This year has been a rich one for me on my journey as a budding composer of piano music. I wrote many smaller works at the beginning of the year and finished a sonata in the summer. In the fall my free time has been occupied by writing in another genre, the nocturne. First pioneered by John Field and further popularized by Chopin, the nocturne is a piece for solo piano meant to be played at night. Like much of Chopin’s music it features a steady left hand with a right hand that often moves in an improvisatory way. The right hand is meant to mimic the silky smooth melody of a vocal work such as an aria. Nocturnes are normally peaceful but can become tempestuous and virtuosic at times such as in parts of Chopin’s Nocturne in C Minor op. 48 no. 1.
I wish I could say that one morning I woke up and decided, gee I’ve never written a sonata before, let’s go and write one… In reality, my need to brush up on my harmony theory in order to help out a student is what got the creative juices flowing.
On Sunday, June 9 at Harcourt United Church, students took part in the 2019 Spring Recital. Once again audience members were treated to a variety of styles and talents. The recital kicked off with CPE Bach’s blisteringly fast Solfeggio followed by a piano arrangement of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
Today I was feeling kinda down so I thought I’d pour my feelings into some composition. I wrote this little lament. It turned out to be a little study in counterpoint. Although I’m getting more confident in my harmony skills, counterpoint is another ballgame, one which I plan on addressing after I’m finished working through all the RCM books. Nonetheless, it was fun to use this opportunity to try writing another piece. It’s written in four voices and I keep repeating the 8 measure ditty layering one voice at a time.
My experiments in the realm of harmony continue. Currently I’m about half way through the RCM 10 Harmony book at we’ve just finished the passage on V9s and 13s. To me these chords immediately make me recall Chopin, as if they were his musical fingerprint. I thought I’d take another stab at composing something simple. My tendency is often to begin with simple intentions but end up with a piece 10 pages long and hard for anyone to play. This time I restricted myself to 16 measures. I thought I’d try to write another minuet, this time in the minor mode but by the time I tried it out at the keyboard I realized it was much more like a waltz. I almost achieved my first goal as it ended up being 21 measures. It turned out a tad more difficult than I wanted it to be but oh well. I’d say it’s more like grade 3 or probably 4 RCM. Still, I’m happy with the result. It reminds me a bit of Chopin combined with some Danny Elfman. What does it remind you of?
I’ve been working my way through the RCM Harmony books. Much of the information is review but some of it is also new; I never had this amount of time to study theory in depth when I was a busy undergrad many years ago. After all this theory I thought why not try and apply it? So I sketched up this little minuet and was pleased with myself for composing something that at least resembles one of the many minuets I’ve heard or played throughout my life written by those old dead white guys.
Here’s another selection from the movie Pride and Prejudice soundtrack by Dario Marianelli. I simply love the eerie yet joyful vibe of this piece. Short yet, but packed with a few technical challenges for the player, most notably the ever changing nuances of the melody and accompaniment. It might sound repetitive but there is actually a fair bit of variation going on with each statement of the theme, meaning that the fingering must adapt quickly. It took me a while to get the hang of. Enjoy!