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Hello to all members,

This post is to announce our Winter Music Contest - members were asked to create a piece which evokes the idea of Winter. The rules of the contest are simple: any instrumentation, 7 minutes or less in duration. 16 members total submitted entries, making this one of the most-participated-in contests which I have run on this site! Please take some time to listen to these entries and vote your top three. The winners will have the honor of having their entries posted to the top of the home page of the site until the first day of summer! Please click the link below to cast your vote! Deadline is 2/14/2015 at 5 pm EST!!

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/R2733RF

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This is mostly what I did for the contest, too, Roger. I even utilized check-marks and exclamation-points to help me decide between the 4 or 5 that really stood out for me. But in the end, in contrast to what Bob is saying for general purposes, I actually (somewhat surprisingly to me) voted more or less against my own tastes, seeing that I thought the pieces were better put together despite that.    

Hey Paul, yeah me too, it might not be organized 'scientificly,' but it

works for me. I'll run thru them all once to see what the range is, and

from there re-listen and start narrowing things down.

Whereas professionalism (of the total output) is a part of my criteria, I try to

balance that with the understanding that not everyone can afford to have

the best equipment and shouldn't be discounted because of it.

Care to elaborate on any specifics you use as you listen?  RS

Well, put simply, imaginative harmony and, for the pieces for which it could apply this time around, a good grip on the orchestration, hopefully also imaginative, but not necessarily "overtly original" or anything. Just having an obvious good understanding of that is usually enough to impress me, as far as that element goes, although, of course, if it's NOT there, that's a big detractor. I always look for if a piece really makes me feel anything, and I also kept a very close eye this time around on whether or not the music did actually seem to depict the season in some way. The 'Snowflakes' piece, for example, was just one little instrument for the longest time, but the panning effect used made it very pictorial, along with the almost seemingly random element in the descending notes. That I thought was very simple and clever, and while I smiled while listening to it, I could also have kicked myself for not thinking of it, too, or at least something more similar to it.      

roger stancill said:

Hey Paul, yeah me too, it might not be organized 'scientificly,' but it

works for me. I'll run thru them all once to see what the range is, and

from there re-listen and start narrowing things down.

Whereas professionalism (of the total output) is a part of my criteria, I try to

balance that with the understanding that not everyone can afford to have

the best equipment and shouldn't be discounted because of it.

Care to elaborate on any specifics you use as you listen?  RS

Bob, you aren't alone, I'd bet most of over 30 have pretty much

figured out what we like and don't like and settled into 'their own tastes'.

I would need a list of all contestants before I could try to match

them to their work(for the most part) tho' some are obvious to me. 

I think I've got yours narrowed down to 2.   We'll see.     RS

ps; good luck with the votes

.... I could kick myself for not thinking of it too,  ha- the same thing happens to

me everytime I pick #'s and play the lottery.
 
Paul Smith said:

Well, put simply, imaginative harmony and, for the pieces for which it could apply this time around, a good grip on the orchestration, hopefully also imaginative, but not necessarily "overtly original" or anything. Just having an obvious good understanding of that is usually enough to impress me, as far as that element goes, although, of course, if it's NOT there, that's a big detractor. I always look for if a piece really makes me feel anything, and I also kept a very close eye this time around on whether or not the music did actually seem to depict the season in some way. The 'Snowflakes' piece, for example, was just one little instrument for the longest time, but the panning effect used made it very pictorial, along with the almost seemingly random element in the descending notes. That I thought was very simple and clever, and while I smiled while listening to it, I could also have kicked myself for not thinking of it, too, or at least something more similar to it.      

roger stancill said:

Hey Paul, yeah me too, it might not be organized 'scientificly,' but it

works for me. I'll run thru them all once to see what the range is, and

from there re-listen and start narrowing things down.

Whereas professionalism (of the total output) is a part of my criteria, I try to

balance that with the understanding that not everyone can afford to have

the best equipment and shouldn't be discounted because of it.

Care to elaborate on any specifics you use as you listen?  RS

Bob,

LOL. Should've been pretty easy, I reckon, as a couple of things might give me away. I think I might know which one is yours, too, but... I'll bet I'm far less sure than you are, heh heh. On a side note, I finally was able to buy Spitfire Albion 1 the day before yesterday and have been immersed in trying to figure it out, as well as just playing around with it. Boy, it's a whole different beast than Garritan, that's for sure, and I think it might take me a good while longer to come to grips with it than I was really expecting.       

Bob Porter said:

Roger,

Well yes, I listened with as much open mindedness as I could muster. But it was harder for some than for others. I think that's to be expected. The verity of entries is a good thing.

Still, I could tell with in the first few measures if I was going to like something. I guess that makes me more closed minded than I thought.

Paul,

I think I know which one is yours.

Shouldn't composer L be disqualified because he signed his piece, Sean T. Klauss.  I must say his harpsichord was in remarkably good tune.

His pun-ishment will be to let the pun stand

Bob,

There is of course truth in your response but I ask myself is it all of the truth? There is insufficient space here for me to fully expound my thoughts and it's probably the wrong place to do it - but here's a distillation. I don't like baked beans because they're not to my taste - but does that make the tin of beans in front of me a bad tin of beans? They are selected out from the rest because they are the plumpest and healthiest and most consistent in shape - they have the thickest and most flavoursome sauce, they are well packaged in a tin that is informatively and attractively labelled and bean for bean provide good value nutrition...but because they're not to my taste (I prefer boiled bandicoot) I'll give them a 5/10 mark. Possibly this is an unfair comparison because beans don't necessarily constitute 'art'...so there must be some additional elements that must be applied to the arts and, specifically in this case, to judging whether a musical composition has merit or otherwise.  Arguably 'art for art's sake' is used to convey the idea that the chief aim of the work is the self-expression of the individual composer who created it, or a more generalised view: art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination to produce a work to be appreciated primarily for its beauty and emotional power. My point is that to judge another's work takes the application of time and effort to judge sensitively and with due regard to the composer's delicate ego the merits or otherwise of their output. This judgement should first entail having a clear understanding of what the composer is trying to achieve - what style is the music and is it consistent with that style (but allowing some room for manoeuvre and innovation, so long as the innovation isn't so far outside the realm of reasonableness to make it unpalatable or unpleasing to the ear) - if it is 'programme music' trying to tell a story how well does it evoke the meaning of that story - for example: a piece attempts to describe something occurring firstly underground and subsequently above ground - the composer selects different keys to describe each but, eventually both occur concurrently - so the composer writes in two keys simultaneously with a satisfactory result that doesn't jar the ear - this is on a par with permitting the bending of strict rules of harmony because the part-writing justifies it without damaging intelligibility. My prime point being: does one judge this purely on 'taste' or (presuming the critic is not being superficial and actually understands what the composer is trying to do) does (s)he reward the inventiveness and skill that has gone into telling the story musically albeit unconventionally? In my view, for what it's worth, art is deeper than pure intellect or pure emotion. Its true power lies in the combination of the two, and that is what makes it so provoking. If you disassociate either the intellect or the emotion, art ceases to be art.

PS: Our local supermarket sells boiled bandicoot in a bag...I love it!

 
Bob Porter said:

Stephen,

While the "not quite to my taste" syndrome may be irrelevant to music analysis, I think it can very much color how we deal with that analysis. If someone hands me an atonal piece based on some mathematical formula, I can go through the motions of finding all the ways that formula has been used, how it has been interweaved with itself, how it has been layered, how the texture changes, how the parts make up a coherent hole, and on and on. Of course, these are all the things that apply to any piece of music. And just because a piece does all these things well does not make it a good piece of music.

The composer applies their taste to their music. I think it only natural I apply my taste to their music. People claim that I will grow to like a particular kind of music if I will just study it. Hasn't worked yet. Music is such an individual, and emotional thing (for me anyway) I find it not worthwhile to divorce myself from those emotions.  

This is quite amazing, and I want to quote it fully, for the sake of the forum.

Roger, you said, “ … in the case of a contest such as this, I will listen whole-heartedly, and with an open mind try to discern the effort of each contestant as equally and fair-minded as I can, trying to apply some semblance of 'objectivity'. If it comes down to a tiebreaker, so to speak, then I will apply personal taste, altho' I would include the 'human element' as part of my A list of criteria. Does that make sense? RS”

Your desiderata here exemplifies clear thinking, sincere intentions, and an outstanding sense of fairness. I don’t think it would be possible to do a better job of putting into words, in such a concise form, any other explanation of judging criteria for a contest. It makes more than good sense.

My my. What a lot of words about how to judge. I was hoping someone would spend a fraction of that actually critiqueing the music.

Victor.

Victor,

Out of genuine interest how long did you have to spend listening to arrive at your commentary and conclusions? I personally find it difficult to find the time to judge such things...once started I have to give equal consideration to every piece and that eats up the hours.

Considering all the effort everyone's put in to produce these pieces I'm frightened of being superficial so will have to commit a lot of time and effort (as I have no doubt you have) to do the job properly.
 
Victor Eijkhout said:

A: Winter Scenes

A fantastic opening, straight out of a film score. Unfortunately the rest is more snatches of film score. I feel that the sections do not have enough of a separate identity to call this "scenes". For instance section D is some calm stuff followed by a swell, but it doesn't actually have a theme. Section E has something that looks like the initial melody, but is not quite.

B: Winter's End

I like how quiet most of the piece stays. (The big climax right before D was not necessary for me; in fact, the piece doesn't really lead up to it anyway.) But the harmonic idiom is a mystery to me.

C: Scenes from a magical snow globe

Very creative instrumentation. You do a great job of keeping the interest even though it's basically a whole lot of Em chord.....

D: Midnight Squawl

Nice mood. I'm not sure that the information content is commensurate with the forces you're calling upon.

E: Hot apple cider

The melody that starts this is really lovely. 

F: In Winter

PIty you couldn't find a singer to perform this. The melody is very simple, so that should not give any problems. Anyway, charming piece. Music and lyrics are very much in the same character.

G: Impressions of Winter Time

where's the score?

H: Snow falling

Nifty depicting of the gentle relentlessness of a snow drift.

I: Solitary music

Different. Definitely different. Was this written for a cello playing singer? I know it's called "solitary" but still, having two musicians and never having them play together.... Aside: I don't' think Bach would have put a 7th jump in a line that says "level with". Should measure 22 be the same as 8?

J: Snowflakes

Recorders? Why not.

K: Scherzo

Charming piece, but too many I-V-I-V progressions for me.In measure 64, please put discretionary natural signs. This notation is apt to confuse people.

L: Frosty the what?!

Prelude and fugue. My my. The notation is a disaster. Some cleaning up, for instance not having a melody jump between two staves, would be nice.

M: Winter storm

Starts out very interesting, but the second half is somewhat disjointed, to me.

N: A Winter's tune

Some charming sounds, for instance the opening, but the two-voice writing around measure 40 doesn't do it for me.

O: First snow

You know, I wonder about all these orchestral pieces. Does something as gentle as "first snow" really call for a full frequency spectrum treatment? Nice writing though.

P: Journee sur les pistes

Love it. The only orchestral piece that actually has a melody and doesn't outstay it's welcome. It's also charming as all get-out.

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