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.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Phantasie on Singaporean Folk Songs Mvt. 3 now Mvt. 1

Last week I received some brief comments from May Phang regarding the first two movements and I found them useful in formulating a style and treatment for this last movement. Upon completion of this movement, I realized that this would be a better first movement and my previous first movement, a better ending movement. The only thing I felt I needed to change was the ending, as it wasn't strong enough for a final movement.

After inquiring how many movements would there be, May's comments were as follows : "Would it be possible for some movements to be less angular in style, and more fantasie-like? (e.g. fluidity of line, blend of harmonies and colors)." I felt that the second movement accomplishes a lot of this and I believe that she was mainly referring to the fast movement that was the former first movement.

My original intent for the last movement was to not reveal the folksong "Munnaeru Vaalibaa" in its entirety until the end of the movement, using motives from the song in a developmental fashion leading up to it. But that intent changed after reading May's comments and I created my own extended melodies out of parts of the folksong. By the way, you can hear what these folksongs sound like by searching for them on youtube. I did use the fragments for the introduction (m. 1-12) that has sustained arpeggios with different motives occurring as an answer to the arpeggios.

M. 13 begins my original melody based upon the first two measures of the chorus of the song. It is accompanied by triplet arpeggios and modulates from G major to the mediant key of B major after 8 measures. At M. 30-45, some of the motives of the verse of the song are used as the basis of my second theme. This theme is accompanied by 16th note scales and arpeggios. This section modulates to remote keys almost every four measures. It winds down to an interlude beginning at M. 46 than is thinner in texture and uses 4/4 alternating with 3/8.

M. 61 begins an intense development section that uses a motive from the introduction to the song. At first the motive is accompanied by triplet arpeggios, then two-part and three-part imitation of the motive occurs. The modulations to remote keys occur almost every two measures at times.

At M. 86, the 4/4 3/8 interlude returns but incorporates the three note motive from the previous section and expands it at M. 93. M. 100 brings back the material from M. 13-60 in a slightly varied form. M. 134-155 serves as a second development section, once again using similar material as the first development. M. 156 begins a presto coda using the syncopated figure from the verse section interspersed with swooping arpeggios.

Indicating pedaling became very important in this movement and I reviewed the other two movements for pedaling as well. Any changes I made now appear in the scores that are posted. There were times where pedaling wouldn't work because of needing clarity of line in one of the hands. In those instances, I used ties to indicate sustaining. My only concern is that all the ties make reading the notation more difficult, but I couldn't see any way around it.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/Phantasie_on_Singaporean_Folksongs_blog.html. You can view and hear the score if Scorch is downloaded on your computer and/or listen to the mp3 file.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Phantasie on Singaporean Folk Songs Mvt. 2

For movement 2, I chose Di Tanjung Katong for the basis of this movement. I heard two different versions on youtube, one was slow and the other fast and I preferred the slower performance as it was hauntingly beautiful. Once again, the beauty of the music lies in its simplicity of melody and harmony and I wanted to preserve that quality, yet put my own individual stamp on it.

The first thing I did was to change the meter from 4/4 to 7/8 to give it a slight "lilt" quality. In addition, the opening is rubato, which further disguises the strictness of tempo. This becomes the opening A (m. 1-17) of an ABA form.

The B section is a passacaglia (m. 18- 49). I created passacaglia theme from the melody of the first eight measures by taking only the most essential notes (creating an outline of the melody) and changing the meter to 6/8. I then build a set of four variations on top of the passacaglia theme. A concern arose after I completed this section regarding the regularity of the rhythm. I went back and put more dotted notes in and that help solve the problem. The climax of this section and the movement is the minor/chromatic passacaglia variation at m. 42-49.

The final A section elaborates the 7/8 treatment of the theme with flourishes and triplets before ending with a slower version in a lower register.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/Phantasie_on_Singaporean_Folksongs_blog.html. You can view and hear the score if Scorch is downloaded on your computer and/or listen to the mp3 file.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Phantasie on Singaporean Folk Songs Mvt. 1 now Mvt. 3

Hello readers,

It has been two months since I have posted and during that time I was taking a break and also working on several arrangements. I am excited to be back composing again and especially excited about composing a piece for the wonderful pianist, May Phang. Dr. Phang was born in Singapore so the idea of using Singaporean folk songs as the basis of this composition appealed to both of us.

The first movement uses the Malay children's song "Chan Mali Chan" that has become a Singaporean national song. This song is quite simple in structure and harmony, yet there has plenty of material for me to create with. The song's structure is simply AB. The first part has two phrases, each beginning with repeated notes followed by step-wise motion. The first phrase ends on the dominant and the second phrase on the tonic. The B section begins on the subdominant and has three measures of repeated notes followed by step-wise motion. This phrase then repeats.

I begin the composition with a chromatic flourish and then proceed into a rhythmic ostinato. Both are used throughout the movement. The first statement of Chan Mali Chan maintains the formal integrity but interrupts the phrases with both the chromatic flourish and the ostiniato. The harmony is very nontraditional. I once had my "Dance Etudes" for euphonium reviewed in a journal and the reviewer said the etudes are quite traditional tonally but every once in a while there are things that sound like wrong notes. I would not have used the word "wrong" if I was writing the review. The notes were mainly unexpected by the ear as they were often borrowed from other tonalities and modalities. I mention this because I used a similar technique in the first appearances of Chan Mali Chan (m. 4-36). I'd be interested to see whether you feel the notes sound "wrong." What follows is a set of transformations of the material as described below:

m. 36 - 63 - Canonic treatment of both A and B with ostinato interruptions. The canon moves from two beats apart to one beat apart on the last phrase.
m. 63 - 93 - Scherzando treatment of repeated motif and change to triple meter for the step-wise motif. Chromaticism is introduced as the transformation progresses, taking over in the B section of the song.
m. 93-115 - The scherzando continues but departs even more from the song by changing the repeated motif into a trill-like figure and alternating 5/8 and 6/8 meter. In this transformation, only the A section is used.
m. 115 - 131 - This section is a minor variant and is marked appassionata with an arpeggiated accompaniment. It is quite traditional in terms of chord progression.
m. 132 - 147 - I mark this transformation giocoso as it is quite playful. It uses a lot of octave and rhythmic displacement of the A part of the theme.
m. 148 - 163 - This sections varies the B section of the theme and uses mainly 6/8 meter. The two 16th note two 8th note figure becomes a second ostinato and will play an important role in the next section as well.
m. 164 - 190 - Canonic treatment similar to m. 36 - 63 but the new ostinato interrupts the phrases. Once we arrive at the B part of the theme, the tempo starts to gradually increase.
m. 191 - 207 - This transformation begins with a syncopated figure that will grow in importance until the end. The folk song is stated in octaves accompanied by technical flourishes and the syncopated figure.
m. 208 - end - This transformation serves as a coda. It is in a faster tempo, uses the syncopated idea, and lots of chromaticism.

To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/Phantasie_on_Singaporean_Folksongs_blog.html. You can view and hear the score if Scorch is downloaded on your computer and/or listen to the mp3 file.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B