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A Summer Symphony Mvt. III - Summer Pastimes

Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by Paul T McGraw, May 1, 2019.

  1. I composed "A Summer Symphony" between August and December 2018, but have just completed a midi performance of this movement. Here is the "program" for this third movement.

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

    Mvt. III – Summer Pastimes – In my youth, we boys hung out together every day. We played at war, and hunted for snakes and other critters. We had bicycle races that zoomed around our neighborhood. But most of all, we played never-ending games of baseball. Every day we played baseball!
    This form is a sort of lopsided Scherzo. The Opening theme (messing around with friends) is heard in bassoon then clarinet. Next, we have the baseball theme in the strings. At 1:20 we hear music depicting racing bicycles. Unlike a true Scherzo, the initial material is not repeated exactly but developed and expanded. Baseball is just baseball, but when it returns it is in winds, then in brass. Hopefully, the expansion and development of the "messing around with friends" theme depicts activities like playing at war, hunting snakes and critters, and the occasional dispute between friends.

    I would appreciate your comments, good or bad. The score is posted below.

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/j863xk1zr29jme1/Summer Mvt 3 Summer Pastimes score - Full Score.pdf?dl=0
  2. This playful piece made me smile, Paul! Thanks for sharing. I liked the "ball game" nods, while deftly making it part of your own story.

    My only disappointments on first listen are (1) triangle seems too intense in first couple minutes and (2) the bouncing strings steal focus from the initial bassoon statement. Would be nice for both of them to fall to the background a bit either by dynamics adjustment or smoothing the lines while the bassoon is speaking.

    Nice job. I look forward to secondary listen a bit later.
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  3. Great suggestions, thank you!
    John Eldridge likes this.
  4. PAUL!!!

    I must've missed your post this yesterday but I'm so glad it's the first thing I heard this morning with my coffee. This is my favorite movement so far as you probably would've assumed. I love scherzos!

    Paul, I really don't have any feedback besides praise. You are really good at developing Paul, and your orchestration was brilliant. You kept it fresh and with forward momentum the whole time. Serious, you can really teach all of us how to develop and we should all really look at how you're developing your simple idea in this movement alone. Brilliant!

    My one suggestion as I was listening & reading your score as this is something Tchaikovsky would do.

    In bar 111 you have this String run down with the Violas / Celli, and Basses. This is perfectly fine, but the second time you repeat this at 113, changing it to detache instead of a slur will give it just a little more forward momentum to really push us in to bar 114. Perhaps even to go a little further accent on the Basses but you do have the low brass and bassoons playing it as well so perhaps that's unneeded. Honestly, this just a small micro suggestion as I just know Tchaikovsky likes to do minor stuff like this and I thought I'd share it with you in case you haven't thought about it. Although, I imagine you have since this orchestration and piece is brilliant.


    I enjoyed the Triangle, although in a mixing standpoint I do think it's quite loud and up close so it's quite piercing to the ears with the high frequencies whereas in a live setting it would be just fine.
    Paul T McGraw and John Eldridge like this.
  5. Lovely! Thank you for sharing. Do you have another movement coming? Would love to hear them all back to back.

    Clever use of the baseball reference, that was easy to catch and you varied it well. I have no real advice, your writing is well beyond mine. I love the feeling of adventure -- it's the kind of childhood I really hope to be able to give my kids, full of exploration, learning to navigate the world, plentiful lessons from nature, and learning to negotiate among peers, rather than living vicariously through shiny portable rectangles. I look forward to more, if you have more!
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  6. @Dillon DeRosa you are way too kind. I love hearing such thoughtful praise, but I'm not sure I deserve it. :)

    I have toned down the triangle and adopted your detache suggestion. It is hard to hear the difference, but it is now there. Thank you so much for the detailed feedback and suggestions.
    Dillon DeRosa likes this.
  7. @Rohann van Rensburg thanks for the feedback. Getting comments like yours means a lot to me.

    Like you, I worry that kids are not getting enough exposure to the outdoors, nature, and learning to be independent. Boys have almost no unsupervised time these days. How can they learn to be self-reliant? Technology is wonderful. Without modern tech, I could not compose and hear the music I have written, enjoy forums like RedBanned, and make friends around the world. But do we fully know and understand the price our society is paying for all of this high tech?

    I do have a fourth movement written for this symphony. I am in the process of doing a midi-performance and will post as soon as possible. The fourth movement focuses on the transition that every boy experiences from childhood to your adulthood. Hopefully, it will have a few surprises!
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  8. Ah, Paul McGraw music, and obviously so already from the first two measures. Pure joy. Fantastic work, Paul. I don't have any comments for the composition.

    The mockup sounds pretty good. At 2:20 or so the low brass sounds a bit too machine-gunny, maybe you'd want to use shorter shorts, or use TM patches if that's Berlin I'm hearing.

    The mix sounds great. Natural and wide (I personally like a bit of mojo on top with hints of compression here and there), but everything here is in balance. Well done! One minor annoyance is the triangle; it rings out a bit too much. I don't think you should lower it down, if you want it to still be present and punchy, try dropping a compressor on it. Have a higher attack and shorter release, and adjust the threshold so you get ~5 dB gain reduction. That should make it snappy so everyone knows its here, but the resonating tail should be then ducked down. You could use the same technique for piatti if you wish.
  9. Paul, its a pleasure to listen to your latest creation. Great orchestration and meticulous detail in the score. It sounds like you've absorbed quite of bit of Dvorak's orchestration techniques particularly in terms of colors and variation. And I think you've captured your intended atmosphere of boys playing most effectively with the simple themes and the various ways you develop them. However, were are the girls? : ) They must've played a small role at least and could have provided some nice contrast in your Scherzo. Back then, girls were still different, but maybe we're entering politically incorrect territory here ripe for attacks from SJWs so its possibly best you've left them out.

    Yeah, kids are over sheltered these days and technology often gets used in poor ways in the beginning but those are human choices, not due to the tech itself. You've shown a wonderful example here of a great use of technology. And 66 years young too. If only more kids would use technology to make music rather than as 1st person shooters the world could be different.
  10. Glad to hear it! Eagerly awaiting the fourth movement, whenever you're ready.

    I honestly don't think the net effect of the digital age has been all that wonderful, in terms of what is capital-G Good for us as human beings. In the end it comes down to our responsibility -- I was the generation digital-tech-without-boundaries was tested on (though my parents were smart and suspicious about it), and having learned the hard way, will do all I can to ensure tech doesn't fallaciously usurp the role of nature and the real world in my own children's growing up (after a great deal of thought, I'm also adopting Mike's policy of great/classical works in the household). Tech is a useful tool, but there is an awful lot of room for vice and no inherent virtue in it. Fortunately, there are influential people figuring this out and not disregarding wisdom.
    But I digress! I love the feeling of simpler, more "real" times in this movement. All that to say you did a great job musically, but especially with the affective, down-to-earth nature of the piece.
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  11. @Aaron Venture thank you so much for your comments, and BIG THANK YOU for the mixing tips. I am always recommending you to folks for mixing (for a fee of course). I know you are very busy (your own sample company, pro mixing work, life) so it means a lot to me that you took the time to listen and respond.

    My hearing is getting worse. I can not hear the triangle at all. Nothing. It is like it isn't even there. I cannot distinguish between an oboe and a trumpet. But enough complaining. I simply mention that to say that I have to really struggle with mixing.

    I love the dry samples, like the VSL instruments and your brass, but I am moving towards wet libraries because I am thinking if I balance dynamics with metering and use room mics (tree) for everything it should sound at least OK, even though I cannot hear the details. Crazy I know. I love the VSL woodwinds, but I will probably switch to using the Spitfire woodwinds or else buy the Berlin Woodwinds because they are already wet.

    I am going to give your suggestions a try, and possibly add just a touch of final reverb as glue, then will post the results.
    Aaron Venture likes this.
  12. @Gregory D. Moore it is great to hear from you as always. As far as the girls were concerned YOU NAILED IT. I was thinking of including something about the girls, but decided that in the current culture, it was best just to skip over anything about the girls.

    In any event, in my neighborhood in Atlanta, the interactions between boys and girls were extremely limited. Moms kept a very close eye on the girls. The girls did not come outside much, and when they did, one of the Moms kept a careful watch. If the Mom saw one of the boys talking to one of the girls the Mom would shoo the boy away in a very angry fashion. So not much interaction between the boys and girls in my neighborhood.
  13. Paul! This is great! A really fun, bouncy piece with an indefinably nostalgic vibe.

    Of course you can say this about any mock up, but I'd love to hear this played by an actual live orchestra!
    Although your performance and shaping of expression is wonderful I still feel it lacks a certain boisterous expressivity that could probably only be attained by live performance. However that might simply be my own fondness for messiness speaking!
    Please don't take that as a criticism though. As for actual practical criticism, I really can't think of anything!

  14. #14 Rohann van Rensburg, May 4, 2019
    Last edited: May 5, 2019
    @Gregory D. Moore This forum is wonderfully free of such nonsense; in fact, I think its chief virtues are built around the ideas of honesty, respect and accountability, things there are little of in the current political climate (on the internet, at least). My biggest irritation is that people pay attention to and care about the incessant, nonsensical and meaningless offense that politically-driven, tribal kids constantly shriek about. Why care about that which is self-contradictory and meaningless, about ideas that refuse to be defended logically? As you may be aware, universities are already a far cry away from the principles that inspired their founding (freedom of speech, freedom of intellectual position, etc), and because they've bought into nonsensical political rhetoric, are quite literally plunging into irrelevance. This is art, and it's about where and who we are (or were, in this case) as expressed through music. I sincerely hope no one here allows a fear of offending irrational kids (many my age, for the record) to inform what they write, how they approach music, and consequently, how they think.

    @Paul T McGraw Could have fooled me on the mix, it sounds great!
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  15. That you for your support and I appreciate where you are coming from. @Gregory D. Moore is a dear friend and very helpful. I am positive that Greg was simply trying to be helpful and supportive by helping to lead me away from a problem I do not need. So no need to be down on Greg. He is a great person.

    I certainly agree with your comments about the state of affairs in our world today. It makes me sad to see our culture "slouching towards Gomorrah." That is the title of a book by Robert Bork and it seems to sum up the cultural situation very well. Anyway, thank you for your support. Let's not turn this into a political thing, please.
  16. #16 Rohann van Rensburg, May 15, 2019
    Last edited: May 17, 2019
    My apologies, Paul. My intention was never to come across as antagonistic to Gregory, nor to turn this into a political discussion. I think most of us are on the same page when it comes to nonsensical extremes. I apologize if I came across as disrespectful. My concern, which I do think is relevant to the forum and to composition broadly, is that I hope no one is allowing the political climate to inform their composing negatively. I think Gregory's comment was likely not all that serious either, but politics creeping into art negatively is still an issue, if small in comparison to i.e. the Soviet Union (far left politics are strikingly similar to Marxism, but I digress).

    @Gregory D. Moore I apologize if my comments came off as aggressive or directed towards you, that wasn't my intent. Your comment mostly got me thinking about the idea that the current political climate does indeed create fear among people.
    Paul T McGraw likes this.

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