Well, it's been far too long since I've blogged about the process of the commission. Honestly, part of the reason is that there hasn't been much to blog about. After I came up with those two big chunks of the fourth movement, I hit a bit of a compositional brick wall, and also had a lot of schoolwork on my plate for the past month or so, so I had very little time to compose. However, I managed over the course of that month or so to add a bit to the second large section, and got all the way to the big, really declamatory climax of the movement. Still, this was precious little to show for an entire month, especially with the deadline getting closer and closer.
So this week, I decided that I needed the whole movement done. I went through my drafts and found all of the material I had recorded for the opening of the movement (from the end of the first chunk to the beginning of the second) and spent Monday working with those. I knew from the start how I wanted the opening to progress, on a large scale. It was just figuring out details. Basically it looks like this:
Since I had almost a half-hour worth of existing recordings for this section alone, I was able to come up with the actual notes to use fairly quickly. I figured most of it out on the piano first, and then put it into the computer and orchestrated each section as I went along.
Then, I worked on the section after the big climax. Not the one in the picture above, that one isn't even really a climax, as the music continues immediately with the same thematic material. This one is more of an anti-climax. But the climax at the end of the second chunck was a real climax, and I felt like I needed to basically just bring the excitement down and end the movement after that one. Especially since this is the last movement of the symphony, I wanted to really take some time to allow the audience to calm down, relax, get comfortable with the emotions the final movement deals with (they're pretty heavy, let me tell you), before bringing things to a conclusion. There is a large portion of this fade-out where I decided to just sit on a few chords, actually just a few notes, and allow the music to unfold slowy from them and then fold back into them. This creates kind of a hypnotic wash of sound that really makes the ending stand out from the rest of the movement.
I finished the movement this afternoon, and now I need to start work on the second and third in earnest. I will try to blog more often, especially now that I forsee working prettymuch nonstop on these movements. I will also try to dissect a few spots in the fourth movement soon, but I really want to keep this one close to my chest, as I want it to have its full impact at the concert. Anyway, I'll be back soon with more music-y stuff, and probably more excuses on why I haven't gotten as much done as I should...until then, happy music-making!
THE FIRST MOVEMENT IS FINISHED! I am so happy to have something tangible to show for progress. The next movement in the works is movement 4. This movement is dark, ominous, relentless. I have a few ideas specifically, but most of what I am working with right now is a general idea of emotions and trajectory on a large scale. I have two sections coming together now, however.
One, the biggest, is the "heart" of the movement. It begins with a pedal note which is sustained for a long time, a C. This is the V in the key of F, which predominates the first half of the movement. Above this pedal, the celesta and strings play short phrases from the Requiem Aeternum chant, reharmonized to sound mournful and hopeless. These phrases stretch out more and more, eventually dwindling to just two notes. This is followed by a long pause, allowing the seriousness of the mood to be felt clearly.
Then, the music unflolds in an increasing torrent of anguish, which builds to a painful climax, and diminishes again. A sweeping brass choir melody carries this section along. I think that after this the music will turn to a more hopeful mood, but I am not sure exactly when and how. But I am very happy with this section. I will break down the orchestration in a later post.
The other section coming together is the beginning. The movement begins with a pulsing rhythm in the percussion, reminiscent to me of a heartbeat, but also symbolizing the march of time and death. Above this, horns, trombones, and low woodwinds play an eerie, sorrowful melody, which will eventually swell and attempt to break free of the pulsing heartbeat, and reach a moment of huge tension which will usher in the soft Requiem section.
Hopefully by next week I will be able to post score samples and MIDI clips, but until then, I'd better get to work!