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  symphonic ideas  Team Gaughan at 14:06 on 14 May 2009
 

Recently I have been planning 4 movements for orchestra. I donít usually write things for large forces but in this case my ideas grew and I felt I needed more sounds and depth. Eventually instead say having 4 orchestral pieces I realised it was a much more organic whole and therefore far more symphonic is scale and structure. Of course the idea of a symphony is huge, and so massively varied, the Germanic idea alone with Wagner as the apotheosis, (a composer I really donít like by the way), and that is without looking at French, Italian and British symphonists never mind Russians or Sibelius.

So I wondered what other people thoughts were. Have you ever written a symphonic work, or a work symphonic in stature, and what does that even mean these days? What with the likes of Tippett, Maxwell Davies, Lutoslawski to name but 3 of my favourites itís a big ask. But the work I have planned to me at least feels symphonic and fees that it is a symphony, not 4 pieces or a suite. That is due to the emotion impact of the work, the passion and depth and inter-relationship and also the differences and as Mahler said it does feel like right now this piece encompasses the whole world, or at least my world.

Also I find traditional forms interesting too; I like the idea of symphonies, concertos and sonatas but of course with my own sound world and my own twist on traditions.


  Re: symphonic ideas  scott_good at 15:18 on 28 May 2009
 

hi team

i've never composed a symphony, but, have done traditional concerto format in 3 movements. (actually, being premiered this weekend - yea!)

what does it mean today...well, i guess the only real thing i can say to that is that it means what you wish it to, as I am just a flaky post-modern idealist (ha ha). for my concerto, i wanted a link to the past, and to be honest it is simply a form that works well, but i also superimposed a theme and variations on top of the entire structure, with the theme being it self a kind of AB structure (tone row + melody) - so, many levels working simultaneously. also, there is o break between movements - nothing new there, and nothing new about any of these ideas. in combination, however, starting to point to a personalized concept.

i guess for me, it's not just about changing the sound world, but re-inventing the structure to something more personal (what ever that might be). Sometimes I find that using traditional techniques on their own sounds too obvious - but then, if this is the way it needs to be, then so be it! the artist must pursue what they must.

not much of an answer!

something else you should ask yourself is will this music get performed? a symphony is very very hard to get programmed. a work that is 5-12min not as hard. I can't imagine composing a symphony and not hearing - and performed well.

hmmm...this just popped into my head - what about a "Symphony" for 12-15 players? There are a number of modern music ensembles of that size that could be interested in a work like this. a real "today" kind of take on the old form. if orchestrated well, this size of group can get quite symphonic in sound.

  Re: symphonic ideas  FergusJ at 14:38 on 04 June 2009
 

Well, you can forget about Wagner looking over your shoulder for a start, he wasn't a "symphonist" although he wrote one when he was 19 (I haven't written one at all, so i'm probably talking out of my arse, but anyway here goes...)

I wouldn't want to write a four movement symphony, or a symphony in four separate movements. I'd rather do something different with the concept. Putting them all into one movement is one approach, as was done by Sibelius in his 7th, but he did such an amazing job of it that I wouldn't go down that path.

It depends on what music you write. You don't have samples up. Do you want to throw everything in (Mahler), do you want it to grow organically (Sibelius) or do you want to distill everything out (Webern), or none of the above (possibly you...)

But why not just write what you want to write? Call it a symphony if you think that it deserves it, and reinvent the form if you're a radical? Call it something else if it bothers you.

Or you can do what a friend of mine did: he wrote "4 Orchestral pieces", and his justification was that Berg did "3 Orchestral pieces" and Schoenberg did "5 orchestral pieces", so "4 Orchestral pieces" was up for grabs...

It's only a name after all...and it doesn't have to have 4 movements...

Best of luck with it, in any case.

  Re: symphonic ideas  Team Gaughan at 16:05 on 04 June 2009
 

Excellent, some interesting ideas here to think about. Certainly given me room to ponder. I like the one movement idea but yes Sibelius was such a master at this. I think I will go for the 4 or 5 orchestral pieces and go from there and see how I feel about it all.

Thanks for your comments

  Re: symphonic ideas  scott_good at 17:53 on 04 June 2009
 

"I like the one movement idea but yes Sibelius was such a master at this."

I need someone to explain what this has to do with anything (it is the word "but" that concerns me)? Because Sibelius used a large scale form well means that no one else can..?..is that what is being said?

If it is, then I heartily disagree. In fact, I would say that this is a creativity killer. It is too much sacrifice for the illusive goal of originality. I can't imagine my composer mind surviving under such pressure!

Please, Team and Fergus, explain what you mean.

  Re: symphonic ideas  FergusJ at 04:35 on 05 June 2009
 

To clarify, Scott: What I was saying was, Sibelius took what are the four movements of the traditional symphony and moulded them into a single seamlessly (almost, there is one seam which sticks out...) interwoven structure in his 7th symphony. Personally I wouldn't want to do that, with four movements. That is not to say that I wouldn't write one movement orchestral works, just that I wouldn't take 4 movements and put them into a single span, for the simple reason that I don't see why I should be limited to the number 4. In fact, all of my orchestral essays have been single-span, multi- movement structures.
Team was talking about having 4 movements, and I was reading into that the assumption on Team's part that because he had 4 movements, he was therefore in possession of a symphony. I was trying to provoke more expansive thinking by pointing out that it could be one movement, or it could be more, but didn't have to be four, and just because he had four, it didn't have to be a symphony.

  Re: symphonic ideas  Team Gaughan at 09:24 on 05 June 2009
 

I agree with Fergus, thats exactly what I meant. I too have written one movement expansive works, and when I think of one movement type symphonies I also think of Tippetts 4th which is also a wonderous work, well to me at least. It doesnt mean I wouldnt attempt one, not at all.

My original post was simply that I have 4 very distinctive movements that fit together, and knowing how well posts are discussed here I wanted to discuss, it feels a little like a chamber symphony (someone mentioned this idea earlier) to be honest and this is the place the work itself seems to be heading for.

But I certainly would not be put off attempting a one movement/multi movement piece at all.

By the way my name is Martin, wish I could change that on here, but I can't!



  Re: symphonic ideas  scott_good at 10:02 on 05 June 2009
 

Hey guys,

This is more clear.

I guess my way of looking at this would be:

"Sibelius wrote a symphony in which all the movements are woven beautifully together, that would be an interesting place to start."

rather than

"Sibelius wrote a symphony in which all the movements are woven beautifully together, better avoid that."

# of movements: 4,5,3,2,1,6...doesn't matter except in terms of your own needs. I can think of examples of works called "symphony" that use anywhere from 1 to 6 movements. Yes, 4 is the more traditional form for sure, and it is a good form - it works very well.

Sorry, but back to my traditional form piece: The concerto was premiered this weekend, and if I do say so myself, was very successful. I think in many ways, by using the traditional form structure of 3 movements - played without break, the audience could "relax" on a certain level as part of their expectations were being fulfilled - others were not. If you use a traditional structure, you can then use the expectations of this form as something to work off of, just like harmony, or rhythm. One can use these to create expectations, and then play with these to create tension and release.

  Re: symphonic ideas  FergusJ at 05:21 on 06 June 2009
 

"If you use a traditional structure, you can then use the expectations of this form as something to work off of, just like harmony, or rhythm. One can use these to create expectations, and then play with these to create tension and release."

This question of form is fascinating: In my work, sometimes the musical argument is the thing which defines the articulation of the form and sometimes I have done the inverse, and sketched out an overall pre-composition arch/shape, which I then fill with music. I have to say that I often do the latter in moments of despair, when ideas are lacking, and I have to finish the piece. Just having a mould into which I can pour notes helps remove the block, and I usually find that the music I write then takes on a life of its own and I can move away from the precast mould if I want to.

Charles Rosen had a brilliant observation about the concerto concept and the audiences expectations, which I'm sure you know, but I'll throw it in. He said "The most important fact about concerto form is that the audience waits for the soloist to enter, and when he stops playing they wait for him to begin again".

simple, and brilliant.



  Re: symphonic ideas  scott_good at 19:28 on 06 June 2009
 

"In my work, sometimes the musical argument is the thing which defines the articulation of the form and sometimes I have done the inverse, and sketched out an overall pre-composition arch/shape, which I then fill with music."

Yes, I know what you are saying. My most thorough example of this was my doctoral thesis, an orchestral work in which every form time length parameter was worked out according to various properties of the Fibonacci sequence (not in measures but time! different than Messiaen for instance), and then, the note pouring. The pitches were also highly serialized, and registers and density were also worked out using Fibonacci principals. I also used serial properties to orchestrate, somewhat like what one can find in the music of Varese.

Problem is, I just don't think it's my best work! But, I learned quite a bit going through the process to it's final conclusion. (and I think that should be the point of a thesis, eh?).

"Just having a mould into which I can pour notes helps remove the block, and I usually find that the music I write then takes on a life of its own and I can move away from the precast mould if I want to."

This is the best attitude!

"The most important fact about concerto form is that the audience waits for the soloist to enter, and when he stops playing they wait for him to begin again".

Nope, never heard this before. Lovely - right on the money!