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.)