View Full Version : Finally Finished (sort of)

06-07-2004, 08:56 PM
(on 7/14 I changed the link to version that is slightly cleaner in some spots)
(edited again on 6/24/2004 to add link to Gary's version with larger hall)

I’ve been pretty busy and haven’t stopped by for a while. Anyway, below is a link to part of what made me so busy – the link goes to the (almost) complete first movement of St. George and the Dragon.

A few things to notice-

I said “almost”. I’m still going to go back in, clean up performances, improve dynamics, change some parts, maybe change whole sections, etc.

I also said “first movement”. I have at least some material written for three more movements. One reason I point this out is because of the title – most people are looking for a climatic battle between good and evil. If one happens, it will be in the fourth movement.

This is my first attempt at orchestration. You can most likely tell. I used this to do some experimentation. If you wonder why I used a weird combination, now you know.

As a first orchestration I am looking more for composition and arrangement, not performance or recording (at least not at this point).

Anyway, any comments (or kicks in the shin for being foolish enough to attempt something like this for a first try) are welcome and appreciated.


Later in the thread Gary posted a link to version where he ran it through a reverb with a 1400 seat hall - here is a link near the top -

St. George and the Dragon Copyright Trent McDonald 2004. Recorded with GPO

06-07-2004, 09:32 PM
any comments (or kicks in the shin for being foolish enough to attempt something like this for a first try) are welcome and appreciated.


Thanks for posting the first movement of "St. George and the Dragon." I was wondering where you'd been and remember your first version in April.
This is quite a project and I appreciate your sharing it with us as it has progressed along the way.

IMHO I don't think you need to change any parts or sections.
I like the way you develop your themes, your instrumentation and especially those atonal string tabs at about 5:20. There's always some final polishing that could be done.

When you are finally finally finished I hope I could put this on the GPO demo page. It is hard to believe this is your first attempt at orchestration. You don't deserve a kicks in the shin but rather a medal.

Gary Garritan

06-08-2004, 02:16 AM
I agree with Garry on the whole line. I find your piece managed very much. I think too that your composition does not need any modifications. But I would propose that you use resonance a little bit. That would create more three-dimensional sound.



06-08-2004, 03:50 PM
Gary, thanks for the comments. One of the parts I had the most fun doing was the recapitulation, where I swapped strings and winds, particularly the violins you are talking about – the first time I used the winds for bell tones. At 5:22 the violins sound more like someone being stabbed with icicles. Anyway, I’d be honored to have this posted on the demo page.

Blackster, thanks for the comments. By “resonance” do you mean more reverb? Perhaps some type of convolution reverb, like SIR?

Hardy Heern
06-08-2004, 05:03 PM
Impressive piece Trent. Keep it up!


06-09-2004, 01:21 AM
Yes, I mean reverb. Cause by using more reverb you will create a more three-dimensional room. That will sound more impressive.

06-09-2004, 01:12 PM

If that is your first attempt then all I can say is WOW! You've got a good amount of natural ability.

Only minimal kicks to the shin. I think there are a couple of places where I would use another color instead of low brass. I think you would like the end result more when you hear it with human players. Sorry I can't give the exact spots - the demos load into my browser via Quicktime and there is no time reference.

There are also some spots where a live orchestra will be a bit out of balance and some of your colors will get hidden. But again, not too many places.

There are some really great moments in there. I also like the way you handle dissonance. Really awesome first attempt. I hope you study with someone?

06-09-2004, 02:02 PM

I really like what you've done with this since the first excerpt. There is a definite medieval flavor in spots. Oddly enough, I also hear a consistent Copland influence, which actually works quite well in this setting.

Are you trying to paint something particular in this movement (in a sub-title sense), or are you setting the mood for the follow-on movements? Either way is fine, I'm just curious.

The momentum and flow is excellent throughout. The rate of change in orchestration and registration is most appropriate and very engaging. I think we'd both be surprised how well this sounds played by a live orchestra.

A moderate broadening in tempo to the end, from say 7:19 on, might be considered.

Excellent effort and I look forward to the rest of the suite, should you decide to post it.

06-09-2004, 02:55 PM
This is very ambitious project for a first attempt! You remind me of when I was a young lad: start big and get bigger. You've done an excellent job with the performances and the orchestration. It will be great to hear the completed work.

06-09-2004, 04:02 PM
Hardy, thanks for listening and for the comments.

Blackster, I thought that’s what you meant, just wanted to be sure. I never know how much reverb to add so usually don’t add enough. I’ll work on this as I get closer to a final mix.

Chad, thanks for the comments. I have been playing with synthesizers for a while, but never anything like this. I’ve never tried to make anything that would be playable for a live ensemble. I’ve also never gone beyond a dozen or so midi tracks (I have 67 tracks for this). So I’m not totally new at writing or playing with different sonic colors, just new at real orchestration and writing on this scale.

I can think of a few places I went pretty heavy on the lower brass. Do you think the sound would be too “fat” and not crisp enough? I’ll listen and think of alternatives. As far as places were balance might out with a live orchestra, I’m assuming the brass would over power more in real life?

Currently I’m studying with a handful of books but no living person. I also signed up for the string course that Peter Alexander is offering, though I haven't had time to work on it yet.

Thanks again for all of the comments.

Darwin, thanks for listening and for the comments. I used church modes throughout to try to get a more medieval feel, yet I also wanted this to be more modern sounding (20th century if not 21st). I wasn’t thinking Copland in particular, though I’m sure he has influenced me. I tried to listen to everything as I was working on this but may have leaned towards Prokofiev.

There are a few places I’m not too sure about the flow, particularly between sections, so I am glad you feel it builds smoothly. As I reached the end (around 7:25) I slowed it a little. I’ll try starting earlier and slowing more.

Thanks again for the comments.

jmc, thanks for the comments. Unfortunately, though I’m just starting with this type of music, I’m not a young lad any more. But I feel young at heart, so I guess that’s what counts.

06-09-2004, 04:28 PM
I can think of a few places I went pretty heavy on the lower brass. Do you think the sound would be too “fat” and not crisp enough? I’ll listen and think of alternatives. As far as places were balance might out with a live orchestra, I’m assuming the brass would over power more in real life?

Yes. I always think about Richard Strauss' comment - don't look at the trombones. It only encourages them. :) The brass can dominate the entire orchestra (except for some percussion) without batting an eyelash. The louder the dynamic marking, the more it dominates.

If you want that particular color without it consuming everything, you may have to adjust the dynamic of the brass a couple of notches lower than the rest of the ensemble. That comes in time with the experience of hearing it come from humans. It's easy enough to adjust on the spot at least.

Also, you other reference about "crispness" is accurate. You will get more of a bite in the passages I was thinking of with cellos + bassons a.2 (in unison), bass clarinet+bassoons a.2, bass cl.+cello. The sound will still cut through but it will shed some of the weight at the same time. If you want it more brittle and edgy, direct the cellos to play "sul ponticello" which means bow near the bridge. Mark "naturale" when you want them to stop it.

You should try and find a person to study with. You really do have a great natural sense and, with a good teacher, I don't think it would take you long to develop a very strong command of it. Hope I helped. :)


06-09-2004, 05:09 PM
Darwin, sorry, I forgot your one question. I write with ideas in my head, but not really as a sound track. As I’m completing a section I might think, “Oh, this could represent xxx” but I don’t start of trying to write a scene, like a movie. The movement as a whole was going to be subtitled “The Dragon”, but as I ended it I think I might have gone to far a field to keep that subtitle.

Chad, yes, that does help. Thanks.

As far as a person to study with, I have no idea where to begin. I am trying to get more involved in the local music scene so I may come across somebody.

Thanks for your advice and help.

06-11-2004, 03:06 PM
Overly talented and gifted people like you make Dimora cry *weeps* :(

Fantastic job! And a first time too!! It's apparent that you still have much to contribute to the world of music, regardless of your age! St. George and the Dragon, great story for a musical piece too!

Anyways, back to being sad *sulks away*

ps - I love the cat photos on your page! ;)

06-11-2004, 03:43 PM
Oh no, you looked at my page? I haven't worked on that for ages - I keep it as a convenient place to put music or photos I want to share. Someday I'll have to update it and clean it up......

Thanks for the comments. I listen to some of the great music posted on this site and feel embarrassed I posted my piece. Reading a post like yours makes me feel better about it.

06-23-2004, 11:49 PM

Thanks again for posting "St. George and the Dragon". As I mentioned privately, I took a try at applying an impulse of a 1,400 seat concert hall. Let me know how you like it and if I drowned your fantastic composition in any way, I will remove the link post haste.


Looking forward to hearing the 2nd Movement!

Gary Garritan

06-24-2004, 03:58 PM
I really like it and think it's amazing how much the reverb adds to the character. When I am listening to it I almost forget it’s my music I am listening to which lets me hear the whole thing instead of nit picking about “Oh, that part isn’t quite right”.

I liked this enough add the link to the top (original) post.

Is this done with SIR? I need to play around with SIR. Or maybe you have a surprise in store for us for the next upgrade to GPO…….. Hmmmmm, asking about the best halls in the world…….. A connection, maybe?