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Old 11-20-2010, 01:09 AM
Mark W Mark W is offline
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 597
Default Copland Appalachian Spring for Two Pianos

Hello Music Sharing Friends,

It has been a long time since I've shared anything with you in this forum. In the past, I've showed you some of my compositions; but I realize that my composition styles probably appeal to only one percent of music listeners.

I've decided to put my own composing on hold. Instead, I'm planning on devoting my music recreation time to arranging my favorite orchestral music to two pianos, 4-hands and 8-hands.

I have two nice Yamaha grand pianos, 6'11 (C6) and 7'4 (C7). Well, they're kind of old now, 30 and 16 years respectively, but I plan on getting the felts softened, to tone down the brightness.

My social life here is taking root with these two pianos. Friends come here to play 4- and 8-hands with me. They are all excellent sight readers. I have 8-hand arrangements for all of Beethoven's symphonies, and several Hydan symphonies, Mozart, etc. It is a blast reading these scores with 3 other pianists on the two pianos!

Well, there aren't a lot of 8-hand piano arrangements out there. Nor are there 4-hand arrangements for pieces I really love, such as Copland's Appalachian Spring. It is the first of probably many pieces I'll start arranging for 4- and 8-hands.

It was a joy using Composer to do the arrangement. I used a MIDI file off the Internet to get started. I collapsed all of the string parts into a single staff, using Merge Staff. Then I did Split Hands to divide the combined string parts in to first piano RH and LH staves. I did the same for the woodwind section plus the piano in Copland's score, which role is mostly to play the lowest A note on the piano-- what a wonderful note in Copland's score.

I was pleased at how well the Split Hands command worked. It came up with some ideas that I would not have necessarily thought of, bouncing notes between the RH and LH. It is a lot of fun to play the the piano parts, as some attention of my part, as arranger, is devoted not to just faithfully copying notes from the 14-instrument Copland score to the piano. I also pay attention to how it's fun to bounce musical figures between the RH and LH.

It (only) took me about 12 hours for a first shot at transcribing almost half of Appalachian Spring. Most of the work after the few minutes of Merge Staves and Split Hands was:
  • moving notes between RH and LH of one of the two piano parts, and sometimes moving to the other part
  • changing beams for Copland's interesting rhythms (I'm going to add cross-barline beaming soon to satisfying my own personal need here, as well as user requests for this feature)
  • adding tempo marks and dynamic marks (I have a lot more work to do there, including adding phrase marks and accent marks)
  • adding cue notes -- but wait, Composer does have cue notes (those small notes that show one player what another is doing when he has a lot of rests. The next version of Composer will have this cue note feature, already implemented.
I've decided to switch from a goal of faithfully arranging as many notes from the original score as the 40 fingers (that's what I like to call 8 hands) can reach on the keyboard. Instead, I'm trying to optimize the score for relatively easy sight reading.

I've attached an excerpt from this 4-hand arrangement of Appalachian Spring. It isn't easy playing. A disclaimer comes with this, that if you are a pianist and you hurt your fingers playing this, I assume no liability for physical or psychological damage.

I sight read this with a really good pianist two days ago. We hit a lot of wrong notes-- mostly me-- but got the feel of the piece pretty good on first reading.

I'll keep you posted from time to time about this new mission of mine to transcribe orchestral works to 4- and 8-hands.

Don't worry, I'm not spending too much time on this instead of working on Notation Software development.


-- Mark (the software developer of Notation Software)
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