Mentoring Program

Across the Universe

811 userid
I chose to do "Across the Universe" by the Beatles for my composition. I experimented with many different instruments but eventually landed on these.
Grade Level: 11
Intended For: Not Sure
Software Used: Noteflight
Instrumentation: Cello, Harp, Vibraphone
Key: B Flat
Meter Signature: 4/4
Tempo: 66
Status: Work in Progress
Noteflight URL: Website Title
Located in: MMU AP Theory


#19 Zachary Sheets 2017-04-06 16:05
Hi Hannah,

Great—if you're happy with how things turned out, that's what matters! Congrats on a job well done, and thank you for all your hard work, interesting ideas, and thoughtful self-assessment and reflection. It really made this process a pleasure, and it's been a blast working together. Have a great rest of the semester! I hope we'll see you back writing more music with Music-COMP next year.


#18 Hannah Loggins 2017-04-04 10:06
I finished up my piece and handed it in but I didn't have a chance to make these changes. But I like how it turned out so its okay. Thank you so much for all the feedback this quarter! It's been so helpful and I've learned so much.

Thanks again!
#17 Zachary Sheets 2017-03-31 15:15
Hi Hannah,

Thanks for your comment. This is in great shape, so I'll dive right into your question about modulation. I hope this isn't coming too last-minute before your deadline—I was caught up making sure everything was in order with my students writing for Music-COMP's Opus program, which were all due yesterday.

As for your modulation into C major, you're actually just about there! The most common way to modulate is to use a chord that's in-common between the two keys to "pivot" between them. In this case, in bar 35, you're using a G minor (ish) chord with an F on the bottom as a pivot. The only thing I might recommend is "enhancing" that G minor (ish) chord into a G7 chord in the second part of bar 35 to help lead our ears to C major a little better. Think of it like gradually morphing from one version of a chord to another—that's the mechanism helps the modulation happen! So, for instance, try this:

-make the Eb's on beats 2 and 3 of bar 35 into E naturals (start leading our ear towards C major, which has no sharps/flats)
-make the harp half note on beat 3 a G instead of an F
-add a B natural on beat 3 to what is now a half note G, so that you have a G7 chord.

Now C feels like home when we get there! What do you think?

Now, the other thing is that you might want to modulate back into Bb major before the end—like coming back home after exploring a different place! If so, you'll need to make a transition that modulates back to Bb. It would be pretty easy to do so, using the same logic about a "pivot" chord that we used before. In this case, you're already started outlining F major (sort of) in bar 43. So, what if you added another few bars of this pattern, repeating the same figure, but adding a few flats so that you come imply F dominant instead? Then, you could transpose what is currently bars 44-50 (when the cello comes back in) to be back in Bb major for the ending, and it'll sound totally natural. It's a bit hard to explain in text exactly what I'm talking about, here, so you can see one example of the kind of thing I'm talking about here:
click on the one marked "Universe modulation". That shows what I'm talking about but in notation form, with a few comments on what's going on.

I love what you've done with the cello in the last 5 bars, by the way!

I hope this reaches you in time before the official deadline for your project, Hannah! Please feel free to show my comment to your teacher and let him/her know that I didn't realize you hadn't covered modulation yet and that I wrote you back with a bit of a delay from your prompt posting on Tuesday. It would be great for you to have time for one last push to stitch everything together.

Thanks for all your hard work! This has been a lot of fun!

#16 Hannah Loggins 2017-03-28 21:16
I added some more to my 3rd variation and did some polishing in other places? Other than the canon variation changing key, I don't think I have any trouble spots. Any more suggestions?

#15 Hannah Loggins 2017-03-28 18:04
I am currently working on trying to put the canon variation into a different key, but I'm having a little trouble with the transition. I actually haven't learned about modulating yet so I don't really know where to start.
#14 Zachary Sheets 2017-03-25 08:36
oopsies—I wrote that comment after a long day of traveling and playing last night, and there were a few typos. It's now edited and updated and makes a little more sense :)

#13 Zachary Sheets 2017-03-24 23:45
Dear Hannah,

Thanks for your post and your revision. This is really starting to take shape! Hope you had fun at New Englands! I was in the orchestra, myself, in ’07-09.

As far as further ideas go, I still wonder about the possibility of developing your melodic ideas a little farther from their original version. You’re doing really interesting work breaking it up into 1- and 2-bar fragments, but basically everything we hear is still a literal statement of some snippet from the original tune. Perhaps think about it like an improvisation? You have your original idea, which you take as a foundation, but you slowly wander away from it. Some things might stay the same, like the contour of the melody, or the anchor points provided by the important pitches in the tune, but others might need to evolve to keep things fresh.

One tool you have at your disposal that you haven’t yet used is modulation. I think working briefly in a different key could do wonders, here. You’re basically in Bb major the whole time, but a variation in a different key could also help keep things sounding fresh. Maybe the canon variation is a good candidate? It would require a transition in and out of it, but, as it stands I think you might want to think about the transition in and out of this variation, anyway.

Speaking of which, let’s look at that transition in bar 36, which I agree isn’t working as well as it could. Rhythmically and orchestrational ly I think it’s good—the issue, for me, has more to do with line and harmony. First, I don’t feel that there’s anything that really draws our ear to the entry of the vibraphone on the downbeat of 38. I feel like bar 37 is the end of one thing, and bar 38 the beginning of the next, but it sounds like your goal is to make more of a stitch between them. The second and more important thing is that I don’t quite understand what’s going on harmonically. That Ab is quite striking, especially coming from Bb major land, so it really grabs my attention. But, then, I don’t understand the harmony on the downbeat of 37: G-F-C? My ear wants to think of that as a G dom7 chord with a suspension (resolving C-B), but since that doesn’t happen I instead wind up unclear on what the key and the home tone is. Can you tell me a little more about what you want to have happen harmonically, there? Maybe that will change naturally if you decide to take me up on my suggestion to try the canon part (38-44) in a different key.

When you have a situation like you do here, where the cello is in such a different range than the other instruments (and has such a different character), it is indeed tricky to know how to put it to use. What I would advise, principally, is thinking about it like an anchor. Rather than trying to get it to fit in continuously (either during the canons or the first variation), use it to highlight important moments. For instance, what if it just played a note on the downbeat of 38, then a pickup and downbeat into 41, emphasizing a new harmony? I think those kinds of details that emphasize the structure of the phrase are really useful, especially in the bass voice.

Cool, Hannah—keep up the good work. Think about more flexible and improvisatory versions of the original tune if you're still stuck on how to flesh out some of the variations, let me know about your goals / plans for the transition at mm. 36, and consider how you want to use the cello in the otherwise-cello -free variations. Keep up the good work! Best wishes!

#12 Hannah Loggins 2017-03-22 22:05
Hello! Sorry I haven't posted in a while, I had New England Music Festival and things have been crazy busy. I made some edits in my second variation and worked with the rhythm like you said, although I still want to explore that further. I split up the ideas I had in my second variation and used part of it to create my third. I decided to keep the canon for my second, but I don't really know what to do with the cello, and there is a weird transition in m. 36, and I don't exactly know how to fix it. I want to add more to the third variation, but after making a few changes today I got stuck, so I'm going to revisit it in the next couple days. I tried to follow some of your suggestions, but after I deleted measures in a spot, it messed up all the measure numbers. So I had a hard time following some of your specific feedback, but I think I got most of it. At this point I'm really just trying to come up with some ideas to make the last two variations feel more complete, and then doing tidying up in spots that sound off.

#11 Zachary Sheets 2017-03-22 13:06
Hi Hannah!

Just checking in to see how it's going! With the final Opus 32 deadline is just 8 days, I'd love for you to post at least one more time before your final submission. Go go go! Keep up the good work!

#10 Zachary Sheets 2017-03-10 16:56
Oops, it cut my comment in 2!

-Finally, regarding your canons: some of these are great, and some not quite as effective. As is always the challenge with imitative counterpoint, you have to get the harmony to work. So, for example, 36 doesn't quite of the sparkle of some of its neighbors, because the harmony gets muddled. The dissonances someplace like 34 are beautiful, I think, but all the 2nds, 4ths, and 7ths in 36 don't work as well? Why? It has a lot to do with whether our ear can follow the prevailing harmony or not. I would think of these dissonances as expressive notes from outside a chord that rub against the normal notes of a chord. But, if we have too long a chain or too consistent a mesh, it sounds instead like someone's playing wrong notes. By all means keep the dissonances in there, but see if you can assert the harmony just a little clearer. HINT: Like we talked about above, you don't always have to stick so close to literal repetition. Even in fugues, which are extremely complex, we distinguish between exact canons (literal repetition), and "tonal" canons (there's a fancy definition of this, but I prefer "mess around with the notes a little to get it to all fit").

I realized I didn't directly answer your question about the harp in 27-29—but, I think my suggestions about rhythm and line are probably all the push in the right direction you need!

Keep up the great work, Hannah! I've written a lot, but only because you've responded to well to my suggestions and you clearly have a strong idea of what you want to do with this. Feel free to take your time digging into this, or post an intermediary comment after you've address just one or two of my ideas. Or, really, do whatever you'd like—it's your piece, note mine!



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