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 Post subject: First piano composition
PostPosted: Tue Nov 08, 2011 9:51 pm 
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I am new to composition, having just started composing this Spring (I am an amateur musician, currently playing principal bassoon in my local community orchestra). I have just completed my first piano composition that I wanted to get feedback on.

Here is a link to the score: http://www.synnovation.com/Music/Prelude_in_C_Minor.pdf

I don't have a recording of the piece since I don't have the piano skills to play it but the Sibelius rendition is pretty good (although a bit mechanical sounding for my taste :) ): http://www.synnovation.com/Music/Prelude_in_C_Minor.mp3

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated, whether positive or negative.

Thanks,
Ed


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 Post subject: Re: First piano composition
PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2011 3:01 am 
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Location: Carbondale, IL
Hi Ed,

I had a listen to your piece prelude in C minor, not a piece written by a genius composer in my opinion. But for someone who it is his first piece, it is not half bad. Did you go to school to play Bassoon? I'd like to hear more about your background.

I liked how you did not write one rhythm over and over, the use of various tempos and agogic patterns was interesting. For criticism what I might have liked to hear is a contrasting section. I heard four notes within 5 semitones of eachother again and again (starting with B natural going up to e flat) This was a good restatement but with a repeated chord progression like this, it is easy for a listener to loose interest. I only say this because before I learned it in music theory I had no idea. I am going to school at SIU to write music and make movies :)

Hope this helps,

~Riley

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"I don't know what music is, but I know it when I hear it." - Alan Schuyler
Riley Tucker


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 Post subject: Re: First piano composition
PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2011 3:33 pm 
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Riley,

Thanks for the feedback. I will discuss with my composition instructor when I next meet with him.

Some quick background. I am actually a trained mathematician and computer software developer/entrepreneur that retired about a year ago. I am also a highly skilled amateur musician. My primary instrument is clarinet but about 6 years ago (in a moment of insanity?) I decided to start playing bassoon as well. Currently I mostly play just bassoon as principal in our local community orchestra and band. At this point, I think I prefer the quirkiness of the bassoon.

I had never had any music theory training at all (I wouldn't have known the difference between a triad and a trident...). Last spring, I decided to finally learn music theory and took a full 3 credit music theory class at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), learned a lot, and enjoyed it immensely. As an unexpected bonus, I discovered that I really liked composition and by the end of the class last May I had completed a lengthy bassoon-clarinet duet, a five movement suite entirely written in the pentatonic scale, and a couple of other smaller works. As soon as I completed the music theory class I started taking private composition lessons from a composition post-Doc at UW.

Technically, Prelude is actually my second piano work since the Pentatonic Suite is currently a piano work as well. However, that piece has always been envisioned to ultimately be a work for band. In looking back now at that piece, which I wrote in March/April, most of it is fairly simple in structure (I hadn't learned about 7th chords when I started it). The only exception is the second movement which is actually quite different and interesting and well liked by my instructor.

I am currently working on a Scherzo for piano that should be completed in a few weeks. I will post it when done.

Thanks,
Ed


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 Post subject: Re: First piano composition
PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2011 2:51 am 
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Hello Ed, I really like this piece, hearkens back to some of my favorite Gershwin pieces.

While I take issue with Riley's comment to some extent (if you have to take a theory class to discover that something is boring to a listener, is it really as boring as all that?) I did observe that the piece does have a repetitive, blocky nature: there are several sections, and within each section, the rhythms and figurations don't change that much. For example, there's a Maestoso section with big chords, then a section with 8th triplets in the RH and quarters in the LH, then vice versa, etc. But I'm hesitant to place a value judgment on that, because (1) I enjoyed listening to it, (2) the piece is short, (3) many works of genius are repetitive in exactly the same way, e.g. Chopin etudes, Bach preludes no. 1 in C major and 2. in C minor from WTK.

One obligatory observation about computer realizations: they emphasize the mechanical, repetitive aspects of a piece, unless the engineer puts a lot of work into timing and dynamic variation. For a human pianist, my guess is that the challenge would lie in creating phrases while remaining true to the repetitive nature of each section...... kind of like when playing those Bach preludes. (I don't think a Relentless Minimalism approach would work with this.)


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 Post subject: Re: First piano composition
PostPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2011 4:47 am 
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Thanks. If you look at the structure of the piece, you can see that it was inspired in part by the overall structure of Rachmaninov's "Prelude in C# Minor".

I did go to some effort to get the Sibelius rendition to be a reasonable approximation of what I have in mind for the piece, but it does take a lot of time to do that. Anyone playing it should be able to end up with a much better version than the mechanical rendition from Sibelius. Unfortunately, even though this is just an advanced intermediate level piece, I don't have the skills to play it! The new piece I am now working on will be an advanced level piece so the problem will only get worse in the future! :)


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 Post subject: Re: First piano composition
PostPosted: Thu Nov 24, 2011 5:23 pm 
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Hi Ed,

One question about dynamics. When you write two different dynamic levels for the two hands, what do you have in mind? If you just want the pianist to bring out the melody, you can rest assured that any pianist with any training at all will know to do that. Not even beginner piano books bother putting separate dynamic markings on the melody and accompaniment. On the other hand, if what you want is a drastic difference in balance, to the point where the LH and RH sound like they're in different locations (might be an interesting dramatic effect), then it does make sense to use different dynamic markings.

Normally when faced with these markings I would just assume the composer wanted an enormous difference in balance, otherwise why bother writing them in--except I happened to remember this one had been used for a computer realization, and I wondered if maybe you might only have wanted to tell the computer to bring out the melody. I also wonder if, this being a "first piano composition," you might not be that familiar with what a pianist will do without "being asked" by extra dynamic markings.

hreichgott


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 Post subject: Re: First piano composition
PostPosted: Thu Nov 24, 2011 7:04 pm 
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hreichgott,

Your comments are are very helpful - thanks!

The answers to the question of why the detailed dynamic markings are exactly as you guessed. Since I needed a computer rendering that was reasonably close to my intent, you need to be very exacting about what you want the composition to sound like. The other answer is that I haven't played piano much in years so I wasn't aware that only minimal markings should be included. It sounds like I should generally exclude the dynamic markings for the accompaniment but include them in the melody line - is that correct? What I will do in future compositions is include the markings for the computer rendering but hide them in the score when it is printed. I actually do that for tempo markings already. In the accelerandos throughout the piece I actually have hidden tempo markings, in some cases, on a measure by measure basis so it sounds close to what I want.

This does bring up two other related questions, though. First, a question about fingerings. One skilled pianist that initially reviewed the piece noted since piece is at an advanced intermediate level and will almost certainly be just played by students (I have two already planning on playing this in the Spring), I should add suggested fingerings. However, for any more advanced work, I should leave out suggested fingers. Do you agree with those suggestions?

The second question is about the accelerandos, especially at the end of the agitato section. My thought here is that if I were playing it I would push the tempo as far as I could up to the final closing run. Is this something I should indicate and if so, how would I do it? I almost want to include "release notes" with the piece :).

Thanks,
Ed


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 Post subject: Re: First piano composition
PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 2011 4:21 am 
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Hello Ed,

Thanks for the clarification about dynamics!

About fingering and tempo indications--you can be as detailed or non-detailed as you want. Relates to the issue of how much liberty you want to allow the performer (bearing in mind that many performers will take liberties of their own, anyway). Many books for students have fingerings. Many don't. And many teachers (like my teacher Peter Takacs) routinely dispense with editorial fingerings anyway and require students to create their own, since different pianists will find different fingerings convenient.

Just try to be super-clear in your tempo markings and it will be fine. Don't feel like you have to use Italian. I once played a piece by Robert Starer marked "As fast as you can play." Playing at one's absolute limit of speed does produce a panicky sound. This particular piece was entitled "Frantically" so apparently that is what he wanted.

Looking forward to hearing (and perhaps playing) more of your work for piano!
cheers, hreichgott


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 Post subject: Re: First piano composition
PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2012 5:40 am 
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Posts: 137
This is a pretty interesting piece with a somewhat spooky feel, and for a first piano composition, it is indeed pretty good. However, as the previous commenters have said, it would do well with more variation in general. While bars 15-16 provide a nice contrast to what gone on before, it overstays its welcome when you repeat the phrase four more times from b 17-20, since the constant one-step down progressions are pretty monotonous. This leads to an unsatisfying transition into the middle triplet section and is also the cause of what I think is a somewhat banal ending.

The same goes for the middle triplet section; it goes well with the 'A' section of the piece at first, but it become monotonous when you switch the triplet melody to the left hand while keeping the same harmonic progression. The problems are compounded when you go back to the beginning of the section but an octave higher; increasing the tempo has potential but you need to accompany it with new harmonic material. Relief and a genuine increase in tension only comes in bar 53 when you increase the harmonic rhythm, with a nice lead back into the A section, but the constant repetitions sort of killed that for me. You need to vary the material in the B section and change up the harmonies, I think; they sort of got stuck in my mind...

One small specific thing you could do is to change the C-minor chord in b.10 to a root position one rather than a second-inversion one. Other than that, I wish you all the best in your future musical endeavours.


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 Post subject: Re: First piano composition
PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2012 2:53 pm 
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Thank you for your comments. I completely agree with them and am forwarding them to my composition teacher for his thoughts.

This does raise an interesting overall question, which I am sure has come up many times before. I wrote this piece after starting composition about six months earlier. I actually "completed" four other works prior to this but didn't consider them yet to be finished enough to consider publishing them. I expect to rework at least two of these, perhaps three, and in a couple of cases expand to chamber works and in one case a band piece. Prelude was the first piece that seemed developed enough to submit to people for comments. I actually had many of the same concerns that have been raised in this format but decided it was at the point that it made sense to see how people would react to it. In addition to this forum I posted it on several other forums and have received some similar comments from others. However, one place I posted the work for comments was the piano teachers guild in my home town of Madison, WI. Somewhat to my surprise, several of the piano teachers liked it well enough so that it looks like at least two and possibly up to four local students are now working on the piece for performance in a spring recital (I feel very honored by this and didn't expect this).

So the fundamental issue is whether to leave the piece as is and learn from the excellent comments I have received so that my future pieces are better or alternatively revise the piece in accordance with the feedback I have received to date. Since in my real life I have been a software developer for more than 45 years, I am very used to releasing new versions of software products I have created and would have no problem with releasing "Prelude in C Minor - Version 2.0". On the other hand, maybe it makes sense at this point to leave it as it is as an example of my "primitive, early works" :-), especially since a few people are already working on the piece. When you look at early works from many great composers, they are usually not as good or complex as their later works but in most cases I doubt if the composers considered going back and revising those earlier pieces as they became better composers.

I am very open to revising the work, but wanted to raise this as a general issue for anyone new to composition.

Thanks,
Ed


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 Post subject: Re: First piano composition
PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2012 7:34 pm 
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Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 7:28 am
Posts: 1250
Location: Springfield, Missouri, USA
IMO, you should leave it alone, learn from it and move on to apply consepts in new works. Juvinalia is juvinalia, some of it better than others. You're right, with few exceptions, earlier works of the Greats are left the way there were conceived. It will ultimately make the demonstration of your progress clearly evident. Keep at it!

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Eddy M. del Rio, MD
"A smattering will not do. They must know all the keys, major and minor, and they must literally 'know them backwards.'" - Josef Lhevinne


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 Post subject: Re: First piano composition
PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2012 10:14 pm 
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The only question I have is whether or not you can have a Juvenilia period when you are a senior citizen! :-)


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 Post subject: Re: First piano composition
PostPosted: Sat Jan 28, 2012 3:28 am 
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Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 7:28 am
Posts: 1250
Location: Springfield, Missouri, USA
edharris99 wrote:
The only question I have is whether or not you can have a Juvenilia period when you are a senior citizen! :-)

Good point. I say as long as you're young at heart, so be it. I still think you should move forward. Even if you did improve somthing, what's to stop you from thinking it needs it again in another year or two?

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Eddy M. del Rio, MD
"A smattering will not do. They must know all the keys, major and minor, and they must literally 'know them backwards.'" - Josef Lhevinne


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 Post subject: Re: First piano composition
PostPosted: Sat Jan 28, 2012 4:14 am 
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That is what I am going to do. I am about halfway through a new composition that (I think) is much more complex and interesting than Prelude. I will post here when I get a first cut completed. Thanks for your comments.


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 Post subject: Re: First piano composition
PostPosted: Thu Jul 19, 2012 8:52 pm 
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I finally completed the first version of my new work (Scherzo in C Minor) and submitted it today. Take a look if interested. It is a much longer and more complex work than Prelude.

One follow on note re Prelude. It was premiered by a high school student at a recital this May and was very well received. After the performance, the piano teacher told me that two other of her students liked it well enough that plan on tackling it as well. She made an interesting comment/observation about the piece. She said that she thinks that it will be more appealing to her boy students than her girl students. It was a boy that premiered it and the interested students were also boys.

I thought about this for a while and have a theory, which may be totally off base. I sent some performance notes to the student that premiered it since I didn't get a chance to meet with him. At the end of the fast part, my notes indicated that "you should accelerate this section to as fast a tempo as you can while remaining in control". My guess is that this taps in to the reason that most of us of the male persuasion like car chase scenes in movies! :)


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