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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.

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

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