Composition diary for “Anthropocene” #3

Last week I had a few hours with a good friend and colleague, Hilmar Thordarson. It’s often incredibly positive to have another composer one can use to bounce ideas off, when working on a new composition. I had sent him the notation as well as these blogs before meeting up. I find this useful to have another composer see if certain elements stand out or function, without necessarily having the other composer understand all of the “insides” when it comes to organization. Hilmar was incredibly helpful as always, and he helped confirm several aspects that I had thought about. The first one was having to rewrite several bars especially in the cello to have the amount of tension I want in the music (specifically in section A1 which I’ll come back to). The second is that my ideas for the form and structure of the piece work and feel balanced. Thirdly that my organization of the pitch-material does not feel too random or too structured, but has a nice balance. This aspect is especially important to me for this piece. There is a very fine balance between too much and too little within post-tonal music. He also gave many other suggestions and tips which will be mentioned throughout. Fourthly, he had a few comments on certain elements I had written in the composition which I was not aware when it comes to compositional parameters or “themes” and such.

Currently, most of the composition is finished. The structure is finished and feels finely balanced. Both B sections are completely scored. A1 is almost completely finished. A large chunk of the C section is also written out. The second A section is planned although not written out. The ending/coda of the piece has also been written. The sections that aren’t finished yet are generally very planned out with many sketches to help their elaboration. Having a second composer look at some of my sketches afterwards as well to get a second opinion on the structure I’ve planned was useful. I now feel that my ideas to help hold all of the piece together make much more sense after having explained several of them to someone else. Sometimes all it takes is really to have to explain your ideas out loud.

The piece as mentioned before starts as rather fragmented. I had been recently fighting the idea of having to extend certain sentences to generate an answer. However, I’ve confirmed the exact need to NOT do this. Not only for musical reasons, but also for extra-musical reasons related to the theme of the piece. At a certain point in this section, the cello voice quickly delved into being more a bass-like part. Having someone else mention this to me helped me realize how quickly that had happen to be able to re-write the section into what I actually want it to be. So, several bars of the A1 section were re-written when it comes to the cello. The section is meant to be rather fragmented, not chaotic but that certain musical elements are never truly develop and don’t exactly fit together in time.

The C section is also coming along very nicely. I’m still slightly uncertain about its start, but I’m currently working on it. Having tried out several ideas which I was not completely satisfied with pitch-wise, I’m still trying out a few concepts. I still feel that its rhythmical aspect is quite important as a transition between B and C. The middle section of C is not complete yet but it is planned. This section is much more rhythmically intense than the rest of the piece, never letting the listener completely find her or her bearings. All of these aspects are also used earlier in the piece in the different divisions mentioned in earlier posts with 6-4-7 3-5-2.

The second A section is still not written but quite planned. I’ve now found myself often using a printed version of my Sibelius score, and then highlighting or circling around certain musical motifs I have been using in the piece and then developing them further or trying to find different ways to play with them in A2.

The coda has been a part of the composition that I have been thinking about for a long time. This weekend I wrote it out finally, and it sounds good. It’s a rather short coda, but I feel that it rounds off the composition nicely as well as helps balance certain ratios within it. It brings back certain elements, yet never in an abundantly clear or pedantic manner.

I have also been often correcting small parts of the composition or making it tighter and denser in the way that I want it to sound. This is often the most time-consuming and demanding part of the work: editing it and molding it into something good and hopefully very good. It takes time to make solid links between different sections and molding the musical elements into a meaningful composition.

By the end of the week I’m hoping to be completely finished with A1 and C, leaving only the A2 section to be completed. This would also give me more time to correct the notation of the piece into something clearer. I find that writing in a notation that I understand to do things clearly and quickly, without hindering my creative impulses to be more important than correct notation until the end. It is only at the end of the process that I feel it is important to make my intentions as clear as possible for anyone else to be able to read. Otherwise, I often feel that I am losing too much time to such issues. It’s also one of the reasons that I often like to write by hand, the computer can quickly make us lose time as to “how do I do Y?”.

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