Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Final Thoughts!

I have completed my piano trio and have finished the editing process. I am extremely pleased with this work as it is my first piano trio and one of my longest works to date. It feels great accomplishing this feat! This semester's seminar class was awesome and I received much helpful feedback on the trio. Everyone has produced great pieces and I'm looking forward to hearing more from each of these composers! 

This is my last blog post for both the semester and my undergraduate degree. Over the past few years my compositional skills have been greatly enhanced and developed under the amazing mentorship of both Dr. Ross and Dr. Staniland. They have expanded my compositional language and have opened my eyes to new ideas and possibilities. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to study with these great musicians and people. Even though I will be pursuing a Master's degree in performance starting this fall, composing is a passion of mine and I will take and use all of the compositional knowledge I have learned throughout my undergraduate degree!!


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Last Class of the Semester and Nearing the End

Yesterday was the last composition class for the semester and my last presentation in the course. I presented most of the last movement of my piano trio and received great feedback. I was pleased that the dark, gloomy and dreadful atmosphere I was going for came across to the class. Dr. Ross suggested that I lengthen out the rhythmic values in the "timeless section," a suggestion I really like. I went back and incorporated this idea and it really works well and it makes the whole section much more effective and evocative. I am now in the final stages of finishing the piece and will be going back to the other movements to do some score editing and final touches in the next couple of days. Looking forward to finishing this work!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Third Movement of Piano Trio

I have just completed the second movement of my piano trio and have made much progress with the third movement this week. The final movement of my trio depicts the lowest three rings in hell according to Dante: Violence, Fraud and Treachery. Dante considers these sins to be the worst ones any person could commit. Therefore, they are located in the darkest part of hell.

Unlike the first and second movements which are highly energized and forceful for the most part, the third movement completely contrasts this atmosphere. I have subtitled the movement "The Frozen Lair," which is in reference to the lowest ring of hell (Treachery). Those persons condemned to this ring are fully or partially submerged in ice, depending on the severity of their sin, and they are unable to move. This movement attempts to evoke this feeling of constraint and stillness through static melodic lines and space in terms of time and musical texture. The piano creates a dark and mysterious atmosphere through use of extended techniques on the strings inside the piano. While I will reference Violence and Treachery in the places where the intensity builds, this movement will mostly focus on the final ring. The form is two large sections. The first depicts the rings and the second will be an epilogue (parallel to the opening prologue in the first movement). The epilogue will have a solemn atmosphere (mourning all of the dead souls) and will end on a slightly optimistic note (depicting Dante and Virgil's ascent out of hell and upward toward purgatory). I am presenting my progress on the third movement this week in class and looking forward to the feedback.      

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Second Movement Presentation - March 13

For the second movement of my trio, I have decided to use the scherzo and trio form for this movement as I believe that this form will best reflect the literary material I am evoking. The scherzo is fast and agitated, depicting the raging river of fire and jousting as described by Dante in the Anger and Greed rings. The trio will be a slower and mysterious section and will depict the flaming tombs and suffering souls in the Heresy ring.

Last Friday, I presented the opening scherzo in seminar class. Overall, the class liked the movement and responded well to what I was attempting to evoke. It was suggested that I could even go further with the depictions with the addition of more angular and disjointed lines. I will incorporate this suggestion into the return of the scherzo after the trio section. As well, at the suggestion of the class, I changed the 11/8 time signature into one bar of 4/4 plus one bar of 3/8 to better reflect the established beat pattern. I am looking forward to finishing this movement this week and moving on to writing the third movement!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Nearly Finished First Movement and Moving Onward

I have now nearly completed the first movement of my piano trio, which ends with the third ring of hell: Gluttony. I am extremely pleased with my progress and how the piece is developing thus far.

I want to use this post to discuss the next movement of my trio. While the first movement was divided into sections with each depicting a specific ring of hell, the next movement (and the last movement as well) will combine the rings into one integrated structure. I have chosen to do this for a couple of reasons. The first is that the literary depictions of the next three rings are more similar to that of the vastly contrasting first three rings (as depicted in the first movement). The next three rings are: Greed, Anger and Heresy which feature jousting (physical fighting between the souls) and fire. At the moment, angular melodies, clusters, and unexpected rhythmic pulsations will play a key role in the musical material for the movement. As well, I wanted to vary the form of each movement in order to avoid a sense of consistency and predictability in the musical layout.

I will be presenting my work on this movement in class this week and am looking forward to some more feedback from the class.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Piano Trio Update

I have begun to compose my Piano Trio on Dante's Inferno since the last post, and I am pleased with it thus far. I presented the beginning/opening section in seminar class and I received positive feedback from the class. They liked the contrast in texture and sound in the section and the overall atmosphere I had created: dark and foreboding. Since it is a piece about Hell, I was glad that this mood was pervading to others.

One suggestion I received was to explore the numerological sequences in Inferno and incorporate them into the piece. I did  more research on this and discovered that the number 3 pervades the entire literary work and numbers that are divisible by 3 are important as well. I have decided to incorporate the number 3 in various ways into my composition. The opening motive outlines the 3-note cell [017], and this will serve as the structural basis for the entire work. As well, the piece will be divided into three movements: 1. Upper Hell, 2. Middle Hell, and 3. Lower Hell, with each movement musically depicting three rings of hell in the order Dante visits them in the poem (1. Limbo, Lust, Gluttony; 2. Greed, Anger, Heresy; 3. Violence, Fraud, Treachery). There is also an introduction which serves to set the atmosphere and outline the main melodic and musical motives for the piece. Heresy (the 6th ring) and Treachery (the 9th and final ring) will be the musical and dramatic climaxes of the piece, as 6 and 9 are evenly divisible by 3. I'm looking forward will to presenting the next stage of my compositional work on the piece in class this week!  

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Previous Two Weeks and What's Next!

I've made a lot of progress with my composing in the last couple of weeks. I wrote a third and final piece to my set of miniatures for violin and piano. This one, entitled ...and the wind gushed..., depicts the gradual transformation of a gentle, flowing breeze to a more swirling and chaotic wind. I use a fast undulating pattern in the piano and frequent scales, trills, tremolos and other sweeping gestures in both instruments. The most striking feature of the miniature, and the one feature that the class commented on, is the abrupt ending. I have decided that this piece will be the first in the set, and the sudden ending will lead directly into the second piece ...and the wind whispered... without break. I think that this kind of ending will peak the interest of the listeners, and the loud and furious ending of the first piece will be complete a complete contrast from the quiet, eerie opening of the second piece The set will end with ...and the wind howled... (see previous blog posts for discussion on these pieces). This week, I finished the editing of all three pieces and submitted my final version.

I have begun my second project, a piano trio. This will be a programmatic work, as the subject matter will be the nine rings of Hell as described by Dante in his epic poem Inferno. My plan is to create an interconnected set of sections, each musically depicting the physical conditions of each circle and emotional states of the people who inhabit them. All of the musical material will be derived from the few motives established in my "Prologue" and the piece will reach its climax in the ninth circle "Treachery," where Satan himself resides. As well, I am planning on including a number of extended techniques for the piano, including playing on the strings, unusual strokes, playing on the wood of the piano, etc. in order to create eerie and mysterious sounds. Plus, there will be more surprises, which I won't divulge at this time... It's an exciting project and I'm looking forward to embarking on this journey!