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.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Burnsiana Movement 4

All I can say is that Robert Burns must have had a lot of girlfriends and most of them named Jean. When I told the Avion Saxophone Quartet and its director that one of the poems I was using was Bonnie Jean, I discovered that the actual poem is called Jean. Bonnie Jean is a different poem. Anyway, here is the text that influenced the fourth movement:


Of a' the airts the wind can blaw,
I dearly like the west.
For there the bonnie lassie lives,
The lassie I lo'e best:
There wild woods grow, and rivers row,
And monie a hill between;
But day and night may fancy's flight
Is ever wi' my Jean.

I see her in the dewy flowers,
I see her sweet and fair:
I hear her in the tunefu' birds,
I hear her charm the air:
There's not a bonnie flower that springs
By fountain, shaw, or green;
There's not a bonnie bird that sings,
But minds me o' my Jean.

I original thought of setting this in a slow tempo but when I got into it, I was impressed by the references to nature and the lightness of the expression of love, that I chose a slow waltz instead. This tempo and style also fits the sequence of movements better as I used a slow tempo for movement 2. There is slight polytonality in this movement. The Baritone Saxophone starts out in F, The Tenor and Alto Saxophones in Bb, and the Soprano Saxophone in C. These keys are closely related so there is not much dissonance.

The form is AABAABCCDBAAB. Contrast is created through melodic material, texture, orchestration and articulation. The tenor and baritone saxophones have a lot of melody in some of the sections. The music almost sounds flirtatious rather than a serious love.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/Burnsiana_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Burnsiana Movement 3

The third movement is based on To A Mouse. The poetry follows.

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim'rous beastie,
O, what panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murd'ring pattle!

I'm truly sorry Man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An' fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles,
but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave
'S a sma' request:
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss't!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's winds ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an' wast,
An' weary Winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell.

That wee-bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald.
To thole the Winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still, thou art blest, compar'd wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

The first image that comes to mind when reading this poem was of a mouse scurrying through a field. I tried to represented this by using key clicks in the saxophone. The recorded versions of this movement have the saxophone sounds and not the key clicks, so you will need to use your imagination. I was frustrated trying to get the software to playback with the key click sound. First of all, there were no key click sound in the sampled instruments. I tried to change to a percussion sound, but when I did it changed the notation. Then I tried to use an effect like a snap, but heard no difference. If anyone knows how to do this on Sibelius, I would love to learn how to do it.

The key clicks uses a scalar pattern in g minor. They are interrupted by two measures solos and finally a four measure 5/8 phrase. At measure 20, the key clicks come back in a new key but this time the last measure becomes a 5/8 instead of a 6/8 to add a little variety.

Measure 39 ushers in a new section that represents the accidental interruption of nature's balance. This section is mostly in 5/8, an unbalanced meter.

Measure 55 begins a very highly chromatic section and represents the harshness of winter that both the mouse and the plowman must survive. This section culminates in diminished 7th tremolos before transitioning into a more reflective section at measure 91. This reflection uses the key clicks again, but at a slower tempo along with more reflective interruptions that eventually develop into a quiet ending that leaves the listener with an unsure feeling, much in the way Burns' poem does.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/Burnsiana_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Burnsiana Movement 2

These past week or so, I worked on the second movement of Burnsiana. The poem I used for the inspiration of the movement follows:


O, My Luve's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June.
O, my Luve's like the melodie,
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I,
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun!
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only luve,
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my luve,
Tho' it were ten thousand mile!

I begin the movement with timbre trills. Timbre trills occur when the performer goes back and forth between the regular fingering for a note and an alternate fingering. I put a footnote to these trills indicating that they should be slow and gentle, like the rustling of leaves. I am trying evoke a sense of nature and of beauty. The playback does not create the effect I want as it is too regular and too pronounced. The lyrical (love) melody occurs first in the alto saxophone but soon travels to all the other saxophones during the entire movement, sometimes as solos, sometimes as duets, and sometimes in counterpoint.

Beginning in measure 10, the soprano saxophone plays a descending stepwise figure that once again gets transferred to all the instruments. As the poem intensifies with the ideas of parting and traveling to return, the descending stepwise idea is augmented to create a more undulating sense of urgency (measure 14). The melodic lines along with this figure are still lyrical, but more intense.

I take a liberty with Burns' poem by returning to the more subdued expression of love for the end of the movement. I simply repeat the first thirteen measures at a slightly slower tempo and only create a different ending for this material.

I usually like to create using a transposed score as I can see the ranges the instruments are playing in clearer and transposing in my head to recognize how the pitches sound does not cause me any problems. When working on this piece, I found the constant transposing in my head challenging because the top part is in Bb, the 2nd in Eb, the 3rd in Bb and the 4th in Eb. I was getting confused regarding what pitches were actually sounding. When I placed the score in concert pitch, the tenor and baritone saxophones were still in treble clef, so they had many ledger lines below the staff that were just as hard to read. I then put the tenor and baritone saxes in bass clef for the composing phase and the notes were in the staves, making the creation of the harmony and contrapuntal lines easier. This will be the way I will work on this piece from now on. I put the score back to transposed and changed the clefs back to treble for these posts.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/Burnsiana_blog.html. You will be viewing a transposed score.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B