Monday, January 19, 2015

Sketches for String Quartet: No. 3 - Lacerta

Not much more to say about this one; as mentioned earlier, this was my fourth start at the third sketch. It's in 4/4, E major, and opens with overlapping double-stopped fifths, as does the nearly completed 2nd movement (or possibly 4th, depending on whether I rework the first) of my String Quartet No. 3. The difference is that the SQ3 movement is in B Major, and its opening chord is built top to bottom, and played pizzicato, while this one is built bottom to top, and bowed.

This should've been posted over the weekend, but a furniture-related adventure took more time and energy than anticipated. It'll probably be a while before the next posting; hopefully a matter of weeks rather than months. Maybe I'll dig up one or two older pieces if work on the new stuff slows down.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sketches for String Quartet: No. 2 - Passacaglia

Continuing with the series of sketches for string quartet, this is an odd little passacaglia in G minor... if it even really is a passacaglia. It is odd -- the ground bass pattern (in 3/4, as it should be) in the cello is 3 bars long rather than the more usual 4 or 8. At under a minute and a half, it's also little. The passacaglia part may be less certain, as it's not so much a series of variations over a ground bass as it is independent parts layered over it. The ground bass pattern is played a total of seven times: first, unaccompanied, then with the second violin joining in, then adding the viola, then the first violin. They all continue through the fifth time, and then the four parts come closer to playing together for the sixth, which -- the note values of the cello part being doubled -- is six bars rather than three. The seventh time through returns the voices to their previous independence, and then it wraps up with a brief coda.

So, even if this isn't a real passacaglia, I'm still calling it one, because that's what I meant for it to be. It came together the quickest of the three completed so far, all changes after the hour or so after starting it being mainly phrasing and dynamics, with just a minor change to the viola part in the coda later on. It's probably also my favorite of the three, although the soon to be posted #3 has been growing on me.

One final change that I decided not to make involves the very last chord. It's technically an inverted E-flat major chord, but is in effect G minor with an unresolved augmented fifth. I played with the idea of having the second violin move from its E-flat to D at the very end, but while it sounds nice, I decided that the unsettled feeling of holding the E-flat just fits the overall mood of the piece better.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Sketches for String Quartet: No. 1 - Spring

First of all, although this piece was finished on December 28, I didn't intentionally hold it back in order to pad my 2015 numbers -- really! It's just that the Blogger format forces me to post them as videos (there's a workaround, but I don't feel like going through that, either), and I'm still getting used to the new version of Windows Movie Maker; the one on my old XP machine was so much easier to use. And then there was the problem of finding the right pictures for it; I think for the next one I'll go back to just slapping a title on a background.

This is what was initially going to be part of a single piece entitled Three Sketches for String Quartet, but around the time of my previous post, I decided to split them into separate pieces, for a few reasons. First, I'm calling them sketches rather than movements of a real string quartet due to their short length and the lack of any real relationship between them. The first two were essentially done shortly after I started them in 2013, but I made several different starts on the third, and had gotten to thinking that it might take some time for the third to let me finish it. Also, looking back at the four other starts for the third sketch, I thought I could develop one or more of them into further sketches, but I'm not sure whether it will stop at seven, or if working on these other fragments might give me further ideas, so I can't put a number on the collection yet. I'll just post them in the order in which they're finished.

As mentioned above, the first two were essentially done back in 2013, but in anticipation of posting them, I did make a few final tweaks (mainly to this one), and the third was finished on the 28th, so I'll be posting each of these shortly.

So, why post a piece subtitled "spring" in the middle of winter? Simple -- the spring in the title isn't the season; it's meant as both a verb and the mechanical device. It's in 4/4, and is sort of in C major, but with a lot of chromaticism. This rendering is not really correct, because my sound library doesn't include sul ponticello strings (the lack of snap pizzicato, col legno, and non vibrato is also annoying, and glissandi are not realistic enough). Also, on the final chord I've gone back and forth between having it bowed or plucked, along with some combinations of the two, but here it is for now: