Monday, October 30, 2023

Conversation With a Tree (Oak)

 This one came as a surprise. I was looking through scores yesterday afternoon and came across this one, which was dated 2021, but I had forgotten all about it. It needed just a couple small tweaks, all but one being dynamics and articulation. The only thing that makes sense is that it was written so quickly that I didn't get around to playing with it; I must've  written it all in one or two sittings. And for some reason, it seemed important at the time to specify that the tree in question is an oak. I don't remember why.

The main idea is stated right at the beginning -- an upward minor third, a pretty simple motif. It appears initially in the basses -- B/D (B minor) -- followed by col legno strings to emphasize the wooden nature of trees. It's not just minor thirds everywhere -- other themes appear as well -- but while most of the minor thirds are B/D, the trumpets get it on A/C, there are other, more disguised ones in other keys (including E/G), and finally it lands on F#/A before ending back in B. I could've dissected it and added more detail or expanded it (no percussion apart from a few notes from the piano), but since I didn't really remember all of my thinking at the time, I decided that it was already doing what it was supposed to do, so here it is:

Tuesday, October 3, 2023


 Another color piece for string quartet, this one started while working on Brown. It's in F Major, but it takes a while to get there. The first violin opens with ascending fourths while the second violin traces a G minor chord, with the lower voices providing punctuation between episodes. Then the viola and cello get the melody, this time a winding figure, with the violins providing punctuation, leading to a cadence on F-sharp major. This is repeated with some changes, leading into a brief contrapuntal passage in F major (finally) that ends up landing on an A major chord. Then we go through the thing a third time, this one ending up in a somewhat longer contrapuntal passage leading directly into a short coda that ends definitively in F major. Sounds like a lot of stuff, but it's over in less than two minutes:

Next up will probably be Brown, which will be a little longer and calmer. All that's left is an ending and one bar somewhere in the middle that needs fixing.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Seven Haiku for Oboe

 Inspired by a haiku posted yesterday on a discussion board, I thought it might be interesting to use the 5-7-5 haiku structure to write a short piece of music, and to keep it simple I decided to make it for a solo instrument, choosing the oboe (although the range is such that it could also be played on violin, viola, trumpet, flute or clarinet without transposition). But 17 notes wouldn't be enough, so I made it a series of seven haiku that trace the progress of a day:

I. Dawn

II. Sunrise

III. Mockingbird

IV. Noon Approaches

V. Afternoon Rainfall

VI. The Sun Shines Through Again

VII. Sunset Brings Day to a Close

Each haiku consists of three phrases, containing 5, 7 and 5 notes, in three measures of 7/8, 11/8 and 13/8, except for the final measure in 17/8 to represent the 17-syllable total length of a haiku. 

I know it's not as good as a cat video, but whole thing is only a minute and a half long, so you just as soon listen to it.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Perenepsis XIX (There Are No Words)

 This one has been "done" for a couple months now, and I finally decided to finalize it to prevent myself from continuing to add to it. While it's still a few seconds under 2 minutes, when it was first "completed", it was only a little over a minute and a half; 20-25 seconds might not seem like much, but in terms of percentage, that's about 25% growth, so I had to stop it. That was the right place to stop it, anyway.

This is based on the idea of combining unrelated chords, such as the opening chord, which is simple a B major chord (inverted) over an F major chord (also inverted), which share no common notes. I find it interesting that combining two major chords can produce such a non-major sound. Various combinations are used throughout, some "tame" ones actually sharing one common note (but never two).

As for the subtitle, it has a meaning relevant to the piece. I'll let you guess.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Canzonetta Anachronismo

I meant to have a new Christmas tune written by now, but didn't get around to it, so this will have to do for now; I even used Christmas-y colors (but oranged-up the red a little to diminish the amount of eye hurt)...

The most obvious anachronism here is the Medieval/Renaissance style, but also the use of electric bass within the mix of other instruments: acoustic guitar (which should be a lute), alto and bass recorders, djembe (an African drum more geographically than temporally displaced) and finger cymbals (Middle Eastern... ditto). It is also "out of time" in the sense that it is all in 17/8 -- more or less 4/4 but with an extra half beat in each measure. Note: The choice of instrumentation was not an effort at "diversity"; I just used what sounded best to me.

The copyright label says 2015, which is when I started it; it's been "mostly done" since then. This was starting to become another Baltimore Museum or Art(*) situation, so I figured I needed to finish it rather than trying to make it longer.

(*) I lived in Baltimore for a couple years, across the street from the museum; actually walked through the outdoor display area on my way to school, but I never went inside, because I figured it was there so close I could go any time. When I left, "any time" had still not arrived.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Three Miniatures for Woodwind Quartet

 This one has a kind of strange origin. I started working on something for woodwind quartet, but decided that the idea was too big for just a quartet. At the same time, I had gotten an idea for piano that woke me up one night last week, to the point that I had to get up and write it down so I wouldn't forget. While working on that the next day, I decided to see how it would sound with the woodwinds, but early on made the decision that the woodwind treatment would follow serial rules, which the piano piece (still in progress) did not. 

Meanwhile, I had also recently started something for full orchestra that starts with a loud open F chord -- mostly F's, with only 4 instruments on C (no A's), and so it occurred to me to tack on something in the woodwind piece that opened and closed with just 4 octaves of the same note -- in this case, D. The serial piece and the "4 D's" were the same slow tempo, so I thought it might be good to throw in something between them that was a little peppier, and since the bassoon didn't enter the serial part until near the end, I opened this interlude with something that to me seemed very bassoon-y. Here it is; I've had it up on YouTube for over a month now; not sure I waited so long to put it here:

Monday, July 4, 2022

Perenepsis XXII: Contemplation

 As promised (or threatened, depending on your point of view), here's #22. Apparently, #21 didn't exhaust my desire to repeat notes over and over again. This one maybe presses the point even harder, consisting almost entirely of A's for the first 45 seconds. After a brief diversion to G, it goes back to A before opening up some when it shifts to C. It stays there for a while, then a couple more changes before  the ending. As mentioned in my YouTube description, this is inspired by Gregorian chant, but obviously not an actual emulation of it. The tempo (80 bpm) is a bit faster than #21's 50 bpm, but doesn't feel much faster, because it uses mostly quarter and half notes, with occasional 8ths and only 2 16ths, and it's in 5/4 all the way through -- with the sameness of the notes in the beginning, it felt like it needed an atypical rhythmic flow. This one was finished a couple weeks ago; no need to let it ferment any further.

As for what's next, I have no idea. It could be #19, but probably not. It could also be something for string quartet, but if it's a movement of my String Quartet #3, I think I'll wait until all 5 movements are done (one is done, a couple are nearly done, and two others not quite nearing completion), so it may be just a standalone item, possibly even something for orchestra.