Archive for the ‘Compositions’ Category
30 May

All In Green

Listen: All In Green

This is another song in my e.e. cummings series. I thought the character of this piece suggested an older, but civilized form of music. Given the hunting theme, I chose to write a brass quartet, with french horn.

This poem has a more regular structure than a typical cummings poem. The piece has four sections, each with four parts, though the final section ends half-way through. I wanted to use this structure of cummings. I transposed the sections modally through a simple chord progression. The first section in D, the second in E minor, third in A dominant and the final two lines back in D.

All In Green is, at heart, a tragedy- retelling the story of Actaeon. He had offended the goddess Artemis and was changed into a stag to be killed by his own hounds. In cummings poem, Artemis tells the story in two voices. A warm voice speaking of “my love,” and “dappled dreams.” This alternates with a harsher voice, that of “the cruel bugle,” and “the famished arrow.” I assigned the warmer voice to a french horn, and the harsher one, a trumpet.

I used Finale to realize my composition. Finale has a feature that adds performance elements to a composition. When creating a midi file, it incorporates these elements. Subtle things like swells on held notes and fall offs at the end of phrases. I imported this file to Protools.

I used orchestral samples to give voice to the midi file. Except for a couple of blatty notes on the trombone, it works out very well. I added some reverb, subtly (I hope), to give an old stone hall ambience as a final touch.

Categories: Compositions
25 Feb

I Go To This Window

Listen: I Go To This Window

This is an old recording. It came out of Finale. This music composition software has a feature that lets you assign sounds to your staves and play back your work. I took advantage of this.

I set up a (free) recording program called Audicity to record from the microphone plugged into my Mac. Then I ran a 1/8″ male to 1/8″ male cable from the speaker out port of my Mac to the mic in port. Tell Audicity to record, switch to Finale and press play. This may not be considered a ‘professional’ solution, but it works and the sound quality is pretty good.

This piece comes from an e. e. cummings poem. I use the poem to set the rhythm and tone of the piece. I start by reading the piece out loud. I record this reading and transcribe the rhythm, trying to keep the pauses as I read them. I use this rhythm to construct a melody and work out a bass line and harmonies around that melody. This piece is not intended to be sung.

I Go To This Window started life as a piano piece, but changing to an oboe/piano duet really opened up the melody.

You can look at the sheet music here:  sheet music


Categories: Compositions
23 Feb

Little Tree

Listen:  Little Tree

A few years ago, Susie bought me a book for Christmas. It was a children’s picture book of an e. e. cummings poem, Little Tree. I had always wanted to write a Christmas song, and this was good inspiration.

I wanted to bring some of the modern elements that e. e. included in his poetry to my composition. I spent some time working on modern chord progressions in odd time signatures, but there was a big problem. It didn’t sound like Christmas.

I went back to a more classical approach. I included some big intervals and open voicings, not common in classical music. These uncommon elements still sounded like Christmas.

To me, at least. What do you think?


Categories: Compositions
20 Feb

Donan’s Wedding

Listen: Donan’s Wedding

Sometimes you surprise yourself.

This song began life in 2005 as the first piece of a larger composition. I took David Ferry’s translation of the epic poem Gilgamesh with the intention of creating a chamber piece in 8 movements. I used the rhythm of the poetry to create the melody and filled in parts as implied by the content. I set up some small motif elements that would carry through the piece. I orchestrated the  melody lines based on the setting each section, for instance, I used a brass section to indicate the city or civilization and the more primitive string sounds for Enkidu and the wilder settings.

I had assigned different instruments to characters, the French Horn as the narrative voice, the trumpet as Gilgamesh, the solo violin as Enkidu. I even used timpani to voice the hunters, a nod to Prokofiev.

So this was an ambitious project. I had completed the sketches for the first tablet, four short pieces, and was filling in some of the details when I realized that the first piece had the feel of a march. A slow march, very much like a wedding march.

It was in April of 2005 that my daughter Donan was getting married to Jeremiah Nealon. I hadn’t put much thought into the wedding, other than making arrangement for the trip to Moscow, Idaho. It seems my sub-concious was directing my composition. Donan studied trumpet in college. She is a big fan of brass quintets.

I didn’t intend to write a wedding march, but there are times when the circumstances of your life know better than you do.

Sometimes, you surprise yourself.



Categories: Compositions
19 Feb


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