Monday, March 30, 2020

Spring 2020 Update

On Thursday night (3/26), I "finished" Testimony, and by "finished" I don't mean finished finished, but only mostly finished. That is, it would be playable as a complete piece in its Thursday night state, but it still needs some polishing. The final work has started -- listening and making tweaks here and there. I initially thought another two weeks or so, but after what I've done yesterday and today, it's looking more like the end of the week -- first week of April. This one's a little heavier than my previously posted orchestral pieces here (more percussion, more brass), and also longer -- currently a little over 16 minutes; it may get closer to 17', but probably not over that.

You might ask why I'm posting this if the next piece is expected within the week. And I might answer that question. Okay, I will answer it. I've been getting more traffic here lately, and I just want to let visitors know that there is definitely something new coming soon, so don't get bored and wander off.

Also, it's in case it takes a little longer than I expect... but it won't. It probably won't; less than 12% chance that it will. And if it does, it won't be much longer. Again, probably, or even a little more certain than probably. My activity here is pretty sporadic, and while I don't expect that I'll be putting up new stuff every day (or even every week), there will be a new one here very soon, and it'll be the biggest one yet. I'm pretty excited about it, as you'd be able to tell if you could hear me typing this right now. And to prove it, I'll even put an exclamation point at the end of this sentence!

Of course, if I was really trying to promote my site, I probably shouldn't be doing it on the site itself where only the people already coming here can see it, but I really don't care that much; I just want to let those who do visit know what's coming up.

There, that sounds sufficiently redundant. Stay tuned... or whatever it is you do with websites.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Perenepsis X: Nickels

Yeah, another one of these. I didn't set out to write another Perenepsis, but the idea that came to me about three weeks ago just ended up working out that way. Another thing that wasn't intentional is how it's related to Perenepsis IX -- that one used a scale based on alternating minor seconds and minor thirds; this one is based strongly on a pattern of alternating major seconds and major thirds (although not used so much strictly as a scale here). Purely coincidental... as far as anyone knows.

The alternating major second and major third outlines a tritone, which is a very unstable (i.e., fun) interval, and led to a few fun things that happen in this rather short piece. At about 2 minutes long, it came out shorter than I had initially expected, but that little bit at the end just struck me as being very final; the only way to lengthen it would've been to add more before that, but I didn't feel like doing so... well, except that after "finishing" it two weeks ago and wondering why I hadn't posted it yet, I did a little bit of just that yesterday. Not so much to lengthen it, though, but to balance the two main sections, and to smooth out the transition to the coda.

The subtitle -- Nickels -- refers to the fact that the time signature opens in 5/4, and after that shifts between that and 5/8, so it's all fives. It's also a disguised answer to a school question. As usual (but not always!), I have no idea what's next, or when.

Note: For those viewing this around the time of posting, you'll notice that while I've chosen cool colors for the video, I've already shifted the site's color scheme to more of a spring flavor. This is an attempt to use reverse psychology on Mother Nature, thinking that if I pretend that spring has sprung early, it might stay cool longer. I know it won't work, but that's no excuse not to try.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Chorale for Brass

This is something I started last year and decided to get back to a couple weeks ago as a break from all the piano music. It consists of three pairs of "episodes", the pairs separated by two short, uptempo interludes (here, "uptempo" doesn't mean an actual tempo change, only a shift from primarily quarter and eighth notes to 32nd, 16th and eighth notes). The "episodes" are so called because, while they have a similar floor plan, they are not variations as such, but are more or less reworkings of the initial idea, more similar at the beginnings, but going in different directions after that.

It starts in A minor (really, more Aeolian mode, after starting off in Dorian mode) for roughly the first half -- all the way through the third episode, shifting to G minor (real G minor this time) for the fourth episode opening with the trumpets (the previous ones begin with the low brass). The G minor persists through most of the second interlude, moving briefly to G Major at the end en route to E minor (again, more of an Aeolian mode than true minor), then on to B minor (more Aeolian again) starting with the fifth episode (back to opening in the low brass); the sixth and final episode acts as a kind of coda, finally ending in D Major.

Gee, with all this detailed description, you can probably already hear it in your head, so there's not much reason to actually listen to it... but just in case you think your imagination may have missed a note or two, here it is:

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Dance of the Cosmic Turnip

No, I don't have a stockpile of turnip-themed music waiting to be inflicted upon the world; it's only two titles that refer to turnips, really! This is the older of the two, written while I was still in school, and I resisted any temptation to extend or embellish the original manuscript. I had completely forgotten about this one until last week when I was working on the recently posted Perenepsis IX. Something about the 3/4 time with a stress on the 2, and the fact that both open with a pair of eighth notes rising by a minor 2nd must've rung a bell. This tune got caught in my head and it wasn't until the next day that I remembered the title, and grinned. I found the manuscript last night -- it's one of my most legible handwritten manuscripts; I obviously used a straight edge for the note stems and beams. No idea why I took such care to make it so neat; I don't think I had anyone wanting to play it.

Also, I didn't realize that my appreciation for dissonance had started so early -- this is from before my introduction to the music of Bartok. And now that I think about it, there are some other early pieces with a good bit of it, too, so maybe it was my attraction to dissonance that led me to Bartok rather than the other way around. Hmmm...

There's no key signature, but if I had to pick a key, I'd say it's in G major (maybe some of those G-flats should be F-sharps instead, but that's how it was written; I don't think I really thought about what key it was at the time). At least it ends there. From what I remember of this piece's origin, I seem to recall picturing a man-sized (some might say "person-sized", but I'm not a brainwashed sheep) turnip with spindly legs, spinning around slowly and awkwardly. I don't expect I'll ever be confused with Levi Strauss 😉, but waltzes and bits of waltz-like material do tend to crop up in my stuff, and this is one of them. It's not a particularly peppy dance, although there is a faster (and rather violent) section in the middle -- it's a turnip thing, don't blame me for that. It also slips into 4/4 for several measures -- another turnip thing; they're not too great at keeping their balance, you know.

Oh, and why a cosmic turnip? It's obvious, really -- regular turnips can't dance.

Next up: This time, I really have no idea. It could be anything. Well, not anything... I can promise it won't be a full-length opera, or live footage from the seventh planet. Anything else is possible. Also, after four posts in less than a week, the next one's probably going to take more than a few days.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Perenepsis VIII: Sand Pudding

As mentioned previously, I could've posted this one before #9, but decided not to, just because.

Anyway, not being based on a weird scale, this one is a little less weird overall than the previously posted Perenepsis that comes after this one. The title might seem to indicate more weirdness, but it's really just meant to describe the juxtaposition of smooth and rough textures employed here, although by the time I got done with it, the smooth parts (based around the opening idea) were a little rougher than anticipated, while the rough parts (where the rhythm shifts from mostly eighths and quarters to sixteenths and eighths) ended up not quite so rough.

After coming up with the title, I decided to see if the term had been used before, and sure enough, there happens to be a type of dessert (or, as its name involves sand, would that be desert?) that alternates layers of pudding or cream cheese filling (as in cheesecake) with layers of cookie crumbs. As it turns out, that's pretty much what I was going for, only for ears rather than mouths, so the title works. Plus, it sounds pretty yummy.

This thing either starts out in C major and ends in G major, or is in G major with a C major introduction; I think it's more the latter than the former. It also makes excursions into Ab, D, B minor, F, D minor, A, Bb and E minor, but not much else. It's in 3/4; I seem to be doing a lot of that lately (Perenepsis IX just posted is also in 3/4, mostly, and even the recent Scherzo for string quartet, although in 5/8, has a "lopsided 3" feel to it), so I should probably move on to some other time signature soon.

I'd describe the overall structure as follows:

A little bit of pudding, then some sand. Then a little bit of slightly fancier pudding followed by two small helpings of contrapuntal pudding, then more sand. Then four different flavors of pudding and an upside down third round of sand. Finally, just a little bit more pudding topped off with a maraschino cherry. I think that's pretty easy to follow, isn't it?

Next up: No idea. Could be piano, string quartet, or brass quintet; probably nothing orchestral for a while yet, as that requires a bit more uninterrupted time. I do have an old piano piece that got stuck in my head recently; I finally remembered which one it is, and that it's only on paper, so I need to find it. If I can find the right notebook before getting too wrapped up in something else, that one might be next.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Perenepsis IX: An Examination of the m2/m3 Scale

Number nine already? Where's number eight? Well, it's also done; I'm just posting #9 before it because I can. No other reason.

Last weekend, it occurred to me to make a scale by alternating minor seconds with minor thirds. This produces a six-note scale, similar to a whole-tone scale, but with every other note raised a half step (or lowered a half step, depending on which note you take as the tonic). This allows for four transpositions. I decided to alternate between the two that include C: C/Db/E/F/G#/A and G/Ab/B/C/D#/E. This leaves out three notes -- D, F#, and Bb (the most common sharp and the most common flat!) -- which I allowed a brief cameo just about halfway through. I couldn't find references anywhere to this scale, although I'm sure someone must've used it before. The other two transpositions are D/Eb-... and A/Bb-... Continuing along the circle of fifths, the next one would be E/F-..., but that just ends up the same as the C/Db scale, etc.

If you look at the score, you can see a G# in one measure with an Ab in the next; this is not just me trying to be annoying (I have more than enough ways to do that already: see note below), but an indication of which of the two above transpositions is in play. Also, there are measures containing both Db and D#, because I didn't want both altered and unaltered notes of the same name within either form of the scale (no C# or Eb, because C and E are in both).

This is my first go at using this scale; I did find an old thing where I was doing scale runs (on electric guitar) that included this scale (among others), but this is my first actual composition using it. I'll probably try it with string quartet, possibly assigning each instrument a different transposition, maybe not.

Next up: The one that comes before this one.

Note: As mentioned above, I have many ways of being annoying. I recently read that a lot of people find the Comic Sans font annoying, so I used it for the title on this video. You're welcome.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Scherzo for String Quartet

This is the fourth movement of my still unfinished String Quartet #3. It was initially going to be the third movement until I decided on a five movement layout. It's pretty straightforward, in A minor, and in 5/8. It's actually the oldest part of the quartet in terms of when the idea began, something I'd played with on the piano for years, not realizing until I started on the quartet that this idea was more suited to strings. And now, it's the first movement finished, as my previously posted first movement is no longer finished -- I'm currently in the process of extending it to balance out the fifth (which is furthest from completion; movements 2 and 3 are close to being done).

Not much more to say about this, other than I really like it. Y'all really need a break from reading after my last couple of posts, anyway:

(Next up: Two more episodes of the Perenepsis series. I hope that doesn't scare anyone away.)