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A Summer Symphony Mvt. II - Summer Nights

Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by Paul T McGraw, Apr 14, 2019.

  1. It has been a while since I posted any of my own music. I composed "A Summer Symphony" consisting of four movements, between August and December 2018. Since then I have been trying to improve my midi-performance skills, and also getting over some health issues, blah, blah, blah. Anyway, I finally have the second movement ready. By the way, our own Doug Gibson helped with feedback and suggestions during the writing of this symphony. Thank you Doug!

    OK, this is a "slow movement" in modified rondo (ABCAB) form with introduction and coda. The C section represents the fireflies and is my favorite part of this movement. The twinkling sound is a vibraphone, two flutes and a clarinet playing staccato, and the long notes which sound so dreamy are violas and second violins con sordino (muted). Here is the program for the movement.

    "A Summer Symphony" – Fond memories of summer days of youth and coming of age in the 1960's.

    Mvt. II – Summer Nights - Gradually my memories of summer nights of my youth come into focus. The light fades, the sky turns dark blue and the day is over. The fireflies appear and are so beautiful as they twinkle in the dark. It is quiet and cool after the heat of the day.
    Here is link to the score.
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/iz59n37pzer0dj9/Summer Mvt 2 Summer Nights Score - Full Score.pdf?dl=0

    And here is the track.
  2. Hi Paul,

    Very lovely piece. I liked it a lot. Also, I hope your health is okay?

    Compositionally I'm satisfied, I do have some thoughts on orchestration/notation. Now, take all my comments with a grain a salt as alot of them can be arugued and are just personal taste, or I could just be wrong which I'm always happy to admit. As well, what's great is even though my advice some of them is personal taste it's not as if your choices are wrong but the exact opposite, they are your personal tastes and I'm 100% satisfied with knowing that. But maybe something is useful for this piece or future works. All in all though, I really enjoyed your piece and didn't need to say anything below. ;)

    Also, thank you for adding the score. Makes it so much easier for me personally.

    • 1. Dynamics are always up to debate, but personally, I'd write pp for the first bar and the word cresc. then hairpin perhaps on m3 to the mf. It could be my personal taste but I don't like controlling the orchestra with such precise dynamics like you shown on the first page. Now, on the contrary, I love your dynamics and how it breathes, it will sound amazing live, however, the orchestra will pretty much know what to do with even less descriptive dynamic points. Nonetheless, this can be up to debate for endless days lol.
    • 2. Opening horn chorale writing is fantastic. Are you a horn player Paul?
    • 3. Are you sure you want Clarinets in Bb and not Clarinets in A?
    • 5. m10, I've seen Tchaikovsky do exactly what you did here so take it with a grain of salt, but do you need to reinstate PP when you already had PP in the previous measure?
    • 6. m52, the last beat I think can benefit from everyone or at least strings with a tenuto marking for a nice push into the Meno. Just a thought
    • 7. m74. I think solo is better than a1. here since it is your melody and being played soloistic.
    • 8. I love your melody and use of syncopation within your melody. We both share our love for Tchaikovsky and we both know his use of syncopation especially within melodies.
    • 9. m36 I don't think going down to triple PPP is practical and especially cause you're asking them to jump to high B. So I think PP or even P would be better and let the musicians sort it out.
    • 10. m67 you can hide that accidental over the tied note on the vibes that Sibelius (i'm assuming) love's to put that in.
    • 11. Personal taste but on a sweet counter line like this, i'd prefer a2 horns over a solo.
    • 12. m101 I was almost expecting a timpani roll here for a nice swell instead of two more whacks. Maybe one whack and on beat 2 the timpani roll? Just a thought
    • 13. Suggestion doubling clarinets or bassoons with the violas especially cause your divisi them at m 106., and perhaps to balance maybe solo flute to round out the top line of the violins. Then winds out for the last 4 bars.
    • 14. Or on the final chord soft open winds help make it even darker ending on the e minor if that's what your going for.


    Compositionally if I had to give any feedback which I really didn't mind this... but perhaps during your A or A', or even B or B', exploring different keys and modulating. I'm actually thinking more of a classical sonata form like pushing your melody out of E minor into B minor temporarily. Actually, if we are even going more strict you would put your B theme in B minor and then when you come back to your recapitulation you'd then have the B theme in e minor. Basically, on measure 24 I was hearing "v6" chord (minor 5 chord in first inversion so over D) and then your melody would be F# to High F#. Simply you could just go e minor to b minor with no pivot chord, but you could do F#dom7/E to Bmin/D if you wanted to. Something like this would help give it a little more variation and less like a repeat when your in your recapitulation relying purely on your orchestration for variations. HOWEVER!!! That could've been your point! Because you have this story in mind you could've wanted us to exactly hear it again the same because it's important to the story...

    I loved the C section alot. I would've liked more development on the A/B melodies but C still served it's purpose; as well, it was just beautifully orchestrated.

    Excellent piece Paul. I really enjoyed your music and am looking forward to movement 3. Can we expect a scherzo my friend?
  3. Thank you @Dillon DeRosa for listening and especially thank you for such detailed comments. Only on Redbanned can a composer receive such detailed feedback! And hopefully honest feedback.

    You made so many helpful comments it is hard to know where to start. I do not like to cut apart a post and interject comments. Somehow it does not seem respectful to me. So let me know if there is something specific I should respond to that I miss.

    1. Dynamics - I try to be very specific as a help for musicians, especially in sight reading. I still have hopes of a live performance one day, and I might even pay for something like $99 orchestra at some point. I do draw the line at getting as specific as John Williams, but I try to put in what I would want to see if I was reading the part.
    2) Thanks for the comments on the horn writing. I played trombone, mostly in British style brass band, so lots of time spent with brass.
    3) As previously mentioned, I still have hopes for a live performance. I try to use the most typical orchestral forces to make it more attractive to music directors for university or amateur groups. All major orchestras will have clarinets in A, or musicians who can instantly transpose on the fly, but it could be a problem for universities or community groups.
    5 - 6 - 7 - 9) Great suggestions which I will adopt.
    11) Interesting thought. A solo instrument has a different timbre than multiples of the same instrument. Also, modern horns are capable of much more volume than the 19th-century instruments. But I will give this some thought.
    14) I tend towards overuse of the woodwinds, not sure why, so I was determined to use only the strings for the coda.

    I agree that In a true Rondo there should be modulations. I wanted to try for a simpler harmonic language in the movement, to reflect a less sophisticated appreciation of the night, such as I felt when young. You are actually the first person who has noticed this. I am impressed. I could easily modulate for the B section, but should I? How many people even notice these finer points of composition? Anyway, I think you will like the harmonic language in the third and fourth movements.

    The third movement is sort of like a "scherzo" in spirit but not in form. It is titled Summer Pastimes and offers a series of short passages depicting playtime activities of boys (in the 1960s), but always coming back to baseball, which was our default summer activity. If we could not agree on something else to do, then it was time for our never-ending game of neighborhood baseball.

    Thanks again for taking the time to listen and for your detailed comments.
  4. #4 Rohann van Rensburg, Apr 15, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2019
    Lovely piece! I'm looking forward to the upcoming movements.

    I'm afraid I have nothing to offer beyond what Dillon has said, other than simply enjoying it. I appreciate your keeping it tasteful and orchestrationally appropriate.

    It's interesting what you said about modulation for your B section. I did notice that, and I appreciate that it was a deliberate choice meant to reflect the perception of your youth. Not that I'm familiar enough with classical forms, but I imagine the "regular" listener may not notice. But isn't that what those nuggets are in there for? The narrative effect is still there, even if listeners don't know why.

    And only on Redbanned will I click on a post like this and not only find fantastic musical efforts, but also a long list of tips that will take days to work out in my own material.
    Paul T McGraw and Dillon DeRosa like this.
  5. Of course Paul. I especially wanted to take time for you since you're always listening to everyone else's pieces, as well as your incredibly nice.

    I can see your point of view about cutting up comments and it "not being so respectful". But just so you know for me personally I wouldn't of minded or found it disrespectful. Nonetheless, I appreciated how you responded and will show you the same courtesy. ;)

    I think getting a live performance will be so beneficial as well as just amazing in general to hear. I can't wait to hear a live recording of your symphony.

    I didn't want to presume you were a horn/brass player so I asked, but it makes perfect sense to me as I can tell while listening/reading your score that you know your way around brass writing.

    Overuse of winds! Paul that's why I enjoy your music, we need to bring winds back to the forefront! As well, you'll never bore me with winds. I understand now and appreciate why you chose to have the strings only for the coda.

    The first person, do I get a prize? :D Jokes aside, I've been reading and watching a lot of videos about Tchaikovsky because I want to understand more about why he chose to do certain things in his music. So, I respect your choice and appreciate your reasoning most of all.

    I'm excited and looking forward to your third movement! I also love your story and theme of your symphony.
  6. Overuse of winds! Impossible!

    I was just listening to some music from some Japanese TV shows actually, and was sitting here wondering if Japan is where melodic sensibility lives on. I hear winds painfully seldom in new music in North America.
    Paul T McGraw and Dillon DeRosa like this.

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