Mentoring Program

Crescilla's Theme

This is a song for my AP Music Theory 3rd Quarter Composition assignment, Theme and Variations. I also intend to use the various variations as background music in a show I want to make in the distant future. I want to have the variations be Baroque, Happy, French, and Epic. Baroque Examples: French Examples: Epic Examples:
Grade Level: 12
Intended For: Not Sure
Software Used: Noteflight
Instrumentation: Harpsichord
Key: D minor
Meter Signature: 3/4
Tempo: 80
Status: Work in Progress
Noteflight URL: Website Title
Located in: MMU AP Theory


#14 Zachary Sheets 2017-04-06 16:01
Hey Ben,

Awesome, thanks for sharing! It's really evident that you worked very hard on this, and you've come such a long way and improved so much from your initial drafts. In the last week or two you've especially made a lot of progress with the overall structure and form, refining it to have a real clarity with introduction and the various themes, motifs, and variations. I hope you're pleased with how this has turned out—it was a lot of fun working together. Hopefully we'll see you back with Music-COMP writing more music in the future!


#13 Benjamin Slattery 2017-04-04 10:01
Hi Zach,

I finished the first draft (and submitted it to my teacher) so feel free to check it out!

#12 Zachary Sheets 2017-04-03 14:53
Hi Benjamin,

Just checking in to say hi and see what's up—looking forward to seeing the final version. Let me know how things turn out!

#11 Zachary Sheets 2017-03-28 09:29
Hi Benjamin!

Ah, oops, you're right! Sorry about that. As I was making my list of examples, I goofed up because of the page break—I didn't see the A major chord on the next page). Do watch out for the Bb major in 2nd inversion in bar 50, though!

I do think your cadential I64 in 46-48 works, although I wonder about landing on a root position D minor chord in 48, instead of i6. Cadential 6/4 is often used for pretty strong cadences, so I'm not sure about resolving to a first inversion chord (which are generally weaker)—especia lly with such a resolute and pounding rhythm in the bass. Just my 2¢.

Looking forward to your next post!

#10 Benjamin Slattery 2017-03-26 20:43
Hi Zach,

Although I won't have a chance to talk about your other comments until another message, I wanted to talk to you about what you said about second inversions. You are right about there being second inversions that I should change, but I made the one on measure 46 on purpose because I was trying to do a i64 Cadence like we learned about in Music Theory (though we learned it as I64). Do you think the i64 Cadence works?

#9 Zachary Sheets 2017-03-24 23:51
Dear Benjamin,

Great, thanks for checking in. This is an impressive amount of music!

In the future, please try to check in more often, whenever you have a draft of something ready. Even if it’s something as small as 8 or 12 bars, or a general idea of what you want to do, it can be really helpful to get a dialogue going about it.

To answer your question about cadences—I’m afraid it’s not quite as simple as that. While one of the defining features of baroque music is its cadences, not all music has its character so strongly defined in this way. In the case of the French cafe-style music, it’s a lot to do with instrumentation and timbre, and in the case of the “epic” music you’re talking about, it’s a lot to do with big build-ups and sustaining the energy with repeated rhythmic patterns. So, I’m afraid cadences aren’t necessarily always the answer.

Since you’ve got a lot of music down on paper and since your deadline is coming up soon, I’ll mostly focus on some general principles that should help you as you keep working and point you towards the finish line.

As far as the epic music goes, I think you’re on the right track that having a pulsing sense of rhythm and a strong bass is really important. I think dynamics will also be huge for this—making a big build-up and then a dramatic moment is the name of the game!

As far as French style, it’s a bit harder to pin down what makes it sound like it does, although using accordion is certainly a step in the right direction. Generally, my sense is that this music has much more flowing and constant motion. What if you used your main theme as a general framework, using the original pitches like “anchor points”, but filled in many of the gaps with running, flowing eighth notes? That might be a nice change of character for the accordion part on pages 11-13, anyway, since you’re soon to begin a relatively pulsing, beat-heavy 3/4 section around page 15 and following.

General comments on the big picture:

The harpsichord section that begins on page 6 (in 4/4 time) is nice, and I like the circle of 5ths sequences that you use. However, it’s different enough than your main theme that I think you need to incorporate it carefully into your variations—espe cially since all the other variations do very literal and similar renditions of the theme.

The other idea that strikes me as a bit out of place is the harpsichord solo on pages 9-10. This looks like it’s still a work-in-progres s, but I’ll admit I’m not quite sure what function you ultimately plan to have it serve. In a way it looks like a kind of modulation or transition, but it’s different enough than the main theme that I’m not quite sure how the puzzle pieces fit together—especi ally since it comes on the heels of the idea in bar 19 that’s already quite distant from your original idea. Wandering far from a literal repeat isn’t bad, but when you have two instances of that right in a row, it’s risky that the ear won’t follow. But, maybe you’re planning to add more stuff to the section.

I love that the string interlude is in a different key, and F major is a nice choice. Perhaps one of your other variations could be in a different key area, too? Maybe transpose one to G minor or A minor instead of sticking in D minor? A modulation will keep things sounding fresh!

Finally, something about harmony. As you know from your theory class, chords in second inversion (with the fifth on the bottom) are usually awkward and weak and reserved for special occasions. Watch out for these as you’re working, in places like 26 (A major, E on the bottom), or 46 (D minor, A on the bottom). Try to avoid these and catch little examples as you’re working; putting the third or the root on the bottom will sound much better!

OK Benjamin, good luck! Remember: (1) think about that section on pg 9-10, (2) think about a big buildup with dynamics for the epic variation, (3) more flowing notes in the French variation, and (4) no clumsy second inversion chords! Keep up the good work!
#8 Benjamin Slattery 2017-03-22 15:30
Hi Zach,

I was actually just about to message you today that I have my first drafts for all 3 variations. I was wondering if you know of any French cadences or any epic cadences I could use. The due date for this assignment is soon so I won't be able to finish writing as much as I wanted.

#7 Zachary Sheets 2017-03-22 13:08
Hi Benjamin,

How's it going? Haven't heard from you in a while, so just checking in!

#6 Zachary Sheets 2017-02-20 09:47
I should clarify, about the worksheet in the link: these are meant as a kind of template or framework for you to build off. Obviously they would sound really clumsy if they were just parachuted in to your piece verbatim, so think of them as foundation to point you in the right direction—perha ps all you need is an impression or a shadow of them to help orient your own cadences.
#5 Zachary Sheets 2017-02-20 09:41
Dear Ben,

Hi! Thanks for clarifying: gotcha. I had misunderstood and thought that it was whatever was coming next that was supposed to sound baroque.

In this case, let's dig a little bit more into baroque style—I imagine this will feel right at home with a lot of the work you've done in AP theory this year. Basically, I have two suggestions that will finish off setting the theme a little more squarely in a baroque style (and that, in general, I think will help the opening be a little stronger). I'm going to focus this comment almost entirely on really getting the baroque version in great shape, but I promise I'll give you a hand to push forward into the "French" variation starting with my next comment. Cool? Cool.

So, the first thing for the opening 16 bars is that I think you can do even a little bit more to make the left hand more flexible. One thing about baroque style is that it’s often obsessed with every note being part of an independent musical line. This idea of multiple lines threaded together (which we call counterpoint, as you might know) is tricky, since you have to find ways to get your ideas to flow horizontally as well as stack-up nicely vertically. What you do in measures 3-5 is a good example of the kind of thing you’ll want to do a bit more often to emulate a baroque style. Rather than just a simple accompaniment pattern in the left hand (like oom-pah-pah), do you see how it fits with the harmony but still makes its own melodic shape? This is great. It takes some work, but adding in more details like these will really help give it some brilliance. Some oom-pah-pahs are fine, but for my taste at the moment they're still a bit too frequent. Measure 12 is one opportunity, certainly: I wonder if you could do something a bit more melodically engaging than those repeated notes. They have a kind of triumphant, trumpet-fanfare quality that for my taste maybe makes a little more sense somewhere else—perhaps later, maybe in the "epic" variation?

Another things about baroque music is that there are certain harmonic formulas that are really, really common, and using them will instantly point our ears towards the baroque. I must confess I didn't grow up playing pokemon (I was more of a crash bandicoot and spyro the drago kind of guy) so I had to listen to your youtube samples to understand where you're going next. I realized a lot of your cadences in these opening 16 bars are cut from very similar cloth to the ones you'll need to use next to emulate something like Prof. Sycamore's theme—seems like these were "in your ear", as it were, as you were working on bars 1-16, too. There are some things in common, and I think you probably already have a grasp on this from your AP theory coursework, but my suggestion is that you try to make your cadences in the baroque version a little more, well, "baroque", so that the harmonic moves from the Prof. Sycamore universe are fresher when we first hear them.

This gets really hard to explain in text, so I made a little handout for you here:

There's a pdf file and a little mp3 file so you can hear the examples. These are generic examples of baroque and classical cadences. They'll all in 4/4 and C major, and mostly block chords with no patterns or rhythmic finesse, so naturally you will need to adapt them to fit your minor key and 3/4 time (and the fact that you're writing music, not just a theory exercise!). These cadences have a certain iconic quality to them (I bet they'll sound familiar and very "baroque-y"), so the act of converting them into a different key and time signature is probably a good compositional exercise in translation. Some places where they might be especially useful are: bars 7-9, 12-13, and 15-16.

So, using the help of this cadences worksheet, your coursework this year in AP theory, and your ears / creative imagination, see what you can do to push the harmony and cadences a little more into baroque territory, and keep thinking about ways to give the left hand a slightly more independent or melodic quality. That will set you up really well to pivot into your next sonic world in the next variation. Good luck!


Add comment

Security code