Symphonic Poem no. 1

I just finished, in some sense, the first of a series (hopefully) of symphonic poems. I took a long break in the middle of writing this, so I could be mistaken, but I think it took about 20 hours total. It still needs a little tweaking; in particular some of the harmonies on the climaxes are drowned out by the percussion and poor instrument balancing, and I’m not sure if I’m happy with the ending (it’s meant to be a little unsettling…). But the idea is there.

[score]

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4 thoughts on “Symphonic Poem no. 1

  1. I noticed by accident this post on the “Planet Haskell” aggregator and I was surprised to find somebody talking about the composition of symphonic poems in the context. Not that it’s unusual to mix computers and music. Anyway, good job! I am impressed. Can I ask you what instruments you used to perform the piece? What is your background? How did you learn to orchestrate and so on? I am curious and quite willing to learn, you see… ^__^

  2. Gladly. Talking about myself is one of my favorite pastimes. :-p

    The “performance” is purely mechanical, performed by “Finale 2007 GPO Edition”.

    I’ve been composing since I was 12, I think, so 11 years. I learned primarily from two places: by playing with composition on the computer and by playing piano. I’m grateful for the luxury of a computer, I probably would not be a composer without one. I’m a self-taught pianist, playing classical piano, Beethoven sonatas being my favorite by far. But I have also invested a considerable amount of time just improvising, which gave me a “feel” for chords and harmonies.

    For orchestration most of it has just been by experiment (and as far as that is concerned, I am still just experimenting; I wouldn’t be at all comfortable if you put a paper score in front of me and asked me to write something for orchestra). However I did spend some time studying the scores of Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances and Stravinsky’s Petrushka, both of which had a huge impact on my approach.

    Some other possibly interesting idiosyncrasies: I write from beginning to end, rarely going back and changing things I’ve already written, with the exception of deleting large segments at the end when I realize it’s a dead end. I usually write between 2 and 24 measures on one or two instruments (usually either the melody or the rhythmic driver) and then go back and fill in accents and harmonies on other instruments.

    Orchestral stuff takes a hell of a long time to write, so I’ve only written a few pieces, most of my energy having been devoted to my piano concerto which I never finished (and probably never will). I uploaded my progress here if you’re interested (the largest “revision numbers” representing the latest versions of each movement, naturally). I enjoy listening to it every now and then, because as the concerto progresses I can hear myself getting better and better at orchestration, since I write sequentially. :-)

    That’s probably enough yammering for now.

  3. Thank you for sharing. It’s all very interesting. 23 years old, then if my maths don’t fail me. So young… so awfully young… :P Never say never. If you checked one of my websites, you’ll know that I am 36. I’ve been playing the piano since I was 12, and I’ve probably written my best “songs” when I was 20 or thereabout but it’s only recently that I took seriously the idea of teaching myself something about orchestration, arranging and so on. My real job (I am a software developer) takes up a lot of my time and most of my energies and it’s only during weekends (and not even all of them) that I can indulge in some messing about.

    When I was around 20 I wrote something that you might call a “symphonic poem”. Writing is not the right word, though. I switched on my synth (at the time a Korg M1), chose an orchestral patch, and improvised 5 minutes of music. It turned out to have structure, melody, themes, variations, even modulations. That was 16 years ago. It then took me 15 years (and for the technology to advance a bit) to actually orchestrate it, mostly for strings, a few shades of brasses and a touch of English Horn.
    While I did have some formal training in piano (both classical and jazz), nobody every taught me how to write music and even less how to arrange it. With the level you are at now you will most likely reach much higher.

    Studying scores for me it’s very hard for various reasons. Not only does it require inordinate amounts of time, but also some reading skills that I don’t posses: I can’t read the C clefs and I have trouble doing instant transposing. So reading the viola parts takes just about forever and it tends to distract me because my brain instinctively makes me read them as if they were scored with a G key and you can imagine the mess that causes in the harmony…

    Another mess I put myself in is sound engineering. While it may look trivial to make something that is good to sound good, it isn’t for me. Last month a wrote some 4 minutes of music arranged for “electronic band” (you know… drum loops, pads and so on) in 4 hours. It then took me 3 days of serious work to mix it and the result is still far from optimal.

    Anyway… I’ll certainly check your concerto with more calm. I see you have provided the score as well as some recording and both are good starting points for me.

    Yesterday I re-listened to your symphonic poem #1 at home. The main theme is dangerously similar to one in the Concerto of Aranjuez… I don’t know if you’re aware of that. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. Your development, the mood, the strucutre are all very different. Just a head up.

    You have a new fan. I’ll keep an eye on you ^__^ Good luck!

  4. A budding Mozard huh? Wait till you run the gauntlet with us. You can see yourself now, having been sent up the paradise of all supergeeks, making yourself rich in the googleplex. You’re gonna just love it here.

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