Lied: "Jesus, hilf mir".

Hello everybody,

It's been a while ago since I wrote this (last April, to be exactly) but I think it is time I post this.

A little background information about this lied I wrote. I was driving in my car, listening to some 'lieder' written by Mozart or so, and when I came home about half an hour later, when I parked my car, I had this tune in my head, including the text for 4 couplets. I started writing at about 10pm and finished it at 6am...

Although the text is quite depressing (Jesus, help me, I'm a sinner, I can't do it alone), I was not near suicidal when I wrote this (just saying...).

It is a 7-minute piece for church organ, trumpet, and SATB choir. It countains four couplets (the last one has a different melody, btw) and a solopart (accompanied by the organ) for the trumpet. It ends with a big 'Amen', of course, for the song ends in confindence that help will be there when asked.

I know there are quite a lot dissonants in it. That is intentional... ;)

Just one more thing: I hope you guys and girls enjoy it.

L001 - Jesu hilf mir.pdf

L001 - Jesu hilf mir.mp3

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Replies

  • its a god piece and I like the theme you have here. It matches the text very nicely. I like the dissonances in the piece but there are a few things I think can be improved upon. 

    The terminology is a bit off. Though technically its not incorrect, the word lied in context of music has connotations that this piece doesnt meet. A lied is a song typically for very small forces( i.e. voice and piano) and is meant for small venues or the home. This piece reads more like a church anthem than a lied. Anthems being typically religious music for choir and organ, which this piece is. 

    Another thing you might want to take another look at is its flow. It seems to stagnate on the same musical material for 7 minutes without changing much of anything other than performing forces. Having a contrasting section somewhere would be a good change of pace and keep the listeners interest. Without contrast, the meaning of the text is lost and the music become monotonous background music. 

    Last nitpick thing comes in the chord choices. Im all for dissonance however, you use a lot of chord inversion that weaken the chord progressions. A lot of the chords that are inverted sound weaker in context of the piece, and they sound especially out of place when the foot pedal is not playing the root of the chord. The inversions take away from the gravitas of the text. I would go through the piece and mark all the inverted chord and ask yourself is their a better way to notate this. It might be just putting it back in root position or taking out the foot pedal on that chord. 

    Other than that, its a good piece. Keep up the good work. 

  • Hi Tyler,

    Thanks.

    So, actually, you are saying it's not a 'lied' but an anthem. I can agree with that... :)

    And if I understand correctly, you 'want' me to go to the basic chords and try if it sounds better. Well, that is not a problem, I will take a look at it.

    What do you mean when you mention the flow? And you want me to put in a quicker part, for example there where the choir 'shuts up'? Or do I understand wrong?

  • When I refer to the flow I'm talking about how the piece unfolds overall. Much like how a story unfolds, you have a character, a plot, and a conflict of some kind. The story unfolds as theses elements develop and change. What I wish for your piece is that it would do the same. 

    Your piece kind of just repeats the same musical material from the beginning for the entire piece. It doesnt feel like the piece goes anywhere. It stagnates on the same musical material for too long. What is needed is a contrasting section of some kind. That can be anything. A change in harmonic language, change in tempo, change in key, change in orchestration, or even just change in mood. It just needs something else. 

  • I understand. And I guess it is done best in the trumpet - organ sector, without the choir... Or am I mistaken here? Give the trumpet something nice to do...

  • I agree with what Tyler said. Overall, the theme is well-suited for organ and choir. The organ writing is also quite typical for organ music (I know you're an organist, and it shows).  As Tyler noted, though, some of the chord progressions could be strengthened if you don't use inversions, but retain the bass note on the chord root. This seems to be a common characteristic of your compositions so far, and is an area to consider improving on.

    As far as repetition is concerned, it could work two ways.  In some traditional settings, you could have a strophic verse structure, where the music for each verse is basically the same, and only the lyrics change.  Of course, even then it's nice to have some variety once in a while, such as a different instrumentation, emphases on certain words or syllables in the lyrics, a change of register or even key, etc.. But as it currently stands, this piece could be argued to have a strophic verse type of structure.  On the other hand, such repetitive structures are less suited for standalone pieces, i.e., outside of ceremonial purposes. As a standalone piece, it's better to have more of a "dramatic arc" or some kind of "plot", as Tyler referred to, with a clear beginning, a clear development, a climax (possibly with sub-climaxes before that), and a denouement. These structures tend to work better with audiences because it maintains interest, whereas a pure strophic verse kind of structure relies solely on the lyrics to maintain interest (so the lyrics had better be really good!!), or perhaps sometimes not even that (it could be part of a set ceremony where the interest of the audience isn't a major concern).

  • Thank you, HS.

    What I was thinking of doing about it, is the following: the intermezzo with the trumpet and organ I will change, perhaps even putting the trumpet a whole octave up. Then I could change the tenor-part in the third couplet into the soprane line, giving the sopranes a discant. May be, where the choir just humms, I could even transpose it to the C-key, going back to F when the choir starts singing again.

    And adapting the accords is just a word, of course. But I do have a question to both you and Tyler... If I give the bassline, the foot, the root of the chord, and I use the basic version of the chords, then what use is the foot? Isn´t it better then to use the first inversion of the chords, so that the root of the chords is divided over two octaves?

  • Hi Erwin,

    I was flipping through old discussions today and saw this, and don't remember if anyone gave you an answer to your question in the chatbox. So anyway... I'm not sure I fully understand the question. Why would you need to use 2nd inversion just so the root is doubled at the octave? You can double any notes you want. It's a common technique to strengthen the root of the chord by doubling either at unison, or better, octave. In traditional harmony, the 3rd and 5th degrees are almost like "fillers", esp. the 5th. You can easily omit the 5th and it will still sound OK (though if you omit the 3rd, it will sound very "open" or "hollow" -- I wouldn't do that unless you were going for the special sound of it, such as what Beethoven did in the opening of his 9th symphony where he uses the open sound to heighten the sense of anticipation before the main theme enters).

    As far as chord inversions go, in a sense it's better to think of them as different chords altogether rather than just variations on the same chord. Both have an unstable sound; the 2nd inversion is generally used for anticipating the dominant chord, and the 1st inversion is generally used for anticipating the subdominant chord. Both can also be used for anticipating some other such changes. This effect mainly comes from their inherently unstable sound.  In fact, it's a common technique to omit the 3rd degree in all registers except the bass when you're using a 1st inversion chord -- this is to strengthen the instability of the sound so that it leads into the next chord in a stronger way. (It's less common with 2nd inversion chords, where the instability comes mainly from the strength of the 5th degree in the bass; it usually works well to pile more instruments on the 5th degree in the upper registers in order to strengthen the sound of the 2nd inversion -- the opposite of what you'd do in 1st inversion.)

    This is all traditional harmonic theory, of course. Modern composers often don't follow such prescriptions... but nevertheless, knowing how/when to use them, and what their effects are, can be a useful tool. Especially when used in this way, 1st and 2nd inversion chords can really behave as 2 different chords from the root position.

    (There's also 3rd inversion for 7th chords and other such chords, but that's another can o' worms that I won't get into here. :-P  Beethoven especially seems to have a thing for 3rd inversion 7th chords. But that belongs in its own story.)

  • I think the second inversion is ment to provoke the overtones that lie under the chord being played. Its a common technique in choral writing if there is a note thats too low for the bases to sing to have them sing the fifth in order to push down the overtone series and create an audible root of the chord. This can be done in any setting of instruments or voices if the parts are arranged in the correct order.
  • Hi David, yes I've also heard of this effect. Have never actually used it, though. Maybe I should try it out one of these days. :-)

    I was referring more to the device of having a strong bass note on the 5th under the overlying chord, which weakens the conclusiveness of the chord and can be used to anticipate changes. Usually it's to anticipate the dominant chord (the so-called "orchestral 6 4 chord"), but it can also be used for other purposes, for example in the 1st episode of the 4th movement in Beethoven's 6th, where the 2nd inversion on Bb major is used to introduce a modulatory sequence from Bb through Db (via Gb7 and G dim) and ultimately landing in C (after another series of pretty clever shifts).

  • I am wondering a bit about the placing of the medody. In the prelude the trumpet acts both as a melody instrument playing the to notes, and acting as an inner voice in the subsequent phrase, I think that might be confusing as to what constitutes the actual melody.

    Also the crossing of the parts (S and A) in 56 seams a bit unnessesary, since it makes it more difficult for the altos to jump a major seventh up to the high e, than it would be for both the altos and sopranos to take a leap of a fifth. I see that you deal with this in different ways in different stanzas and therefore it doesn't seam to have any real value of leaving the melody (or supposed melody as I listen) to the altos.

    In addition to whats been said earlier these could be things to look into.

    Otherwise it is a grand piece and should sound well filling up the spaces of any chuch with decent acoustics. I think the repetition gives it a feel of nonmovement in a way similar to the Allegri Miserere (although no other parallells are drawn here).

    Thank you for posting!

    David

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