Saturday, October 23, 2021

Perenepsis XVII: Chorale

Okay, so I said not to expect anything else soon, but I was digging around in the scraps of the abandoned original Perenepsis IV (which has no relation to the posted Perenepsis IV) yesterday and started playing around with parts of it, which led to this, although it contains none of what was already in that particular manuscript, so all of that is still there as a potential source for more material. This is very straightforward both structurally and harmonically, although like the preceding installment (which is not a waltz), it's also in 5/4 -- and coincidentally, is also not a waltz. I'm not sure it's really a chorale, either, but it's close enough for me to call it one. I could also call it a penguin, but that would just be goofy.

Now, I could promise a new piece next week, but if I did, chances are that I'd have nothing. Or, I could say again not to expect another any time soon and end up posting a new piece next week, so I think that instead what I'll do is say nothing and leave everyone guessing, including myself.




Monday, October 18, 2021

Perenepsis XVI: Cantus Tenebris

 This is getting ridiculous now -- nothing for over nine months, then two in two days, and another a couple days later. I'm not sure how this all came together so quickly, but this is the other main idea from the former Perenepsis XIV score. The old score contained two versions of the beginning of this idea, one in good old 4/4, and this one in a 7/7/9/7/7(/7) pattern (mostly), which I found more interesting. It's kind of a theme and variations, or more like 8 restatements of the same basic idea, based on a sort of Gregorian chant-inspired motif. This, together with the dark nature of the material, gives us the subtitle Cantus Tenebris. It starts out in A minor (mostly Aeolian mode, though -- no raised 6/7 until the end of the third time through, which is the only four-bar cycle) for four cycles, then three times in E minor (again, more Aeolian at first), then back to A minor for the final time through. This is actually the oldest of the three recently posted piano pieces, at least going by when they were started, and in terms of length, at 5'21" it's almost exactly halfway between the two others.

I guess this piece might sound pretty gloomy, but as I mentioned in Reverie, my music doesn't always reflect my mood at the time, and this is one where it definitely doesn't. I'm not really sure where this came from, other than that I liked the first two bars, and everything else arose from that, and there was no way to make it into a snappy little dance tune, so it is what it is.

The funny thing is that during the long gap of no new pieces from December 2020 through this October, I hadn't done much work on piano stuff; a lot of work on the symphony and a few different things for string quartet (I thought I had finished one of the quartet pieces but then decided the ending was too abrupt), but the Reverie idea came to me and I had to finish it for some reason, and then finding the old Perenepsis XIV score with four separate ideas in it (I decided to discard two of them, one of which was just an odd chord progression that was more interesting than entertaining, and a twisted waltz theme that maybe needed a little straightening out) led me to flesh out the two more substantial ideas there.

Now it's back to the strings and orchestra; there will be no continuing flow of daily or weekly posts, which is probably more disappointing to me than to anyone else.



Friday, October 15, 2021

Perenepsis XV: Not a Waltz

Nothing for nine months, and then two new pieces in two days? Here's what happened:

Reverie was actually finished (as in no more tinkering at all) for a couple weeks before I finally got around to posting it yesterday, and a couple days ago when I decided to declare it part of the Perenepsis series, I wanted to make sure which number came next. It should've been 14, but when I looked through my manuscripts, I found a 14 sitting there already, and to top it off, it contained bits of four different ideas. Instead of going out of order as I've already done a couple times, I decided to make Reverie #14, yank out one particular idea from the old 14, make it 15, and retain the rest of the old 14 as 16.  Now that that's all cleared up, on to the piece itself.

It's in 5/4 (except for a 7/4 at the end of the first half and another at the very end), hence the subtitle -- while it's also not a lot of other things, a waltz is one of the things it's most not, even though part of it is rather waltz-like (while still not being a waltz). The overall form is ABAB(A), the last A in parentheses because it's highly truncated. The A section is in Gm/Dm, and the B section (the part that's waltz-like, but not a waltz) is in Eb/Ab. Like Perenepsis XIII (Tapping), it has a lot of grace notes, this time to make up for the fact that 5/4 isn't a naturally graceful time signature. When I yanked it out of the original #14 manuscript, only the first 8-10 bars had been written, but once I got back to it, spurred on by having finished Reverie (and having made good progress on my G Minor Symphony), the rest of it came together pretty quickly.

Something I recently noticed is that my titles have been somewhat inconsistent in regard to the Perenepsis series -- Some have a descriptive name as the main title with the Perenepsis number as a subtitle, while others have the Perenepsis part as the main title with a descriptive subtitle. There's a reason for this: The main title is whatever name I come up with first. If I start out writing a Perenepsis, that's the main title, and I try to come up with something descriptive as a subtitle (with varying degrees of success, as shown by this one's subtitle). Other times, as with Reverie and Uncertain Time, the descriptive title comes to me first, and I decide that it's a Perenepsis while writing it -- sometimes early on, and other times toward the end. If anyone besides me was wondering about that, there it is.



Thursday, October 14, 2021

Reverie (Perenepsis XIV)

The music I write is often contrary to my mood at the time of writing it. I've written calm pieces when having excruciating back pain, and dark stuff while in a pretty good mood. This one, though, I think pretty much reflects my frame of mind when it was written. As mentioned in my previous post, Hurricane Ida came along and delayed work on everything for a while  Power out for three weeks during the hottest part of the year, internet out for about four weeks (with intermittent outages continuing for a couple more weeks), but I think I kept that out of this.

Things still aren't quite back to normal -- whatever that means these days, anyway -- but they're getting better. And while I said that I didn't let the storm affect this piece, I think it may have, particularly the ending, after about the 7 minute mark. Not so much the storm itself, which was not a whole lot of fun, but the sense of relief and thankfulness that it wasn't worse.

In terms of form, it is loosely structured (as indicated by the title), with three primary recurring motifs, along with reworkings thereof. It's mostly in 4/4, although about one third of the bars are in other time signatures -- mostly fives and sixes, with a stretch of threes and a few stray sevens. It's hard to say what key it's in, but it's not atonal; it just shifts a lot. The most certain thing about the tonality is that it definitely ends in E Major, if that helps any... which it probably doesn't.



Thursday, September 16, 2021

More Wondering

 As a follow-up to my previous post...

I probably would've had a new piece for either piano or string quartet up here by now, but I'm in the area that was hit most directly by Hurricane Ida, and have been without power (and hence my ability to produce or post any work) for 17 19 days now. There are rumblings from my electric company that I may have power later today or tomorrow, but as of now, my street is an island of darkness (Hey! That sounds like a good title -- all I need to do is write something to fit it; ideas are already percolating, even though it's not coffee, so "percolating" is probably not the right word) surrounded by light -- the power grid here is not very grid-like, but more like a tangled ball of yarn or a backlash on a baitcasting reel.

And then, when power does come back on, I'm going to have several things to do at the house before I can really get back to working on any music, so it may be October before I end up posting anything, and at this point it could be one of the several things that is close to finished, or something that pops into my head from having electricity restored, as momentum on the works in progress has come to a screeching halt -- really; I actually heard the screeching on the night of August 29. However, I'm determined not to let an entire year go without posting anything; just because the entire world has gone insane is no reason for me to join it.

On the plus side, I have gotten to sleep in a real bed the past two nights, although last night was less restful thanks to a tornado warning popping up just after I went to bed -- upstairs. Apparently, Nicholas decided that Ida had not completed its job on us, so has been pouring in more rain and wind before winding down. Not as bad as the initial hit, but probably pushed back my power restoration a couple of days. Oh well... the roof has bee tarped, my broken window patched for now, and I'm looking forward to cleaning out the fridge (yuck).

...

Naturally, by the time I had typed the above (on Wednesday, 9/15), the internet went out here -- again. I wasn't even surprised; it's just the kind of thing that's been happening for the past nearly three weeks. Plus, no bed last night, as power went out at my refuge, so it was back to mattress on the floor in front of the window unit. And the electric company once more said that it will probably be "a couple more days" before I get power, a line that they dropped on me last Sunday, so I'm less than confident that it will be true this time.

But there's some good news: Apparently, my cable and internet were restored last week; I just have no power to run them. Meanwhile, my brother got power back four or five days ago, but had no cable or internet until yesterday. Between the two of us, we had one fully up and running home, but also between the two of us is about two miles, so it didn't do us much good. I haven't priced extension cords of that length, but I assume they'd be pretty pricey.

So why am I making this post? Partly, it's to explain why the new music that I hinted at in my previous post has not materialized yet and probably will not for another few weeks. Also, though, it's because this situation is something that I would probably find funny (I'm easily amused) if it was happening to someone else. It's not nearly as much fun as it sounds, but I've had worse. In fact, many people here did have worse. My damage is probably below average here; parts of town look like a bomb hit -- it's almost as bad as the aftermath of Mardi Gras parades! You're welcome.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

In Case Anyone's Wondering...

Yeah, I'm  still here. I just realized that I haven't posted anything since last year, so I wanted to let any visitors know that I'm still here and that there's more to come. In fact, earlier this week I thought there'd be a new piece for string quartet here by now, but after having written it in less than a day, I decided that it might not be done yet. I also have a nearly finished piano piece (that almost ended up being two) and another one (or two) for string quartet that's pretty far along, plus the usual backlog of bigger pieces that are at various stages of completion, and more ideas that still haven't made it from head to paper.

So, just be patient, and hopefully by early September -- possibly sooner -- there will be another bit of noise here, either for string quartet or piano. That's as long as I don't start working on any of the new ideas that are trying to force their ways out of my head.

In the meantime, if you want to have some fun, listen to the songs (plural) "Last Train Home" by Pat Metheny and by Flying Colors, back to back. Two completely different songs sharing only a common title. 

Probably best to start with Metheny's, which is a mostly instrumental jazz piece (some vocals do wander in somewhere along the way, but they're not the main focus, and I'm not sure they're singing actual words); the drumming especially is evocative of an actual train ride, pretty neat stuff ; there are several versions around on YouTube, the actual album version coming in at a little over 5 1/2 minutes. This one's from 1987, and is (to me) the highlight of the album on which it appeared, Still Life (Talking).

The Flying Colors song is more of an actual song, albeit an extended, prog rock epic ballad of sorts -- 10 1/2 minutes, three different lead singers over the course of the song, several tempo and mood changes. Despite its length, you really can't get bored; I think they could've gone on even longer. It's also more recent, coming out in 2019 on the  album Third Degree.

You'll have to look these up yourself, because I don't want to clutter my site with the videos of others. This is for my own benefit, for when I periodically go through my posts to count how many actual pieces I've posted; I don't want to accidentally count stuff that isn't mine. They're easy enough to find, though, and I own both albums on which these appear.

As a matter of completeness, there are at least two other "Last Trains Home", one by John Mayer released this year, a pleasant enough pop song with some nice analog synth sounds, and another by Lostprophet, from 2004, a sort of metal/grunge thing that has its moments. But neither of these is in the same category as the ones above. If you want to go whole hog and listen to all four in a row, I'd still start with Metheny's and end with Flying Colors, with Mayer second and Lostprophet third.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

In Broad Darkness

 My brief YouTube description for this piece is: An ode to 2020 -- sometimes evil is done right out in the open, and people don't see it only because they don't want to see it.

This is not pretty, and it's not meant to be. And while I usually avoid the label "atonal" for any of my works, it does apply here... well, for the most part, at least. There are no "clean" major or minor chords anywhere outside the interlude in the strings (mostly; the oboes double the upper strings for the last two bars of the first half of it) from about 6:55 to 8:31.

Interesting (to me, at least) story about that section: it started as my answer to a question about how to transition smoothly from Bb minor to A minor, and after working that out, I proceeded to D minor, then G minor, and ending at D minor while holding a  G in the bass to help introduce the brass interruption that ends the passage. I thought about removing this passage to use in a new piece, but decided that, even using minor keys, it provided a needed relief to the "noisiness" of the rest of this piece, and it does serve a programmatic function as well, so it stayed.

Another thing is that I divided the violins into four parts rather than the usual two. I started out trying to write the first and second violins divisi, but the phrasing and dynamics of the divided staves got too cluttered, so I just made it four parts. I thought about also dividing the violas and cellos, but thought that dividing the violas would thin them out too much, and didn't need that much harmonic density at the low end.

And about that "no major or minor chords" thing -- there are a few spots where a given group of instruments may be playing in a tonal manner, but apart from the interlude mentioned above, they are always accompanied by other sections playing antagonistic chords (or clusters) to the group trying to be tonal. Generally, if there are 8 instruments playing, there are 8 different notes being played, and not different octaves of the same note. There are very few doubled octaves, as I was mostly trying to avoid emphasis (in the background, at least) of any particular note in the masses of sound. It didn't occur to me while writing it, but I think this piece actually comes pretty close to being an orchestral Perenepsis, but those have so far been limited to piano pieces, so I think I'll keep it that way.

As for the story behind this, I think I'll just leave you with the YouTube description above. If you get it, you get it... and maybe it helps you make sense of this monstrosity. If not, then don't worry about it.