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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.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

River Suite Movement 4

The last movement that I composed for this suite is called "Harlem River Funk". Before I talk specifically about this movement, I'd like to discuss the order of the movements and their titles.

For me, the creative process is not just conceiving something and then writing it down. I start with a general idea of what I want to do and the details come as the composition progresses. The same is true with the order of the movements. But often when a piece is completed, I find that it can be strengthened by making some changes. In this case, the realization came while composing the last movement.

An important element of my music is balance and proportion. I am also sensitive to not overstating my welcome, meaning that I don't just keep composing because there is still potential in the musical material. I try to be sensitive from a listener standpoint, which is not always easy to do. It often takes me several hours to compose a minute's worth of music and in doing so, I am thoroughly acquainted with it, much more so than a listener would be. I often need to detach myself from the piece and try to put on a new set of ears. In doing this, I realized that the order of the movements was not the best and that their titles could be more descriptive. Therefore the order of the movements and titles are now I. Pecos River Barn Dance, II. Mississippi River Blues, III. Harlem River Funk, and IV. Pee Dee River Revival.

The "funk" style has a lot of intricate syncopation, a minor blues tonality, some harsh dissonances, and a lot of repetition. All these elements are present in this movement. It begins with the saxophone playing the main syncopated theme with the pizzicato violin providing punctuation. At M. 5, the piano left hand provides a bass line and the right hand provides punctuation. It vamps by itself for two measures before the saxophone and violin come back in with their opening material. At M. 11, the violin introduces a seductive minor blues melody while the piano continues its role. At M. 16, measures 7-10 are essentially repeated. M. 20 introduces a new syncopated chordal idea in the right hand of the piano and saxophone joins the left hand of the piano providing punctuation whenever the chords sustain. This idea modulates up a half step that creates excitement. At M. 28, the excitement is interrupted with a return to the piano vamp before the saxophone takes over the seductive minor blues melody with the violin providing an intricate counter melody that serves as both punctuation and a line of its own. At M. 35, the main melody returns but this time in the violin. M. 39 brings back the piano chordal section with its half step modulation. Things are building now and I let it go this time by shortening the piano chordal figure into a two note riff that creates a 3/4 hemiola within the 4/4. Both the saxophone and the violin alternate by answering the piano with technical flourishes. This three measure section goes through three modulations, first up a whole step then up a half step. During the last modulations, the violin plays the first part of the seductive melody. The movement ends with a FF multi-octave statement of the main theme with an abrupt ending. This abrupt ending is one of the reasons why I felt this movement was not good for the finale of the piece.

I am now using flip pdf technology for the musical examples that go along with my posts. It uses Flash Player that most browsers come with. You will be hearing an mp3 of sampled sounds playing the music and you will see the score at the same time. You will need to turn the pages by clicking on the arrows at the appropriate time. To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/river_suite_blog.html. This page now has the movements in the correct order although the titles and movement numbers have not been corrected on the pdf files you are viewing.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Dr. B

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