Tag Archives: Timpani

Final touches

I brought the printed out copy to rehearsal and I showed it briefly to a couple of friends. I guess I realized that I didn’t need to ask many questions anymore. I’m feeling comfortable with what I’ve learned so far, and I hope that a real orchestra will read it before too long. My contrabassist friend mentioned that they don’t really like solos, but I have this line that is letting them solo briefly in the piece. Well, they get to anyway.

This morning, I look through the printed copy. I make a mental note of a handful of things to take a closer look at. I noticed this part where the second violins cut out for two beats, and I was wondering if they should keep doubling the viola line right there, and decide to let them do that.

I also noticed that I had changed the pitch in the timpani sooner than I realized, and make a note for the timpani to change one of the pitches earlier in the piece. There is this fortissimo section, where the flutes were only at mezzoforte, so I give them fortissimo as well.

There was this place that looked unfinished. I had copied in a couple of string parts to the clarinets. And the second clarinet was playing higher than the first. That isn’t necessarily a problem, but it didn’t look right. So I went to work on that section. Now the first is playing higher, and I also added in some flute doublings, because they should be playing when it’s nearly tutti.

I look at the timpani some more. At first, I’m thinking, maybe I should add a fifth timpani to the mix. But that seems excessive, if it’s just for one note. So I work on the timpani part some more, and add in another tam-tam beat at the fortissimo section, and a triangle entrance that adds some zest.

I’m very pleased with the divisi violas from yesterday.

I can’t believe how hard it is to call it done. I feel like every time I look at it, I find another small problem with it. But I need to move on. It would be very fun to prepare the professional parts, with cues and everything. I know how helpful that must be for the timpani after 31 measures of rest, to know just what to listen for. It is for me as a violist, after a long rest, and I don’t usually get that many measures of rest. Sometimes there are no cue notes, and you have to infer from tempo changes, just count, or make notes yourself to know what to listen for.

So I go through it again. I’m second guessing the quick switch from snare drum to bass drum, and give the percussionist three more beats to switch. I decide to divide the violas one more time, just for a few notes, to make the string sound a little fuller, not so gaping between second violins and viola.

The competition I’m entering asks for program notes. So I take some time to describe what is happening in the movement. It’s pretty abstract, but I guess all this blogging about the orchestration and composition of this piece might have helped me know how to talk about what I’m doing.

That’s it for now. I’m not making any more changes unless an orchestra picks it up and there are obvious problems with something I wrote that I hadn’t addressed.

Another non-zero day

I wrote some more on a first violin part I had started another day. I continued the idea I had stopped on yesterday, and was able to get to the “actual end” of the movement. I added in a tuba line to accompany a contrabass solo line. I gave a few more notes to the snare drum, and took one away from the bass drum to allow for a quick switch.

I added in some more slurs to help with phrasing. I added in some dynamics where that was missing.

As I was making lunch, I had the thought to maybe cut out part of a timpani line I wrote the other day that didn’t seem to fit.

I listened to Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra. With the Chicago symphony, and then LA Philharmonic. I was struck by how many intense notes the upper strings had. Wow, that’s a lot of notes to play. I was reminded how talented the orchestra musicians usually are, and that I ought to try and give them a small challenge.

Refreshed after lunch, I set to put in a second violin part to sustain the firsts, and then a viola part. Wondering if my key change is working or what I should do about it. Is all I’ve written over the past eighteen measures an accompaniment or does it hold its own? It’s interesting to see the work unfold.

Leaving the computer to clear my head. Coming back, and adding in a measure to improve the key change transition, continuing work on the viola part. Changing the ending note to a whole note instead of two half notes. I want to bask in the glory of the high strings in a C major chord just a couple of more beats. Seeing that a section really calls for a marcato and adding in the marking to clarify for the orchestra members.

Wondering if the parts that I think are very emotional will speak to anybody that hears it.

Tweaking the timpani part to take out the offending notes. Adding in a snare drum part to a quiet woodwind solo for an accompaniment. Changing the ending note one more time, to let us rest in the chord before the bass comes in. Found a spot where I want the oboes to fill in the texture of flutes, clarinets, strings, and percussion, wrote some notes for them, doubling some string parts. It’s more satisfying now.

Taking a break again. We’ll see if I get back to writing later or if that’s it for today.

Just another day in composing paradise.

Composing every day

I have been working on my first symphony since April. The first movement took about a month to complete. The second went a little bit faster, and I felt so pumped. I started working on the third movement, and I decided to go for a faster tempo, it being subtitled Un-even dance. With the faster tempo, I can fit a lot more notes in! It took about three months to finish. (I also wrote a song for SSA, viola, and piano during that time).

I showed my finished draft to my friend yesterday, and I decided to make a couple of changes after that. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

I also played in a concert last night. One of the pieces was Mjölnir, by Lucas Garner. When I was listening to Tracy Furr playing as the soloist, I realized that I wanted to start off the fourth and concluding movement featuring the timpani. And I also was reflecting on how many notes the violins play in a concert. Thousands, probably. So I decided I wanted to add a lot more notes, to showcase how agile and lovely the violins can sound.

And so it goes on. One treasured comment from a friend, a musical experience, and a dedication to hit the computer even if I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do. I just start writing something, and one thing leads to another… and hopefully before too long the symphony will be completed.