(**Sorry for the double entry, but - and this has happened in the past - when I click "EDIT", if I entered a link incorrectly, it will break that post and not let me delete it. But this is the most "up-to-date" version!)
Over the past ten days over on Facebook, I posted a daily entry talking about a composer that has influenced the music I write today. It was fun to take a look back through my favorite Japanese and French composers, it basically boiled down to. In this blog entry, you can read through the ten posts I did back-to-back.
Before I leave you with the ten composers, I also thought it'd be fun to include I am going to judge the Martirano Composition Contest at UIUC! At least, with three other judges, narrowing the final count of 341 compositions (!) down to 10-15 finalists for the faculty to pick the final one. It will be a crazy weekend of listening to music during the day, playing some violin probably as my sole break, and then enjoying gameplay videos of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Final Fantasy VII Remake (both 2020 games) in the mornings and evenings. (Both games come up in the list below, so I thought I'd mention them here.)
There are plenty more updates I could share, such as the Reddit Symphony Orchestra (founded in 2018 online) my friend told me about (where musicians from all around the world can submit videos of themselves playing their parts of any orchestral works) - right now, I'm taking a look at a composition contest winner from a partnership with MuseScore ("Music for an Imaginary Ballet") - but I can talk a little more about that in the future. I'll leave it here in case you want to take a look at it!
Anyways - on with my 10 Days, 10 Composers Challenge! Thanks for reading!
10 Days, 10 Composers. Day 1: Maurice Ravel.
I wanted to start with the most obvious composer on my list (for anyone who knows me), so that there could be room for surprises later on. Ever since I went with my family to hear the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra perform Ravel's "Daphnis et Chloe" at an outdoor concert for my birthday in 2014, I have been hooked to his music, and it has definitely been my biggest influence in my own, even if it is starting to morph into different worlds as of late. Besides learning orchestration through him, his French tonal idiom and various melodic quirks are things I have latched onto. I love how he both utilizes free-forms and Classical forms in his pieces. Not to mention, his jazz music (especially the two Piano Concerti that emerged in the early '30s) has contained some of my favorite works from his output. Ravel will forever be my favorite composer, and it makes me so happy to have this connection with him in my own music.
(All of his output, but here are a few works...)
- Daphnis et Chloe (1912 ballet)
- Ma Mère l'Oye (1910 piano duet, orch. in 1912; also a ballet version exists.)
- Introduction et Allegro (1905)
- Violin Sonatas (1 and 2) (both, but I like his lesser known no. 1, published posthumously. Written in April 1897.)
- Piano Concerto in G (esp. mvt. II) (1929-31)
- Piano Sonatine (1903-1905)
10 Days. 10 Composers. Day 2: Nobuo Uematsu.(?? ??)
In addition to composers writing concert music, I'm also a big fan of video games. Whereas in high school I may have discussed film and TV composers like Howard Shore or Murray Gold, I feel nowadays I've been much more excited about VGM (video game music) than ever before.
I haven't played any Final Fantasy games, but ever since I discovered a 2004 Japanese concert of Uematsu's music, I've been very excited to listen to it. I have used some ideas found in Uematsu's melodies in my music at times, especially in thinking about some of my literary music. His score to Final Fantasy VI (1994) is still my favorite, and I even directly paralleled the four-movement final boss music from that game, "Dancing Mad", in a home video game I made in 2016. About when I discovered Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring", I discovered Uematsu's "One Winged Angel" - I'm currently listening to the Final Fantasy VII Remake (2020) orchestral version of this piece, which is incredible. And, of course, "To Zanarkand" from Final Fantasy X has found its way in some of my pieces as well; I love the harmonic shifts with the scales in it, in particular.
Recommended Listening (using English titles; Japanese titles can be found on Wikipedia):
- Final Fantasy VI, "Terra's Theme", "Phantom Forest", the opera, "The Airship Blackjack", "Esper World", "Metamorphosis", "Dancing Mad"
- Final Fantasy X, "Zanarkand", "Battle Theme", "Hymn of the Fayth", "Suteki Da Ne (Isn't it Wonderful?)"
- Final Fantasy IX, "The Place I'll Return To Someday", "Vamo' Alla Flamenco", "Battle 1", "Melodies of Life",
- Final Fantasy I-III - 2002 Medley, 2004 Medley (orchestra)
10 Days. 10 Composers. Day 3: Béla Bartók.
I can't say I take a lot from Bartók's music as with other composers, but I still really enjoy his music. The main thing I really like is how he often has multiple musical events happening at once, the main example being bitonality. I love the musical clashes that come with multiple keys, and whenever I feel my music is becoming too tonal or stale and it fits, I like introducing the same melody again at a different pitch level. I also hope to write a collection of violin duos myself one day.
Concerto for Orchestra
Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta
Piano Concerto no. 2
44 Duos for Two Violins
10 Days. 10 Composers. Day 4: Masashi Hamauzu.
The more I got into the Final Fantasy world, the more I got to know a few more non-Nintendo Japanese composers, and Hamauzu is one of them. I didn't really know him by name until I looked at the arranger of the incredible Final Fantasy X Piano Concerto, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road for a 2015 orchestral album. He was one of the composers alongside Uematsu in the original Final Fantasy X, and the sole composer of Final Fantasy XIII! However, I really respect the work he did for the Piano Concerto mainly, and there are so many characteristics of that piece and some of the incredibly Japanese sound worlds he creates in the FFX score I love. The more I hear his music, the more I realize how much I am embedding some of it into my own, mainly in my piano writing. I'm hoping to check out more of his music in the future!
Final Fantasy X
"Servants of the Mountain:
Final Fantasy X Piano Concerto (from the Final Symphony Album)
(You can see him in this Inside Final Fantasy VII Remake video talking about his composing role in the game. It also goes into the sound design, which is very interesting as well!
10 Days. 10 Composers. Day 5: Toru Takemitsu.
Alongside Nintendo and Square Enix (I will be honest), Takemitsu was another reason I really found an obsession with Japanese culture and the country as a whole. Plus, as one of his main inspirations was Debussy, there is a lot to gleam from his wonderful use of color, both within the Western orchestra and with various traditional Japanese instruments he includes in his works. Takemitsu's music is like a blooming garden, and for that I know I have had and will continue to have plenty to learn from him.
(Hamauzu cites Ravel and Debussy as his influences as well! Hmm... Maybe there's a method to the madness of which composers I really like...)
Recommended Listening (I still have plenty more of his output to check out!):
November Steps (for biwa, shakuhachi, and orchestra)
Requiem for Strings
In an Autumn Garden
10 Days. 10 Composers. Day 6: Igor Stravinsky.
I feel like all composers have a "Stravinsky phase" sometime in their life; mine was in July 2014 watching a BBC Proms rendition of The Rite of Spring, just before I started getting into Ravel. I love all three of his ballets, mainly for their Impressionistic style. But I love the later stuff too, and especially having written a woodwind Octet of my own in the fall, Stravinsky's Octet was at least looming in the background to some degree. Like Messiaen and Ravel, there's so much from Stravinsky's harmonic language I will continue to love and use in mine.
The Rite of Spring
10 Days. 10 Composers. Day 7: Manaka Kataoka.
I didn't really know her by name until discovering she composed for Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017) AND Animal Crossing: New Leaf (2013), both scores I have drawn from in the past with my own compositions. In particular, her contributions to the Breath of the Wild score and settling its minimalist and quiet nature really stuck with me since I first heard it - I even did a college presentation on the game's score. The idea of breaking up a melody as she has done with Kondo's famous tunes is something that I have really started exploring recently. In my 2018 tone-poem, I used wood-block hits just like she had in the enemy battle music in the game.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
- Main Theme
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
- Outdoors at 7 p.m. (Sunny/Main Street from Animal Crossing: New Leaf)
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Main Theme
- Riding (Day)/(Night)
- Lost Woods
- Hyrule Castle
- Dark Beast Ganon
- Tarrey Town
- Monk Moz Koshia
10 Days, 10 Composers. Day 8: Oliver Messiaen.
Messiaen's music will probably never cease to astound me. He has such a wonderful world in which he operates. While famous for the birdsong, his modes of transposition have recently been more exciting for me to try and implement into my scores. I'm sure the more I explore them, the more interesting scalar possibilities my music will attain I hope. In addition, like Ravel, his colors of the orchestra are stunning and something I am always excited by.
Quartor pour la fin du temps
10 Days. 10 Composers. Day 9: Shinobu Nagata.
I've learned quite a lot from the music of all the Animal Crossing games - the more I listen to the New Horizons hourly music in the game, for example, the more excited I get in realizing how the main theme varies and is implemented into each track. And while I love Kazumi Totaka's lovely work on the series and his quirky nature, which is definitely influential for me, who loves Ravel's quirks, I would have to put Tanaka on my list here. She has done work for a number of Mario games, Brain Age, but I know her from her work on the event/festival BGM in the original Animal Crossing in 2001 on the Nintendo 64. Her use of traditional Japanese colors for the Cherry Blossom Festival and New Years music, even on the dated MIDI samples of the aging console, still resonate with me now. She has since been brought back for New Leaf and New Horizons, which is great!
- Cherry Blossom Festival (N64 version)
- New Years Countdown (30 Minutes)
- Toy Day
(Here's a great video on how Nintendo's sound team, with Totaka-san at the helm, evolved recording sound effects for the game. Music is important, but just as important is the sound design of the world!
10 Days. 10 Composers. Day 10: Erik Satie.
There are many other composers who would be on my list as inspirational to my style (like Poulenc and Milhaud!), but the final one I'll post about here has to be Satie. His musical world really fits with mine, both with his sentimental side and his quirky side. I've even written pieces with nonsensical stories or lyrics, sometimes with texts that are just for the performer's benefit. As his language is similar to the rest of my favorite French composers, it makes him a perfect fit for my world, too. Japanese and French composers pretty much make up my list!
Trois Morceaux en Forme de Poire
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