December 2014

Tchaikovsky and Ravel - and Koji Kondo :)

December 28, 2014 09:16

As I slowly woke up this morning at 9:30am, I turned on Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony to the third and fourth movements, enjoying the Tchaikovsky Finale and whirling strings of the third and the steady aural declination of the fourth, and thought about the past a little. Back mostly in 2013, when I listened to mostly film scores, Tchaikovsky was my absolute favorite composer, because I loved his very Romantic finales - always large, with intense brass and large down bows in the strings (and I even played the finale to his Second Symphony that year in the spring) - and whenever I sat down to compose, I always intended to copy him. His Second Symphony was what inspired me to write this piece - my final for AP Music Theory, which followed sonata-allegro form, material we covered in class, and, at the very end, after I had finished following the form, I re-used the theme and went into one beat a bar, which created a fast and epic storm similar to something Tchaikovsky might write (see at about 5:50). Now, looking back on this piece, I see more things I could have done, of course...

However, the biggest contrast to him currently (for me) is Ravel. Of the pieces I have been composing recently (which haven't been much, due to the senior concerto contest), especially "Birds of Prey" from the summer and the string trio I discussed in November, Ravel's French, picturesque, tone poem-esque Impressionalistic quality of music is the kind I mostly enjoy now. Listen to Ravel's "La Valse", which has a somewhat similar quality to the third movement of the Sixth Symphony in the dynamic, but nowhere near in any other respect. Both pieces are incredibly different, and through the music I've been writing, this reflects it. (Sadly I don't have any recordings up on YouTube at the moment, but next winter I'll try to post one with the score of our trio, once we've actually begun practicing it.)

It is still cool, however, to listen to music I was inspired by in the past, and be re-inspired by it now. I'm not going to be doing much composing for a bit, but thinking about all I have worked on in the past - in both listening, writing, and playing - have all contributed to where I am now as a listener, writer, and performer. That's one of the things I love about music. Turn on the Symphonic Pops station on the radio and hear a certain piece, and you may be filled with warm memories of playing or hearing that piece before. Music can bring back so many great memories, as it has done for me. I know I've talked about this before, but still... Here are two great composers who have defined the past two years of my life the most, I think (Stravinsky for this year and Vivaldi for last year are also a couple). Here's to seeing what will happen in 2015! :) It's coming up quick now...

Also, I recently put together the soundtrack of a game I made back in 2011. Here's a video of one of the sections of the game, called the Water Temple. The music in the background of the temple is done by the Hyrule Symphony String Orchestra (what a name!), as well as many other tracks in the game for some of the character themes (see the whole playlist). There are also some bits with great orchestral scores, like at the very end. It's kind of amazing how much I really cared about the music for my games, and made sure sometimes that there was a great orchestral score, because I didn't really start getting into the violin and music until 2012 - which is just about a month after that video was made. :)

And here's one more bit of music used for the title screen of the game. It's an epic melody played by ocarina, with the piano and violins joining in gradually, which creates an atmosphere that suggests that this game is going to be an epic adventure. I really knew what I was doing those three years ago :)

UPDATE: Sorry, just wanted to add one more video (if there weren't enough on here already) :) I just listened to the end of Tchaikovsky's Fifth, which I'm sure I also listened to last year as inspiration. It has a pretty good idea of the finale I was talking about earlier. Also listen to the Second Symphony! :)

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Musical Festive Things :)

December 24, 2014 13:40

Merry Christmas! I just wanted to write down a few exciting musical things that have happened in these few days leading up to Christmas, which have all been very exciting, rather than publishing multiple entries. Just to be more organized, I guess… :) And in some ways, they are all related to Christmas, so yeah. I hope your holiday season is going fantastically! :)

First off, I’ve been spending a few days working on a video cover of “Winter Wonderland” on violin and with Garageband instruments, so you can check that out in this link when it’s uploaded to YouTube. It’s a special step-up from all my other violin videos I’ve done on YouTube in the past couple years (almost three!), and since I’ve spent so much time on it I think it’ll be a fun video to watch and get you in the Christmasey mood. :) I used three violin parts, but I layered them so I could record me playing the same part three or four times, so it would sound more like a violin section rather than just one violin. The morning of the 21st was a lot of fun, since that’s when I recorded all my violin footage and audio! :)
Here is the video.

Secondly, on Monday (the 22nd), I picked out two new bows to try out at PM Music Center. They are both carbon-fiber bows, but they are both much lighter and more expensive than the bow I currently use (and used in the video). I brought my violin concerto, “Little Snow-White”, to play through some passages. The beginning section has always been a struggle for me to play well, but when I set the first new bow to the string and played, it produced this beautiful tone I never knew existed in me! With several days of practice, once I have my bow of choice, I think my tone will greatly improve in not just this concerto, but in everything I play on my violin. It’s technically a Christmas present, and it’s a fantastic one! The person who helped me find bows said that it’s better than asking for an Xbox One. :) I actually let them keep the violin for the day to polish up the wood and try to fix some of the chips in the wood (and replace my A string), so that will be a very nice addition, as well, just in time for the beginning of 2015! It was very cozy in the room I played in, because everything around me was wooden—all the violins, violas, and cellos, the floor, even the music stand where my binder for my concerto was. All it needed was a fireplace, a Christmas tree, and for it to be snowing outside, and it would have been paradise. :)

On Tuesday (the 23rd), I chose the bow my teacher leant towards—a Diamond Coda bow—when I went back to PM Music. I also got to see my violin all polished. It’s shiny now, and the resin in the wood is all gone. :) I spent some time in the afternoon on Christmas Eve playing with it, first playing an improv medley of Christmas music, recording on my iPhone, and then playing through the entire concerto with my new bow. It sounded so much cleaner, especially in fifth position on the A string! I still have small intonation issues to work out, and I still need to spend the rest of my winter break getting to know my new bow, but after that it will become the bow I use from now and probably through college. :)

Finally, I hope all of you have a wonderful festive season, and may music - whether hearing the wonderful violin sections in the orchestra or the cool covers or symphony arrangements - be a major part of your evening and tomorrow morning to celebrate this most wonderful time of the year! :)

*** 24 March 2015 UPDATE***
After watching this video, I can't believe I never mentioned going to AMC Showplace Theatre to watch the film, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies! It was the Christmas thing I mentioned the last two years I enjoyed. (I just read my thoughts on it from my journal.) You should look up the soundtrack by Howard Shore on YouTube. :)

Here's my review of the film:
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)
Written: 22 December 2014
After seeing the first two Hobbit films for the past two years, both released around Christmas, it was nice to see the final Middle-Earth adventure. And what a film it was! "The Battle of the Five Armies" was an epic way for Jackson's franchise to end on a grand note. The visuals were all built upon large, open areas, especially in the fighting scenes. I really enjoyed the opening scene with the epic destruction of Lake-Town by Smaug, probably my favorite. The music and constant ringing of the town bell and the fiery visuals made the scene an intense way to begin the film. The various emotional bits in-between the large numbers of armies fighting gave the film a little breathing room. And at the very end, when we return to the Shire with that familiar atmosphere, it lends us back home, as the film comes to its conclusion.

The music in this one was again written by Howard Shore and played by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, which did a great job. We again hear several leitmotifs from the first two Hobbit films, such as the violins' creepy theme for Smaug, Bilbo's variation of the Shire theme from the original films, and a heroic piece for Thorin built on brass. Several pieces from the original series return as well, such as music for the Orcs, the famous violin melody for the One Ring, and for the Shire. All of this allows the listener to latch on to musical knowledge from previous, which makes the scene ever more powerful; and as this is the final film, it is imperative that Shore does this. There were several sections with chanting choir, to add to the battle effect, and as Thorin begins his solo battles on the mountain, the choir becomes ever more intense. The music does a good job of flowing with the movie, which aids the transitions. There were some times that felt right omitting music, and some where I felt something more was needed, however. Overall, it was a pretty epic score that did a lot for the film, and I wonder if Shore will do anything more with his music for these films.

Overall, the visuals and everything were of a fantastic quality. The allusions to the original Lord of the Rings in terms of plot were really nice as well. Overall, it was an epic conclusion to finish a six-film collection of The Lord of the Rings.

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In the Christmas Spirit

December 19, 2014 22:10

Hello! Sorry it’s been a little while since my last update, but I have been very busy with finals and whatnot. I just had my last exam today, and I’ve spent all afternoon just relaxing and such. I’ve also been getting very much into the Christmas spirit, what with listening to Christmas music on the Pandora Radio App on my phone. I made a station that just has orchestral versions of tunes, so the Greenslaves piece “What Child is This?” has a lot of beautiful high violins carrying the melody. However, when we do Christmasey things as a family, like on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning exchanging gifts, or baking cookies, I love hearing the orchestra (mostly the violins, but sometimes there’s a full symphony) backing the singers with some of the more traditional Christmas music. It’s just one of the many things that I love about Christmas! I also love the warm fuzzy feeling of plucking your violin by the warm fireplace, with the snow falling down gently outside… So yeah. I’m very excited for next week, and I may be getting a new bow Monday, although also so I can get my violin cleaned up.

And speaking of my violin, I have the Senior Concerto auditions on January 6th! Last Wednesday, I was actually able to play through “Little Snow-White”, my violin concerto I wrote and probably discussed in April or July 2014, with my piano teacher, so it was cool to hear it played by acoustic instruments, rather than MIDI. I’m getting very excited for playing these pieces; I’ll be spending a lot of time over break practicing very hard for those (I’m also playing the Rimsky-Korsakov Piano Concerto). It’s fun to look back at my old sketches for the piece I wrote back in April and see how much of the piece has changed, and also how much better I’m sounding now than before. It would be really cool to play this for the concert, but for now I just have to keep practicing and can worry about the actual audition after the New Year.

Just a quick update entry here, I guess. I’m very excited for Christmas this year I think, and it’s even fun to listen to some of my old violin videos with the Christmas “specials” as well. Hopefully I’ll have more time to write about any cool musical things that happen until the New Year. Thanks for reading

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