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Debussy Homage Mov. 1 - FEEDBACK APPRECIATED

Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by Doug Gibson, May 1, 2018.

  1. I have been commissioned to write a guitar quartet homage to Debussy.

    This will be premiered in Rubert Murdoch's concert hall.

    I would be most grateful for any feedback.

    It does not even have to be technical. I am interested very much in what you would think if you were listening in the
    concert hall.

    Pretend it's a game show called "hit or shit" if you will.

    The piece is called "Dialogues with Debussy" and I am using kind of a Pictures at an Exhibition approach. So you will hear
    a short "Dialogue" then the first movement plays.

  2. Beautiful. I enjoyed it from start to finish. I hear the music as being completely coherent, all it's aspects work together with nothing out of place. I think it will satisfy to a wide-range of musical tastes in the audience.

    I really like the sound of the grace notes.

    I was surprised to hear the F# in the Bari as the final note rather than letting the listener bathe in sound of the previous chord, which sounded final enough. Though maybe at pppp was louder than you would like in the mock-up, so there would only be a hint of it.

    In school I hung out with several classical guitar majors and never realized until then how difficult that instrument is to play with clean tone production. A wonderful instrument not heard enough.
    John Eldridge likes this.
  3. Thanks for your comments ! I appreciate it.

    Anyone else able to give a listen and comment...... please !
  4. I think it's a very lovely piece!

    I first listened while viewing the score and that distracted me. So I put on the earphones and closed my eyes and let it take me. I listening three times before then going back to the score...

    It's awesome. I also enjoyed the grace notes, as well as the arpeggiation across all the guitars at m.45. Nice playful staccatos at m.59 and really cool when they play against triplets at m.63.

    p.s. I always read your posts--I learn so much from them. Thank you!
    Doug Gibson likes this.

  5. Hello John

    Thank you very much for your kind words. Both regarding score and the posts.
    I hope you have not learned to be an asshole like me from reading them.

    Thanks again, and I do hope I get the chance to return the favor and hear one of your pieces in the near future

  6. Too funny, Doug! :)

    Kind regards,

    -- John
  7. Congratulations on the commission and thanks for sharing it with us!

    Since I'm not familiar enough with Debussy's work to comment on whether it fits the homage criteria, the best I can offer is my thoughts as a listener in the hall. So the things I react to may be spot on Debussy nods that absolutely need to remain, so filter as appropriate.

    Dialouge 1
    m.1-7: Killer. I'm settling into a warm blanket of guitar coziness.
    m.8-10: Is this foreshadowing something to come? This took me out of the coziness.
    m.11-17: Actually all is well.

    I. Valse Triste
    m.1: Nice opening.
    m.3: Really liked that passing bass tone into bar 4. I kind of missed not hearing that motion continue because it's really beautiful.
    m.14+: like the grace note action. Would be really fun to hear this live.
    m.40-45: like the build and release here.
    m.81-94: still got that base statement here, so there is an anchor but harmonically pushing out and I'm starting to have trouble following here. I think that's an intentional build of tension, but the relatively "poco" acceleration makes it unclear if I'm supposed to be keeping up. Might be too cliche/cheesy to make the acceleration more pronounced in this section, but I think I would have enjoyed this part more if it built to frantic tempo to match the chord tension.

    After finishing part 1, I didn't see the connection to the modulation in bars 8&10 of the Dialouge 1. Are they connected to something else coming in later parts or did I just miss it?
  8. I'm pretty damn far from being familiar with Debussy and I might not really be the audience for this type of piece, so take that into account.

    I didn't get it at a first listen. Was kind of lost after the first page of Valse Triste. On a second listen, I got to m.85 before getting lost. I only got it on a third listen, and on a fourth listen I could follow along from the start. Now I think it's good. Great to see you practicing all that you preach.

    Now, I have about a year or so of actually critically listening to classical music. Before that, I would almost never listen to classical. I haven't transcribed much, and never tried to write anything classical. I'll never get another "first listen" on your piece to see if my reaction changes if you make any changes at all, but here's what I think might have helped me stay along with you more on that first listen:

    I'd repeat measures 2-9, with not too many changes and developments. That part is really cool and I too like the bass part like John above stated. I'd love to hear it once again. Scratch me there and then I can move on. I feel that would make it easier for classically-illiterate kids like me latch onto your piece more easily. Here I am after nearly half a dozen plays and that's the one part I'm actually humming.

    Is that not-really-Debussy? Would Debussy move on immediately like you did? I don't know, I didn't even listen to all of Debussy's stuff, never mind transcribed any of it, so I don't know the reasoning behind your decisions in this piece - that's a mystery to me still and is probably not up to the number of times I listen to the piece.
    Doug Gibson and John Eldridge like this.
  9. #9 Doug Gibson, May 10, 2018
    Last edited: May 10, 2018
    If anyone has any feedback...... would love to hear it.

    @Mike Verta
    Something(s) is off and I am trying to put my finger on what it is.

    Ps. Context of the piece:

    I have been commissioned to write a guitar quartet in homage to Debussy.

    This will be premiered in Rubert Murdoch's concert hall.

    I am interested what you would think if you were listening in the
    concert hall.

    Pretend it's a game show called "hit or shit" if you will.

    Other works by Debussy and De Falla will be on the program too

  10. Again, layman' ear, if that's any worth to you:

    I kinda dozed off at 2:40. I had a feeling something was coming again but that part just didn't play into it, it was just... boring. If you need to have that part, maybe ascending quavers played by the third and 4th guitar on beats 2 and 3? That's what I hear in my head.

    I feel completely fine jumping from 215 to 237.

    Hopefully someone else will have something more concrete to say. This piece is just beyond my level.
  11. We like sleep.

    I can see that. Your comment makes sense to me.

    I hope so too. Your comments have been very helpful. Thanks !

    That's bullshit. Very helpful to read your comments, and I don't really believe in "Levels"

    I earned my coffee mug for a reason you know.
    Aaron Venture likes this.
  12. Hey Doug, I'm studying your piece. When's the deadline to have it out for rehearsal? I'll have some comments later today.
  13. That would be fantastic. Deadline is @ the 17th of this month.

    If it helps at all here is the whole first draft.

  14. @Doug Gibson I just saw this today, or I would have responded sooner. I am not a big fan of Debussy, although I can usually appreciate most of his work.

    First of all, congratulations on completing this major project with a very credible and attractive composition. The harmonies are almost always reminiscent of Debussy. But thankfully, you stop short of creating a caricature. The piece can stand on its own artistic merit. In general terms, I think the piece gets stronger as it progresses. The guitar writing certainly seems to sound more comfortable and more characteristic later in your work. The texture you create starting at measure 241 of Mov. 3 is very pleasing and sounds very characteristic for the instrument.

    Since the guitar sounds an octave lower than written, it is easy to fall into a trap of muddy harmonies caused by low notes too closely spaced. This happens a few times in your piece but is only an issue when more than one guitar is playing chords. Page 33 is an example. The actual harmony is lost to my ears. I just hear a blur. I think you were alluding to the Sunken Cathedral, but in my opinion, it would work better if you could somehow make sure there is space in the lower harmonies. Or perhaps it is just the reverb in Sibelius. Hard to tell. If you were not alluding to "Sunken Cathedrals" then I am totally at sea. :)

    Since I know you do not like repeating material, I very much like the idea of using the concept of the promenade as in "Pictures." Excellent idea, and gives the listener navigation points. Congratulations on a wonderful composition!
    Doug Gibson likes this.
  15. Hey Doug, congrats on the commission! I've listened to the whole thing once and the outer movements twice (and tried to notice the differences between the iterations you uploaded). I know you want some composition feedback, but I'll start with the score/notation from a performer's perspective (understanding that it is a draft, but 1-week out). I don't know if all of the "slurs" are intentionally placed (I'll send specific feedback in a conversation thread - but slurs with pizz I don't understand what you mean?), and some of the rhythms are awkwardly notated (triplet dotted-quarters in 3/4 time, why not just 3-quarter notes?). Also, throughout, there's "Dialouge" when I think you mean "Dialogue" (you spelled it correctly in the thread). There's a couple of other nitpicky things like that I'll mention in the private conversation.

    As for the music: I think the 2nd movement is the most direct "homage" and it comes across very well. The outer movements have the flavor, but less pronounced. I feel those movements have more Spanish impressionism (and even Ravel) than Debussy, but that's fine because they were all cross pollinating in Paris at that time (and the obvious connotations of "Classical Guitar = Spanish" to some people). In my opinion, take it or leave it, I'd leave the 2nd and 3rd movements alone and revisit the waltz. It's the first impression (I mean homage!) and the rest sounds great.

    I think stacked up on a concert with other works from this period, you hit a lot of the right characteristics people are anticipating: extended harmonies, parallelism, exotic scales, obfuscated rhythm/meter, shimmering high timbres, etc. I especially like the moments where the harmony/melody are more explicitly based in the "whole-tone scale." There are some rhythmic challenges for the ensemble when you have that much rubato with metric independence, but they're top-notch chamber performers and that's the joy of seeing a piece like this come together.
    Doug Gibson likes this.
  16. Great ! I'll look forward to it !

    Thanks again !
  17. I was 100% alluding to Sunken Cathedral. :)

    We are completely on the same page.

    Thank you very much for listening and your comments/feedback.

    I plan to revise the work over the weekend, so these comments have been tremendously helpful !
  18. Everything you mentioned is great ! Just FYI, and not saying this is a "smart" thing to do, but slurs with a pizz. is totally do-able on guitar.

    Pizz. on the guitar means similar to "palm mute". The hand goes on the bridge and the thumb is used to pluck the string. The underside of the
    hand mutes' the string produced a quasi "Pizz" sound.

    After that, the slurs are basically left hand pizz. as you would find in say Paganini's 24th caprice. (or thunderstruck)

    The only issue is volume, otherwise it is a very "Van Halen" thing to do.
    Bradley Boone likes this.
  19. That's great info to know. My guitar notation skills are pretty limited and I learned a lot reading through your score.
    I work with many fine guitarists, but classical literature isn't their normal performance mode. @Brian Bunker is an old colleague of mine, and accomplished guitarist, who would have more to say about the instrument specific items than me. Hopefully he catches this thread, but that's another tool I'll add to my tool kit.
    Doug Gibson likes this.
  20. Your profile privacy settings prohibit private conversations, so I'll dump it all on here.

    Here's a short list of stuff I saw in the score. Some of it is preference, and surely would get cleaned up as the piece gets finalized. I didn't get deep in the weeds with things like "does this motif/figure match an earlier statement" throughout the whole score, but I mention a couple. Your score looks great, I especially like the bold tempo text. The technique and expression text (and some lines/slurs) are a little hard to read at that resolution, but probably look good printed. Hope some of this helps.

    pg.3 m.6 - the fermatas in the lower voices with movement in the upper on beat 4. This is a passage that is tricky on a first read because everyone doesn't have the info about the other parts. No obvious fixes (ossia measure...cue in upper voice of parts 3 & 4...two tied quarters with fermatas on both...none look as elegant as what you wrote, but may give them a heads up that something is happening on beat 4) [See also pg.35 m.31]
    pg.6 compare slurs in m.30 w/ m.33
    pg.9 compare slurs in m.70 w/ m.71
    pg.9 m.81 is slurred in part2 but not in m.85
    pg.13 m.11 in part4 - the quarter rest is blocked.
    pg.17 m.25 - this is where the odd triplet figure shows up. why not 3 quarters?
    pg.19 m.70-71 - I prefer not to use half rests in 3/4 time, but I have seen it either way. If you do change it here, then change for subsequent statements.
    pg.19 m.72-73 - the figures preceding this had slurs on the minor 3rd figure
    pg.20 m.89 - the accent grouping in the top voice isn't mirrored in the 2nd voice
    p.22 m.117-118 - the rests at the end of the bar
    pg.23 m.132 - this looks strange to me. I think it is the quarter on the "and of 2" (maybe 8th-tied-to-quarter or a dotted-quarter instead?). Also, why follow this with three bars of sustain AND a long fermata. Would the long fermata alone convey the same idea? I get that you want the sound to decay (probably to niente).
    pg.24 m.153 - should be a dotted-quarter in this bar like the preceding (see also m.157, etc)
    pg.24 m.164 - you beamed all 6 16ths in this statement of this broken chord, but not the earlier statements.

    View attachment 418
    This is a Sibelius quirk, but it is a real pain to get the slurs to go under the grace notes (turn off magnetic layout, fiddle with the handles, fiddle with the arc). I tend to leave slurs off grace notes by default, but I write for wind players and they know I don't wanted them articulated.

    If I can put my finger on anything in the waltz, then I'll be sure to send it your way, but it takes a while for me to analyze and digest what you've composed and make a more informed opinion about it. Was there a particular model or inspiration for the form and harmonic language that you referred to?

    Last comment: hope you get a great recording of the event, that the players enjoy preparing it, and that it is well received by the event hosts/audience!
    Doug Gibson likes this.

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