Thursday, July 5, 2018

There Once Was a Sodium Ferret

There once was a sodium ferret,
And I foolishly tried to repair it.
But it fell in the water -- 
Oh, what a slaughter!
Should've stayed with the styrofoam parrot.

The title of this post and the accompanying music came before the limerick. It was initially going to be called Black Cat, due to the 13/4 time signature, but I decided that there are already far too many pieces with that title, and "Walking Under a Ladder" didn't occur to me until much later, so I decided to keep the animal reference but change it to a ferret, and for some reason it sounded reasonable to describe it as a sodium one, but "Sodium Ferret" was too short, so I expanded the title, which in turn suggested a limerick that I then had to write. I'm no Bill Shakespeare, but I think it works, although I'm pretty sure the music works better.

As with Aftermath and Restoration, this started with a bass line that actually predates A&R, going back to 2015. I got the idea down back then and temporarily (I thought) set it up for a quartet of piano, bass, drums and alto sax, fully intending to replace the sax with guitars, more keyboards, etc. Before setting it aside, I added the first three piano chords (but not the three answering ones that are now impossible to imagine not being there), and a "temporary" sax fill that I thought was goofy at the time. About a week ago, I came back to this, added the second three piano chords, extended the initial sax phrase, and realized that I had boxed myself into committing jazz -- perhaps not traditional jazz, but while A&R was toward the rock end of fusion, this is even more heavily tilted toward the jazz end of it. Now, the drumming still needs to be cleaned up, but as this is just a diversion from my more "serious" music... as they say, "close enough for jazz":


Saturday, June 2, 2018

On an Autumn Evening

Okay, so it isn't autumn now, but it was when I started this, so the title stays. It seems that I may have inadvertently written a companion piece to my Riparian Sketch for Small Orchestra -- the two pieces share a similar overall mood, and this one is in D Minor (more or less), the relative minor key to the Riparian's F Major.

While the older piece started with the idea of portraying slowly moving water and goes from sunrise to sunset, this one began with the idea of a meditative piece for piano with strings in the background and, as the title says, is in the evening. Both use a pared down orchestra, but different instruments. In addition to adding piano (initially intended to be the featured instrument), I lost the harp, added some percussion, and trimmed down the winds from 8 to 5 -- oboe, English horn (because I thought I'd be wanting to reach a bit lower than a second oboe could go... and I did!), clarinet, bass clarinet, and flugelhorn (whose part became more trumpet-y later in the piece, and so I changed it to trumpet, using a mute for the parts that had been for the flugelhorn). The only other changes in instrumentation from what I originally had in the score were to drop the marimba and timpani, leaving just a snare drum, triangle, glockenspiel, and (barely used) gong for the percussion section. I resisted the temptation to add more instruments (particularly flute, French horn and either tuba or bass trombone), lest it become too busy and detract from the initial idea; instruments can demand to say certain things (the oboe and clarinet certainly did here), and I had enough going on already for the purposes of this piece. They're also around the same length, with the older piece just a little over seven and a half minutes, and this one just under that. But none of the similarities were intentional; it just came out that way, at least as far as I can tell.

A recurring element in this piece is for an idea to be played three times in succession, with the third occurrence (and often the second, to a lesser extent) being modified, extended, or sometimes hidden among other more prominent parts. I also used something that I've employed in a couple of my larger scale pieces still under construction: doubling one of the inner string parts (usually viola or second violin) with a wind instrument, either to bring out the inner part itself, or to develop that inner line into a theme of its own. I'm sure others have done this before, but I didn't learn it anywhere, it just occurred to me while working on the Frankenstein piece, and once I did it there, it seemed like a natural thing to do elsewhere.

Enough rambling, though... here it is:


This was actually completed in February, with possibly one minor modification made sometime in March or April; not sure why I waited so long to post this (even the above write-up was done back in February), but Windows 10 always replaces the good Movie Maker with the "improved" version on every update, so I have to restore the good one over and over again. Someone tell Billy Gates to cut it out.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Kites (Perenepsis #4)

Yes, this is the long-awaited (hah!) Perenepsis #4, appearing just under five years after Perenepsis #5.  Was time travel involved? Maybe, but probably only in the usual manner of past to present to future. What happened is that this one didn't initially start out as a Perenepsis, but acquired the requisite characteristics along the way, and as I've never been entirely happy with the non-posted original #4 (it has good parts that I'll probably recycle at some point, especially the "chorale" section), this seemed like a better #4 than that one.

The kites referenced in the title are very busy flying back and forth in the sky (where else would they be flying?), a keen listener will detect that most of them end up getting the Charlie Brown treatment, the poor things. More or less, the right hand supplies the breeze that keeps the kites afloat (even if only briefly), while the left hand depicts the kites themselves, but not exactly, and they overlap. That's not at all confusing.

The key is D, but there is no key signature, as it wavers ambiguously between major and minor, accentuated by one of the main themes, which goes up in minor but comes down in major, overshooting the root at the end (D--F--A-F#-Bb). It starts out in 6/8, has a middle section in 2/4, then goes back to 6/8 for the ending.

Inspiration for this piece came from listening to some Sibelius piano works, but don't blame him for this one; all I took was the idea of a quick-moving high right hand with the melody mostly in the left, and then Glornted it all up. The good news is that if you don't like it, it's only 2 minutes long.


Next up: Something for orchestra, along the lines of my Riparian Sketch for Small Orchestra, only different. Still working on the "weightier" ones, getting uncomfortably close to actually finishing one of them. Maybe by this fall...

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Violet

I warned y'all that there were more "color" pieces for string quartet coming, Last year, when I finished and posted Black one day into Lent, I wondered whether I should've renamed it Purple. This year, I started one in Lent, and named it Violet rather than purple, as it employs Violins, a Viola, and a Violoncello -- Purple is for Pianos! So, this was intended as a Lenten piece, but as usual, while it was mostly done during Lent, I kept fiddling with it (pun intended) to the point that the final touches weren't done until a few days after Easter. Still, it is what it is: slow, muted strings in 3/4 time and B minor.

Not much else to say about this one, but I do realize that all three of this collection so far have been rather dark. I'll try to make the next one brighter, but no guarantee. I do have White and Yellow in the works, and ideas for Gold, Blue and possibly Green and Silver (there should be an Orange in there, but I may do Brown instead, and maybe also a Gray; I like brown and gray). Maybe between all of these, I'll get one or two of them done this year, but these aren't the only pieces demanding my attention.


Next up, another piano piece, then something else for orchestra. After that, who knows?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Sketch in F# Minor for Piano

It's been quite a while since my last post -- almost a year -- but I haven't been idle... at least, not completely. I've been working on some larger-scale pieces, and there's another piece for orchestra coming soon (it was actually completed before this one; not sure why I haven't posted it yet), but  last week I picked up this piano thing that I started back in 2013, and decided that it should be done by now. It's the first piece I've written that is intentionally difficult, but as my YouTube description says, I think it's easier to listen to than to play, and y'all only have to listen to it, not play it, so it should be safe. Here it is:


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Black

In the middle of writing Red, it occurred to me that a series of color-based pieces for string quartet might not be a horrible idea. Not knowing how long it would take for me to get around to more, though, I decided not to announce the idea at the time. Even now might be a bit premature, as I don't know if two quite qualify as a series.

Still, the intent is there. I thought that Yellow would be the second installment (and I even have the bare inklings of concepts for Blue and White),but I got an idea for Black a couple weeks ago; when I got back to working on it last Saturday, I ended up completely throwing out what I'd written up to that point, retaining only the tempo, time signature and the key of G minor, albeit with a strong octatonic flavor (Red is strictly octatonic, centered on E).

A long weekend, courtesy of a medical test (I passed!) and Mardi Gras (which I once more successfully avoided) gave me enough relatively uninterrupted time to pretty much finish it yesterday, except for a few minor tweaks earlier today, which I guess makes this a Lenten piece -- maybe it should be Purple instead of Black, but it was written as Black so that's what it is.


Monday, January 30, 2017

Rondo in C Minor


This goes back to 2014, when I got this little idea in 17/8 but set it aside, because I thought the A and B sections of the rondo form were too short. When browsing through scores last weekend, I came across it and realized that these two sections were actually just parts of an overall A section, itself having a form of AAB (the second 'A' a transposition of the first). I came up with a B section (itself AABC, with a similarly transposed repeated A and the B echoing the 'A' part of the slightly shorter overall A section).

The overall structure became AABABA-coda (with no strict repeats, as each occurrence of a section has the left hand do something a little different), the final A blending into the coda.  A brief cadenza-like passage leads to what is here the second of three versions of the ending (longer than the first version but a little shorter than the third).

Originally written out in 17/8, I decided to break it down in order to better show the subdivisions (mostly 4-4-4-5 and 5-5-4-3), and because in the coda there are some 13s, 10s, etc., along with a couple more 17s.  Apart from the rhythmic oddities, however, this is very traditional.