Sunday, November 17, 2019

Chorale for Brass

This is something I started last year and decided to get back to a couple weeks ago as a break from all the piano music. It consists of three pairs of "episodes", the pairs separated by two short, uptempo interludes (here, "uptempo" doesn't mean an actual tempo change, only a shift from primarily quarter and eighth notes to 32nd, 16th and eighth notes). The "episodes" are so called because, while they have a similar floor plan, they are not variations as such, but are more or less reworkings of the initial idea, more similar at the beginnings, but going in different directions after that.

It starts in A minor (really, more Aeolian mode, after starting off in Dorian mode) for roughly the first half -- all the way through the third episode, shifting to G minor (real G minor this time) for the fourth episode opening with the trumpets (the previous ones begin with the low brass). The G minor persists through most of the second interlude, moving briefly to G Major at the end en route to E minor (again, more of an Aeolian mode than true minor), then on to B minor (more Aeolian again) starting with the fifth episode (back to opening in the low brass); the sixth and final episode acts as a kind of coda, finally ending in D Major.

Gee, with all this detailed description, you can probably already hear it in your head, so there's not much reason to actually listen to it... but just in case you think your imagination may have missed a note or two, here it is:

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Dance of the Cosmic Turnip

No, I don't have a stockpile of turnip-themed music waiting to be inflicted upon the world; it's only two titles that refer to turnips, really! This is the older of the two, written while I was still in school, and I resisted any temptation to extend or embellish the original manuscript. I had completely forgotten about this one until last week when I was working on the recently posted Perenepsis IX. Something about the 3/4 time with a stress on the 2, and the fact that both open with a pair of eighth notes rising by a minor 2nd must've rung a bell. This tune got caught in my head and it wasn't until the next day that I remembered the title, and grinned. I found the manuscript last night -- it's one of my most legible handwritten manuscripts; I obviously used a straight edge for the note stems and beams. No idea why I took such care to make it so neat; I don't think I had anyone wanting to play it.

Also, I didn't realize that my appreciation for dissonance had started so early -- this is from before my introduction to the music of Bartok. And now that I think about it, there are some other early pieces with a good bit of it, too, so maybe it was my attraction to dissonance that led me to Bartok rather than the other way around. Hmmm...

There's no key signature, but if I had to pick a key, I'd say it's in G major (maybe some of those G-flats should be F-sharps instead, but that's how it was written; I don't think I really thought about what key it was at the time). At least it ends there. From what I remember of this piece's origin, I seem to recall picturing a man-sized (some might say "person-sized", but I'm not a brainwashed sheep) turnip with spindly legs, spinning around slowly and awkwardly. I don't expect I'll ever be confused with Levi Strauss 😉, but waltzes and bits of waltz-like material do tend to crop up in my stuff, and this is one of them. It's not a particularly peppy dance, although there is a faster (and rather violent) section in the middle -- it's a turnip thing, don't blame me for that. It also slips into 4/4 for several measures -- another turnip thing; they're not too great at keeping their balance, you know.

Oh, and why a cosmic turnip? It's obvious, really -- regular turnips can't dance.

Next up: This time, I really have no idea. It could be anything. Well, not anything... I can promise it won't be a full-length opera, or live footage from the seventh planet. Anything else is possible. Also, after four posts in less than a week, the next one's probably going to take more than a few days.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Perenepsis VIII: Sand Pudding

As mentioned previously, I could've posted this one before #9, but decided not to, just because.

Anyway, not being based on a weird scale, this one is a little less weird overall than the previously posted Perenepsis that comes after this one. The title might seem to indicate more weirdness, but it's really just meant to describe the juxtaposition of smooth and rough textures employed here, although by the time I got done with it, the smooth parts (based around the opening idea) were a little rougher than anticipated, while the rough parts (where the rhythm shifts from mostly eighths and quarters to sixteenths and eighths) ended up not quite so rough.

After coming up with the title, I decided to see if the term had been used before, and sure enough, there happens to be a type of dessert (or, as its name involves sand, would that be desert?) that alternates layers of pudding or cream cheese filling (as in cheesecake) with layers of cookie crumbs. As it turns out, that's pretty much what I was going for, only for ears rather than mouths, so the title works. Plus, it sounds pretty yummy.

This thing either starts out in C major and ends in G major, or is in G major with a C major introduction; I think it's more the latter than the former. It also makes excursions into Ab, D, B minor, F, D minor, A, Bb and E minor, but not much else. It's in 3/4; I seem to be doing a lot of that lately (Perenepsis IX just posted is also in 3/4, mostly, and even the recent Scherzo for string quartet, although in 5/8, has a "lopsided 3" feel to it), so I should probably move on to some other time signature soon.

I'd describe the overall structure as follows:

A little bit of pudding, then some sand. Then a little bit of slightly fancier pudding followed by two small helpings of contrapuntal pudding, then more sand. Then four different flavors of pudding and an upside down third round of sand. Finally, just a little bit more pudding topped off with a maraschino cherry. I think that's pretty easy to follow, isn't it?

Next up: No idea. Could be piano, string quartet, or brass quintet; probably nothing orchestral for a while yet, as that requires a bit more uninterrupted time. I do have an old piano piece that got stuck in my head recently; I finally remembered which one it is, and that it's only on paper, so I need to find it. If I can find the right notebook before getting too wrapped up in something else, that one might be next.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Perenepsis IX: An Examination of the m2/m3 Scale

Number nine already? Where's number eight? Well, it's also done; I'm just posting #9 before it because I can. No other reason.

Last weekend, it occurred to me to make a scale by alternating minor seconds with minor thirds. This produces a six-note scale, similar to a whole-tone scale, but with every other note raised a half step (or lowered a half step, depending on which note you take as the tonic). This allows for four transpositions. I decided to alternate between the two that include C: C/Db/E/F/G#/A and G/Ab/B/C/D#/E. This leaves out three notes -- D, F#, and Bb (the most common sharp and the most common flat!) -- which I allowed a brief cameo just about halfway through. I couldn't find references anywhere to this scale, although I'm sure someone must've used it before. The other two transpositions are D/Eb-... and A/Bb-... Continuing along the circle of fifths, the next one would be E/F-..., but that just ends up the same as the C/Db scale, etc.

If you look at the score, you can see a G# in one measure with an Ab in the next; this is not just me trying to be annoying (I have more than enough ways to do that already: see note below), but an indication of which of the two above transpositions is in play. Also, there are measures containing both Db and D#, because I didn't want both altered and unaltered notes of the same name within either form of the scale (no C# or Eb, because C and E are in both).

This is my first go at using this scale; I did find an old thing where I was doing scale runs (on electric guitar) that included this scale (among others), but this is my first actual composition using it. I'll probably try it with string quartet, possibly assigning each instrument a different transposition, maybe not.

Next up: The one that comes before this one.

Note: As mentioned above, I have many ways of being annoying. I recently read that a lot of people find the Comic Sans font annoying, so I used it for the title on this video. You're welcome.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Scherzo for String Quartet

This is the fourth movement of my still unfinished String Quartet #3. It was initially going to be the third movement until I decided on a five movement layout. It's pretty straightforward, in A minor, and in 5/8. It's actually the oldest part of the quartet in terms of when the idea began, something I'd played with on the piano for years, not realizing until I started on the quartet that this idea was more suited to strings. And now, it's the first movement finished, as my previously posted first movement is no longer finished -- I'm currently in the process of extending it to balance out the fifth (which is furthest from completion; movements 2 and 3 are close to being done).

Not much more to say about this, other than I really like it. Y'all really need a break from reading after my last couple of posts, anyway:

(Next up: Two more episodes of the Perenepsis series. I hope that doesn't scare anyone away.)

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Seven Intervallic Impressions

Another piano piece, and another slow one, at that? Yep -- guess I hadn't gotten all that out of my system yet, but this one's a little different. I started with a low C and thought, "What now?" Then, "How about if I just go up in alternating minor thirds and fourths, and see what happens?" C, Eb, Ab, B, E, G, then back to C, so 6 notes. I made my way through these six notes a few times, then decided to repeat the process starting on each of the other notes, with some using the minor third first, others starting with the fourth.

But that would be only six, which wouldn't be quite right, so a seventh was added as a sort of coda, going back to C, looping through its notes just once before returning to a final C. It actually ends on a C major chord, but the spacing (both horizontal and vertical) makes it not too obvious.

The general idea had been in my head for a couple of days with none of the above details (don't ask me how that's possible; it just is), apart from starting on a single low note. I started actual work on it last Friday (Aug 16, which was last Friday when I started writing this, really!), just before midnight, and was up until about 3 AM, by which point it was pretty much done. Over the weekend, between doing other things, I tweaked it here and there; with so few notes, the treatment of each one becomes more important -- dynamics, articulation, octaves, etc. I also adjusted the barlines -- originally written out in 4/4, I wanted to more clearly delineate the sections The next couple of days I just listened to it, and yesterday made two final small tweaks (and a couple more while writing this description that is probably longer than the piece itself)..

Structurally, I - III form a group at 50 bpm, IV - VI are a second group at 80 bpm, then back to 50 for VII (coda) -- Roman numerals make them look more important on the score. Each differs in number of notes (from 7 to 36) and beats (5 to 25), and in duration (4" to 31"), but the longest doesn't have the most notes, nor does the shortest have the fewest (I almost said "least", but that would be incorrect). Although each impression contains only six different notes, there are three different sets of six (V and VI are the same sets as I and VII, just starting at different points of the rotation, as is also the case with II and IV). Three notes appear in 6 of the impressions, three appear in 5, three in only 2, and three in just one.

Also, III speeds up rhythmically in anticipation of the tempo increase starting with IV, while VI (using only chords) slows down rhythmically in anticipation of VII's return to the slower tempo. Originally titled "Seven Brief Intervallic Variations", I decided that even with the "brief" modifier, these were something less than variations, so "impressions" seemed a better description.

And now, each one has its own title -- but I'm not going to cheat and count this as seven separate pieces in an effort to help meet my 12 in a year goal:

I. Introduction (31")
II. Oh, There It Is! (10")
III. Call and Response (7")
IV. Catch It Before It Flies Away (13")
V. Don't Blink (4")
VI; Stuck in Traffic (9")
VII. Farewell (15")

If you hit the "play" button before starting to read this, it should be over by now.

Monday, June 24, 2019

January Has a Face Like a Turnip

This posting was intended to be something other than another piano piece, but I was inspired by a brief, unexpected cold (for here) snap to write a little celebration of winter, just as it was officially ending. (Note: This was finished back in March or April; not sure why it took so long to get around to posting it.) It might not sound very celebratory to most, but hey, it's my celebration, so I get to celebrate my way: very slowly, and in G minor. But hey -- at least it's not another Perenepsis, so there's at least that as a difference from the last two.

And then there's the title. I think it's one of my better ones, at least of my posted pieces up to now. It's a true statement. And it's not a put-down of January or of turnips, both of which I like. January is my favorite month; it's one of the cooler ones, a plus in my book, and it's also the month during which I was born, which I consider to have been a pretty decent thing. Turnips are great in a vegetable soup, go good with pork, and add a nice twist to mashed potatoes. Very underrated -- kind of the vegetable equivalent of January.

This started out as a kind of ground bass variations thing, but only the first two bars of the bass pattern actually repeat throughout. Elements of sonata form crept in, and something happened that I kind of like, especially the sequence of chords starting around 2:19. I'm not even sure what to call a couple of those chords, but I like them, and how the whole sequence keeps increasing in density but then ends in just 4 octaves of D in preparation for a return to the tonic G for the beginning of the recapitulation of the sonata aspect of the piece.

I'd like to say what's coming next, or when, but at this point I have no idea. Too many ideas fighting for attention right now -- old ones still in progress, some less old ones near completion, a few recently started ones at an indeterminate state of progress, and some even newer ones that currently exist only in my head, or as scribbles at the end of current scores. If I had to guess, I'd say it's probably going to be another piano piece or something for string quartet, and in terms of when, probably not until July or August, possibly depending on when I take my summer vacation.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Perenepsis #7: Winter Contemplation

Another Perenepsis entry so soon? Yeah, sometimes it just happens. #6 came together in less than a week and this one, aided by a day off for a visit to the dentist, in about a day. It isn't what I started to write, but I shifted gears on it almost immediately, retaining only the first three notes (transposed) of the original idea and decided that I had something coherent that could turn out pretty decent.

As the full title implies, this is a slow, meditative piece, in B. Specifically, the rather neglected Locrian mode... except for when the F-sharps pull it more toward Phrygian mode. Or when the A-sharps make it more of a plain B Minor. Or when the D-sharps skew it toward B Major. Anyway, it's in some form of B. Except for the middle 3/4 section, which is in A... sort of.

Even though #6 and #7 don't sound that much alike, they both fit my hard to explain definition of Perenepsis -- #6 is more along the lines of the original #2 (now #1; I have since swapped the order of the first two, which is not reflected on this site), and this one is closer to #5.

Meanwhile, the piano piece that I started less than two weeks ago, having been pushed aside by these two newcomers, has decided to give it a rest for a while. I'll probably work on some other things while I let it marinate. Maybe something for strings; give the piano a rest for a bit.

Perenepsis #6: Folk Dance(*)

First off, I have to say that the full title here is a compromise. It is a sort of folk dance, somewhat along the lines of Dvorak's Slavonic Dances, but a little distorted, using mostly alternating bars of 11/8 and 10/8, with three sevens and a five somewhere in the middle, inspiring the title "Folk Dance for People With One Leg Shorter Than the Other". However, I realized that some might find this offensive, so I decided to go instead with "Folk Dance for People With One Leg Longer Than the Other", which can't possibly offend anyone, can it?

The rhythmic oddities having already been addressed, this is otherwise just a little piano piece (as implied by the Perenepsis part of the title) in D minor, never straying very far or for very long from the initial idea expressed in the first two measures. If you're familiar with Dvorak's Slavonic Dances mentioned above, you might like this... or you might not. And if you're not familiar with them, the same thing applies, which makes this reference rather superfluous, but I thought this write-up needed a little padding, so there it is.