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J Joe Townley
  • Male
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • United States
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J Joe Townley's Friends

  • Will Brecht
  • Shao Ying LOW
  • H. S. Teoh
  • Mimmo D'Ippolito
  • Steve Chandler

J Joe Townley's Discussions

Ghostly Waltzes Op 3 Would Appreciate Any And All Opinions, Critiques, etc.

Started this discussion. Last reply by J Joe Townley Oct 22, 2018. 12 Replies

I'm debating whether to spend good money to put on my work "5 Ghostly Waltzes" for Female Choir, Piano & Orchestra. As I cannot hire a pianist and orchestra I thought of playing pre-recorded mp3…Continue


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Profile Information

What have you composed for? Or what medium do you work around?
Choir, Orchestra
What is your favorite genre or style of music?
piano concerto
Is music your main income source?
No - Not at all.
Where do you live?
Los Angeles
About Me (Must include at least one paragraph of biographical information about you as a composer) - blank or minimal answers on this line will cause your request to be rejected. Include a link to your website if you have one.
I wrote two piano concertos in 2011 and 2013 to fulfill a promise I made to myself as a young piano student that I would write a piano concerto and then premiere it much in the same way Rachmaninoff did with his 2nd, my intention being to launch a career as a composer, pianist, & conductor. Well, fate had other plans---a severe finger injury grounded me as a pianist at 20 and I never wrote that concerto. Instead, I entered the business world and for number of years designed and built luxury homes in the Greater Los Angeles area. The dream eventually faded, though it apparently had been lying dormant somewhere underneath my psyche in the intervening decades. In the meantime, to keep my music skills alive and because I enjoyed it immensely I read orchestral scores for years as leisure reading, analyzing how great composers achieved the sounds they were after; the different combinations of instruments they used. Then one day a few years ago an innocuous tune just popped into my mind. The old dream bubbling beneath the surface of my conscious suddenly surfaced and I finally committed myself to writing that piano concerto (link above), not having any formal training in orchestration except what I had gleaned from studying orchestral score all those years. Later on reflection I came to realize it wasn't the concerto I had always wanted to write. A second one followed in 2013.

Of late I have deserted the piano concerto form and concentrated on waltzes. My "5 Ghostly Waltzes" for Female Choir, Piano & Orchestra Op 3 is posted for listening.

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At 8:58am on June 29, 2016, Shao Ying LOW said…

You are welcome Joe, and sorry for such a delayed reply. How are you now? Hope you have fully recovered. 

At 9:43pm on August 13, 2015, H. S. Teoh said…

Hi Joe,

Thanks for your prompt response! I'm sorry to hear about your illness. I hope you will be fully back to normal soon.

About performing your concerto, I saw Shao Ying Low's comment on your comment wall; did you ever take up her offer to arrange for a performance in Singapore? Perhaps audiences there (or more importantly, musicians) might be more receptive to this sort of music. Who knows, if it does well there, it might give you a stronger negotiating edge with local orchestras here.

As for myself, recently I managed to win 2nd prize in a little competition here on this forum. Would love to hear your feedback on my entry, if you have the time to listen to it. Thanks in advance!

At 11:33pm on August 12, 2015, H. S. Teoh said…

Hey, don't know if you're still around on this forum, but just wanted to drop you a note that I very much enjoyed your piano concerto, so much so today I started listening to it again.  The 3rd movement is playing right now, actually. Really enjoyed it.  I hope you will continue to try to find an orchestra that's willing to play it... Don't listen to the naysayers; there is still an audience for this sort of music.

At 11:04pm on April 10, 2015, Shao Ying LOW said…

Hi Joe,

Thanks for your reply and so sorry for the very late reply. Have been busy with work. 

I agree with you about feeling so dis"concerting" about music these days. The contemporary works that are in the market nowadays give me the feel that they cater more to the composers themselves than the audience.

Recently, I was asked to learn and play a "mathematical" piece for piano and string quartet in 2 weeks. I looked at the score and listened to the midi. Immediately I rejected it. First of all, the rhythms (because of the "mathematics" theme) in the piano part will take you the rest of your life to figure out, not to mention the notes. Secondly, the piece just sounds like a mess. I must say that the beginning 1/10 of the piece was rather tuneful, but the rest was pure improvisation on the musicians' parts. If you play it 10 times, 10 times will be totally different. One of the string players told me that this piece has no shelf life. They will never touch it again. That is a really sad thing to hear about your piece if you were the composer. But the end result of the performance of the piece sounded better because the performers played it at a slower tempo that indicated, and they basically improvised. So what's the point of writing a piece if the performers have to improvise?

Like you, I fear for the future of classical music. Although the great classical pieces are still performed today, the quality has greatly gone downhill. Gone are the souls of the music. Classical music is (to me) now more like an Olympic sport: whoever can play the fastest and loudest wins. Musicality and the original intention of the pieces don't matter anymore. And with the addition of contemporary pieces makes it even worst. It's a really sad reality....

In Singapore, there are a handful of non-professional and semi-professional orchestras which stage regular concerts. I'm sure they will be more than happy to premiere new works, instead of always letting professional orchestras have the upper hand. I've already asked a very good graduate student who is interested to look at your concerto. He is a very skillful and musical pianist. I was moved to tears by his Rachmaninoff 2nd piano concert when he played it in a competition a few years back. I'm very sure he will do just as well for your concerto. His only request is to perform it anytime from next year onwards because he is busy with his own recitals and concerts this year. 

May I know your charges if I can get an orchestra here to perform your concerto if they can put it as part of their programme? And where can your score be downloaded?

Thanks a lot for your suggestion for "By The Fireplace". It is the 4th and final movement of "On Vacation", a set of short pieces for string quartet:-

1. "A Walk In The Woods" --- a couple stolling in the woods.

2. "At The Carnival" --- 2 boys spending a day at the carnival.

3. "Out At Sea" --- a family going out to sea.

4. "By The Fireplace" --- a couple spending time together before the vacation ends.

The above are just short gist of each piece. I hope they will get the same attention as Borodin's 2nd String Quartet too. Hahaha. I will be getting them properly recorded in June for my joint-album release with my sis. 

Thanks and keep in touch! 

Shao Ying

At 3:30am on March 29, 2015, Shao Ying LOW said…

Hi Joe,

Thank you for your very kind message and welcome! :-) Yes, I also am very pro-melody. Anything that's atonal or something like that should not be considered music. It's more like noise (I'm sorry if this comment offends any atonal contemporary composers). I went to a concert once featuring a very atonal orchestral piece. During interval, I heard an audience comment "what a horrible piece". This made me realize that audience still prefer works with melodies that they can hum to and are memorable. I have a colleague (who's an atonal contemporary composer) who said that anything with melodies are crap, indirectly hinting that the music of Bach, Chopin and classical composers are crap. This, a few of my friends (one of them is a classical music reviewer) and I found, is because atonal contemporary composers can't craft a proper tune. Also, they are trying to create their own "identity". Basically, I write what I love to write and also I write what I think I went to a concert once featuring a very atonal orchestral piece. During interval, I heard an audience comment "what a horrible piece". This made me realize that   the audience would like to hear. Just like you, your piano concerto should be heard. In concert halls in Singapore, it's always Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Rachmaninov, Chopin, works you've heard millions of times before. I think I can introduce your concerto to a few conductor friends and get them to premier it in Singapore. I know a handful of good pianists who will be able to perform it very well. I love hearing new works and I think living composers (with melodic works) should have their works heard more often. 

Thanks for your compliments for "By The Fireplace" string quartet piece. I intend to put it up on YouTube but I'm still deciding how to do it to make it more impactful. The other same-titled piece you heard is indeed by my twin sister, who is also a pianist and composer like me. We do not really have videos of us playing together on YouTube, because we are trying to promote our works and ourselves as composers rather than promote ourselves as pianists. But thanks for your suggestion. :-)  

Hope to hear more of your wonderful music! 

At 10:13am on March 10, 2015, H. S. Teoh said…

Hmm. I realize the piano part is quite virtuosic, but surely you could at least get a less-than-top-tier orchestra to perform the orchestral parts for a lower price? I mean, sure, it would be nice to get a premier in a top orchestra, but that doesn't usually happen unless you're already a well-known professional composer. Also, is your injured finger still a problem? If not, perhaps you could play the piano part yourself. That would be a nice premier. :-)

I did listen to the SoundCloud version the second time round, and it sounds a little better, but still, as you said, it's an electronic rendering. While it is possible to alleviate the most egregious aspects of a mechanical rendering, it's also a lot of work, and the result may still be obviously imperfect. But at least one immediate thought that comes to mind is to look for better instrument sound patches / soundfonts, some of which are floating around online, which may eliminate most of the squeaky-screechy parts of the electronic rendering. The opening chords of your concerto could sound a lot better if you had better brass soundfonts installed.

I'm currently working on a complicated setup with a software synthesizer (TiMidity++), cobbling together an orchestral setup with instruments selected one by one from the haphazard collection of soundfonts I've been collecting over the years, manually tweaked with different amplication levels and other (crude) tweaks, that hopefully would give me at least a tolerable sound output. Originally, I was just playing around with various one-off tweaks so that I can work on my little orchestral overture without my ears bleeding, but it quickly turned into its own project, because good orchestral soundfonts are so hard to come by! And even when they do come, they don't tend to play well with other instruments unless a lot of effort is spent balancing them.


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