Mentoring Program

Echoes From the Far Hall

This piece is for my AP Music Theory third quarter composition assignment and consists of a theme and three variations thereupon. The theme motive is something I have had stuck in my head for a while, and seems to be at least somewhat based on Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite No.1, Op.46, IV. In the Hall of the Mountain King.
Grade Level: 12
Intended For: Live Instrument Performance
Software Used: Noteflight
Instrumentation: Piano & Violin
Key: C major, with lots of accidentals
Meter Signature: 4/4
Tempo: 140; varies
Status: Completed Work
Noteflight URL: Website Title
Located in: MMU AP Theory


#16 Matthew LaRocca 2017-03-30 22:01
I'll echo that, Benjamin. You were an absolutely pleasure to work with, and your theme and variations came out very, very well. I love the last variation too. it's the perfect way to end it!

Keep writing music! You've got a lot of skill at it. You should write with Music-COMP next year. I think you'd really enjoy it.

#15 Benjamin Nussbaum 2017-03-30 17:52

Thank you so much for your thoughts and comments on my composition throughout the past month and a half or so; I really appreciate it.

I think the final baroque-style variation turned out quite well, and serves as a fitting conclusion to the piece.

I had a great time working with you.

Thanks again,
#14 Matthew LaRocca 2017-03-24 09:32
Benjamin, this is very, very cool. I love what you’ve got started.

I think that trying to make the melody into a fugue would be insanely difficult. Typically, fugue melodies are fairly short, and follow a pretty standard harmonic flow.

But sticking to baroque-ish cadences and a bach style harmony is totally doable. What you’ve got going on contrapuntally in the first two bars really works well, so I would keep going with that. You’re going to get some harmonies that are pretty out there and not really baroque, but I think that is not only OK but a good thing. Keep the baroque sensibility and contrapuntal nature, but let the harmony be very modern.

Here’s a resource of typical baroque-era cadences from one of our other mentors. It’s really helpful and worth checking out. Your chords don’t often move in V-I motion, but the final cadence is definitely V-I to B major so that’s a possibility to use some of those there.

#13 Benjamin Nussbaum 2017-03-22 21:55
Hey Matt,

Thank you for your thoughts; I changed the rhythm a bit as you suggested.

In terms of what baroque elements I'm looking for, I was thinking about having something essentially the same as the theme, but with a much more intricate chord structure forming a Bach-style 4 part harmony. Perhaps it could fit as a fugue with the repetitive nature of the melody? In any case, I would like to implement counterpoint, an interesting chord progression, and cadences to fit the period structure of the melody—or as much of any of those as the inherent chromaticism will allow.

Thus far, I have attempted to fill in the first two measures, modifying the original melody slightly in m. 29 to keep things interesting. Although it sounds cool, I'd definitely be up for changing things to fit a more "classical" structure/chord progression. Similarly to the second variation, I would like to extend this one to a three-phrase or even double-period, depending on how well the part writing for the chords goes...

#12 Matthew LaRocca 2017-03-17 21:24
Hey Ben,

Cool - that turned out sweet! I really like it. If you change anything, I would vary the rhythm just a bit more - it’s a lot of the same rhythm in m. 16. I think just a tad too much of it. So it could be good to add small changes. Even something as simple as: eighth, eighth, quarter, half would be a noticeable switch.

I really like how in m. 25 we get the pulse on each beat - it moves it forward in a really good way.

What sort of baroque elements are you after for the final variation?

#11 Benjamin Nussbaum 2017-03-15 23:14
Hey Matt,

Thanks for your feedback!

As you suggested, I tried playing with first eight notes, and I think it turned out well. As you will see, I tried to make the chords a bit more interesting than the theme, in particular towards mm.25-28 as I step out of the 8-bar pattern.

I feel like the additional chords work well with the extended melody, but I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on that.

In terms of the final variation, I was thinking about trying to implement more baroque elements, and would ideally be again longer than eight measures, have a strong chord progression, and work around the chromaticism as much as possible.

#10 Matthew LaRocca 2017-03-08 12:54
Hi Ben,

You know, the more I listen to measure 11, the more I think it’s fine. I can’t pinpoint just why it sounded off, and after listening to if a bunch of times it has grown on me. I would say if you’re OK with it, you should keep it. Also, I think that whole variation sounds spot on now - the slower tempo really makes it work. Nicely done!

I like where you’re going with the next variation. The chromaticism of the melody definitely works well with it fitting over the different chords. I think you can take a larger sense of freedom and liberty with the theme and chords. I definitely think that if you can spin out things a bit more so it frees itself of being an 8 bar phrase, it would be cool. It could be that you keep the same pitches, but don’t feel tied in to retrograding the rhythm exactly. But if you take the first eight pitches, and then try to write a melody out of them, over two bars, without feeling constrained to it being all eighth notes - what would happen then?

Think of the overall musical feel for this variation, and use that as your jumping off point. The first variation was very distinct (jaunty? popping? not sure exactly how to describe the feel but I know exactly what it is)…make the second feeling distinct too. Is it lyrical? Passionate? Fiery? Figure that out, give yourself some freedom, take liberty with the chords and phrasing, and see what happens!

#9 Benjamin Nussbaum 2017-03-07 20:54
Hi Matt,

Thanks for your thoughts on the first variation.

I tried adding in some eighth notes on the downbeats as you suggested, and it does indeed sound better. Regarding your comment about m.11, as with the other measures, I simply copied the first half of the piano part below, and delayed it two beats. Perhaps it could be something with the intervals between it and the rest of the piano part below, but they also appear in other measures which you didn't comment on. In any case, I agree that it sounds a bit off. Did you have a specific fix in mind?

In the next section, I started working on the second variation; right now it consists of the same chords as the theme, and the same melodic rhythm, but the notes over all eight measures have been reversed. (I also included the true reversal including rhythm starting in m.25) Indeed, it seems the underlying chords still fit somewhat nicely (a property I feel the alternate version does not share), probably because the melody is so chromatic. That being said, do you have any thoughts for improving the progression? I'd like to make this variation the most different from the theme, perhaps even add more measures to stretch things out, then pull everything back together with the final variation.

#8 Matthew LaRocca 2017-03-04 20:15
Hi Benjamin,

Love the interplay between the violin and piano. That’s awesome.

A few things to think about:

-It feels a little fast to me in the second part…see if you like it a bit slower. Maybe 120 or even 108-112. It will have a different feel that way.

-The piano chords should be kept within an octave span each time you jump. so looking at m. 10, 13, and 16 those chords on beats 2 and 4 are too large for that tempo. They should all be either within an octave span, or triads would be just as effective as well.

-The violin pizzicato line should continue to the down beat of the next bar to create a more seamless phrase. It may be hard to tell with the computer, but in the real world with real musicians it would make a big difference. right now, the violin line just ends each measure, but it’s a driving line to what’s to come. So m. 10 it would be a C# or A eighth note to continue the line and harmony, followed by a beat and half of rest, then what you have for the next harmonization. M. 11 I think you should make sure that’s the violin part you want…it sounded a little funny to me. M. 12 would have a D eighth note on the down beat and so on and so on for the whole violin part. This dovetailing of the phrases is a really nice tough. Let me know if that all makes sense!

#7 Benjamin Nussbaum 2017-03-01 22:45
Hi Matt,

Thanks once more for your insightful feedback!

I tried playing with the bass line at the end of the theme, just making it a bit more interesting as you suggested.

For the violin part in the first variation, I had them repeat the first half of each measure in the second half, readjusting the octave in some cases to make it sound better since they are playing pizzicato.

For the piano, I switched things up a bit as mentioned to the bass note-chord style, although instead of the having the root in beat three, I opted for the 5th to keep things moving, at least up to m.15 where the chords start changing within the measures again.

In terms of the next variation, I am considering inversion, reversal, or some mixture of the two, while also perhaps messing with the rhythm yet again.


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