An alternative direction

People who know my music often describe it as neo-classical in style. In a moment of lunacy I found this theme banging around inside my skull - I've no idea whatsoever where it came just sort of emanated without having been given a specific invitation. For this reason I have titled it 'Thema Obscurante' and would appreciate anyone's views as to whether I should publish it or burn it.

Many thanks for your time.

Thema Obscura.pdf

Thema Obscurante.mp3

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  • Stephen, that was quite fine.

    Stephen Lines said:

    Well, having been told not to burn this piano piece and having promised to orchestrate it, here she blows in full orchestral splendour. Hopefully nobody will consider I've made a pig's ear of it - but your comments would very much be appreciated. In advance, many thanks to anyone who finds the time to look, listen and comment.

    An alternative direction
    People who know my music often describe it as neo-classical in style. In a moment of lunacy I found this theme banging around inside my skull - I've…
  • This has nothing to do with your work per se, but I found the dynamic contrast in your audio file too drastic, such that I can hardly hear the pp passages, and the f passages are deafening. After moderating the contrast with an audio processing tool, however, the audio became quite good. I'm not sure if this is caused by the playback settings in your software, or something wrong on my side, but I thought I should just mention it.

    Now as for the music itself... my first reaction was confusion -- I felt that I liked the piano version of this piece better. However, after listening to the orchestral version several more times, I grew to like the orchestral version more. I think it brings out the theme much better than the original piano version.  It is also somewhat more elaborate in flavor -- I wanted to say distinct, but that's not altogether accurate because the overall tone is not of two different kinds, just that the orchestral version felt more elaborate, more ornate, or more eloquent at bringing forth the theme. To use my library metaphor again, the piano version sounded like a lonely, empty library; the orchestral version still sounds like the same library, but no longer uninhabited. Now there is a scribe, dressed in elaborate robes, seated at large, wooden desk, poring over ancient tomes with quill in hand, writing on some crinkly, yellowed manuscript paper. The overall atmosphere is still mysterious, musty, dimly-lit, and somewhat isolated, but now there is more activity, there's a living person in the scene. We find out that the library isn't completely desolated after all, even though the character that showed up remains just as mysterious as his surroundings.

    I somewhat felt the same way as Mariza about the final chord, though. After the interesting adventures through the landscape of your new harmonic language, closing in an innocuous major chord seems a bit ... out-of-place. I was expecting a final chord with more of a sound that fits in with what preceded it, perhaps some kind of modified chord, or even a somewhat dissonant chord that leaves a lingering feeling, a lasting impression of the strange library. The clean-cut, simple major chord seems to me to be a sudden shift in tone, as if the scene suddenly changed from a musty, dimly-lit library to rolling hills under a blue sky -- it felt a little incongruous. (Of course, this is just my subjective interpretation of how things should be... maybe you have a particular reason for doing this, and I just haven't quite grasped it yet.)

  • Stephen,

    All of a sudden, it occurred to me that I might have mixed up my vocabulary.  I looked up "ominous" online and found out that it means NOTHING of what I thought it meant.  I am sorry I used that word to characterize your piece!

    I wish I could delete this post of mine (below).  Could you please consider it to NOT have been written?

    Now that I know what "ominous" actually means, I can say I do NOT think of your piece that way!  At all.

    I thought it meant something like "grander than grand".  I wanted to say "majestic", "awe-inspiring," "magnificent."

    This is terrible.  I only made one other English-language mistake (that I know of, that is...) which was worse than this one. That was when I said someone was "homely" which in the US means something different than it does in the UK.  Also in that instance it took me several days to realize my mistake, and it was actually too late. 

    Also, I mispelled the word "iluminante."  Additionally, I realized only now that "iluminate" now refers to dancing wearing glow-in-the-dark clothes (please google the word...), so I take back my suggestion.

    Still, for a piece that brought you such enlightenment, the title "obscurante" doesn't seem right...


    Mariza Costa-Cabral said:


    It's ominous. Sincerest congratulatons. The theme is haunting, so powerful.  I really love this piece, and with the orchestration it's just ominous.

    Would you consider a little suggestion?  At the very end, would you consider the possibility of adding one more chord, different than before?  Something surprising and finalizing at the same time.  I was wanting it, but it didn't come.

    Oh, one more tiny suggestion... Would you consider renaming the piece as Thema Illuminante?


    An alternative direction
    People who know my music often describe it as neo-classical in style. In a moment of lunacy I found this theme banging around inside my skull - I've…
  • Hi Stephen. From one composer to another, I urge you for it to not be a lark. Break away. Depart from your traditional classical style and seek something new. I think you can do it. Best -


  • Thank you all once again for your kind and informative responses to the orchestral version, which I thoroughly enjoyed doing. My first thoughts regarding the final chord (mentioned by HS Teoh and Mariza) was to do something relatively unexpected and, because there is so much chromaticism throughout the piece I thought a straightforward major chord would be just that, unexpected. On reflection however I agree that it doesn't really work so have replaced it with something more in keeping with the general character of the composition.

    Gav...I'm not sure why you think I'm perhaps 'larking about' with this piece - I take it very seriously and enjoyed playing around outside my 'usual' box...a very rewarding and educational process. I'm not fully in agreement that one must always strive for a new and original angle harmonically, simply because there are so many billions of possibilities still available utilising more traditional modes and harmonies. I don't think I'm trying to 'ape' nor improve on what previous composers have done - I just like to explore the immeasurable possibilities that still exist within my own framework of musical perspective. That framework now includes a slightly more modernistic approach to harmony which I am sure I will incorporate into some future works. Incidentally, you being a keyboard player I wonder which of the two versions you prefer?

    Bob...based on the style of your comments generally on this site I'll allow myself to take as a compliment (whether it was or not) that you prefer the orchestral version to the keyboard one.

    HS Teoh - I'm unsure why you found the dynamic contrasts of the audio file so drastic - I use Sibelius with EastWest Quantum Leap Silver soundset - initially this sounded awful until (on advice) I started using ASI0 as an audio engine - this works brilliantly on my machine (but I do have to poke around with the mixer to achieve an acceptable balance). Thank you for going to the trouble of moderating the sound with an audio processing tool and for your near-poetic interpretation of what I've written - very apt and kind of you.

    Michael, I hear what you say about composing some variations on the basic Thema Obscurante and will consider the suggestion very seriously - if and when I have done so I will post them for more opinions (but of course this might take some months of hard work).

    Again, many thanks to all of you. 

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