Summer Music-Making (July Updates)

July 13, 2020, 9:10 AM · The one "good" thing about quarantine for me is that, for the most part, I feel I have really spent much more time since March immersing myself in music, or at least, my own projects. I've had more time to play the violin, and I've composed so much more in the first half of this year alone than all of 2020. (That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but still.) I've been starting to spend more time listening to music; for inspiration for one of my pieces I'll mention below, I was enjoying Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini. (This got me curious about the BBC Proms 2020, which, as you know, I love to tune into every year. It seems this year the Proms will be mostly remote, but are hoping to have some of London's audience during the last two weeks of the season at the end of August. I hope the BBC site will let those outside of England watch - something I'll dig into when the Proms kick off this Friday!)

Anyways, with all of this music-making, I thought I'd pull together a list of some of my projects here on the blog in the middle of July. I have some ambitious goals to finish some of this by the end of the month, so we'll see if that is the case and I can update again at the end of the month. So... in my best Mario impression... Here we go!

COMPOSITIONS

VGM Suite - I'm sure I've mentioned this piece before, but in January I participated in a VGM Academy where I was tasked to write a piece of video game music every single day for most of the month. Even though I started late, I did create a gold mine of music that I have put together to create a medley of music for the Illinois Modern Ensemble to perform later this year (chamber orchestra). Of course, we aren't certain what's happening yet with performances, but it's still a project I intend to finish, and I'm sure I'll get something out of it, even if it's just a recording. (I suppose that would be fitting, given this is technically video game music...) I've continuously updated the tracks in it, so now I'm using stuff from my Super Mario Advance: Factory Subspace fan-game I made back in May.

Anxiety Duet - I'm currently in the process of writing a duet for violin and cello to perform with a friend (and possibly for a Zoom recital in September...). This is turning into a very personal piece for me the longer I work on it, thinking about my social anxiety. Perhaps I'll talk about this one more once it's finished, but it has turned into a Theme and Variations of a sort. That's why I was listening to the Rachmaninov the other day, for inspiration for this! Once I finish writing this post, I plan to head out for a walk to work on it some more...

Trumpet piece - I'm side-lining this one for the week to make a push for the duet, but I'm hoping to write a piece for my roommate, who is a trumpet player. The violin/cello duet is more of a traditional, somewhat diatonic piece (although I'm trying to spruce it up in various ways to keep it from going too stale!), but this one I'd like to take inspiration from some of my favorite Japanese composers. One of my favorite tracks from my Mario fan-game I made is the credits theme, which I played on violin myself. I suspect that will continue to be the place to start as I hopefully get moving on this piece next week.

Song Cycle - I started this back in March, took a gap from it, and then when I couldn't sleep one evening after reading a story I went ahead and finished it. I'm not sure how much I've mentioned of this piece, but I'm actually not too displeased with how it's turning out. The text I used is Emily Dickinson's "I measure every Grief I meet" (561). Back in March, this poem really spoke to me as coronavirus felt so new at that time. Even now, it continues to speak to me with all the dark things in the world right now, from the treatment of black lives in this country to the frightening divide of wearing masks. Hopefully when I finish engraving and editing it, this piece will speak to these issues in addition to inner demons. Again, perhaps I'll speak more on this piece in the future - I even have instrumental cues (like violins at one bar I remember in particular!) in the piano part in my sketches for the work, so perhaps I could be like Mahler and write for orchestra and soprano...

VIOLIN

Horn Trio - A couple months ago I completed a work for horn, violin, and piano, that was always intended to be recorded to put up onto YouTube. Although I haven't worked on it as much as I probably should (hope to change that in today's play session!), I am recording the violin and piano parts with a colleague playing the horn part. The more I play the piece, the more proud I am of it, even if it was a bit of a mess to write. I am excited to get the final mix done and share the piece with the world.

Duet arrangements - This is the main project I've been working on with one of my closest friends from high school. So far, I've written three violin duets for us to play (apologies if I've mentioned this before and am not remembering): from Frozen, "For the First Time In Forever (Reprise)"; the main theme from The Legend of Zelda, taking from the 25th Anniversary CD, A Link to the Past, and Majora's Mask; and from Hamilton, "Burn" (inspired from watching the full musical on Disney+ on the 4th of July). We've struggled with playing over Zoom, and we've gotten together once to play outside in my backyard, of course following social distancing and keeping our cases and stands apart on the deck. However, this has been such a great way to continue being social and rehearsing fun music, and I'm so glad we came up with the idea. I hope this will sustain me in providing violin breaks when I'm stuck in my tiny apartment in the fall. (We'll see how that works out... Not sure if I'll get a practice room or not. But again, who really can plan?)

Reddit Symphony Orchestra - In May I may have mentioned working on Dvorak 9, the fourth movement, as part of the RSO's online collaboration project. While I was busy then with finishing up school and working on my Mario fan-game and things, I feel like now that I'm playing violin more, I can participate in more of these. When I clicked on the subreddit to see what they were doing, I saw one of the official projects (Project #16 for reference) is Gerudo Valley from The Legend of Zelda: 25th Anniversary Symphony/CD! I remember listening to this piece back in 2012 and absolutely loving it, remembering playing Ocarina of Time 3D in 2011, and decided to print the Violin I part and potentially take part. The due date is July 31st, and there are significantly less notes to learn than the Dvorak, so I think I can take part. I even Snapchatted it to some of my musician friends for something fun they can work on. The arrangement is by the arranger for VGOScore, a channel which uploads great orchestral scores of various video game pieces for orchestra (exactly what the name might suggest). I hope to try and continue participating with them in this coming year since my friend told me about them, as this can be a way to be in an orchestra during a time of lockdown. (I was considering joining the Illinois Modern Ensemble this year, but at least right now, I don't plan to anymore...)

Notation software - Haha, this isn't a violin piece of course, but recently I updated my MacBook, and it runs on macOS Catalina. (I know Big Sur is coming from the Apple presentation I watched a few weeks back, but I guess I'm just slow on the updates.) Unfortunately, this deemed Finale 2014.5 unusable with the new macOS, and so I now have to update and buy something else (probably a birthday present for myself this year!). I'm currently looking into Dorico 3 and Finale 26. The latter is luckily exactly the same, just with some differences in GUI and things. Dorico is a completely new program to learn, and right now all my key clicks are very slow. The free trial for both is about a month, so I have some time to learn Dorico and decide if I like it. I'm using it to engrave the song cycle, since it's pretty much finished, and Finale for my quick projects, like the Hamilton arrangement.

My free trial of Logic Pro X has also run out a while ago, so I'm back to using GarageBand for the moment on the music production side of things. As I'm doing more recording now (and even for random YouTube videos I've been uploading recently!), it would be nice to have a good program to use for it. The world of music technology is one I've really only started getting into at UIUC, but it really is an amazing one!

Website - coming soon. Hopefully this week, if I put my mind to it... I've procrastinated far too long, and all this talk on music tech has made me want to get my site up. I'll definitely link to this violinist.com blog; perhaps if I have a composition blog on the site, I can separate out my musical thoughts, so this blog here can be much more focused solely on the violin. We'll see, though.


I think that about covers it. This post took me a while to write, and I need to get out for my morning composition walk! And sorry for more of my "autobiographical" posts; I do wish to use this blog, as I mentioned above, for community posts and sharing things or speaking about things related to violin performance, even if that's not my major. However, for me, this is therapeutic and gets me very excited about the music I am making and what I am doing, and I am so excited to truly be getting back into the world of music. (Even if on the side, I'm starting to consider non-music jobs for at least a start after I graduate from UIUC... Perhaps something in tech. We'll see.)

Anyways - thanks for reading, and have a wonderful rest of your day! I'd best get music-making!

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