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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.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Lan Na Thai 2nd movement

I wish everyone a blessed and happy Thanksgiving! I woke up early this morning and worked on the 2nd movement which I began several days ago. To my surprise, I completed that movement this morning. Part of the reason for completing it sooner than expected was the fact that my ear was telling me to bring back the opening sections for the end therefore creating a ABA'C ABA' form.

The experience of trying to create a piece of music that sounds like Thai music by using western musical language and aesthetic has been challenging. Eastern music uses a lot of repetition yet sounds improvisatory. The contrast is created by things changing subtly over time. Western music has greater contrast and clearer formal structure. I already addressed the challenge of the different scale systems and how I dealt with them in an earlier post. So what I seem to be creating is a piece influenced by Thai music but written with a western aesthetic. With this in mind, let me discuss my second movement.

I chose to use an oboe-like instrument that I hear in examples of Thai music for one of the pre-recorded sounds. Sibelius has a Duduk (an Armenian double reed instrument) as one of its sounds, but this instrument sounds closer to an oboe that the double reed instrument I hear on recordings of Thai music. The Thai double reed instrument is much less focused and seems to be richer in clashing overtones than the oboe. To recreate this sound, I double the melodic line a second or third below the melody according to the pentatonic scale that I am using. I am very pleased with how this recreates the Thai double reed instrument. I also use finger cymbals, taiko drum, and a xylophone-like instrument in the pre-recorded sounds.

The pre-recorded sounds begin this movement and create an ostinato to the saxophone melodic line. The saxophone line is very rhythmic and technical and incorporates trills (A). At 3'05.2", the xylophone ushers in a contrasting section, alternating the line with the saxophone (B). At 3'16.5", the A material returns but this time the saxophone and xylophone are in imitation with the xylophone being the lead voice (A').
Even though I use these constructional principles, I still let my ear be my guide. One thing my ear suggested was a change of rhythm in the xylophone part approaching 3'21". The original line called for a rhythmic shift to having the phrase start on the beat, but this did not work here. I then shifted the phrase to starting on the upbeat. I also wanted the saxophone to imitate the sound of a xylophone roll on some of the long notes. A trill did not work, so I suggest the use of flutter tongue or a timbre trill (where the saxophonist trills between two different fingerings for the same note). 3'36.5" begins the C section with its new tonality shift and thinner texture. Programatically, this movement represents a period in Thai history where there were wars with Burma. One could think of this section as introducing this foreign element into the piece. 4'19" ushers in the return to the ABA' section from the beginning. I did not alter this section very much except near the end where I extend a 4/4 measure to a 5/4 measure to create a stronger ending. The movement ends with the gong.

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. The sounds are also in a better balance. 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 tohttp://www.cooppress.net/lan_na_thai_blog.html

Dr. B

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