“The Logical Question and the Decaying Answer”

Whew! I’m feeling a sense of immense achievement, probably a little out of proportion to what I’ve actually done. Then again, this is a blog, so…

I haven’t composed any new music (in terms of writing it down, I mean) in a couple of decades, but I have finally finished inputting the first of the pieces I’m notating with Musescore. Here’s the first page:


I’m pleased because Musescore also lets me export audio for the pieces. The renderings are not perfect–honestly, they show the flaws of the piece, in that a human touch is really necessary for the piece to be particularly listenable–but until I have a real recording of a performance, it’s nice to have some audio to refer to. (I’d swear I had a recording of this somewhere, since two different pianists performed it at recitals the year I wrote it… but I can’t find either, so this will have to do.)

As for the piece I’ve notated: it’s a very simple, and very early piece of mine, for solo piano. That’s why I wanted to start with it–there’s nothing particularly tricky about the notation, or anything like that. I’m not particularly proud of it, as compositions go; in fact, I had to fight not to edit it all the way through, because there are a lot of unnecessary repetitions that rob the music of developmental momentum, and which could easily be cut to improve the piece. But I committed to notating it as close to the original as possible, since this is meant to replace my (fragile, pencil-on-paper) archival copy. If I really want to do something with it later, I may edit it down and use it in some kind of soundtrack or something, I don’t know.

About the music itself: in this piece, I was experimenting–in the least interesting way possible, it seems to me now, but then, this was rudimentary learning for me–with different methods of motivic development. I’d just run across inversion, retrograde, and retrograde inversion, and figured I’d try them out… a little. But my jazz background shows: this is closer to a funk tune with a repeating (harmonic) structure and very minor variations all the way along.

Very simple, but it was an early composition… maybe my second or third, I’m not exactly sure, but definitely written during the first year of my study of composition. And it shows.

Still, for those interested, here’s separate PDFs of the piece’s two movements:

While the manuscript is marked “©2013 Gord Sellar,” I will here say that I would be happy for anyone out there to perform this piece, on condition that they email me a scan of the program and a recording of the performance, if possible.

And the audio:

As for what’s next, I’m not sure. My favorite piece is going to be a nightmare to input–it has all kinds of experimental notation and I suspect that the output will probably be unlike how the actual piece would sound, necessitating some messing around with my EWI in Garageband to get something closer to the actual piece in performance–so I think I may go for one of the bigger pieces, especially one that I don’t have a recording for, like “In Their Shadows,” the piece I composed in 1997, during my last year of music studies, which overall is mostly pretty straightfoward in notation, though with a few chunks of crazy… since that’ll push me up the learning curve a little more.

Oh, and as for what I’m working towards: I have a piece I wrote for six voices, as program music for a production of T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral; it was authentic to the period, but turned out to be ridiculously hard for the singers we had on hand. We ended up going with parallel fourths and fifths, and improvised Gregorian chant, and it set the gloomy, brutal mood adequately… but I’ve always thought that the original thing I’d composed would make a nice quintet or sextet for strings or saxophones or something…

But of course, that would require taking a bunch of disconnected snippets of musical material and weaving them back together somehow interestingly, and that’s a job I think I’ll be better-equipped for once I’m more used to working in Musescore. Therefore, I think I’ll keep on notating all the completed compositions I have on hand. Once those are done, I can thinking about whether I want to get into the actual composing. After all, this is just something I’m doing on the side.

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