A piece of music

Prayer for Iraq.mp3   I offer up a piece for dissection, a work in progress. I'm aware of many flaws, but specifically I ask, how might I clearly discern the superfluous notes in the congested areas. This is my first attempt at "classical" music. Say what you feel, but please don't destroy my ego!

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  • Tim,

    Sorry for delay, traveling & no internet for a while. This prayer is in 2 parts: 1 - tuning in, to Iraq situation; not programmatic, but an evocation of someone coping, trying to keep one's spirit up. 2 - a vision of what could be; in my mind, a return to nature, with the concern for a sustainable world trumping all others, religious, ethnic, political, etc.

    Some of the wandering I like, some gives me pause too, I admit.  I'm going tore-examine the harmony in parts for the big picture; whilwriting I just wanted to let it go. I also agree that it's overly congested in areas, I'm constantly trimming, clarifying, and learning "less is more." 

    Tim, thank you for listening and for your perceptive comments. It's like someone else helping me think out loud. 

    -Nick

    Tim Beringer said:

    Titles are important; When you use a specific title such as this one, It's really important that the music says what the title implies. I don't really hear anything that makes me think of a prayer for Iraq.  Also, the dissonance is wonderful.  But the lines you've created with it, sometimes, seem to wander a bit instead of moving in a discernible direction.  One of the biggest complaints people have about music with such dissonant harmonic language is they feel 'lost' or as if they don't know what's going on in the music.  Listeners need something to latch onto or else they lose interest.  I think one way you could do this is to try thinning out the texture from time to time.  Give it some more variety.  Wall to wall anything is a real tough sell.

    -tim

    A piece of music
    Prayer for Iraq.mp3   I offer up a piece for dissection, a work in progress. I'm aware of many flaws, but specifically I ask, how might I clearly dis…
  • Thanks, Ondib, just read your message, no web for a long time; I'll try to reply tomorrow, have to run now.

    Ondib Olmnilnlolm said:

    This is good. I liked it. I have many good things to say about this piece and some suggestions. I liked the modulations (or shifts in mode, as Messiaen might say) in the first third of the piece, especially one where the movement is from a quasi pantonal section to one that has the slight feeling of “major,” if only briefly. (It’s the harpsichord that “lapses” into a major mode, which I find quite pleasing, because it is so subtle and so short-lived). During the first third of the work, there is a nice gathering of instruments, an increase in density that is compelling. You have orchestrated very carefully, and that gives the piece a certain elegance.

    The bass motif that starts at the beginning varies nicely as the work proceeds (though I would start altering that somehow, even earlier on, otherwise it sounds too much like jazz, and then changes to a non-jazz or more classical sound. Not that I have a problem with jazz per se, but in a piece like this, with increasing complexity, I feel it’s best not to have even the beginning sound too monotonously rhythmic, as jazz pieces can be sometimes).

    I agree with Bob that there is no serious problem with “cluttering,” though you may feel there is. It is precisely this increase in density and the addition of textures that makes the piece so interesting in the first third. I like the way the harpsichord is used, along with the bass, flute, trumpet(?), and violin. Flute(s) are also well deployed as they gain strength. There is nice contrapuntal balance. Places where the harpsichord wanders up to the higher registers have added necessary dramatic tension. That works effectively. You might try, in the first half, some more experimentation with the range, and especially with tempo. Instruments sometimes seem cluttered when the music is moving slowly, but as tempo alters from slow to fast and back again, one gets a sense of the individuality of the instruments as changes occur. (I would be curious to know what kind of software you are using. The trumpet, if that is what I am hearing, needs to be sharper in my opinion. Though maybe that instrument, especially as it first begins to play—after the bass, flute and harpsichord appear—is intended to sound a bit soft, diffuse and quiet-flangey, if you know what I mean.)


    There is a nice acceleration, but too brief, of flute tempo, in the second section (or movement), and I would like to see more of that, to give the piece more variety. This choice of instruments: bass, flute, trumpet (flange), harpsichord, violin, is a nice one. The sustained notes and vibrato with the flutes in the second section (or movement) need some kind of harmonic fluctuation to make them sound a bit less mechanical. You might say, that’s a software problem. But I often find that so-called software problems actually indicate a composition obstacle that needs to be overcome. The overall harmonization in the section, I think, is good. The duets between flute and violin are attractive. When the flute goes solo the problem appears most acute. I am a big fan of very slight tone glides or pitch bending, in such cases, which I feel solve the problem, and make the music more interesting.

    Now when parallels are drawn, what you are doing here reminds me slightly of the chamber work of Eliot Carter. (He is an American composer that has used the harpsichord in serialist chamber music). I don’t know if you are familiar with him or inspired by him. I am speaking only of myself, my tastes and inclinations here: But if it were me, I would move a bit closer to Ligeti, Penderecki, and/or Eastern musical influences, where the tone values do not remained so fixed as in traditional music, even in Schoenberg or Webern. This can be done without sounding too “expressionist” or somber. One innovation was to move from diatonic music towards pantonal (or atonal music); another is to move away from the fixed values of individual notes, without abandoning precise pitches altogether—one can gravitate backs towards them. Now this can be done, and is being done in the world of real instruments, with keyboards (and I am not just talking about Cage’s player piano). You may know this already: A piano or harpsichord can be structured, so the notes slide, or glide, with the use of a special insert, that some Indian performers and composers are using in the UK. This is even easier to do with music software. So a piano or harpsichord can have the flexibility of a sitar; this can be done with violins, flutes, and brass as well. (In Logic, you simply generate your instrument through a special option, and then you can make any instrument glide as easily as a violin string, through the use of pitch glides, portamento settings, and a whole assortment of settings, with regard to range and speed. Useful for brass instruments too, especially trombones).

    Anyway, I hope that’s not “too much information.” Thanks for sharing the piece, which I enjoyed. [P.S. I don't hear any explicit "Arabic musical influence," either, though I could have missed that. We can talk about that later, if you want to.]
    A piece of music
    Prayer for Iraq.mp3   I offer up a piece for dissection, a work in progress. I'm aware of many flaws, but specifically I ask, how might I clearly dis…
  • Okay. No hurry. I hope my comments were helpful in some way.

    Reply whenever you get around to it.

    Best wishes,

    O. O.

  • Ondib, this i my second attempt to reply! on the road. 

    I thank you for your thoughtful comments on the piece and really appreciate your encouragement. 

    I like your use of the word "pantonal" as it mirrors my aspiration, to write sonorities so plangent you could

    go anywhere with them, in any key. It requires a very 'open' harmonic structure which I'm only beginning to 

    conceive of. Best keep listening to Bartok, I guess.

    A note: the "harpsichord" is a guitar actually, and the "flangey" trumpet is just a trumpet (Fluid (3R) GM sound font)

    with chorus on 100, only way to make it sound remotely acceptable. Geetar is set to 'steel string'; I guess they're 

    harpsichord strings...

    The modulations were not well thought out I admit, some I'm thinking to revise in some way, I need to re-examine 

    the whole structure so it makes more sense, though I want to keep some of the natural flow already extant. I suppose 

    an ostinato can be monotonous, but I'm also seeing the value of pedal points under changing chords; in fact even points up the changes. "simplicity" says it best, at times.  I think what you're hearing as tempo changes are really more busy writing, more eighth notes and such; the tempo never changes till the second section, the flute/violin duet (w/ a few gtr. notes).  I find the cluttering happens in the last minutes of the first section, after the descending run, long tonic note, and then ascending chords, which is where the harmony also takes off, so to speak.  That's where I want to reassess, although the final ending will also need (and is getting now) a lot of revision.  The whole piece will be reworked for years, is the optimistic assessment. lol.  I agree there needs to be more variation of orchestration, would be nice to feature the sax or bass for instance and there's certainly many other textures that could've been used, this was somewhat motoric.

    About pitch, I recently loaded a microtone plugin, not sure if I'm confident yet to use it in this piece but might try to with 

    the second section. I need some time to focus on it. I love microtones and see them as the future of music, as well as the reality of the sounds around us. I also love electronic music for the same reasons.  And then there's the blues...!

    I'd love to use slides and porto too but MuseScore doesn't allow for that. As for  Carter, I like most of what I hear, bought his string quartets and could listen for a thousand years without totally "getting" them; good music.  But I'm still trying to figure out the 'old' avant-garde, and want to be careful to write what I feel, w/out getting on any bandwagons so to speak. Penderecki is great, very enjoyable as is some of Stockhausen, who is a much more complex individual -as is Ligeti for that matter. I enjoy Xenakis a great deal, have you heard Olga Neuwirth? Galina Ulstvoskaya? I'm mortified (but overjoyed) to know there's an endless amount of incredible music out there that I'll never be able to approach in my writing! For me, I think Bartok (and Bach) is the best teacher, as he shows how all twelve keys relate equally to a tonic key, and then how all twelve tones relate equally to a tonic note; total freedom of expression, eh what?  But you have to understand intervals, the tension between a tonic and a second, or tonic and flat fifth, or whatever. Listening to ragas, especially marwa and todi, helps me immensely with this. And in polyphony, it's about consonance between the lines, that's where it counts for the listener IMO.  I'm just a beginner. I'm part Lebanese, so perhaps you are hearing some Arabic stuff, and I think I know where. But I didn't always love it growing up!  It's as much from Bartok as from Arabic restaurants, I'm sure.  

    Again, thank you, and more on this later.


    Ondib Olmnilnlolm said:

    This is good. I liked it. I have many good things to say about this piece and some suggestions. I liked the modulations (or shifts in mode, as Messiaen might say) in the first third of the piece, especially one where the movement is from a quasi pantonal section to one that has the slight feeling of “major,” if only briefly. (It’s the harpsichord that “lapses” into a major mode, which I find quite pleasing, because it is so subtle and so short-lived). During the first third of the work, there is a nice gathering of instruments, an increase in density that is compelling. You have orchestrated very carefully, and that gives the piece a certain elegance.

    The bass motif that starts at the beginning varies nicely as the work proceeds (though I would start altering that somehow, even earlier on, otherwise it sounds too much like jazz, and then changes to a non-jazz or more classical sound. Not that I have a problem with jazz per se, but in a piece like this, with increasing complexity, I feel it’s best not to have even the beginning sound too monotonously rhythmic, as jazz pieces can be sometimes).

    I agree with Bob that there is no serious problem with “cluttering,” though you may feel there is. It is precisely this increase in density and the addition of textures that makes the piece so interesting in the first third. I like the way the harpsichord is used, along with the bass, flute, trumpet(?), and violin. Flute(s) are also well deployed as they gain strength. There is nice contrapuntal balance. Places where the harpsichord wanders up to the higher registers have added necessary dramatic tension. That works effectively. You might try, in the first half, some more experimentation with the range, and especially with tempo. Instruments sometimes seem cluttered when the music is moving slowly, but as tempo alters from slow to fast and back again, one gets a sense of the individuality of the instruments as changes occur. (I would be curious to know what kind of software you are using. The trumpet, if that is what I am hearing, needs to be sharper in my opinion. Though maybe that instrument, especially as it first begins to play—after the bass, flute and harpsichord appear—is intended to sound a bit soft, diffuse and quiet-flangey, if you know what I mean.)


    There is a nice acceleration, but too brief, of flute tempo, in the second section (or movement), and I would like to see more of that, to give the piece more variety. This choice of instruments: bass, flute, trumpet (flange), harpsichord, violin, is a nice one. The sustained notes and vibrato with the flutes in the second section (or movement) need some kind of harmonic fluctuation to make them sound a bit less mechanical. You might say, that’s a software problem. But I often find that so-called software problems actually indicate a composition obstacle that needs to be overcome. The overall harmonization in the section, I think, is good. The duets between flute and violin are attractive. When the flute goes solo the problem appears most acute. I am a big fan of very slight tone glides or pitch bending, in such cases, which I feel solve the problem, and make the music more interesting.

    Now when parallels are drawn, what you are doing here reminds me slightly of the chamber work of Eliot Carter. (He is an American composer that has used the harpsichord in serialist chamber music). I don’t know if you are familiar with him or inspired by him. I am speaking only of myself, my tastes and inclinations here: But if it were me, I would move a bit closer to Ligeti, Penderecki, and/or Eastern musical influences, where the tone values do not remained so fixed as in traditional music, even in Schoenberg or Webern. This can be done without sounding too “expressionist” or somber. One innovation was to move from diatonic music towards pantonal (or atonal music); another is to move away from the fixed values of individual notes, without abandoning precise pitches altogether—one can gravitate backs towards them. Now this can be done, and is being done in the world of real instruments, with keyboards (and I am not just talking about Cage’s player piano). You may know this already: A piano or harpsichord can be structured, so the notes slide, or glide, with the use of a special insert, that some Indian performers and composers are using in the UK. This is even easier to do with music software. So a piano or harpsichord can have the flexibility of a sitar; this can be done with violins, flutes, and brass as well. (In Logic, you simply generate your instrument through a special option, and then you can make any instrument glide as easily as a violin string, through the use of pitch glides, portamento settings, and a whole assortment of settings, with regard to range and speed. Useful for brass instruments too, especially trombones).

    Anyway, I hope that’s not “too much information.” Thanks for sharing the piece, which I enjoyed. [P.S. I don't hear any explicit "Arabic musical influence," either, though I could have missed that. We can talk about that later, if you want to.]
    A piece of music
    Prayer for Iraq.mp3   I offer up a piece for dissection, a work in progress. I'm aware of many flaws, but specifically I ask, how might I clearly dis…
  • Bob,

    Thanks for your heads-up. I like Fluid for most things, especially strings, but the horns and some winds are abominable, mostly.  I looked up Sonatina and it seems to be missing some instruments, I will research more. Do the trumpet and sax sounds in Sonatina pass muster? It seems they're hard sounds to synthesize, by any means.

    Bob Porter said:

    Nick

    There is a free orchestra sample sound set that you can download to use in muse score called Symphonic String Orchestra. SSO for short. Much better than Fluid.

    A piece of music
    Prayer for Iraq.mp3   I offer up a piece for dissection, a work in progress. I'm aware of many flaws, but specifically I ask, how might I clearly dis…
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