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Topic: Symphonic movement; any music professors out there

  1. #1

    Symphonic movement; any music professors out there


    Here\'s a piece I\'ve been working on the past month or so. (7.7 MB mp3 96k - please download; It\'s 11 minutes long including audience) I\'m not sure it belongs in a symphony as the 1st or 4th movement or whether it should stand alone. It\'s working title is Altocumulus (a part of the Cloud symphony/suite). I tried to stick with the Sonata-Allegro form but found myself developing one of the subjects before introducing the third principle theme. I am also not sure if I should expand the Development or leave it as is.
    Here are the form elements as I hear them:

    Intro :00 - :50
    A (1st subject) :50 - 1:45
    B (bridge) 1:45 - 2:26
    C (2nd subject) 2:27 - 3:18
    D (development of C) 3:18 - 4:44
    E (3rd subject) 4:45 - 5:07
    F (main development) 5:07 - 6:55
    A\' 6:55 - 8:00
    B\' 8:00 - 8:28
    C\' 8:28 - 9:20
    bridge 9:20 - 9:42
    E\' 9:42 - 10:47
    Coda 10:07 - 10:30

    I\'ll appreciate any constructive criticism or advice. Would a conductor want to play such a piece if I scored it out? How might I approach them?

    Thanks in advance and I hope you enjoy it.

  2. #2

    Re: Symphonic movement; any music professors out there

    P.S. - If you don\'t wish to download an 8MB file, this piece can also be streamed from my SoundClick site at:


    Thanks for listening.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: Symphonic movement; any music professors out there

    Hi Thomas,

    I gave your piece a couple of listen throughs this morning, while I was puttering around the studio. Thanks for posting it, it was nice to hear a long form work.

    I have one specific and a few general comments. Specific first. There are several places in your exposition statements where a seventh is doubled in the bass voice and melody. To my ear, that creates an accentuation of an inherently weak doubling, and I think that might be something you\'d want to revisit and perhaps reconsider.

    More generally, the harmonic language of the piece is fairly conservative and diatonic, but you intersperse some more chromatic kinds of motions when you start moving the key centers around in development. I would take the opportunity to revisit some of the more simplistic harmonic devices, and see if you can find some ways to ratchet the harmonic interest up a few notches--getting it out of tonic, dominant, subdominant kinds of \"bare metal\" language, and taking it up the harmonic series a bit. I don\'t think this means necessarily rewriting or retooling, as much as it means making some different harmony choices along the way to move some of the more cliche\'d elements into your own voice.

    Similarly, I would look at any of the ornamental, fast moving figures, and try to find ways to avoid straight arpeggios. Again, functionally, and for the most part rhythmically, not a lot of re-tooling would be necessary. More to the point of finding ways to use those existing figures in a more complex, more intentioned melodic statement. Arpeggios tend to become invisible, because the listener isn\'t surprised by the outcome--it\'s predictable. But the same figure, with some melodic tension and release, piques the imagination a bit more. We don\'t know the outcome, so we have to tune in to discover it in real time. This may have some rhythmic implications as well. If you are creating motion with triple or duple figures in sequence, it may be interesting to subdivide them occasionally, or even juxtapose the triple/duple relationships--again, so the listener doesn\'t get two notes into the figure and predict where it will go.

    The ratio of predictability to surprise is always tricky. Too much predictability, and the listener \"reads ahead\" and tunes out. Too much surprise, and the listener has nothing to grasp. The trick is always in finding the balance that you personally can maintain. 90 percent predictability to 10 percent surprise is safe. 50/50 is risky.

    What is really great, and commendable, is that you\'ve fleshed it out and filled out your form. Now, you have the luxury of going back into the piece and picking sections to work on. That\'s a very exciting stage of the game.

    It\'s difficult to comment on the live playing and conducting aspect. I think some of my earlier comments play into this. Right now, I\'d grade your piece as a fairly easy one to play on a difficulty scale. Where it\'s moving fast, it\'s fairly predictable. You\'re not exploring many limits of meter or rhythmic complexity.

    I think if I were to imagine myself as a conductor who was commissioning this piece for my ensemble, and if that ensemble was a professional group, I would have two things to say. First, I\'d like it to be more adventurous on every level, to push up against some boundaries. I would want it to be challenging to conduct, and something I could consider a vehicle for a spectacular \"performance\" for me personally as a conductor. Second, I would want my players to have the opportunity to show their talents--for the solo work to be both musically sophisticated and challenging, and for it to push the players themselves to a somewhat extraordinary height of performance.

    I guess to put it another way, I would want to know why I should program your piece, as opposed to say, Beethoven or Brahms. Or Elgar. I\'d want to have some ammunition for my Board of Directors, when they\'re telling me we\'re not raising enough money on concerts, and asking me why I\'m programming Thomas Bishop instead of Gustav Holst.

    Does that make sense?

    I hope some of that commentary is useful to you, and I wish you well. For sure, take it all with a grain of salt. The most important thing about your art is how you feel about it.

  4. #4

    Re: Symphonic movement; any music professors out there


    Thank you, thank you, thank you. That was just what I was hoping for - a trained ear.

    I will look for that doubled seventh; I think I know which place you are talking about. And your suggestions regarding predictability and being too diatonic were right on. I recognize my fear of stepping outside the tonality box even though I envy those who can do it with flair. I hear now what you mean by the need for making it a bit more harmonically interesting. I tried a few things early on that didn\'t sound right so I abandoned them for simpler stuff. The movement was originally intended to be the 1st but the coda made it more final. I may tone down the ending so that it fits as a first movement - awaiting more.

    Tchaikovsky was a master of the psychology of music when it came to predictability and surprise. I will study his works some more with that in mind.

    With your suggestions, I plan on going back in and, at the very least, add some non-diatonic development to kick up the harmonic interest a notch or two. Finding interesting or challenging parts for instrumentalists to play is tough given the main goal is the overall piece. The percussionists don\'t have much to do, nor the harp later on. The instrumentalists and conductor should want to have fun with this piece; not to mention the audience. Whew! Writing for an orchestra is an awesome task. I hope I\'m not wasting my time.

  5. #5

    Re: Symphonic movement; any music professors out t

    [ QUOTE ]

    Whew! Writing for an orchestra is an awesome task. I hope I\'m not wasting my time.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Yes it certainly is and it was even more difficult before the arrival of the wonderful technology we have today.

    Ira Kraemer

  6. #6

    Re: Symphonic movement; any music professors out t

    [ QUOTE ]
    Hi Thomas,

    I\'d want to have some ammunition for my Board of Directors, when they\'re telling me we\'re not raising enough money on concerts, and asking me why I\'m programming Thomas Bishop instead of Gustav Holst.

    Sound like its time to get rid of the Board of Directors.

    Ira Kraemer

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