My latest upload

Hi everyone, I just uploaded my 2nd Piano Concerto in F# minor to SoundCloud.  Here is the link:

 

https://soundcloud.com/greg-hodges-93214247

 

I composed the first movement in 2017, and then the second and third movements in early 2018.  I expanded the first and third movements in 2020 and just put some finishing touches on the first movement these last couple of days.

I am not entirely satisfied with the performance simulation.  I love Finale and NotePerformer and am grateful that such tools exist, but I'm still figuring things out.  Sometimes the sound that comes out doesn't make logical sense (as in dynamic level, playback style, etc.) according to the markings I put in the score.  And sometimes it changes on its own from one performance to the next.  I've noticed this mostly with regards to the dynamic level.  I saw somewhere that NP was initially designed for Sibelius, so I don't know if that has something to do with it.  If anyone has any info or feedback on this issue, I'd love to hear it.  Anyway, I hope the performance is at least satisfactory.

This is another lengthy piece -- totaling 43 minutes -- and I understand if you aren't able to invest the time in it.  But thanks in advance to those who are able and willing to give it a listen.

 

P.S. I categorized this as Music Analysis and Critique, and if you're inclined to comment on it in that fashion, it is most welcome.  But it's equally meant just for sharing.  I probably won't change much from here on and look forward to moving on to new projects.

 

 

 

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  • well, I've spent a couple of hours with this and my first reaction here is that you really seem to be in your element. The finale is "mental" in the Scottish sense which means mad but in a very pleasing way, especially the drunken cadenza. The bombast which didn't totally work for me in that movement in the symphony is just perfect here and you are always coming out with interesting and strong ideas. I get the impression than the movements tend to be monothematic -- or at least there isn't a clear "feminine" second group in the classical fashion but there is rather an almost continuous development of material -- not sure if that's correct or not. On the other hand, there seems to be a specific development section starting around 7'15" (with one of the most beautiful interludes in the work, incidentally) What I like is that there is always an element of unpredictability -- it doesn't follow the mannerisms of a conventional romantic piano concerto (and I tend to dislike or at least be indifferent to most of these -- the only concerto I wrote so far is a rather oddball "Concerto for Piano and Ancient Instruments" which could hardly be more different from yours).

    NotePerformer works fine for the most part, especially in the finale where it helps bring out the character though perhaps it doesn't always fully get the delicacy of the scoring in some parts of the first movement. I doubt there is any significant difference in the rendering between Finale and Sibelius. The latter supports all the articulations and features whereas Dorico and Finale miss the odd one but I doubt it's often significant. Unfortunately I don't know Finale so am unaware if there might be specific issues there with dynamics but again doubt the difference would be huge,

    Incidentally, on my one visit to the USA a long time ago when I was based in New England, I visited an ex neighbour at Dartmouth College so very close to you, it seems.

    • Thanks for investing your time in this, David, and I appreciate the feedback. 

      I think you're right about the "continual development" -- I try to keep things interesting, constantly moving along.  I've heard many piano concertos from the classical and romantic eras that seem sort of static -- like the music is in a straight jacket, so to speak, too formulaic.  I realize there's an art to that, and that it's largely subjective anyway, but I know the greats do it really well whereas some of the "lesser" composers can leave me feeling a little underwhelmed.  When I compose, I try to think of what would surprise me, or keep me interested, and try to incorporate the results into my work.  I've found what works for me.  But it's up to the listeners to decide if it works for them.

      There is some method to the madness, though.  There is an overall structure, even if not conventional, and I tend to like to have lots of motifs and musical ideas that I interweave throughout a piece. Although I'm driven mostly by the pursuit of, and desire for, beauty, passion, and power in my music (the Romantic pathos), I also enjoy the analytical side of composition -- like building a logical puzzle out of notes (this is where my knowledge of Bach, and Baroque in general, comes in handy).  A lot of this is probably not discoverable by the ear (at least not easily), but would come from a close reading of the score.  But I don't expect anyone to spend that much time analyzing this piece, or any of my works.  I'm not famous, I have no following, I don't have any pretensions to greatness, I'm just one among thousands of composers worldwide doing this mostly for the joy of it.  I do see the value now, though, in connecting with other composers.  Even an audience of one is valuable.  Especially if that person knows something about the art of composition.

      Yes, Dartmouth College is right up the road from me.  I'm not originally from New Hampshire.  I'm from the South, but my wife is from New England.  We moved here 4 years ago when she got a new job, and I still work for my Houston, TX employer.  Houston is known for its oil and gas companies and the aerospace industry and space program, but it also is a very artsy city.  I like it up here for the most part -- it's less populated, clean and tidy, and the air is fresh.  I miss the art scene in Houston, though, for sure.    

      • I suspect to analyse how your various motifs interrelate and develop in detail would require a good deal more work but I think it's possible to gain an overall impression. Mine is that the motifs are fairly closely related rather than being in dramatic contrast to each other for the most part which means perhaps more work is required but that in not in itself a criticism of course.

        I myself have little interest in the Baroque, although as a singer, the repertoire inevitably covers a great deal of it. Most of my works are fairly spontaneous rather than being carefully planned (something like the 13th symphony is rather an exception) and develop primarily according what I am trying to express rather than purely musical considerations though often I do use something like a conventional sonata form. That means that vocal music has in recent years increasingly become a bigger part of my output.

        Incidentally, I always thought of Austin being the cultural capital of Texas and that Houston was brash and soulless but perhaps that is a stereotype.

        • I do aim for my music to be understood primarily through the aural experience, and not by one having to necessarily reference the score.  And I really try not to be purposely obscure, so yes, on the whole, a general and overall impression of what the music is doing should be fairly transparent, and if it is not, that is my failure, not the listener's.  

          The Baroque era is not my favorite, either, although some of my favorite compositions do come from the Baroque era.  I'm in awe of Bach -- especially pieces like the Art of Fugue and B Minor Mass.  In general, my interest grows with the passing centuries, culminating in the Romantics and the first half of the 20th century being my favorites.  I do like film music, too, although I'm quite picky with that.  It has to be strong (musically) on its own, and not just background accompaniment.  There's a lot of good stuff from Hollywood's Golden Age.  I'm a sucker for a good melody, so a composer like Victor Young (I'm thinking of the movie "Shane" in particular) really gets the chills running down my spine.       

          I'm with you on the desire for and the practice of spontaneity in composing.  I feel like there's a fine line between over-planning, and thus being too formulaic, and trying to lay out a general schematic that will help you along. I try to do the latter, not the former.  None of my major works have come about because I said, "I'm going to write a symphony and it's going to  have four movements with such-and-such structure and such-and-such a mood."  My music has always grown organically out of very basic musical ideas.  It usually starts when I hear some passage in my head played by a certain instrument, or group of instruments, and then I try to just let it take off and go where it wants to go.  I've been inspired by one of Richard Wagner's insights into the creative process when he said something along the lines of being in touch with something beyond yourself and letting it speak through you.  He put it much more eloquently than that, but you get the idea.  I'm a bit of a skeptic in the tradition of David Hume, but I do have my mystical side, especially when it comes to art and the creative process.

          It's always interesting to hear what people from around the world think of the U.S. and some of the regions here.  Honestly, I'm embarrassed by some things, though proud of others.  I do believe it's more or less accurate to call Austin the cultural capital of Texas, but Houston is extremely diverse and does have quite a varied art scene.  But it's probably accurate to say that the energy, IT, and aerospace industries overshadow it.  There are definitely the "brash and soulless" elements, too!    

          (P.S. I think I found you on Facebook -- I just recently rejoined and you were a recommended friend, so I added you.  It's kind of creepy how social media "knows" things, but that's another topic entirely!)

           

           

          • It's kind of creepy how social media "knows" things, but that's another topic entirely!

            Perhaps I'm suffering from delusional paranoia, but it's for reasons like these that I've sworn myself off social media. Or at least, the social media that want to know actual personal details about myself -- I usually only ever sign up for things using a pseudonym (this forum is a rare exception), and any personal info is usually left blank, or if required, stuffed with obviously nonsensical non-data. I just don't trust big companies with personal data, esp. those that aren't doing me a direct service like banks, but are obviously using my data for their own gains (targeted ads to increase profit, etc.). That's far too much power for a single organization to be wielding, IMO.

            But anyway, back to music. :-D  I've always admired and aspired to the classical forms, but not in the schoolbook, "just follow the rules" way. I always want to add my own twist to things, and as a result, I almost always break some rule or other. :-D  To me, what my ear tells me is the ultimate judge: if what sounds good to my ears breaks the rules, then throw the rules out the window; the ear trumps the rules. So my pieces often somewhat follow classical forms, but almost always bend the rules.

            OTOH, I've also often found that, if correctly interpreted and applied, the classical rules also do improve the quality of my music, sometimes significantly. A prime example is counterpoint: something about the rules of counterpoint makes my orchestral lines "sing" better (even though I'm just as ready to break them if my ear says otherwise!). I've often found that when something about my counterpoint sounds "off", it's because I overlooked some rule or other of traditional counterpoint. Taking a closer look and rewriting the offending lines often result in significant improvement to the music. Of course, this isn't without exception; sometimes I purposely break the rules -- in strategic places and in specific ways -- in order to achieve a particular effect.

            • Hi H.S., it may be paranoia, but it's only delusional if it's irrational, right?  I think a lot of people have the concerns that you've expressed here.  I have trust issues, too.  I mean, even if the company is reputable and ethical, that doesn't mean a lone bad player can't do some kind of harm.  Anyway, I remain very cautious myself, but I also know that you can let your (legitimate)) concerns hinder you.  For example, I have a friend who is basically so scared of his ideas getting ripped off that he won't even talk about them on the phone or put them in an email.  He overnighted me a packet a few years ago (I'm one of the few friends he trusts) of some business ideas he had because he didn't trust conveying them to me in any other way.  He's an extreme case, but honestly, his paranoia definitely rubbed off on me over the years because I have been very hesitant to come on forums like this and put my music out there.  But I finally realized that if I just kept it all to myself for fear of sharing it that nobody else would ever get to hear it!  So whether it's sharing a business idea, a musical composition, or personal data on social media platforms, there's always a small risk involved, but sometimes if we don't take that leap we may miss out on opportunities.  Of course, some social media, in my view at least, is pointless and so it's just not worth the risk.  But, for instance, I'm glad I came on here and shared my music.  It's been a valuable experience.    

              Regarding your musical points, I think you put this very well.  It is definitely a balancing act for me, too.  I always remind myself that the innovations in musical composition that have come through the centuries would never have happened if composers only adhered to the rules prevalent in their times and never broke them.  So I think we're in good company to know the rules, adhere to them at times, but not be afraid to break them if it yields satisfactory results.  

              • As far as sharing music is concerned, for me personally at least, at some point I got over myself and realized that I'm never going to "make it big" anyway (otherwise I wouldn't be on this forum to begin with -- I'd be out there making it big), so it doesn't really matter anymore whether some unscrupulous forum member steals my ideas and publishes them. In fact, I'd be flattered if somebody did that and disseminates my music much farther than I myself could ever hope to! :-P  Of course, that in no way excuses bad actors, but I did decide for myself that for me to get all uptight over sharing my music is probably making mountains out of my little musical molehill.

                Besides, what good is music if nobody hears it?  The point of music is to share the joy of making it with others who enjoy it, not to exploit it like some soulless cash cow just so you can have a more pieces of green paper in your wallet.

                • I must say I agree here. In the unlikely event anyone was to plagiarise my music and somehow make it popular, I would be deligted as there would be no doubt who had actually written it when it came to the crunch -- my quotations from other composers at times not withstanding.

                   

                  • I agree with you and H.S., too -- now.  One, two, or five years ago, different story.  I still have strong feelings about valuing and respecting one's intellectual property, but I agree the important thing is to share it and let it breathe.  I think I would actually feel a little funny making money off my music.  There's something noble and desirable about being the struggling artist -- or at least embracing the myth, LOL.  

  • I don't use NP so I can't say much about it, but based on my experience, I've learned that sometimes the only way to get computer playback in general to not make your ears bleed is to have two scores: one "real" score where you write as you would if you were composing for a real orchestra, and a "playback score", where you write things you wouldn't normally write, in order to coax the computer to do what you want.  For example, sometimes I find myself having to spell out trills because the software simply doesn't know how to correctly interpret it; or having to write a LOT more dynamic marks than one would normally write in a score, just so the playback has a more "human" dynamic curve. Or having to write things that would be considered as "nonsensical" in a real score, because that's the only way to get the point across to the computer.

    Anyway, I'm listening to your piano concerto right now...

    The first movement seems very grand in scope, and has some powerful moments. Hard to say much with accuracy just on a first listen, though; but there's definitely something powerful going on in there.  If you don't mind posting the score, I'd love to follow along.

    The second movement is a nice contrasting movement, lighter in overall tone but still following in the same overall mood as the first movement. Short and sweet.

    3rd movement opens grandly, as a grand finale ought to. There's a lot of brass fanfares here, sounds like just the thing for imparting a sense of finality. The cadenza somehow quotes (coincidentally or not) Beethoven's moonlight sonata, last movement, which is an interesting moment. :-D  And then a worthy conclusion to a concerto that seems like hybrid of Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, and Shostakovich. :-P Maybe a little bit of Schumann as well.

    I think parts of the playback could be significantly improved if you wrote a separate "playback score" where you did things like adjust the instrument balance, spell things out manually, insert hacks because the computer isn't doing what you want otherwise.  Your string tremolos, for example, I would dial down a notch, simply because the computer just isn't balancing the volume very well in those passages. And the piano could be dialed a notch up (pretend that there's a mic specifically recording the piano).

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