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Hi there,

I would be very keen to get constructive criticism and feedback on a couple of pieces I've written for solo french horn recently.

 

They share the same thematic material (a 6 note chord spanning a major 7th, presented as a series of pitches) and try and explore what happens if you make the "octave" have 13 semitones rather than 12 semitones, but treat the thematic material in very different ways.

 

I have got a (good) horn player to play them through to me, so I know that they are playable, if not easy!

 

I'm not after hagiography.  I don't mind criticism or statements like "I don't think this is very good", so long as people suggest ways to improve the pieces, or explain what it is that they don't like.

 

Thanks for taking the time to read

 

Charles

 

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Do you have an audio file?

Hello Charles - please submit an audio file if you want commentary. Many composers on this site, myself included, will not respond w/o one.

1st piece is playable, but it's hard though. I like the way you play with the low and high registers of the French horn.

In the 2nd piece you could have as well written simile instead of stating f and p all of the time.


 Hi Gav, it seems sad that many people on the site don't feel happy about responding unless an audio file is provided - if a playwright posted a new script on a scriptwriters' forum, would the majority of fellow playwright members only comment on the script if a YouTube or Vimeo video of it was attached?

I can understand if the music was particularly complex or polyphonic (something as complex as, say, a Mahler symphony), but we are talking hear about a piece for a solo melodic instrument, playing one note at a time, no fancy multiphonics or other "advanced" techniques.

I appreciate that some composers can't read staff notation, and I haven't got a problem with that, I wouldn't particularly expect them to comment, even if an audio is provided.  I don't think them in any way inferior because they can't read staff notation, it is horses for courses.  I can't read Tab, or brass band arrangements in my head, though I know others can, and so might not comment on scores for those sorts of piece.

 

The danger with providing an audio file is that it is the audio file that gets dissected - a single performance - rather than the piece itself.  To continue the script analogy above, if you are provided with the audio of a Shakespeare play, you might end up debating whether the actor is making sense, rather than discussing all the different ways you can say "To be, or not to be", and (heresy!) how you could change it to make it even better...

Not a personal attack on you Gav, by the way! I appreciate that you took the time to reply.  If the "rules of the road" are that you have to provide audio files of scores submitted for dissection, then I will have to create one, but I would recommend to those that can read staff notation that you at least have a go at trying to hear the pieces in your head and commenting as you see fit.

Charles

 

No offense taken Charles, was just some friendly advice - best -

Hi Raymond. It would probably be stretching it to call it a performance - it was more of a sight-read, with many wrong notes and re-attempts of nasty bits.  He did stay though that they were playable, he just needed to practice them first!  As a result of hearing him struggle with the Moto Perpetuo, I transposed the whole thing up a minor third, to make it easier to play and more defined to listen to (something that wouldn't be obvious from a computer-generated audio file...).

Why a thirteen semitone octave?  Well, I have an interest in Music Theory and Analysis, and Forte's pitch-class set analysis.  There is no intrinsic reason why pitch-class sets have to be modulus 12, unless one believes that (for example) A 440 is the exact equivalent of A 220 or A 880, so I have a long-term project to reperform some of his analyses using pitch-class sets modulus 11, or modulus 13, to see what difference (if any) it makes to the results.  One hypothesis I would like to test is whether a multi-part "atonal" piece would have substantially the same results Mod 11, Mod 12 or Mod 13, whereas a multi-part "tonal" piece would have very different results depending on what the modulus chosen was.

With me so far??!

From there, I made the step of wondering whether I could write a convincing piece based on a 13-semitone octave, and make the listener respond to C C# D D# in successive octaves as though they were somehow "the same note" (as we habitually do when we hear C C C C in successive octaves).  The two studies were the practical result of this 'wondering'



Raymond Kemp said:

Yes, it's a pity you didn't get a recording of the performance. My initial question on such a piece is simply why 13 semitone octave?

hagiography? ask Kim Jong-un

 

Hi Eddy,

Good idea about using "simile" rather than lots of "f"s and "p"s, it would make the score less cluttered - I glad that you think it obvious that tails up means loud, tails down means quiet (I was worried about this)

Charles
 
Eddy Gp said:

1st piece is playable, but it's hard though. I like the way you play with the low and high registers of the French horn.

In the 2nd piece you could have as well written simile instead of stating f and p all of the time.

We all here have busy lives.  You have requested a review of your music.  Any review you get is a courtesy response from anyone who takes the time to read and think about your work.  I'm often quite amazed at the generosity displayed here on the forum from people who take the time to give a careful and sensitive review.

As a courtesy you can speed up that process for us by posting an audio supplement.  Most of us face the problem of less than desirable sound files often created by digital "simulations".  Most of us can also translate well enough between what the mock up shows and what the real sound would be.  If you trust the group enough to post a score you probably can trust the group enough to translate between the two.

RE reading from a score: while I can read and make a fair mental semblance of a new score I would not want to venture an honest (and hopefully sensitive) comment without also checking it with an audio reinforcement.  I'm not THAT good at reproducing the sound in my mind from just reading a new score.  On familiar scores sure, on new ones, less reliable.  That probably represents many of us on the forum, but I'm only speaking for myself. 

What happens, as you have seen, is without an audio file, you generally don't get much of a response.  That is because we have to stop browsing the forum and get to a live instrument to play through.  For sure most of us don't play horn, so already your play through isn't going to be actual but just a sketch.  That added time element and extra effort seems to make the difference between a response or none.

You are spot on, B.   I can and do read scores and listen to them in my head practically all day every day, but that's my job and I get paid for it.  This site is a great place to exchange ideas and to give and receive wonderful advice, but it's not anyone's full time job nor source of income!! ;-)

Since my time is limited and since I've been reading scores all day, if/when I want to give feedback on a CF piece, I want to close my eyes and listen - or perhaps catch up on my email while I'm listening.  There have only been a few times when I was drawn to the music deeply enough to study the score in depth.  So it's not really a matter of whether anyone can read the score and evaluate it, it's a matter of being considerate enough to save the time of some really incredible people who are amazingly generous with their knowledge and feedback.  I'm in awe of some of the intricate responses - my first thought is - how does everyone have enough time to do all that?

So, yes please - .mp3 files as well as scores.   Both are essential in my life view, if you want to get good feedback.

To pick up one or two threads in the responses so far:

 

I am actually quite flattered to have had so many responses in so short a time. Reading http://composersforum.ning.com/forum/topics/rules-and-suggestions-for , it says "The forum is a slow-brew process, and often threads here take weeks or even months and occasionally years to get replies" so to get replies within a day or two is great.

Although the pieces were (deliberately) restricted in the pitches I could use, that was the only restriction, and it was my choice to restrict myself in that way - and therefore, for valid musical reasons, I am allowed to break my own rules (though at this point in the compositional process, I have not).

I don't have an innate hatred of audio files, but I can find them distracting.  In the recent short piece competition, I looked at the scores first (where available) before listening to the audio files with the scores together.  The pieces were notated using Sibelius, so I've exported the sound files as produced by the software (below), as a cheap and cheerful solution. 

 

In the first study, it feels a little fast, and needs more rubato.  In the second piece, there is a false sense of ease of performance, and the dynamics are not fully obeyed!  But I would emphasise that it is the scores rather than the sound files where I am keen to get feedback.

The first piece was originally written 'longhand', on old-fashioned manuscript paper (copyright panopus 1976!) away from any musical instrument, then transcribed into Sibelius.  The second piece is more obviously a "process" piece, but the musical decisions about the three main melodies, and the order of transitions between them were all decided 'manually', without any particular system or theory.

I would agree with Bob, that theory tends to lag behind the compositions that the theory seeks to explain.  I believe that Sonata Form was codified in the C19, after Mozart and Haydn were long dead - it is interesting to see how they "break" the rules (that did not exist yet), for example Mozart in the recapitulation of his simple C major sonata, where the recapitulation starts in the subdominant (which therefore means that the second subject naturally is in the tonic!).  Similarly the non-serial atonal works of the first half of the C20 were not 'explained' until a lot later by Forte's pitch-class set theories.

However, once the theories are there, people tend to compose in line with the theories, with the result that C19 pieces in Sonata Form can often be more regular than those from the C18 which predate the theory, and composition classes in US universities sometimes require students to compose a piece "using pitch class sets".  Neither is invalidated by the fact that it follows a theory of composition.

Particularly in the first piece, the minor ninth leap is very prominent - as I explained above, I was trying to write a piece where the listener would threat the interval as though it were an octave.  There are not actually many leaps bigger than the minor ninth there, except where you have a motivic phase repeated immediately in different "octaves".  The second piece was written around the same collection of six different pitches in three different ranges (each 13 semitones apart).

Originally, the first piece was all written in 3/4, with accents and syncopation.  It was the Horn player that suggested (for example) changing two syncopated bars of 3/4 using accents into a non-syncopated bar of 5/8 followed by a non-syncopated bar of 7/8, to make the intentions clearer, and shortening a couple of notes and rests which had made the piece "stop", but which resulted in short 2/4 bars.  Do people think this was the correct decision, or should I regularise it back to 3/4?

I'm not sure that the pieces are beautiful, or even successful (part of the reason that I'm after feedback).  They are not only studies for the horn-player, they are also studies in composition under certain (self-inflicted) restrictions.  In as far as I think they work, to answer Bob's request, I like them because you can tell how they are put together and there is a pleasing balance of predictability (anticipation, of patterns being set up and then confirmed) and the unexpected.  To my mind, they both have a stong, audible but organic structure.  There are formal techniques in place (for example melodic inversion), but hopefully they are not the masters, but the servants of the piece.

Which is not to say that I think they are wonderful, I will never change a note and all I want is your praise (I am not Kim Jong-un!).  They are experiments, and I'm not sure if they are successful ones (though they have grown on me with repeated living with them).  What bits are less convincing to you - and maybe how can they be changed to improve them?

 

Sorry for the long reply

 

Cheers

 

Charles

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Raymond Kemp said:

Your most recent post is an essay explaining your "we are talking hear about a piece for a solo melodic instrument, playing one note at a time,"

Excuse me but if they are that simple, why the essay?

Please may I answer my own question?

Your experiments succeed and fail.

You suggest a good horn player can play them. That's success.

In any other respect? It's a no from me.

 

Like I said last time, sorry for the long essay.

 What would you change about the pieces, and how would you do it?  The only "compositional restriction" is that you can only choose from (make use of) the 21 notes played in the last 4 bars of the first study (bars 49 - 52).

 Cheers

 Charles

p.s. I've listened to (and liked) the 4 samplemodeling french horn pieces on your home page - interesting to see an alternative take on pieces for solo french horn.  Which is your favourite?

Hi Ray and Bob,

As an experiment, I've created a version 1a of the first study, with "normal" octave transpositions, so the piece now uses only the notes F G Ab Bb D  and E (i.e. the notes in F minor melodic ascending, minus the dominant) in all octaves.

 

It certainly has a different, to my ears blander, character - it's interesting that despite using only the notes from F minor (melodic ascending) I'm not sure whether it has much of a tonal centre.

 

What do other people with independent ears think?

 

 

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