Sunday, December 6, 2020

In Broad Darkness

 My brief YouTube description for this piece is: An ode to 2020 -- sometimes evil is done right out in the open, and people don't see it only because they don't want to see it.

This is not pretty, and it's not meant to be. And while I usually avoid the label "atonal" for any of my works, it does apply here... well, for the most part, at least. There are no "clean" major or minor chords anywhere outside the interlude in the strings (mostly; the oboes double the upper strings for the last two bars of the first half of it) from about 6:55 to 8:31.

Interesting (to me, at least) story about that section: it started as my answer to a question about how to transition smoothly from Bb minor to A minor, and after working that out, I proceeded to D minor, then G minor, and ending at D minor while holding a  G in the bass to help introduce the brass interruption that ends the passage. I thought about removing this passage to use in a new piece, but decided that, even using minor keys, it provided a needed relief to the "noisiness" of the rest of this piece, and it does serve a programmatic function as well, so it stayed.

Another thing is that I divided the violins into four parts rather than the usual two. I started out trying to write the first and second violins divisi, but the phrasing and dynamics of the divided staves got too cluttered, so I just made it four parts. I thought about also dividing the violas and cellos, but thought that dividing the violas would thin them out too much, and didn't need that much harmonic density at the low end.

And about that "no major or minor chords" thing -- there are a few spots where a given group of instruments may be playing in a tonal manner, but apart from the interlude mentioned above, they are always accompanied by other sections playing antagonistic chords (or clusters) to the group trying to be tonal. Generally, if there are 8 instruments playing, there are 8 different notes being played, and not different octaves of the same note. There are very few doubled octaves, as I was mostly trying to avoid emphasis (in the background, at least) of any particular note in the masses of sound. It didn't occur to me while writing it, but I think this piece actually comes pretty close to being an orchestral Perenepsis, but those have so far been limited to piano pieces, so I think I'll keep it that way.

As for the story behind this, I think I'll just leave you with the YouTube description above. If you get it, you get it... and maybe it helps you make sense of this monstrosity. If not, then don't worry about it.

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