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Composer Audition - Three Preludes

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by pianoman342, Aug 27, 2011.

  1. pianoman342

    pianoman342 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi,

    For a reintroduction, I am Riley Tucker. Some of you may know me, I have been a member of PS forum for sometime, have enjoyed critiquing and learning about romantic and classical piano pieces by some great composers. I am an student pianist and composer and have been writing a number of short pieces this past summer and have finished three. I am back at SIU now and have performed them on a Yamaha Grand (that I was lucky enough to find in proper tune :) in the music schools music studio. I am interested in auditioning these in hopes to become a composer on the main site. I am attaching the score hosting all three pieces as well as the recordings in mp3 format.

    Technical info:
    Mic Preamp is M-Audio Fast-Track
    Microphone is Sterling Audio ST51 Large Diaphragm Condenser
    Yamaha Baby Grand on Short Stick

    Thanks for your consideration,

    ~Riley



    Tucker - Three Preludes - 1: F-sharp minor (0:57)
    Tucker - Three Preludes - 2: E minor (1:09)
    Tucker - Three Preludes - 3: E minor (0:49)
     
  2. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Very nice little pieces, and well played ! You could maybe use a little more variation, sometimes things sound a tad repetitive, like on no.3. The middle section of no.3 seems a bit jarring, tempo-wise. Also, no.3 has no ending to speak of. Personally I don't believe in pieces that just stop like that. But you have a nice way with the piano, unapologetically traditional. I like that.
     
  3. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Riley,
    These are interesting little pieces. I think often times composers get carried away and their compositions go on and on and on....so I like that these are short.
    I liked the first one the most. It sounds to me like something Kabalevsky would write. No. 2 I think didn't have quite enough to hold the interest, but it's still sort of pretty. No. 3 is okay, but I also think it could use something - like when you repeat back and forth - maybe if you changed one note in the chords here and there to slightly change the harmonies - that would be interesting.

    Good luck in your upcoming school year! :) Btw - three of my nephews also attend SIU and my brother did too.
     
  4. pianoman342

    pianoman342 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks for listening and for the praise! There is something really cool about being called apologetically traditional ! I realize there could be more variation in no.3, the reason for the form l:A:ll:B:ll:A:l was to give the listener an idea of experiencing something twice, something different twice, and then a return to the main theme for two counts. Somewhat repetitive but maybe it's because it's so short that you notice? :roll: I left the ending open as a way of saying that not everything has a definitive end, I realize this is something rebellious (something Schoenberg or Glass would say :) ) and jarring in the context of classical theory, but I realize in 2011 I am not going to be compared to Hummel or Clementi of the 18th century, so the best I can strive for is to make my music somewhat modern. Though I really appreciate Monica saying no. 1 sounded like Kabalevsky? I had a listen to some of his Children's Pieces and I can somewhat see the connection, him being a 20th century composer.

    Thanks for the critique and the compliment! I have tried to write longer pieces but they usually lose focus of the main idea and looking back on them I wish I never even attempted them :( So about your critique, you say the no. 3 could use a variation in harmonies. About a slight change in the chord, I actually did that in the recording, measure 10 first beat in the left hand, the second repeat I play just a Bb and leave out the D. This doesn't change the piece is a big way, certainly not harmonically, but a critic might say its some kind of variation, albeit small.. :|

    I am getting the idea that you both don't like the third piece (at least as a whole) should I cut it out and just make this two preludes? :lol:

    Thanks for wishing me good luck at school, it should be a fun semester 8) Very cool that your relatives go to SIU, it's a nice place(in my experience :p ) and so I think they will enjoy it , are they all freshman? Studying music?! It was in the school paper sometime last week that there was an increase in enrollment so this is good news as in all three years before me the enrollment numbers were down :(

    Thanks for your criticisms and if you decide to put this on the site, let me know.

    ~Riley
     
  5. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    It's not that I don't like it, it just sounds a bit repetitive with all the repeated notes. With some variations in the figuration it could be much better. The middle section is a bit trite, and just repeating it once without any change does not help. Nice trick calling the ending open-ended :p But actually it is no ending, the piece just breaks off. I hate it when that happens - sometimes books are like that, it is really annoying.
     
  6. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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    Hi Riley,
    First of all, Edwardsville or Carbondale? I used to teach at SIU-E.

    Your pieces are very nice and suitable for elementary piano students. Just a few comments composition-wise:

    Prelude 1:
    overall: you need to either add slur lines to indicate your desired phrasing, or punctuate with rests.
    Bar 22: the Eb in bass goes to an E-natural. Replace the Eb with a D#. (Don't give me any software excuses!)
    Bar 26: same idea

    Prelude 2:
    Bars 7-8: don't use a repeat sign for a single measure; this obscures the 4-bar architecture for every musician, both elementary and advanced.

    Prelude 3:
    overall: the form being ABA (repeats do not affect form) you could dispense with the last A and write da capo al fine (see below)
    Bar 1: The D# and A# in the bass need to be Eb and Bb to correspond to the music in the RH and the voice leading.
    Last bar; it's not there! This needs an ending chord, which could serve as the fine referred to above.

    I hope this helps. Let me know if your want to discuss chromatic voicing sometime.

    Eddy

    PS: One more thing, elementary pieces are more approachable if you can give them a characterisitc title that can help the young ones. "Prelude" means something to us, but not to little ones.

    Edit: added PS
     
  7. RSPIll

    RSPIll New Member

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    Riley,

    These are delightful. You have some good ideas and are organizing and combining them in considered ways.

    Overall, the first one does work best for me as it is written. Some variety in your repetitions of ideas could be good but, for me, it is not a big issue due to the size and nature of these pieces. I can see some of my early level piano students enjoying this one.

    The second one, to me, could stand some elaboration. Essentially, your initial musical thought is the first 12 measures (ends in your measure 11 due to the one measure repeat, which as Eddy says, don't do. The only reason to repeat a single measure is as a "Vamp until ready" in show music.) This represents the amount of time you actually take to fully establish tonic in a full cadence. Then you simply give us a coda type passage based on the very beginning. The breadth of this slow theme just needs more.

    From what I see an hear, your theme is represented by the first 4 measures (question) ending on a half cadence. You take the next melodic idea, which seems like the answer at first, and telescope it into a third phrase through that repeated measure. That actually makes for a very interesting idea upon which to build.

    Also, in this particularly (actually everything you write), get in the habit of indicating mood and tempo. Use the Italian, if you want, or do it in English and add metronome markings if you want. Just looking at the score, if I had not heard it played, I probably would have thought it to be somewhat march-like due to the time signature, 2/4, and the primarily quarter and eight note rhythm. If I were to be asked to write the rhythm as part of a dictation project, I probably would have considered the meter to be 4/4 and what you write as quarter notes to be half notes. There are no absolute rules, but there are some psychological, visual meanings to the time signatures and note values chosen. Music with a lot of "white notes" (half and whole notes) in time signatures like 3/2 or 4/2 have a tendency to seem to need to be slower. Those with black notes quarters, eigths, sixteenths, faster. Those with lots of 32nd notes have a quickly moving foreground while the feeling of background beat is usually at a slower pace. Of course I am sure that one can find any number of examples that would refute that.

    I like a lot about number 3. It is quirky and has a fun feel about it. Consider it a work in progress because there is a bit more that you can do here.

    First, there is the notation issue that Eddy mentioned. That is fixed easily enough. That is one reason composers have editors much like authors do. There is an issue with measures 5 through 8. What I see, I expect to hear a slower more lyrical moment. I hear an attempt at it, but first, the half notes in your notation are played approximately the same as the quarters in the previous 4 measures. The way it is performed sounds like an attempt at lyricism, but with poor rhythm (and a change in rhythm unit to the beat to boot). To me, a lyrical contrast would work well here, but it isn't happening. If your notation is what you intended, then you need to re-record with this section in the same tempo with expressiveness. It does work as written.

    Now the infamous ending. I am going against the grain here and saying do not succumb to temptation and put a final "bump" anywhere! Because of the comments, you have hit upon a musical device that you can play with for musical effect and humor. This device is called expectation.

    In this part of your tool kit you always have 3 choices. 1.) You can fulfill the listener's expectations. This is by far and wide the major part of music theory "When you hear a dominant seventh chord, a tonic should follow." 2.) You can delay that expectation. 3.) You can deny that expectation. Composers have done all three for centuries. It is a stock in trade in not only music but drama, comedy, and visual arts.

    When I played around with your ending I discovered that there are (at least) three possible "solutions" that would create a sense of finality and satisfaction. First was simply a bass "stinger" on your final Ab -- meaning that that is the key your piece is actually composed in. Second, it could decend one final half-step to G (the Ab harmony acting as a substitute harmony for the D7 [called a "tritone substitute" in jazz]). Or third, it could ascend to A -- the Ab being enharmonically recognized as G# leading tone of A. Thus what you have done is allowed the listener to come up with his or her own final solution.

    The thing to experiment with is trying to make the "non-ending" more intentional. Play with the listener's expectations. For example you could repeat that last measure after a pause, making them expect that final solution, do it again after another pause. Then stop. The listener will realize that you are not intending to give them any more. A wonderful example of a piece that doesn't end is the presto of Haydn's String Quartet op. 33 #2 (http://youtu.be/qmoA5fy_kvQ).

    What you have in these is the seed of your own "Kinderscenen" (though you would probably want to name it in English since German is not that common in Carbondale. :wink: )

    Anyway, Riley, just some thoughts. Keep up the good work. I look forward to hearing and seeing more.

    Scott
     
  8. pianoman342

    pianoman342 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    I thought I had you fooled Chris, apparently not... :lol: Well If you don't like pieces that do not have finite endings I wouldn't recommend you ever listen to 'the unanswered question' by Ives. You probably have already but in any case its ending is decidedly even less conclusive compared to my no.3. the composer creates a question and it never gets answered :|

    Hi Eddy, thanks for the feedback!

    I go to school at SIU Carbondale. I am kind of surprised as I have never went been to the Edwardsville campus before. I assume you taught music theory there? I was reading your bio and it didn't say what you taught there but that you taught theory pedagogy in Cincinnati after you lived Florida? Sounds like you have moved around a lot!

    I agree there could be some slur lines to break apart the piece into sentences as a student studying speech learns reading a loud a paragraph. About the Eb that you think should be a D#, I'm curious, is this based off the theory rule that it's easier to read notes in an upward run that are sharp? (and easier to read flats descending?) Or is it for another reason? I won't give you any software excuses but I wish you could see how I put together pieces on my computer I start with a graphic note editor and only later my computer translates the block duration values into readable "musician" notation. I don't actually enter a piece note-by-note on a blank staff. I use to do that and boy was it a pain!

    I agree it would be more efficient to just write D.C. al fine. Efficient, and it would indubitably save me some ink :) though I kind of like how it is now, how the last four measures fill the page, just from an aesthetic viewpoint.
    The Eb and Bb could replace the d and a sharp, as it would still be a descending 5th, but I think it works as it is because aesthetically it indicates a descending motion, as with the no. 1. If you have two note heads on the same line in the same measure with accidentals on a later notehead it may be more economical, but IMO its harder for a performer to pick up and start playing.

    I would like to learn chromatic voicing from you, though I am currently taking a beginning comp class. Don't know if I will be learning it in that class. I learned so much theory last year about voice leading and secondary function and I most of it I can identify but I would never write like that. So I don't think a lesson that I will not use will be worthwhile to either of us :roll:

    Thought these pieces could likely be played by a many an ambitious sub ten year old beginner, I would like to leave them as preludes, though I realize none of the three can even come close to say Gershwin's set of three preludes or indeed, any of your interpretations that we are critiquing now by Rachmaninov. There are some easy pieces in Schumann's Kinderszenen but didn't someone here say Horowitz and Argerich had them in their repertoire, these two pianists who could probably have been tackling much more complicated literature, idk.

    Thanks again for the feedback.

    Scott-- Thanks for the feedback!

    Thanks, I was influenced a little by Prokofiev in the no. 1. I would say most of his pieces are the ones that are delightful and mine the cheap knock-off material that places second :oops: :lol:

    I could rewrite the one bar repeats in another draft so that they would just be two measures along side eachother. The reason I put the measure in repeats was to emphasize it, but I realize now the same idea would be illustrated better with phrase markings. Didn't know about show music how they use a measure to kind of sync the band, that's pretty cool 8)

    The way I was trying to build no. 2 was to continually build anticipation for a resolution throughout the piece and throw off listeners expectations (if you weren't following along with the score :wink: ) till the last two measures when I mean for the piece to truly come to a close.

    I agree that in standard tempo (my midi program defaults to 120bpm) a half note is drawn out, a quarter half as slow and an eighth half as slow,-- as it should be. But my argument is that when a performer picks up a piece of music, he or she might see what is indicated and decide to play something totally different. I think this is a good thing, personally I like this piece slow as can be, but some other performer might want to play it in 20 seconds. I would be interested in hearing it, and without an "adagio" marking, they might take the liberty of playing the piece andante or presto.

    Yay! An advocate for the not-really-an-end ending! :lol: I think if I was more joking and added a resolving chord a measure later my music would be seen as more of a joke than an actual serious piece, so maybe I should build an ending into the harmony, thanks for the suggestions. I listened to the Haydn String Quartet and see what you mean about delaying expectation. It was aptly named "the joke."

    I don't know if I could label this "scenes from childhood" as the english translation of kinderszenen goes. I can't think of which title would fit which? Maybe blindmans buff could match no. 3 :roll:

    Thanks again for the feedback,

    ~Riley
     
  9. musical-md

    musical-md New Member

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    Hey Riley,
    No, my theory-teaching days were in Miami at the New World School of the Arts. At SIUE I only taught Intro to Music to general university students as adjuct faculty, but that was enough to allow me a faculty tuition waiver so that I could be a full-time pre-med biology major too!

    The enharmonic spelling issues are not hap-hazard. The reason that we use sharps in upward movements (and flats in descending motion) are musical yes, but based upon physics/acoustics. The resolutions, so-to-speak, are "easier" from a physics standpoint because the pitches are closer together. That is, D# to E is a smaller step, than Eb to E. And Eb is closer than D# to D. The difference is known as a Pythagorean Comma. This is why in music an augmented 4th tritone will resolve outwards to a sixth, whereas a diminished 5th tritone resolves inward to a 3rd: the aug 4th is bigger/wider than the dim 5th. But from another perspective, how can there be a chord/harmony with both an Eb and a D# in it? This would be confusing even in atonal music. (BTW in writing a chromatic scale we use the sharps (or naturals) going up, and the flats (or naturals) going down, except for the raised subdominant when descending and the lowered 7th when ascending; but this is just for writing the different tonal chromatic scales.)

    While I'm responding to you, I would also like to add kudos for Scott's reply to you. :)
     
  10. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Indeed. Inconclusive it is - but it doesn't just 'stop' like your piece does. I think it has a 'real' ending.

    I suppose we could put these up on the site, adding you as a composer and performer. Even though I'd be happier if you did some more work on no.3.

    Also I would ask you to record something by some other composers too. It seems to me that too many composers here only play their own works.
     
  11. pianoman342

    pianoman342 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    @ Eddy,

    Intro to music sounds like basic theory. I took a fundamentals of music class my sophomore year and my first week of theory class my junior year it was everything we learned in the course, but with more finite detail :shock: I have never heard of the Pythagorean Comma, and this distance of tones, though scientifically I don't think there is a difference between and Eb and a D#, as based on this page http://www.phy.mtu.edu/~suits/notefreqs.html they list the notes in hertz and do not differentiate the spellings of the notes. Maybe the chart is wrong, but I think the difference in a tonal articulation comes from how each instrument is setup. But I better not hold forth as you have taught much longer than I have about theory-- (no time at all) :oops: :lol:

    @ Chris,

    Thanks for the offer to add me as a composer and performer. I went back to the drawing board with no. 3 today and it is now a piece that I am much happier with, believe it or not :D more characteristic to the no. 1 and no. 2 in the set. So it should not be the odd fit piece in the set that it was.. :cry:

    I have not memorized it yet and in any case I will have to wait till next week to reserve the music studio for another recording session and then I should be able to produce a recording, at the earliest.

    About submitting a recording by some another composer, I have some recordings of Grieg and Strauss but I know you are interested in new recordings not old recordings. I could memorize some bartok this week and so as to fit that into the recording session to have recordings of those for the performer page.

    And who do you mean "a composer here who only plays their own works?" I am glad for Bach, Chopin, Schumann, Strauss, Granados, Poulenc, Liadov to name a few, if it weren't for their music I might buy into the delusion that I was/am the best composer that ever lived. And if I thought that I might be considered by others as delusional :? 8)

    ~Riley
     
  12. RSPIll

    RSPIll New Member

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    Riley, That chart, "Frequencies for equal-tempered scale", is not wrong, nor is Eddy. There is an important qualifier at the top of it "equal-tempered". Equal-temperment is a means to tune keyboard instruments (as well as fretted stringed instruments such as guitar or lute) so that each black key can act as both the the sharp and the flat. All intervals, except the octave, is adjusted to be slightly out of tune for this to happen. Instruments like the violin and the voice are not limited to equal-temperment and in fact can and do recognize the differences between the sharp and flat represented by the same black key on a piano. Even wind instruments can make some adjustments in pitch with changes in emboucher.

    Before the equal-tempered (and its forerunner, the various forms of "well-temperment" which also allowed the use of all 12 keys, but different keys had different characters and some were a little rougher than others) there were systems of tuning, particularly the mean-tone temperments, which allowed only a limited number of keys. In some instances, particularly on organs, some of the black keys would be split so that the performer could choose between, say, D# and Eb so that more keys are usable.

    Although the keyboard has been equal-tempered since the end of the 18th century, keyboard performers do recognize the difference in tonal relationships between one note and a sharp or that same note and the flat represented by the same key. Even though an equal-tempered D# and Eb represent the same pitch, they have different tonal meanings and chosing the wrong one is tantamount to chosing the wrong spelling of "two/to/too". They also sound the same but have very different meanings.

    Scott
     
  13. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    I have listened to these and I think they are fun: the first one with its dance-like rhythm (my daughter was performing her little ballet to it 5 seconds after I turned it on). I like the "old style" of the second one, thought it is by no ways imitative barroque ways. The third one looks on paper as if does not finish, but the way you play it, with no ritardando, ritenuto, pause or anything, I feel it finishes, albeit not in the way one might expect, and surprise is a very useful tool.

    I hope you continue in this vein.
     
  14. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I meant to imply, people who only record their own work for PS.
     
  15. pianoman342

    pianoman342 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    @ Scott I think I understand what you and Eddy mean now

    @ Richard Thanks for your input, it helps a lot

    @ Chris

    I see.

    -----------------------

    I had some time today for a recording session and recorded a reconfigured alternative to the 3rd prelude. I am attaching it to this post. I also have made some changes to the 1st and 2nd prelude scores, among the changes are some alternative spellings of notes, slur lines as well as dynamic and tempo markings. So I have made all of the changes to the complete score and am attaching that to this post.

    During the session I recorded some Bartok (nice to see him on the site banner :) ), the 1st and 4th of his set "For Children," so I am attaching these to this post for recordings by other composers.

    I am also attaching a piece I recorded by Richard Strauss, his "Traumerei" Op.9 no. 4. Hopefully you will not find too much fault in the recording. The piece calls for the soft pedal all the way through so if it sounds dull and dampened, it is :) !

    Regards,

    ~Riley



    Tucker - Three Preludes - 1: F-sharp minor (0:57)
    Tucker - Three Preludes - 2: E minor (1:09)
    Tucker - Three Preludes - 3: E minor (0:49)


    Bartók - Sz.42, For Children, Book I - 1: Children at play (0:21)
    Bartók - Sz.42, For Children, Book I - 4: Pillow Dance (0:41)
     
  16. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    The 3rd prelude is far more convincing now, without that strange lump in the middle. I'm not too sure of the ending now - it sounds vaguely silly to me, but maybe that was the intention.

    The Bartok's are not bad but I must nitpick them a bit I'm afraid. What edition are you playing from ?

    In Sweet as Sugar Pillow Dance you seem to be ignoring all dynamic directives, the sempre legato at the beginning, and the two-bar rit. at the end (which must surely mean ritardando here). There are two dodgy RH notes (accidentally hitting an extra key which should have been corrected).

    In the Pillow Dance you also largely ignore all directives, it sounds very monochrome and metronomic.
    You leave out bars 16 and 25.
    In bar 30 (a tempo) the LH C should not be played, it's tied over from the previous bar.
    In bar 40, you play C in the RH instead of G.
    I thought at first you missed the top note in the closing chord. It's there, but very weak. IMO the two notes should be of equal strength.

    Sorry to be critical, but easy pieces like this must really be played perfectly and be of demonstration quality. You can do that with a bit more attention to the score (and maybe not playing from memory).
     
  17. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi again, Riley. First to answer your question from before....Carbondale.

    Now to your music...

    I hate to say this, but I agree about the ending of your Prelude sounding silly. It sounds so contrived and really comes out of nowhere. I don't think it fits that well with the rest of the composition. It's your baby, though, and if that's what you like, then I feel badly about telling you this. It's just that listening to original compositions is so highly subjective, which is why I rarely do it.

    Regarding your other pieces; I don't know those two Bartok pieces so I can't offer anything useful. Except, I did hear a couple awkward edits in the Pillow Dance. Specifically at :17. That's something you will have to eliminate in order for a recording to go up on the site. I did like your Reverie very much! The only negative thing here is the sound. Yes, you said that it calls for the una chorda pedal to be pressed down for the entire piece. But this sounds so much different from your other recordings; like you are playing in a long tunnel. It's not worse than a couple recordings we (should not) have on the site, but I dunno...What's your set up on this one?
     
  18. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Ah yes, I failed to notice that. It is quote obnoxious.

    And I now listened to the Strauss Reverie too. The performance is not bad at all - but how do you manage to get such a muffled and recessed sound ? If that is due to to your Una Corda pedal, I'd say do not use it - ever.
     
  19. pianoman342

    pianoman342 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chris,

    I agree the Bartok pieces do not sound as good as they could. My recording session was cut short because I had a class to go to before I could get a clean take. To answer your question, "what edition?" I memorized it and looking at the score I realize I did not add any of slurs in the score that seem to make the 1st sound somewhat syncopated.

    I have been practicing Schumann's Kinderszenen Op. 15 more so than the Bartok and decided to record my progress this morning. I wasn't able to get the grand piano but a Baldwin upright. I think it is more worth the while to record Schumann than Bartok as honestly I haven't worked on in a while. I am submitting no.2 no.3 and no.4., for your consideration. the no.2 has a little snag at the end but this was a note that did not sound completely, I was trying to play as piano as I could. Let me know if these are recordings you can accept.

    About Strauss's Traumerei, I agree it does make the frequency sound a little strange. I realize its a lot different than Mr. Kautsch's version here on PS.

    About you not knowing if i was swedish, I am american but of irish and swedish descent. Kind of the same thing, right? :oops: :lol:

    @ Monica

    Very cool. I don't know anyone by your last name here, but then again there are so many people who I go to school with that its hard to keep track of everyones first name nevermind both first and last :roll:

    Thanks for the feedback, it's no offense to me, and I did mean to make it kind of "showy" at the end. Though I can see what you mean -it is an ending unlike the 1st two pieces but because it's the last piece I thought i'd end the set with a bang :twisted: . It's interesting how someone can hear a piece and be repulsed by it and another person can look at the same piece and shrug and say "it sounds ok, not great, but ok"

    To answer your question about the Reverie: "What's your set up on this one?"

    I used a zoom h4 recorder. Baldwin upright piano, I believe it was about 2-3 feet from the keyboard.

    ~Riley
     
  20. RSPIll

    RSPIll New Member

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    Riley,

    This version of Prelude #3 is much more convincing and cohesive than your first version. You have started to explore development of an idea, which is an important tool for the composer. In this case, you have kept the basic rhythmic motive throughout. You took the initial chromatically descending melodic line and altered it in such ways that, while creating that feeling of chromatic descent, you allow it to also ascend -- measure 6, you begin the descent, move up a major third and then descend again. Then at measure 14, you begin a rising sequence, related by minor 3rds that descends in each measure and yet rises higher and higher. (If you will work on being more careful with your selection of enharmonic note choices, the relationship by those minor thirds would be more obvious.)

    This is an example of creating variety and contrast using only a few basic materials. You do not always need a completely contrasting section in a piece of music. There are whole sonata form movements built out of just a very few pieces of motivic raw material. One old artists adage is "creativity comes within restrictions." When you try limiting your materials, you will often find more creative and interesting ideas than allowing yourself everything and the kitchen sink. Good job.

    I hate to say it, but I have to agree that the ending does not work at all. Not a single thing is related to anything that preceeds it.

    First, from measure 14, through your sequence, you have an ascending line. The first note of that next to last measure needs to be the highest note of that ascent.

    Second, that B major chord comes out of nowhere, as does the B - Em (V - I). The piece has not had a single B natural in it. You do have the key signature for E minor (one sharp) and I believe that you may have chosen this because of your initial chord in measure 2 (the first full measure -- it appears that the incomplete measure is being counted as one by your softwares numbering) on the surface appears to be an E minor chord, when in reality its ambiguous -- E minor or E diminshed or even an A something (the first eighth note G being an incomplete neighbor resolving to the A). This measure acts as prepartion for the Bb major chord of measure 3, which has 4 beats, and the Ab major chord of measures 4 & 5, which is 8 counts. The harmonic strength of these two chords would deny E as being the actual key, and by extension, that B major chord acting as V of E minor. I believe that if you experiment more, you will find that the key of the piece is F (major or minor is not clear since it contains both A nat. and Ab throughout, but the overall minor feel of the piece is F minor)

    Third, the texture throughout has been 3 part (the momentary division of beats 1 and 3 in some measures does not affect that feeling substantially). All of a sudden in your next to last measure, you technically have up to 11 voices -- the half-note B chord is six of them, and since they hold through the measure, the bass B and the "fanfare" add another 4 or 5. (OK, I may have gone a little overboard in my voice counting, there are other ways it could be done. Also, piano music is not strictly beholden to keep exactly a certain number of voices at all times -- just like you added a part in those few measures in the main body of the piece. But my point is that, what is essentially a trio for, say, a woodwind trio, has an ending that would require the full forces of the New York Phil.) It is jarring and completely out of character. The simplicity, and austerity of the piece needs an ending that is equally simple and austere -- a single note, an octave or so apart

    I understand your concern about how it finishes the set, and that is good, but first keep the needs of the piece itself in mind. Not all sets need to have a grandiose ending. Some can actually end in a whisper to good effect. If you do not feel that a particular piece serves your purpose in a set, change the order, or add another that does or replace the current one and use it elsewhere. You will be in very good company. In any case, I'm not sure that that ending has any relationship to the set in full.

    Now, as I stated above, I believe the piece to actually be in F. As far as the keynote being F, measures 14 - 17 are doing everything they can to lead to an F. The relationship of the first bass note of each of those measures is minor 3rd, spelling an E dim 7 - the vii of F, (some theory sources would consider it to be a Vb9 without root -- therefore the E dim 7 represents a C7b9).

    As for mode, even though the piece contains both A nat. and Ab throughout, the prominance of the Ab harmony -- the longest held harmony in the piece, would make me lean toward F minor, since Ab represents the III of F minor.

    As far as notation, the mixture of sharps and flats, particularly with enharmonic notes at the same time or changing from one to the other in mid measure (and not even at consistent points in parallel measures), is really obscuring what is happening harmonically. The only # that could possibly be justified in this piece is the D# in the pickup at the very beginning, and that in the key signature for F minor could be fully debated and shown to be unnecessary. All of the rest should be flats. Also, the only time that you change from one note to its enharmonic spelling in close proximity to each other is in the case of an "enharmonic modulation".

    Sorry to be so long-winded, but I hope that I have given you some things to consider. I know that at times it can sound like the composing process is all about rules and how can you be creative with "rules" that go against what you are trying to do. Don't think of them as rules, but rather as principals. You follow the principals unless you have a good reason to do something else. There are even some principals in the arts for violating the "rules". The main one would be that whenever you chose to do something unusual, out of the norm, totally unheard of before...make sure your music show that you intended it to be that way -- make it a new norm.

    Scott
     

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