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Thomas Newman's Stoic Theme | Transcription and Study

Discussion in 'Score Study Resources' started by Aaron Venture, Apr 30, 2020.

  1. #1 Aaron Venture, Apr 30, 2020
    Last edited: May 4, 2020
    So it's been a while since I've posted some meaningful content here. I've been quite busy working on my instruments and basically dropped everything in favor of that. I've had little motivation to compose when I knew there's work on the instruments to be done, and so I didn't write. I've written themes and snippets and saved them all in my "Ideas" folder (one day I'll use them all!), but I've finished only 1 piece in the last year.

    In the same period I haven't done a single full, proper transcription. And I really think it's time to change that. I've forced myself to take a couple of days off and just have some intimate me time with music. I started yesterday and just finished transcribing and notating Newman's Stoic Theme from The Shawshank Redemption. I've always loved the piece, and it's a pretty simple one; a good place to start getting back into shape. And I have no score for it to check up against, which was an additional challenge (17-20 alone took me an hour to fully work out and be satisfied with).

    Some of the super dense stuff I couldn't accurately pinpoint, so I was filling out some lines how I would do them until I thought the playback was good enough (and what I was seeing orchestrationally made sense)

    Critique my notation, and help me nail this thing 100%!

    Find the PDF and MP3 (Noteperformer output) below.

    I will now try and compose a complete rip off to see did I actually understand what I transcribed. I'll compose on piano and orchestrate in notation; no MIDI. Let's see if I can do it in two days.

    Sylvain Provenzano likes this.
  2. Here we go! 7 days and 3 pieces (two of which have been scrapped) later, I've finished my ripoff/study (harder than I thought it'd be; I kept going my own way too soon).

    Gotta say, it was great just transcribing Stoic Theme and I've surely learned from it. But spending a week in its world and trying to compose something (very) similar further revealed a lot of other things in the original piece that I did not notice just transcribing. Composing this little ripoff (that I took in my own direction a bit towards the end) be it good or bad, has made the transcription so much more worth it,

    Some things to learn from Stoic theme:
    • The piece mostly relies on suspensions and 7th chords without the fifth
    • Voicing is very light and it doesn't need to be more than that
    • If your voicing is light, simply making it denser or moving the basses into the lower octave can make it sound bigger even if you stay in the same dynamic marking
    • Same goes for orchestration—17-20 in contrast sounds huge, while in reality it's just horns and bassoons coming in a dynamic louder and filling out the middle along with 2nd violins; if your instrumentation allows, you still have only an entire orchestra to go to later on if you so desire. The ceiling is still far away
    Here's my ripoff.

    I extended the B section by 2 bars (27-29) and went for a simpler final A section. What's the deal with that part (31-37) in the original anyway? Is it four bars of A (27-30), then a bridge (31-32) followed by 4 bars of C or rather 2 bars of C followed another 2-bar bridge? Do you think the picture's got anything to do with that structural choice?

    Any discussion on the original theme and/or Newman's music in general is welcome. I'm sure there are folks here who've spent more time getting familiar with his music than me.
    Sylvain Provenzano likes this.
  3. Hey!

    I thought "why is this thread getting no love?"

    First great job on both the transcription and knock off.

    I was supposed to finish up a certain piece for solo trumpet today :oops:. Internet addiction and procrastination
    had me read your post and get inspired so I took the challenge myself to write a knock off instead. I know.. that is terrible. (Must complete the nearly finished work)

    I suppose I would add my personal challenges I found where

    Finding an idea that I can stand to listen to over and over.
    A convincing ending.

    I failed miserably on the 2nd one. Once you get the momentum going it can be hard to stop.


    You know I tried for a few months to write in this style a few years ago. I have long had an idea for a work that I really want to write but is beyond my abilities.

    There is a particular flavor of American darkness that is hard to put in words. Almost like trying to write about Bar-B-Que sauce.
    (hmmm.... but I love that !!)

    The particular area I wanted to write about was the "Gospels of Prosperity". I have a real sweet tooth for subjects that blur the lines between fiction and non-fiction. It becomes impossible to tell what side you are on. "Think and Grow Rich" is one such classic fairy tale.

    Anyhow, please find below my take on the knock-off.


  4. Hey Aaron,

    Good job! I wrote a long comment when you posted but it seems like it vanished.

    I remember noticing that you were very generous with the string slurs. For example in the beginning of the original I can clearly hear a bow change every bar. Throughout this sounds like a 'once per bar' piece with few exceptions.

    I don't think I hear the same distributions on the wind chords but we all hear differently.
  5. Hey man!

    Thanks for posting, and great that you did your own ripoff. Yours sounds bit more like what I have/had as an end goal once I'm done with this study—not a complete ripoff but clearly in the same style.

    Hah, I see what you mean :D

    How so? Do you think you just couldn't put down something in that style that you'd like? Or are you just failing to nail the vibe?

    That's a damn shame, I would have loved to read the whole thing.

    Ah, see, that's where my inexperience with writing for live strings comes in and instead of paying close attention, I was relying on what sounded good in the reproduction. Now that I've fixed it, it still sounds good, but now actually makes sense with what I hear in the recording in regard to what you pointed out.

    Could be. I just barely picked up on the bassoons in 17-20 so I assumed they would be there in 33-35 as well—these I filled out how I would put them, just like the harp from 27 on. It didn't make sense to me that it he would just drop the harp completely
  6. Since you also ask for notation critique:

    Stoic Theme
    - slurs are still debatable. I think you would learn a lot from having a player playing it through and hearing differences.
    - bar 8: I don't hear violins as a dynamic softer than the ensemble.
    - bar 17: it should say 2 Bsn. and 4 Hn. on the side and bracket them. Either you continue bar 19-20 with two stems for bassoons and get rid of 'a2' or make bar 17-18 into the same voice stem.
    - bar 17: Horns are not 'a4'. That would mean that 4 horns were playing the same note. What you should do is have to staves for horns: 1.2 on top 3.4 below but copying out what you already have to both staves so that horn 1 and horn 4 play the same line. Continue with two stems through 19-20.
    - bar 17: Choose horns no key. Horns don't take key signatures in orchestral score. Indicate on the first page that this is transposed score.
    - bar 21: We had a discussion on harp pedals recently, but given the material I wouldn't label any pedals in bar 21.
    - bar 21: Do you want cellos on the same pitch as first violins? In that case don't use an octave line but use tenor clef.
    - bar 26: Waaaay to long slur for violins here.
    - bar 30: The dotted quarter note will playback as an unidentified decreasing diminuendo (known to Pentagon as UDD – never actually seen). If you want a more pronounced diminuendo than - say - bar 28, indicate an ending dynamic just before the eight note rest.
    - bar 31: of all instruments to be bracketed timpani is the only one that does not bracket :D
    - bar 31: violins 2 I would simply make the E in a down stemmed voice and a unison on the F with two stems and write unis. on the next bar.
    - bar 32: timpani uses mallets - not sticks.
    - bar 34: remove bottom eight note rest in bassoons. Do the same thing with horns as above. I hope you can see here, that you don't indicate who is gonna play the Bb. Is it 3 and 4 or 2 and 4?

    Case Study
    - bar 13: flip the slur in violas.
    - bar 14: 'in rilievo' is a term to use in stead of 'bring out' which is unconventional.
    - bar 17: same thing with horns.
    - bar 21: same thing with octave line and slur in cello.
    - bar 29: if you only used treble clef for piano that would be okay (still not preferable). If you use both it's best to have the grand staff. Bar 29-33 I would probably do an octave line below in the score if it takes up too much space.
    - bar 28: piano/vla/vlc is that a slur or tie? I know it's a slur but the meaning of it is not clear.
    - bar 27: Use the tenuto in this case for violins instead of the hat. Have all the stems in viola go up.
    - bar 31: flip the slur in viola.
    - bar 35: viola have all the c's stem up.
    - ending: indicate a specific cut off point for the niente's and write ppp instead.
    Aaron Venture likes this.
  7. If you happen to pass on from this world before I do, I am going to put on your tombstone, under your name

    "never put brackets on the timpani"

    Then I will have two timpani (one on the left, other on the right) one tunned to G the other F for dear Elgar, and proceed to play my
    new composition for you called "In our own spare time"
    Thomas Bryla likes this.
  8. Amazing, Thomas, that's what I'm talking about! Thanks a lot.

    Here's the corrected score for Stoic Theme.

    Can you elaborate what do you mean here? It's supposed to be a tie (same notes). If I wanted to indicate to strings that I wanted a rebow there while holding the previous note for the full duration, how would I notate that? No slur and just mark the notes before tenuto?

    Do they have to be all on the same side or are there exceptions? What about violins in bar 28? Flipping them all up makes the second beamed par look weird. Do I flip the notes then as well?

    Is in this case writing niente for strings redundant? Would they all end on a downbow and by default play so that at the end of that final F end lightly just at the tip of the bow? Is that why writing ppp is enough?
  9. You have used a slur instead of a tie. Press the enter key on the keypad.
    Slurs have to be on the correct side. The places I pointed out are on the wrong side. And flip bar 28 as well. Not the stems just the slurs.
    The thing about string writing is understanding the ensemble mentality of it. To the players there is no difference between ppp and niente and in an ensemble setting there is no difference between pp and ppp. Make the dynamics cohesive.

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