Music composition

Canon for a Rainy Day

Here’s my latest work of music.  It’s a canon for 2 clarinets and an English horn, with a piano playing the chords:

A PDF score can be found here: Canon for a Rainy Day.

The canon kind of came out of nowhere.  I was trying to write one last month, but it just wasn’t working, so I scrapped it.  Then I sort of arbitrarily decided to write one with a chord progression of I-IV-I-V-IV-iii-IV-V.  I ended up changing the first V chord to a iii, so in the end the chord progression became I-IV-I-iii-IV-iii-IV-V.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear how good that first I-IV shift can sound with the right melody.  They’re major chords, yet with the appropriate style, there’s something a bit wistful about it, almost nostalgic.  And of course the iii chord only adds to that feeling.

The themes introduced by the first clarinet, then passed to the English horn, then to the second clarinet, contrasting and complimenting each other as they are passed along.  I was originally writing the canon for piano and violins, but I wanted something with a lower range than the violin and I knew clarinets would really compliment the piano.  (Plus, sampled solo strings don’t sound that great in Garritan Personal Orchestra, at least not without a good amount of tweaking, so I don’t work with them much anymore.  I love its woodwinds, though.)  I also wanted an oboe, but its range does not go low enough, so I went with an English horn instead.

Overall, I am very pleased with how the canon came out.  It was pouring rain outside as I wrote it, and the canon sounded rather wistful anyway, so the name “Canon for a Rainy Day” seemed appropriate.

Also, I was very tired while I was writing this, so the calm lullaby quality of the piece was constantly beckoning me to fall asleep at my desk.  I was able to resist, but when I’m composing when I’m that tired, I’m unable to think straight and it makes the composing process very strange and dream-like.

Also, my pizza went cold while I was obsessed with writing this, so I know what it’s like to sacrifice something for my art.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Music composition

Some new music…

I posted my latest composition on YouTube recently, a short piece I simply call Melody for Harp and Piano, Opus 66:

The beginning of the main melody was inspired by the beginning of Tchaikovsky’s famous piano concerto, though the motif is popular in a lot of film music as well (the famous theme of Dragonheart especially). I also uploaded a score to the piece here. (Make sure your right foot is bare before attempting to perform the piano part.)

I added this piece to my MP3s page, where you can also find a boring lullaby I wrote for harp and vibraphone in the month of December of 2011, appropriately called Lullaby for Harp and Vibraphone, Opus 65.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Music composition

Trio No 3 score

I finally created a score for my old piece (well, 3 or 4 years old at least) Trio for Harp, Flute, and Oboe No 3, which can be found here.

I often get requests for scores, especially for the chamber music-ish pieces, but I usually don’t have the patience for score-making.  The original scores I produce in Overture 4 are created for the sound they produce and are thus not very pretty.

Also, my use of harp often takes full advantage of a digital harp’s ability to be completely chromatic, not having to take anytime to switch from one key to another.  I suppose one could employ the use of two harps, or get a pedal-changer to sit on the floor by the harpist’s feet, or use a piano instead.  What I think we really need is an instrument that can be played like a piano but sounds like a harp.  Somebody please invent it.  I will write much music for it.  Thank you.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Music composition

Of Castles and Airships… coming at some point

I did not get much sleep last night; I was up very late (or early), obsessed with finishing a new orchestral composition, which I think turned out very nicely. As digital composers may know, after you finish a piece, it gets completely stuck in your head and you are almost powerless to resist the urge to listen to it over and over and over with proud admiration. So I only got a few hours of sleep, and even that wasn’t very fulfilling, as I was nervous about not waking up in time for work and thus tossed and turned throughout those few hours.

And then, when I did set out to go to work, the car wouldn’t start. Just clicky-clicky-clicky. And I don’t know anything about cars. So I had to be chaffeured (sp?) to work and got in late, but oh well, what can one do? I was then promptly fired. No, just kidding.

Anyway, I think I will call my new piece Of Castles and Airships. A nice fantastical ring to it, and airships have been on my mind lately from my novel writing. I’m not sure what to do for the music visualization though; I feel the urge to do something besides an ordinary Music Animation Machine video; perhaps animate something by hand, though that may take forever. I’ll have to ponder…

By S P Hannifin, ago
Music composition

Stuff I’m doing…

Been a busy week here. Animation Mentor semester 5 started this week. My mentor this semester is animator Jay Jackson, who has a very impressive 2D background. I’m very excited! Our assignment for the next few weeks will be to add facial animation to our last assignment from last semester, which I am both excited and nervous about… I’m afraid my work is going to stink. But I’m new to this, so I forgive myself in advance. Just as long as I don’t fail out! Anyway, our assignment for this week, which I haven’t done yet, is to shoot video reference and draw sketches planning out our work.

Novel-writing-wise, my novel is at around 29,000 words. The three main characters are currently traveling through the sky in an airship headed towards the kingdom’s castle. I am a few chapters away from the mid-point of the story, so my current guess is that the novel will end up being around 70,000 to 90,000 words total. We’ll see.

I also started writing some more music earlier this week. Not sure what I’ll call the piece, but it’s almost finished. Watch for it on YouTube this week or next week or the week after that… not sure when I’ll finish. It’s pretty standard Hannifin work, but I’m quite pleased with it. In fact, I’m tempted to offer myself much praise, but, being me, I’m quite biased towards myself, so I consider myself at an unfair advantage to receive such praise.

TV-wise, if you care, I started watching Person of Interest (mostly because it was created by Jonathan Nolan). I’m not exactly impressed, but it’s not horrible, so I’ll give it a chance; but if I get pressed for time as the Animation Mentor semester continues, it’ll probably be the first to go. I also started watching Terra Nova as I enjoyed the sci-fi-ish previews for it, but the pilot for that show I also found to be rather unimpressive, and, at times, downright awful. But it’s interesting enough that I’d like to see what the story will turn into. Fringe returned on Friday, which was OK, but not nearly as good as last season’s start. But the “Where is Peter Bishop?” story line should provide me with enough interest to continue watching. The first half of last season was excellent, but I thought the last few shows that ended the season were quite weak, and the cartoony-CGI episode was one of the worst TV-watching experiences I’ve ever had. I’d rather watch HR Pufnstuf several hundred times than suffer through that episode again. (OK, maybe I wouldn’t go that far…) I’m looking forward to House starting on Monday. So… four shows for me this season, plus I’m still slowly working through Burn Notice season 2 on DVD, which is a great show. And Shark Tank will return for a season 3, but I’m not sure when. And we might get a DVR sometime next week, so that will be nice, but I can’t complain too much if I miss something, since Animation Mentor must be the priority… not TV.

Reading-wise, I’ve been enjoying Neal Stephenson’s Reamde: A Novel. Definitely more mainstream (so far) than Anathem (the only other novel of his I’ve read so far), but still quite captivating.

Oh, and in other news, I can now touch my nose with my tongue. I couldn’t do that before. Two decades of practice have finally paid off.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Movies

Memorial Day weekend

Hope everyone had a good Memorial Day weekend (or regular weekend). I spent the three-day weekend sleeping in, watching movies, reading, and working on a new piece of music. This is so far the only piece I’ve had time to write this year of 2011. Feels great to write some music again. After I write music, I sort of become obsessed with it and listen to it over and over a bazillion times…

Movies watched include: The Roommate (creepy and ultimately kinda pointless, but a good movie to make fun of while watching with others), The Fighter, Momento (a fun movie, but not as amazing as everyone says… kinda gimmicky… still a good movie, but all of Christopher Nolan’s later movies are better in my opinion), Gnomeo and Juliette (what producers thought this was a good idea?), Despicable Me, and Kung Fu Panda (hilarious film… will probably go see Kung Fu Panda 2 sometime soon… great 2D animation at the beginning and end as well).

Yeah, that was pretty much the weekend. Movies and music. Went by way too fast. Later today, I’m going to let the rest of my frogs go.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Music composition

Describe my unwritten symphony, please?

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.)

By S P Hannifin, ago
Computer music

Computer, write a melody in G major, please…

I’ve been finding it hard to focus on my animation studies this week. I had a little musical epiphany, and my mind is now once again obsessed with working on my book on writing melodies and the “melody generator” computer program to go with it. The program is now capable of outputting some pretty nice stuff, a huge improvement compared to the 2008 version. But you’ll just have to take my word for it because I’m not quite ready to share samples just yet. But soon, I hope. I also think I’m pretty close to getting it to generate complete songs (in melody + chords format, not entire instrumental arrangements), at least algorithm-wise; then I still have to program it. I’m tempted to expand the topic of the book from melody composition to musical composition in general; after all, couldn’t one define any polyphonic piece as just a bunch of melodies played together? It’s the natural extension of my work, so why not just go for it? But who knows how long that would take…

Anyway, I’m extremely excited, and I’m pretty confident that within this decade, perhaps even within the next few years, we’ll have some great computer music generating programs (from me or from someone else) that will provide us with a lot of inspiration. I’m confident because I have it now. In baby form, at least.

But I’m probably getting way ahead of myself. “Don’t get excited.” It’s in the artist’s creed. Gah, it’s hard…

I’m not really sure why I’m posting this. I don’t have anything useful or interesting to share yet. I guess I just wanted to let out my excitement.

Oh, I’ve also been composing endless melodies. When you’re writing a book on the subject, the ideas just pour from the mind. I suppose that’s part of what’s fueling my obsession… melodies, melodies everywhere…

By S P Hannifin, ago