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Dances for Brass Quintet

Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by Paul T McGraw, Dec 13, 2019.

  1. I haven't composed as much new music this year as I would have liked. This has been a really bad medical year for me. I found out I have cancer, then I was hospitalized twice for congestive heart failure, and suffer with a major (debilitating) problem with my lower spine. That is all in addition to diabetes and neuropathy. So if you folks stop hearing from me, now you know why.

    Anyway, I finally finished this four-movement brass quintet and would appreciate any critique or feedback. The PDF score is attached.


    Attached Files:

  2. So good to hear from you, Paul, and with a fabulous new brass piece to boot! Your brass writing here is catchy and idiomatic. I especially liked the fourth movement. It's cohesive and flowing but with quite a bit of variety in it.

    So sorry to hear that your medical hurdles are piling up, Paul. That's a mountain of struggles to climb let alone to write through with such creativity. I wish you the very best for the year ahead and hope that we'll get to hear from you many times in 2020.
    Paul T McGraw and Doug Gibson like this.
  3. Hey Paul,
    So glad to hear that you are back online and writing again, nice brass piece.
    Sorry to hear about all of your health concerns, hang in there.
    Looking forward to hearing more from you in 2020.
    Paul T McGraw and John Eldridge like this.
  4. Thanks, John for listening, I appreciate your kind words. In this piece, I really tried to work on creating memorable melodies. Your comments on the fourth movement are especially gratifying. My first draft of the fourth movement did not flow very well at all. There was good material, but it did not really work together as a complete movement. Also, that movement alternates every section between D minor and Bb major, finishing in Bb major. At first, I thought that was a problem, but I am now glad that I kept that harmonic plan. So how to improve the movement?

    I have found that classical forms always help me to compose. So I shuffled around the component sections into a true Rondo (A, B, C, B, A) then smoothed out the transitions between sections. My original intro for this movement did not work, being out of character with the rest of the movement, so I scrapped that and rewrote the intro. As a result of all of this use of compositional tools, I am extremely proud of the fourth movement. It is my favorite, because it started out not very good, but ended up quite good (in my opinion) through the use of hard-won compositional skills.
  5. Hey Paul,

    Lovely piece and thank you for sharing it. I know that you didn´t post much during the last year and I always like to listen to your new stuff and also this one.

    Now, man, that sucks that you are going through so many health issues and I feel so bad that it's been a tough time for you... The only thing that I can say is: Try to stay positive. I know it is not easy especially in times where you want just smashing everything at the wall. And I can completely understand. I hope you are doing better soon and hope you have a good treatment with the doctors. If you need anything or talk just let me know, I am having skype. I wish you all the best and don´t lose faith.

    Also, just my first impression listening to your piece gave me a similiar feel at least for some section like works from Händel (e.g. a bit of Watermusic).
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  6. Hi Paul, I very much enjoyed your music, especially the last movement. I'm very sorry to hear about your health and I wish you best of luck. The positive mood and qualities of your music put a smile on my face and knowing that you were able to compose that piece in spite of the advertises you're facing, gave me a great sense of respect for your talents and artistry.

    Wish you all the best!
  7. Thank you Alex, I really appreciate your comments. I am going to hijack my own thread to talk about my appreciation for you. I have been following you for quite some time now, perhaps three years? Anyway, it is simply remarkable how far you have come in developing your skills, both in composition and in the use of samples. One piece in particular, "The Excelsior Class" comes to mind as a perfect example of what art music should be like today. Your thematic development skills in that piece really thrill me every time I play that piece. My one request, please enhance the ending by stretching it out into a coda section and make it BIG! But really all of your more traditional orchestral works written in the last two years demonstrate superb mastery of composition. "Starchild" is another one that comes to mind. And I am so excited to hear what you will write for your new template, which has a superb sound quality.

    I know that you were using the Berlin series as your primary libraries. Are you sticking with OT, or did you buy the new Spitfire BBCSO? And one final question for you. Which composers who use traditional orchestra (no synths please) would be in your personal top 5 or top 10 that you admire and listen to these days? Sorry to put you on the spot like that, just ignore the question if you are not comfortable with answering.
    Alexander Schiborr likes this.
  8. Gosh, your comments blew me away. You are too gracious. Congratulations on the success of your piece "Closure." It has only been on Soundcloud for less than two months and already 4,500 plays. WOW! Another one of yours that I really admire is "Scherzo for Woodwinds" which is really exciting and well produced. What a great group of composers we have on Redbanned!
    Mattia Chiappa likes this.
  9. I really enjoyed listening to this, thanks for sharing. I particularly liked the second movement – something about the subtle accompaniment works for me. I loved the third ending movement too! Lots of character there. Thanks again.
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  10. @Paul T McGraw

    You have my thoughts and prayers as I wish you the best of health. I'm sad to hear how bad your health has been and I just want you to know that I'm a huge fan of your writing my friend.

    I loved your "Dances for Brass Quintet". Here are just a few notes of praises and feedback.

    Mov. 1 was amazing and exciting. Very adventurous and fun, I love your consistent thematic playfulness throwing you motif through the quintet was great to hear. My one complaint is I felt your ending was your weakest part of this movement. I just thought personally it ended too quick. Perhaps another repeat or just more of a BANG. I am biased about loving a proper (meaning over-the-top) finale/ending and was expecting a bit more since that is how I thought you were building it towards.

    Waltz, Your theme was beautiful and lyrical. Nice use of tempo changes throughout.

    Jig, pg 28 the chromatic build and sequencing!! You know I can't get enough of that being a Tchaikovsky lover and all. The Jig was great and perhaps my favorite movement.

    Finale, Great use of movement, articulations, and dynamics. Melody was great and recognizable through all your development. I love the strong brassy voiced ending.

    My only feedback was really just a personal bias in just wanting a flashier ending; all in all, this piece was amazing and very well written. You have such a strong sense of thematic development and STRUCTURE. I think I said this before, but all of us here on Redbanned can really learn from your writing and use of structure.

    I know you're a man of stories, so what is the story behind this amazing piece Paul? Is it just pure Dances or perhaps getting tipsy off some lovely whiskey? Tell us the story whilst I start the popcorn. :)

    I wish you the best my friend and hope to hear more pieces from you soon.

    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  11. Hey Paul, thanks for sharing your music with us! It was fun to listen to and I especially liked the fourth movement with its bittersweet and beautifully melancholic moments.

    I can only imagine how satisfying that must be and I'm not sure if I have ever felt like that regarding any of the various disciplines I've explored, but I hope to eventually get there with something. It blows my mind that in spite of all the adversities you face you still manage to put out such high quality work! Kudos to you! And my best wishes!
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  12. Thanks @Martin Hoffmann I really appreciate your listening and commenting. All my life I wanted to really understand music composition. I earned a degree in music in 1976 but I did not really understand, and I realize now my teachers didn't really understand either. :) So then I had to work, and raise a family, and had no time for music. About five years ago I was able to switch to working part-time and began studying music theory and composition on my own. In October 2017 I was able to fully retire and focus the majority of my time on studying music and writing music. I have finally reached a level of understanding about music that I always wanted to achieve, and now it looks like I won't be alive to use that knowledge for much longer. Still, I praise God, and I know that His plan for me must be for the best.

    I am not saying that I am all-knowing and on the same level as my composer heroes of the 19th century. For one thing, I am positive that their depth of understanding is far deeper than mine, and second, so much of creating great music involves not only technical understanding but aesthetic judgment. And that cannot be taught. Perhaps it is something you either absorb or you don't and if I don't have it, I never will. And I feel like I frequently fail in ths really vital area, and as a result, will never be a successful composer in life or in death. But I still love writing music, so I am going to continue to try to do so as long as I can just because it gives me joy. Wow, so sorry that I rambled on for so long. Blessings to you my friend.
    Martin Hoffmann likes this.
  13. I think you and I share a lot of the same thoughts and opinions about music. Your comments about each movement of the quintet are absolutely spot on. Can I agree and admit that I do not have the power to make it better?

    Thank you so very much for listening and offering such detailed and incredibly precise comments.

    The story? I intended this quintet to be absolute music, with no program. But when I started writing the fourth movement I had just returned from the hospital after being in there a full week. So I decided to try to make the fourth movement reflect to some small degree, the constant ebb and flow of happiness vs. worries or sadness in our lives. Hence the back and forth between D minor Bb major. That sounds disgustingly pretentious, doesn't it? I hope people can enjoy it just as absolute music. Blessing to you, my friend.

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