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:
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!
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