Tetrachordium

I would like to share with a new composition of strings and woodwinds. In my view it sounds light and pleasant, but obviously it is up to you to agree with me or not. So I would enjoy if you offer me your opinion and perhaps critial remarks.

It is on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoNGdjnfgvc

If you want to study the score more in detail, view: https://musescore.com/user/29980381/scores/7126808

Let me know,
Geert ter Horst

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  • I have trouble viewing the score, it wants me to sign up for musescore (which I don't need). Fortunately, the score is shown in the video, so it was quite easy to follow along.

    My overall impression is that there is too much repetition.  Although repetition is a crucial element in music, when overdone it becomes tedious to listen to.  The 8th note repeated notes in the lower parts sounds very monotonous after several bars. The upper melodic line is also very repetitious.  I see you did try to spice things up with little harmonic diversions, but there was never really any transition into a new episode or a contrasting section; the rhythm basically stays the same throughout, and the motifs aren't developed in any way over the course of the piece. After a while it all just jumbles together into more-or-less "more of the same", a homogenous mixture of "oatmeal" where nothing particularly stands out.  Such a texture might be OK to listen to for maybe a minute or so, but 6+ minutes is a long time to listen to what's essentially the same idea rehashed in not-so-different ways.  For the amount of material that you have, I would've filled out at the most 2 mins or so, and even that is somewhat stretching it.

    I get the impression that you're trying to convey a particular mood with this piece, so probably the rhythm and the melodic lines are intentionally written this way.  In this case, I'd recomend varying the texture and harmony much more than you have done.  There should be contrasting sections markedly different in sound; e.g., in one passage have the basses play the melodic line instead.  In another section, reduce the instrument forces to maybe just 1 or 2 for a thin sound with occasional "comments" from other instruments.  Employ some pizzicato, perhaps, to provide a contrasting timbre. In one section double the melody at the 3rd, and in another section in 6ths.  Maybe have one section with monophonic melody where all instruments double each other at unison or octave, for a particularly penetrating statement of your basic motif.  Another section could have, say, a violin solo with double stops just for extra spice.  You could also try breaking up the repeated 8th note figures into a kind of klangfarbenmelodie-like texture by passing it between different instruments / different octaves or registers.  Also have a dynamic curve throughout the piece so that it's not all at the same volume.  Add a climactic passage at around the 75% mark where the texture thickens to a full tutti.

    Basically, try to follow the rule of "never repeat yourself twice without some variation".

    • "Basically, try to follow the rule of "never repeat yourself twice without some variation".

      I second that, although it is not rare to repeat yourself twice and do the third time something different. Like in the bar form. Two Stollen and then an Abgesang. I don't know the English term for it.

      Then again, in an symphonic composition a repeat does offer you the chance to play with the orchestration :-)

  • Dear Geert,

     

    H.S. Teoh has provided some very good advice which state my thoughts better than I could ever convey. I just have one question, just out of curiosity, why the non-standard instrumentation?

     

    EWS

     

  • You're obviously influenced by minimal music. That might be the reason that you don't vary much. To be quite honest, I'm not a fan of minimal music, so I don't like your composition, but that's just a matter of personal taste.

    I listened to your composition Phantasmagoria on YouTube too. A thought crossed my mind. It's a wild guess, but by avoiding classical harmony, the music seems not to "move", as in early vocal counterpoint where the harmony is secondary to the voice-leading and counterpoint. However, if you make the seperate voices repetitive then there's just a minimal impression left. Do you understand what I mean?

  • certainly I would put this very much in the minimalism category and it's not a fashion that I care for though plenty of others seem to go for it. Actually I found the slightly wild folksy harmony really rather appealing (certainly more interesting than the average minimalist piece) and if the work was more developed from its initial premise, it could be rather attractive. But I share the feeling of others here that we need more variety and sense of development.

  • Thank you all for your input. The most important common criticism is that the piece is too repetitious, with which I agree. In my original plan I had in mind to avoid literal repetions of the main melody by varying the entry order of the violas in the imitations. But somehow in writing down I didn't actually follow through with it. I have now inserted these variations and made a new version of the piece. The Youtube link is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pn3fxWPOCM

    I have also uploaded the video here on Composers' Forum: https://composersforum.ning.com/videos/tetrachordium

    To give some background information, the piece is based on serialist principles and its basic tone row is the following:
    F#-A-B-D-E-G-A-C-D-F-G-B♭ Thus there are, apart from new starting points of the row, only two intervals: the whole tone or big second, and the minor third, and, course, their inversions in the octave.

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