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Being a traditionalist who believes in the mathematical truth that there are sufficient possibilities in traditional musical scales and modes to write into eternity without repetition, why should I venture into the world of Avant-garde?
Simple answer is that I do not really know, but it may be because one or two critics in the past have lightly suggested that it might be the way for me to go. I did attempt a few years ago an experiment, which I entitled Thema Obscurante and received some encouragement suggesting I should ‘stay with it’.
Well, here is a second attempt that I have based on a five-bar piano riff and a separate three-bar melodic line borrowed from the 'Ideas Library' within Sibelius software.
I commented on someone else’s recent post that I find it interesting to see which direction other composers take at the end of a section of their music – best exemplified with ‘programme’ music that’s telling a story rather than following a formal pattern of development. Therefore, starting from the aforementioned piano riff combined with the beginnings of a melodic line, I looked forward with interest to see where it would take me – and The Road to Perdition is what I have come up with.
Now, whether it can be considered innovative or predictable, interesting or boring, worth commenting on or best ignored, good, bad or indifferent, clever or banal, I simply cannot judge: which is why I have posted it here. Your comments, whatever they may be, I will receive with much interest, plus of course any suggestions that might improve the piece; anything, for example, ranging from ‘throw it on the fire’ to ‘add a Bb to the chord of the dominant minor 27th in bar 432’ (if there is one, I don’t know).
Thank you for listening and I hope your ears do not hurt overmuch. For what it’s worth, my own opinion is that it needs a bit more development but I am aware that, like a good painting, we have to know when to say ‘enough is enough’.

https://youtu.be/6hwQAeACcRs

If anyone wants an MP3 file please let me have your email address and I'll forward it to you.

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Seems to me like your whole post, including the music attached, is just one big question: why bother. Even the title suggests the answer you have already formulated in your mind to that question. Gav

From our private messages to each other I am aware that you intend commenting on 'The Road to Perdition' eventually, but I would like to add the following to your initial response to the piece.

I have considered your philosophical viewpoint and find it still a bit confusing. First, you've hit the nail on the head with the observation that my post is 'one big question' - but to say I have already formulated an answer to that question is patently wrong. I am questioning the process of writing atonally simply because I don't fully understand it. I have been educated to follow certain harmonic rules and conventions and, like most composers, have eventually managed to use those rules to my advantage and to ignore some of them, also to my musical advantage. What I personally have found difficult to rationalise is the (almost) total freedom and lack of restraint that's available when composing in this atonal style - I am sure you will understand that breaking habits of a lifetime  is not an easy thing to achieve, although I have discovered that doing so has certain pleasures attached.

So yes, I have posed questions, not only to receive wisdom and enlightenment from members of CF, but also to remain sufficiently open minded to try to resolve them myself.

I recall from the process of composing Thema Obscurante that I started with an experiment in harmony (more than anything else) written for the piano. Then, following observations on this forum about it's hidden melodies, I arranged it for full orchestra which enabled me and observers to more easily identify them (almost contrary to my original aim to make them 'obscurante'). It then took me a little over a year to return to the piece which I felt was unfinished - and this led to me adding two more movements to what was a single movement piece (therefore ending up, 'voila' - in ternary form....back to my formal roots).

I have a feeling that 'The Road to Perdition' might take a similar course of development - but don't hold your breath because it may take a long time for its developmental route to take a hold in my mind.

So, I sincerely hope this answers your question about my asking the question in the first place.

All the best,

Stephen

Stephen, re: the Stravinsky pun, I frequently pick up on influences in the music posted here. When I point this out, I never mean to imply that the composer has intentionally written in that style, just that the composer's style has crept into their music. similar to what happens in art. I mean, how often do you see Picasso in some artist's faces that he or she has painted? you know, those sideways, angular deals. The Rite Of Spring has similarly diffused itself through contemporary music. In my own music, there are easily detected Debussy influences at times, also Sibelius. Probably many others as well. And of course all of the "great masters" are known to have used other composers ideas quite freely. It just happens. Perhaps there is something akin to a collective unconscious in art, to put it in Jungian terms, from which artists and composers (along with writers and other creative people) draw for inspiration.
Stephen, re: the Stravinsky pun, I frequently pick up on influences in the music posted here. When I point this out, I never mean to imply that the composer has intentionally written in that style, just that the composer's style has crept into their music. similar to what happens in art. I mean, how often do you see Picasso in some artist's faces that he or she has painted? you know, those sideways, angular deals. The Rite Of Spring has similarly diffused itself through contemporary music. In my own music, there are easily detected Debussy influences at times, also Sibelius. Probably many others as well. And of course all of the "great masters" are known to have used other composers ideas quite freely. It just happens. Perhaps there is something akin to a collective unconscious in art, to put it in Jungian terms, from which artists and composers (along with writers and other creative people) draw for inspiration.

I certainly enjoyed this piece. I like the punchy eighth note rhythmic motif. I particularly like what you are doing around bar 31 with the cello solo and the winds doing a tumble downs at 35 and again at 39. Harmonically, I like what you are doing. I almost consider the interjections, e.g, in the trumpets at around 19, to be ornaments in a rhythmic sea.

I like it.

Paula

P.S. And, if I were to compare, I hear more Bernstein. :)

Michael,

Yes of course you are rite - there must be a collective sub-consciousness in existence, and those composers we hear of most have picked up on it also...but then there’s plagiarism, a different matter altogether. I recall reading someone who’d put together an analysis of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s compositions that showed where he’d ‘borrowed’ most of his material (from other composers)...I’m not saying I agree with his conclusions but it was fairly persuasive in places.

I think it goes without saying that artistic inventiveness will always pick up on other influences, whether consciously or otherwise, and it ever was thus.

I must read some Jung - there’s a big gap in my education I think.

All the best,

Stephen

I like this Stephen, I think it will be accessible to most listeners but still demand our attention with some spicy flavors. Your orchestration and development techniques work well with these motifs.  It sounds as if this piece may be near the edge of your comfort zone which is a good place to be,  true artists can't stand still.  I hope you continue with this type of music, thanks for posting!

Hi Stephen,

I noticed that in the 60s and 70s there was a sort of renaissance in film making, with gritty, angled scores replacing the lush romantic music that came before. Think Psycho, The Mechanic, The 7-Ups, various spy and action thrillers. This music I think would fit quite well into that category. The scoring and arrangement is polished and well done. Nice job!

Gav

Hi Stephen. For me, knowing the subject of the piece helped me listen and understand what you were achieving. I think it shows the subject matter well. I like this piece because even though it is not "harmonic" it is not so discordant as to be unpleasant and even though it is "a-rhythmic" there is enough rhythm to give it meaning.


My (humble) opinion with regard to composition is that it is important to understand what works and what does not, and why (e.g. an interval of 3rd or less in the base does not work well, moving in parallel 5th etc), but then compose what  has meaning for you and if others can see the meaning you have succeeded.

So in my opinion you have succeeded with this piece. Well done.

Thank you Stanley for your interesting comments. I hear where you are coming from when talking of intervals of a minor third in the bass and parallel 5ths (in vocal music particularly), but as you well know, these things can be utilised quite successfully for special effect. Just out of interest, have you looked closely at the harmonic structures within ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’.....brilliant in my view.

Like the good man said: ‘Rules are there to be broken’ - in music, as long as it sounds effective, I think most rules can be broken without the perpetrator being shot at dawn every morning for a week. Interesting subject.

Again, many thanks,

Stephen

Ingo,

Thank you for your encouraging comments which help me in my decision as to whether or not I will continue to compose atonally - on balance I think I shall, but won’t abandon more traditional modes of composition altogether. I see no reason why the two forms can’t work in parallel, nor occasionally in tandem.

Good to hear from you.

Stephen

Hi Paula,

‘A sea of rhythm’....nicely put, quite poetical indeed.

Thank you for your appreciative comments - they help by fuelling my desire to compose. If and when I get round to properly developing my website do you mind if I quote your comments?

Many thanks,

Stephen

Gav,

Pithy, interesting and to the point...thank you for your comments. Whilst you’re here - the facilities on this page are still somewhat dubious - when I click on ‘reply’ to your’s and others’ posts I’m taken back to the top of the page ( so can’t actually read what you have written as I respond) - with dodgy recall like mine it makes life more difficult. Also, the ‘edit within 15 minutes’ button doesn’t work either - not to mention the doubling of some messages (like one of yours earlier in this post.)

Anyhow, Thank you again.

Best,

Stephen

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