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.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Perenepsis XXI: Fulcrum

 Now that I've decided not to let #19 hold things up, here comes more stuff, also finished about a month ago. This piece is based on the idea of keeping one note constant while moving other notes around it, hence the subtitle. The static note does change over the course of the piece, so as not to limit the range of notes used, and there are passages that don't repeat/hold a common note, but that's the overall idea. The tempo is slow (50 bpm), so even 16th notes don't seem very fast, which is why I had to resort to 32nd notes in places -- and even those don't seem too quick. I guess it's mostly in D, but wanders a good bit -- each note of the D natural minor scale serves as the "fulcrum", most multiple times. In fact, the final chord is technically an inverted F major chord, but the lead-in to it makes it sound more like a Dm7 with a missing root, so yeah, I'd say it's in D minor overall. Not much more to say about this one:

I'll probably be posting #22 tomorrow; meanwhile,  #19 continues to be a problem child.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Perenepsis XX: Beach Music

First of all, about the subtitle. This probably isn't what most people would think of as "beach music", but it is, in the sense that it could be played at a beach -- if you're willing to risk all that salt air ruining your piano. Otherwise, it probably doesn't make much sense, but it's mine, so I can call it whatever I want, and I'm getting tired of the "not a waltz" gag (by the way, this isn't one, either, despite being in 3/4).

There are two gaps here -- first, the almost eight month gap from my last posting. Again, it's not that I've been doing nothing, just that I didn't happen to finish anything during that time... well, except for this one, which has been finished for about a couple of months, which leads to the second gap.

My previous post was #18 in the Perenepsis series, and I'm skipping straight to 20 -- what's up with that? That's part of the reason for the time gap; I thought I'd be done with 19 before now, but there are still some things to be worked out in that one, and I now have three finished pieces that are being held up (#s 21 and 22 are also done). I remembered how long the gap between 3 and 4 was, and #5 (and maybe a couple others) ended up being done before #4, so this isn't just me posting out of order just because I can (which I've done before), I just happened to finish these and don't want to hold them up when I don't know how much longer #19 will take, especially considering that I might leave 19 alone and work on some other things for a while.

As for this piece itself. the three opening chords serve a specific purpose. The piece is based on a D7sus4 chord -- DACG (from bottom to top). It could be any of several modified chords of other keys, but in order to give it context, I followed the opening chord by Gm then A7, to make it clear that the key is D minor. The overall form is ABA, with the B section being kind of a development section and the second A a moderately ornamented repeat of the initial A section, except finishing back at Dm (without the 7th or 3rd, but with an added 4th) instead of Em as the first A section does . The A section itself is based on exploring the opening two-bar idea (after the intro chords) of quarter, dotted quarter, eighth, dotted half, a very simple little motif. I almost decided to go in another direction around the 3 minute mark at that Dm9 that resolves down to a plain Dm, but then realized that if I just went into a final cadence there I had something that was balanced nicely into thirds. Plus, by that point I had already started on #21, and wanted to finish this one. Also, although the piece is in 3/4 overall (but, as previously mentioned, not a waltz), each section, including the intro, is set off by ending in a bar of 5/4. Why? Because I liked the way it sounds that way.