Mentoring Program

TDB 2.0

799 userid
Sort of haunting then gets less so.
Grade Level: 11
Intended For: Live Instrument Performance
Software Used: Noteflight
Instrumentation: Piano, Cello.
Key: D minor
Meter Signature: 4/4
Tempo: 80
Status: Work in Progress
Noteflight URL: Website Title


#9 Zachary Sheets 2017-04-03 15:05
Dear Courtney,

As you've probably heard by now, unfortunately your piece was not selected for performance in Opus 32. While I imagine this is disappointing, I have to say that every year this process gets more competitive than the last, and the level of talent really is extraordinary.

It was a lot of fun working together, and you've clearly learned and improved a lot throughout this process—that's what really matters! I certainly enjoyed getting to know you and your music, I hope we'll see you back with some more music on the Music-COMP site in the fall.

All best wishes,

#8 Zachary Sheets 2017-03-31 14:23
Thanks for your last posting, Courtney, and for all your hard work throughout the process! You've done good work on this piece and it has come a long way since the beginning! The results of the selection for live performance in Opus 32 will be announced on Monday, I believe.

Have a great weekend!

#7 Courtney Bernier 2017-03-29 08:00
I tried a ton of chords including the ones you have provided for me. In the end I ended up doing a G major chord in measure 8. I feel in measure 20 I could put a little more in the left hand of the piano. I don't know exactly what but I just want movement there.
#6 Zachary Sheets 2017-03-28 10:57
Thanks for your comment, Courtney! I'm looking forward to your more in-depth note soon, but, in the meantime, just a quick note on measures 8-9. I think this moment may struggle with some of the same lack of clarity of key center that I was mentioning before. We hear both B flats and B naturals in bar 7, so the ear is lead toward two different keys. But, ultimately, the G minor on the last beat of 7 leading into the octave A's on the downbeat of 8 has the effect of making bar 8 feel like a half cadence (to A, as the V chord of D minor). That means that those octave A's in bar 8 feel like a question that need an answer in D minor! Our ears will likely expect the music to start up again in D minor in bar 9, but, it doesn't -- it starts up in A minor!

So, I think the transition will clear itself up if, either (1) you start your melody in d minor in bar 9, which would necessitate a slightly different melody/harmony in bars 9-12 OR (2) you arrive in bar 8 with A as the new home key. To do that, you'll need to modulate to establish A as home, by making the last beat of bar 7 either a G# diminished chord (G# - D - B) or an E7 chord (E - G# - B - D).

One solution that follows path #1 from above, would be to transpose bars 9-12 into D minor, by transposing the piano in 9-12 up a perfect fourth, and the cello in 9-12 down a perfect fifth (or just transpose everything in 9-12 up a perfect fourth and then move the cello down an octave. same thing). Then, it's the same music you have now, but maintaining D minor for longer will help establish the key and fit your half-cadence to A in bar 8. (Once that's done you might need to make a tiny change the end of bar 12 to make it fit the beginning of bar 13, but that should be a super easy patch-up.)

Of course, I encourage you to come up with your own solution! I just wanted to give one example to illustrate what I was talking about.

#5 William Prue 2017-03-27 08:06
I was rather relieved when you responded to me. I am having a difficult time in measure 8 into 9. I will respond more in-depth later today.
#4 Zachary Sheets 2017-03-19 22:10
Hi Courtney,

I see you've been hard at work even though you haven't posted a comment, so I'm going to go ahead and jump in with some feedback. In the future, please keep me in the loop on how things are going. As you know, the cornerstone of this process is that we're able to have a back-and-forth about your work. That way, I'm able to offer suggestions and ask questions, and you're able to ask questions back, ask for help, or share what is working particularly well for you. Mr. Prue mentioned you have a deadline coming up soon for his class, so I'd like you to post a comment when you submit that draft to him, if not sooner. Cool? Cool.

In general, you've done some good work to resolve some of the issues I was talking about last time—namely, that it was often not clear who was in the spotlight or what the main idea of the tune was. This is clearer now! I especially like the little imitation games in places like 16 and 17, which pave the way to usher in more of a chorale texture in 7 or 18. And, I'm starting to see more and more little ideas getting the emphasis and repetition (with little variation!) that they need to have do the heavy lifting, while still maintaining rhythmic flexibility.

For now, I'm going to leave you with some suggestions about harmony.

The first thing has to do with the way you arrange the individual notes "vertically" in the chord. That is, often you have a group of notes close together in the bass clef staff and then a single note much higher. This is a very particular and distinctive color, and not one you want to use except in special circumstances—i t risks sounding a bit thick, bottom-heavy, and dull. In noteflight it sounds kind of ok, but if you play these chords on a piano you'll hear what I mean immediately. So, try to avoid anything smaller than a fifth if you're below E in the bass clef staff (especially if the third note of the chord is a few octaves higher).

Speaking of things that are smaller than a fifth, I would definitely avoid fourths in the bass clef staff of the piano, as you have in 19, 25, or 26, or between the lowest note of the piano and the cello (like the downbeat of 15). When fourths are in the middle of a larger chord they sound fine, but when they're on the bottom they tend to sound a little grungy and unstable.

Finally, Courtney, I have a comment about the overall sense of key and the home tone. Clearly you have some experience with harmony and with crafting together a progression, but sometimes I lose the thread of where the chords are leading. What do I mean? Well, we start in D minor, but by bar 8 we're leaning towards A minor (especially thanks to that B natural in bar 7). Then, in bar 12 we arrive in C major with an E on the bottom, but almost immediately wander somewhere else thanks to that A major chord in bar 13 (which my ear really hears as pulling us back towards D minor). But, then, in bar 14, we have a pretty strong cadence into F major, and so on. Ultimately we wind up in C major, with some more A minor thrown in.

Don't get me wrong—variety is great, and unexpected things are great! But, right now, I think there's not enough clarity about the key and about what the home tone is. Remember the circle of fifths: Any time you go V-I, our ears tend to hear that "I" as establishing a new home. If you do that too often to too many different places, our ear tends to get lost—too many different homes. My advice in a nutshell, then, is to spend longer emphasizing any one key area before you move on. Insert a little more time in D-minor-land before we move on to A-minor-land, and so on.

Ok, Courtney—I look forward to your comment in a few days. You've been working on your own for a few weeks, here, but I hope you will think about my suggestions on harmony, chord spacing, and emphasizing the home tone and key area as you work the next few days. As always, of course, let me know if you have any questions. Good luck!

#3 Zachary Sheets 2017-02-23 21:38
Hi Courtney,

Just checking in—how are things going? Looking forward to a new revision!

#2 Zachary Sheets 2017-02-08 23:45
Dear Courtney,

Hi there! My name is Zach Sheets, and I'll be working with you as your mentor for this piece. Thanks for posting your first version, and nice to meet you! There's already a lot of really good stuff going on, here, and I can't wait to see where things go from here.

In general, my biggest piece of advice would be to think about the relationship between the cello and piano. Let's say there are, maybe, 4 different ways they can interact? 1. the cello has the primary idea and the piano is supporting, 2. the piano has the primary idea and the cello is supporting, 3. either instrument is playing alone, or 4. they're both playing together as a kind of chorale. At the moment, what you have so far is overwhelmingly just #4.

One place where I think this works particularly well is the chorale texture in bars 13-18. The voice leading (they way each individual instrument maintains its own melodic ideas while contributing to the overall harmony) is interesting, and just unusual enough that it still works but has a delightfully distinctive sound.

However! I think you have a lot of room to explore possibilities 1-3 from above. Most of the time both instruments are equally balanced in their roles, and I think some agile maneuvering around who's in the spotlight and who's the accompanist (or partner in crime) would give you even more flexibility to be even more imaginative with your harmony and melody writing, which already has a lot of strengths.

One final thought: I love that you emphasize concrete, identifiable rhythmic ideas that you use as the building blocks of your melodies. This is an important skill to have and to understand. Right now, though, you might be sticking a little too close to home. For example, by the 3rd instance of quarter-quarter -eighth-eighth- quarter in bar 6, I wish there were a little bit more rhythmic variety. Perhaps you can use this rhythmic "unit" as a framework, but build it up into something a bit more complex this third time around? Same principle in bar 24 in the piano: by the third time I've heard those 4 sixteenths, I'm ready for them to have grown and transformed a bit—almost like they learn something about themselves each time.

This is a great start, Courtney—please keep up the good work! As always, please let me know if you have any questions.

Happy composing!

#1 Erik Nielsen 2017-02-03 16:36
Dear Courtney,
Thanks for posting the first version of your duet for cello and piano. I have been unable to see your score. There seems to be some sort of host error with the Music-first site so the piece won't open. We'll check into this, but rest assured you'll get a comment as soon as we can get to your music.

Best wishes,
Erik Nielsen
Senior Mentor

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