Author Topic: December 2015 excerpt discussion  (Read 3892 times)

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Michel.R.E

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December 2015 excerpt discussion
« on: December 04, 2015, 03:42:57 PM »
I will try and post one of these every month.

So to start us off, here's a 3 minute excerpt, unnamed, by unnamed composer.

December 2015 excerpt

Let's only discuss what we hear.

Form, structural elements, harmony, orchestration... what leaps out at you?

How is this excerpt unique? What particularly elements of it stand out for you? or bother you? or motivate you? intrigue you?
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

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Ron

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Re: December 2015 excerpt discussion
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2015, 04:14:35 PM »
What a sad and haunting passage. I get a feeling of a lost soul in a huge space wandering aimlessly. A second voice enters in a different key with no seeming connection to the first voice and they interplay almost randomly. The whole passage is unsettling. I think the bareness of the single lines with no underlying accompaniment adds to the atmosphere of being lost and alone.

(Good idea, Michel. I'd like to see other comments and hope you continue in this line.)
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Michel.R.E

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Re: December 2015 excerpt discussion
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2015, 07:07:58 PM »
The first thing that strikes me is the beautiful long line of that cello solo that opens the movement.
It seems to imply a lot of harmony, you can feel that it moved from one harmonic zone to another.

Then the violins come in. It's a counterpoint, related and yet not. It doesn't quite seem "tonal" in any traditional sense, and yet there's an underlying harmonic movement that implies a tonality (especially when the 1st violins come in).

It IS very stark and sad (a purely subjective evaluation).

What strikes me the most is just the use of that three minutes' worth of solo sectional writing for the celli. The celli play that solo line for just over a minute, and yet there isn't a moment in that "emptiness" that isn't compelling and moving.

Interestingly, even when the counterpoint becomes more filled-out and "lush" there remains the intense starkness of the music.

This is a really fascinating excerpt and demonstrates a mastery at achieving a maximum effect with a minimum of material.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

sandalwood

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Re: December 2015 excerpt discussion
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2015, 10:38:42 AM »
Assuming I can reply without fear of sounding very ignorant, I hear this to be  expressive, captivating, melodious (not tuneful) and coherent. I hear the counterpoint added after 1 min not to be a newly added extraneous element but feel (hindsight) that  such counterpoint (and I dare say, harmony) was already being implied by the solo line, innate to it. Even after the addition, the music remains lean and parsimonious, suggesting more than it sounds. Though not tuneful or predictable in any other particular way, I think it has a strong element of continuity, (unlike some other musicks :) which may and do, any moment, turn around and leap the other way) the music flows "logically" which adds to its overall expressive coherence; coherence of narrative or mood, so to speak. Such examples strengthen my opinion that music written in newer idioms do not have to be user-unfriendly, incoherent or inexpressive, i.e. unless the composer deliberately aims just that.

Since it should be less risky to make guesses for the amateurs, I don't mind saying I conjecture Schuman could have written this or people like Persichetti or L Harrison and even Adams, considering what (little) I know of their styles; or less likely, someone from the Baltics where a number of composers, 20th century-2nd half, sound similar to this, to my ears. Speaking of the Baltics, Sibelius surely could write this had he been born some decades later; just listen to the opening of his 4th :)

Actually, in music of this vein, I also sense  a (not-too-close) kinship or association,  a surface similarity perhaps, to some moments  of an unlikely central European fin-de-siecle figure whose name I'm scared to bring up here. :)

Shall we hear practical tips on how this music achieves what it achieves?
« Last Edit: December 05, 2015, 10:40:41 AM by sandalwood »

MikeL

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Re: December 2015 excerpt discussion
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2015, 02:02:18 PM »
I thought Russian 20th Century reminiscent of Khachaturyan Gayane Adagio.

Then at around 2' seemed like Hermann from a Hitch****, Vertigo or even Psycho.

And, yes, the 'cello line at the beginning has a restless urging forward.

Is it because of implied non perfect cadences at end of each measure (newbie question)?
These aren't the chords you're looking for.

Michel.R.E

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Re: December 2015 excerpt discussion
« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2015, 02:12:05 PM »
Mike, I don't know that one could speak of perfect or non-perfect cadences in this music. It's in a harmonic language that is a bit divorced from the concept.

Some of the restless character might come from the actual melodic movement.

thinking in terms of "white notes" on the piano, much of the melodic material relies on bits of phrases rising on white notes, but falling on black notes. in other words, there's almost an avoidance of the "return to the tonic."

This is the sort of thing Prokofiev did often in his melodic writing... imagine if you will, writing a simple, straightforward melody in C major, then going back and taking bits and pieces of this extended melody and transposing them off by a semi-tone.

That's not quite the process involved here, but the idea of going and returning via different routes is definitely present.

And this DOES create a strong sense of insecurity, since we aren't being allowed to reside in a single tonal area quite long enough. it's not so strong that the music becomes non-tonal, or loses entirely touch with a tonal centre, but it's strong enough to help create a bit of confusion (in a good way).


A further personal observation:
I notice also that in spots there are contrasts of what might be considered "almost major" passages, with a certain implied brightness, which are immediately followed by denser, more "minor" intervals which bring a certain gloom to it. Almost, if you will, as though the sun is trying to break through the clouds, but never gets a chance to do so.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

flint

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Re: December 2015 excerpt discussion
« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2015, 04:09:11 PM »
This is a style much to my liking with its stark harmonic language and such bare instrumentation. Hopefully Michel will elucidate the composer/work after the discussion.
"Music is like wine; the less you know about it, the sweeter you like it." - Robertson Davies

Ron

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Re: December 2015 excerpt discussion
« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2015, 04:22:18 PM »
I already know, but I'm not telling! :)
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Jamie Kowalski

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Re: December 2015 excerpt discussion
« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2015, 08:56:24 AM »
Beautiful.

This reminds me a little of Khachaturian's Gayane Ballet Suite -- I'm thinking specifically of the Adagio, as that's really the only part I know. It also reminds me of Howard Hanson, though I can't name a specific piece. The opening bars were a little like Bartok to my ears, though it didn't remain in that territory. There is even some Shostakovich that comes to mind, though I don't see him coming up with this passage as it is -- the harmony is too rich.

I think one of the things that holds this together is repeating cells of notes. I hear a lot of m2 down followed by m2 up, creating a little pivot at that point that brings a fleeting feeling of a tonic.

As far as harmony goes, it does feel fairly free-form, but certainly not arbitrary. The important melodic intervals seem to be important harmonic ones as well. I hear these as mostly 2nds, 3rds, and 6ths. I'm sure I'm missing much after two quick listen-throughs.

Great idea for a topic, by the way.

Michel.R.E

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Re: December 2015 excerpt discussion
« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2015, 09:55:09 AM »
What I'm hoping is that hearing these excerpt, without knowing what they are or who wrote them, but discussing elements we can identify with (or not! one is also allowed to not find any affinity with the excerpts in question!), or making guesses (educated or otherwise) about technical aspects, will allow forum members to turn back to their own music and reconsider their approach, question some of what they write.

It is always good to examine your own art and question it.

Am I taking the easy way out?
Am I using my material to its best advantage?
Am I remaining stagnant stylistically?
Am I hopping inconsistently from style to style with each piece I write? or even within a single work?
Am I using structural elements included within my material to create cohesion in the long view?


What find particularly effective about this month's excerpt is the range of effect that is achieved within its very restricted orchestral density. The effect of very few notes is, in this case, very powerful.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

perpetuo studens

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Re: December 2015 excerpt discussion
« Reply #10 on: December 07, 2015, 02:31:10 PM »
I think one of the things that holds this together is repeating cells of notes. I hear a lot of m2 down followed by m2 up, creating a little pivot at that point that brings a fleeting feeling of a tonic.

I've only listened a couple of times, but this is what caught my ear as well, perhaps because my current interest is in understanding (and attempting to write) music that extends past the Classical melodic forms (paragraphs made up of obvious and well-articulated antecedent and consequent phrases making longer sentences) and development thereof.

And I quite enjoyed the mood set by this kittle fragment: dark and mysterious, inviting the listener to explore a new world described best (or perhaps only) by the music itself - a quality of all the best art IMHO.

I have no idea who might have composed it though, or when, other than it seems to me clearly post-romantic (which covers an awful lot of ground :)).

Jamie
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sandalwood

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Re: December 2015 excerpt discussion
« Reply #11 on: December 07, 2015, 05:35:09 PM »
Beautiful.

This reminds me a little of Khachaturian's Gayane Ballet Suite -- I'm thinking specifically of the Adagio, as that's really the only part I know.

You forgot the Sabre Dance. That Khatchatrian...he is a delight! :)

ps.  +1 for mention of Shostakovich.
« Last Edit: December 07, 2015, 06:06:10 PM by sandalwood »

winknotes

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Re: December 2015 excerpt discussion
« Reply #12 on: December 07, 2015, 06:22:28 PM »
On first listen I was going to say Bartok.  It's beautifully dissonant and very melodic.  It does cadence squarely on c# minor chord. 

Descending minor seconds clearly seem to be the main material but it goes somewhere.  I think it basically goes from dominant to tonic.  That is it starts in ab minor (sort of) and moves to db minor.  So the large form is pretty traditional in that sense but the melodic content is anything but traditional. 

I too like the mood of the piece.  It's brooding and for some reason I'm attracted to that. 
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sandalwood

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Re: December 2015 excerpt discussion
« Reply #13 on: December 07, 2015, 06:33:44 PM »
Views of an amateur cont'd: :)

It is true that Gayane Adagio does bear a strong similarity to the riddle piece but I hear some dissimilarities, as well. The riddle piece, as I hear it, is built by tossing around the central motive 'do-si-do-la' by motivic development (remotely reminiscent of fortspinnung) resulting in a melodious and very evocative music strongly tied together coherently, thanks mainly to being produced in the same motivic development process.

In Adagio, however, after the solo, I hear a rather clear and regular descending sequence (incidentally sounding similar to the central motive of the riddle piece; folkloric material, by the way) and the solo is incomparably more melodic, divided into fairly definable phrases (though of uneven length due mainly to cadenza like gestures) in somewhat discerneable antecedent/consequent relations, all unlike the riddle piece. Besides, does not the Adagio  sound lot more tonal/centric?

Almost forgot to say: I admire the Gayane composer so much that I placed in my Waltz a brief reference to his Masquerade. :)
« Last Edit: December 08, 2015, 03:05:23 PM by sandalwood »

Jamie Kowalski

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Re: December 2015 excerpt discussion
« Reply #14 on: December 08, 2015, 06:52:22 AM »
You forgot the Sabre Dance. That Khatchatrian...he is a delight! :)

Wow, I totally forgot the Sabre Dance was from Gayane! It's one of those things that is played in isolation so much that one forgets there was more to it! (And by "one" I mean me).

Totally off-topic, but I used to have Khatchaturian's Symphony #3 on constant repeat on my old Walkman. If you don't know it, it's a fun mess of a piece. Large orchestra plus organ and 15 solo trumpets. (That's 15 on top of the 3 non-solo trumpets.)
« Last Edit: December 08, 2015, 06:56:13 AM by Jamie Kowalski »