I recently posted my latest composition, “Secrets of the Ancient Seas”! Check it out:

I write in the description:

This began as another track inspired by my novel, but the rapid string arpeggios and spirit of the melodies quickly began to remind me of an adventurer braving the seas, so I continued down that path instead. I even threw in some wind machine for some atmosphere, a percussion instrument in Garritan Personal Orchestra I’ve been wanting to try using but never really had the occasion for. I think it works well in this piece.

My favorite part of this piece comes at the 4:22 mark. At first I meant simply to contrast all the melodic material with some more atmospheric material, perhaps only wandering arpeggios, but I couldn’t resist adding some melodic phrases along with them in the form of descending minor thirds. With the minor chords forming the harmony, these descending minor thirds sound, to me, very haunting and creepy. Almost the way a child calls out “Where are you?” to taunt hiding prey. The sound of being lost at sea on a foggy night, perhaps? Vaguely hearing the call of the deadly sirens in the distance? Anyway, I love how it sounds.

I also like what’s happening harmonically, as it’s more chromatic than my usual fare:

ancientseas

We start in the tonic of B minor, then continually progress through the circle of fifths, to F-sharp minor, C-sharp minor, G-sharp minor, and finally to D-sharp minor. From here, we go back and forth between D-sharp minor and D major (the relative major of B minor), a transformation Neo-Riemannian triadic theory calls an S transformation for slide, as the chord slides between major and minor keeping the third of the chord as a common tone (in this case an F sharp). I think the major chord sounds particularly refreshing there, as so many minor chords precede it. Finally we get C-sharp major seventh for the final three measures, which serves as a secondary dominant in B minor (as it implies a resolution to F-sharp major, the dominant of B minor). But first the passage repeats, and the C-sharp major seventh is just as capable of resolving to B minor (although this resolution perhaps does not sound as strong, but that’s OK, the stronger resolution comes after the repeat).

When we do resolve to the dominant, F-sharp major, the opening phrase of the piece’s main melody is echoed, but it sounds rather exotic and dissonant being accompanied with the dominant chord rather than the tonic, and the clash propels the piece forward to the main melody’s final statements.

Although this little sequence is hardly revolutionary at all (and so may not stand out to any listener), it’s certainly not the sort of thing I’d usually compose, so I’m rather pleased with it.

Also, at long last I managed to upload a truly 60 fps animation thanks to Shotcut, a nice free video editor that will now replace my need for the annoying Windows Movie Maker. It’s not a super-advanced editor, but it does what I need (sync audio and add titles), it’s free, and it doesn’t come with annoying limitations to try to entice me to buy some deluxe version.


19 Comments

LanthonyS · September 14, 2016 at 11:46 PM

1:22 reminds me of 0:54 in ‘Lord I Lift Your Name on High’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6I6orjM3NI

Also, is 1:48 from Island of the Dragons? 😀

But no, I tease. This piece and your theory commentary were very enjoyable. It certainly feels closer to the tricks the more traditional composers pull out of their bags, and less like movie or atmospheric music. The particular way it ends suggests the end of a first or third movement of a symphony to me, too 🙂

I also did a piece recently with some theory play, though not nearly as informed and with less substance beyond the key changes — more just noticing repeating patterns while modulating on the piano… Anyway, it’s grown on me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9emOP-R5h1A

By the way, why do you prefer such a wet sound for your compositions? Can you comment on your use of reverb and acoustics? I know you addressed it on Compose Pile years ago…

S P Hannifin · September 15, 2016 at 5:37 PM

Hahaha, yeah, the phrase at 1:22 does sound very similar to the song you posted. I suppose that’s bound to happen now and then when one uses such simple phrases.

And, yes, there’s an “Island of the Dragons” quote in there! I was hesitant to quote myself that directly at first, but I thought it fit so nicely, and since “Island of the Dragons” is an older piece that I never put on YouTube, I reckoned nobody would notice anyway, but alas, I have been proved wrong! Anyway, my excuse is that the “Island of the Dragons” may be discovered by a sailor uncovering the “Secrets of the Ancient Seas”, so the quote is, you know, a very deep metaphor… yeah, that’s it. (On a side note, quite a few of my pieces reference each other, but it’s usually much more subtle, or so obscured that it’s kind of pointless… but it makes the music-writing process fun.)

About the etude: (Disclaimer: This is all just my subjective opinion…) Your Etude has some nice ideas; the 7/8 time sig was a bit jarring at first, but begins to make sense after some time, especially in those measures when you’re more consistent with the beats (quarter note, quarter note, 3 eight notes, for instance)… when you have two dotted quarter notes, it kind of throws me off, though one could get used to it with repeated listens… tonally, it sounds a bit random to me, it seems like there’s so much wandering, but it makes the theme at 0:42 (for instance) stick out that much more as it seems to stick to a tonality; I kind of want that theme to continue on… Also, the final chord sounds rather bizarre as you don’t have the root of the tonic chord (the C since it’s a C major chord) as the highest note, but instead the G. (Actually the whole final cadence sounds a bit weird; I’m not sure what chord you’re going for before the dominant 7th…)

As for reverb, I still pretty much use Ambience with the settings I posted on The Compose Pile, only making slight adjustments to the Dry and Wet settings depending on the ensemble. (For instance, I think solo piano music sounds a bit better with more “Dry” and less “Wet”.) I wouldn’t mind a VST plugin that gave me even more control over reverb, but if I had the money to pay for one, I’d rather buy more instruments.

Anyway, I think the settings I use sound more realistic to my ears. That partly may be because sampled instruments can sound pretty mechanical and fakey to begin with (especially if you’re too lazy to fine-tune all the MIDI settings to imitate an actual player’s interpretation, as I am… I’d rather spend time writing more music), so reverb helps to cover that up to an extent. As for how much to use, I suppose I just like the sound of reverb in general. If it’s not completely overdone (subjective as that may be), it just sounds more rich and vibrant to me. I love the sound of Fleet Foxes, for example, an indie folk band that uses a lot reverb. Or older Broadway cast recordings, where it sounded like you might actually be in a theater. It’s gone out of style in Broadway recordings now, and almost all modern cast albums sound worse for it, in my opinion. (Like the newer Sondheim recordings, they’re so dry and flat and boring, I hate it!) Meh. It can be a subjective thing, but I prefer a healthy amount of reverb. (It might also have something to do with my preference for listening to music mostly on headphones, so I’m never going to get any real-world reverb anyway.)

S P Hannifin · September 15, 2016 at 5:41 PM

Also, sorry WordPress always seems to think any comment with links is spam and makes them wait for approval… I’m not sure how to change that settings…

LanthonyS · September 15, 2016 at 7:03 PM

Ah, I find I tend to identify little passages, especially based on melody rather than chord (e.g. I showed my mom that phrase that sounded like “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” and she pointed out that the final chord was different, which I guess wasn’t salient enough to me). And I’ve listened to Island of the Dragons enough to recognize too many passages, whether a few notes or not. Cool to hear that it was intentional :p

Thanks for the critique! Yeah, the 7/8 at first was just too hard to get into — I kept getting thrown off by that missing last eighth note. But as you say, the naturalness and ability to “parse” the meter are greatly helped by hearing it as 4/8 + 3/8, which I tried to reinforce once I noticed it, e.g. in the bottom staff coming in at 1:58. And 6/8 + some kind of “transition” 1/8 like the cello is during a lot is also kind of catchy. That said, when I went outside of that mould once or twice, like in the hammered synth at 1:45, I liked the syncopated effect. Or the use of more than one bar at a time for a bigger structure, like the trumpet at 1:00 or 1:25. But when all 7 beats are 8th notes, like in the key-shifting madness at 0:21, it just sounds wrong, like a continuous stream. And 3/8 + 3/8 + 1/8 as in the piano at 0:07 doesn’t really work either. So it was a fun experiment in a weird signature and I learned a bit about using the internal structure of the bar…

As for the final cadence, I don’t know. It sounds euphonic to me, but I have weird tastes in ending chords — I like a third as the highest note much better than a root. It started off that way, as a melodic G – D – E at the top of those last three chords, but then I found that repeating the fifth at the top of each somehow added a continuity, as though the cadence were one long chord — and maybe echoing the last key change in the dominant from a few bars prior. But maybe you’re right and the fifth is a little too far a cry from the root. Playing around, I find I like that chord about as much if I leave the third as the highest note for the final chord (in fact I’m realizing as I’m playing around with it that I can barely make out the fifth in all that harmony, so maybe I need to change my speakers, or my ears).

Speaking of chord analysis and progression… I’m not as conscious about analyzing it as you were in this post, but mostly work out what sounds good to me on piano. (Throughout the piece, I did intentionally try to keep bringing in changes to the dominant, as you can easily see. The opening and closing key-shifting madness is meant to be a kind of microcosm of the changes in the main melody. But those changes are so simple that it doesn’t really merit the name of Etude… I guess the main thing I learned while doing it was that blocks of two repetitions with a key change in the middle, e.g. that first block from 0:42 – 0:56, seemed to work as a unit.) I would like to become more aware of it, though, so I can do smarter things in my composition than blind experimentation or (more often) sticking to what I know.

Interesting point that the reverb is subjective. I feel like I lean towards the dry end of the taste spectrum if you lean towards the wet. For me it’s precisely because in real instruments you can pick up on the physical sounds of the instrument (brushes, key clicks, twangs, etc.), of which some precious few are captured in GPO, even if too mechanically, that I like not blurring them in the reverb. My ideal level of reverb is something like in Angèle Dubeau’s average studio recording, or maybe a little drier: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RF6PBLJNkME

Thanks for the responses! Please continue to break down your composition choices in this way (and in that last post of yours I enjoyed), even if it’s not in a full podcast format as it once was 🙂

    Michael · September 16, 2016 at 4:29 PM

    Thanks for posting a link to Angèle Dubeau’s video. I’ve never heard of her before. I thought the clip you posted was beautiful and I’m going to listen to some of her music. I play violin (beginner) so it’s an inspiration!

S P Hannifin · September 16, 2016 at 5:51 PM

For the final cadence, if you’re not going to end on the tonic, I’m not sure I’d even call it a cadence at all; only the tonic has the power of creating the sound of finality that makes a phrase a strong cadence. Otherwise it sounds incomplete. Which is fine if that’s what you’re going for, just as long as you’re aware of it; it’s not uncommon in pop songs, but is “against the law” in traditional classical style. (Also, the dominant 7th preceding the final tonic chord usually leads up to the tonic with the leading tone rather than descending from the root of the dominant.)

I may have mentioned this somewhere before, but for chords in general, one piece of advice I received years ago (I think from the music professor Harold Owen on an old music theory forum, but I can’t remember for sure) was to keep all chords in root position unless you have a specific reason for inverting it. This helps keep the harmony clear, which makes sense because if the root of the chord is the lowest note, the notes above it will naturally fall in line with it’s strongest overtones. Of course the drawback of this is that you might end up with dull bass lines as many of my pieces feature (though it’s a small sacrifice for my melodic-driven style, rather than the more phrase and counterpoint driven style of classical composers). Inversions would result from sequences (a descending bass line for instance), pedal points, bass arpeggiations, etc. But the point is that inversions tend not to be arbitrary, as that tends to muddle the harmonic directions of a piece. (I got this advice after writing “End of the Road” which most certainly sounds weaker for my arbitrary unskilled use of random inversions all over; one may hear a distinct shift in my approach to harmony before and after that piece.) Of course, in a piece with as much modulation as in your etude, I’m not sure what the effect of keeping all chords in root position would be, but it might be worth a try.

It’s nice that you noticed that the modulation between 0:42 – 0:56 sounds good; if I’m analyzing it correctly, you’re essentially modulating to the dominant, a favorite technique of the classical style (and pretty much a requirement for sonata form). (With more experimentation, I think you may find how nice it sounds also depends on how the modulation is handled. Using the dominant chord as a pivot to its own key (assuming measure 27 is indeed a G major), for instance, will sound much more natural than… some other example I’m too lazy to come up with…)

Re reverb: Yeah, I love the sound of brushes, twangs, etc., as well, but I’ll admit I don’t mind “blurring” them out in GPO for the sake of hiding the mechanical-ness of the samples. Just another way a live performance outdoes a lazy sample-user. Angele Dubeau’s recording sounds like it uses a healthy amount of reverb; I’d love to get reverb like that, or eq mastering or whatever it is that is making that recording sound so lovely. (Reverb-wise, in addition to dry and wet levels, you’ve got all those other settings, like gating, decay, shape, damping, etc… Whenever I tweak those, I just end up making things sound worse, but surely audio engineers know how to fine tune those settings much more nicely than I.) Alas, I wish I knew how to get a sound like that. I might make the piano a bit drier, but it blends with the strings very nicely here. I don’t much care for the sounds of people breathing though; I find that distracting. Of course this recording also has the advantage of live players being beautifully expressive with both dynamics and tempo. It would probably take me forever to get samples to sound that expressive (especially strings, the bane of all sample libraries I think) through software alone…

LanthonyS · September 16, 2016 at 8:49 PM

Michael: Glad you’ll look more into Dubeau! Note that she seems to record a lot of other people’s music, but to render it beautifully, sometimes better than the originals. She and her string quarter La Pietà do a series called Portrait, where each CD features a particular composer, and this is from Ludovico Einaudi’s. I also really enjoyed Philip Glass’s Portrait and the albums Blanc and Game Music, if you’re into that.

Sean: Hmm, interesting notes on cadences. Maybe you’re right that the technical term doesn’t apply here. For finality, what can I say — it sounds final to me. :p Of course, it helps that the tonic is the lowest note, at least — a strict second inversion doesn’t sound final to me either. I feel like it’s been done before in classical, that I picked up the taste for it somewhere, but without any examples coming to mind even after I search around a bit, I defer to your knowledge! Maybe it’ll become my calling card. :p

And thanks for the general note on inversions. Agreed, random inversions to make things more “interesting” must tend to create unnecessary deviation from traditionally good sounds. The question is, if something sounds nice to you, should you do it even if it isn’t much attested in standard practice? And sometimes it happens to align with the practice, like your mentioning that the dominant is actually a favourite modulation… cool! I was thinking of that “pivot” of the dominant to its own key (as it keeps doing over and over), since it makes it seamless until the fourth measure of its modulation period when the 7th pops its head in. But yeah, randomness and laziness (of which there was some in the composition of this étude) should never be a part of the process. :/

Yeah, Dubeau’s piano tends to be a bit too wet. But agreed that it’s a really nice balance of enough dryness to allow for detailed expression, and atmosphere-creating reverb. When you use GPO4 in your composition, do you use the newest Aria player from the Garritan site? If so, I think you should have access to the convolution panel, which also makes for some nice presets that seem better than the default reverb to me, if less configurable.

S P Hannifin · September 17, 2016 at 2:25 AM

I’d be surprised if you found any examples of classical music not ending on the root of the tonic chord. (If you ever find one, I’d definitely be interested!) I’d also venture to say that if you don’t hear a non-tonic ending as sounding unresolved (at least to some degree when compared to the root of the tonic), you’re likely very much in the minority… I would think getting back to the tonic is kind of the main “force” of tonal music in general.

The question is, if something sounds nice to you, should you do it even if it isn’t much attested in standard practice?

In terms of cadences and voice-leading, I’m tempted to say “No! You MUST follow the standard practices!” since they’re such basic principles, if not firm foundations…

But really, that’s your choice to make as the creator. I think it helps at least to know what the “standard practices” are in general though, and perhaps why they exist, but of course even that’s assuming one cares about “standard practice” in the first place. (ETA: It probably also helps to be aware of any “issues” one’s break from the “standard practice” may cause… For instance, even if your final non-tonic-note ending sounds final to you, it is probably at least helpful to be aware that it likely won’t sound final (or at least not as final) to many listeners. (It’s close though, so it doesn’t sound as “unfinal” as ending on a dominant 7th would for instance.))

In terms of harmony, you may have a different sense of your own harmony since, as the composer, you know what you’re going for, plus you probably acquaint yourself with it more strongly simply through repeated listens in the composing process. It can become difficult if not impossible to hear it the way someone completely new to it would hear it… but aside from stepping away from a piece for a while, I’m not sure there’s much one can do about that.

(As long as you’re not just claiming it sounds nice to you as an excuse… not that you personally are, but I knew someone who composed amateur-sounding stuff and then claimed something like, “Well, I like dissonance, I guess I’m weird!”, which was the inspiration for my insulting little comic panel years ago: http://hannifinworld.com/?p=202 … I mean, I know people apparently acquire tastes for awful sounding dissonant nonsense, OK. I’ll take their word for it if they want to spend their time listening to or composing that nonsense (though I’m still going to call it nonsense)… but some people (or at least that one person in particular) I’m very tempted to believe just use it as an excuse to avoid the challenge of learning… but, I mean, come on… composing is a skill, it takes time and practice, learning is a process, of course nobody’s going to sound like a master right away. But you’re never going to improve if you excuse away everything as simply being true to your “weird” style, as though you’re amazingly capable of accomplishing your entire ambition right from the start. (Again, not you personally, but the general “you”). Heck, if Mozart had thought of his early symphonies “Well, that’s my style!” and never worked to develop any more skill, he’d be forgotten today. OK, sorry, bit of a digression there…)

But, for instance, I’ve gotten criticism for not developing my melodies much beyond altering orchestration and for introducing too many new melodies rather than developing established ones. A theory book I’ve been reading recently even quotes a critic in Haydn’s time as saying that “while less gifted composers needed many themes to sustain a movement, Haydn needed only one.” So clearly it’s a preference some listeners have and have had since classical times. But… I grew up on Alan Menken’s Disney songs. I like full melodies, and I’d usually much rather compose them than develop phrases in a more classical style. Although this perhaps isn’t really against a “standard practice” (as most modern pop songs for instance feature only a handful of melodies repeated verbatim and no thematic development whatsoever), it’s an instance in which I’m more likely to follow my muse than the advice of some critics. (OK, maybe that was another rambling digression…)

I haven’t fooled around much with the reverb in GPO4’s Aria player since I still actually use GPO3 in Kontakt Player for most instruments and use the Ambience reverb on all of them. I only load up GPO4 when I need a specific instrument from it, usually the SAM brass. Since I can only apply Ambience to all the instruments at once, I turn off the Aria reverb as otherwise I’d be getting double reverb with them. I did like the reverb I was getting with EastWest’s ComposerCloud (as they have a reverb plugin available on it), but I didn’t try applying it to GPO when I was fooling around with it… (they were on separate computers, but that’s another story)

(On a side note, I’d love to take a course or a class or something on mixing and mastering at some point, but I probably won’t have the time or money for that anytime soon. It’d be fun to try writing an actual song and recording a singer and mixing it in, but alas, I don’t even think I know any singers. Someday, though…)

Michael · September 17, 2016 at 11:48 AM

Sean – I can understand what you are saying about receiving criticism for not developing your melodies, but at the same time that’s also one of the characteristics of your music that I really like. You seem to have and endless supply of melodies, they’re catchy and memorable, and it’s really nice when they come back later in the song.

I also listen to a lot of classical music, especially violin concertos, and I feel beating two themes up for 10-15 minutes can get a little boring, to the point where I’m relieved when the original theme comes back!

I recently saw a book on developing variation. I’m not ready for it yet, but it looks interesting. You can look at the table of contents, it might give you some ideas. I actually would like to buy the entire set but I am working on your exercises (from your recent post) to practice writing melodies first.

I’m currently working on a theme & variations piece for my violin lessons. It’s a nice theme and I really like what the composer did with the variations. If you want to have a listen here is a video (not me): Rieding: Air Varié, Op. 23 No. 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNF-WofdTNo

    Michael · September 18, 2016 at 1:52 AM

    I forgot to post the link to the book:

    http://www.musicnewapproach.com/developing-variation

      S P Hannifin · September 18, 2016 at 12:43 PM

      I love Mozart, I think he manages to be catchy and interesting even with small fragments. Every time I listen to Mozart for a little while, I naturally begin to improvise Mozartean music in my head, but I still lack the skill to actually get it out. And when I actually start composing on a computer, the urge to simply expand a phrase into a full-fledged melody is usually too strong to resist.

      I suppose one of the trade-offs of featuring mainly full melodies is that pieces can only sustain themselves for so long. They probably wouldn’t sustain a 30-minute or longer symphony by themselves, for example. I think 13 minutes or so is the longest I’ve ever been able to keep a piece going, and those may even be a bit of stretch. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, just a trade-off.

      Thanks for the link! The book looks very interesting, as does a lot of the author’s other work, especially as it looks like he comes from the film scoring world. (At first I was thinking, wait, how did he get the rights to use film scores as examples?) I kinda want all his books now… 😀

      I actually might try writing some theme and variations soon as well; I’ve got a great great great uncle who was a songwriter in the 1920’s, and I thought it’d be fun to see what his melodies might sound like in my style.

      Many thanks for the album review and for your kind words! 🙂

LanthonyS · September 17, 2016 at 10:26 PM

Sean: “it is probably at least helpful to be aware that it likely won’t sound final (or at least not as final) to many listeners.” Agreed! — I used to hold the belief that more knowledge would quash creativity, but since then I’ve realized that the reality, which probably holds true in all arts, is that the more you know about craft and technique, the less you tend to repeat the past and the more freedom you have. Being in control of the tools is always an asset, even if one wants to deviate from their standard use. That’s why I appreciate learning from your commentary. 🙂

And indeed about excuses… hence I can honestly say that some of the things in this étude don’t sound great even to me, and some arose due to laziness and others due to plain ignorance. What works is what happened to work, with a minor contribution from my attempt to try out a couple of theory-related things (rather than just go by ear as I usually do). Hopefully what’s left that I like is an honest statement of preference 🙂

Meanwhile, I recently made a 26-minute piano improvisation that turned out to have a lot of more interesting/logical harmonies and variations on a central theme, at least as far as I can judge, which I’m transcribing in order to get more consistent rhythm… we’ll see how that goes. Transcription of what was free and easy on piano is the bane of my musical existence.

Actually, I did find an example of a final chord not ending on the tonic! And it wouldn’t be surprising, now that I think about it, if even this one example influenced my taste, since it’s been a favourite for a long time. It’s the end of the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique, e.g. at 20:50 or so here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VswsTffasc The tuba seems to be holding the fifth and the trombone the third. The lowest note, however, is still the tonic, like in my final chord, grounding it better than a pure second inversion would do. Admittedly, the end of the entire symphony seems to have a more standard spelling of its B minor root, but anyway the close of the first movement works for me as something final. It might also help that it’s held for so long that you just settle into it.

As for developing melodies, do you remember that rather overwritten review I gave VotDM on Amazon years ago? https://www.amazon.com/Voyage-Dream-Maker-Patrick-Hannifin/dp/B003GIX9QK The one I bizarrely gave 87% to, as though I didn’t love the album?! In it I said that one of the most emotionally powerful moments was that tiny theme at 1:45 (actually 1:50) in Dragon King — hardly even a melody, just a launching-into of each of those four chords. At the time I wished you’d developed it further, but in retrospect, it exemplifies what I tend to like about your melodies: they have emotional hooks that work on a quiet level, when they first appear just as hints of what’s to come, and still work when amplified to the maximum degree. They have the range to serve as both the introduction to a piece’s theme and its climax. Like the one at 3:36 in On the Edge of a Dream, whose emotional force is very much earned at that point, and whose “filler phrases” (to borrow your term from Compose Pile) feel more like necessary complements to the main theme than you often let them be, e.g. at 3:54 especially. When your melodies are so versatile and are paired with good accompaniment, maybe they don’t need to wear different guises themselves.

That said, when playing a familiar theme on the piano, I do like varying the chords for the same melody, varying the melody for the same chords, varying the harmony, embellishing the phrasing. One of my absolute favourites for that kind of thing is Beethoven’s masterful variations on such a simple tune as God Save the King: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlqU7CER18c (And that was a cool piece, Michael.) But then my mom hears something like that and scoffs: “Why not just play the thing as it’s written?!” So indeed, different strokes.

    Michael · September 18, 2016 at 2:17 AM

    I added my review to the amazon page. I’m not an experienced listener (I’m more of a player) and I wasn’t aware of some of the things you point out (it’s fun to relisten and hear them), but I just know I love the CD and don’t get tired of hearing it. 🙂

LanthonyS · September 17, 2016 at 10:36 PM

(P.S. and by “overwritten” I also mean that review is talking way over my depth — “he’s probably the best amateur composer producing today” — why would I claim to know something like that? lol…)

(P.P.S. Since this comment has no links it will probably appear before the other one and be confusing)

    S P Hannifin · September 18, 2016 at 1:48 PM

    Ah, that’s a good example! Although I’d consider Tchaikovsky to be a “romantic” rather than a “classical” composer, but as I didn’t specify “classical” as the period rather than its broader definition, I have to grant it. But even so, I’m not sure he meant it to sound final… it does sound almost final, but still sort of “open”, so I’m guessing that he meant it to lead into the next movement. It’s also interesting that he doesn’t end with a cadence at all, but instead with that last tonic chord slowly fading away, which is a beautiful effect that I don’t think I’ve ever seen any classical period composers try. But I’m sure one could probably find other contemporaries of Tchaikovsky try for a similar effect, such as Brahms perhaps… probably still not in actual final movements though… I’ll have to keep my eyes open. I know in the 20th century we may get things like Holst’s Neptune fade-away ending, but then things like that I think were done for the effect, to deny the convention of actually expressing finality altogether.

    Anyway, I’ll have to pay attention to endings more closely and see when/if anyone does something similar.

    (There’s also the sublime ending of Mozart’s K 522, but that doesn’t count 😀 )

    I still appreciate the review for my album! In terms of melodies working at both levels, I think that’s just a matter of orchestration, and that the melodies imply harmonies by themselves to at least some degree. Which I guess goes for all but the most banal of tonal melodies, but not so much for phrases. (Though that’s what allows phrases to serve multiple purposes, so I guess it’s a trade-off.) That climactic melody in On the Edge of a Dream came out particularly nicely as it contained those longer notes that provided space for more variety in between, sort of a “call and answer” sort of thing. I guess a lot of my melodies don’t allow for that as much, but I suppose that may be a helpful thing to be more conscious of.

    “he’s probably the best amateur composer producing today” — why would I claim to know something like that?

    Are you saying I’m not the best?! Because my twitter handle makes it quite clear… there can be no room for doubt. 😀

    Michael · September 18, 2016 at 2:28 PM

    BTW, if you have links to other composers like Sean, I’d love to have a listen. I’d like to hear what the runners up sound like. 🙂

      LanthonyS · September 30, 2016 at 5:50 PM

      Michael: I’m not widely enough versed in contemporary composers (besides e.g. Yiruma’s beautiful piano music), but I do find a lot of value in the highest tiers of video game music, which can have a similar vibe. If you haven’t explored very much in that regard, I suggest the Tour de Japon concert as a great intro to Nobuo Uematsu: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLXZXt8-KX0&list=PLeIDCtrbfdx-BQMS2UNmUMji5jl33e9N8 Then explore Jeremy Soule’s Morrowind, Oblivion, and Guild Wars: Prophecies soundtracks, Koji Kondo et al.’s Skyward Sword, and Stephen Rippy’s Age of Empires 3. Maybe then venture into Joe Hisaishi’s film music via the 25th Anniversary Concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9mGQU7rGGM … I don’t know if this is all that much like Sean’s music, but if we share a love for his style, we might also share a love for these things 🙂 I’m sure Sean himself would be a better source for real classical composers he sounds like, though I sometimes get a similar vibe melodically from Dvorak’s longer works, like In Nature’s Realm and Husitska.

      SeanTheBest: Ah, true, I was interpreting “classical” more broadly and I definitely listen to more romantic than the classical period, so that probably seeps into my tastes more. And agreed about the fading away of that long final note instead of the cadence contributing an interesting effect to the finality/non-finality. I always liked that ending of Venus, too, but indeed, it’s as much an ending as K 522 is 🙂

        LanthonyS · September 30, 2016 at 6:12 PM

        And after rereading your comment, I see you were wondering about the “runners-up” — but that was just my problem; I didn’t know any more then than I do now, and didn’t know what I was talking about. :s Hopefully you like the selection anyway!

S P Hannifin · September 18, 2016 at 1:56 PM

Re endings: I could perhaps concede the point on the grounds that, if placed in higher registers, the third or fifth of the tonic chord could, if handled correctly, serve merely to highlight the overtones of the root… though I doubt any composer, especially in the classical period, would find any value in trying something like that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*