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Topic: Variations on a Theme by Kirsten

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  1. #1
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    Variations on a Theme by Kirsten

    https://www.box.com/s/49880e3e3118e84dda67

    This piece was composed for orchestra in 1981 and I recently notated the piece in Finale from an old pencil score. The opening theme was composed for piano, flute, and clarinet by my 10 year old daughter. I orchestrated the theme using as many of her suggestions as possible and added the faster tempo variations that follow.

    As always comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated.

    Norman

  2. #2

    Re: Variations on a Theme by Kirsten

    Hello, Norman - It's really great to see you back to The Listening Room with more music for us to hear.

    And such exciting music it is! This is full of drama, conveyed with intelligent, sophisticated orchestration. The simple thematic material is never lost track of, and while clearly stated throughout, you've kept your variations plentiful enough to avoid fatigue at the repetitions.

    I imagine Kirsten could have been rather amazed at how serious of a work her melodies turned out in your piece!

    I refreshed my memory about your previous posts. The last time you posted, we had a bit of a discussion back and forth about the use of reverb. This new piece sounds to me like you've really struck a good wet/dry balance in the sound. The effect is of an orchestra on stage, but you haven't over done the effect, and the results sound clear and convincing.

    Superb Finale work!

    Randy

  3. #3

    Re: Variations on a Theme by Kirsten

    This is a very nice piece of music. Congratulations. Some influences of Ketèlbey? Now, a real orchestra to make this really shine. It is worth it.

    Raymond

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    Re: Variations on a Theme by Kirsten

    Randy, Thanks for the comments. I had several important projects to complete on a short timeline so I only visited the Listening Room a couple of times since posting the Five Arias. This was one of the projects. After getting the score and parts to the conductor who was interested in the piece I decided to try to apply what I have learned to this piece. The help and advice that you and others gave made this effort go much faster than any other GPO project I have tried.

    Raymond, I am not familiar with any of Ketèlbey's work. But since you mentioned him I will try to listen to some examples soon. I found a nice article on Wikipedia that includes a list of his important works. Seems like a good place to start.

    It appears likely that the student orchestra at Stephen F. Austin University will play this piece next Fall. My daughter, Kirsten is a music theory teacher there. One of her inquisitive students found an list of some of my compositions and guessed correctly that she was the Kirsten mentioned in the title.

    Norman

  5. #5
    Senior Member Frank D's Avatar
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    Re: Variations on a Theme by Kirsten

    Hi Norman,

    This piece was GREAT!!! Fantastic variations with such varied and colorful orchestration; using that relentless cell gave the entire 6+ minutes plenty of energy; it never became boring ... fantastic job! Nice and clear rendering; perfect ambiance.

    I'm not familiar with Ketèlbey either, but I'll tell you who I was reminded of the second your piece began: Bernard Herrmann! If you are familiar with his music then you will know this is a very grand compliment; if not, I know you will be moved by his music (Good starters would be MT from "Vertigo" and "North by Northwest" and for shear Ravellian color, "Beneath The 12 Mile Reef" and "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir").

    But this is not about Herrmann; it's about Norman and you did an amazing job with this; I thoroughly enjoyed it!

    Regards,

    Frank

    PS: Now I need to take a cue from Raymond, a very learned and eclectic musician, and find out about Ketèlbey!

  6. #6

    Re: Variations on a Theme by Kirsten

    I liked this, with two caveats: I listen with headphones, and the extreme wide spacing of the percussion was extremely unrealistic. And I did feel that overall it tended to stay too strongly rooted in the very same tonal region. I'd have liked a bit of movement away from the overly present E minor.

    I really liked the sudden shifts in (what I presume is) the first variation. it had a bit of that Kodaly thing going.

    Your 10-yr old certainly has a talent for unusual themes

  7. #7
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    Re: Variations on a Theme by Kirsten

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank D View Post
    Hi Norman,

    This piece was GREAT!!! Fantastic variations with such varied and colorful orchestration; using that relentless cell gave the entire 6+ minutes plenty of energy; it never became boring ... fantastic job! Nice and clear rendering; perfect ambiance.

    Thank you Frank. I tried a different approach to get better ambiance in this piece as compared to "A Swedish Melody". This time I muted all of the back row instruments and adjusted the ambiance for the instruments that would have the most presence. Then I found it easier to add a little extra reverb to the trumpets, trombones, and some percussion. And, alittle more to the horns, tuba, bass drum, etc.


    PS: Now I need to take a cue from Raymond, a very learned and eclectic musician, and find out about Ketèlbey!
    I know some of Herrmann's work but none of Ketèlbey's. There is always something new to experience. What a joy.

    Norman

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    Re: Variations on a Theme by Kirsten

    Quote Originally Posted by qccowboy View Post
    I liked this, with two caveats: I listen with headphones, and the extreme wide spacing of the percussion was extremely unrealistic. And I did feel that overall it tended to stay too strongly rooted in the very same tonal region. I'd have liked a bit of movement away from the overly present E minor.

    I really liked the sudden shifts in (what I presume is) the first variation. it had a bit of that Kodaly thing going.

    Your 10-yr old certainly has a talent for unusual themes
    Thanks, Cowboy.

    The piece actually uses only two percussionists plus a timpanist. These two are positioned to each side of the stage and move about behind the violins on one side and the basses on the other. This is common with the University orchestra and band where I taught for many years. I grew to like the antiphonal percussion effect that this arrangement of percussionists often achieved. It also allowed some delicate percussion instruments to have a lot of presence and not be as muffled as they could be if at the back of the stage.

    If the piece were longer I would definitely move the key center of some variations. As is, I found my daughter's use of phrygian mode with cadences on the phrygian modes of a, c, and g to be surprisingly innovative for her age. Also, her avoidance of major and minor triads and use of harmonic open 5ths, min. 2nds and tritones was surprising. I guess I should not be surprised that she is now a college music theory teacher.

    Norman

  9. #9

    Re: Variations on a Theme by Kirsten

    Quote Originally Posted by jandjnelson View Post
    If the piece were longer I would definitely move the key center of some variations. As is, I found my daughter's use of phrygian mode with cadences on the phrygian modes of a, c, and g to be surprisingly innovative for her age. Also, her avoidance of major and minor triads and use of harmonic open 5ths, min. 2nds and tritones was surprising. I guess I should not be surprised that she is now a college music theory teacher.

    Norman
    "Finally, someone who speaks English." Tony Stark.
    ~Rodney

  10. #10

    Thumbs up Re: Variations on a Theme by Kirsten

    The little Kirsten has to be very happy to see her piece developing in an orchestral majestic sound!

    The theme by the way has a modal harmony close to the theme I had to variate during my composition degree final test, then it was really evocative of remembrance for me.

    Best wishes to the little composer-girl!

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