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Music By Members => Works in Progress: Senior => Topic started by: Tónskáld on November 01, 2019, 02:32:30 PM

Title: Song Cycle (cello & piano)
Post by: Tónskáld on November 01, 2019, 02:32:30 PM
Hello, all!

Sorry to be such a stranger lately... I haven't had much time to compose or visit the forum, but I'm going to spend the next few weeks in music, hopefully churn out this song cycle for cello and piano.

This is the first movement of five. Haven't thought of a name yet... the inspiration was the rise and fall of empires. This movement represents the first stage: assimilation, acquisition, regionalization (something like that—depends on your source), so I tried to make it feel "disjointed," as if the themes slowly merge together. The harmony is constructed from "a mode of limited transposition"—it's symmetrical and there is no real sense of key, but still quite beautiful, in my opinion.

I recorded this live (keyboard rendition of the cello), so I apologize for the timing issues. I think you'll still be able to get a good feel for how it should sound. Please, let me know what works/doesn't work for you in this piece. Thanks in advance!

Jordan
Title: Re: Song Cycle (cello & piano)
Post by: mjf1947 on November 01, 2019, 04:10:57 PM
Oh so very beautiful~!  Haunting melody .......................

Wonderful interludes with the piano accompaniment - with interesting harmonic transitions.

Subtle but a driving force ....................

Mark
Title: Re: Song Cycle (cello & piano)
Post by: whitebark on November 01, 2019, 06:19:33 PM
Ahh, that was lovely!  The cello melody was beautiful and the sparse piano accompaniment supported it well. Now I'll have to look up what a "mode of limited transposition" is.  Whatever, the harmonies created by it are effective in creating a longing, nostalgic mood.  Perhaps you could add more double stopping in the cello part, at least in the more intense parts - the ones that were there seems too few and felt like an afterthought.

Jay
Title: Re: Song Cycle (cello & piano)
Post by: Tónskáld on November 01, 2019, 08:58:10 PM
Oh so very beautiful~!  Haunting melody .......................

Wonderful interludes with the piano accompaniment - with interesting harmonic transitions.

Subtle but a driving force ....................

Mark

Thanks, Mark! I enjoy using these altered harmonies along with a songlike melody... adds some color to the piece.

Ahh, that was lovely!  The cello melody was beautiful and the sparse piano accompaniment supported it well. Now I'll have to look up what a "mode of limited transposition" is.  Whatever, the harmonies created by it are effective in creating a longing, nostalgic mood.  Perhaps you could add more double stopping in the cello part, at least in the more intense parts - the ones that were there seems too few and felt like an afterthought.

Jay

Thanks, Jay! I'll keep those double stops in mind. I haven't worked out the other movements yet, but I didn't want this one to be too showy. Modes of limited transposition is the term Olivier Messiaen used. In semitone music (i.e., Western music), there are only seven mathematically possible scales (modes) whose intervals are perfectly symmetrical. Whole tone scales, where each note is separated by a whole step, is one such mode. I like using these modes because they give you a huge palette from which you can branch off into virtually any tonal key in unconventional methods. Plus, it gives the music this great "punchy" edginess.

Thanks for giving this a listen, guys!
Title: Song Cycle (cello & piano), 2nd movement
Post by: on November 03, 2019, 06:32:25 PM
And for your listening enjoyment—or repulsion—here is the second movement. I've titled this one "Astígnes," which in Old English means "ascension, rising up." Think of it as the "toddler stage" of life. (By the way, I decided to name the first movement "Waccan," which means "awakening.")

The idea behind this is that each movement begins with the same theme. This theme is developed more with each movement, culminating in the third movement (the golden age, age of maturity, etc.), and then becoming less so until the end. Somehow, in my brain, this is supposed to represent the rise and fall of empires—and perhaps the cycle of life. I've named this song cycle "Aldor," another strong Old English word (wish we still used it!) that means "life, vitality."

This again is a live recording with some ??? timing issues. My apologies. Please let me know what you find good or ill about this piece.

Thanks!
Title: Re: Song Cycle (cello & piano)
Post by: sandalwood on November 03, 2019, 06:47:26 PM
I enjoyed this a lot, Jordan! It reminded me of the mood in the opening of Sibelius :) 4. I agree with Jay that the sparse accompaniment does a very good job. This is one touching "song" and I look forward to hearing the others in the cycle.

Whose cello is this, may I ask? Can you adjust the vibrato narrowness and speed independently?
Title: Re: Song Cycle (cello & piano)
Post by: Tónskáld on November 03, 2019, 06:54:24 PM
Thanks, Reha!

The cello belongs to Spitfire Audio, their Solo Strings collection. I'm sure there are ways to adjust the vibrato and many other tiny details, but those ways are beyond my limited understanding. My keyboard mod wheel can control one effect at a time—in this case, I chose dynamics. For better or for worse, I guess. :)
Title: Song Cycle (cello & piano), 3rd movement
Post by: Tónskáld on November 07, 2019, 11:21:55 AM
Hello again, friends!

Here is the third movement—and the climax—to the song cycle I'm working on. Just finished it this morning. I'm calling this one "Hréđ," (pronounced hraydh) a sturdy Old English word that means "triumph, victory, glory." This movement represents the strength and vitality of a being or empire at the height of its power. I again use a symmetrical scale (Messiaen's 4th MoLT) to construct the harmonies and thematic progressions here. This particular scale yields a Middle Eastern sounding color (IMHO), so I hope you find it interesting. I apologize for the start-stoppy-ness of the recording... very difficult to accompany oneself on a recording, apparently.

Let me know your comments and critiques, please and thank you!

PS, I've also included the 2nd movement score/mp3 in the attachments, in case you missed it in a previous post.
Title: Re: Song Cycle (cello & piano)
Post by: Tónskáld on November 14, 2019, 08:59:48 AM
Last time to trouble you for feedback—you'll have a little reprieve from me for a bit as no new musical projects are on the horizon. :)

Here are the final two movements of the cycle. I've called them Sweđrung1 (decline, corruption) and Ellorsíţ2 (departure, journey to beyond). Sweđrung represents the moral collapse of a society, the stage just before its death. I use a 5/8 rhythm here to make everything sound just "not right." Ellorsíţ symbolizes the dying breath of an empire, and I incorporated themes from the previous 4 movements (if you listen closely) to act as memories from a distant past. This movement is in 9/8 time, giving it a lilting waltz or the rhythm of gentle waves striking a ship as it sails to undying lands. Just like previous movements, these also feature harmonies derived from symmetrical scales.

I'm once again grateful for your patience in listening to these. This project is to be an entry for a competition in which each movement must begin with the same material and thematic development must occur throughout. The deadline is tomorrow, so I'm somewhat relieved to have finished a day early, and perhaps to get some feedback on what could be tweaked to provide better flow.

Thank you in advance,
Jordan

1Pronounced SWEDH-roong (the "dh" is a voiced th, as in they)
2Pronounced EL-lor-seeth (the "th" is an unvoiced th, as in thanks)
Title: Re: Song Cycle (cello & piano), 2nd movement
Post by: mjf1947 on November 14, 2019, 09:44:01 AM
And for your listening enjoyment—or repulsion—here is the second movement. I've titled this one "Astígnes," which in Old English means "ascension, rising up." Think of it as the "toddler stage" of life. (By the way, I decided to name the first movement "Waccan," which means "awakening.")

The idea behind this is that each movement begins with the same theme. This theme is developed more with each movement, culminating in the third movement (the golden age, age of maturity, etc.), and then becoming less so until the end. Somehow, in my brain, this is supposed to represent the rise and fall of empires—and perhaps the cycle of life. I've named this song cycle "Aldor," another strong Old English word (wish we still used it!) that means "life, vitality."

This again is a live recording with some ??? timing issues. My apologies. Please let me know what you find good or ill about this piece.

Thanks!



I'm a little late to the party here ....... The second movement absolutely illustrates the struggle and promise of "awakening".  The composition - it's form - in the context of the entire suite reminds me of Benjamin's Brittens Metamorphosos for Oboe - Niobe.

It is once again a beautiful movement .... with a touch of impressionistic sentiment.

Mark
Title: Re: Song Cycle (cello & piano)
Post by: sandalwood on November 14, 2019, 10:52:09 AM
Jordan, these two sound to me as solid, well-crafted movements. It is possible to relate the employed scales, handling of themes, management of dissonance to the misery and woes of decline and fall. I cannot say, however, I could emotionally relate very much to either.

I also thought perhaps the instrumentation has made your task a bit overly difficult since cello&piano may not be the most convenient forces to depict the civilizational cycle of an empire.
Title: Re: Song Cycle (cello & piano)
Post by: Tónskáld on November 14, 2019, 11:11:31 AM
Thanks, Mark and Reha! I appreciate the feedback very much.

Jordan, these two sound to me as solid, well-crafted movements. It is possible to relate the employed scales, handling of themes, management of dissonance to the misery and woes of decline and fall. I cannot say, however, I could emotionally relate very much to either.

I also thought perhaps the instrumentation has made your task a bit overly difficult since cello&piano may not be the most convenient forces to depict the civilizational cycle of an empire.

First off, thank you for the kind compliments! I've never used these kinds of scales before, and, I must say, I'm quite taken with them.

You are 100% correct about the difficulty of expressing something as complex as a civilization's life cycle with two meager instruments, and perhaps, in that regard, I've fallen short of my goals. If you broaden the scope to include life cycles in general, maybe that captures the moods presented here a little better? I do find it disheartening that the emotionality in these pieces wasn't conveyed very well—since that is the essence of impressionism.

Perhaps mentioning the inspiration wasn't a wise move, as that tends to bias the experience for the listener. In reality, this song cycle is a study in symmetry. A rise deserves a fall, a low deserves a high, and so forth. If one were to line the movements up and draw a line down the middle of Hréđ (the middle movement), the idea is that one would observe some semblance of symmetry there. In other words, the first and fifth movements resemble each other, as do the second and fourth.

In any case, your feedback is super helpful for me going forward! I will think about what I might be able to change without having to redo the structure of the pieces.

Cheers,
Jordan
Title: Re: Song Cycle (cello & piano)
Post by: Jerry Engelbach on November 15, 2019, 10:27:05 AM
Jordan,
 
I listened to each of the movements as you posted them, but decided to wait for the whole cycle before commenting.
 
The Story. Each movement definitely tells a story. That's one of their strongest virtues. But to me it's a musical story, not a literal one. Your inspiration about empires was irrelevant to me. And I didn't feel a sense of that anyway.
 
The Pace. The fourth movement was a welcome relief from the otherwise slow tempos. I wonder why you chose to go so slowly. Especially as the theme that inspired you would, I thought, have lent itself to more excitement.
 
The Melodies. The freeness of the form is effective. I felt an organic flow in each movement. It has an improvisational feeling, like a good jazz solo.
 
The Drama. Overall, you created quite an effective feeling of drama, which is something I greatly prize. The building and release of tension was good. But as above, I would have liked more variety in the tempos.
 
The Contrast. There is quite a lot of contrast between the drawn-out notes of the cello and the punctuation by the piano. It worked well, but I was glad when the two instruments worked together, and I wanted to hear more of that.
 
The Harmony. Your harmonic language interested me very much, as I want to experiment beyond conventional harmony. For the most part, your harmony feels logical and natural. However, it seems to me as if it's almost all in the piano, with the cello melody floating over it rather than diving into it.
 
The Playing. This is not about the piece itself. I'm impressed with your pianist ability and your skill at overdubbing with such complex timing. Well done.
 
Overall, it's quite an accomplished piece of music. Congratulations, and good luck in the competition.
 
Cheers,
Jer
Title: Re: Song Cycle (cello & piano)
Post by: sandalwood on November 15, 2019, 12:51:50 PM
Good luck, Jordan! :)
Title: Re: Song Cycle (cello & piano)
Post by: Tónskáld on November 15, 2019, 08:56:08 PM
I greatly appreciate the feedback, Jer. One of these days, I'm going to write an uptempo song just for you. I know you're quite fond of those. ;) And the piano playing/recording took a LOT of editing. But I'm glad you enjoyed the final product.

Thanks for the well wishes, guys!