I posted this piece on the forum about 5 years ago for a discussion about modern notation and moving away from the "tyranny of the barline". Now I'm posting it to discuss modern harmony, per a request from MM Coston.
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Make no mistake, I like it very much, but why soliloquy? To me it sounds/looks like a very fine dialogue.
Socrates, I'd dearly love to change the name of my Soliloquy, because after all these years I still sometimes misspell it! However .... the underlying premise is that the person who is singing (flute) is reflected by sounds from elsewhere (piano). In other words, I might think I'm alone in the dark night, but the night itself sings my song back to me and creates, as you said, a dialogue. What I (the flute) thought was a soliloquy is a reminder that I'm never alone. I liked the built in contradiction of the name, but I really do need to learn how to spell it correctly!
MM - wow. I have to admit I found your description of chordleading charts and all the rest a bit much for the brain. If you're trying to get away from functional harmony, it seems counterproductive to create new functions or new chords. It's more like doing the same thing as functional harmony but not quite so rooted in acoustical realities. Perhaps even the terms "melody" and "harmony" are not quite the way to think of it?
I didn't think of harmony at all in my Soliloquy, as in chords or functionality. The main goal for the piano part was overtones. The pedaling is vital and creates an envelope of sound that surrounds the flute. I used the opening notes several times for continuity, but in different contexts. Most of the piano part is either sounds that create good ongoing overtones or sounds that imitate what the flute just did, or a combination of those. This is more a contrapuntal piece than a piece with "melody and harmony".
I have to admit that I didn't "think" much about this piece, but rather spent a lot of time outdoors listening to the night sky. The result is what I heard. I really didn't approach this intellectually, but rather emotionally and poetically. Hope this makes sense, even though it is different from your various approaches. There is no right or wrong, and we each must find our own way.
Well Julie, whatever guided you here worked out allright. The flute is so sensuous and evocative as a solo and even with midi, that comes across. One can always tell when listening to atonality if the voice is experienced, confident and able to express themselves with the simplest means, just like here.
Mike, thank you so much. Your words mean a lot to me. If I didn't have a student due to arrive any minute, I'd write more, but at least I had time to say thanks!
Hello again MM-
Marion Woodman, the great writer, poet, Jungian analyst and just plain amazing woman, once made a very astute suggestion. She said each of us should practice our craft every single day so that "when the God comes in" we will have the skills to notate what we've heard or experienced. Her craft is writing, one of yours and one of mine is music.
I don't want you to think that I just went outside and listened to the night sky and then wrote Soliloquy without really thinking about it. On the surface, that's what happened, but in reality I have spent every day of my life since I was about 8 years old studying my craft. Over the years I studied at two different music schools, and then with four different composers beyond college. I spent an entire summer poring over Messiaen's "My Musical Language" about 3 - 5 hours per day. I analyzed and sight-sang Bach four-part chorales twice a week for a year with three other musicians. I did the Fux counterpoint exercises many times over. I did the Auralia/Musition exercises 2 - 3 times per week for several years. I listened to everything I could get my ears on. For at least three years I listened to classical music 4 - 5 hours per day, mostly with scores. I still listen at least an hour or more every day, again with scores. I'd say overall I do more studying than composing. I'm a scholar by nature, and I love to study, so it's just like breathing.
I started teaching composition to keep my skills alive and well and to encourage and guide other incredibly talented composers. The students and I do the Joanne Haroutounian Explorations in Music workbooks which are great for theory, analysis and composing. The more advanced students do the Royal School of Music theory program, which I oversee. We also continue to do Auralia/Musition and for the younger crowd the really fun "Tonic Tutor" theory and ear-training games. We listen and analyze, we work on shape, texture, voicing, orchestration and so on in addition to the basic building blocks of melody, harmony and rhythm.
In other words I study and think about music so much that when I get ready to write a piece I don't have to think too much about details - they are ingrained in my vocabulary. I really didn't want to suggest that emotions and poetic sensibilities alone can create a good piece of music. When combined with extensive study and training, they might make the difference, as you said between "not very good" and "incredible". Let's hope that could be the case!!
Good luck with your studies and all your compositional projects. You might enjoy some study that isn't related to a piece you're writing. That way you can concentrate on details of particular skills until they come naturally to you, then have a bigger picture when you're working on a piece. That method may or may not work for you, but it has worked well for me. Hope these ideas help!
By the way, MM, your description of "event(s) and envelopment" is perfect for Soliloquy. I've started using "foreground" and "background" terms a lot instead of "melody and accompaniment", but I really prefer your two words for some situations. Envelopment suggests something quite enchanting!
Hi Julie, You stated,
In my Soliloquy for Flute and Piano, which I've attached, I wanted to express the beauty and longing of the night sky, the mystery of a solitude that never feels alone, and the feeling of reaching for something that can never be grasped.
These are not poor words, in any language. This is a sentiment that 'we humans' have been attempting to express for eons.
Whether inspired from within and 'projected', or inspired by some divine connection beyond our ken, for me, this is Art. This is the essence of what true art should be. In Nature, form follows function... and I think this applies to music as well.
I doubt that without the 'words' you chose to use, I would have been able to interpret this piece in the same way you intended, but I think the title is fitting, yet vague and generic, leaving the element of wonder to the listener's imagination. RS
I think we all agreed in the original notation post that complex rhythms work best with constantly changing time signatures. Your first version is by far the best and easiest to read, although your 6/4 measures each look as if they might be 3/4 measures. Remember that 6/4 is duple and 3/4 is triple. You seem to have a triple feel in those 6/4 measures.
I'm totally happy with the notation for my Soliloquy, with its changing time signatures. Gav and Dave have also given us great examples of such rhythmic notation.
The bar line should show the strong beat. Once a student of mine wrote a wonderful piece for a 9 member ensemble and notated it all in 4/4 like your second example. We started rehearsals with members of the North Carolina Symphony - all excellent professional musicians - and chaos ensued. When the conductor (me!) indicated a down beat everyone was confused because it didn't sound like a down beat. The players just couldn't stay together using the "homogenous notation". Once Noah changed the time signatures to match the flow of the music itself, everyone followed me perfectly and the piece was a great success.
Modern performers are used to modern music and they can change time signatures easily. So there is no "solution", because really there is no "problem"!!!
This version is really hard to read, or to conduct or to say "Let's start at measure so and so". You might as well not have any bar lines nor any time signatures, which is also an option. A conductor would appreciate well thought out barlines, as would your performers. There are plenty of pieces nowadays, however, with no barlines. I prefer having them, because I'm also a conductor and work with performers a lot. I like the guideposts and the ease of finding a section.
If you do want measures, and time signatures, you should try conducting your piece to see where to put the downbeats. Why don't you attach a sound file of the piece? I like to listen and conduct with eyes closed.
Have you studied the scores of Charles Ives? Ruth Crawford Seeger? other 20th century composers? The use of cross rhythms and polyrhythms among different instruments is not new at all. Ives has groups of instruments playing in different keys, different time signatures, phrases and notes across barlines - many different ways of notation. You should get some of his orchestral scores and listen with the score. Ruth Crawford Seeger was brilliant and well worth studying. She died too young and spent most of her relatively short adult life raising children, but the things she wrote before she was 20 are varied and impressive. Her Piano study in Mixed Rhythms has no barlines, with accents and barring to show where the strong notes should be.
Messiaen's non-retrogradable rhythms can't be represented by 4/4 or any of those kinds of time signatures. Sometimes he uses time signatures, sometimes not. But when he puts a barline in, it's for a musical reason. You should study many modern scores. What you're doing is not actually very complex. The main thing is to make it easy for performers to read.