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Piano Concerto - Sketch - Brainstorm

Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by Doug Gibson, Sep 29, 2018.

  1. #1 Doug Gibson, Sep 29, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2018
    Well..... first I must credit the great @Paul T McGraw for the initial inspiration.

    Style sometimes looms large for everyone. After speaking (typing really) to Paul, I had this little sketch and
    thought about how it actually is a "bucket list" composition goal to write a killer (no pun intended) middle movement of a concerto. Kind of like the Rodrigo Concerto de Aranjuez, but in this case a little less sad.

    More like the following two pieces. They are not direct models, per say, other than I must of listened to each about 100 + times, and I adore both. Both emotionally move me, and are works I really wish I wrote.

    So, with that daunting level of craft over my head, I have a 1st draft - developed sketch I would love feedback on.

    Any feedback is perfectly fine. Don't worry about terminology or anything like that. Just shoot straight.

    Thanks for listening and any comments.


  2. #2 Paul T McGraw, Sep 29, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2018
    Ha! Thanks for the mention. I wish I deserved it. :)

    The opening chords are inspired. I look forward to hearing it with a live orchestra, or at the very least a quality V.I. midi-performance. When the opening chords (or very similar chords) return at 1:48 my ears are alerted, this sounds a bit familiar, what will happen next? Then the entire section beginning at 2:12 is marvelous. Excellent work with maintaining the level of intensity for over a full minute.

    Obviously, you do not make mistakes, either with composition or orchestration. So I am making the assumption that you are looking for aesthetic feedback. So acknowledging that you are a better composer than I, the following impressions are offered.

    I feel the opening as very dramatic, you catch my interest immediately. I like your harmonic choices. I would like to hear a little more of this before you move on. Next, you relax the tension, smart move, you need to hold back some of your cards for later. Good theme but can you improve the theme even more to enhance the emotive quality? At 1:12 we begin to add elements and slowly ramp up the intensity. Good job with not letting this happen in a straight line, or too quickly. At 2:17 we ramp up to another higher level of emotion and intensity. The proportions of the form are excellent, and I feel that as I listen.

    You have picked two of the most iconic of the piano concerto slow movements as your inspiration. Of course, it is better to aim high. I am really looking forward to hearing the rest of the piece.
  3. I'm not sure how useful my feedback is going to be, but here's what I've got.

    I've listened through your sketch several times and I'm still trying to figure out what its point is. The reverb is also a bit much, to the point of making it difficult to hear what's happening. There are individual sections that I like, but it doesn't feel cohesive as a whole, rather a collage of cool ideas that doesn't lead me from one idea to the next.

    The attention-getting introduction is nice and I can lock onto that easily. Then from 0:20-1:48 I lose interest. I'm not exactly sure why, but I think it lacks purpose and therefore direction.

    From 1:48 to 2:30 I'm good. The call and response between the piano and the orchestra feels like it's leading me somewhere. But at 2:30 you lose me again. The call and response stops abruptly and the orchestra obscures the piano, though that could be the reverb. I'm not sure what you're going for in that part, but I think you can get more tension by continuing the call/response while shortening their duration to ratchet things up before releasing that tension at 2:46.
    Doug Gibson likes this.
  4. Thanks for your great feedback. I at least made it to the end of the piece......well a first drafting ending.

    I'll probably have to put it on hold for a week or so, due to my calendar. I have one of those weeks ahead of me that looks like a Skittles bag exploded on it. Probably a good thing, as to listen again with fresh ears.

    Anyhow, an updated version is now above. Thanks again !
  5. It's always good to check the gap between what one imagines and what is actually getting communicated. I had a guitar teacher (Joe Diorio - who wrote a few books) that would always advise not listening back to improvs for about a week. The idea being we are not as great, or terrible as we may feel at the moment. A little more objectivity.

    Like a Magpie ?

    That's interesting to hear. I would have thought it would have been the other way around.

    Anyhow, if you can stand it, an updated version is above.

    Thanks again for listening and your feedback
  6. @Mike Verta, @Bradley Boone

    Do you have any suggestions ? Does it sound random ? I know it is not your favorite genre, but if you have any feedback
    I would welcome it.

    I already hear a number of things I want to change. The bottom register sounds muddy to me in parts. The ending has a mistaken "back from the dead" that I don't know how it appeared.

    Thanks !!
  7. It's a million times clearer for me now that you've pulled the reverb back. Will spend some more time on it before providing a detailed response.
    Doug Gibson likes this.
  8. The issue you're having at :42 or wherever that main idea starts - the reason you're losing focus - is because the chord progression is quasi-random and impossible to predict. Remember, in conversation people instinctively do a level of prediction as part of making realtime absorption of ideas possible. When someone says, "Once upon a..." your brain is already thinking, "...time." So long as the majority of sentences follow familiar structures, grammars, syntaxes, then the interesting turns-of-phrase and other unique things you bring to the conversation will be welcome, not disorienting.

    Play out just the chord progression and I think you'll see clearly that we have no real idea where it's going from moment to moment; this is frustrating!
    Doug Gibson likes this.
  9. #9 Alexander Schiborr, Sep 30, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2018
    I will do :D
    First thanks for sharing of course!
    1. The Beginning has the minor to minor thing for me (a bit of 2 -3 seconds shirley walker very slight quotation..vibe). The piece starts as it feels it starts somewhere in the piece not at the beginning. The mood is set..so why you
    2. ..break it so sudden at 30 seconds. (though I can make out that you repurpose that minor to minor thing on a romantic major etc thing..why not..is cool) but..it is a drastic contrast in some ways for me.
    3. Where is some melody? (general thing) I mean..there are melodies..but they most of the time doesn´t stick to me so that I can have a point of anchor..look at 2:15 min ahead..very random..busy melodies for me outlining chords but what self importance they have? FOr me none..maybe thats their intention: Just to fill out harmony or to create motion? For piano in the center..I find them too..pattern like..
    4. 2:38 is good, there is a bit connection to the beginning.
    5: 2:51 - 3:00 min..? I don´t comprehend the intention of that part at all..Sorry..
    6. Part after that even more..questionmarks..I can´t follow..quite where you are after.
    7. That silence..hmm, artistic freedom and relaxation part..finally :D Is that done on purpose? Or..I am not sure.
    8. After that part follows probably the part which I most enjoyed..romantic lush and I think..the best part of the piece for me.

    Honestly..the rest before is a very not cohesive piece of many ideas for me..It is not clear..for me. While I like some elements definitely..they connect...not that really..the stuff is not that interlocking..for me..too much random..Also you are bombing the style..the style is going..a bit around..it is not clear where stylistically your focus is. Don´t beat me..:D
    Doug Gibson likes this.
  10. Following on from my last reply - much easier to hear this time.

    I still like the opening, but rhythmically it feels so disconnected from what comes after 0:25. Why do you abandon that opening rhythm so quickly? Would it be possible to use that same rhythm for the piano's left hand? That would give me an anchor going into the melody from 0:25. It may also help me focus on the new melody, so the later restatements don't feel like something completely new.

    2:10 is too abrupt for me. I like it, but it feels like it comes out of nowhere. Same for 2:26, I like this a lot, especially the call/response between the piano and orchestra, but it seemingly comes out of nowhere. Maybe adjusting the harmony or melody to foreshadow the change would be less jarring while adding some tension. The analogy I've got in my head is from Hitchcock - suddenly setting off a bomb in a restaurant wastes an opportunity to build tension, like a 'jump scare.' You need to show the audience the bomb and let them sweat until it goes off. Obviously there are exceptions to this, but they must serve a purpose. If your abrupt changes have a purpose, the music isn't communicating that to me.

    From 2:51 until the break at 3:38, I'm not sure what the purpose of this is. What's it meant to add? It feels like it's adding length to the story without contributing anything meaningful.

    3:40 - 4:21 is the best, most coherent part of it for me. Even though the melody's pitches vary each time, your use of a clear and consistent pattern makes it easy to follow along. Interestingly, I didn't realise it was the same pattern used from 0:25. It was only after I went back and listened again that I realised it was a restatement of the earlier melody.

    4:21 feels very abrupt again. There's nothing foreshadowing this contrast and it feels like a 'jump scare.' For a brief moment it has an effect on me, but it dissipates almost instantly, and seemingly without purpose. From there until the end I'm again unsure of what this contributes to your story, aside from adding length.
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  11. Tough crowd.

    Perhaps because my first love is classical music, I like this. I am completely perplexed by most of the comments. Traditional cadences are avoided. There is only a limited use of repetition, however, several motives from the theme are developed and repeated. This avoidance of literal repetition and avoidance of traditional cadences is common among many recent concert composers. The piece is completely tonal. I hear many prolongational and non-functional color harmonies, but that is also nothing unusual.

    Is this a piece I would have written? No, for one thing, I like to use more repetition. But I can certainly appreciate the skill that went into writing this piece. I am looking forward to listening to the final version and also the rest of the concerto.
  12. Thanks Mike ! Appreciated.

    Cheers, and best wishes


  13. Hi Sam

    Thanks for your comments ! I still love that pic you have for your avatar.

    Well...... what was MEANT - (not saying it succeeded) is often concerto's act as a metaphor for the individual vs group.
    Ideally then in the concert hall there would be a little bit of theatricalness live. So the orchestra would fall away, and then
    we basically have a complete contrast: The orchestra takes us the theme. The piano, which previously was the primary melody take over accompanied figures. (Arpeggios and Chords) So I was trying to go for high contrast. (soft to loud)

    Back to the laboratory ...... thanks again !
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  14. It's all good. Everything is positive over here. To me, it's perfectly normal. I probably have to write a few
    piano concertos to learn how to write one. I've never given it a shot before. Plus I try and practice what I preach. You gotta step outside a comfort zone to learn, and failure is not (at least for music composition) something to fear. You learn more at the edges.

    I was not really expecting to. More a spontaneous Muse.
    I just had this short - about 30 second piano idea - and on Thursday began messing with it and the idea of writing a movement like the pieces I attached. I have a incoming project that lands in the morning and will take up my week, in regards to composing time. So I am happy to have gotten to this point - flaws and all - as I will remember this now, and it's not just going to dissolve into the either.

    Plus, I have a bunch of feedback to refer to when I return. It's all good.

    It's interesting to me to read this. Rhetorical question I need to ask myself is "why this is". As Sam states: (I added in the bold)

    It's interesting there are three large sectional repeats, and yet the consensus is it does not feel cohesive. Not debating, just speaking out loud something for me to ponder why.

    Thanks again ! All the best..... and how is married life ?
  15. Thanks Paul !

    All the best
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  16. #16 Alexander Schiborr, Oct 1, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2018
    Tough crowd? Whats so perplexing?:) Just because I have my own thoughts and tell Doug that I have hard times to follow his ideas? (PS:That doesn´t mean I don´t appreciate Dougs work per se. Of course I do! :))
    But look, there are 3 guys who pointed out something very similiar:

    Sam Miller: "I've listened through your sketch several times and I'm still trying to figure out what its point is.." (Anchor)
    Mike Verta: "..is quasi-random and impossible to predict..." (Anchor)
    Myself:"the rest before is a very not cohesive piece of many ideas for me..It is not clear..for me" (Anchor)

    So..I think there might be something what we all might having hard time with: I think a bit of prediction and satisfaction (what we love and need I think :D). Now..we all 3 are no classical composers. But your analogy saying that classical music is per se like that? Is that? I am not sure if that was what you want to point out there. There are pieces who are definitely. But (I hate that word..butt) :D there are tons of examples where you have the sophistication BUT the Anchorpoint. So cadences are in classical not avoided at all. Are we talking about "surprising" or "frustrating" the audience? Now that can be sometimes a very thin iced fine line. Now, don´t get me wrong, I love Doug and I totally have highest respect from him in many regards and I don´t write that to be tough and to perplex here. I just give my thoughts and just my opinion.:)
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  17. Completely agreed. You only learn when you challenge yourself. I actually think that is very good that you do that. And writing a piano concerto is a tough task if you ask me. I didn´t do that yet and so of course I just can give my perspective from outside and what I know.

    Thats cool. And therefore it is important to browse ideas.

    The last parts feels to me the most cohesive one because you have a better flow there. The part is utilizing more predictable chord progressions for me and the counterpoint makes also a bit of more satisfaction that I am ABLE TO FOLLOW YOUR IDEAS.
    All good, we are doing our normal routines here. haha :D
  18. #18 Alexander Schiborr, Oct 1, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2018
    Doug, Just one more thing: Your YT examples also exactly trade with that. They have chord progressions which you can follow and they trade on patterns which you can lock on. It is like creating momentum --> Tension --> Resolution (Which is satisfaction). Your schostakovich example right at 2 minutes and ahead (and there are more spots) just did that.And therefore I disagree with Paul for most of his remark.


    Once everything is familiar, go other places..do some exciting things, but don´t overstress the audience with unpredictable choices in first place because the chance that you are alienating the audience is then pretty high. My concensus here is: Don´t overcomplicate the writing. Schostakovisch did there a boring I, (III) IV, V indeed and actually it sounds great and it is not boring at all. It is up to your own power (and choice of course..) to say something interesting with a simple chord progression.
  19. @Alexander Schiborr I apologize. Of course, you have to be honest and share your real opinion. Getting honest feedback from knowledgeable friends is what we all want, and need. I value your feedback and I am sure @Doug Gibson does as well. The next time I post a composition, I really want honesty, even if it hurts temporarily because that is the only way I can improve my ability to connect with listeners.

    This group is particularly important to me because we have shared musical values, I believe. As a group, I think we value melodic, tonal music, that carries emotional meaning. We place a high value on the use of traditional instruments, especially the orchestra. We all want our music to be interesting and hold our listeners' attention even without other media. This group values music by the giants of classic Hollywood, but also the music of classical masters. I think these things are true, so getting the approval of this group is very, very important for me. If my music is liked by the people on this forum I have succeeded in my goals. If not, even if others say they like my music, then I have failed.

    When I said I don't understand the reactions of other posters to this piece of music, I really and truly do not understand. I should not argue with your viewpoint, and I wish I had rephrased my post. I just really do not understand. Perhaps it is my fault and I am just not smart enough or lack artistic judgment.

    There are people who say they enjoy atonal music by people such as Arnold Schoenberg or Boulez. I cannot understand that music, and for me, it has no emotional connection and no value. It has less than no value, I now find atonal music irritating and it makes me angry. I do not understand why some people say they like it. Same thing for Rap music for me.

    I suppose the bottom line is that we can not quantize what makes a piece of art (in this case music) good or bad, What will connect with us and what will not. I wish I knew a set of rules to follow that would result in music that connects with most listeners. If there is such a set of rules, please tell me.
  20. Man, all is good and in the end: Music is also at least a bit of taste and that matters too. Where you mention Schönberg. My dad had a phase in the late 90s where he started to listen to atonal and serial music and he tried hard to like it. In the end he couldn´t connect emotionally with that kind of music. And it is fine. Does that mean the music is shit? No..it is just not everybodys darling. I think music is not absolute but it has to do with the ear and what we are used to listen to. So e.g. a I/IV/V progressions is easy to understand for most of the crowd because it has a long history in music and the western ear is conditioned towards that. So what I want to say is: If you like the piece that is great. I think Doug is a bit brainstorming and he needs us a bit to test the thing, you know? Because that is invaluable so he can see what works probably and works not that good.

    And dont get me wrong: I wasnt at any time like confused with your comment. I just felt after my comment that I should have explained some things a bit further because otherwise it feels like a bit incomplete.
    And it is great that you value our opinions, thats why I love that forum also a lot. We don´t need our egos to feel good or something, it doesn´t matter. We are here for the same thing I think.
    Having said that Doug just can maybe simplify a few things and just "also" use..a more traditional approach at least for some sections to avoid alienating the "mundane" stereotype of Dudes like me, haha :D
    You know if we or I don´t like a piece of yours, that doesn´t mean anything for you or that your failed. And actually there were parts in Dougs piece which I liked indeed, I pointed that out and maybe he can analyze the things and take those informations to his advantage which I think is a great thing. Doug has a very broad and deep knowledge about music history and styles and whenever I feel something I don´t understand I will ask him for advice. His advice is always very good and I try to give something back. Otherwise I start to feel a bit useless just to post my own music here.
    Paul T McGraw likes this.

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