Saturday, January 14, 2017

Post No. 9.

This one is an analysis of my originally-composed piano concerto. I'm going to publish this post in conjunction with the one about my novel. Like A Killer's Storm, the piano concerto has been a very long process. And, like my novel, it's had its moments of despair and triumph.

The work began as a three-movement concerto, last January. Over the spring and summer I wrote more movements--a scherzo movement, a funeral march to replace the original middle movement, and completely-rewritten first and third movements. But ultimately I was dissatisfied with all of them. They all seemed fake, like aimless film music. I tried to redevelop it into the style of Franz Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 2--which meant bringing it down into one long movement and piecing in material from the old movements.

I thought I had something good here--so I sent it off to the YoungArts scholarship competition in hopes of winning a couple thousand dollars. I had high hopes, and I even think there was something about my application to YoungArts in my first blog post ...

But I didn't even make it into the finals.

Maybe I thought too highly of my own talents. It was kind of a shock.

The truth is, I think still have a ways to go as a musician and composer. I've been writing music for about fourteen months, and I've learned so much along the way. But it takes more time than that to achieve mastery of the art of composition and hope to actually compete with the other musicians.

Now I've come back to the concerto--in some ways, it feels connected to my novel. Now, let's be clear--this song is not a musical realization of A Killer's Storm. But it does have chapters or sections that reflect the classic action-adventure story plot.

Each section (or chapter) is labeled with an Italian expression marking that reflects the content of the music and describes how I want it to be played. The structure goes something like this:

1) Largo Maestoso Appassionato, which is Italian for "slow, majestic and passionate." The opening bars are kind of like a dark battle. As Ryan would say, an "orc-war march."

2) Allegretto, which means "at a brisk tempo, but slower than allegro." This is the first ray of hope in the dark opening--this is the scene when the hero first steps up to challenge the evil villain.

3) Adagio Cantabile translates to "moderately slow and singing." In a movie, this would be a tender relationship scene, during which we get to know the hero's friends, allies, and 'love interest.' Just as this is the time when a story will more deeply develop the character, I develop the opening motifs into a theme that has been apart of this concerto since the day I first conceived it.

4) Tempo I/Quasi Marziale means "return to the opening tempo, like martial." The hero has made his big decision to go face the villain, and marches out to meet him head-on. The pace and tension rise as the chapter progresses. This section further condenses the love theme, then expands it again, building it up into the core motif of the entire piece--all the while, the piano is thundering continuous octaves in both hands.

5) Allegro e molto con fuoco means "Lively, and with much fire." The battle is driving full-force. Like an action movie, the music rushes from one theme to another, as though in a car chase. The scene builds into a thunderous cadenza for the pianist--albeit quite a long and difficult one. Even I would have trouble playing it if I were to learn it, which I don't have the skills or time to do at this point.

6) Meno Allegro. This means "less lively." This section is actually directly from the revision of my first movement, though at a slightly slower tempo than written initially. Again, this equates a relationship and character-driven scene, a retreat from the conflict into a safer place to rest and regroup. In tactical terms, this is a victory for the villain, and the hero has lost an ally and dear friend. He wonders if it's even worth fighting any more. As I once heard at an OCW writer's conference, it's the 'dark night of the soul.'

7) Adagio Resoluto means "moderately slow and resolute." The hero doesn't give up--he can't. Not when so much depends on him. So he calls his scattered allies back and forms a plan for one final attack.

8) Tempo de con Fuoco is "at a speed that's with fire." But this is not a return to the con fuoco theme, but instead a sped-up rehashing of the very first theme. The villain is enjoying his spoils, and believes that he has won. But then he sees that the hero was not defeated as hoped, and is now coming out of his hole to defeat him once and for all. Enraged, he sends everything he has against the hero's small resistance. But the hero is clever, and he gains the upper hand in the battle--hence the tonal shift from C minor to E-flat major. And then the hero and the villain are fighting hand-to-hand in a precarious position. Stakes are high--the winner of this fight will swiftly win the battle. And then the hero strikes down his enemy and the war is won. He and his friends celebrate and step in to fill the role that the villain had before, only now with justice and solid leadership.

Thank you for reading. Now you should go listen to my concerto--the link to YouTube is 

Thanks for praying, everyone! Then, now, and every day in the future. And I'll make sure to do the same for you.

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