I have completed around 54 seconds of the first movement. Here is a description of what I am attempting to depict with this movement: I. Sukhothai - Refers to the period between 1248 and 1438 and is known as "the dawn of happiness". This was an ideal state, a land of plenty, and peaceful. I envision a peaceful movement.
I listened to a lot of Thai music before composing this piece. I discovered that Thai music uses a scale of 7 equal tones and the 4th and 7th tones are often used only for embellishment. I toyed with trying to recreate this scale using my Sibelius software for the pre-recorded sounds, but found the process complicated. I also toyed with the idea of using short excerpts of recorded Thai music but rejected this because of copyright concerns and also the challenge of linking up the sounds to the saxophone part as I compose. I opted for using a pentatonic scale for both the saxophone and pre-recorded sounds. It is interesting to note that if one compares a pentatonic scale (c,d,e,g,a) to the major scale (c,d,e,f,g,a,b,c), the 4th and 7th tones are omitted. The actual pitches are not the same as the Thai scale, but it has a similar character. Starting at 39.6", I use an F# and B (4th and 7th tones) more often. I also toyed with having the saxophone play some quarter tones. This is still an option, but I was challenged by the play back plug-in for quarter tones in the Sibelius program. It was easy to use, but did not seem to play back correctly.
Other things I observed about Thai music is that it seemed to lack strict formal structure, therefore it was more improvisatory, and it seemed to be more like story telling rather than having strong musical direction and climax. I am trying to capture these characteristics as I compose this piece.
Another challenge I faced was how to notate the music for actual performance. You will notice that I added a second count to each measure so that the saxophonist can relate to the pre-recorded sounds. I also intend to condensed the pre-recorded sounds to one staff for the purpose of providing the saxophonist with cues as to when the pre-recorded sounds occur.
As a composer, I am interested in balancing unity and variety. There are repetitions in this piece, but not strict repetitions, therefore creating unity and variety simultaneously. For example. measures 5-9 are a repeat of measures 1-4, but a beat is left out of the sustained note on the repeat therefore creating a rhythmic variation. The saxophone part is very ornamented similar to the Thai singing style and the rhythms are very varied creating a sense of free meter even though it is written in 4/4 and 3/4. Tempo changes add to that sense of freedom. It will take practice by the saxophonist to coordinate with the pre-recorded sounds.
The opening 39" are fairly sparse regarding pre-recorded sounds. That changes at 39.6" as the pre-recorded sounds become more dominant, therefore creating contrast to the opening section.
The alto saxophone part is in concert pitch while I compose the piece. The recorded accompaniment sounds are not accurate on the MIDI playback. The shakuhachi plays back like a saxophone instead of a flute and the gong ageng plays as a cymbal instead of gong. These sounds are correct when I use Sibelius Sound Essentials, which I will use to create the prerecorded sound version to go along with the saxophone part. Please use your imagination when listening and substitute the correct sounds in your mind. To see and hear what I have composed thus far, go to http://www.cooppress.net/lan_na_thai_blog.html