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I have written a lot of verses in my life and it is a big race for me to try setting to music as many as I can.

A lot of songs result, usually accompanied by chamber ensembles or just one instrument. Eventually they form themselves into cycles or bigger units and into complete stories. That is why I put a hierarchical header on most of my scores giving the exact address of each item.

Sometimes I feel that a cycle or something similar should be proceeded by an instrumental piece and thus I write some overtures usually based on themes taken from the songs it introduces. This is the case here with a Valse in Am and a fugue in A. All themes of both pieces are taken from two of the songs that follow and for which I feel that the lyrics did not convey the whole of what I wanted to say.

Any comments and constructive criticism are welcome.

Thanks for listening.

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It's flute, 1st violin and viola. The F to E. Thing is, that seems like it should work - having those brief "outside" notes is a standard in classical music of this type so I think there's something wrong in the supporting harmony.

If you don't mind minor re-write suggestions, I think Eb-E across the melody would work better, at least in that instance. It's something I did in my classical recordings - if you listen to about 0.34, there's a couple of passages where I edge up through passing tones (and all through the piece really): https://soundcloud.com/davedextermusic/concordance?in=davedextermus... Different feel and piece (and composer), of course, but it's what I'd do.

Or a different way to move between the F and E, like:







The violin range isn't such a problem but definitely check, and consult experienced wind and brass players, I played as safe as possible with my recent recordings and didn't seem to cause any lung issues. To quote a recent Q/A with an oboist who also plays flute, clarinet, bassoon and many others:

Me: I've been told oboes need more rest time than other ww; - but I've seen long, involved classical passages played with barely a space to breath and everything worked out ok; so whilst I try to write considerately, do oboes need a good few bars rest regularly or have I got the wrong idea?

Oboist: Oboes are unique in that unlike flute, clarinet, etc, we can't get rid of our air fast enough. So in music, we need time to not only take in more air, but to first exhale and get rid of all the air that's gone bad before we could put it through the instrument. It can get painful to play otherwise! The small reed opening does allow us to play long phrases in one breath, but endurance through a piece is something else. Rests are very appreciated :D

You'll see long passages in some music but giving a beat or two every four bars, or dovetailing with a 2nd oboe, or if all else fails making sure a breath comes at an obvious point that doesn't cause a vital passage to collapse, is my current rule of thumb based on her advice. It's not possible to give someone too much breathing space!

I might have linked this to you before, but it's full of performance examples that give you an idea of the flexibility and stamina of each instrument in the hands of a good player. http://www.music.indiana.edu/department/composition/isfee/

Socrates Arvanitakis said:

David. In bar 210 do you mean the flute or the high left hand position in the fiddle?

I go even higher than that further down, but I would expect professional orchestral players to deliver (and survive :-) )

Thanks Dave for your suggestions and quote. I Keep on studying and learning as I go, what else can one do? As for bar 210, you give me a chance to explain my thinking. If we are still talking about bar 210 here are 2 pngs. The WW passage as an elaboration of the original vocal melody accompanied by a guitar.

To me it is a simple progression of an augmented 6th chord progressing to the dominant of the key. All types (Italian, German & French) of this chord have subdominant character (subdominant substitute chords) and the dissonant interval of the aug. 6th (F-D#) should resolve to the dominant note E  in 8ves and by contrary half-step motion as per classical rules. That is exactly what is happening both in the orchestral and in the song version, though the orchestral is more elaborate. I cannot see any problem there. As for the spelling and choice of accidentals, I had this before in a long conversation with Gregorio. If I choose Eb rather than D# the interval is no more an aug. 6th. It becomes a minor 7th (F-Eb) in which case the Eb should proceed in a descending motion to D rather than rise to E and the chordal progression should be F7 to Bb which cannot serve my purpose in this particular instance. As for the melody note (F) in the 1st beat of 210 bar, I consider it as a simple melodic appoggiatura, the harmonic dissonance of bar 209 having been resolved already in the first beat of 210.

Socrates,

I'm on my ipad at the mo and can't listen to it but will do tomorrow. Just a few quick observations.....
A cursory look at the score has thrown up a possible cut and paste error in the cellos between b33 and b38- the vcs are in 2nds with the bassoon, which I assume is the correct part. I also noticed the trombone has a low D in b34 which is a tone below its bottom note.
I would bow the quavers in vln1 b1 and similar under one slur, to make a more simple bowing as the downbeats would then be taken on a down bow....not essential, but it might just feel a little better and more musical to play.

Fair enough. It's your piece and you're writing it how you like, but all the theory support in the world doesn't change that those notes twang my ear in an otherwise melodious piece (and I'm not alone), which suggests they're not idiomatic to your style but individual errors for some reason slipping through your ears, or perhaps even decisions based on theory rather on what sounds best. I wouldn't submit my ear as evidence, but it's all I have. Anyway, just my feedback, aside from those moments it's good.

Socrates Arvanitakis said:

Thanks Dave for your suggestions and quote. I Keep on studying and learning as I go, what else can one do? As for bar 210, you give me a chance to explain my thinking. If we are still talking about bar 210 here are 2 pngs. The WW passage as an elaboration of the original vocal melody accompanied by a guitar.

To me it is a simple progression of an augmented 6th chord progressing to the dominant of the key. All types (Italian, German & French) of this chord have subdominant character (subdominant substitute chords) and the dissonant interval of the aug. 6th (F-D#) should resolve to the dominant note E  in 8ves and by contrary half-step motion as per classical rules. That is exactly what is happening both in the orchestral and in the song version, though the orchestral is more elaborate. I cannot see any problem there. As for the spelling and choice of accidentals, I had this before in a long conversation with Gregorio. If I choose Eb rather than D# the interval is no more an aug. 6th. It becomes a minor 7th (F-Eb) in which case the Eb should proceed in a descending motion to D rather than rise to E and the chordal progression should be F7 to Bb which cannot serve my purpose in this particular instance. As for the melody note (F) in the 1st beat of 210 bar, I consider it as a simple melodic appoggiatura, the harmonic dissonance of bar 209 having been resolved already in the first beat of 210.

Socrates, i enjoyed this!  To me it has your mark of folk mixed with what i hear as something which would go well film. 

Thank you for posting!

Thanks Mike, very sound observations. At bar one the bowing is a copy-paste of my guitar legato markings from the song. Yours is a better solution for violinists, but do you think if I mark the part with two continuous up bows (VV) would be equally effective/acceptable?

 

Bars 33-38 are copy-paste from bassoon to cello, something went very wrong there obviously, corrected now, thanks.

 

But in bar 33 is ok, just playing the tonic and 7th over the A root of the basses (I like that particular register for this 2nd to be simultaneously sounding), another guitar pre-conditioning of ears I suppose:

Bar 34 Trombone is another mistake copy-paste from tuba. Corrected now.

If you see anything else horrible please let me know, thanks.

@ Dave, thanks Dave. Honestly, the appogiatura F against E on the strong beat at that point does not sound bad to me. The theory is just explaining it. My ear accepts it.



Mike Hewer said:

Socrates,

I'm on my ipad at the mo and can't listen to it but will do tomorrow. Just a few quick observations.....
A cursory look at the score has thrown up a possible cut and paste error in the cellos between b33 and b38- the vcs are in 2nds with the bassoon, which I assume is the correct part. I also noticed the trombone has a low D in b34 which is a tone below its bottom note.
I would bow the quavers in vln1 b1 and similar under one slur, to make a more simple bowing as the downbeats would then be taken on a down bow....not essential, but it might just feel a little better and more musical to play.
 

 if I mark the part with two continuous up bows (VV) would be equally effective/acceptable?

If your intention is to separate the first crotchet a from the quaver a (and I think that is best musically too, as it sounds in the mock up) then a good solution would be to use 3 bows in the bar, the first as a downbow first beat, the 2nd as another downbow on the second beat and the 3rd as an upbow on the 3rd beat. If it were my piece, I would bow differently in places to help the musical flow and phrasing. Have a look at the attached to see what I mean. I've put in the bow marks so you can see immediately how it works. The penultimate bar spreads the up and down evenly (3 notes each) and the upbow strengthens the crescendo. Many other ways of bowing are possible and may well be better, but this does get across to the player the sense of flow, phrasing and gesture in the music.

Whilst with the strings, although your pah-pahs (as in oom-pah-pah..you know, technical term ;-) are ok, they seem in their triad spacing, like direct transcripts from the guitar tab. When transcribing, it is often best to re-think and re-space into the new medium (unless you are Ravel) and in this case I would have re-arranged/spaced differently at times to add some variation -  not limiting it to the middle register on climactic moments and just a more general awareness of making the parts a little more interesting with perhaps some divisi and/or simple multiple stops. 

 I really like the music (just the waltz at present, but I look forward to listening to the fugue), it has a touch of Resphigis' Ancient Airs and Dances' in some places, but I would have loved some more variation in the themes with a little more rhythmic variation occassionally. Because of this the material seemed to go on a little too long for me, but there was still a lot to appreciate.

I see there is some controversy over the Augmented 6th. I don't see the f/e clash as an issue, it is just an accented appoggiatura as you say, however it might help of you defined which flavour it was by at least adding the 3rd (a) and resolving it to G sharp, making it Italian (shame there isn't a Greek one eh). At the moment the min9th is bare and exposed, the additional harmony notes might temper it for some.

A general impression for me was that some of the scoring seems a little cluttered in places and some clarity could be achieved with less octave doubling. One point was at b81 with the bone doubling the horn 8va below. Try giving the bone harmonic/rhythmic duties below the horn and see if you like that

There's a lot to take in, so forgive the piecemeal approach...L8r

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If your intention is to separate the first crotchet a from the quaver a....

Sorry, I meant separating the crotchet a from the g sharp quaver....typos eh!

Thanks Gregorio!



gregorio X said:

Socrates, i enjoyed this!  To me it has your mark of folk mixed with what i hear as something which would go well film. 

Thank you for posting!

Well, Mike, after your bowing and other texture thinning-out suggestions I've decided that the whole thing should go back to the draw board.

The fugue is just a transposition and orchestration in A of a 3 voice vocal fugue in D that I submitted some two weeks ago in this forum, and I did not think of doing more work in it as I thought that it should act (together with the valse) as a pre-reference to themes that will be heard later vocally in this song cycle.

I must admit, I have been very lazy with bowing considerations in this piece, but thanks to your help, I can see a different more exciting perspective for enhancements.

Thanks for your time and advice.

Hi Socrates,

Your piece has a lot of good in it too, so I hope you are not too hasty. 

I think it works fine until b32. At that point perhaps consider not doubling the horn line an 8va below with vc and bsn and at the same time, re-space the chords in the upper strings to fill in the hole around and just below middle C. This way, the counterpoint is more in the clear and a little more clarity will be apparent. You could even even double the 2 lines (trp and hrn) an 8va higher in the wind for added sparkle. Or, why not pair the melody down to solo instruments with a light accompaniment! Just some thoughts you might want to explore.

Although midi playback is awful, it can be quick and useful when trying out orchestral spacing. If you feel so inclined, try opening up some areas of the acoustic spectrum by for example putting the clt up an octave in places and erasing some octave duplications in the middle registers. As it takes nothing in the way of effort to try these things, why not give it a go, it may refresh your ears and give you more scoring ideas. Always keep in mind the clarity of the music and whatever the scoring is doing, consider if it is presenting your music in the best possible light. Be alert too, to the registral strengths and weakness of instruments and balance between sections.

Your part writing (counterpoint) is so well written, that you do not need to fill in every hole in the space and so transparency should be the goal here, so as to not undo the sound composition. There is nothing wrong with the way you have scored at present as most of it would sound fine in a live situation - just a few moments here and there that with a little more finesse, could improve the piece immensely. The music reflects well your european heritage.

I think it's worth chiming in to say that it's always the perceived problems that get the most attention in comments, not the good bits, so while it might have looked like myself and others were ripping it to pieces that's not the case. I wrote whole paragraphs on one note in one bar, but I think it's a great piece with a really authentic aesthetic (even if you weren't planning one specifically) and solid-sounding orchestration. The strength of the writing was communicated even through midi, which is quite a barrier.

Polishing it up is one thing, but going back to the drawing board is drastic I think. The kind of suggestions Mike's made are similar to those he gave to me for my orchestral piece - unchanged compositionally, but the last couple percent that adds that final layer of veneer to orchestration.

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