My thoughts and out loud thoughts on composition, performance, and many things musical.

Brass Quintet vs. String Quintet

A few months ago I finished, or so I thought, a 36ish minute string quintet titled “A Man’s Will to a Woman.”  It’s four movements of thematically related material but all very different.

And then I started studying composition with a new professor from the University of Austin.  I think any composer has said that they have gone through many “final” versions of a piece before they found what they want.

So alas, I begin to look at it from a different light. There’s a lot of stuff I will keep, but some necessary changes, perhaps big changes that need to occur. Sectionally, I treated all the strings as intricate accompaniments to voice, but that’s not really what I want. I wanted 6 voices, 1 actual voice and 5 stringed instruments, all independent of each other but moving together.

Stravinsky said,

“Good composers borrow, great composers steal.”

Well I did both. I borrowed approaches from Beethoven, the god of string quartets. However, I need to rewrite some areas to really bring them to fruition. I’m not as proud as I could be right now.

I certainly stole. I stole and almost replicated exactly the intro to Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D minor. The strings move quickly, distantly, and then the cello cries, a lot.

If I’m to present this piece to the public, like anything else, I need to be 200% sure I’m happy with the final product.

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I have been writing a brass quintet as well. I wrote one really really stupid theme and variations brass quintet for my professor to see how quickly I could hash one out. It was so textbook. Boring.

Which is to say I have no problem hashing out music if it is supposed to have a quick cinematic meaning. But really, it was void of any real substance. It didn’t tell a story, it just embodied the emotion “sad.” Weak.

The brass quintet I’m writing has only begun with a simple provocative progression in mind: c minor, ab minor, f minor. I’m trying my best to develop it linearly and keep it fluid. It’s turning out be quite solemn.

The question I keep having to ask myself is, “When does the music become redundant?”

I can only extrapolate from a motive so many ways before I’ve realized I’ve approached it with block thinking.

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I’ve also been on a Shostakovich and Mahler kick lately; Shostakovich musically and Mahler ideally.  Mahler had a beautiful lake house as an adult he purchased once he was finally making money. It was right outside of some woods where there were beautiful trails and only the sound of nature to walk with him.

Whenever I go to study with Prof. Sharlat, I leave his house and go to the other side of his city-sized neighborhood. There I find a really gorgeous trail alongside a small creek that leads many different ways, one being to a dock at a small river.  I can’t help but picture myself, every time, feeling the same way Mahler did. I picture Mahler slowly strolling in the woods not making a sound, and hardly hearing one.

It’s awesome out there. It really helps me to concentrate on whatever music I’m thinking about.

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I also put out a CD of songs I wrote. It can be heard (and purchased) at musicjoeyoung.bandcamp.com.

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