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Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by Mattia Chiappa, Jul 4, 2019.

  1. Some great vibes and colors, and some lovely lines! Good job!

    I haven't watched the class yet, but the accompaniment sounds really beautiful, so I won't comment on that. Although, I can't quite lock onto your A theme/section. I think you're too quick to develop your harmony and putting counterlines in it. I sort of get what your main melody is, but I'm left with an impression of it rather than a strong memory of it. What is your melody? Do you state your main melody twice (with little changes)? If so, where does it begin/end? I can't seem to figure the structure out. Is the main theme the whole thing from 0:14 to 1:08?

    I personally think that if you made your melody easier to follow, the payoff at 1:10 would be HUGE. I don't think you have a strong enough statement before that point to cash in on it, which is a shame because the textures are great. Just as an example, I would personally take your melody from 0:14 and resolve it at 0:26 (it sounds like a finished idea for an A theme), then repeat it again exactly the same. I don't think you can afford to expand it further like you do at 0:27, it becomes a bit confusing to follow the music past that point. The melody kind of repeats from 0:39, but you start changing the notes, which kind of confuses me even more; it sounds like you're meandering a bit.

    I think that if you simplify your piece at the beginning it would improve tenfold! The way you write is right up my alley, I wish I wrote melodic lines like you did here, and I think that you're definitely better than I am at orchestrating; having said that, I think that you're robbing yourself here by overwriting a bit and losing focus on what is important.
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  2. Hi Francesco! Thanks for your advice and honesty, I really value your opinion. I heard some fantastic music of yours here and I wish I was half the composer you are.

    What you just described are my main struggles.. I find it very hard to develop an idea in such a way that is simple and understandable for everybody. Despite my efforts to address the problem, I keep failing at doing this. Part of the reason of my frequent posts here is to recalibrate my brain to what other people think.

    Specifically for this piece the very first thing I played were the first two bars at 0:14 but I had a bit of a hard time finishing off the second half of the melody. I must a have tried a hundred different permutations before the final version. Problem is after a while doing this, I get confused and I don't know which one of the may I should pick. It's very frustrating! The form was meant to be A B A.
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  3. I'm not sure how you did it, but holy shit your mockup sounds absolutely fantastic.Seriously, you could have absolutely fooled me with the opening (0:16 - 0:44 specifically), the strings sound drop-dead gorgeous and I honestly would rank this right up there with Headshot's Star Wars' trailer rescore at parts in terms of realism, it's that convincing to me. In the second half I can hear some of the classic pumping (and more give-aways become evident on a second listen), but it's still a great sound.

    As a wise man with an impressive beard keeps pointing out, the sound should probably be the least of our concerns, so I'll move on to the actual piece now that I'm done gushing ;)

    Despite the orchestration being beautiful, my feeling is that you might want to make some alterations to make your melody clearer. I have no trouble following your sketch, at all, but in the mockup it's more difficult because the main line gets buried underneath the accomp from time to time. The fact that I can follow the sketch easily but that the mockup proves more difficult is evidence to me that the "problem" lies in orchestration. Don't get me wrong, you have wonderful orchestration here, but the accomp detracts from the melody in places.

    The part that's least clear (to me at least) is 0:16 through to ~0:39. You've put the horn in a very stately, noble range which is beautifully, but it doesn't manage to cut through the rest. Now, because of the contrast that follows I am pretty confident that you want this more stately quality here (which means, not moving the horn up an octave). So short of moving the horn up you can move the accomp further down, but I think that will create more problems. One solution I see is to give the viola the cello's notes (and move them up or down as needed to stay in the range) and give the cello the role of doubling the horn. The cello will be better able to carry the melody in that range. I'm also thinking that removing the clarinets from the accompaniement and doubling the horns an octave above (but only emphasizing/playing the "key" notes of the melody) might help. If you bringe down the contrabass a smidge too, I think you'll manage to get a clearer sound.

    Another option I can think of is to move some of your accompanying chords into trombones because it could free up the strings and might force you to simplify your harmony which will free up some sonic space. But, I have to say that I'm not sure how well this would work with what your intention was with this piece.

    At 0:40 the piece opens up beautifully, I have no trouble following it here. The contrast of the high strings after the slightly sombre horn is a really moving effect.

    At the second part of the piece the same thickness returns. I think a lot of it here comes from the contrabass, while it does make for a beautiful, full sound, the accomp overpowers the main line here. I'd highly recommend trying pizzes on the basses, I think that will help greatly in clearing up that part.

    Overall though, I'm really impressed with your sound, expression (and not least of all) your melody. Phew! Some really fantastic stuff here Mattia. I'd keep chipping away at this gem a bit more... or actually, if I were you, take a step back from it for a few weeks, don't listen to it at all, and then return to it fresh. That will probably help you make the most out of what's truly a very promising piece!

    Good luck!
  4. #5 Mattia Chiappa, Jul 7, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2019
    Thank you Matthias, I'm glad you enjoyed this! There's really nothing special going on in the mockup, just Spitfire stuff using a blend of different mics and many, SO MANY takes. I also added a touch of eq, widened the strings and narrowed the woods, that's all.

    For the orchestration it was done specifically that way because I wanted the focus to be on the strings. Using 4 horns would have helped the melody to stand out a bit more I guess but then it would have been a different sound. I used a solo horn to slightly color the violas adding some warmth and take off that nasal quality they have in the lower register. The horn is meant to be a a bit buried and pop out as it moves in the upper register. Similarly low woods are meant to only soften the strings and not really be heard. Yes I could have given the accompaniment to trombones and melody the cellos but It would have been a very different sound. Doubling the melody one octave up could sure have helped but I tried to stick to the sketch.

    The "easy" fix would probably be along the lines of what Francesco said above. Just clearing some of the moving notes between chords and simplify the melody. That arises more problems though, while simplifying is great and all if you walk too far in that direction, the end result may be much clearer to understand but simply not so interesting that you can maintain a connection with the audience. After transcribing a lot of this sort of stuff and so many attempts of my own, I can honestly say that balancing complexity and simplicity is fucking hard. When these killer stuff are done properly by the masters, they are so gorgeous because they sound simple but if you sit down and analyse them, while the seed may be, they are so wonderfully complex in many other ways.

    Yes I'll be taking a break from this and try to fix it in a few weeks.
    Matthias Calis likes this.
  5. Wow you're too kind! Thank you very much, I'm really flattered!

    It took me a long time to come back to this thread because I was incredibly busy in the last 2 weeks.

    I think this might be part of the problem, I would have a hard time following a theme if it's only played once: I wouldn't know where it started or ended. An A is only an A if you can recognize it as such, and I believe that repeating it is the only way to make the form known to the audience.

    Remember that there are so many good things about this piece, and I'm nitpicking a bit. The divisi and the movement of the harmony in the strings are great, the choice of a solo horn for the melody is spot on, and the usage of the color is really good.

    I tried to quickly notate a "what I would've done with your piece" excerpt. I took your melody/harmony and I drafted a quick "variation" on how I would've developed this piece. I think I recognize everything from 0:14 to 0:26 as your A, I believe after that the phrase becomes a touch too long for what is the total duration of the piece, and to me it sounds like you're meandering a bit. So I took this "A theme" and I repeated it twice, making the textures thicker the second time around and with louder dynamics. I took a couple of liberties in the harmony and the melody (I hope you can forgive me for it :D ). After that I went into what I think is your B theme (at least to my ears). It's a close cousin of the A theme because of the rhythm, but I still recognize it as a different theme.

    Orchestrationally speaking, you begin right off the bat with some countermelodies and a thick textures. This is totally fine, but it would be maybe more impactful to grow the dynamics up to that sound.

    Here's what I came up with, chilling in a cafeteria:


    I'm not saying this is the right way to do it, or that the changes that I made would result in a better composition, but at least I believe that the structure is more straightforward and the intentions are clearer. I didn't divert from your harmony (more or less) so maybe there are better ways to accompany the repeated theme, instead of repeating the same chord progression twice.

    Putting my thoughts into music is way more efficient than trying to describe things in words.

    It's also your composition, so you have the right to tell me that "this is not the theme that you had in mind", or that "it's not within your vision of the piece". I always feel a little uncomfortable changing notes of other people's pieces, so I tried to just work with your material.

    Keep up the great work! Cheers :)
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  6. Umm...... you know, I don't know how appropriate it is for me to comment on your work.

    I really have a tremendous amount of respect for what is "behind" the music. Both for the person (you as a composer) and the clear dedication and high level of craft you have. I know I have picked on your pieces..... I think always, and you have always handled it ....mostly..... very gracefully and professionally.

    That said........ we just have fundamentally different aesthetic taste. Which of course is fine. Just take my comments, knowing that on a lot of things in life, I react in a way most people do not. Ignore the "snarky/cranky" side of me, and hopefully I will in return be able to give some feedback that is useful, craft based, and outside of my personality. Also know I was diagnosed a few years ago with chronic severe depression, and I am out of anti-depressant medication until next week. My comments are a little darker than usual.

    ( I went back and sectioned off my snark. Between the lines are where I put them. Ignore and more constructive comments are below)


    Ok. Now that's off my chest, I think I only have one useless comment I need to hurl at this piece.

    Man..... that opening measure... shit....... that is so hard for me to listen to. Seriously, Pierre Boulez is easier for me to endure.
    If Thomas Kinkade (he was a visual artist of the worst kind.) was a composer I think he would also assault us with suspended harmonies like bar 1.

    It captures the "sound world" of your whole piece, so really it works very well for that purpose, and there are other similar spots in the work so I am only mentioning that opening measure.

    I don't know.............. If I have to call up a suicide prevention hotline and they put me on hold and play that opening measure.........I'm dead.



    1. Take your time. Tempo variety (Rubato, Rit, accell) seems to be a blind spot in this rendering. Let the listener take in the moments, and give us some more time (fermattas) Simply put it feels to me like the pacing is too fast.

    2. Rests: Related to comment 1. There is not a single fucking spot of rest. Think of a rest, like breath. "Dramatic pauses" can be very effective. Seems like another blindspot

    3. Something like the first movement to Elgar's piece below might be worth listening to for considering a variety of texture. Diatonic "color/dissonance", and the pretty full texture for so long add to the structural blur like Franscesco is alluding to

    Additionally you might find techniques to use in the more recent (1950 on) concert composers who are firmly in the pan-diatonic sound world.

    Be well
    Matthias Calis likes this.
  7. #8 Mattia Chiappa, Jul 13, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2019
    Thanks Francesco for taking the time to get into such level of detail, that was so very generous of you. I'm constantly impressed by the generosity of this community. While different from what I originally envisioned for the piece, I really do see your point and how it could benefit from some polishing. After taking a break from this, I've listened to it today and I'm starting to understand what everybody is talking about. What I originally conceived as the A section was the whole chunk from 00:14 to 00:39 but I do understand the benefit from reworking the first half of it order to make it a simpler, clearer statement. I can honestly say I did not think of that.
  8. Hey Doug! I really don't mind your snarky comments, I find them quite amusing really :) but I am indeed saddened by the fact that you think it's not appropriate for you to comment on my work. I have the greatest respect and admiration for you and if this is based on a previous comment of mine, please know it was never meant to harm or else. I always try my best to take any criticism with an open mind and learn from others, especially those with a different vision than mine. Sometimes it is harder than others though, especially when you value such opinions. I'm sure anybody can relate to this.

    About the piece.. I'm slowly trying to catch up with my lack of knowledge of the repertoire and I'm really looking forward to listen to the examples you posted. I already know this is going to be helpful and I thank you for that. While I try to transcribe and listen to as much orchestral music I can, I do not have a ton of experience in doing this (maybe a couple of years or so?), and I so often feel like I am missing some of the basic nuances of orchestral writing, such as the things you mentioned above. Believe it or not, I did put a few a rall. and acc. and played with tempo curves quite a bit. I now know it was too subtle. I will be working on this.

    Thanks for the advice!
  9. Following on my last message, I feel the need to apologize for distorting and modifying the theme you had in mind. It was not what you wrote and instead of making my idea work with your theme I just kind of chopped it in half. I know the piece can be improved but since I'm not the composer, I can't be the one telling you how. Also, my response was mainly based on subjectivity, I won't try to claim that I have the answer here. It's not my work and as I already said I feel a bit uncomfortable changing notes here and there, but at least I'm glad that what I did was at least a bit helpful!
    I really like that Doug posted something with a really different perspective than mine. It's always fascinating looking at how different composers react to different pieces in this forum!

    I just wanna restate how impressed I am by your level of orchestration since you've only been studying it for such a short amount of time, and I'm sure you'll soon fix your slight structural problems. I've learned a lot from this piece!

    Great job, and good luck with your next effort!
  10. Hey mate! Please, there is absolutely no need to apologise! I genuinely liked what you did with this and I really appreciated you going to such length to trying helping me. I wish I was given this sort of insightful advices throughout my entire musical carrier. Thanks again for your help and support!
    Francesco Bortolussi likes this.
  11. This is just gorgeous. The kind of writing I aspire to!! It has the same feeling as the "Sick Triceratops" cue from Williams Jurassic Park score. Really beautiful flow and orchestration.
    Mattia Chiappa likes this.

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