View Full Version : Threnody

06-17-2004, 07:29 PM
My Debussy demo back in April was very well received, I'm happy to say. I just hope this one is received half as well. It's an original piece this time, not a transcription.

I offer Threnody, the second movement of my second symphony. Go to http://www.swanswingpress.com and click on "Listen!" (I've also posted a few non-GPO pieces. Hope you like them anyway:))

A little context first. My second symphony was written during the last few months of 2001, most of it immediately following the terrorist attacks of September 11. It was premiered by the Indianaplis Chamber Orchestra in February 2002. "Threnody" is a greek word for a poem of lamentation.

The symphony is in three movements, which are intended to be played without pause, so I think "Threnody" might seem to begin and end a little abruptly. Eventually I plan to realize the entire symphony, so the missing context will be supplied.

The symphony existed as a Finale file, so I exported it from Finale as a MIDI file, opened it in Sonar, and went to work. 7 instances of GPO were used. Instruments include:

Flute solo Vib, Flute ens 1 & 2, Oboe 2 modern solo, English horn 2 solo, Clarinet solo, Bass clarinet solo, Bassoon 2 solo, Bassoon 1 ens 1.

Horn 1 solo, Horn 2 ens 1, horn mute ens 1, horn f overlay, Trumpet 1 ens 1, Trumpet 2 ens 1, Trumpet straight mute ens 1, trumpet overlay.

Timpani, snare drum, vibraphone, harp 1

Lush strings (violin 1/violin 2/viola/cello/bass) plus muted violin 1

Sus/short strings (violin 1/violin 2/viola/cello/bass)

Solo strings (2 solo vl, 2 solo vla, 2 solo cellos, 1 solo bass)

Pizz strings (violin 1/violin 2/viola/cello/bass)

That's it. I hope you all enjoy it.

Karl Garrett
06-17-2004, 09:00 PM
The first word that comes to mind is stunning. The writing, the orchestration, the capturing of the lamentation you were afterÉall are great. It is just magnificent.

Thank you,


06-17-2004, 11:39 PM

This is really outstanding! I had my doubts that your Debussy could be topped but you outdid yourself with "Trenody".

From a compositional point of view the work is extraordinary and reflects a high skill of writing for orchestra. The orchestral colors you portray in this lamentation are in a class of its own and the instrument mix is just right. I couldn't help wonder what this peice would sound like at a higher resolution than 128Kbps.

If this is just the second movement of your second symphony, it would be nice to hear the rest. I hope you do realize the rest of the score.
It must have been a wonderful experience to hear this performed by the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra.

I hope you don't mind if this is featured on the GPO demo page.


Gary Garritan

06-18-2004, 01:24 AM

It must have been a wonderful experience to hear this performed by the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra.

It was indeed! Couple of acquaintances of mine in the orch. also spoke highly of it.

Dan Powers>The symphony existed as a Finale file, so I exported it from Finale as a MIDI file, opened it in Sonar, and went to work.

Dan, could you elaborate on what you did when you "went to work," especially any humanization you might have done with the Finale file and how you used the overlay instruments?

Dan, I hope we cross paths someday. I have couple acquaintances in the brass section of the TH Sym. Brian the tuba player plays in my quintet.

Not sure how far back you go in Terre Haute, but Bob Reifsnyder was at IU same time I was.

Great piece--live and in GPO!!

Regards...Jim W.

06-18-2004, 06:55 AM
Jim, when I "went to work," it mostly involved drawing in mod wheel curves, adjusting velocities, etc. I put in a lot of time drawing in tempo changes, such as slight ritards at the ends of certain phrases and so on. I didn't put in any EQ this time, but added some reverb.

Bob Reifsnyder had left TH before I got here, but I've met him a couple of times. My wife Martha accompanied his recital in Chicago a couple of years ago.

(And just in case you're interested, my new piano concerto will be premiered here in TH on April 5 next year, if you feel like making the trip.)

Gary: Thanks for your thoughts. Of course you may put it on your website! It was indeed a thrilling experience to hear it performed by the ICO. They're as fine a group as anyone could have wished for. (Also thanks for the GOS. Still trying to get it to work in VSampler. I only seem to be able to import one instrument at a time, or it crashes. But once it's imported it seems to work OK.)

06-19-2004, 07:37 AM
Impressive. If you ever get the whole symphony recorded with GPO I'd really like to hear it.

06-19-2004, 03:59 PM
Good work:)

06-19-2004, 09:04 PM
Don't worry, Nicole, I wasn't offended!

You asked, "Do you write for yourself or for others to hear?" I don't see it as an either/or situation. I feel it is possible, and in fact desirable, to do both. Anyway, that's what I tried for.

06-20-2004, 07:25 PM
This is a really good work, Dan and you should be proud of it. I composed a 'threnody' myself from a different inspiration, a long while ago and realized it at that time on the early Vitous library. I have to say that GPO demands I go back and redo it! Your piece has inspired me to try it.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

06-21-2004, 04:55 PM
(And just in case you're interested, my new piano concerto will be premiered here in TH on April 5 next year, if you feel like making the trip.)

My mistake! April 5 is the date of the first rehearsal! The concert actually is April 9.

Jeff Hurchalla
06-21-2004, 06:05 PM
This is great. I listened through three times. Do you have any recordings from when it was performed?

06-22-2004, 11:10 AM
I do, in fact. Unfortunately there's not a lot I can do with it as far as distributing it goes. It's OK with them if I use it to promote the piece, but releasing it for any kind of general consumption would be something I'd have to get permission for. One reason I'm sequencing it is to have a version that I can use as I want, free and clear of any legal issues. Not that I expect it to be as good as a live performance by a good orchestra, of course.

I've gotten started on the third movement. The first movement will probably be the most difficult, so I'm saving it for last.

06-23-2004, 10:03 PM
I didn't put in any EQ this time, but added some reverb.

it's a rare thing to hear so consistent modern musical language today.
Here are some not significant remarks:
About mix.
At 02:35, 02:56, 03:09, 03:41 I feel lack of a reverb. There is an old trick to add reverb at stops to feel space of the hall - just create reverb send envelope on master track and add it a bit at those places.
Balance of instruments is perfect. I'd like to hear more pronounced Flute at 02:47 and muted Trumpets at 06:56 though.
Celli are panned too much to the right IMO.(at 03:10 particularly)
About orchestration.
Strings dominate during the whole movement. There are beautiful woods at 02:37, 06:21 though.
Vibraphone at 02:14 doesn't last long enough (maybe it sounded good live) - I'd use something else, even celesta would do the job.
Tutti diminuendo at 04:14 sound unnatural. Sorry, I just don't know why.
I'd love to hear other movements of the symphony - can't imagine how much moving energy they should contain to balance this one.
I wish you happy composing and feeling of satisfaction.

06-24-2004, 09:01 AM
Thanks for the idea about reverb. I'll give it a try.

I agree about the vibraphone-the GPO vibes just don't sustain long enough, unless there's a trick I'm missing. I was actually thinking about replacing it with one from a different library. My Roland XP-30 has a good vibe sound, and there are a few soundfonts I could try.

I plan to revisit the muted trumpets. Part of the problem is that one of the trumpets is supposed to have a straight mute, and one a harmon mute. Currently the harmon mute is missing from GPO, but maybe there will be one in the big band library that's coming up.

I think the reason the strings dominate is that it's just orchestrated that way. The outer movements have much more brass and percussion, and I wanted to create a different sound-world for the Threnody. I hadn't noticed the cellos being panned too far right, but I'll listen again.

Thanks for your ideas. I hope you'll like the rest of the symphony.

Andrew Foust
07-01-2004, 10:41 AM
Hello all,

I'm new to the forum but have a couple of comments about Threnody and contemporary composition. First and foremost, this is a fantastic piece of music. In earlier posts it seems that your music was perceived as being not very accessable. Good, but not accessable. The first thought that jumps into my head is John Corigliano. He is one of the most performed living composers and a Pulitzer Prize winner. Your music I think comes from a similar place. It is haunting and beautiful and so refreshing. It is so nice to hear music that isn't so literal all of the time. Where harmonies are beautiful yet complex. Where there are much more subtle and precise emotions, tensions, resolutions, and colors. Bravo! Maybe I'm blind but it seems like whenever I see an orchestra perform a contemporary piece of music people pay more attention. I honestly think people don't want to know where every chord is going to land. We all know that basically every great melody has been written and we are all just stealing them or parts of them. Our opportunity today is through orchestration and to say something more than melody. An orchestra can create the most incredible sounds every imagined. An orchestra creates "sound" and you use all of it. Please please keep it up. Again, Bravo!

p.s. Excuse my little rant. :)

07-01-2004, 12:57 PM
I'm in complete agreement with Andrew here. Not just about the quality of the piece, which I did admire, but about contemporary music in general.

I can't understand anyone labeling this piece inaccessible. It is haunting and beautiful, and full of emotion. It's even mostly tonal, for rutabaga's sake! Highly chromatic in places, sure, but nothing more demanding to the listener than many composers gave us 80-100 years ago. It's similar in its harmonic content to (though certainly not derivative of) what Alban Berg was writing 90 years ago, before he totally embraced Schoenberg's twelve-tone system.

Now I don't think Nicole was so harsh as to imply anything negative about this piece at all, and I do believe her question was legitimate. What I guess she was aiming at was, is it worth writing this piece, knowing that the potential pool of fans is small. I believe it is. The real question is: If you are not creating something new, why are you creating at all?

I know that most of the readers of this board can probably appreciate Dan's piece, but for any of you who might disregard this type of work out of hand, allow me my own rant.

As composers (most of you, I believe), you owe it to yourselves to expand your horizons, and learn to appreciate those pieces that may seem to be "acquired tastes." Push yourselves. Open your ears and take it all in. Discover something new. If you want to continue to grow as a composer, there is no other way to do it. It is your job. It is fitness training for your ears and your brain. Ignoring this duty to your artistic spark would be doing yourself a monumental disservice. It is sentencing your muse to death by starvation.

- Jamie Kowalski

07-01-2004, 01:42 PM
geez that is nice. I soooo do not have a chance for this contest....

Andrew Foust
07-01-2004, 04:12 PM

Here here! Well put. Just want to be clear that we aren't in anyway attacking Nicole here. I have asked myself the same question many times. If you aren't trying to create something new why create anything. That is so very very true. BTW Jamie, I listened to your pieces and there is some great writing there. Complex and enjoyable, very nice.


Craig Reeves
07-05-2004, 03:23 PM
Y'know, I listened to this piece and I really did enjoy it.

The only problem, however, is that I would replace the lush strings with the Sus+short strings. It's really beautiful, though.

07-05-2004, 05:24 PM
Glad you dont see it as an attack since I didnt in any way mean it as one. Was just a question. Infact I have found this piece to be a really enjoyable listening experience and it remains as one of my favorites to listen to here. I just dont post much on this page simply because im not a good critic. If it seems like I sounded offensive ill remove it. I did not mean for it to sound offensive. I just was asking a question.

People have branched out in many directions over the last century or more. Alot chose different roads, from atonal to modalism or even late "late" romantic(adagio for strings comes to mind), hollywood ect. Whatever they choose its the best choice for them if #1 they like doing what they do.

I have often thought about putting up a piano piece that adheres to no tonality at all, Im very interested in this, however the initial reaction I got when I showed someone closer makes me hesitate.

07-06-2004, 07:21 AM

I didn't see your post as an attack, I just sort of used it as a launching point for my own evil campaign. My apologies if I sounded harsh towards you.

And please do post your piano piece. If you can't share it here, where can you share it? It may prompt me to dig out some of my more avant garde works myself. :)

Andrew Foust
07-06-2004, 08:39 AM
I certainly did not see your post as an attack either. It was a good question that sparked some good dialogue and those are the best kind. And please please post your piano piece. I loved your symphonic poem and would love to hear more of your music.


07-06-2004, 03:50 PM
[I've been on vacation for the past couple of weeks and haven't been checking in. Just in case anyone was wondering :) Anyway, I'm back and trying to get caught up.]

I certainly didn't see Nicole's comments as an attack in any way! She raised some perfectly valid questions. As regards the question of "accesability," well, I think that the piece was well received by the audience at the premiere, and many people came up to me at intermission to say how much they enjoyed it. However, there was one music critic who was, shall we say, not among them. In his review of the concert, he confined his comments on my symphony to one sentence, to the effect that it was a soulless excercise in atonal counterpoint or something. It made me think that he'd listened to 10 bars or so of the first movement, then went out for a smoke. Fortunately, the other reviews were quite favorable (but guess which one I obsessed over!)

Anyway, I think we can leave Nicole alone. At least her comments were perceptive and thoughtful, and in fact generally complimentary. So, Nicole, keep asking questions, and post your piano piece!

07-12-2004, 10:34 AM
Samuel Barber wrote aboute his second symphony : " times of cataclysm are rarely conducive to creation of good music, especially when the composer tries to say too much. But the lyrical voice, expressing the dilemma of the individual may still be of relevance".
I think honnestly that your Threnody belongs to those last works : avoiding to be sentimental, the emotion is always self contained, and so the very subtle evocation of the sorrow.The mood remind me the post-war symphonies of Diamond ,Piston, Antheil...
The music is mostly tonal and easy to understand. The harmonic language is sophisticated and sometimes very close to Barber at his most lyrical moments.The canon is a very good idea, sometimes we can briefly hear some echoes of Shostakovitch's eight symphony.
Great work, and thank you for sharing the score, hope we can soon buy the CD, maybe in the "American classics" from Naxos !