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Piece for "World Class Marimbist" and String Quartet

Dear Villain

Coffee before music
The Sword of Damocles is a dramatic, powerful, and gripping work for "world class marimbist" and string quartet. Owing to the demanding virtuosic writing for marimba, very few would actually be able to pull of the technical challenges of this piece in convincing fashion, save for the upper echelon of professional marimbists. As such, the piece may more accurately be coined as being for "virtual marimba and string quartet."



I share my very personal music with those few among you that may derive some enjoyment. Always love to hear from those willing to sit through the less than mainstream style :)

Cheers!
Dave
 

Bollen

Vintage Member
tenor.gif

It's gotta be your best work to date! Love the perfect balance between abstraction and tradition! 💕
Heard it four times!
 
OP
Dear Villain

Dear Villain

Coffee before music
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tenor.gif

It's gotta be your best work to date! Love the perfect balance between abstraction and tradition! 💕
Heard it four times!
Bollen, thank you once again. It appears I may need to seek another forum for my style of music. Are there any you frequent other than VI?
 
OP
Dear Villain

Dear Villain

Coffee before music
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I really do like this. Would love to hear it with a live strings.
Thanks, ism. Me, too. Trying to line up some projects with live musicians for later this year for other works...musicians need to get back to making live music and I hope to be part of that energy and enthusiasm that is missing from being locked up in a studio.
 
OP
Dear Villain

Dear Villain

Coffee before music
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If you don’t mind me asking; why?
Oh, it's nothing against VI, just an acceptance on my part that my music is not in line with the majority of tastes here, as evidenced by the very few interactions I am generating with my pieces. I simply want a chance to connect with an audience in which I don't necessarily have to apologize for, or explain why I write what I write. A friend of mine, who is a very attractive model in her 20s once told me she played one of my CDs driving around town, just to shock cars at stop lights that couldn't believe someone that looked like her would blast classical music through her car speakers. :)

That story kind of summarizes how I feel here sometimes. Since there are likely very few such forums that would be open to this type of music, I figured Bollen, with his interest in such, might know where I'm less a fish out of water.

I still remain fully invested in this wonderful community.
 

Bollen

Vintage Member
It appears I may need to seek another forum for my style of music
Why is that caro mio? I tried several in the past and found them all rather lacking... Mostly amateurs writing first inversions triads ;) or pseudo-avant-garde only interested in themselves. In any case they all have hardly any activity...
 
OP
Dear Villain

Dear Villain

Coffee before music
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Why is that caro mio? I tried several in the past and found them all rather lacking... Mostly amateurs writing first inversions triads ;) or pseudo-avant-garde only interested in themselves. In any case they all have hardly any activity...
Well, that's hardly surprising that there are more composers writing than audiences listening, but a sad realization none the less that we all need to grow and cultivate audiences if we're to have any chance of sustaining our work long term.

As for first inversion triads, well, thanks for ruining my next masterpiece, v7-i, v7-i, v7-i, v7-i...the rebel in me was planning to double the third on the tonic triad.
 

Bollen

Vintage Member
Oh, it's nothing against VI, just an acceptance on my part that my music is not in line with the majority of tastes here, as evidenced by the very few interactions I am generating with my pieces. I simply want a chance to connect with an audience in which I don't necessarily have to apologize for, or explain why I write what I write.
Oh I see, hmmm...! Well if I may share a few thoughts and feelings on the matter.

Back when I use to teach I would tell my students that if one decides to devote themselves to the art of music writing, then one must do it for the sake of the art itself, not for money, not for approval and certainly not for recognition. One must treat it like a religion i.e. your own private congress with god. Otherwise you'll be eternally chasing the carrot, trying to please everyone and never allowing your true voice to develop.

Now, admittedly the work of a writer is a lonely one and we all wish for a kind of "college community" type support group. But in reality composers are not the composer's market. They will only be interested in your work if you're doing something quite unique and/or special. The audience on the other hand is divided in two: 1.- the conservatives who prefer the "classics" or masters from the past (pre-approved) and 2.- the ones who seek new music, and as you said there are more composers than there are listeners in this group. But because of this they rely on filters such as labels, critics or orchestras to filter out the noise from the talent. Consequently you're back trying to impress critics, conductors, etc.

Now you could try a local group. I joined one a while ago through a site called Meetup. It was a lovely group of people and very supportive of each other albeit too amateur for me. Or you could also use my approach which is to think of myself as the next Vivaldi... i.e. I'll die without anyone ever knowing my music, but maybe in a couple of hundred years somebody will discover my scores under a rubble and I will become super popular... :emoji_stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: :rofl:
 

jbuhler

Senior Member
I love the play of moods in this piece. I’m not sure the issue is VI-C per se. It seems to me that internet fora are drawn to the meme-like, so brief, to the point, legible and contextually aware, but also at the extremes of emotional expressivity.
 
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Dear Villain

Dear Villain

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Gotcha. Although a lack of interaction does not necessarily indicate a lack of interest in / love for neo classical music. I just now became aware of your compositions. ;)
You're absolutely right, doctoremmet. It's easy to forget that for every person that actually takes the time to write a comment, there could be dozens more happily listening while clipping their toe nails!

Cheers,
Dave
 
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Dear Villain

Dear Villain

Coffee before music
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I love the play of moods in this piece. I’m not sure the issue is VI-C per se. It seems to me that internet fora are drawn to the meme-like, so brief, to the point, legible and contextually aware, but also at the extremes of emotional expressivity.
And this is exactly why live performances with a willing audience, are still so highly sought after. Notice I said "willing", if only because there are countless examples of even audiences paying hundreds of dollars a ticket, shuffling their feet in hopes of the ever drawn out music ending so they can go drink at the bar :)
 
OP
Dear Villain

Dear Villain

Coffee before music
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Oh I see, hmmm...! Well if I may share a few thoughts and feelings on the matter.

Back when I use to teach I would tell my students that if one decides to devote themselves to the art of music writing, then one must do it for the sake of the art itself, not for money, not for approval and certainly not for recognition. One must treat it like a religion i.e. your own private congress with god. Otherwise you'll be eternally chasing the carrot, trying to please everyone and never allowing your true voice to develop.

Now, admittedly the work of a writer is a lonely one and we all wish for a kind of "college community" type support group. But in reality composers are not the composer's market. They will only be interested in your work if you're doing something quite unique and/or special. The audience on the other hand is divided in two: 1.- the conservatives who prefer the "classics" or masters from the past (pre-approved) and 2.- the ones who seek new music, and as you said there are more composers than there are listeners in this group. But because of this they rely on filters such as labels, critics or orchestras to filter out the noise from the talent. Consequently you're back trying to impress critics, conductors, etc.

Now you could try a local group. I joined one a while ago through a site called Meetup. It was a lovely group of people and very supportive of each other albeit too amateur for me. Or you could also use my approach which is to think of myself as the next Vivaldi... i.e. I'll die without anyone ever knowing my music, but maybe in a couple of hundred years somebody will discover my scores under a rubble and I will become super popular... :emoji_stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: :rofl:
Thank you for such a thoughtful perspective. I'm PM'ing you...
 

ism

Senior Member
So first, in praise of not only the composition, but the amazing job you’ve done in the mock up. Easily one of the best I’ve hear with the VSL. And I doubt there’s any other library that could have pulled off this kind of expressiveness, and I imagine that it's the best library in which to mock up a quartet written for real performance in this stye.

But there's also harsh reality this is one of the hardest of musicalities to make work with samples, and no sample libraries are presently adequate to it.

Which is to say - I really would like to hear this piece in particular with a real quartet performance.

The upside of this being that, well, I really would like to hear this piece in particular with a real quartet performance.

But the darker side of this being that I just ultimately don't like VSL very much at a raw, visceral level of embodied sonority. I know that perceptual experiences vary considerably, and there are moments when VSL sample are pristinely and breathtakingly beautiful ... but just as surely I find moments of an uncanniness endemic to the techniques required for samples to reach this kind of expressiveness (ie expressiveness worthy of real, classical, musicians). And purely on a level of sonority, I find difficult to listen to VSL solo strings as music.

I can and do listen to is as another of Dave's amazing compositions. And I can listen to it as a mock up that opens the imaginative space to understand how great it would sound with real musicians. But the uncanniness of the samples does, ultimately, takes a toll. So as music, without the abstract cognitive process of understanding it as a mock up, the uncanniness of the samples here eventually does get to me.

The bitter irony of course is that this is a piece that is designed to be listened to precisely as deeply engaging concert music, rather that underscore or filmic accompaniment, that I would absolutely throw on my iPod and listen to intently ... which is precisely why samples just can't quite get us there.

Record this with real string players (My ears are more forgiving of sampled Marimbas), throw it on iTunes and I'd happily buy it. But as a mock up, I'm necessarily in a kind of analytical mode accommodate the limitation of samples in this kind of a mock up. (I know many people experience VSL differently, and that's cool too, just saying this is my perceptual experience of the universe)

Of course, it is no criticism that you're writing for musicians and not computer. If I had the skill, this is exactly what I'd do also. But absent the skill, and likelihood of having my composition performed by real musicians, I write for what can be rendered convincingly with currently existing samples, which necessarily means that it's about 1% as expressive as a piece like this.

One of my first thought on hearing the very striking open sections was to ask if you might share the score so that I could study it ... except that it then quickly became clear that the musicality here isn't something that's remotely within my reach, for all the solo string libraries that I own. So regrettably, I think I need to focus on something a little more realistic in my own writing.


But at the same time, I do take inspiration from the fact that there are composers here not so constrained, and I think it's great to be reminded just how constraining writing to samples is.


So that's one limitation. But another, I think, is the commercial nature of the vi-c medium, which means that member's composition threads typically get washed away in the onslaught of the typically very busy "should I buy..." , or "are we there yet... " commercial threads that don't call for thoughtful engagement in quite the way listening to and commenting on a composition does, and so have a natural disadvantage as the medium privileges threads for their volume of posts over thoughtfulness of posts.

There's been talk of tweaking the medium to allow member composition threads a little more oxygen via technical tweaks. And I think this would be a good avenue to pursue also. Because this is a great composition and a bigger audience would be to everyone's benefit.
 
OP
Dear Villain

Dear Villain

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Ism, there's a lot to unpack in your very thought-provoking post, but I first want to say thank you for taking the time to write it. Honestly, posts like yours are my reward for putting my stuff out there, often to crickets, sometimes to haters (yes, I have a fair number of them, it seems!) and occasionally to those of you on a thread like this that have renewed my enthusiasm for music.

I agree with you that the samples are just not there yet. When I started writing six years ago, sample libraries were never the end game for me. They were simply a means of creating a decent approximation of what a piece might sound like, in order to entice performers. What I discovered the more I worked with samples, was that often the performers I knew personally, were upset with how realistic these efforts were getting. I have told it before, but one cellist, a member of a prominent American orchestra was so upset with my use of samples, that we had a falling out for several years.
The frustration we composers face, is without samples we have nothing. Live performances are always a struggle to make happen, and for the vast majority of the music we write, it will likely never see a concert stage. Samples allow us to at least present our work in the best possible light available to us, without begging and waiting for performers to give a voice to our music.

After a few live performances that were under-rehearsed (as most are apt to be due to funds, scheduling, etc.) I remember turning more to samples as a means of controlling my fate, so to speak. I'll never forget having done a midi performance of a 6 minute string trio, that when performed live, took the musicians 9 plus minutes. Yeah, the piece was called, "In the Blink of an Eye", and after the public performance, in which the audience looked dumbfounded, I wanted to crawl under my seat. Then, I wanted to pull out my ipod, and play the midi version for them so they could hear what the piece should sound like.

In any case, I have had enough quality performances that remind me of the inadequacies of samples. Beyond the simple execution of a piece by live performers, there's the whole social and collaborative process that results in a much more satisfying experience than massaging midi data in front of a computer for hours on end. And of course, the energy of a performance in front of a live audience will never be replaced by a placement of a mock-up on Soundcloud.

I continue to write as if every piece is destined for live performers, but am grateful at least that samples exist even at the level they're at now, just so we can continue to be creative and productive. I've had performances that took literally years from initial discussion, to hitting the stage. With samples, I was able to put the first note to paper on this piece, and listen to the final output on my stereo a week later.

As for finding an audience on VI-C, well, this post has exploded enough to sustain me for quite a while, and for those of you that have taken the time to listen and share your thoughts, thank you so much!

I wish everybody that chooses to share their music here, the same kind and supportive audience I found with this piece.

Cheers!
Dave
 

re-peat

Senior Member
I don’t know. My inner jury is still out, though I have a feeling it won’t come back with good news. What bothered me a bit ever since the first time I listened, you see, is that whatever musically audacious aspirations you may have — difficult to say from listening to this one piece — they are severely hampered by the ball-and-chain of comfortable diatonicism, convention and creative timidity. To me, this is music that brings to mind the poor cat in Shakespeare’s adage, the animal that lets “I dare not” wait upon “I would”.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking:

(1) You present and introduce your work as you deem best of course, but I don’t think the work is accurately described as “a dramatic, powerful and gripping piece for a world class marimbist”. I can’t say I heard any ‘drama’ (unless the good-natured, friendly interplay between the solo instrument and the string quartet qualifies as drama these days), I didn’t find it particularly ‘powerful’ either, and ‘gripping’ would be the last adjective that I’d use trying to describe my listening experience. Not that it’s bad or anything, absolutely not, it’s just that most of the music came and went, and … well, … that’s it. I allowed it to do so three or four times in a row during the past two days — it’s all a bit of a blur now, I must say — and each time the music simply slid off me like raindrops on an oilskin coat. Now, music needn’t be powerful, dramatic or gripping to be enjoyable, so I hope these things can be said without causing offense.

(2) How precisely this music is supposed to evoke, or relate to, the Damocles theme is completely beyond me as well, I must say. What you have here is, by and large, very accessible, easy-on-the-ear and completely conflict-free music. To my ears anyway. Largely diatonic too in its defining features. The tale of Damocles and Dyonisus II of Syracuse however, is one of gnawing jealousy, ruthless power, tyranny, threat, uninhibited decadence, impending doom and a brooding, sinister darkness. Try as I may, I really can’t connect the two. But I suppose this is of little importance. Then again, I can’t imagine the piece got its title by chance.

(3) I’m also of the opinion — we’re back with the music itself now — that the piece is rather poorly written for the marimba. The solo part, in other words, rarely speaks genuine marimbese, I find.
If you should learn that seasoned marimba players don’t seem all that keen on performing this piece, I’m convinced it’ll have nothing to do with the part being too difficult — technically, it sounds like mostly standard first grade fare to me, actually — but because it’s simply not an idiomatic, interesting or inspiring enough marimba part. A good player, and I’m not even talking about that “upper echelon of professionals”, won’t find anything here to sink his or her teeth into. There’s no challenge. The music uses only the flimsiest slice of the marimba’s timbral and expressive possibilities and is, as such, quite unable to bring out the best in either the performer or the instrument. My suggestion: talk to, and collaborate with a serious marimba player, and completely revise the part accordingly. If you were to dip your toes in the wondrous waters of contemporary marimba literature, you’ll quickly discover that idiomatic writing for the marimba, by composers who do understand the instrument, is something entirely different, on a whole different level both technically and musically, than what you’ve got happening in this piece.

_
 
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