THE MUSIC ROOM

Noteflight is a website where one can create (or copy) music and have it performed digitally. I have used it to realize several of my compositions. Those which I have downloaded to Soundcloud I've posted below; I've also posted live performances of my wind ensemble arrangement of my own Three Antique Dances from You Tube in "The Viewing Room".

To hear other bits and pieces of my work, go to my home page on Noteflight.

THE  "KELDEN"  SYMPHONY

If you go to the "Behind The Scenes" page devoted to my novels, you'll learn about The Eros Variations. To review a bit here, when I was creating the novel, I decided to write it in four main parts, and chose to cast it as though it were a four-movement symphony, giving each section the kind of title you might find in an actual symphonic score - one that would give an indication of how it should be performed.

I then decided that, since I have a degree in music composition, I should write an actual symphony to accompany the novel. The symphony was composed simultaneously with the writing of the novel; but while I started the novel first, I finished the music first.

The manuscript was created by hand (the background to this page is a scan of an actual page from the original manuscript). I eventually copied it, one note at a time, to Noteflight, and thence to Soundcloud.

The opening of the symphony is intended to be ambiguous, both harmonically and rhythmically, to go along with the ambiguity in the life of my main character, Kelden ("Kel") Scott. Since Kel is a concert bassoonist, his personal theme is introduced in the bassoon. That theme, or fragments of it, will permeate all four movements.

Although the symphony is not strictly programmatic - it's more a sonic impression of the themes and emotions of the story - certain people and events do have their corresponding musical motifs. Paige Santori, for example, is represented by a romantically flavored solo violin line that first appears about midway through the first movement, and the final movement comes to an abrupt halt about three quarters of the way through, followed by a growing maelstrom of sound, all of which recalls the sudden death of one of the characters and its aftermath.

You have your choice of how to listen to this work: you may choose each of the movements individually, or you may listen to the entire work all the way through without pause. The four movements and their performance times are:

  1. Rigid, but threatening to lose control (11:50)

  2. Slightly maniacal (8:17)

  3. Contemplative, but intense (14:04)

  4. Driving (15:55)

The entire symphony, played straight through, runs just under an hour (50:06).

First movement

Third Movement

Second Movement

Fourth Movement

Complete Symphony

Three Antique Dances

I originally composed these three dances for piano in the early 1970s as part of my Music Composition class at Illinois State University. The assignment was to use Impressionistic techniques - techniques developed in France in the late 1800s and early 1900s by such artists as Monet and Renoir and such composers as Debussy and Ravel - for one or more pieces. The three dances were not originally titled; the titles of both the collection and each individual dance evolved over the years as a reflection of the images they evoked in my mind. I arranged them for wind ensemble in the early 2000s after I met a high school student working at the checkout counter at our local Farm and Fleet; in the course of several conversations (this is where I chose to buy our cat litter at the time) I discovered he was a percussionist with the high school wind ensemble. I gave him the manuscript to pass on to the director. On May 5, 2015, the University High School wind ensemble under the direction of Jason Landes premiered the wind ensemble arrangement of the dances. You can see/hear that performance in "The Viewing Room". Meanwhile, the electronic realization of the original piano versions are presented below. But first, an explanation of each dance:

 

1. The Gavotte of the Nymphs

 

A gavotte is an 18th century French provincial dance. It actually features four beats in each measure. Already, I have departed from tradition from the very beginning, in that I mix a triple beat with quadruple and quintuple. Nymphs are beautiful minor female deities dwelling in mountains (oriads), forests (dryads), water (naiads), air (sylphs), fields (lemonids), and so on. I imagine these spirits dancing in the fields and forests, and while some are graceful, others have a stronger presence (such as may be expressive of large, old trees or raging streams).

For the musically inclined, the devices I used in this dance include the use of 7th, 9th and 11th chords, the use of quartel chords (chords based on intervals of a fourth - think the first three notes of the original "Star Trek" theme), and the use of the pentatonic (5-note) scale Eb, F, Ab, Bb, and C.

 

2. The Arabesque of the Sybils

 

An arabesque is a dance of Arabic or Moorish origin, featuring elaborate, interlacing patterns. A Sybil was a prophetess or fortuneteller, usually found in ancient Greece, Egypt, Babylonia, or Italy.

This was the most challenging of the dances to write and almost defies harmonic analysis. The only true cadence comes at the very end and is, at the same time, both logical and startling. Identifiable Impressionistic devices include an overall Oriental mood; and two whole-tone (6-note) scales in the center section - the left hand uses the scale on C (C, D, E, F#, G#, A#), and the right hand uses the scale on C# (C#, D#, E#/F, G, A, B).

3. The Waltz of the Gladiators

A waltz is a ballroom dance from Germany or Austria, originally appearing in the late 1700s, in a triple beat. Gladiators were, of course, persons - usually slaves - forced to fight to the death in arenas for the entertainment of ancient Romans. To think of a gladiator as dancing a waltz is a bit ludicrous, and this dance has a whiff of humor.

As challenging as the Arabesque was, this Waltz came easily. It uses the devices of planing - all the voices and chords moving in the same direction at the same time - and modes (I discuss modes in my series, "The Listening Library", in "The Essays [and other stuff]). The specific modes I use are the Dorian mode in the first and third sections, and the Phrygian mode in the middle section.

Once again, I have posted each dance separately, and the entire collection together. Listening times are:

1. The Gavotte of the Nymphs: 2:04

2. The Arabesque of the Sybils: 3:40

3. The Waltz of the Gladiators: 2:58

 

Three Antique Dances (Complete): 8:43

The Gavotte of the Nymphs

The Waltz of the Gladiators

The Arabesque of the Sybils

Three Antique Dances (Complete)

The Songs

Lullaby For a Savior

     "She was staring at the baby, across whose sleeping face a shadow now hung. It was only the shadow of a wagon tongue propped against the wall, yet she saw it, the dark and terrible shape of it drawn across the helpless form of her little son.

     'No,' she said quietly, out of her private agony of knowledge. 'The prophets have already spoken of his fate. He will be no earthly king. He will be a man of sorrows whom the world will despise. He will be the scapegoat driven into the wilderness to carry away the people's sins. He will bear the whole burden of their guilt upon his shoulders. He will be led up onto a hill to be slaughtered for that guilt; he will be the sacrificial lamb.'"

-from Two From Galilee: A Love Story of Mary and Joseph

     That scene from the final pages of Marjorie Holmes' 1972 novel was the inspiration for this disquieting cradle song. The lyrics are part of my anthology, Acoustic Words: A Collection of Short Works. The following Noteflight realization features the piano version with a wordless obbligato for the vocal line (not because I don't want to freely share the lyrics, but because it's impossible to electronically realize a vocal line with words).

© 2016 by Stephen M. Larson. Proudly created with Wix.com

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