Romantic Music Contest - WINNERS ANNOUNCED

Members were asked to submit a composition in the Romantic style. 5 members participated. Please listen to all and use the survey to vote on the 3 you think best. Voting ends on January 4 at midnight EST. Thanks to all who participated in the contest!

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  • Greetings,

    So here is where my piece, Kenoo, came from: As an Episcopal Priest sometimes I have to attend to a death.  Recently I sat with a family as they removed a loved from life support.  I was reflecting on that experience and originally started writing for string orchestra.  I wanted to convey not only the grief of the beauty and relief that can be present when someone has suffered for a long time and is surrounded by love when they finally pass.  

    I shifted to writing just for piano after I heard Chopin's Prelude No. 4 in E minor Op. 28.  That was the tonal color, the harmonic language, and emotional depth I was searching for.  I almost stopped writing because lets face it, I am not Chopin, and what he did so magnificently needed no elaboration.  I thought about just listening to that piece repeatedly to process of the emotions I was having.  Alas, I could not let the need to write go.  I had the proverbial bit between the teeth, if you will.  So, I changed to solo piano, and kept writing.  

    Harmonically, I wanted to play with chromatic-mediant relationships so sometimes we are in C, then A, I think at one point I was in F# for a bit.  The piece ought to end in C, but I couldn't get the cadence to sound right to convey both a sense of ambiguity and a sense of closure.  So, on a whim I tried an F Major Seventh chord.  At no other point in the piece is F Major a tonal center, but it seemed to work; so, I kept it.

    Then, I found out about the contest, and I figured since I was writing in a romantic style and being inspired by one of the great romantic composers, I might as well throw the piece out there.  I am honored by everyone who has given the piece a listen.  It is not like anything else I have written, nor am I to write like this again.  

    I am using the piece in two ways now.  It is the third movement of a piano suite (none of the other movements are romantic in style or harmony).  Also, I am transcribing Kenoo for wind band.  My brother is a high school band director has agreed to give it a read.  I'll hopefully get a recording of the reading session and can post it here.

    Thanks again to all who wrote, listened, voted, and hosted the contest.  It was and continues to be a great experience.

    God's Peace,

    Jason Emerson

  • Sorry it's taken me so long to respond.  I don't have a chance to get onto Composers Forum often - too busy premiering new music!   I hope my feelings about the five pieces today still reflects my actual voting back in December. 

    My favorite piece by far and the one that got my first place vote, was "Funeral of the Gods".  Romanticism is not a period of time, it's a state of mind.  Many pre-Bach composers were Romantics and many 20th and 21st century composers often write hugely Romantic pieces.  "Romantic" conjures deep emotions, expressiveness, freedom of rhythm, lush colors and orchestration, possibly a story to tell.  At its worst, it falls into sentimentality, lack of taste, and excess.  At its best, it speaks to hearts and souls, more so than to minds and intellects.  Therefore, the first criteria for "judging" a piece that is supposed to be Romantic might be - "Does it touch something within me?   Would I listen again?"   These might not be the same criteria for another style or genre.

    As one of the composers mentioned, Chopin was a master Romantic.  He never fell into excess or sentimentality, although his interpreters and performers often do so, but many Romantic piano solos fall short.  Not everyone has Chopin's touch for pianistic writing or his sense of chromaticism or his sense of when to stop.  The E minor prelude, which is a masterpiece of grief and despair and beauty, would lose its charm if it went on even a few more seconds.  You have to have good strong material and a discernible shape and sense of direction to sustain a piece beyond a few minutes, particularly in the Romantic style.

    Funeral of the Gods was deeply satisfying in all ways:  It announced its intention from the very beginning and never once wavered from that commitment.  I saw the Gods proudly marching into oblivion, and sadly let them go.  It was very moving and elegiac.  I was reminded at times of one of my favorite pieces - the slow movement, Elegy, from Christopher Rouse's flute concerto.  I voted for texture, color, wonderful orchestration, the lovely inner shapings, and the slow buildup toward the inevitable climax.   I also voted for sheer beauty, a clear form, the way the composer allows the piece and his audience to breathe, the overall shape.  The ending was superb.  All in all, Funeral of the Gods is a piece that moves me and beckons me to further listening.

    My second choice was Kenoo.  I'm not always wild about contemporary piano solos - as I said, not everyone has Chopin's deep knowledge of writing for the piano, but this piece had something that held me.   Nice chords, good tension and release, good sense of timing.  It was a good length - long enough to accomplish its goal and not too long to lose our interest.  The ending was weak, and it's very hard to project musicality in a piano piece without that human performer shaping and expressing.  It would be nice to hear this piece performed by live performers.

    Just a note about my other impressions.  The piece that won, Movement in the Romantic Style, was close to unbearable to listen to for me - not because of the composition, but because of the presentation.  The score was interesting and it had its moments, but the bottom line of music is sound.  With all the good software out there that creates Stradivarius violin sounds, I think we should present our pieces in the best possible playback form.  A new piece often gets one and only one chance to speak to the audience, and poor string quality just doesn't speak to me.  I'm used to working with virtuoso string players, and my ear craves that gorgeous sound.  The beauty of a string quartet is often in the sonority of single lines, or even single notes, or the wonderful overtones that are created by instrument combinations.  Even the inexpensive notation software of today gives us this much.  If Kenoo is ever recorded, or put into a more palatable sound form, I'd be interested in listening to it again.

    Time to leave for rehearsals, but one other request to composers:   It would be so helpful if you put duration at the end of your scores.  I teach my students that a piece is not finished until it has complete editing (a many-week process), date of completion, and duration.  The length of a piece is a big factor in how well it succeeds in achieving its goal.  Another requirement for a piece to be "finished" in my composition studio is that it be played by professional, virtuoso players.  This is not an easy goal to accomplish, but is always worth the hard work.

    That's it for now ...time to rehearse several new premieres!!

    -- Julie

  • ooops ... correction.

    My previous comments had an error:  The last line of the third paragraph  from the end should say "If Movement in the Romantic Style is ever recorded, " etc.  I knew I should have proof read my comments, but I was pushed for time.  So sorry ....

  • I'm amazed at how quickly you were able to complete this. I loved the orchestration, and most definitely got the Nordic influences. Nicely done.

    Bob Porter said:

    Janet, I have to commend you on your open-mindedness on judging. It makes so much sense to judge based on the spirit of Romanticism rather than how technically Romantic each piece was.

    Let me see if I can remember my thought process for "Funeral of the Gods". My working title for it was "Music that was Never Written from an Opera that Never Existed". The opera would certainly have to do with the old Nordic gods. Maybe man has decided that he doesn't need the gods any more and this music plays as they proudly march off into oblivion. After the opening horn solo, which is the gathering of the gods, they all start their  journey. It is a long hard trek. Through a couple abrupt key changes, the music builds. As they reach the mountain top the key signature begins to drop, and they survey their end. In the fanfare section, they regally submit to their fate. The key signature slowly drops to the original and there is only a final horn solo to remind us that the gods ever existed.

    Nah, that would have required too much imagination.

    I finished it about a week after the compitition started, and only changed a note here and there for a few weeks after that before I turned it in.

     

    Romantic Music Contest - WINNERS ANNOUNCED
    Members were asked to submit a composition in the Romantic style. 5 members participated. Please listen to all and use the survey to vote on the 3 yo…
  • Jason, I hope you get a recording of the wind band reading, and are able to post it here!

    Father Jason Emerson said:

    I am using the piece in two ways now.  It is the third movement of a piano suite (none of the other movements are romantic in style or harmony).  Also, I am transcribing Kenoo for wind band.  My brother is a high school band director has agreed to give it a read.  I'll hopefully get a recording of the reading session and can post it here.

    Thanks again to all who wrote, listened, voted, and hosted the contest.  It was and continues to be a great experience.

    God's Peace,

    Jason Emerson

    Romantic Music Contest - WINNERS ANNOUNCED
    Members were asked to submit a composition in the Romantic style. 5 members participated. Please listen to all and use the survey to vote on the 3 yo…
  • Bob, I love your modesty and tongue-in-cheek humor.  Far from indicating that you have no attention span and no goal, the end result of "Funeral of the Gods" indicates you have a natural musical talent.   Most of us have to work much harder to achieve the same level of good, solid music.  Beethoven labored for years over one piece; Mozart tossed them off as fast as he could write.  Either way is wonderful - what matters is the music.   And I still say, I love Funeral of the Gods!!! 

    And by the way, your finished piece bears a remarkable resemblance to the "outline" you suggested to Janet the other day, and then joked "nah, that would be too hard"..   So much for not having attention span or goals. Chuckle ...

    Carry on!



    Bob Porter said:

    Julie,

    As you are a composition teacher, you probably know more about it than I do. Yet with regards to my piece, I'm not sure if you really know what you are talking about, or if I have pulled the wool over your....ears :-)

    Janet,

    This is the way I work. Fast as I can and with no outline. I go where the previous notes suggests I go. I do try to have a notion of what I want to do before I start the piece. Most of the time I get a few measures in and find out my notion won't work with what I've written. I think all this means that I have no attention span and no goal.

    Thank you both for your kind comments.

    I hope other composers and voters will post their thoughts.

     

  • I am disappointed we have not heard from two of the entrants, including the winner, Cameron McFadden. This seems unusual since he seemed to be pretty active before the contest. Is anyone in contact with him to know if he is okay?

    The account for the other contestant, Andrew Gliebman, seems to have been deleted. I would have liked to hear his compositional process also.

  • Cool about Andrew... I must have entered something wrong when I searched in the "members" spot. Maybe he'll still post back in this thread.

  • I am alive and well thanks but awfully busy with my 2nd (1st?) profession to participate actively in these great discussions -- only reading sometimes here and there...

  • Hi all,

    Sorry for the long silence, I've been out of the country, just got back yesterday, just read the forum now. 

    I am surprised and honored to be the winner, I did not expect it. (I've consistently placed last in the other contests here!)

    I will post again in a day or two after I have listened to all the pieces, and read and reply to your comments.

    Thank you all of you for listening to my piece.

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