thoroughly enjoying exploring its wider possibilities.

In my first post on this subject a very erudite member talked of composing music to reflect the times in which we live - I humbly submit that The Road to Perdition does just that through the combination of new and traditional styles tastefully combined within one piece - resulting in a gradual move forward rather than a sudden lurch into something wildly alien.

Anyway, thank you for taking so much time out of your busy schedule not only to listen but also to comment on my efforts - I very much appreciate it.

ATB

Stephen



Gav Brown said:

Well Stephen,

You have achieved the impossible. It's hard enough to get me to listen to complete works of any significant length all the way through but I listened to this one all the way through twice. I of course recall your first posting of this piece and would say that the extra sections you added seem to me to greatly enhance the piece, especially the softer sections. I was concerned as I listened to the opening "Psycho-stab" that it would continue on past my interest in hearing it, but you provided contrast and new color sufficient to keep me going. It is clear that you have a strong grasp of orchestration, and even though this is a new area for me, I am enough of a listener to know that it is well done and effective. Your hand in shaping the piece in the direction you wanted it to go seems very present at all times, by which I mean I hear a careful attention to detail and conscious  choices being made to attain an effect that was, in fact, attained.

As I know this you stretching your compositional wings into atonal/non-traditional tonal realms, I can say that it is an auspicious beginning and hope you continue this new journey -

Best,

Gav

Stephen, you said:

" the three concurrent melodies commencing at bar 248 were given no harmonic consideration at all, and I haven't been interested in analysing them from a theoretical viewpoint"

Debussy has told us:

"Some people wish above all to conform to the rules, I wish only to render what I can hear. There is no theory. You have only to listen. Pleasure is the law"

You explained how you used a "metamorphosis of style" to write the ending of this piece which makes perfect sense, now I need to find another 15 minutes to listen with that in mind. :)

Ingo,

I haven't previously come across that statement by Debussy but couldn't agree more with him if I tried....mind you I've only held that view for the past two or three years and certainly only wanted to conform to the rules prior to that.

Your continued interest in the piece is very humbling and I thank you for it.

Best,

Stephen

Ingo Lee said:

Stephen, you said:

" the three concurrent melodies commencing at bar 248 were given no harmonic consideration at all, and I haven't been interested in analysing them from a theoretical viewpoint"

Debussy has told us:

"Some people wish above all to conform to the rules, I wish only to render what I can hear. There is no theory. You have only to listen. Pleasure is the law"

You explained how you used a "metamorphosis of style" to write the ending of this piece which makes perfect sense, now I need to find another 15 minutes to listen with that in mind. :)

Stephen,

This is obviously an important work for you. Thanks for posting it.

But I found myself craving for some real relief from the marshal, march like feel almost throughout. You tried near the 2/3rds mark. Some dotted, or syncopated notes might have helped me. I have no problem with a march, and I realize you used the feel (probably subconsciously) to help bring unity to the piece. As such, it works. For me the constant pounding away on the beat was distracting. I am often guilty of that in my own work.

All of which is not say that I didn't enjoy this piece. These are just a few tings I noticed along the way.

Hi Bob,

yes, you’re correct - this an important composition to me, principally because I have moved a long way from the rule bound world I inhabited for so many years - I have enjoyed the relative freedom allowed by atonality. Yes, the music is martial - I am an ex-military bandmaster after all. Plus, I envisaged someone tramping down the road to perdition on foot (although they trip up a lot in the first movement due to the syncopated effect of 4 quavers played to the ratio of 3 which is its principal motif). I intentionally started new motifs viz. the first cello solo and many others throughout the piece on anything but the downbeat to ensure variety and avoid a four square effect - I have often complained of Mozart being too predictable so always try to avoid that trap. I have used the snare and bass drums (and timpani) quite a lot to create tension prior to introducing new themes and this adds to the martial effect.

You are quite right that to maintain interest it is necessary to utilise suspensions in the harmonic and melodic content, and to adjust rhythms and volume otherwise music becomes potentially boring: it is a well known fact that tension in these areas add to musicality generally.

I think the adagio ensures relief from the martial and that volumetric variety achieves the same, so I’m a bit surprised by your comment about ‘constant pounding’ - but of course that’s an observation not a criticism. I think it’s fascinating how the same music affects different people in different ways, and how much one’s mood at the time of listening can affect one’s appreciation. There is music out there that sometimes irritates me on one day yet I love a few days later...strange but true. Hopefully if you listen to this again you will like it more, I hope so.

Many thanks for your interesting and thoughtful comments.

Stephen

Bob Porter said:

Stephen,

This is obviously an important work for you. Thanks for posting it.

But I found myself craving for some real relief from the marshal, march like feel almost throughout. You tried near the 2/3rds mark. Some dotted, or syncopated notes might have helped me. I have no problem with a march, and I realize you used the feel (probably subconsciously) to help bring unity to the piece. As such, it works. For me the constant pounding away on the beat was distracting. I am often guilty of that in my own work.

All of which is not say that I didn't enjoy this piece. These are just a few tings I noticed along the way.

Stephen,

I guess the "4 quavers played to the ratio of 3" was not the kind of relief I was looking for. And yes, I was referring to the adagio as a respite. Although on my computer the youtube video was so blurry I couldn't hardly make anything out. 

It may also interest you to know that I really don't consider this piece all that atonal. And I'm pretty traditional. Yes, there is dissonance and what-not. But I find atonal music difficult to listen to. This piece is easy to listen to. 

Yes, I give "observations". I don't know if they fall within the realm of the type of "constructive criticism" we are only suppose to give here. Others have given their impressions. I don't disagree with any of them.

Feel free to say what you will about the piece I have posted, which will soon go off the main page without any comment at all.

Bob,

Thanks for this...I know YouTube is incapable of showing a full score which is why I also attached a pdf of it (see original post above). It's interesting that you don't think it atonal and that you define atonal music as difficult to listen to. The simple definition of the word is: 'music not written in any specific key or mode or which has been written by obscuring tonal structures or by ignoring conventional harmonies altogether'. I have tried to explain in prior responses that this piece is only relatively atonal compared to my previous outputs (if that makes sense) - it is a combination of atonal and more conventional harmony - a kind of halfway house if you will. Personally I think writing music that's only difficult to listen to is rather pointless, but that's just my opinion of course.

I certainly consider your observations to be constructive and I learn as much from you as anyone else - disparity of opinion is always instructive from my perspective...I mean, thank the gods we're not all the same.

I hear what you're saying in your final sentence and I can say, hand on heart, that I give more feedback on the forum than I ask for - and I think that's the right balance of give and take. I know I've commented on your music in the past and will continue to do so...time constraints notwithstanding.

Thanks again for your comments, I appreciate the time and thought you've given to producing them.

Stephen

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