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Month: February 2017

My 2016 favorites

My 6th annual “Year’s Best” selections are here! Much more important than all those silly award shows on TV and such, my collection of opinions shall go down in history as a paragon of artistic truth. As usual, for books, the nominees are books I finished reading for the first time in 2016, regardless of their publication date. Movies and film scores must have been first released in the USA in 2016.

Year’s best live action film:

Year’s best animated film:

Year’s best film score:

Year’s best nonfiction book:

Year’s best fiction book:

Year’s best TV show:

Composer’s Corner: Themes of Fireside

Hello, and welcome to Composer’s Corner. Today I present to you the themes of my last YouTube music animation, Fireside, a piece of joy and goodwill that fills every listener with happiness and purity of spirit. Sit thee down and take a listen…

6/8 time, B-flat major, the piece opens with the somewhat playful yet mysterious theme 1 on celesta:

This is repeated immediately with a counter melody in the clarinet:

Theme 2 then begins, with oboe and clarinet exchanging phrases:

In measure 6 of this of the melody, one can see that I have the IV chord descend to the iii chord rather than rising to the V again. I’ve been doing this quite a bit lately, using iii as a substitute for V. I may have only just started doing it last year, especially in Fairytale’s End. Love the sound of it.

After a repeat of theme 2, we come to a melody with a borrowed chord! I had heard film composers use these chords a lot, and if you’re listening for it, you can definitely hear it in quite a lot of scores, to the point that, in my opinion, it’s kind of cheesy and annoying sometimes. Two major chords, a major second apart. Of course, we could stay in key and just use IV-V, but what fun is that? If we start with the tonic I, we can descend to bVII (bah, I can’t figure out how to use a flat symbol with this font, the letter b will have to suffice). B-flat major to A-flat major in our case, like so:

Ah, how nice. The last measure is overlapped with a repeat, and then theme 4 begins:

Rather than changing chords every half measure, we only change them every measure here, providing some contrast to our previous themes. (Well, except in the last two measures. Having the chords progress more rapidly at the end of a theme is a common practice.) Also, notice the use of IV-iii again. Because it’s so good.

This melody is repeated with an overlapping counter melody:

After a repeat of theme 1 and its counter melody, we get a variation of theme 2 on piano (which Overture 4 does not make very pretty notation-wise, but what can you do…):

As dedicated and astute listeners may notice, I often employ triplets of some sort or another into my melodic variations, especially on piano. Because 3 is a magic number.

The orchestra then swells into a repeat of the original theme 2, which serves as the piece’s climax, but not before leaping up a major third in key (my favorite sort of sudden modulation), from B-flat major to D major. After this climax, we settle down again with a repeat of theme 4, but this time with a different counter melody (because the original counter melody broke its leg and had to be put down). This new counter melody goes something like this:

This is played by the piano, celesta, and piccolo, which all go nicely together, and the tune sounds especially nice with the timpani and tambourine accenting the half-beat, in my humble yet biased opinion.

By the way, check out my attempt at voice-leading in the cello and viola at this part:

Actually, I’m not really sure if it’s all that great or not, but as voice-leading is my weakness, I actually spent quite a bit of time on this part, simple as it is, and I’m pleased with how it came out. Of course, I’m sure a professional orchestrator could come up with something better. Here’s how just this harmony sounds:

I think it’s pretty OK… for me…

Anyway… After a repeat of this melody and counter melody (remember: ctrl+c and ctrl+v are among the greatest tools in a composer’s toolkit), we wind down with the oboe, the harmony once again shifting between two major chords a major second apart, I and bVII (in this case D major and C major), before shifting to V and ending on the tonic…

And thus the piece ends, leaving the audience to sit in a stunned and profound silence, having beheld much awe and wonder, before dabbing the tears from their eyes and thanking God they lived to experience such rapture… yes? Right? Yes? Maybe?

And such are the themes of Fireside.

In other news, due to some security setting my webhost must’ve recently changed, I can longer edit my “hanniwiki” mediawiki, where I keep track of my works. So at some point I’m going to try recreating the wiki with WordPress, which is much easier to work with and edit anyway. It’s become more and more powerful over the years.

I also recently uploaded a YouTube video about how to use my open-source MIDI animator:

If anyone out there ever actually uses it, let me know; I’d be interested to see what someone else might use it for.

Finally, on a completely unrelated note, I recently created a Letterboxd account, where I can keep a “film diary” of the movies I watch throughout the year; my profile is here.