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Maiden Voyage - Revisited

Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by JP Beveraggi, Apr 13, 2019.

  1. Hello all,

    Since I never got satisfied with the very first orchestral piece I posted on this very forum and because I am a very stubborn individual, I have totally reworked the orchestration and the overall structure. Does it now sound like a good enough foundation to have a shot at working on a long form or is it time to move on? All suggestions and constructive comments are always greatly appreciated.

  2. #2 Dillon DeRosa, Apr 13, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2019
    Excellent job JP.

    Certain spots I noticed stuff:
    0:00 -0:40 is excellent to me.
    0:45 - this is great, you introduced your A/B melody and now your messing with counter-lines and building intensity. Nice!
    1:01 -- kind of a let-down to the build up.. you could've done this on purpose (which by all means is fine if so) but I was excited to get back to the theme but it kind of just fell back to the beginning again. You have the counter lines, and a snare drum now.. but for some reason I lack the intensity increase. Could even be as simple as dynamics. Always be building and moving forward and here I felt was a bit step back. (Building doesn't mean you always have to get bigger orchestration or louder dynamics, it just means take us on a story arc and move us forward.)
    1:38 - the end is cool, you set us up for a bigger recapitulation or into a new section entirely. The choir was interesting.

    After the 2min:
    Repeat the theme one more time in a bigger or more dense orchestration, perhaps with triple octave strings, with brass playing a more aggressive rhythmic backbone or vice versa brass on melody with strings+winds on an aggressive backbone.

    Then take us into a new section/development. You should really experiment with development on your theme for atleast 1:30-2 mins. So basically you'd have 2 mins here already, add another 30 seconds or so for a bigger repeat of your melody (even add counter melody) so 2:30. Add 1:30-2min development That puts us at 4:30-5min piece right there, then bring us back to the piece with refreshing orchestration and stronger orchestration for another 1-1:30... then give us a 0:30-1min coda (finale). Bringing your piece to a solid 7-:7:30 piece. Which will be fantastic and challenging.

    Orchestration thought:
    You should really let for a section just the strings have the full melody, or just the winds. The bouncing around becomes too much if you do it every time you have the melody stated. I like the bouncing, just not every time. This is 100% your artistic choice so don't do this because I think so, but your first 40 seconds of the piece could've been played by the solo flute 100% and I would've loved it. Of course, the orchestration will help keep forward momentum but in the beginning I'm much more focused in on your melody.

    Example: Opening to Tchaikovsky's 5th symphony played on a2 Clarinets for the first 2 mins of the piece. Why it works? Because he was introducing us to the story, "hey everyone! Pay attention because here is the introduction and the shit you have to remember for the next 20 mins lol". So he had our attention, no need to go crazy with orchestration shit yet.

    Final thought:

    What's great about this new addition is that the percussion is only enhancing the rhythm already in the piece rather than you relying on percussion to drive the piece forward. Excellent job on this. One thing to explore in your development is messing with more syncopation and rhythmic differences. Example (and I know you know what syncopation means but): I always knew the downbeat in your piece, try accenting the offbeats. Don't forget syncopation if used correctly can create forward momentum. Use it to get in/out of new sections. Example: Tchaikovsky 4th symphony (Tchaikovksy again? Fuck yeah, he's the literally best composer to study.)

    Listen from 7:16 as he gets us back into the melody at 7:35, notice at 7:24 he starts the rhythm, 7:30 SYNCOPATION INTO THE NEW SECTION! BAM! See how he created forward momemtum? Then notice at 8:10 (if you kept listening which I hope everyone will) he does the syncopation again to get us out of it!

    P.S. (Not a fan of this recording of Tchai's 4th, but it had the score too so you can see it in action).
    Paul T McGraw and JP Beveraggi like this.
  3. Thank you Dillon for sharing your comments and good ideas. Much appreciated

    I see what you mean. I agree with you if I keep it as is, I need to build more fireworks (especially with the brass) in this section, but it felt a little too soon. After all, we are only repeating the theme for the first time. So I think this is the sign that either I have built the dynamics up to this point too quickly or that the piece is too short. I think it does need to get extended...

    I will use your suggestion as a template. It will take me a while to pull off but I can take it in stages. Worth a shot I believe.

    It was a stylistic choice, the Germans call it Klangfarbenmelodie I think. But the more I listen to it, the more I realise it can be fatiguing to the ear, so I will take your advice and dial it down a notch or two... ;)

    Had never heard it before but the beginning of his melody sounds vaguley similar to this one as well. Probably lots of goodies to grab in there!

    My new philosophy is only to use drums for accenting or to add some color like the snare does in the high register. I have come to realise that they can easily become detrimental to the music otherwise.

    You are absolutely right about syncopation. It is a crucial tool for good composition and I do not have a clue on how to use it efficiently. So much to learn !! :confused:
    Dillon DeRosa likes this.
  4. Simply use this as a suite which contains the motivic ideas for other movements to develop.

    Like Star wars or traditionally from opera

    Don't try and take what you have and somehow..... I don't know.....either thru stubbornness or software......
    try and make this like a first movement of Mahler.

    This piece is 2:30 max.. Work within constraints. Freedom thru discipline.
    Extract and expand what you like in following movements/pieces etc.
  5. #5 JP Beveraggi, Apr 13, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2019
    It is interesting. I think 2:30 is definitely too short because it makes the variation in dynamics quite awkward to handle but your point is more or less, to keep the piece as short as possible.

    It does leave me confused as to why using variations of the same theme in different pieces is better than having them all in one? Is there value in keeping it "modular" or is long form so much more complex that it is only worth the effort if you are an advanced composer?

    However, it is good to see the two school of thoughts represented (as they so often do on the forum): Long form vs Short form. It could be the title of an old Chinese Kung Fu movie :cool:

    P.S: To reassure all the purists out there, I use (proprietary) software to analyse scores and not to come up with notes. So feel free to speak your mind on what you hear, it is 110% mine.

    P.S2: The Opera genre has the most memorable orchestral pieces ever written in my opinion.
    Dillon DeRosa likes this.

  6. If it's a challenge you want...

    JP Beveraggi likes this.
  7. You HAVE to know that was just joke. Humor..... keeping it light hearted....that's all.

    The following bold words are highlighted by me to indicate what caught my eye as significant in your comments.

    Not exactly my point. My point would be "You have already wrapped up the piece. What is the need - based on the music posted; as a listener without a preconceived goal for the work- for this piece to continue ?"

    I can only give you my 2 cents as a listener. I am along for the ride you are taking me on. Personally at this duration..... I'm good.

    I can't answer the following questions -- they are rhetorical.

    "What is left unsaid that demands more duration ?"

    How long ... is long ? 4 minutes, 8 minutes, 16, 60. I'm not making any kind of formal argument.

    It just sounds like a prelude to my ears. Can it be transformed --- of course. But based on what I heard... that's my 2 cents

    I was reading VI-C today and came across a post about A-list Hollywood composers. A line from the thread, asked by "fitz" was

    "The new normal seems to be the composer writes a suite (or series of suites) independent from picture which the music editor then takes and cuts against the film."

    Don't make it too much of a big deal in your mind. Both roads lead to the same mountain top.
    For example "The Firebird", or really any Stravinsky, is long form and outstanding concert music.

    At this stage it's all semantics. Don't worry about it to the point it stops your music composing and creativity.

    Rest assured the best long form composers (for example Beethoven, Brahms, were also masters of theme and variations. Brahms whole thing is theme -

    See, that's the thing you have to watch out for. Are you wanting to make this piece long form because the material demands a long form, or is it that a part of you feels emotionally long form is "Advanced" -- looking for a green light from someone to say you are worthy to proceed --- and completing a "long form" piece gets one a medal?

    I don't know, and I am not asserting this is the case. It's a question for you to ask yourself. I do not need a reply on this.

    We have not even established what is long form.
    This is a double bind/ false choice. Don't get caught up here.

    I do see you point. I do know what you are asking.

    Your material just does not sound long form at all ....inherently.

    If it begins to bother you why I say this, have a listen below and keep in mind the word "pacing":

  8. a very worthy 2:20" below.

    Dillon DeRosa and JP Beveraggi like this.
  9. [​IMG]


    The most well spent 2:20 mins of my day
    JP Beveraggi likes this.
  10. I HOPED it was (so I lifted all ambiguities) and I applaud!

    It makes total sense from a practical perspective.

    Now these are the crucial points. If I summarise correctly, you are saying that optimal form is more or less dictated by the musical idea. In this instance, you are saying the short form is appropriate and you do not see the point for extending. I thought form was a lot more arbitrary than that, in other words, I thought any (good quality) theme could be used as a basis for any form, and it is up to the composer to set the duration of the story he wanted to tell. I personally do not have the experience to have a view on this, but my guess would be that members would have a divided opinion about it.

    P.S: Wagner clearly knew all about pacing...
    Dillon DeRosa likes this.
  11. I could be opinionated on this, but I see it as you can take any theme (no matter the quality imo) and use it as a basis for any form. As you said, it's the composer to set the duration of the story, the pace of the song and how slow/fast they develop the theme or motif.
    If I learned anything recently from studying a massive amount of Tchaikovsky, that even though the guy can literally shit out memorable themes/motif's and take you to the moon & back with development on those themes... that he can write mediocre themes sometimes... BUT... it's what he did STILL with those mediocre themes that makes it so exciting, enticing, and memorable/enjoyable to listen to.

    Basically, I've always been taught to write memorable themes and it's still the first thing I think about when writing... but I know that writing a memorable theme is only the start, it's what you do with your theme that matters so much more.

    Even then after I say that though, you could argue that a memorable theme is more important haha!

    Long form vs short form, in the end, doesn't matter to me. As long as the piece develops, moves me and tells a story I'm more than satisfied. :D
    Paul T McGraw and JP Beveraggi like this.
  12. Continuing on my point about taking any theme (no matter the quality) and using it as the basis of any form. I do think having an original thought/idea of how you'd like to take the theme kind of shapes how you write something... although I was taught at the piano to take a theme and arrange it in different ways... For example: Take Star Wars theme and make it a bossa nova, or waltz, or half-time broadway idk... lol

    Point is, is it then more about the arrangement, how you present your melody/theme, or how you heard your theme and originally meant it to be when you wrote it (so to write a long-form piece you need a long form melody?)

    Not sure entirely... just stuff to think about. *sips tea and ponders about life*... or *stares at the recent black-hole picture* :rolleyes:
    JP Beveraggi likes this.
  13. Interesting debate this is.

    Agreed and easy to prove: Since any functioning human with average vocal skills and a voice recorder could come up with a theme, the skill must be to know how to take an idea and build a compelling story around it.
    Dillon DeRosa likes this.
  14. Right, so Schoenberg in his book on composition writes in the introduction that great composers pretty much conceptualise a musical work in its entirety from the onset. So basically, form is set before any note is written.

    This would agree with Doug's point of view that form is a preset constraint to adhere to. So the question is then whether a specific theme calls for a specific form or not?
    Dillon DeRosa likes this.
  15. I can only post a bullet point post now. I'll try and circle back this evening if possible

    By all means write a long piece if that is your desire. When I wrote my only concerto two years ago the biggest lesson
    I took away was " I needed to write a concerto, to learn how to write a concerto"

    Go for it. Don't be afraid of "failures".....you learn from them. That is how we grow as composers.

    @Dillon DeRosa has given great feedback, and I agree with everything he has said.

    It's not so much a debate as it is an "elephant in the dark".

    I would HIGHLY advise, as you go forward making the longer version, do a piano version first.
    Even do the Mike V. simple - two finger version and post that here for us to listen.

    If it's an engaging piece as a two finger piano version it will be more so once you add in the orchestration and so on.

    Some of Dillon's point I would echo for moving towards longer forms


    (edited for emphasis by me)

    today is the first time I saw this:

    Yeah, that will be a good challenge. It's achievable.

    This is why details matter. 7 minutes ......hmmm ......I don't know if I consider that "Long form". But who cares...... it's "longer"

    Pacing. Don't resolve everything at the opening....... that's what the bringing home the ending is for, and do no be afraid of using rests, and silence
    in your music. They give your material a "breath". Breathing is a very powerful metaphor for music.

    Good luck, be well, and enjoy your time writing music.

    Of course post the next update here too !

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  16. A cross continental consensus has been reached! Superb

    If there is one man who is not afraid of this, it is yours truly. You can probably tell by now ;)

    Dillon's comments were very on point indeed. He lives up to his high standards :cool:

    Deal. It sounds like an eternity to me so challenging it will be.

    Great advice right there. So use of Syncopation and Silences have entered my curriculum.

    Thank you both again for taking an interest and sharing pointers. I take away a lot of good hints on what to work on.
    Dillon DeRosa likes this.
  17. Working on a piano sketch for the track, but since I am not a keyboard player, it ends up being quite crude. I do not include any counterpoint lines or countermelody, it is basically the main voicing with a basic accompaniment to outline the structure and capture the dynamics of the track. Is best practice to go for a high level of detail or is this good enough?

  18. #18 Dillon DeRosa, Apr 17, 2019 at 5:38 PM
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2019 at 5:44 PM
    Excellent. I love it being quite crude lol. Honestly, this is how I write at the piano, especially when I'm trying to find the root of what I'm writing. Simple chords keeping the rhythm, focused on melody and direction. I also sing the melody while i play.. I'm not sure if my singing is directing what notes I play or vice versa.... I sing off pitch too but I don't realize it til after I listen to the recording... talk about crude :D

    For you not being a piano player and doing this to practice your piano sketching is fantastic to me. You could even go further and do a 3 line/staff piano sketch... which would be your counter lines, gestures etc.. but as you said you left them out.

    If I may suggest unless you have good memory, write down notes in your piano sketch like (heavy strings on this rhythm), or (trumpet play melody with soaring textures in background)... write descriptive notes as you write your piano sketch for some preliminary orchestration ideas. The goal of the piano sketch is to get your orchestration ideas already flowing so eventually, you're piano writing is orchestrating/writing all at once. Like Mike said, writing/orchestrating should be one... although this doesn't happen all the time and can be argued because as well, practicing arranging/orchestration is a huge important factor. Best example off top of my head is Mussorgsky's Pictures of an Exhibition and Ravel orchestrating it for orchestra.

    If I'm honest, I do both. I write with orchestration in mind, and sometimes I write a piano piece and then orchestrate it and arrange it... but no one would ever know unless I told them it was originally a piano piece. Especially because when I orchestrate a piano piece, I mess with the form and pacing a bit to better fit my arrangement... in the end it's my piece who says I have to follow the exact form of my piano piece? :D

    Actually theres a post a while back of my shitty music where I orchestrated a piano sketch & tried to force myself to follow what I played on the piano.. it turned out kind of confusing I admit. So I'm still working on perfecting my piano sketching.

    You know who's really good at piano sketching is @Alexander Schiborr He's fantastic at sketching.
  19. #19 JP Beveraggi, Apr 17, 2019 at 7:33 PM
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2019 at 8:03 PM
    Thanks for the pointers Dillon.

    It must be a gigantic asset to have decent piano skills when composing. My left hand can only play chords and basic arpeggios which makes the whole piano sketching process very time consuming. I also end up working with a lot of copy/paste which is the single best reason to avoid sketching on software.

    I am always curious to understand other people's processes especially if they are not piano players. Berlioz played flute and guitar, and still wrote a symphony that is considered a reference in orchestration so it definitely can be done. Hector had game... :cool:

    Great idea about the 3rd staff: 3-voice harmonisation should get me close to the final product.

    Orchestration notes are a very good idea. Good exercise for training the musical inner ear too.
    Paul T McGraw and Dillon DeRosa like this.

  20. Right, here is an extended version of the track. It is not quite 7 minute long, but I am much happier with this duration as it does not feel rushed. There is room for the track to get longer, but I am not convinced it would make it more compelling for the average listener. Should I use the track as a composition exercise or not? that is the question. Anyway I hope this version is an improvement in any case.

    I have tried playing on dynamics a little more between sections. The climax is there, but maybe not as bombastic as I was planning for it to be. Maybe I need to increase the harmonic rhythm of the section in question. Not quite sure.

    P.S: Piano sketching turns out to be a great tool even for a very limited keyboard player like me. Fantastic stuff
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