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Our exclusive, one-on-one interviews with 27 of today's best-known violinists, including Hilary Hahn, Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, David Garrett, Anne Akiko Meyers, Maxim Vengerov, and others.


Joshua Iyer

Composing the 'Forest Theme'

April 13, 2014 14:54

Last night I was in Indiana visiting my grandparents. Their house is basically separate from everywhere else, meaning it was a very country-like setting that was just perfect for me to compose. So I spent a bit of time in the evening last night and this morning at 10am working on a "Forest Theme" for usage in the film this summer. Last night, I worked right beside a large tree with many chattering birds, and I was actually outside, showing my aunt a couple of pieces from the soundtrack, as the sun set and night fell. And this morning I actually stood in the middle of a forest my grandpa had close to the house and finished it off. I really felt enraptured by nature that really allowed me to create a beautiful theme. I've barely started orchestrating it on the computer, but when it's finished it'll be cool, I hope, especially if I can get it performed by a small orchestra - my teacher said 'maybe' after May's Pops concert! Anyways, it just really excites me as I think about the beautiful birth of this piece, especially if I am playing my violin with said orchestra for recording it for the film... Maybe... But anyways, that's all I got, so yeah. I've been getting really excited for the film, and I hope things work out!

With the actual music itself, the orchestra within my pencil sketch included flutes, bassoons, oboes, harp, piano, and strings, with prominent violin and cello things. On the computer, I added some percussion, like wood blocks, tambourine, log drums, and bell tree (that 'woosh!' sound). All the instruments reflect the sounds of the forest I heard while outside, stepping on sticks, listening to the rustle of the wind, orchestra of the birds, flow of the brook... And I hope you will enjoy it too, when I'm done! :)

UPDATE: Tonight, from 7:45pm-8:45pm, as rain fell from my window, I had a fantastic violin playing session! I tried out the forest piece, but I got really excited at the end of my session, when I played Vivaldi's "Summer", the infamous third movement. I remembered David Garrett's performance of the piece, and had some fun with it. So yeah! I got really excited on the violin today. Just in time for Tuesday's concert I'm playing in! :)

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Spring College Visits and Composition Advice

April 3, 2014 21:18

This week being Spring Break for me, I've gone to two college visits. On March 31st (Monday) we went to University of Illinois, and today, April 3, we went to Augustana (in Illinois). Although they were both two hours away, which wasn't too bad, they were both amazing visits, and I got a lot out of them. The main difference about the two universities is, obviously, one's a state school. I'm not sure I'd want to go to U of I, but Augustana was a great visit! Even though it was cloudy today when we went (it was raining all morning, and we left promptly at 6am!), the campus was a rural setting, which felt very fresh and very me. I like to go for walks in nature and be able to compose outside, or even think about the violin on my walks, so this will be perfect if I go to live there for four years of my life.

While I didn't see any professors specifically for violin, I did get to speak to both university professors of composition, and each one gave me some very helpful advice (as well as books to buy and scores to listen to!) that will both help me craft my film score to make it even better as well as, of course, for future compositions as I begin to improve upon them (which will be exciting for my future self to look back on and see this improvement in both composition and performance on violin!). At U of I, he looked through a couple of pieces from the film score, as well as "Midwinter's Night", a piece I made back in November 2013, and the first movement of my "Violin Concerto in f minor", that I finished late February 2014. His main advice was to look into 20th century composers (Stravinsky, Ligiti, etc.) because that seems to be the direction composition is heading. He also gave me a title of a book about these composers, as well as a book on orchestration. I've already looked at both; the orchestration book was extremely helpful tonight as I looked through it for instrumentation ideas for my piece. It'll be more of a reference book than anything else, but it'll be much better and easier than looking online.

At Augustana, which is clearest in my head, the professor there had some great advice. I did only show him my film score, and he said I was on the right track to success with working with themes. He played me Ravel's "La Valse" from Mother Goose, and I was able to follow along with a Dover publication of the score (something I think I'm going to be getting into buying and starting my own collection of scores). The really cool thing about that piece is how the clarinet starts with a beautiful melody, which is contrasted later by the contrabassoon, with a dark, chromatic idea. At the end of the piece, which is so cool, Ravel takes both ideas and puts them together, although this time the first violins take over the contrabassoon's melody five octaves higher up on the E string. It's such a cool concept, and one I began to implement a little in one of my themes. The point is, while composers like John Williams and Howard Shore are great, they got their inspiration from Tchaikovsky or Stravinsky, so for me, I should be trying to emulate the sounds of those composers, rather than Williams. So yeah! I've been taking both bits of advice kind of together, I guess, and hopefully as the days continue my thematic collection will grow, and I'll have a fantastic start on a fantastic film score in June 2014 before we start filming the movie!

And, of course, both professors thought I should have a real orchestra play my stuff, which I do not by any means disagree with. I told the professor at Augustana how I plan on playing my violin with a solo passage at the beginning of the film score, and he thought that was a great idea. He also said any way to make the Finale MIDI better (my friend might do some mixing and sound editing with the MIDI) would be fantastic. And, of course, for applying for scholarships, I may have a medley of this music that I could possibly play with my school orchestra as well, so that'll give me a much stronger performance opportunity with my violin! I'm always looking for ways to combine my love and passion for composing with my love and passion for the violin. :)

Although I've put all of this advice in relation with the film, it's all I've been thinking about lately. However, I will definitely, after finishing my film score, continue to follow this advice for all future compositions, which will be smaller projects, but will still be just as important, I think. I'm getting really excited for college now that I've been going on these visits. Additionally, I'm basically required to play in the orchestra with composition, which is fantastic because that's what I wanted to do anyway. So in any case, I'm just going to continue to work hard on the film score so it can be a complete success (hopefully!).

Tomorrow morning, a tuner is going to come to tune the piano. I've had to play through the pain of out of tune notes. As in, everything is almost a half-step lower! Thank goodness that will be no more after tomorrow! :)

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