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.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Grass Roots 3rd Movement

I am about a minute and a half into the third movement and thought it would be a good time to pause and write about what I have accomplished. I did link the 2nd movement to the third by having the piano left hand sustain the dominant pitch C after the final chord of the 2nd movement. As this fades, the left hand continues with pyramid arpeggios and chords while the right hand answers with a more florid figure. The ideas develop and the hands change roles through measure 7 where the tuba enters with a variation of what the left hand did earlier. At M. 15 the ideas repeat up a half step. Although the meter is 6/8, the regularity of the 6/8 pattern is broken up with ties and syncopation, some which create more of a 3/4 feel against the 6/8. At M. 22, the meter is changed to 9/8 to break up the pattern even further.

It was about this point in the movement that I changed the movement's title. It was originally going to be called "Joining Forces". That title was only a working title as I knew I wanted something different. I had trouble with coming up with a word and figured if I just compose the music the title would come. I also felt that while the music was going well, I was a little unsure of the direction of the movement. If you remember, the inspiration for the entire piece was Ken Burn's film on the National Parks. While the piece can refer to the success of any social change, it is the power of those individuals with the vision of a park system that is being celebrated. So I wanted the last movement to reflect "America's Best Idea" and that gave rise to the new title, "Manifestation". It is the dream of many individuals coming into reality. My goal is to make the movement serene and awe inspiring.

M. 23 moves the piece ahead by using a development and elaboration of some of the ideas already presented. The piano accompaniment creates a 3/4 feel by alternating eighth notes between the hands. At M. 25, the pattern reverses itself for a measure to add variety. M 29 uses techniques such as inversion and retrograde of the tuba melody from M. 25 part of the time. This turning of the intervals upside down or doing some of the notes in reverse order adds variety but still keeps the melodic idea familiar. M 35 begins one of the awe-inspiring sections and I will talk about this when I do my next post.

To see and hear what I have composed thus far, go to http://www.cooppress.net/grass_roots_blog.html

Dr. B

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Grass Roots 2nd Movement Completed

It is interesting how I seemed to have struggled with thew beginning of this movement because ideas seemed to be slow in coming and all of a sudden, the ideas started flowing so fast, I didn't want to stop to blog about what I was writing until I finished the movement. The last time I blogged, I was talking about the section between measures 21 and 40 that I referred to as "quiet seething". Beginning at measure 41, the piano takes over the argument with only brief interruptions by the tuba, until the tuba renews its point of view beginning at measure 46.

The conflict winds down leading to a canonic section at measure 53. The three part canon is like thee voices presenting their argument. There are subtle variations in the presentation of the canon to make it work harmonically and to adapt it to suit the instruments. For example, the 4 repeated sixteenth notes that begins the canon are easy on tuba, but difficult on piano. They become 4 different pitches in the piano. It also adds a slight variation to the melodic idea. Notice that the canonic entrances are separated by an unequal number of beats. At 61 and 62, the right hand of the piano fills in the melodic line with some harmony. At 63, the canon begins anew, this time starting in the right hand of the piano and the entrances are a measure apart as the argument becomes more intense. When the tuba enters at measure 65, the canon loses a beat and becomes more syncopated and this new rhythmic variant of the canon is repeated in the other voices.

After the canon quiets down, measure 76 begins to recapitulate the section from 21-50. The tuba plays alone for around 10 measures with only short punctuations by the piano. Measure 105 presents the climax and coda of the movement. The glisses do not play back well on MIDI as they start immediately, where in a live performance, one would hear more of the initial pitch. I am thinking that I will write a transition from the 2nd movement to the 3rd movement as I don't want this movement to sound too final.

To see and hear what I have composed thus far, go to http://www.cooppress.net/grass_roots_blog.html

Dr. B

Monday, November 9, 2009

Grass Roots 2nd Movement Continued

It didn't take me long to get over the hurdle of where to go next. The inspiration came while I was at concert of the Verde Valley Sinfonietta on Saturday Night. The 2nd piece on the program was a Mozart Clarinet Concerto and the first movement is a sonata form where the orchestra plays the themes then the clarinet. It was this simple form of repetition that gave me the idea of where I needed to go next in this 2nd movement.

I was originally thinking that I needed a change of thematic material at measure 11 where all I needed was a change in instrumentation. I put the tuba line from the first 10 measures in the right hand of the piano and gave the left hand a combination of what the two habns were doing before, although I used more left hand material than right hand. I also elaborated the right hand with harmony at times and extra notes so that the ideas flow a little more when compared to the first 10 measures.

I continued on at measure 21 with a quieter tuba line and a more flowing piano part. This section is like a quiet seething. The alternating eighth note accompaniment is varied as the hands switch beats after 2 measures. I expect to continue on in this manner for a while.

To see and hear what I have composed thus far, go to http://www.cooppress.net/grass_roots_blog.html

Dr. B

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Grass Roots 2nd Movement

Last night I had a dream that I was writing a clarinet concerto and the entire piece was there in my mind just waiting for me to write it down. I just wanted to get to my computer and get it all notated. In my dream, I commented to my wife that this is such a rare occurrence for me as composing is usually having a general idea of what I'm trying to achieve and then lots of perspiration figuring out how to make it work. Of course, when I woke up from this dream, I didn't remember any of the piece that was so clear to me while sleeping. This dream reminded me that some composers may receive such inspiration, but it has rarely ever happened to me. The closest I have come is when I was writing a piece for the Euphouria Quartet called "In Remembrance, September 11, 2001". The ideas for this piece just flowed so easily and served as an emotional release from that tragic time.

So back to reality and the beginning of the 2nd movement of Grass Roots. This movement is called "Conflict" and very generally depicts opposing forces in the debate to conserve our country's beauty and history for all to enjoy. My initial idea came very easily but it has taken me about two hours to write the first 10 measures. I have decided to blog today because of the contrast between my dream and reality. After working some this morning, I am now temporarily stuck. When I get stuck, it is usually time for me to take a break from the piece and come back to it with fresh ears. Hopefully tomorrow or the next day, I'll figure out what comes next. Sometimes that happens when I'm not even composing, like when I lie in bed waking up in the morning or taking a walk. A lot of times the problem gets solved by listening to what I have written over and over again. Occasionally I need to experiment with using some material from earlier in the piece, but I try not to construct my music. I prefer to let my ear tell me where the piece needs to go. On rare occasions, I discover that the what I have written actually works better later in the piece and I need to write a new beginning. My next blog will report how I solved this problem.

To see and hear what I have composed thus far, go to http://www.cooppress.net/grass_roots_blog.html

Dr. B

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Grass Roots 1st Movement

I have completed the first movement for now. The reason I say "for now" is that I'm not sure that it is complete until I finish the other movements.

The movement is very free in form although there is some repetition of material from time to time. But even those repetitions are varied. Since the movement is titled " A Voice in the Wilderness", there are certainly sections that evoke a sense of being a lone voice trying to accomplish a monumental task. Adding to the the uncertainty are several chromatic sections the evoke a sense of doubt. Lastly, there are sections of lyrical and harmonic beauty that try to depict the beauty of the land that is trying to be saved.

One challenge I was facing in this movement was to obtain rhythmic variety. Except for a few meter changes, the movement is mostly written in 4/4. However, one does not sense a strong metrical pulse because the phrases begin and end on different beats of the measure. I also changed tempo often to further disguise the regular pulse. a good example of both of these coming together is in measure 17 where the Ritard and the phrase end after beat 2 and the new phrase and tempo start on beat 3. The other part of the rhythmic challenge was the divisions of the beats as most everything was duple. Over the course of several revisions, I broke up the constant duple feel with the insertion of triplets and a quintuplet.

To see and hear what I have composed thus far, go to http://www.cooppress.net/grass_roots_blog.html

Dr. B