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.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Perenepsis XII: Falling Forth

 Here's the gap-filler to accompany Perenepsis #13, and it's also been finished for about a week. It's probably the most lyrical entry in this series, although I don't think that's exactly what I set out to do here. The subtitle to this one, as with #13, is a reference to the opening idea, this time being a repeated figure of a descending fourth.

This piece starts out as though it's going to be simply a theme and variations, but after four times through the initial 6-bar phrase, there's a contrasting section, then a return to two instances of a four-bar version of the opening theme that is shifted down a fourth (D to A becomes A to E), before a brief ending section that lands on an open A chord with no third in it. The last note before this chord was going to be a C, to strongly suggest A minor, but I changed it to a D to serve as a final "falling forth" to the A; the final chord still has a minor feel to it, but I think the D works better both logically and audibly. 

While there is a good bit of repetition here, no two bars are exactly alike (except at the very end, where the closing chord is held across three bars of 5/4). This one's about a minute longer than #13, but I would say that it's a little less complex, and maybe more relaxing.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Perenepsis XIII: Tapping

 I started this one a couple weeks ago, and was about to title it as #12, then realized that I had started 12 back in June, and I'm not one to change titles once they're given, so 13 comes before 12, but this time the out of order posting isn't arbitrary. #12 is also finished now, but 13 was finished first (about a week ago), so it gets posted first.

Okay, now that the administrative details are out of the way, a little bit about the piece itself. The subtitle will be obvious from the opening. It came together pretty quickly, particularly the overall structure, which is roughly ABACABA, or in more detail, AABBAACCAAABBAA, with a short coda at the end -- yes, there's a third A after the Cs, which will be explained in the next paragraph.

The first of each pair of A's is right hand only, a rhythmic figure without any real melody, with the left hand providing melodic elements in each second (and third) A. The first pair is centered on C, the second on Bb, the first two of the third on D, shifting to G for the third, then back to C for the final pair and then to Bb again for the brief coda. The first set of Bs is centered on Bb and the second on G (following the oddball A section, also in G; also, in addition to being transposed, several of the right hand chords are inverted from their initial appearances in the first B sections). Everything is in 4/4 except for the C section, which switches to 3/4 (although I use off-beat accents to destroy the "three-ness" toward the end) and is in Bb minor, the only part that is unambiguously in a specific major or minor key throughout -- at least, until that final chord before returning to the A theme. I thought about taking this out and making it a separate piece, but decided it fit here and I didn't really feel like turning it into a standalone piece, anyway. 

It's just under two minutes long, but there's a lot going on in this. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Uncertain Time (Perenepsis XI)

I took the day off from composing yesterday, but still had my momentum, so I cranked out another short piano piece, a sort of answer to the previous "In These Uncertain Times". This is what real uncertainty sounds like, not the music in those insipid ads.

The first 11 notes (2 bars) have been in my head for a while, and as they comprise a 3/4 + 5/8 beginning, I thought this could be the start of something to demonstrate uncertainty. The time signature is constantly shifting; two stretches of 3 bars each of 2/4 are the longest it goes without changing (and several pairs of 5/8). The harmony is based on fourths, similar in some respects to my much earlier Allegro in C., including a passing reference to its opening.

For a change, I think I'll have a post in which both the music and the words are brief. You're welcome.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

In These Uncertain Times

It's a stupid little phrase, uttered so often on so many commercials during the hostage crisis. When you're locked up, and there are fewer things to do, there's actually less uncertainty, not more. Also, all times have been uncertain, just in different ways, so I decided to write a little thing to make fun of the insipid piano music that accompanies most of these little nuggets of idiocy. If it doesn't sound mocking, it's because you don't know my feelings about Maj7 chords -- they're not exactly ugly, but to me, they sound weak. They're meant to be transitional chords, not the main event.

Let me backtrack a bit, though. I was back in the score that gave birth to the just posted Emergence, and as I may have mentioned before, I really like stacks of fifths. There are several ways to stack fifths, and one of those is to have two pairs of fifths with the bottom of second pair a major third (in this case, plus an octave) above the bottom of the first. When you do this, you get a Maj7 chord, here it is F Maj7. I wrote the first bar with that chord,then a single note before the second chord, and thought, "Yeah, this sounds like it could be on one of those "In These Uncertain Times" ads in which companies, instead of telling you why you should by their products, tell you that they care. Guess what? They really don't; they just think that if you think they care, you'll fall for their nonsense and buy their stuff regardless of whether it's not very good. And it must work, or they wouldn't keep doing it. Or maybe it really isn't very effective, and their marketing departments are run by morons. Maybe both.

Anyway, it's a throwaway little thing for piano, in boring old 4/4 time in F major with lots of Maj7 chords, written in a couple of hours, although being by me, it did have to spend some time in D minor. For the most part, it's just a calm little piece about the actual lack of uncertainty in these uncertain times.