Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Untitled Prelude

This isn't a prelude without a title; its name is Untitled Prelude, one of my few older pieces that has actually had a title from inception, which I find mildly amusing and possibly a tiny bit ironic. Now, prelude implies that there is something to follow, and there is, something that remains unfinished after years, although I think it's not too far from being done (and perhaps fittingly, it remains unnamed, the manuscripts being labeled simply with a Roman numeral II). This little prelude is in 3/4, G minor (actually, more Aeolian mode except in a couple of spots), mildly contrapuntal, one of my easiest pieces to play, and very brief (as it is an introduction to the unfinished companion piece):

I've always thought that this might be better on organ, but I couldn't get an organ sound that I liked for it on my current setup; I did, however, find this synth sound with an echo effect that suggests a background of running 8th notes; I especially like the effect it gives during the two ritardandos:

Allegro in C

This piece is primarily a reminder that the piano is a percussion instrument, although it loses a little something on a digital piano -- or at least on this one, which softens it and lessens the impact that can be achieved on a real piano. It's a modified sonata form: The primary theme gets a full hearing, but the second theme (in G, as expected) is very brief, with the development starting before its completion (there is hardly any sense of having ever landed in the key of G), leading to a brief false recapitulation in A before the real recapitulation with the primary theme in G rather than C and the second theme in C as it should be, but inverted, leading to a coda that combines the two main themes before working its way back to the home key and ending with an echo of the opening.

While it is in C Major, the harmony is based more on 4ths and 5ths (and by extension, 2nds and 7ths) than 3rds and 6ths. Also, the meter is fairly chaotic -- apart from one stretch of 5 bars in 2/4, the time signature doesn't remain constant for more than three bars at a stretch, shifting more or less constantly between 2/4, 5/8, 3/4, 6/8 and 7/8, but not in any particular order. Texturally, it varies between contrapuntal, statement and response, a few brief passages of actual single-line melody with accompaniment, but it's mostly just pounding out chords. It's fun to play -- not so much technically difficult as it is physically demanding; playing it (correctly) after being away from the piano for a while makes my forearms hurt.

Hmm... this description is almost as long as the piece itself. Enough talk; here it is:

Edit: I tried a different movie maker and got this:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


This isn't one of my earliest pieces and it isn't among the newer ones, either, but this treatment is new. Originally a piano piece, I've always imagined the melody being played by an oboe, and now I don't have to imagine it. What I like about this piece is that while the melody is very expressive, the accompaniment follows a logical, almost mechanical, progression that was like working a puzzle, and yet they seem (at least to me) to fit together pretty nicely. My mom actually prefers it with a flute, so here are both versions:



Sonata in E Minor

This wasn't exactly easy to write, but it went much quicker than most of my pieces. It's a straightforward sonata in E minor with a very traditional harmonic language, the distinguishing feature being its time signature (11/8), which along with the tempo remains constant throughout, the apparent slowdowns being accomplished by the use of consecutive dotted eighth notes.

Why 11? For one thing, I like prime numbers. Second, I have some still unfinished pieces in 5 and 7, so 11 is the next step in that progression. Finally, I saw it as a challenge: to write something coherent in such an inherently unstable time signature. Complex time signatures can generally be broken into subgroupings of 2's and 3's -- 5 is either 2:3 or 3:2; 7 is 2:2:3,2:3:2, or 3:2:2; 11 bumps the possible combinations up to nine. I finished this one before the 5 and 7 pieces even though I started it much later; the decision early on to use the sonata form for this piece helped push it along. I still think the little fugue section in the development could be longer, but I like the transition out of it and don't want to mess with that.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Tale of Two Scherzos...

... or should that be Scherzi? If I was Italian, I might care about that. The word "scherzo" is Italian for "joke", and is the name of a musical form denoting light, humorous pieces, usually in triple time.

Scherzo #1 is one of my earlier pieces, and although it's in 2/4 and in G minor, I always thought it had the spirit of a scherzo even if it's not entirely typical. The form is a simple AABAA, with slight variations in the inner A sections. It employs a dissonant ostinato -- in the right hand throughout the A's and in the left for the B -- but the harmony is very traditional. I've always considered this fun to play but very simple, yet for some reason this is one of the pieces that other musicians seem to like. Here it is:

Scherzo #2 (subtitled "Oops!", my original description of the opening), while showing signs of having the same paternity, is much more recent, having been completed late last year. This one is in 3/8, also in G minor, but much more aggressively dissonant, less formally structured, and a bit more difficult. All of the material is derived from the first 12 bars, the components being (1) the opening "Uh, oh!" idea, (2) stacked fourths, (3) alternating half-step 16ths, (4) repeated 16th note clusters, (5) a chromatic "unwinding" pattern derived from 3, and (6) a slow idea that is a combination of 2 and 5, accomplished not by a tempo change but by shifting from 16th and 8th notes to 8ths and quarters. The ending kind of snuck up on me -- I was working on it during lunch at work one day and when I got to that point, it just hit me that I'd gotten to the end. Here's the piano version:

And here's a synthesizer version that I believe softens the harshness of the dissonance while accentuating the comical nature that may be less obvious in the piano version: