It’s been almost two years since I’ve written anything in this blog, but it’s time to set an update as we go into a fresh start of 2015.
To review, at the beginning of 2013, I worked out a structure for a new large scale musical work, then proceeded to experiment on “filling in that void” with research materials. The work was progressing back and forth between a pure orchestral work, something for violin and strings, or a piano concerto. Still, that exercise proved too precise and unsatisfying, so I decided to take a break.
Around March of that year, I started experimenting with literary writing, and on a personal dare, out of curiosity, decided to try my hand at writing a short novel. Well, five months later I had written over 108,400 words (which isn’t a short novel at all). Then, in November, I started the second draft. That exercise in editing and revision took me exactly fourteen months, in which I snipped out close to 21,000 words! It’s now an about 87,200 words. I’m now working on a draft 2.1, and also shopping around for a professional editor/reader after which I’ll hit my third draft — more of a polish.
During that time I learned a great deal about writing, even going so far as suffering through a literary theory course. All of this was really helpful to me as a composer believe it or not, the way that sentences and ideas can be constructed (or not constructed), the differences between grammar and rhetoric etc. Writing creatively is quite frankly bitchin’ hard. I used to get up every morning every day of the week at 5:00 am to work on it, but I think I can relax a bit now and let go. We are so close to words everyday that it’s difficult to hear or read how someone else might see what you’ve written. What looks good today, sucks to you tomorrow. You correct and go through the same thing again and again, slicing away. My derivative analogy is it’s like herding cows down a road but they keep going into pastures, and you are also one of the cows.
Anyway, for 2015, my goals are to continue with this thing and see where it leads. I intentionally keep the door closed on saying anything about it. When its publishable I may speak. For 2015, I’m also planning to get back into that musical work, now that I experiences what writers go through.
This last period we finished up pre-composition work on the pitch class matrixes / designs for the work, which included writing out the nasty details of the special octatonic permutation. After finishing, a further abstraction revealed that they replicated (with some permutations still intact), which leads that we can cut down these materials roughly in half – or at least will make it it easier to choose materials when the time arises.
Moving on to the less technical, I bought some index cards and wrote on one for each design, highlighting the different permutations and sets that each one contains. Each one I wrote with a different color pencil, which made it easier to view. Once I did this I spent the week arranging them in different ways, to try and find an optimal structure for the work. To create a symmetry, I replicated the first design that starts the work and placed it on the end. With 7 designs in the space, you get a good view of the balance, and what needs to be accomplished in each transition etc, and how the sonic elements contrast with their neighbors. I also created “wildcards” which represent something unknown, or might be transitional or mixed in nature. These also can be inserted into the design layout to function as balancers. I ended up not needing these yet, but I will continue to play with this.
With this layout, its easier to get a sense of time and length – where the climax is in the work (if you are wanting a narrative), or any other driving desires. At least you get some rough ideal of how long the work might last. With 7 sections at 6-10 minutes per section that pushes a boundary between a roundly 45 minutes and 1:10 minutes. My goal is to be about 45 minutes. But, thats quite a long single work. I’m not sure I’ve ever written anything that big in scale.
Orchestration – a little more clear, but I expect we will whittle it down as we move through writing the work: 3 percussion, 2 pianos, 1 harp, string quartet (used mostly as a trap for soloists), strings divided antiphonally.
Next steps, we lay out the score a bit more, and start writing out the first section.
Into the drudges of processing and calculations…dealing with designs and with rhythmic process. Outcome so far has been promising.
- 3 different cycles w 2 master designs in each = 6 primary designs
- One of the designs in each cycle is built on the same tetra-chord.
- The other 3 designs are build off a unique tetrachord for each cycle.
- The pairs in each cycle can modulate via common vertical elements.
- One of the designs is semi-octatonic and contains a myriad of secondary tetra-chord relationships making it very unique generator.
- Each design also can have 4 different permutation of orderings, allowing for greater material contrasts, as well as swaps.
This outlines tremendous potential for contrast and extended form, allowing a clear network of modulation between cycles and materials.
Also, I’ve been exploring some generative rhythms, and ended up writing a computer function to help me find some interesting patterns for usage.
Took the first design and did some experimentation on some of the materials and ordering I found. Its been extremely interesting and new. It proved out what we can do, and gave confidence that the designs will work to produce the materials I find interesting.
This week, plan on finishing the write out of the design patterns a bit more, then start thinking in a more focused way on how to arrange these sections. It might not be the best of time spent because the form may just need to be discovered while writing the work, or at least each section, then putting it together in a massive join exercise. We will see how that goes. if I had some time, I might just compose out some proof of concepts for some of these secondary design – just to see how they sound out. I still might. Its still a bit fuzzy on how the whole reflects.
Instrumentation is still a problem – pursuing now: 2 percussion, 1 harp, 2 pianos, solo violin (or maybe string quartet), and strings. No woodwinds or brass. Electronics undecided, but could replace strings and add some extended sound masses.
In any case…feel good about the work these last few weeks, and where it will eventually end up.
Good processing this week on the design, and found some surprising musical ideas from the material which I can explode out into sections. Ordering is a continual thought. Thinking bounces off walls, and water. Undecided how it all fits together. Probably need a contrasting design of materials to give it some dark. Anyway thats on queue.
Also undecided about instrumentation. Still toying with other instruments. Right now, solo violin, strings, piano, harp. Might add an additional piano, and a vibraphone. One piano may double on celeste. Still too many instruments but I need to decide. Just no brass or woodwinds.
The other debate is electronics – all accomp. in electronics vs mixed vs none at all. Will know more down the road.
Players are just not cost effective. Hate to admit it. So, its something in there.
The month past quickly. I’ve spent a great deal of it performing analysis work on a number of pieces, and communicating with some colleagues. The analysis work was enjoyable and a good learning experience, and it’s good to hear what other people are up to.
Additionally, reviewed my catalog of materials which also included my journal and sketches from years ago. I also listened and reviewed some of my older work with thoughts of revising some of it and getting it recorded. A bit strange hearing these older pieces, and I’m still perplexed that after not listening to it for so long, it sounded horrible. Then three days later sounds AOK. What gives? Have some sleeping neurons been stoked, and suddenly it sounds good, yet perhaps in reality its not so good? Can I trust my listening anymore?
Anyway, back to the materials. I start now realizing some sections to see if any musical ideas can be fruitful for different sections. Still shooting for a solo violin work. Back pedaling on instrumentation for the rest: all electronics vs some electronics vs none; also chamber orchestra vs small scalable group of strings + few additional instruments vs no live players. Since I’m undecided, so ‘ll focus on just exploring these designs to see where they take me. What is the core?
After much deep listening, the string work rests well, as complete as expected…and its time to move on to pre-composition work on a work for solo violin w/ accomp – most likely strings and keyboard instruments (piano, vibes etc). This backup may expand out if I find a need.
Music design work has been complete for over a year. Digging into it to find a path to realization will take time.
Musically, I hope it will contrast a bit from the previous work, so I can record them together at some point. I’d still like to use some of the same instrumentation.
Nothing of particular to note in the last couple of weeks. Life distractions dictate where to place focus.
Getting close to sending out the string work; and, after listening to the mock up over the last few weeks it’s becoming clearer what it is and what it’s trying to communicate. It can take a long time to understand a work of art. Even if you wrote it there is always something to learn about not only its being, but yourself in relationship to it. And so, I believe I’ve found a new sense of maturity within to communicate and talk about. But not tonight.
I thought recently that I’m going to have to design a matrix that lends an explain about the aesthetics of what I am trying to do, or maybe what it is trying to do with me as it’s guide.