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.

Saturday, June 13, 2020


A second piece for orchestra in a row. And this time, it didn't take 9 years, only about two weeks. What happened is that I was working on another recently started orchestral piece, and had a passage for piano that I thought didn't quite fit and also might sound better with brass, so I started a score for brass ensemble, and was going happily along (briefly) until I realized that it needed more than just brass, so it ended up making its way into a new orchestral score the same day it had first surfaced in its original home. It's still predominantly brass, but I let other instruments get in on the fun... but without the piano.

It starts off in A minor, shifts into the relative major of C for a brief fanfare episode in the trombones and trumpet (in 6/8), then back to A minor (and 4/4) for most of the remainder, but when the fanfare material returns, instead of going to C Major again retaining the same key signature, it goes into A Major for a much brighter ending. Some of the woodwinds don't have much to do in this, but hey, at least they got into the game in what was initially going to be just brass.And the first bassoon has what is probably my favorite line in the whole piece. I could probably expand this into a much longer piece, but 5 minutes seemed sufficient to express what I wanted to right now. Maybe I'll come back to this.

As for the title, it possibly does mean what you might be thinking at the time of its composition. Or maybe not, depending on which particular events (or overreactions) you happen to have on your mind. I don't think I'll elaborate further on that, other than to say that it's definitely not about tearing things down.

Sunday, April 5, 2020


This is something that I started back in 2011, but it would be misleading to say that I've worked on it for 9 years. It started off with the flute theme that is now 4'04" into the piece, and gradually grew from there in small spurts, although the overall plan was pretty clear from this beginning. It's been nearly done for at least a couple of years, and as mentioned in the previous post, was mostly done last week. Now it's done. For now.

The title has a double meaning: First of all, the idea behind it is that of different witnesses (instrument groups) giving testimony about the same event -- the overall picture is roughly the same, while details differ. It's not so much a "theme and variations" thing, though, as just a constantly evolving theme. Which statement presents the "truest" depiction of the event is left to the listener.

Second, while it is not exactly a tribute to him or an attempt to write something in his style (I'm not nearly dramatic enough for that, anyway), the initial flute theme mentioned above did remind me a little of Shostakovich, and so the title of his memoir seemed a fitting name for this, contributing to the "testimony" layout of the piece.

The first four minutes are spent building up to the main idea, the first "testimony", offered by the flutes (twice). It then goes to the clarinets, the bassoons extend it a little, the oboes offer a faster version, and after a percussion/low brass/flute interlude, the trumpets get it, then the horns, and finally the strings (which had participated in the introduction along with the horns, tympani and harp, but hadn't gotten to "testify" yet).

After brief, overlapping statements from the flutes and oboes, the strings get it again, leading into a fugal section based on an "energized" form of the "testimony" idea. From there, well... you just have to listen. At a little more than 16 and a half minutes, for once the music is actually longer than the comments describing it. You're welcome... I think.

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.