2020-08-31 (Compose) Sonata in G – “The Completion Sonata”
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Image: Young man at beach at sunrise by Mohammad Ali Mohtasham. Unsplash: Photos for everyone.
This composition of “The Completion Sonata” is in four movements.
I shall tell this story from two angles – a 19th century angle on the left and a 21st angle on the right.
“The Brink of the White Rock”
The first movement is based on a famous and sad Irish song that goes like this: (translated from Irish by https://lyricstranslate.com)
“The edge of the White Rock
“I deem it better than great Ireland,
“Oh fair-haired handsome woman, if my fate is that you be mine
The singer laments a woman who had never accepted him when she was still alive. Now she is dead in the sand below on the beach.
It breaks his heart. He consoles himself with the thought that now she will surely accept his love, now that she is in heaven.
There he will give her all of what he has. He will drive her in a golden carriage to the edge of this great white rock. And here they shall celebrate their love together.
This will be their Real Completion, at the edge of this White Rock.
“Rejection and a Plan”
Our version of the first movement is a new rendition of the same melody at left, without lyrics.
For this I go deep into my inner world.
There I feel and think of a very old dream, a dream that I have had as long as I remember.
Tears come to my eyes, if I permit them.
I am thinking, and I am remembering... oh, yes...
I have had this dream for, oh so long...
Change of scene.
This time they are married. She has accepted him, and he has accepted her. They love each other enormously, as only two young lovers can.
However, the elements around them are still ranged against them.
We are at the time of the 1847 potato famine. They live in a lovely site in Skibbereen, in southern Ireland, but a rebellion is raging. The young couple with a young son cannot pay their rent. They have asked the landlord for a temporary relief. But no help has been granted and they are left in raw despair.
“Pleas and Rejection”
In my second movement (of an original composition) I am reliving my deepest dream.
In this movement I take my dream a step further.
I have seen so much, and I have received a great deal of what I have wanted in life.
But there still remains this very precious wish.
It is the most important wish I have, from the bottom of my heart.
I am asking in this movement, “can I now have my dearest wish?”
I ask, and I ask once more, “will my wish be granted this time?”
“No” is the answer, and the story gets still worse:
“The landlord and the sheriff came to take us all away.
Worse yet, his beloved wife died in view of all that despair.
“I heaved a sigh and bade goodbye to dear old Skibbereen.”
Here is the entire text of “Skibbereen”:
“Oh father dear, I oft-times hear you speak of Erin's isle
“Oh son, I loved my native land with energy and pride
“Oh well do I remember that bleak December day
“Your mother too, God rest her soul, fell on the stony ground
“And you were only two years old and feeble was your frame
“Oh father dear, the day will come when in answer to the call
“Struggling and Succeeding at Last”
But the answer is “no!”
I am refused again. There is no pity!
I must live through yet more turmoil.
I labour away and I suffer, sometimes more, sometimes less.
Sometimes I forget my dream entirely, and years go by, and I barely notice that they have flown by.
But at the end, what a surprise!
Joy finally appears in view!
“The Princess Royal” a/k/a "Miss MacDermott" a/k/a "The Arethusa"
In this last movement, we are a few years later. The father from Skibbereen and their little son have landed in a far-off country.
They were well received. Their pain has diminished, and most of their anger is now gone.
Left is a hollow sadness and recurring pangs of home sickness. Things will never be what they had hoped for at the start.
But they are grateful to have new friends around them, and that brings new hope and joys for future days.
Image: Turlough O'Carolan 1670 – 1738. Well-known blind Irish harper, with 214 known compositions. Wikipedia.
“Completion in View”
I adapted this classic Irish tune into my fourth movement.
Finally, joy is at the horizon.
Is it really true?
It satisfies my most precious wish, the one I kept so long in my deepest dreams.
After all the turmoil, I can now celebrate my inner completion with this tune.
The base of this movement is one of the most famous of Turlough O'Carolan's melodies, dating from the early 18th century.
O'Carolan's tune is a fitting closing to this sonata.
According to Wikipedia, “After being blinded by smallpox at the age of eighteen, Carolan was apprenticed by Mrs. MacDermott Roe to [be] a good harper. At the age of twenty-one, being given a horse and a guide, he set out to travel Ireland and compose songs for patrons.”
True completion can come in many ways, and when it arrives at last, let us celebrate it, just as it comes to us.
This composition is dedicated to all who wish for a second chance and their real completion, at their own White Rock, or at Skibbereen, or at their new home, wherever that may be.
Entire Sonata in G -- “The Completion Sonata” (revised 2021)
MIDI and Music Sheets
2020-05-12 (Compose) Fun with Kuhnau - 3 movements
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We know little about Johannes Kuhnau (1660-1722), but he was probably a bright and sociable person, always ready for jokes and satires. He was a respected musician as well as a qualified lawyer with a successful law practice. Well-known is his “Quacksalber” [quack doctor] book where he lampooned a vainglorious doctor and his assistant from southern lands who came to Germany to show off their musical skills – and promptly made fools of themselves.
Most of his music is now lost, and consequently he is now frequently remembered as the Leipzig cantor (Thomaskantor) whom J.S. Bach succeeded after his death. But there is enough left of his once prodigious output that we can deduce that he had a good feel for a catchy tune. And that is what we want to celebrate here.
Kuhnau published two reputable exercise books for the piano called “Neue Clavier-Übung I” (1689) and “Neue Clavier-Übung II” (1692) [“New Clavier Exercises”]. The second book contained a "Sonata from B flat" and according to Immanuel Faisst (German composer 1823-1894), Kuhnau is to be considered the “founder” of the piano sonata, since Kuhnau's "Sonata" was the first piano piece to bear this name, which until then had only been used for ensemble pieces.
The Deutsche Biographie adds, “Of yet far greater importance is the fact that such compositions now appeared in print and thus became much more widespread than handwritten pieces. With his publications Kuhnau opened access to piano music for bourgeois devotees who from then on were at the centre of amateur music-making and displaced the plucked instruments from their leading role. The wide dissemination of his piano works also had the consequence that they exerted a far-reaching influence on piano composers” (my translation).
In these Clavier Exercises I found three tunes that I used as launchpads for my own compositions. They were Neue Clavier-Übung I, “Partie V: Prelude”, Neue Clavier-Übung II, “Partie IV: Aria” and Neue Clavier-Übung I, “Partie V: Marche”. Taken together, they fit together as a modern fast – slower – fast music collection which I will gladly call a “sonata”, in the great memory of Johannes Kuhnau.
Fun with Kuhnau
"A happy confusion in the first movement plunges us into a somber mood in the second movement. But never despair, because the mood contains the germs of a new birth, ready to be fully celebrated in the last movement."
MIDI and Music Sheets
Top: Kuhnau's portrait, from a hand-colored 1689 edition of his Neue Clavier-Übung, erster Teil (Wikipedia)
Bottom: Quacksalber Frontispiece (Bayrische Landesbibliothek)
2020-03-03 (Adaptation) Venetian Solo Practice
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Vivaldi liked challenges.
He liked to show off his great skills on the violin, playing fast and at times at very high pitches, close to the bridge. This is well attested. Also he liked to challenge his best students with hard and captivating tasks, which is demonstrated in numerous pieces (e.g. RV 346, among others). While not explicitly documented for the present piece, it also adapts well to the challenges we shall demonstrate here.
The Vivaldi piece for our challenge is joyful and adventurous. It is the second movement "Fantasia" of the Sonata for Violin and Basso Continuo by Antonio Vivaldi RV 9 (published 1709), given in extenso below. It is marked presto.
In addition, we present a second, more complex adaptation of this movement. For this version, Vivaldi's equally-spaced bars were converted into unequally-spaced bars, and two G-scale passages were placed into the root passage which is written in D major, like the original. In comparison to the original, the adapted version seems a bit "zippier", but it is longer and more difficult to perform.
In Vivaldi's spirit of friendly challenges, we wish to see how one can master these two presto passages.
And how fast would that be? Presto should be incredibly fast. In modern terms and according to Wikipedia, this should be at 168–200 bpm. In Vivaldi's time, when time was measured more in terms of human capacities than as precise beats per second, we may think of presto as "as fast as possible". A good comparson in Vivaldi's contemporary terms is given by the presto passage of his "Summer" in "The Four Seasons" (RV 315). The performance by Anne-Sophie Mutter is particularly memorable and well worth watching (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=124NoPUBDvA).
So, let's see. How fast can you play our two presto passages – without missing any notes and while still maintaining appropriate durations? Can you also slow down considerably and still maintain the same proportional durations?
Both pieces are performed at the same beats per minute, 110 bpm for the first part and 130 bpm for the second. All audio settings are kept the same.
Vivaldi RV 9 "Fantasia":
EKeller_Vivaldi "Venetian Solo Practice":
Water lily, courtesy of all-free-download.com
2020-04-02 (Adaptation) "Prelude in E minor" of Buxtehude BuxWV 143
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Here is a short beginning excerpt from “Prelude in E minor” by Dietrich Buxtehude (1635 -1707). It is a particularly pregnant motif of only two minutes and a half when played at 105 bpm. It tends to get rushed over when this composition is generally performed in the public.
I proceeded to add to its original length, I slowed its tempo in order to present its features more clearly, and I provided a number of local accompaniments to the partition. This permits the work to stand on its own, and it shows the composition in its full splendour.
To permit compatibility with standard flutes, this version was transposed to A minor.
The simulation was created using the open-source software GrandOrgue and using a sample-set realised by Piotr Grabowski. This sample set was originally recorded at the Pfarrkirche of the parish of St-Bartholomaus at Friesach, Austria. This recent organ was built by the firm Eisenbarth of Passau, Germany in 2000.
Image: Wikipedia, Friesach city view, Austria, by Johann Jaritz.
"A simple magnificent celebration of the life that was offered by the great master Dietrich Buxtehude"
2020-03-26 (Compose) Calls in the Forest - 3 movements
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What happens if you called into a forest – and the echo returned something else?
What if an ancient call came back, reminding us about living in harmony with the elements around us? About listening to others and respecting them? About ignoring fools, but seeking compromises when they are possible?
Three ancient echoes come back to us. Let's listen to what they suggest to us.
What can it be?
At first we are surprised. What can this be? The echo comes back, and yes, it is familiar. You recognize the form. Haven't you heard it before?
And then suddenly, the music stops. What now? The form returns, but it now is different. Similar, yet different -- so strange! Slowly you begin to recognise the new shape. Can you live with it? Can you accept it? Let it become part of you?
Remembering an answer
Here comes the moment of truth. Here the secret is disclosed. A deep and profound joy was already deep in you, and now you can remember it. It is becoming part of you. Yes, what a magical moment this is.
Joy is now in you, and you are well with all the people around whom you love and cherish. It is a time to celebrate inside, and a new promise that is in the air.
I used three old Celtic melodies here. Similar basic melodies have been employed since medieval times in various traditional Celtic folk songs.
The first melody is familiar from “The Grenadier and the Lady”, which was later used in various forms of “An Emigrant's Daughter”.
Another traditional tune was used in the second melody, familiar from “She Moved Through The Fair”. I wish to credit this suggestion to Frank Lennon, who maintains an excellent compendium of Celtic tunes at http://www.irishmidifiles.ie/midifiles.htm.
I do not know the origin of the third melody. I furnished a minor accompaniment for this short and happy Irish melody in 2017. Here it finds a more substantial embodiment.
Here is "Calls in the Forest":
"Life calls us to a new awakening. Please note the significant break in the first movement and its soothing recovery in the two other movements."
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