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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’.

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

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Stephen, and all, the “Report Editor Problems” thread has been shared with Ning, and can still be used to share editor problems such as you are experiencing -


Stephen, and all, the “Report Editor Problems” thread has been shared with Ning, and can still be used to share editor problems such as you are experiencing -


Hi Stephen

Just lstened to this and I have to say it sounded pretty good. I'm a big fan of Prokofiev and this "style" is not dissimilar other than that it lacks the killer melodies Prokofiev can weave into the "avant-garde". That would be my only negative comment - it trundles along content in its own groove but it needs a melody to hold it together and tell a story.

The strings & brass threaten this at various points but never sustain it more than a bar ot two before disappearing into a staccato-esque rhythm.

Anyway, nice work


Well, I found it engaging, exciting, well structured with masterful development of the thematic material and scoring. Not the first time here I’ve thought “should I even comment” on one of your pieces except to do what I’d do faced with this work in concert – namely applaud vigorously. It could be because I grew up on music like this that to the untrained seems chaotic until the listener realises how the material fits together. I think of people like Richard Meale, Barry Conyngham, Peter Mennin, Elisabeth Lutyens (was listening to her “Music for Orhestra I” last night) who probably saved me from a pointless but harmful musical education based around “the avant garde” which usually meant surrendering composition to a bureaucratic procedure in defiance of personal expression. I remember well my first hearing of Kenton/Graettinger’s “City of Glass”…..But then I’m as happy listening to Debussy’s or Delius’ music.

To me a superb piece, experiment or not. 

Hi Colin,

Hi Colin,

Thank you for your encouraging comments - you make an interesting point about 'killer melodies' of a Prokofievian nature and it's something I will consider when I revisit the piece.

It's quite fascinating how different people view the same material viz: Dane Aubrun's comments below - but this is what makes CF such a positive force of nature (human that is) and so valuable to all of us aiming high in the compositional world.

Thank you again, very interesting.


Hi Dane,

Yours are some of the most positive and encouraging comments I've received on CF and I sincerely thank you for them. I hope you don't mind if I quote them on my slowly evolving website.

It goes without saying that comments such as these are extremely encouraging and mean I can forge ahead with renewed vigour and confidence. There's obviously truth in the saying that genius is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration - and encouragement certainly helps with the latter (of course I use this as an illustration and am definitely not equating myself with genius to the slightest degree - I see myself as an experienced amateur who loves the compositional process and who is often surprised with what a bit of imaginative development can do to a simple scrap of music!)

We are all fortunate to work and strive within a milieu that gives such pleasure and satisfaction.

Thank you again,


Hmmm, how do we pronounce "Prokofievian?"


Though I agree with most of your post I have to make a few exceptions:  A composer finding his voice may feel that he has to reinvent the wheel, but in reality no one actually does.   Music is a subset of physics, and in the realm of science, no one really reinvents the wheel but instead we all stand on the shoulders of the greats who have gone before.

The twelve tone scale is based on the smallest interval that we can sing.  It also maximizes the chances for harmony with only one interval, the minor second, being truly dissonant.  Here is a piece I wrote about 2 years ago where the main theme contains all twelve notes of the scale.  I believe it is singable.

I am reminded of a story about an all black band in the deep south of the U.S about a hundred years ago.  The band played their trumpets with valves half down to produce slides, flutter tongues, and other unusual sounds.  After their performance other musicians rushed to see if they had altered their instruments in some way.  Now the techniques are common place among trumpeters, at least jazz trumpeters.  Another example:  Would you call banging on a single key rapidly and repeatedly an abuse of the piano?  I did not come upon this practice until Gershwin.  He used the technique very effectively in his Rhapsody in Blue.  Often orthodoxy stifles innovation. 
Geert ter Horst said:

From what I have read about and listened to avant garde or post-romantic music I would say that what exactly are the contemporary methods of composing is rather difficult to say, because in our fractured cultural world every composer has to re-invent the wheel for himself. Yet this process of re-inventing has to be led by some vision or perspective on the tradition, otherwise it will result in something completely banal or arbitrary. Nobody can say that he has already acquired this perspective. It is a work in progress and, as you say, learning from experiences and other people certainly is a necessary part of it. So I agree with you on this. 

My own intuition is that, despite the difficulties, there are some elementary insights which can help us to remain within a certain framework and are basic for any viable musical style. I'll mention some of these and would like to hear whether you agree with me or not.

(1) Atonality doesn't really exist and is only a limit-case of stretching tonality or modality. Atonality in my mind seems to be, in a way, the polar opposite of XVIIIth century classicism with its obsession on candences and the tensions between subdominant, dominant and tonica. Modality seems to be somewhere in the midst of these polar oppositions. From this it follows that it would be very narrow-minded to think that atonality is the future of music, because atonality cannot exist by itself, i.e. it cannot exist without referring and being dependent on tonal or modal relations. Every interval is a tonal relation, even the tritonus. The specific nature of the tritonus interval is not that it is a-tonal but that it is tonally ambiguous.

(2) Music should always keep a viable relation to the elementary phenomenon of human singing. Twelve-tone, serialist, and some other contemporary methods of composing tend to disregard or even cut that relation, to the effect that these methods are practically only suited for specialized instrumental musicians — or occasionally some hyper-specialized singers — who can master the extreme difficulties involved. In any case, it is hardly possible to write a piece of twelve-tone or serialist music which is fit for a sing-along. A serialist composer who would receive a commission to write a liturgical piece for a church or synagogue — for instance a piece which includes responses sung by the congregation — would be forced to suddenly adopt an entirely different style in order to comply with this commission. This is a strong indication that atonal styles are unable to assimilate traditional functions of music. Their only place is the rather abstract and narrow domain of a concert hall, in some l'art pour l'art context, not in a concrete context where music is used to glorify G-d, to sing for a king, to dance, &c. 

(3) Current tendencies to systematically use musical instruments in different ways than normally or traditionally is the custom are a telling sign of cultural suicide. Musical instruments are specialized extensions of our bodies, and to not use them correctly, according to their design, betrays a destructive tendency of turning against them and misusing them. To me this seems a disguised attempt of turning against one's own body. Sometimes this tendency of using other ways of playing the instrument in some awkward manner betrays a totalitarian attitude of the composer, as if it were his task to determine the all-and-everything of a composition. I consider this totalitarian attitude to be nothing else but another destructive attempt to get rid of tradition and history. Simply repeating history is not possible, nor desirable, but attempting to get rid of it is a delusion of the first order and another way of committing cultural suicide. 

In my opinion these three guidelines can function as a kind of fence beyond which it is dangerous to go. At least, this is how they function for me. 

I realize that this a lenghty reply, but hope it is still helpful.


It’s admittedly a bit of a mouthful but Mozartian gives the key to the pronounciation of Prokofievian. Maybe I should have written Prokofiev-like for ease and to prevent tongue knotting. 



Prokofiev-ish? Prokofiev-y?


    Oh, I see what you're doing.  You didn't write rite right, right?

 michael diemer said:

Wow, a lot of ideas there! I hear some Stravinsky, am I rite? It is interesting certainly, showing wide command of the orchestra and various techniques. Great control of dynamics (my bane). For a foray into a style apparently foreign to you, it is quite impressive.

It's interesting. If I hear something like this on the radio, I am likely to turn it down or off. But in concert, or here, I can appreciate it more. Perhaps because I force myself to step out of my comfort zone? Anyway, a pleasant listen was had by me.

You didn't write rite right, right?  (That's all I've got.)

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