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Old 06-06-2005, 03:43 AM
Mark Walsen (markwa)
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Default I've finally decided to po

I've finally decided to post some of my music in the forum. This is an improvisation I did a few days ago. It's in a style somewhat like that of Prokofieff, with some American flavor thrown in. This isn't a style I've experimented much with, so it's fresh for me.

<center><table border=1><tr><td>AmericalProkofieffStyle.mid
AmericanProkofieffStyle.mid (85.6 k)</td></tr></table></center>

This is an improvisation, so it has plenty of wrong notes. But the Prokofieff style itself will sound like all wrong notes to many people. To bring a little bit of order to the dissonance, this improvisation frequently returns to his home key of F. Although it has a lot of dissonance, the piece is actually quite tonal. You can pretty much always tell when it has hit the home key of F again. Sometimes I'd like the piece to stay away longer from F before it returns to F.

When I started developing Composer 11 years ago, I envisioned a tool that would capture my improvisations and would then let me conveniently mold the improvisations into compositions. Composer is almost there, but one big piece is missing. You'll see it right away. Composer doesn't yet know how to analyze the rhythms if the improvisation is done without a metronome. You'll see the same problem in Fred's recent improvisation. The rhythms don't make any sense. This particular improvisation has increased my motivation to add features in Composer that will make it easy to notate the correct rhythms for a metronomeless recording.

This improvisation has sufficient interest to me that I think I'll try to turn it into a composition. This will force me to complete my original mission for Composer, to help me turn improvisations into compositions. I have already done several improvisations with the metronome and turned them into short compositions, for Composer usability testing purposes. But this will be the first metronomeless improvisation that I'll try to turn into a composition. Many years ago, I used to record my improvisations with a tape recorder, and then try to transcribe them to notes. But my manual music transcription skills and ear weren't up to the task. I've always envied musicians that can do that.

Given that I don't have much time for writing music, it might take me a few months to turn this improvisation into a composition. But I thought some folks might find it interesting to watch the progress. I have already printed out the score, and have lots of hand-written notes on it, such "this works because...", "this doesn't work because...", "the performance needs cleaning up here", "repeat this idea again", "remove this pointless section", "etc.". I have also started analysis of the harmonies, motives (smallest units of musical ideas), composition structure (it's roughly A, B, A, C, A ... with A repeating a lot).

I'm thinking that I might add free text comments in the score so that you can see my analyses of the improvisation as it evolves into a composition. The absolutely best advice I ever got from my composition teacher, Robert Ward, was that one should critically analyze one's own work. By critical, I don't mean always negative. It's important to understand what work's in the piece, as well as what doesn't work. Fix the part that doesn't work, or get rid of it, and keep the stuff that does work, and maybe do more of it.

This might be a little bit like watching an amateur artist in a park starting on a painting. Looking over his shoulder, you might think, "why did Mark do that?" Or, feel free to ask me, "what is that?" My answer might be, "that's a mess I'll clean up", or it might be, "this is a variation of the same idea in measure N". Because the composition is in progress, you can feel free to challenge me whether something in the music is honest and intentional, or whether I just got sloppy or lost in the improvisation for a while (which happens a lot in this one). I might be less open to ideas about changing a piece I consider to be done, but this one has just gotten started. I'm open to ideas about the piece, and I'm interested in learning what works and doesn't work in it for other folk. Most of my music only travels a few feet beyond my windows (if they're open in the summer time).

It may be that this style of music will be too foreign to most visitors in the forum, so perhaps it is not a good example for me to show as a "work in progress". Let me know what you think. Would you rather have me work on a somewhat easier-to-listen-to piece of music? I have plenty of those lying around. There's another improvisation I did (without a metronome) a couple of years ago that might work for this purpose.

-- Mark
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