Welcome to my blog

I have created this site in order to provide performers, listeners and composers with a description of a composer's experiences with the creative process. The posts will provide discussions of the inspirations, challenges, and successes of a composer from the inception of the piece to the culmination in performance. I will provide a link to where you can see and hear the works in progress. Comments and questions are always welcomed. They will not posted unless you grant me permission.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I'm back from vacation

I have return from our southwest vacation, and now it is time to get back into my composing routine. As you have seen from my last post, I was still active revising Guatemaya according to Meggie Aube's suggestions. I'm pleased to report that she has said the revisions work.

I also spent some time while sitting outside in the sunny 60 degree desert weather working on a project I do every year for the York Symphony. The York Symphony has an annual song writing competition. There are three levels, elementary, middle school, and high school. The winners get to have their compositions scored for orchestra and performed on the April Young Person's Concert. That is where I come in. I get the privilege of orchestrating their pieces. Some of the pieces are for piano and others have some basic orchestration. This April's concert is Classical Kid's Vivaldi program, so the orchestra is limited to strings, 2 flutes, and 2 trumpets. But even with that limited orchestration, it is fun to give the kid's music a new setting. Besides hearing there piece performed, the winners receive cash prizes and a score and recording of their piece. It is a wonderful inspiration for young composers and the program has won recognition by the American Symphony Orchestra League. My challenge is to preserve what they wrote yet enhance it so that it sounds more professional. I did 5 of the six arrangements while in AZ and I am finishing the last one probably later today or tomorrow.

I have two composition projects for the spring, one for unaccompanied Eb clarinet in a jazz style, and the other a piece for saxophone and percussion. Both these works are a result of the Co-op Press Recording Grants and will be part of CDs featuring the artists who were awarded the grant.

I am also busy working out my schedule for two performances during February. One next Saturday, where the Lancaster-Lebanon H.S. Honors Orchestra is doing my "Gettysburg Portrait" with me narrating and the other for a Feb. 16th premiere by the Washington Sinfonietta of my "Legacy", which deals with the climate change issue. More about these later.

Last night, my wife and I played a concert with the York Symphony as we backed up Manhattan Transfer. What a thrill to work with these fine musicians! But putting a show together in one rehearsal is always stressful, so today is a day of rest!

Look for more regular posts now that I'm back from vacation and I'd love to hear from you as to whether you find any of this interesting.

Dr. B

Monday, January 7, 2008

Revision of Guatemaya Movement 3

I have received more feedback from Meggie Aube, this time about the second and third movements of Guatemaya. I am sitting at a picnic table at Bottomless Lakes state Park in Roswell, NM in 75 degree sunshine doing revisions to this piece. I have my M-Audio Oxygen 8 MIDI Controller, which fits conveniently into an attaché case, and my laptop, so my composing studio is portable. Meggie’s latest email that appears below:

Hi Sy,
I hope you had a very nice Christmas and New Years. I'm so sorry for taking so long to give you more comments. First it was finishing the semester, and then the holidays. I have had some time to look over your piece now though. From what I can see right now, the second movement is fine and everything seems possible. I do have a couple of comments for the 3rd movement, and then I need to spend a little bit of time looking at the 4th movement. Just as an overall comment, I noticed that everything is written in a fairly high range and nothing goes below the range of a 4 1/3 octave marimba. Most people and schools have 5 octave marimbas, I own one and the University of Iowa actually owns 3. So, if you would like to write anything lower, it would be possible to play. I must say that I am slightly partial to the lower end of the marimba. I thought a good section in the 3rd movement to transpose down the octave would be the 16th notes starting in measure 9. This would help the melody in the right hand come out louder. One handed rolls and difficult to play loudly anyways so having the hands close together will make it harder to hear the hands separately. If it is possible to change, the one handed roll of a B flat and D is very awkward to play, it happens in measure 5, 10, 12, 14, 34 and 36. The end of measure 27 going into 28 and the end of measure 29 going into 30 are both very awkward because of the angles the hand has to change between notes, and the fact that they are rolled, when I tried playing them without rolling it was more comfortable. The pitches in measure 38 in the right hand are going to be very hard to hear because they so high, and again, single handed rolls are hard to hear, especially in a high range. It will be especially hard to bring them out because the left hand notes are in a very loud range on the marimba. In beats 2 and 3 of measure 38, the movement from C and E flat to B flat and D is also very awkward.
I think that is all for now. I will try to have comments on the 4th movement within the next couple of days. I also wanted to tell you that I am really enjoying working on your piece right now!

Meggie Aube

I started by trying to solve the problem of the awkward Bb-D intervals. In measure 5, I put the Bb in the left hand instead of the D and moved the Bb’s in the right hand to G’s. In measures 10, 12, 34, & 36, I changed the Bb’s in the right hand to A’s. In measure 14, I changed the Bb to a G. All of this works because the harmony is slightly more open sounding with the use of 4ths instead of thirds and that fits with the majestic picture I am trying to paint. The end of 27-28 and again at 29-30, I removed the rolls on the 4 eighth notes. This seemed to be the best solution as the intensity is lessening at this point.

The suggestion of writing for a 5 octave marimba was a welcomed one. A lot of what I was writing, I was hearing in a lower range and Sibelius kept telling me I was going out of range. So to be on the safe side, I kept things in Sibelius’ parameters for the most part. In addition, the marimba playback on Sibelius produces overtones that I don’t think would be present on a real marimba, so all the things in the lower register sound almost two octaves higher. I did plunge ahead and made some changes that I think will work. I began by taking the left hand in measure 32 down an octave, then both hands in 33-47 down an octave. I also fixed the awkwardness of m. 38 by changing the Bb to G. I then worked on the beginning section. I took the left hand of measures 9-21 down an octave. In 22, I took the 1st three beats down an octave but changed the last note from a Bb to an F so it leads the line back to the original register where the end of 21 moves smoothly into the section beginning at 22. I hope that these changes make the movement more interesting and solve the balance of line problems. I’ll send it off to Meggie within the next few days.

To see and hear the revision, go to http://www.cooppress.net/guatemayablog.html

Dr. B