Mentoring Program

Mountains Grand

Composer Name: Katharina Müller
A brass quartet written in a rhythmic system of three; 3 subdivisions of the beat, 3 beats in a measure, 3 measures in a phrase. The piece highlights the resounding tones of brass instruments in melodies that convey the imagery of an expansive landscape.
Grade Level: 10
Intended For: Live Instrument Performance
Software Used: Sibelius
Instrumentation: B flat Trumpet, French Horn, Trombone, Tuba
Key: D minor
Meter Signature: 9/8
Tempo: Andante, Moderato, Allegro
Status: Work in Progress
File 1: application/octet-streamDownload


#6 Katharina Mueller 2018-02-23 16:30
Hi Erik,
I've rearranged and added to the piece; now it is at a good length of almost three minutes. I've added a snare drum and bass drum, which could either be played on a drum kit by one percussionist or by two on two different instruments. Having another rhythmic voice has helped me define some of the phrases and work in some two-against-thr ee rhythms. The snare with brass also better sets up a regal character to the piece.
Once the snare drum comes in, there isn't yet a point where it falls back out or rests for a measure. I am wondering if it is too much or not. Also, my bass drum play back sounds very out of place, but I am hoping a real drum would sound less flat. What are some options for use of the bass drum? Right now I only have it on beat one or beat three of the measure.
I found and edited a few places where I had parallel fifths and octaves, but please do tell me where any more are.
As for format, I have further established the thematic material from measure 7-15 by reiterating it with a modified repeat at measure 22. At measure 31 starts the middle section, with a different pace and texture. At measure 53 I have moved out of the middle section and am reiterating the original material at measure 7, though with a more drawn out and embellished ending to finish the piece. I did work with themes and variations for a little while, but I continuously felt that three minutes was not enough time to fully elaborate on the thematic material.
I also have questions on scoring. Are the percussion lines written in an easy-to-read way? Also, how should breath marks be used? Thanks for all the feedback so far, hope to hear from you soon.
#5 Erik Nielsen 2018-02-07 10:32
Dear Katya,
Thanks for posting the first revision of your piece. I'm glad you moved it down a whole step and that the tuba in particular is in a lower register. It gives the piece a richer sound. I'm also a bit more comfortable now with the first few bars as introduction and the main theme starting at bar 7, especially now that I've seen that you bring it back at bar 38.

Given what you are doing at the Allegro, I think perhaps a theme and variations is a better way to go than either a rondo or the return you have at 38. The piece really picks up steam in the Allegro and it feels arbitrary and somewhat anticlimactic to slow down and return to the original theme so soon. How about a different variation that keeps the tempo up starting at 38? What about a switch into 4/4 or into major, or both? That's just one set of ideas. At 38 the piece is very close to 1'30" or halfway to the total, so you could do probably two more variations if they're less than 30" apiece and then finish with a coda-return to the opening theme. Think about it.

I'm still concerned about so many parallel octaves, fifths and triads, as well as second inversions, in the piece. I'm not going to make a big deal about it now, as I think it's more important to get down your ideas. My hope is that by continuing to point it out, it will help you to be more conscious of the use of contrary motion, especially between tuba and trumpet, as well as the relative chordal positions of trombone and tuba, so that the lower of the two isn't on the fifth of the chord. There will probably be a reckoning at some point where we'll need to deal with the voice-leading issues in the piece so far, but it doesn't need to be now.

In any case, Katya, as I wrote the last time, the most important thing at the moment is to take the time to figure out the "vessel" for your ideas. Once you have a clearer idea about what form you want (and it needn't be a theme and variations, though what you're doing so far suggests it), you ought to be able to move forward with confidence. Please let me know if you have questions. I look forward to your next posting.

Best wishes,
#4 Katharina Mueller 2018-02-05 21:23
Hi Erik,
I've posted the first revised version of the piece. I have added a bit more material, it is now about two minutes long. I have been experimenting with how much or little of the tonic and dominant chords I need to use to keep the listeners ear centered in the key. I have also transposed the piece down into C minor, with only a few A flats and Gs, nothing above.
The first six measures are meant as an introduction, but I am not attached to them. Measure 7 onward is where the heart of the piece really starts, would that come across better without introduction?
Right now for form, I have an introduction, followed by establishing a bulk of thematic material from measures 7-15. After that, I continue in the same tempo, but a slightly different style of the theme music. On the Allegro at measure 22, the tempo changes, as does the style, though I am trying to stick with the same material. This middle section goes up to measure 37, followed by a brief transition into a recap of the original material at measure 7, though with an extended ending.
I am absolutely not sold on this format. i have considered both rondo and ABCDAB (or AABBCDAB). But with that, I currently have a lot of style changes though the melodies are carried over, and I like that about the piece. So maybe Rondo would be too repetitive? Perhaps I could try themes and variations, closing with the original theme.
Thank you for the starting feedback, I feel that my piece is headed in a good direction because of it.
#3 Erik Nielsen 2018-02-01 15:39
Dear Katya,
Thanks for re-posting. I had no trouble this time in downloading and opening the file. There is a lot of good brass writing in the piece so far, including some alternation of melodic lines and repeated notes, both characteristic of the instruments. You've captured the feeling of brass grandeur very well, especially in bars 7-21. I also like your use of compound meter. It gives a lilt to the music that makes it more lyrical than if it were in 3/4 or some other simple meter.

I do have some questions and concerns. My biggest question at the moment is what you plan for a form for this piece. At the moment, the length of the music you've written is already one-third the total we allow for an Opus piece (three minutes) and it's just getting started, so the form takes on even greater importance given the time strictures we have. I'm also concerned because at the moment it feels as if the piece has two introductions, bars 1-6 and 7-21. What is your purpose with that? It feels to me that bars 1-6 could be compressed into 2-3 bars and gain, rather than lose, effectiveness. This needs some thought.

Harmonically, I'm concerned about the parallel chords (mainly D minor to C major or vice versa). These rob the lines of independence by locking them together as blocks. Compare bar 7 with bars 8 and 9 as an example. In bar 7 the root (D) goes down while other parts go up. That works pretty well, though we can talk about some of the note doubling choices that could be more effective. However, in 8-9 there is so much parallel motion that it feels almost like one instrument rather than four. Look especially at the end of 9 where all parts end on a D. Three of the four go from C to D. Unless you're looking for a unison line for dramatic effect (and it doesn't look that way), this isn't an effective way to use the four instruments.

I'm also a bit concerned about range. Can trumpet hit high concert Bb? Sure, but you have to realize that on Opus days the rehearsals start at noon and go until 5, then the concert comes at 6:30. I've spent many years watching these days and the first thing to go in the concert is trumpet notes above concert G because of fatigue. One solution is to transpose the piece down a whole step to C minor. This will ease the trumpet part as there will only be a single high concert Ab, and if you're careful the rest of the piece not to go above concert G it ought to be okay. It will also help the horn and tuba parts.
Speaking of tuba, I don't see any reason for the tuba to be placed above the trombone (bar 12) or even in the same exact range, as you have it in bars 4, 6-9 and 12-18. It's much better to have some vertical space between the parts as you have from the pickup to 19 onward. (This is somewhat akin to what I talked with you about in reference to piano left hand.)

Katya, your piece has a lot of potential. Please think about the form in particular as well as the voice leading in the parts and the range of the instruments. And please let me know if you have questions. I look forward to your first revision.

Best wishes,
#2 Katharina Mueller 2018-02-01 09:08
I have submitted a Sibelius 6 file of my piece.
I am looking to make this piece sound patriotic, a reflection of American landscapes. I had the idea to perhaps add a snare drum about halfway through the piece.
What is your first impression of the piece?
#1 Erik Nielsen 2018-01-29 10:20
Dear Katya,
I'm very excited to see that you have posted a work for Opus 33. I will be your mentor on this, but unfortunately, we're having the usual problem. I can't open the file with Sibelius 8. My hope is that sometime in the next month or so I'll be in a position to upgrade to the latest version, but until then, can you please make sure to export the piece as Sibelius 6 and upload a version to a "Katharina Mueller Opus 33" folder on Google Drive? I created such a folder, but since I don't seem to have your email address, I can't share it with you. You were able to create a folder last time, so please do the same this time and share it with me. If you have trouble, just email me () and I'll set it up. I hope to hear back from you soon.

Best wishes,

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