Listening Log

The Dragonborn Comes – Jeremy Soule

Today, I would like to talk about A very short piece of music. As a younger adult living with my parents back in the day, I would waste countless hours playing video games. I only appreciate now, as the video games have become such massive projects, how advanced some of the soundtracks can be.

Without knowing the piece someone could be forgiven for easily mistaking a video game soundtrack for a piece of film music with big bold brass or the delicate but effective timbre of strings only set an octave apart. This sort of scoring features quite heavily in the adventuring gamers world accompanied by vast virtual landscapes which can be, stunning!

However, this piece is only side tracked and it is not quite complex as a vastly scored main theme or the crashing of drums in a dangerous scene sequence or mission. However it has the medieval kind of sound that I really love and enjoy listening to.

The Dragonborn Comes, performed by malukah, Composed by Jeremy Soule

As I hear this piece I am drawn to it, my ear tells me it is in C# minor. It is quite easily sung by any character in the game which tells me maybe the range is accessible to both male and female voices. I prefer the timbre of a females voice when this piece is sung. THis makes me thing, Maybe it is in the range of an alto or contra alto? I certainly think a soprano may struggle with some of the notes.

The harmony sounds really quite simple, maybe only based on two chords? That makes me think it could be I and V so C# and G# However, it does not have the anchoring feeling of V and I it always seems to return home without wandering as far as G# this makes me think then that the second chord could be VII. THe melody rarely wanders to far astray and before it goes too far it goes down to the note before C# and the phrase is ended VII to I every time. I hear a change in the second verse of this song, it does go up to the V of G# I think that might just be adeded for interest in the song “For the darkness has passed and the legend yet grows.” An uplift from the VII and I to the V, for some uplifting lyrics perhaps?

Different characters in this game sing it differently so I can not anchor down it’s bar measures. I have a feeling it could be in 5/4 or 6/4 it depends on the length of the pauses between phrases. I prefer 5/4 however. This seems to contain more of a consistent flow perhaps that’s just a musical preference or an attention span problem? One beat, I feel is a good number, two beats rest at a slow tempo, in my opinion, interrupts the story. However in the included embedded video from Will of D I feel this is a 6/4 performance however in a quicker tempo than in game.

I have referenced this particular piece in my 4th assignment, I felt that I should maybe explain as to why it is that I chose this piece and how it influenced the work I did in assignment 4. This piece did have a direct impact on that assignment as It is in the Key I like, The phrasing flows nicely as it never flows too far astray from home. It only has one leap up to V for an uplifting part of the song, “for the darkness has passed and the legend yet grows” It is a line that is worthy of the lift. I think Jeremy Soule did a fantastic job on the whole soundtrack, however, this particular song really did stand out above the whole fantastic soundtrack. I think the reason for that is mostly personal preference, IT has that medieval feel and it is in C# minor, I like the lyrics to.

Reference

The Dragonborn comes – Jeremy Soul performed by Malukah.

Projects

Project 14 – Suspend 5

Today I completed project 14 which is a single piece for piano. The majority of this piece of music in in the Dominant C# minor. I chose the key of F# minor because I knew that I would be writing the majority of this piece in C# minor. This is my favourite key because I feel it has a melancholic beauty as the High C#’s I write hang hauntingly in the air. Bars 5 and 6 hold a couple of suspensions which were inspired by the new music like the “lake of tenderness” in my listening log.

Please see video

by David Healy-Richards

In the start of the piece we hear the first phrase of the melody line, lasting about 6 bars. This is mostly in C# minor with only a small Hint of the 7th (Em.) As I use the VII it gives me a chance to explore a new phrase or modulate. However I went back to the V of the tonic to continue the phrase. I try to create an effect of something different coming up and then return to the safe haven of the dominant as before. We hear, in bars 5 and 6 some of the suspensions I mentioned in the introduction. These are suspensions I hear a lot in contemporary music, including the “Lux Arumbeque” and “Lake of Tenderness” in my listening log.

Bar 7 introduces a new phrase in the right hand that sits underneath the hanging the high C# and D in the top of the right hand. I use the method of trying to minimise the two different hands moving at a time, (matches my lack of ability on the piano!) This technique of one line moving while the other is quite still was a method I learned from the descant writing earlier on in this module. This reoccurs throughout this whole particular exercise. In to bar 8 we see more of those contemporary suspensions. In Bars 10 and 11 we are back in the VII of F# (or the III of C#) so this little two bar section features a nice contrast with little movement and then the phrase repeats an octave higher. This is a simple, but, quite an affective way to break the melody up.

As we come in to B we hear a slightly varied version of the original theme with a little bit more happening in the right hand. However I diminish the length of the phrase to introduce the same figure we hear in bars 10 and 11 in 16 and 17. The difference is we get these chords uite high up in the piano and even the bass lane feels lighter as it is only on the octave in the stave and not doubled in the E below the stave. I used this technique to create a much lighter feeling, A breath of fresh air in the heavy melancholy.

In Bar 17 I return to the original phrase but with added weight, I used more chords in the right hand. Originally when I wrote this the B in the 5th beat of this bar was over two octaves, the one you see and the only below it. However this proved to be too much of a stretch, certainly for myself. So I had to lose the lower octave. When we go to bar 18 The last beat on the left hand is altered and so leads to a new chord we have not yet heard on this piece. We go in to the G# minor.

G# minor is the second degree of F# but is also the dominant of C# so it fits in both camps. I felt this added a new expectation. Originally I did not have this in but I wanted to experiment with the harmony. I was relatively pleased with it’s application. In bar 20 we hear a real little tease of the original signature the 3rd beat goes to the conic from the first but with the bass line rising and the E in the right hand, this can’t be the finish. I cheated the tonic. It is too brief to be final but it does suggest what might be coming up.

In Bar 21 I just use the first three notes and I play about with the different scales. They are all familiar, one in B, one in D, one in F# and then again one in C. (VI, VII, IV, I, V) the last 3 bars take us through V and VII as I alternate between C# and E Before finally ending on the final perfect cadence. With the addition of the B the penultimate chord becomes a dominant 7 and it pulls us, finally to the tonic note.

I enjoyed this project as I managed to utilise parts of my listening log and previous assignments and projects from this particular module. I used the suspensions I have listened to in my listening log, I used the high range in the piano that Yiruma and Einaudi have made me fall in love with. I matched the range with the timbre of the Piano. We studied timbre a little bit when looking in to woodwind instruments. I used the mechanism of one line moving while the other is still that we learned in writing descants. I really feel I have a deeper understanding of harmony from writing this particular little piece.

Listening Log

Kiss The Rain – Yiruma

over the last few years minimalist piano solos seem to have benefited from a surge in popularity. In my personal opinion This started with Einaudi and his album “Le Onde” in 1996. Einaudi had been a professional composer since his post graduate studies since 1982 where he was employed in the tangle-wood music festival. This is where he first became exposed to american minimalism and it is from here where I certainly became interested in this particular type of music and, also, therefore, How I cam across the beautiful music of Yiruma

Yiruma is a south Korean pianist-composer. His name literally translate to “I shall achieve” he was a promising pianist from the age of 5 and moved to England in 1988. In 1997 he graduated from Purcell School of music and moved on to complete a composition masters at the Kings College London in June 2000. It is here he released his first album “Love Scene” where he achieved South Korean History and became the first south Korean pianist to tour Europe. Whilst in the music industry Yiruma renounced his British citizenship so he could enlist in the South Korean Navy and perform his music in his own country. In his own country his music was always on issue and because of that, he sold out in 10 South Korean Cities.

Kiss the Rain was released in 2003 and is a typical woeful song of “I love you but you have never loved me” However the beautiful melody floating high above the ledger lines and with its gorgeous 8va really does paint a beautiful picture of the rain falling down. This piece or song has a typical verse chorus structure. Verse 1, chorus, Verses 2 and 3, chorus then Verse four and Chorus.

Yiruma “Kiss The Rain”

The melody remains (mostly) the same in the each verse but there are many ways in which Yiruma maintains the song’s interest is to add harmony in the right hand during the second and third verses which helps to add a think texture and likewise in the fourth verse However the fourth verse has been modulated to A major. It gives us the impression that he will be okay, not being loved by someone that you love does hurt but by modulating back in to A major, I believe Yiruma is saying he will just have to cope and get on with his life. However the last question Yiruma asks “so why am I still here in the rain?” drifts away high up as a pianissimo, to me this feels somewhat like a melancholy sigh or someone dreamily staring out the window questioning their life choices!

However, the reason I used Einaudi as an example is the interpretation by the person playing it. I am trying to teach myself piano and I can play some of Einaudi’s works and I am struggling but can play some of kiss the rain. The amount of expression that you can put in the phrases is phenomenal. This piece of music is so open to interpretation that it allows a performer so much freedom. I can play the first verse every day for a week but it would never be the same twice, depending on how the day has gone. The way the phrases are shaped and how they sing, up in the ledger lines, is a complete musical canvas. Like an ambiguous join the dots, where no matter what order you join the dots, you can get a musical masterpiece.

In the Verses the chord starts on the tonic before jumping up to the third and then up to the VI (this bar is in the relative minor of F minor. We then descend down in steps VI, then V, then progress chord by chord back down to the II where we then end the phrase on the V before the cycle then begins again. The chord structure in itself is relatively simple but so beautiful and effective. The verse lasts 16 bars and we are then in to the verse.

We begin the chorus on the Db , down to the C then breifly down to the Bb and Eb before spending a bar in the tonic and then in the 5th bar of the chorus we see a D natural (funnily enough the bit, I can’t get my fingers around at the moment!) We build through D major, G minor, C minor and F major up to the Bb in a beautiful Minor 7 chord that takes us so comfortably back to the Verse and the Ab minor of the next verse.

This build up, in particular the last four bars of the chorus feels to me almost like the part where the emotions are really getting to Yiruma. “But how can you love me, Like I loved you when, you can’t even look me straight in my eyes?” This makes sense that it would be the most emotionally climactic part of the song but that is only my personal opinion. I definitely find that in the chorus is where I find my favourite writing, I love all of it but the chorus, definitely – to me, holds a kind of musical and emotional climax.

As a composer, If I look at the chorus I look to see how the chords are put together to build the effect on the audience I think the D natural completely violates my musical expectations because I just don’t expect it, That D minor does not turn up anywhere else. Then we just build on The D minor with a G major, C minor and F minor (the dominant of Bb) then down to Bb (the dominant of the key signature of Eb) before we land safely back in the key.

I do not know if Yiruma meant this to be the case but with his stunning melodies, open harmonies and descending chord progressions through the verses he has created a universal piece of music that absolutely any performer can relate to and add a bit of their own personality.

Personal Development

Escaping being Stuck in a Rut.

I have, for a few months now listened to the delicate rhythms if a stream in springtime and wondered how on earth I can possibly try and reflect that in music. I was searching for a sound that I wanted to re-create in a score, but I had no idea how to go about writing it. I had experimented with semi-quavers and tuplets,triplets, quintuplets and demi quavers, I had no success because whatever I wrote was either physically impossible to pull off, or, I didn’t get the sound quite right. Cue a far more qualified and experienced composer/arranger Gareth Westwood.

During my exploits at Butlins Miners Contest, I watched some of the championship section entertainments contest. This is a programme put together about 20 minutes in length and features a varied programme suitable for entertaining a whole family. One of these bands was “Desford Colliery Brass” who put together an entertaining performance. They finished on a number called Stardust which is music from a motion picture. Within the first few bars of the arrangements, I believe I found the answer of what I was looking for. After having tried to hunt the arranger through the wonders of modern day social networking, I managed to get through to the composer directly. Due to copyright reasons and as per the wishes of the composer I can not put any of his score or recordings on at this point, I will only upload a sample of my end product.

I would, however, Like to take this opportunity to thank Gareth Westwood, for taking the time out of his day to send me over the score and a recording of Stardust in order to help me progress with my studies.

Now, thanks to Gareth, I believe I have the compositional mechanism available to score the sound of a trickling stream. This is something I have wanted to know how to do since summer last year and I will deploy this mechanism in my current Musical Work in Progress “6 Roman Deities” Please find below a preview of my work. I intend to incorporate this mechanism in to both an orchestral setting and a Brass Band Score.

  • preview in progress
Personal Development

What are the Benefits of Competition and Music?

In a cold and grey winter weekend in the Butlin’s resort of Skegness Brass Bands from around the UK and, in some cases, our international friends, come together for a weekend of competitive music making. The so called “Butlin’s Mine Workers Brass Band competition” is a stalwart of the Brass Banding calendar. There are 5 sections all together, starting at the fourth and then going up to championship. Championship bands consist of some of the best of the best in the world of brass. These contain world class musicians capable of seemingly superhuman capacity to interpret and perform the music!

I started in a community band who’s foundation was completely based upon an anti-competitive nature. As this was how I was raised I adopted a similar nature in that, for a long time, I did not think much of competing. I thought music should just be shared and acceptable to all standards and ability. Not until recently, having been with my girlfriend now for 3 and a half years, did I start to understand and come round to the idea of competitive playing.

My first Competition with my girlfriend November 2018. In Towcester Studio Band colours. (we won!)

There are advantages and drawbacks of competing and I think each option takes its own specific approach. Firstly I will discuss the advantages of competitive playing. The fantastic people of Towecester Studio Band are just everyday people that are committed to their music and their musicianship and development. To hear the standard this band can reach on their test piece is really quite epic!

A test piece is a piece of music that is chosen for a band to work towards. They often have a few months notice to get the piece ready. There will be an adjudicator who is normally in their own right a very high qualified musicians with a lot of championship experience or composers who also play in championship level performances. Various aspects of a players ability are tested it could be;
Technical quality (how clear can you play twenty thousands semi-quavers, working with your section to give the illusion of consistency so we can breathe, how tight are the band?)
Intonation and tuning (how in tune are you in relation to your previous note?)
Dynamic capacity (can we as brass even players play a double pianissimo?, can we play loud enough to be heard from outer space and still stay in tune?)
Musicality (a two parter, how is the MDs interpretation and how are the band responding to the conductors interpretation, or are they watching?)

Of course there is a degree of personal preference from the adjudicator but that list is just a general idea of the kind of things that an adjudicator may look out for. Each item is then scored or marked separately and the person with the highest score wins that competition. If you put all these things together it makes for a high score and one heck of a performance!

Another advantage is the psychological aspect of competing. In some test pieces one single person may have to start the piece of as a cadenza. This year at Butlins it was the euphonium players turn. This puts a deal of performance pressure on a soloist as they have to, in effect, set the tone for the whole piece (which is usually 10-15 minutes long.) I do believe that overcoming any performance anxiety to pull it off for your team takes a special kind of person. I think competing helps create cohesion in a band as you are automatically categorised in to “us” and “them” it gives a person a sense of belonging as per Maslows Hierachy of Human Needs and wanting to do well for your team (for most people at least) not to mention the great feeling of winning and doing well after having worked hard. If you do not win then hopefully you do get some useful feedback from the adjudicator to help you become a better musician.

SO, Great! you may ask, when can I start? just contemplate this next paragraph . As a competing brass bander you are committed to learning one piece extremely well. This can cause a headache for a conductor who may have a lot of normal concerts where a programme of entertaining music is required to please a paying audience. In some cases adjudicators can be really quite harsh and counter-productive in their feedback. This can cause damage to peoples confidence which can have a reverse affect. You have to be able to take the feedback on board and not take it to heart.

A competition is a day or sometimes even a weekend long commitment. You have to travel to one location that can be over an hours drive and sometimes you have to wait all day before you can get a result. Bands are drawn at random and if you get drawn to play first you have to hang around to hear the results. Needless to say if you’re first on, spend all day in a normally under-equipped location that is not particularly close to a town, only to find out that you came last place and the adjudicator did not give any useful feedback, you might find yourself somewhat rather “frustrated” to be polite. You often play to an empty hall bar one or two adjudicators. An adjudicator might have to listen to the same piece 15 times in a day. Fair enough the interpretations can differ, but even if there was a Pink Floyd inspired interpretation with additional synth effects, you would still find yourself bored after a couple of hours. The composer might not be too happy either!

On the other hand, community bands, like my own band, Wadhurst Brass Band, will have up to 20 concerts a year. Though we don’t win trophies we put together performances that are highly appreciated and usually our main concerts are completely sold out. We can make a good sound, even on test pieces and different arrangements and I intend to prove that, as, in our Spring Concert we will be performing the 2020 test piece for the fourth section. Although I wont have a highly qualified adjudicator to give constructive feedback, I will listen to what the audience have to say, people who are willing to depart with their own hard earned cash to come and spend a couple of hours listening to us. Not to mention, I am able to spend more time working on sight reading, and my band continue to do well when a new piece is brought out in front of them. Once the initial complaint of “we can’t play this, so I don’t like it” has subsided, of course!

I have, personally learned a lot from competing which has helped me become a better musician, but, more to the point, as a student composer the level of detail the piece has to be known both by the conductor and the band, in itself, helps to decode or analyse the music and the composition mechanisms used within the piece. This helps the band understand the music at a deeper level, therefore increasing their musical knowledge. However, would I give up community banding to compete? not in a million years. We’re a community band but we can give just a good a concert as a competing band.

If you are the type of person that is competitive, wants to win awards and get good at what you do, or you want to be well known, I suggest you take the competitive route – as it may inspire you to be the best musician you can be. However, if you are maybe self conscious and feel like your confidence will get knocked as a result of an adjudicator. I suggest that you take the community route. We can’t pull of a piece to the same standard that a competing band play a test piece. However we can make a terrific sound that is appreciated by a lovely audience who just want to come along for the fun. There will be conflicts in opinion and various stressful dysfunctions as there is not a common goal as such but If I had the time, I would conduct a competing band, commit to a competing band but play as a regular in a community band. I would like to thank my girlfriend for opening my eyes to the world of competitive banding

A shout out to Lauren for helping me develop as a musician and as a person, by opening my eyes to competitive banding.

However, for now, I shall continue plodding along with my laptop close, just in case, there is the off chance, I can bore anyone with musical conversation. All the while I shall still continue to study and learn how to write music, how to tell a story with sounds or to paint a picture with music. Hopefully some people will see eventually a score with the name “David Healy-Richards” above the right hand corner, until then, there is still lots to learn!