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https://soundcloud.com/larya/tranquility-base

This is a slow movement in the sci/fi genre. Is there such a thing as a slow movement in the sci/fi genre? Anyway, when the melody moves very slowly the accompaniment chords are few and far between, so to build intensity or interest you can repeat the chords every quarter or eighth note, or waver back and forth between the chord and first inversion as in Beethoven. Or you can go down two steps in thirds and back up ala Bach. Or you can add the sixth to a tri-chord on every other chord as in Copland and Holst. I used this plus added a new wrinkle, went up three whole tones and down again. If you've heard this before don't tell me. I want to live in the illusion that I created something original. As we at the forum always strive to boldly go where no composer has gone before.

Tranquility Base is the site of the first moon walk by Neil Armstrong (not Michael Jackson) in 1969. The piece depicts the first lunar sunrise, astronauts scurrying about, moon walking, collecting rock and setting up experiments. Finally it ends with the lunar sunset.

All comments are welcome, except please don't say it sounds like pirate music.

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Hi, Lawrence. Lots of creativity and work put into this! Nice sound.

I have a bit of input on notation, which I think could simplify even the composition stage before final score preparation stage:

Did you want the timpani on p. 1 to play precise 32nd notes as notated, or do you just want a typical timpani roll? If the latter then you'd notate them as a half note slashed with 3 slashes (upon which they assume you want it to be a roll/unmeasured), rather than writing out all the 32nd notes.

I think the 6/8 section starting on p. 4 would be much simplified if it were notated in 4/4 or 2/4, so that your dotted 8ths would be 8ths, your dotted quarters would be quarters, and then the 3-note figures in the melody are your occasional triplets.

The ostinati in Cl. 2 / B. Cl. starting on page 4: you might verify that you're using a tie across the barline rather than a slur (I'm assuming you want it a tie), because it looks kind of like a slur to me and it sounds like your notation software plays it back as if it is not tied.

Very soothing music. Definitely reminiscient of Holst, esp. the harp writing.  I liked how in the first section you used little diversions from the prevailing chord to maintain interest.

I did wish you had introduced at least one contrasting section with a distinct set of themes, though, to introduce some kind of dramatic / developmental arc. What you have is very nice, but after a while the theme starting inching towards being overused. But that's just me... it's possible that what you have is perfectly fine if viewed as a kind of "theme & variations" construction.

Anyway, great job with the orchestration and the overall atmosphere. It's very soothing to listen too, and the little diversions from the prevailing harmony impart a sense of exoticness, quite appropriate for your intended lunar setting.

As for we composers going where no composer has gone before... I suppose in some sense that is true, since otherwise why would we even bother, to reconstruct something that has already been made?  But in some other sense I see myself not so much as a pioneer breaking new ground and charging into the wild unknown, but more as a bystander watching the bandwagons come and go, while noticing hidden doors along well-travelled paths that no one has noticed before.

P.S. I concur with Joel's suggestion of writing timpani rolls in slashed notation. Unless you specifically intended the timpanist to play the exact spelling of 32th notes. Judging by the context, I suspect you intended an unmeasured roll instead.

Joel,

     The timpani  role on my Print Music sounds lousy so I just write the notes out, but that was Print Music three versions ago, so I checked the sound on my new version and it still sounds lousy.  Also the program doesn't distinguish between a slur and a tie.  To tie two quarter notes over a bar you have to print a half note and transfer it over the tied quarters.  Now that you noticed I feel guilty, but not enough to go back and correct a few hundred ties for the sake of a better recording.

I thought about going to 4/4 time but decided that the conductor would be beating in 2.  I wanted the piece to be more light and whimsical.  Going to 4/4 would give it more structure more like a march which I did not want.  Of course I could have gone to 2/4 but as a musician I appreciate the continuity of staying in 6/8.

    I appreciate your comments.
 
Joel Becker said:

Hi, Lawrence. Lots of creativity and work put into this! Nice sound.

I have a bit of input on notation, which I think could simplify even the composition stage before final score preparation stage:

Did you want the timpani on p. 1 to play precise 32nd notes as notated, or do you just want a typical timpani roll? If the latter then you'd notate them as a half note slashed with 3 slashes (upon which they assume you want it to be a roll/unmeasured), rather than writing out all the 32nd notes.

I think the 6/8 section starting on p. 4 would be much simplified if it were notated in 4/4 or 2/4, so that your dotted 8ths would be 8ths, your dotted quarters would be quarters, and then the 3-note figures in the melody are your occasional triplets.

The ostinati in Cl. 2 / B. Cl. starting on page 4: you might verify that you're using a tie across the barline rather than a slur (I'm assuming you want it a tie), because it looks kind of like a slur to me and it sounds like your notation software plays it back as if it is not tied.

H.S.

     Thanks for listening and for the compliments.  The structure is ABAB with an ending.  The two melodies are very different but have the same feel in that they are soft and airy.  That was my goal for the piece but it might have been more interesting to change the mood with dynamics or going to a minor key.  I think you are saying the two sections sound too much alike.  There is a change in tempo and time signature between the sections. 

    

H. S. Teoh said:

Very soothing music. Definitely reminiscient of Holst, esp. the harp writing.  I liked how in the first section you used little diversions from the prevailing chord to maintain interest.

I did wish you had introduced at least one contrasting section with a distinct set of themes, though, to introduce some kind of dramatic / developmental arc. What you have is very nice, but after a while the theme starting inching towards being overused. But that's just me... it's possible that what you have is perfectly fine if viewed as a kind of "theme & variations" construction.

Anyway, great job with the orchestration and the overall atmosphere. It's very soothing to listen too, and the little diversions from the prevailing harmony impart a sense of exoticness, quite appropriate for your intended lunar setting.

As for we composers going where no composer has gone before... I suppose in some sense that is true, since otherwise why would we even bother, to reconstruct something that has already been made?  But in some other sense I see myself not so much as a pioneer breaking new ground and charging into the wild unknown, but more as a bystander watching the bandwagons come and go, while noticing hidden doors along well-travelled paths that no one has noticed before.



Lawrence Aurich said:

Joel,

     The timpani  role on my Print Music sounds lousy so I just write the notes out, but that was Print Music three versions ago, so I checked the sound on my new version and it still sounds lousy.  Also the program doesn't distinguish between a slur and a tie.  To tie two quarter notes over a bar you have to print a half note and transfer it over the tied quarters.  Now that you noticed I feel guilty, but not enough to go back and correct a few hundred ties for the sake of a better recording.

I thought about going to 4/4 time but decided that the conductor would be beating in 2.  I wanted the piece to be more light and whimsical.  Going to 4/4 would give it more structure more like a march which I did not want.  Of course I could have gone to 2/4 but as a musician I appreciate the continuity of staying in 6/8.

    I appreciate your comments. 

Now that I've looked at the score, the melody is in triplets but the accompaniment is in two.  It would make sense to put the B sections in two.  Thanks.
 
Joel Becker said:

Hi, Lawrence. Lots of creativity and work put into this! Nice sound.

I have a bit of input on notation, which I think could simplify even the composition stage before final score preparation stage:

Did you want the timpani on p. 1 to play precise 32nd notes as notated, or do you just want a typical timpani roll? If the latter then you'd notate them as a half note slashed with 3 slashes (upon which they assume you want it to be a roll/unmeasured), rather than writing out all the 32nd notes.

I think the 6/8 section starting on p. 4 would be much simplified if it were notated in 4/4 or 2/4, so that your dotted 8ths would be 8ths, your dotted quarters would be quarters, and then the 3-note figures in the melody are your occasional triplets.

The ostinati in Cl. 2 / B. Cl. starting on page 4: you might verify that you're using a tie across the barline rather than a slur (I'm assuming you want it a tie), because it looks kind of like a slur to me and it sounds like your notation software plays it back as if it is not tied.

"Is there such a thing as a slow movement in the sci/fi genre?"

No. It's well-established that sci-fi score never drops below a minimum of 70 concurrent musicians, all playing fff tutti as fast as possible. It is never slow. Some orchestras perform piccolo-only arrangements, just to annoy you :D

Dave,\

     Well they've succeeded because I'm annoyed.  What if a sci/fi film composer like um.... let's say John Williams sat down one day and thought, today I'm not going to compose for my usual audience of 11 year old pre-pubescent boys, but I'll write something for the 50 to 60 symphony goer crowd.  Let's assume hell isn't freezing over.   Wouldn't his music take on a different air, a new maturity, and a have wider appeal?

Before I answer further I just want to check a couple of things.

1) when you talk about sci-fi music, do you actually always just mean John Williams
2) do you genuinely believe that part of his process was consciously thinking "I'm composing for 11 year old pre-pubescent boys, let's make this immature"



Lawrence Aurich said:

Dave,\

     Well they've succeeded because I'm annoyed.  What if a sci/fi film composer like um.... let's say John Williams sat down one day and thought, today I'm not going to compose for my usual audience of 11 year old pre-pubescent boys, but I'll write something for the 50 to 60 symphony goer crowd.  Let's assume hell isn't freezing over.   Wouldn't his music take on a different air, a new maturity, and a have wider appeal?

11 year olds spend way more entertainment money on average than the 50 to 60 crowd, if you are trying to make a living writing music you had better try and give them what they want. Wider appeal as you define it would just mean no work to somebody in the business.

I think we should give John Williams credit for having a far wider appeal than say Hans Zimmer, who may actually be more commercially successful.

I think the real issue here is the choices that are offered to kids in this information age. I don't think a lot of them are getting exposed to an alternative to the media juggernaut at an age that would allow them to understand the variety of entertainment choices that are available to them before they get hooked on one genre.
 
Lawrence Aurich said:

Dave,\

     Well they've succeeded because I'm annoyed.  What if a sci/fi film composer like um.... let's say John Williams sat down one day and thought, today I'm not going to compose for my usual audience of 11 year old pre-pubescent boys, but I'll write something for the 50 to 60 symphony goer crowd.  Let's assume hell isn't freezing over.   Wouldn't his music take on a different air, a new maturity, and a have wider appeal?

I've written a lot of music for games where I knew children made up part of the demographic, I never once consciously tried to make it appeal to them. I just wrote whatever I thought was cool. There'll be scenarios where a composer may have to really consider it - perhaps in an uncompromisingly "kid's" film or cartoon - but to bring up Williams in that context, given Williams drew upon classical material not generally considered kid-friendly, I find quite strange. I can think of very little music in Star Wars, for example, that is obviously for children or sounds as if it is. Some of the Ewok scenes, perhaps. Not much else. At the absolute worst, children are getting introduced to a world of complex symphonic music tailored to their age group. Dreadful.

But then I'm treating this as if Lawrence doesn't have a pretty clear stated bias against film scoring vs "real" classical music, so it's not really the point.

Ingo Lee said:

11 year olds spend way more entertainment money on average than the 50 to 60 crowd, if you are trying to make a living writing music you had better try and give them what they want. Wider appeal as you define it would just mean no work to somebody in the business.

I think we should give John Williams credit for having a far wider appeal than say Hans Zimmer, who may actually be more commercially successful.

I think the real issue here is the choices that are offered to kids in this information age. I don't think a lot of them are getting exposed to an alternative to the media juggernaut at an age that would allow them to understand the variety of entertainment choices that are available to them before they get hooked on one genre.
 
Lawrence Aurich said:

Dave,\

     Well they've succeeded because I'm annoyed.  What if a sci/fi film composer like um.... let's say John Williams sat down one day and thought, today I'm not going to compose for my usual audience of 11 year old pre-pubescent boys, but I'll write something for the 50 to 60 symphony goer crowd.  Let's assume hell isn't freezing over.   Wouldn't his music take on a different air, a new maturity, and a have wider appeal?

Lee,

     Probably the only exposure to classical music youngsters get is through school band, chorus and orchestra.  There are so few classical music stations, most of which are public radio and that is more talk than music.  Instead they hear rap and hip-hop far more than they hear real music.  I think this is largely the fault of our failing education system.  When I was in high school we performed classical music in band, musicals like Annie Get Your Gun, George M, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, etc. oratorios like Messiah, and Hayden's Creation.  Now, high schools in Kansas City where I was from can barely play their own school song.  If music education is so decrepit, you can bet the rest of the curriculum is no better.

     Part of the reason for classical music's decline is that no one is composing or performing new music.  The most played orchestral piece in the last 25 years is Adam's A short Ride in a Fast Machine, all 4 minutes of it, which probably represents the attention span of the average listener.  This is why I criticize John Williams.  Surely he is capable of producing more serious music for orchestra.  He is certainly in the cat bird seat to have it performed.  Or maybe the blame lies with the conductors who will perform modern music only if it sounds really awful.  Or maybe they are gutless cowards who will only play music by a composer who has been dead for at least 50 years.  Who knows?

    
 
Ingo Lee said:

11 year olds spend way more entertainment money on average than the 50 to 60 crowd, if you are trying to make a living writing music you had better try and give them what they want. Wider appeal as you define it would just mean no work to somebody in the business.

I think we should give John Williams credit for having a far wider appeal than say Hans Zimmer, who may actually be more commercially successful.

I think the real issue here is the choices that are offered to kids in this information age. I don't think a lot of them are getting exposed to an alternative to the media juggernaut at an age that would allow them to understand the variety of entertainment choices that are available to them before they get hooked on one genre.
 
 

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