Sunday, August 30, 2009

piano/electronics/video piece outline

I've got a good plan sketched out for the piano/electronics/video piece. It's a little complicated, so I'll try to explain it as best I can.

It will be four movements, performed attaca. Total length will be 18 minutes. The four movements are proportioned using Fibonacci numbers (2, 3, 5, 8), but shuffled around. I am loosely basing the piece on the classical sonata. Here are my approximate timings and notes:

Movement I: "Allegro" - 8 minutes

Intro: 30"
low piano notes, fade into synth notes, with static and "transmission" sounds

Exposition: 2'45"
theme A: 1'15" | transition: 15" | theme b: 1' | coda: 15"

theme A:
assertive chords, martial (like Chopin's Polonaise in A), accompanied by noisy "transmission" sounds

theme B:
homo- and polyphonic textures, more 'lyrical,' computer plays tone-based sounds

Development: 2'

Recapitulation: 2'45"
theme A: 1'15" | transition: 15" | theme b: 1' | coda: 15"

Movement II: "Adagio" - 3 minutes

Chaconne: 10 variations @ 18" each
1. "organ" ground bass
2. add disjunct & sparse piano melody
3. melody continues, computer adds "electric piano" chords
4. piano chords, mimicking computer part in #3
5. piano chords + melody
6. new chords + counter melody + computer 'synth' melody
7. ground bass + computer melody (piano tacet)
8. piano + electronics - dense chords (12+ tones)
9. smaller (3-4 note) and faster-moving chords
10. conjunct, faster piano melody

III. "Scherzo" - 2 minutes

A = 40", B (trio) = 40", A = 40"

Aa = piano - main role, computer adds sine-tone "R2D2" filigre
Ab = call & response piano and computer

Ba = percussive computer part, piano melodic
Bb = synth doubles piano melody

Aa & Ab repeat

IV. "Rondo" - 5 minutes

A = 45" B = 45" A = 45" C = 30" A = 45" B = 45" A = 45"

A - driving, insistent rhythm
B - fast, skittering around
C - chords and synth glissandi

(obviously I need to think more on this one!)

Video Component

I am brainstorming on this - it's all going to be fairly simple, so I'll actually be able to accomplish it! Mainly flashing dots, squares, and lines. The whole experience will be a little sci-fi. More details on my next post!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

what will be consuming my life:

My favorite posts to write are the ones exploring my compositional thought process. It helps me understand how I work, and I hope it can give people insight into my work, or give other composers/artists some ideas.

Unfortunately, I don't have one of those prepared today. Instead, so I don't leave everyone hanging, I wanted to update with a list of what will soon be consuming my life. In other words, major projects:

1. GRAD SCHOOL APPLICATIONS. This is the most important. I have wanted to pursue a PhD in music composition for 6 years now, and it is time. I was hoping to start this fall, but I only applied to hard schools, they didn't have enough money due to the economy, etc. This year, I'm applying to 12 schools so I know I'll get into at least 2 or 3!

subsections of this project:

a. Graduate Record Exam - I am taking this again. I took it in '04 and scores are only good for 5 years. Also, I know I can perform much better on the writing portion - I got a 4 out of 6 last time, and I don't think I'm that shabby a writer. I am starting to brush up on my math though - haven't done a lot of that stuff in a long time!

b. Statement(s) of Purpose - I got started late on these last year (I was writing them feverishly over Christmas). I'm going to start soon so I have plenty of time to revise and have people read them (volunteers welcome!).

c. Piano/Electronics/Video piece - This is going to be a big piece (18 minutes), but I feel I need a new piece to show off. Since I want to delve into multimedia the video part will be important. It will be fairly simple, but I need to show that I can do a little bit.

2. Art+Culture - I have a part-part-time position as music curator for this website, so I've been doing some blogging and research there. It's a very cool site, definitely worth exploring.

3. Dance/Theatre collaboration - I'm working on music for an abstract play/dance piece based on Shakespeare's 148th sonnet. It is half waltz and half tango... We're hoping to get it on a festival or something in late fall.

4. Promoting my CDs - I am gradually booking shows around NJ for playing pieces from Late Frost. I'm also putting together a laptop trio, and when we do shows I'll bring a few copies of Parallel Lives. I've put clips on several sites (now all tracks can be streamed on Last.FM), and I'm hoping to find time to make some YouTube videos for Late Frost.

5. The Piano/Electronics/Video piece. Yes, I put it down twice.

That's a lot of work, but it's all going to be fun and well worth the effort!

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Just in case someone is actually following this blog...

As you may gather from my Twitter updates, I've been busy traveling. I'm back home and starting to get to work. More info coming soon!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

composing a piece in 60 minutes...

Today I responded to a composition challenge presented by New Music Hartford. The challenge was to compose a piece in 60 minutes. Several choices for instrumentation (solo flute, solo cello, flute & cello, electric guitar, 2-channel tape, and a quartet I can't remember the instrumentation for. These options were revealed at 3pm EDT, and a finished composition had to be emailed off by 4pm EDT. In a few weeks, the performers will rehearse each work for 60 minutes, then present these pieces in concert.

I started a similar tradition at Georgia State University called "Instant Music." For that project, composer drew names of performers out of a hat, then wrote pieces for these ad hoc ensembles. We had a full 24 hours to write and rehearse our piece - of if only I had that luxury today!

I had a few ideas in mind before the contest began, just to help myself along. I decided to use a tone row, to help me make decisions more quickly. I also decided to base my form on a sonnet. I would have 14 short sections - 4-5 bars each - and would reflect the sonnet's rhyme scheme (ABAB CDCD EFEF GG) through repetition.

I went with flute and cello duo - it seemed the best combination of interest and manageability. I sketched out my form (again, each section was to last 4-5 bars):

A - florid flute line, cello drones
B - declamatory cello line, flute tremolo
A - repeat A
B - repeat B

C - contrapuntal, similar rhythms
D - passing off short phrases
C - repeat C
D - repeat D

E - melody in tight harmony (3rds, etc.)
F - tremolo, creating static chords
E - repeat E
F - repeat F

G - long tones, fading away
G - repeat G

Despite all this repetition, I only finished through D. In all, the piece is 36 bars, which means I actually only wrote 18 bars! I think what slowed me down was that I had my 12-tone matrix on the computer, so I had to keep going back and forth on the screen. I am wondering if I had taken 2 minutes to write it on paper, if that would have helped me in the long run. Possibly.

Perhaps my initial outline was too ambitious. In the end, I have a sort of binary form, which would somewhat work if I had made D feel more like an ending. As it is, it just kind of stops.

In the end, I feel that while this piece is kind of crap, I definitely have the outline for a decent piece. Maybe I'll spend another hour on it someday.

If you're that bored/curious: