Author Topic: Variations on a Simple Tune  (Read 194 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Jerry Engelbach

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 423
  • Karma: 31
Variations on a Simple Tune
« on: November 01, 2019, 12:24:31 PM »
I wrote Variations on a Simple Tune as an exercise in orchestrating using Finale with Note Performer 3, Beta 6.

The theme is one of several tunes I wrote and performed on piano to accompany a program of silent movies in the local theatre in Pátzcuaro. The harmony is conventional.

The tune has a strong chord progression and seemed appropriate for this piece. I’m happy with the variety I found over the same chord progression. However, because each one is so different, it perhaps seems more like a suite than a set of variations.

Some of the variations follow the AABA structure, while others repeat the A or B section or both, as for example AABBAA.

The instruments are shown non-transposed in the concert keys of C and C minor.

I’ve included for reference a simple piano arrangement of the tune.

The Theme: Adagio. For the instrumentation of the theme I stole most of the orchestration from the opening of Brahms’s Haydn Variations.

Variation 1: Andante. Arpeggiated chords, mostly in the strings, with various overlays. It plays the whole AABA form twice, so I labeled the two as 1a and 1b.

Variation 2: Allegro. Lively trumpet melody over a continuous chord pattern on bassoon.

Variation 3: Four-Voice Adagio Chorale. It’s in C minor, so the chords were altered to fit.

Variation 4: Waltz.

Variation 5: Prestissimo and Presto. Another variation in C minor with altered chords. The A section is followed by a literal statement of the main theme’s B section, but in minor.

Variation 6:  Largo Elegy. The extended B section departs from the main theme’s chords.

Variation 7: Andante Canon, plus Finale. The woodwind canon over several repeats of the A section gives way to an A section of low brass block chords followed by an ABA statement of the main theme on horns, trumpets, and strings, rather bombastic.
 
This is a work in progress that has not been carefully corrected for orchestration no-nos and typos. As always, your suggestions are welcome and appreciated.

NB: The audio file in Dropbox may show an indicated time in excess of the actual playing time of just under 15 minutes. It’s some kind of bug, so please just ignore it. In the last few measures of the score Finale refused to properly play back the standard harp notation, so I just wrote out the notes.

Cheers,
Jer

Piano Arrangement:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/r95r4qgs47n2pcb/00%20Theme.pdf?dl=0

Score:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/2bbm0hjixb051dk/00%20Simple%20Tune%20Optimized.pdf?dl=0

Audio:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/vs792xzmcw8gye9/00%20Simple%20Tune%20Optimized.mp3?dl=0
« Last Edit: November 01, 2019, 12:28:21 PM by Jerry Engelbach »
Finale 26
NP3
GPO 5
JABB 3
iMac Mojave

whitebark

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 396
  • Karma: 24
Re: Variations on a Simple Tune
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2019, 05:51:40 PM »
Jer,
Fourteen minutes of a fully-orchestrated score?  That's an ambitious exercise, indeed!  I enjoyed listening to your set of variations.  Your harmonies worked well and the variations presented a wide variety of moods. The orchestration sounded effective.

How well does NP3 work with Finale?

Jay

Jerry Engelbach

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 423
  • Karma: 31
Re: Variations on a Simple Tune
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2019, 07:15:33 AM »
Thanks for your comment, Jay. The thing I don't know is if what sounds good in NP3 will work with an orchestra. It feels sometimes as if I'm piling on instruments with no real idea of the effect in a live setting.
 
That said, I'm having a lot of fun experimenting with it. The ensemble sound is far more satisfying than GPO5. You gave me some good feedback a while ago when you transformed one of my GPO5 files into NP3. I wasn't quite convinced then, but after using it myself I'm a convert.
 
Arne Wallander is still testing NP3 for Finale, and I'm using Beta version 6, which works well. There was a bug in an earlier Beta (it wouldn't load or play!), which I reported, and that was fixed.
 
The only ongoing problem with NP3 in Finale is that on playback there's a one-second delay between the moving vertical bar and the actual sound. I'm told that that that's a latency issue in Finale, not NP3. At this point I'm used to it.

 
Cheers,
Jer
Finale 26
NP3
GPO 5
JABB 3
iMac Mojave

sandalwood

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,010
  • Karma: 81
Re: Variations on a Simple Tune
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2019, 05:15:00 PM »
Congratulations Jer, I think this is superb and lots of fun! Quite a feat as Jay says and the result is a remarkable success in my opinion. Very enjoyable...I think lots of craft and invention have gone into each variation and each one stands strong on its own. Still, I guess my favorites are No. 2  Allegro, No. 3 Chorale and No. 7 Andante/Finale. The last one most craftily concludes the work and the Chorale, I think is a very catchy miniature "classic hit" like the Handel Sarabande. Actually each one sounds playful, inventive and well-finished and deserves praise on its own.

I think your expedition to Orchestration is going very well with a growing heap of trophies.



Tónskáld

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 81
  • Karma: 2
Re: Variations on a Simple Tune
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2019, 05:56:41 PM »
I must echo what's been said here... this is very well-crafted! In fact, it brings me back to childhood days of watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and other Disney movies from that era. You've done a superb job creating music that tells a story. I think if Alan Menken (Disney's main songwriter, in case you didn't know) ever retires, I know who can replace him. :)

I enjoyed this immensely, and the orchestration was keenly done. Hats off to you, sir!
Tools: Sibelius 7, Windows 10, Spitfire Audio VSL, Ivory Synthogy
Day job: Pharmacist
Composing/Arranging output: all musical forms except chamber
Goal: Write emotional, impressionistic works that move the soul and make one think; also trying to develop my own distinct style
Play: Piano (advanced), viola (intermediate), French horn & clarinet (student level)

Jerry Engelbach

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 423
  • Karma: 31
Re: Variations on a Simple Tune
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2019, 06:13:17 AM »
I guess my favorites are No. 2  Allegro, No. 3 Chorale and No. 7 Andante/Finale. The last one most craftily concludes the work and the Chorale, I think is a very catchy miniature "classic hit" like the Handel Sarabande.
Reha,
 
Muchisimas gracias for your always thoughtful encouragement. Your review is trophy enough.
 
I especially appreciate the detail in your post and your attention to specific variations.
 
For the Chorale, I wasn't thinking of the Handel Sarabande, but I think I understand what you mean. There is a kind of familiar, self-contained sound to it.
 
Frankly, this was the most challenging one for me, as I was acutely aware of what one must try to avoid in correct four-part harmony, while trying to preserve some semblance of the original chord progression, transposed into minor!
 
I had more fun writing these variations than anything I've ever done before. A lot of it is owing to finally having such a rewarding sound set to work with.
 
I know it's a lot to ask for specific critiques in a 15-minute piece, but if anything comes to mind about improving the orchestration itself I'd be grateful to have it pointed out.
 
Cheers,
Jer
Finale 26
NP3
GPO 5
JABB 3
iMac Mojave

Jerry Engelbach

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 423
  • Karma: 31
Re: Variations on a Simple Tune
« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2019, 06:21:30 AM »
I think if Alan Menken (Disney's main songwriter, in case you didn't know) ever retires, I know who can replace him.

Thanks so much, Jordan.

That’s very flattering. I do know of Alan Mencken. In fact, one of his early hits, the musical stage version of The Little Shop of Horrors, was originally produced by an acquaintance of mine who ran the WPA Theatre in New York when I was in the theatre business.

However, I’m actually older than Mencken, and I’m already retired, so, alas, Disney will have to get along without me ...

Cheers,
Jer
Finale 26
NP3
GPO 5
JABB 3
iMac Mojave

sandalwood

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,010
  • Karma: 81
Re: Variations on a Simple Tune
« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2019, 07:31:37 AM »
Jer, here are some impressions and listening notes which I hope help at all as feedback from one listener and do not mislead. Definitely not anything that can hold the place of comments by  T Goss. :)

Just an idea, I have a feeling that a trumpet/'trumpet-dominant'  sound color may well fit the melody at  mm 17-24 and as such this passage may provide a nicely moderate contrast with both the following -sort of- flute dominant passage and the preceding one. This may as well turn out to be a bad idea and besides, the passage already works very nicely as it is.

At Var. #1, I must express my admiration for succeeding to write movement long, wall-to-wall, "melodically functioning" arpeggiation. The "half note-quarter rest-quarter note" pattern in low strings at some passages imparts a syncopated feel nicely contrasting with the fatigue-prone 8th note uniform flow of the arpeggios. The several other elements you introduce like the refreshing trumpets passage also help provide variety and abate monotony.

I can only barely hear the uppermost tips of the flute and piccolo triplets at m.100,  like you have adjusted them to playback as "background resonance" only.

No.2 for me is a "klein aber ohoo" mvt. I think it is well-placed between two "lots of arco strings" mvts. Love mm. 119-26, love the baroque dance feel, love the bassline. What's with the staccato dots of bassoon in m. 139?
« Last Edit: November 05, 2019, 08:34:22 AM by sandalwood »

sandalwood

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,010
  • Karma: 81
Re: Variations on a Simple Tune
« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2019, 06:06:33 PM »
At Var. # 3, I'm amazed to see how great results can be obtained by relatively modest forces and a relatively simple idiom but with a keen focus on expressive power and clarity. The antiphonal format multiplies the "affekt" and  together with the stately pace, the diligence to let music breathe, strategic use of dynamics etc, imparts a majestic atmosphere, imo. Did I make it too obvious that I liked this variation a lot?

I like the Waltz, too. I have some discomfort with m. 237, could it be the voicing or is it me? Var. #5, I think, is a balancing nice fit between the Waltz and the Elegy. Meanwhile, kudos for all the melodies you extract from the theme.

With the Elegy I felt Mahler and Shostakovich were now somewhat added to the pool of available idioms. I keep noticing the very nice effects obtained by sparse winds doubling the various string sections. Another successful variation with really beautiful strings writing, imo. Last variation is a real delight! This one might be my most favorite. Finale, as I hear it, nicely wraps the work up with a nice build up and strong tuttis.

As I previously said, I think this work is a solid achievement. Very well crafted and remains within a range of idioms that imo makes perfect sense and sit nicely together as a whole. I heard almost nothing that really bothers me. Sorry for failing to offer anything substantial in terms of suggestions etc.

Jerry Engelbach

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 423
  • Karma: 31
Re: Variations on a Simple Tune
« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2019, 06:36:28 AM »

Reha,
 
Wow. I so much appreciate your detailed comments.
 
Just an idea, I have a feeling that a trumpet/'trumpet-dominant'  sound color may well fit the melody at  mm 17-24 and as such this passage may provide a nicely moderate contrast with both the following -sort of- flute dominant passage and the preceding one. This may as well turn out to be a bad idea and besides, the passage already works very nicely as it is.
It's an interesting suggestion. You don't think there's enough trumpet there already? It is on top of everything else for bars 17-20. My reasoning was that the A section is already all oboe-dominant, so I wanted more variety in the B section: trumpets over horns and woods, then woods, then horns and low brass.
 
Quote
At Var. #1, I must express my admiration for succeeding to write movement long, wall-to-wall, "melodically functioning" arpeggiation. The "half note-quarter rest-quarter note" pattern in low strings at some passages imparts a syncopated feel nicely contrasting with the fatigue-prone 8th note uniform flow of the arpeggios. The several other elements you introduce like the refreshing trumpets passage also help provide variety and abate monotony.
Thank you. It was all strings at first, and then was revised many times.
 
Quote
I can only barely hear the uppermost tips of the flute and piccolo triplets at m.100,  like you have adjusted them to playback as "background resonance" only.
Yes, that's one of the things I need advice about. I want to cut through what's below and thought the shrill piccolo and flutes might do it. I need to work on that. I actually left all the dynamics uniform for all the instruments throughout the piece.
 
Quote
No.2 for me is a "klein aber ohoo" mvt. I think it is well-placed between two "lots of arco strings" mvts. Love mm. 119-26, love the baroque dance feel, love the bassline. What's with the staccato dots of bassoon in m. 139?
You got me there. I don't know the German term, but it sounds like fun. I'm crazy about harmonized clarinets. Those extra staccato dots are an oversight. I worked with a separate staff for each instrument, and when I combined them I missed taking out some of the duplicated articulations. Thanks for spotting this.
 
Cheers,
Jer
Finale 26
NP3
GPO 5
JABB 3
iMac Mojave

Jerry Engelbach

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 423
  • Karma: 31
Re: Variations on a Simple Tune
« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2019, 07:07:31 AM »

Reha,
 
You overwhelm me with encouragement. I'm so grateful for your taking so much time to listen so carefully and comment.
 
I like the Waltz, too. I have some discomfort with m. 237, could it be the voicing or is it me?.... Sorry for failing to offer anything substantial in terms of suggestions etc.

I'm glad that you found some faults and have some suggestions.
 
In bar 237 there is a bit of clutter. You're on it. The handoff of the melody from flute to clarinet is muddy. I'm changing it by having the flute echo the clarinet to include the first note in the next measure. I'm also eliminating the unnecessary low D in the second clarinet, having it play instead the F in unison with the first clarinet. It's better voice leading and it sounds cleaner. Thank you!
 
Cheers,
Jer
Finale 26
NP3
GPO 5
JABB 3
iMac Mojave

mjf1947

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,065
  • Karma: 134
Re: Variations on a Simple Tune
« Reply #11 on: Yesterday at 01:04:24 PM »
Jer,

I'm going to take the review slowly.  So I will first comment on the opening theme.

While listening to the theme I had a few reactions: firstly, it has both an British Pastoral flavor along with an American touch.  Then I heard some Bach maybe because of the counterpoint and harmonic structure!  :o

The orchestration is smooth - the chosen ensembles compliment each other and presents a homogeneous fluffy fullness.

Overall the entire thematic material - which is lovely - is well supported.  The moving ensembles are a rel treat to hear.

Your choice of voices .... i.e., trumpets interplay well with the other instruments.

I look forward to listening to the first variation.

Mark

Jerry Engelbach

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 423
  • Karma: 31
Re: Variations on a Simple Tune
« Reply #12 on: Today at 03:15:37 AM »
Mark,
 
The orchestration of the A section of the theme is almost identical with that of Brahms’ Haydn Variations. A direct steal.
 
Cheers,
Jer
Finale 26
NP3
GPO 5
JABB 3
iMac Mojave