Author Topic: String quartet in A Minor  (Read 954 times)

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Offline krummholz

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String quartet in A Minor
« on: February 09, 2020, 08:51:13 AM »
This is the first, and maybe only, time I am posting my own music here. A bit about my background: I studied theory and composition at Michigan in the 1970s with William Albright and William Bolcom, but I'm not a professional musician and I had not written any music in over 40 years because I didn't know of any way of hearing even an approximation of what my scribblings sounded like after leaving school. Then in December I discovered MuseScore and MIDI playback, and started transcribing a few of my works into electronic score.

I began this quartet as a simple ternary form while studying with Professor Albright during the summer of 1975. It was mostly in a sort of Bergian idiom, with a Tippettian flowing, diatonic contrasting section. Fast forward to now, and I realized that the reprise of the A section was a total failure and needed to be the beginning of a development section. So I recomposed the rest of the piece after the first 20 or so bars of the (now) development. It is now in a fully developed sonata form, with two subsidiary theme groups, and a development that breaks into a brief, slightly faster section that feels like an allegro but isn't written as such. There is a big climax, after which all the themes are reprised. The "Tippett" theme in particular becomes a rather schmaltzy violin duet in the reprise, though the inspiration was actually late Shostakovich (15th Symphony). The work ends with a desolate viola solo that quotes a bit of Brian's Gothic.

This piece may not be completely finished... the writing in the exposition is decidedly clumsy, with lots of dense, opaque harmonies caused by excessive use of double-stopping. In my rewrite I took that material as a given and worked it into the texture of the new stuff, most of which is more balanced or at least, listenable.

I post this with some trepidation, but will face the "music" of your comments. :)

https://soundcloud.com/user-86898197/tracks

Offline krummholz

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Re: String quartet in A Minor
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2020, 05:14:22 AM »
33 views to this thread as of this morning, but still no one has even listened to my piece. Maybe I was too self-critical in my OP. So I thought I would say a little more about the piece.

The overall "theme" of the work, to the extent I can put it into words, is one of innocence to experience. Despite the Bergian expressionism of the first subject group and the more static second subject group, the exposition is rather detached and avoids all strong emotion. There is a repeated-note motif that grows to a threatening climax on the interval of a tritone, but subsides without going anywhere, and then becomes a pedal point underlying the "Tippett" theme. This provides relief to the ear from the harsh dissonance of the preceding music but is still, similarly cool and unemotional. It is only in the development that we encounter really serious things. After a long crescendo the music breaks into a more urgent passage where a phrase from the principal theme group is treated contrapuntally against a running accompaniment in 16th notes. The climax sounds a note of anguish, a sustained fortissimo cluster chord, and the 1st violin is left exposed on high in the manner of Mahler's 9th. The ensuing solo forlornly winds down to the return of the second subject group, now foreshortened. The opening theme is intoned, unaccompanied, by the cello, and four distantly related chords sound a sigh, signaling the return of the Tippett theme. This is now a lilting duet for the violins against a pizzicato accompaniment: a brief interlude of fleeting happiness. The viola and cello rudely interrupt, and the utterly desolate coda begins.

I hope the above paragraph makes someone curious enough to take a listen. Though it plays for just over 14 minutes, I think it is fairly concise and forward-moving. There are certainly no longueurs in it, and after the exposition I don't think the tension ever lags. But I will leave that for you to judge.

Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: String quartet in A Minor
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2020, 06:50:26 AM »
The climax sounds a note of anguish, a sustained fortissimo cluster chord, and the 1st violin is left exposed on high in the manner of Mahler's 9th. The ensuing solo forlornly winds down to the return of the second subject group, now foreshortened. The opening theme is intoned, unaccompanied, by the cello, and four distantly related chords sound a sigh, signaling the return of the Tippett theme. This is now a lilting duet for the violins against a pizzicato accompaniment: a brief interlude of fleeting happiness. The viola and cello rudely interrupt, and the utterly desolate coda begins.

Loved this part of your Quartet (listened to it three times)...merely liked the rest ;)  A good piece. Thanks for sharing it.

Sarge
the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"

Offline krummholz

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Re: String quartet in A Minor
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2020, 02:18:06 PM »
Loved this part of your Quartet (listened to it three times)...merely liked the rest ;)  A good piece. Thanks for sharing it.

Sarge

I'm glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for your feedback.

Offline krummholz

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Re: String quartet in A Minor
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2020, 05:14:46 AM »

Offline Iota

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Re: String quartet in A Minor
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2020, 01:37:29 PM »
A good piece. Thanks for sharing it.

+1
A good piece indeed.

I had to struggle a bit to get past the sound of the midi instruments which kept putting me in mind of a 50's sci-fi soundtrack at first (but that may just be a personal quirk), but once I did, I found lots to like. The building of tension and variety of pacing held my attention throughout, as did the various ear-catching harmonic undulations along the way. If you ever get an acoustic recording up on Soundcloud, I'd love to hear it.  :)

Offline krummholz

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Re: String quartet in A Minor
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2020, 06:57:24 PM »
Thanks for the feedback! Of course, I'd much rather post a real performance than a computer rendition... but the piece has never been played by humans. I'd like to get it played and am trying to whip it into shape so that maybe I can find a quartet to play it. In the meantime this is the best I can offer.

Again, many thanks for listening to my work and for your comments.

Offline Alek Hidell

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Re: String quartet in A Minor
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2020, 09:06:25 PM »
I enjoyed it, too. I agree with Iota's remark about it sounding in places like something from a cheesy '50s sci-fi movie, but like him (her?) I know that can't be helped with the computerized MIDI "instruments." I'd love to hear this played by some actual humans - hope you get the chance, krummholz! :)
"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist." - Hélder Pessoa Câmara

Offline krummholz

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Re: String quartet in A Minor
« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2020, 05:16:26 AM »
Thanks Alek. Well, someone on another board pointed out that the tritone buildup early on sounds like a horror film after looking at the score (not sure how to upload a score here). That passasge was left unchanged since my student version of the piece, so I guess it's time to do something about it...

Offline Alek Hidell

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Re: String quartet in A Minor
« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2020, 05:20:36 AM »
Thanks Alek. Well, someone on another board pointed out that the tritone buildup early on sounds like a horror film after looking at the score (not sure how to upload a score here). That passasge was left unchanged since my student version of the piece, so I guess it's time to do something about it...

Don't be too hasty, now. To me it's the tone of the MIDI instruments, not the combination of notes, that sounds the way I described it. It will likely sound better once an actual quartet performs it.
"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist." - Hélder Pessoa Câmara

Offline Iota

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Re: String quartet in A Minor
« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2020, 06:33:43 AM »
Oh yes, as I hope was clear, it was only the midi sound that suggested the sci-fi connection to me, not the music at all!

him (her?)

X&Y chromosomes, last time I checked.

Offline Alek Hidell

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Re: String quartet in A Minor
« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2020, 06:26:15 PM »
X&Y chromosomes, last time I checked.

Thanks for the clarification. ;D

(We need more X&X chromosomes around here! amw is the only one I can think of who's a regular poster ...)
"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist." - Hélder Pessoa Câmara

Offline krummholz

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Re: String quartet in A Minor
« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2020, 09:38:29 PM »
Thanks Alek and Iota... :)

Offline krummholz

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Re: String quartet in A Minor
« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2020, 04:59:35 PM »
I've put a new demo of my quartet up at the same link as earlier in the thread - there does not seem to be a unique url that leads to the new track, but it is clearly identified as "revised". There are some minor revisions, but the main difference is the sound quality. This version was made with NotePerformer running under Sibelius, and the "instruments" sound more like real instruments.

Anyway I hope that folks who found the MuseScore midi-ishness off-putting will find this version easier to listen to.

https://soundcloud.com/user-86898197/a-minor-quartet