I haven’t composed in months, and the composing part of my brain is getting really itchy and will need to be scratched soon. Animation Mentor and work are keeping me too busy for such self-indulgence, so before I just jump right into composing a new piece, I’d like to try something new. I’ve been thinking about trying to do this for while, but I guess I was afraid I wouldn’t have the skill. I still probably don’t have the skill, but I’m not afraid anymore!

So… I’ve never written a fully-fledged multi-movement symphony before, and I hope to tackle that. But before I do, I thought it would be tremendous fun to have you, yes you, dear reader, whoever you are, write a brief description of the first movement of the symphony as if it already existed and you were writing a Wikipedia entry on it.

For example, you might say:

Hannifin’s Symphony No 1 begins with a cheery tune on the oboe, reminiscent of a Sherman brothers song. But then thunderous brass enters, the tempo quickens, cymbals clash on every measure, and the orchestra descends into a dark waltz in C minor. The snare drum emerges with strange rhythms, and a dark melody, introduced on the violins, quickly spreads through the orchestra like a dark disease. After 10 minutes of dizzying arpeggios, the movement ends quietly, with the oboe playing its opening theme, but shifted into a minor key, as if whatever joy it had at the beginning has been driven out by darkness.

Or something more or less descriptive. Whatever your imagination can conjure.

The description can be as traditional or as outlandish as you want; anything goes. That’s part of the fun of the challenge! However, I won’t be able to use every piece of every description (if I get more than one). I will create a final description by randomly choosing pieces from each description I can obtain, so the final description is sure to be wild fun. Then I will take on the description as a serious composition assignment, and try to compose to it as strictly as I can. I’m sure I’ll fail some parts (like if you write “the orchestra then descends into an 8-part fugue”), but it will be fun (and perhaps educational) to try!

So, if you have a few moments of spare time, please comment on this post with a description of the first movement of Hannifin’s Symphony No 1 as if it’s already been written. Thank you!

(I’ll end my search for descriptions on March 25, 2011, in about two weeks. I’ll try to do the same thing for a second movement with new descriptions, after uploading the first movement to YouTube.)


Scott · March 15, 2011 at 1:25 PM

I’d do a description for you, except for two reasons: First and foremost, I’m too lazy. And second, you probably wouldn’t be able to duplicate a description that I made… because I certainly wouldn’t be able to either (part of the reason I stopped composing…)

S P Hannifin · March 15, 2011 at 2:50 PM

I will interpret that as a description… 😛

Luke · March 15, 2011 at 5:56 PM

“I settled into my chair and Hannifin’s first symphony begun. A flute shrieked from a high Eb to C, chased, as it were, by a flurry from the two-part double bass section in 32nd-notes — or was it trills? — ascending madly through G, Ab, B, C. When they struck the C a bell tolled and the orchestra poured into the space between the pitches, spilling like water through harmonic C minor. Before long a beat emerged, which was eventually distinguishable as a piano plus the double bass section on short bows.

When the flurry finished, resolving into a dewy mid-range Ab major chord, the orchestra toned itself down, and a tremolo string only barely held its tongue while the first melody finally eased its way out of the tempest.

Destabilizingly simple at first, it carried an almost annoyingly repetitive beat, splitting the bars into simple notes alternating 3,1,3,1. I believe a french horn carried it from Ab major through Eb major and Bb major to land in the murkiness of C minor, G minor, C minor.

Soon it was counterpointed by a heartbreakingly low violin only an octave up, and slow, unwilling, it seemed, to join the french horn when it descended to the minor chords. Soon the harmony found its way in. The rhythm evened out, and I was surprised: the harmony stole the melody, revealing the horn to have been rhythm all along.

Just as the second melody began to take over, the flute shrieked. The second melody, led by the trumpets and trombones, began its uphill climb, fighting against the double bass which fell upon it as a waterfall.”

Oh my goodness, I think I’m being much too specific…

S P Hannifin · March 15, 2011 at 6:15 PM

Wow, that’s awesome! 😀

Luke · March 15, 2011 at 7:03 PM

Couldn’t help myself… very rough, bad timing too, but while we’re doing things in reverse order, here’s the piano reduction 😉


S P Hannifin · March 16, 2011 at 2:23 AM

I would probably interpret your description quite differently, but that piano reduction is very interesting… sounds like it would be fun to orchestrate / write variations on as a side project, if allowed? Do you have a MIDI?

Luke · March 16, 2011 at 10:27 AM

No, I just played and recorded it; I find it really hard to notate, and when I play with automatic transcription, my rhythm is enough off that the sheet music is unreadable :/

However, since you mention that you’d interpret it differently, you could take it very loosely… after all, it’d need to be much longer too 😛

S P Hannifin · March 16, 2011 at 5:16 PM

Ah, darn… 🙁 I wouldn’t mind if the music was unreadable notation-wise, I would just need to see what exact notes are being used… sounds good though! One of the big things I need to play with, besides richer harmonies, is tempo changes… always tricky to get it convincing in a computer performance, but I should at least try giving it a bit more effort…

Anonymous · March 22, 2011 at 7:27 PM

I settle into my bed as Hannifin’s work begins. A load clap sounds, as if thunder is outside my door. Followed quickly by shreiking horns and a plutitude of strings. And I drift off, never to hear the new classic…

S P Hannifin · March 22, 2011 at 7:35 PM

“And I drift off, never to hear the new classic…”

Well, that saves me a lot of work… 😀

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