Thursday, May 03, 2012

My first cut at recording a whole sonata movement into Sibelius; what makes music "original"?

I’ve continued my effort getting more of my old music entered into Sibelius.

Today, I “stumbled” through an effort to record the 10 minute finale to my “Third” Sonata, which I composed by hand in 1962 after my William and Mary expulsion.  The finale was always sketchier, and was intended to start out “playful” in nature, and gradually become more “serious”.

The basic tonality is C, but I’ve decided to add a second chorale theme, that will be presented first in the tritone opposite of F#.  It came to me in a dream.  It bears a superficial resemblance to the Polonaise Militaire (A Major) theme of Chopin, which would sound trite here if continued in rhetorical fashion (as in a typical church hymn).  Instead, the idea is to answer the opening figure with ascending passages based on the earlier “playful” music, taking then through some other keys (especially E-flat) back to the concluding C Major, particularly at the end of the Sonata, which there should be a sense of being lifted up.

The rubato feature of Sibelius doesn’t help so much in music that is constantly changing time signatures, of that wants to shift back and forth between compound and simple meters. When recording the coda, Sibelius froze after about 30 measures.  I had to do the “cntl-alt-esc” and stop it and let it send a report to Apple.  When I restarted Sibelius, it still let me save what I had played.

Casio offers a library of 59 “Music Library Piano Scores”, including the sheet music. There’s a certain emphasis on French music toward the end, a lot of Satie, Debussy, Faure; some duets; the last piece is a Czerny etude.  The Brahms G Minor Rhapsody (#2) is included, as is the Schubert E-flat Impromptu, #2  of Op 90.  (When I took piano, I learned the A-flat piece).  The E-flat plays with the remote tonalities of B Minor and G-flat major (through the parallel minor) and curiously ends on a loud E-flat minor chord, an inversion of the “Picardy Third” concept.

There is a first movement from the Op 36 #1 Sonatina in C by Muzio Clementi, which shows that an entire sonata form can be imitated in just forty measures.

I’ll close this posting with a link to an article by NYC composer Timo Andres in “Fortnight Journal” called “The Opening Bars”, link here. He says, near the beginning, “Writing music is more like refashioning something which existed, and had always existed.”   I know there has been some controversy in this area with a recent composition by Golijov (March 8, 2012 on this blog).   Remember, Google counsel William Patry, in his book “How to Fix Copyright” (my Book Review blog, Jan. 3, 2012) takes the position that all creative work (at least in music and literature) involves some amount of “copying”, even adaptation and mashup, to the point that the message for the consumer is transformed. Yet, every composer develops his own voice, his own musical "trademark".  Brahms and Beethoven still sound distinct.  And as I noted, after my dream of my hymn tune, I realized, "I've heard that before", well, not exactly.  The Chopin Polonaise was similar on the surface but has a totally different effect from what I want.  

Andres talks about being inspired by Chopin, and how motives transform and grow into something else, and provide, as in cinema, the chance for “surprise endings”.   Chopin has always, for me, tended to sound trite (even “effeminate”), until he gets into the big forms (well, he does well in the Etudes, too);  the first movement of the B-flat Minor Sonata always holds me spellbound.   So do the G Minor Ballade (with its perverse violence) and the C#-Minor Scherzo (whereas the B-flat Minor Scherzo always sounded like a copout).  I’ve always liked narrative, and large canvases, rather than miniatures. 

Isn't Timo about due for another concert in the Washington DC area?

I still remember an old chum at William and Mary (that one semester in 1961) who thought that real music ends with Mozart, or maybe Beethoven and Schubert.  He also said you shouldn’t play Beethoven in concerts until you’re 30.  We saw the French film “Aimez-vous Brahms?” that fall.  He did play a reduction of his Piano Concerto in E-flat for me in a practice room in Ewell Hall, and I still remember all the themes. The slow movement was a kind of lamentation in G Minor with a kind of plainsong theme, and the outer movements used lots of scales and octave passage work to build whole motives.  


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