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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.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cycle of the Spheres Movement I

This was an intense movement to compose and I had to work at it in short spurts as I found it mentally and emotionally draining. However, I am pleased with the results and I feel that it conveys the horror of living through an earthquake and a tsunami.

I was also dealing with several playback issues that needed to be resolved. The Sibelius software's playback is quite good for traditional notation, but lacking for special effects. There may be solutions that I am not aware of, but I'd rather spend my time composing than researching these solutions. I rely on my inner hearing and I hope my readers can do the same.

In order to have the playback somewhat realistic, the notation needed to be inaccurate. I plan to create two files, one for playback and the other for notation. The Scorch playback file you will be viewing is the playback file. In this movement, I want to use a thin book laid across the lower strings to try to produce a plucked sound of a koto. The only way I could get Sibelius to play this sound back was to change the piano left hand to the koto, which in turn put the piano left hand into treble clef and wrote the notes an octave higher than where they sound. I want the one percussionist to start out on wind chimes and had to use a separate staff in order to have this sound played back. Lastly, I have the saxophonist bending pitches like a shakuhachi would do, but Sibelius does not play these pitch bends.

My harmonic and melodic material for this movement is derived mainly from a pentatonic scale. There is the black key version of Db,Eb,Gb,Ab,Bb and the white key version of C,D,E,G,A. The other material used derives from the saxophone multiphonic that first occurs at measure 24. The characteristic augmented 4th and minor 9th are used for both harmonic and melodic material later on.

Measures 1-20 is the serene section with only hints of the earthquake to come with the bass drum rolls. Measure 21&22 reflects startled cries of horror as people begin to feel the earthquake. Measures 23-29 is the actually earthquake. Both pentatonic scales are used simultaneously creating a polytonal dissonance. Added to that is the saxophone multiphonic that creates yet a third tonality. The piano echoes the saxophone multiphonic in the left hand. Measure 30 begins an Allegro section that first depicts the scurrying for survival (m. 30-40) and then the Tsunami with its tidal swells (m. 41-48). The dynamics, rising and falling triplet figures, and suspended cymbal roles help create the effect of the powerful rising waters. At measures 49-57, the water recedes leaving behind the massive destruction and loss of life. Measures 58 to the end serves as an epilog to the earthquake and tsunami reminding us that the survivors must still go on and rebuild their lives.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/cycle_of_the_spheres_blog.html. You will be viewing the playback file which is a transposed score, but has notation inaccuracies to accomplish a more realistic playback.The playback also uses MIDI instruments on your computer that has a different balance and playback than the sampled sounds of the software. For the most accurate playback, listen to the mp3 file.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

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