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#1149716 - 09/11/07 04:01 AM some new music -- 8 Variations on an Original Theme
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
a.k.a. "Reuben"

midi

(edit: I just took out one of the variations. The link above is the new version: here is the old version . Let me know which one you like better! I think the variation that I removed was problematic in that it was too different, and blocked up the flow/drama)

score (old score )

It's called "Reuben" because, back in May when I wrote the theme, it reminded me of an old song that my dad used to sing to us kids:

Once upon a time,
there was a cantor,
and his name was Reuben.

He was a little bit short,
and a little bit fat.

All day long,
And all night long,
He would play....


And then we would call out the name of an instrument, and we'd pretend to play that instrument while singing the tune.

It's a completely different tune; it has nothing to do with these new variations that I wrote.

But writing this music brought back the memory, so I thought I'd name my piece after "Reuben". \:\)


All comments welcome... I posted this also in the "coherence" thread, and asked there about an F Major or F Minor arpeggio in measure 67. I'm sort of leaning towards making it an F Major arpeggio, to add a little surprise and color to the opening of the next variation. But I'm also sort of leaning towards keeping it an F Minor arpeggio, because I think it maybe sounds better. *shrugs*
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Sam

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#1149717 - 09/11/07 06:47 AM Re: some new music -- 8 Variations on an Original Theme
Antonius Hamus Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/24/05
Posts: 2230
That sounded perhaps a bit too coherent... In some ways, it sounded like one big variation.

I noticed that in more than one variation you used different rhythms in a way which gave the effect of your trying to give some variety to the individual variation itself. Not good, in my opinion. Rhythms and other motivic elements should be used with the utmost economy. Beethoven is a superb example in this case, as in many other cases.

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#1149718 - 09/11/07 11:47 AM Re: some new music -- 8 Variations on an Original Theme
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
Thanks, Antonius. You're exactly right -- I was trying to use rhythm in particular as a way of giving more variety to the individual variation. Perhaps what turned me off, in part, from the Diabellis was that each variation was so uniform -- the first two variations, especially, interested me at first but I soon got tired of their one and only rhythms. (Dare I say they were too simple? But I'm not intimately familiar with the set, so perhaps I shouldn't say more about them.) Incidentally, my least favorite variation from my own piece, that I've thought about removing, is the 6th which is made entirely of arpeggios (very "economical" rhythmically). It seems to me so stark and simple compared to the others. But it's been growing on me, and I do like the contrast that it brings.

I got the idea of varying each variation from Mozart's Sonata K331, 1st movement. As you know, the theme is divided in 2 parts. The first variation: part 1 is itself divided in 2, texturally, rhythmically, dynamically. The third and fourth variations: part 2 begins in a manner completely different from part 1, rhythmically and texturally (unlike in the theme itself, where part 1 and part 2 use the same texture/rhythm). The last variation: the first 4 bars and the last 4 bars (before the final sixteenth arpeggios) use one rhythm and character; the middle bars have a completely different character. So Mozart was clearly not only varying the theme, but also varying each individual variation.

I'm curious what you think of this Mozart set.


I also was trying to avoid pauses between variations, which I realize is not the classical tradition, because I wanted it to flow like one piece while having the form of variations. This is what I mean by coherence -- when the variations stick together, flow together, go together. It shouldn't sound like "one big variation" -- the individual variations should be unique enough to give it a diverse structure. On the other hand, it also shouldn't sound like 9 seperate little pieces played in succession -- it's not a set (or collection or album...) of variations that I'm after, but rather a single, unified piece of music that is composed of unique, yet inter-connected, variations.


Thanks again for your comments. You've heard almost exactly what I intended to be heard, although I'm sorry that you disapproved. \:\)
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Sam

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#1149719 - 09/11/07 01:32 PM Re: some new music -- 8 Variations on an Original Theme
Antonius Hamus Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/24/05
Posts: 2230
Thanks for explaining. Now I understand much better what you were after with that coherence thread. I think Bach's famous Chaconne and the equally famous C minor passacaglia might interest you. In the former case, I'm specifically thinking of the Busoni transcription, since I can't remember the violin original.

So, what were you after in terms of larger structure, besides flow, in this particular piece? Steve mentioned "arch", or dramatic movement in the other thread. I thought I sensed some sort of climactic climate there somewhere, in your piece, or at least something moving and evolving in a subtly dramatic fashion. My memory is a bit hazy, though; I'm also lazy... I'll have to go reacquaint myself with the original Diablo now...

I'll have to think about that Mozart sometime...

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#1149720 - 09/11/07 02:28 PM Re: some new music -- 8 Variations on an Original Theme
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2693
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
I like it. I thought the rhythmic aspect was perhaps the stronger part of it. It's an enjoyable and fun set of variations and for some reason it left me hungry, perhaps I was thinking of a Reuben sandwich?

What I missed was real fundamental variation. I never got to the point where I thought so how is this a variation on the theme? We all love Rach's Variations on a theme of Pagannini and I often wondered just how the 18th variation was a variation, at least until it was explained that the theme was inverted and slowed down. Some other possibilities you might consider in future variations is inverting the rhythm so long notes become short and short notes become long, or seriously skewed harmonization. The possibilities are endless.

So Sam congratulations on a nice little piece. I'll be very curious to hear what you come up with when your ambitions extend farther and you really push yourself. Looking forward to hearing to hearing more!

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#1149721 - 09/11/07 11:52 PM Re: some new music -- 8 Variations on an Original Theme
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
I just took out one of the variations. Here is a new midi:

Reuben 2.0

And the old one:

Reuben 1.0

Which one do you prefer?

I think that arpeggio variation was blocking up the flow too much, because it was just too different from the rest. It had been bothering me for a while. Both of my parents just listened, and my mom said she couldn't tell me where the variations were, but she loved it up until just before that point, and hated everything afterward. The explanation was that it might be great from a musicology perspective, but she just couldn't tell that the last few variations were still part of the same piece. I wonder if taking out that variation will make a difference.
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Sam

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#1149722 - 09/11/07 11:55 PM Re: some new music -- 8 Variations on an Original Theme
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
Antonius,

I didn't really have a plan, other than "write variations, and make them sound like one piece" -- something for me to think about in my next piece. At various stages in the process, I did come up with various quasi-plans, but they always dissolved as I'd come up with a new variation, or grow tired of one that I'd been thinking of. A larger structural plan would definately help.
_________________________
Sam

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#1149723 - 09/12/07 12:01 AM Re: some new music -- 8 Variations on an Original Theme
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
Steve,

Thanks a lot for listening and commenting. I'm glad you liked it -- and your comments are very helpful!

I want to be careful about writing variations that are too abstract. Melody is important, I think, and a few of my variations in this set (the one I deleted and the 2nd from last) are not as melodic, and those might be least agreeable to non-musicians. I'm writing not only for trained musicians, but also for people who aren't mavens but just like music. In fact, the comment that my parents had about the music is that towards the end, they weren't quite sure how these were even variations of the original theme anymore. So I told them that you thought they were too simple, and I needed to make them more challenging. ;\)

You are right, however, and I certainly appreciate the Rachmaninov example... although it is less obvious how it is a variation, it is still very melodious and it still sounds beautiful. I would guess that, in general, most non-musicians / non-connoissuers don't care as much about the actual variation process, as long as the music is beautiful. Musicians and connoiseurs, on the other hand, may care very much -- so the two forces combine for a piece that is both complex and easily accessible.
_________________________
Sam

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#1149724 - 09/12/07 02:11 PM Re: some new music -- 8 Variations on an Original Theme
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2693
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianojerome:
I want to be careful about writing variations that are too abstract. Melody is important, I think, and a few of my variations in this set (the one I deleted and the 2nd from last) are not as melodic, and those might be least agreeable to non-musicians. I'm writing not only for trained musicians, but also for people who aren't mavens but just like music. In fact, the comment that my parents had about the music is that towards the end, they weren't quite sure how these were even variations of the original theme anymore. So I told them that you thought they were too simple, and I needed to make them more challenging. ;\)

You are right, however, and I certainly appreciate the Rachmaninov example... although it is less obvious how it is a variation, it is still very melodious and it still sounds beautiful. I would guess that, in general, most non-musicians / non-connoissuers don't care as much about the actual variation process, as long as the music is beautiful. Musicians and connoiseurs, on the other hand, may care very much -- so the two forces combine for a piece that is both complex and easily accessible. [/b]
Exactly!

It is entirely possible to compose variations that are far distant from the original theme yet are still interesting and engaging music. I agree completely that music should always have those two attributes. I hesitate to include melodic because there's a lot of rhythmically interesting music that's not particularly melodic. I like most of you abhor music that sounds like a horde of rats attacking a pile of instruments.

I've had this CD going in my car lately. It's absolutely scrumptuous music, beautifully performed. But it sounds nothing like any choir you hear on a typical Sunday. I couldn't find any audio samples from this CD, but did find a free sample of Eric Whitacre (see 2nd link).

http://www.amazon.com/Eric-Whitacre-Comp...89605660&sr=8-2

Free sample of Eric Whitacre (and other composers) is here:
http://www.iowayouthchorus.org/announcements.htm

I post all this to inspire and challenge composers to extend their range. It's very easy to stay in one's comfort zone. My best music has been composed when I challenged myself to move well beyond that.

Sam you're young, don't box yourself in. The world is much bigger than the people around you right now.

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#1149725 - 09/14/07 01:37 AM Re: some new music -- 8 Variations on an Original Theme
Harmosis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/15/07
Posts: 308
Loc: California
Hi Sam,
In general, I like what you’re doing here. I also think you should leave the arpeggios in - they give more of a sense of variety to the overall piece. Maybe find a way to weave the melody in there, passing from one hand to the other, or something. As for measure 67, I’d save the V chord for that measure instead of I or i. In fact, I’d make it V7 or viiº7.

I agree with Antonius’ comment about the high level of homogeneity of the whole piece. I found myself looking for a variation in major (either parallel or relative) - something to consider. I like the rhythmic aspects you’re presenting, though.

I really like the 8th and 9th variations. The 16th note figures of the 8th flow right into the waltz of the 9th. Nicely done. I didn’t care for the ending too much. Maybe tie it back to the beginning somehow.

On another issue, I found a lot of your voice leading a little strange: lots parallel/direct 4ths, octaves, 5ths and such, in mostly two voices. It seems like the functional part of the harmony is very standard, but texturally, a little odd. However, I think that this actually works well in the 3rd variation, which, to me, has a more Middle-Eastern sound to it. Of course, I realize that this isn’t the 1750’s, and, perhaps, this is all intentional. In that case, please disregard!

On the whole, good job!

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#1149726 - 09/15/07 05:33 AM Re: some new music -- 8 Variations on an Original Theme
Allazart Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/16/02
Posts: 389
Congrats, this brought a smaile to my face!

I don't agree that variations should necessarily do violence to the theme so as to make it almost unrecognizable. Certainly that 'deconstructionist' approach is possible as evidenced by some Beethoven works but it's not the only way.

Many Mozart varations, for example, keep the theme mostly intact while changing harmomy, key, contrapuntal setting, adding melodic ornaments, changing the time signature, or syncopating the rhythm. Your set of varions seem to follow a more Mozartean plan which is perfectly acceptable, IMO.

BTW, I also think the arpeggio variation works quite well in its setting. For some reason, the fifth varation is my favourite.

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#1149727 - 09/15/07 05:26 PM Re: some new music -- 8 Variations on an Original Theme
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2693
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
I have commented on this forum several times that composing variations is a good exercise in composition. I may be completely wrong, but my impression was that Sam was taking up my suggestion. So you're completely right that he doesn't have to compose abstract variations. My point was that a composer doesn't really begin to exercise creativity until he/she has exhausted the obvious. Maybe the reason so many liked the arpeggio variation was that it began to explore the not so obvious. To Sam's credit several of his other variations also beyond the obvious.

I gave Sam plenty of kudos for his variations as they are, but as an exercise in compositional creativity they only began to scratch beyond the surface.

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#1149728 - 09/17/07 05:17 AM Re: some new music -- 8 Variations on an Original Theme
Bkek Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/19/07
Posts: 33
Loc: Berlin
I liked it a lot. It has a great mood. I'd love to play it.
_________________________
"Men have not found the words for it nor the deed nor the thought, but they have found the music." Rand

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#1149729 - 09/20/07 12:05 PM Re: some new music -- 8 Variations on an Original Theme
Witold Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/03/07
Posts: 128
Sam, I must agree with those who say that it doesn't really feel like a set of variations. But I'm not sure if the problem is the variations, I think the theme itself is the biggest problem here. A good theme to write variations on should have very distinct characteristics that can be recognized even from very remote variations. Your melody has quite a distinct character and sticks to the listeners mind quite easily, but when you remove the melody (which you do in most variations) what are we left with? I-V-I-V-I-V-I-V-IV-V-I. That is not a distinct harmonic basis that would define this piece, it could define hundreds of pieces. Later on you even change these harmonies and leave nothing left of the original, which makes it feel mostly like an improvisation on chords found in the f-minor scale (the third, fourth and seventh variation feel like an improvisation on a f-minor chord).

This has indeed been said before, but it cannot be emphasized enough: If you want to compose like a master, study the masters. To study variations I'd also recommend Beethoven. Not neccessarily his variations on tunes composed by other people, but his variations on original themes. Personally, I'd pick one of his many beautiful slow movements of his sonatas.

First of all, look at the themes themselves. They are usually melodically very simple, but have very delicious harmonies. Usually there's a lot of added tone chords and at least one secondary dominant or augmented sixth chord. These harmonic progressions are in themselves characteristic enough to define the theme, you can play the chords in any way possible, and anyone familiar with the original theme will notice it as the same.

Next, look at the variations. What does he change, what remains the same? For the most part, he changes nothing essential. The harmonies are the same, the melody remains the same. Are they different variations? Yes. Do they form a coherent piece? Yes. An eay piece for a first study would be the slow movement of the appassionata. Look through the three variations, see what he does to the harmonies and find the melody and see how he keeps the melody there throughout all variations, even if they are very different in character. For more advanced variations, the andante of Beethovens op. 109 is a good example. Some of the variations seem very different, and he actually changes the harmonies quite a lot in some variations. But it's a fun challenge to find out exactly how the third and fourth variations are variations on the original theme.

So, how to proceed... From what I've seen of your compositions posted here, you do know how to write different pianistic textures, but you could expand your harmonic language quite a bit. Not saying that you should go serial or something like that, but there is a lot more to tonal music than the basic tonal functions. I'd suggest that you try to create a theme more in the spirit of Beethoven, nothing complicated melodically, but focus on the harmonies. The best starting point would be to create an 8+8 bar 4 or 5 voice harmonic progression. Pay attention to voice leading and make it so that the chords by themselves are interesting to listen to, then you know that you have a good basis for your theme. The simple choral setting might be the theme just like that (like in the appassionata), or you might then slightly alter it to give it more life, for instance make small changes to the rhytm of the melody to keep the melodic and harmonic rhytms separate (like in op 109). If I was to compose a set of variations, I would most likely use more than half of the time on constructing the theme, once you have a good theme it's not hard to variate it.

When you have the theme, think about what are the key elements in it. What are the defining characteristics of the harmony and the melody? Then try to preserve these in your variations. In your theme posted in this thread, I'd say that the melody is defined by the notes on the strong beat: F-G-F-F-Ab-F-C-C-F-G-F-F-Db-C(-G-)F. As long as you keep those notes on the strong beats, you can pretty much do anything and it will feel like a variation on the original theme. After making a couple of variations like this, the next step is variate the key notes. The easiest way to do this is by changing the rhytm (appassionata 3rd variation, op 109 2nd variation). When you are comfortable writing variations like this, then you can try to write something that disguises the original theme further. But always keep it as a variation on the original theme, at least you yourself must be able to describe exactly how each variation is a variation on the original theme, where the melody is and where the harmonies are and what has happened to them.

So, what is the relationship between your variation no8 and the original theme?

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#1149730 - 09/20/07 11:37 PM Re: some new music -- 8 Variations on an Original Theme
Bkek Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/19/07
Posts: 33
Loc: Berlin
Parts of the melody keep floating into my head. It's damn annoying!!!!!
_________________________
"Men have not found the words for it nor the deed nor the thought, but they have found the music." Rand

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#1149731 - 09/24/07 11:00 AM Re: some new music -- 8 Variations on an Original Theme
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Originally posted by Harmosis:
Hi Sam,
In general, I like what you’re doing here. I also think you should leave the arpeggios in - they give more of a sense of variety to the overall piece. Maybe find a way to weave the melody in there, passing from one hand to the other, or something. As for measure 67, I’d save the V chord for that measure instead of I or i. In fact, I’d make it V7 or viiº7.

I agree with Antonius’ comment about the high level of homogeneity of the whole piece. I found myself looking for a variation in major (either parallel or relative) - something to consider. I like the rhythmic aspects you’re presenting, though.

I really like the 8th and 9th variations. The 16th note figures of the 8th flow right into the waltz of the 9th. Nicely done. I didn’t care for the ending too much. Maybe tie it back to the beginning somehow.

On another issue, I found a lot of your voice leading a little strange: lots parallel/direct 4ths, octaves, 5ths and such, in mostly two voices. It seems like the functional part of the harmony is very standard, but texturally, a little odd. However, I think that this actually works well in the 3rd variation, which, to me, has a more Middle-Eastern sound to it. Of course, I realize that this isn’t the 1750’s, and, perhaps, this is all intentional. In that case, please disregard!

On the whole, good job! [/b]
Thanks, Harmosis. Glad you liked it. \:\)

The melody is already there in the arpeggio variation -- each arpeggio begins on a note of the melody, F, Ab, G, E-natural, F, etc. Evidently it's not as obvious as I thought it would be!

Regarding homogeneity and lack of variety: I wonder how opinions might change if I were to rewrite it so that each variation has a clear ending and beginning, so that they don't all flow into each other. Personally, I feel that there is a lot of variety -- no 2 variations are alike. But not seperating them with clear divisions could indeed give a sense of homogeneity -- and that was one of my main goals with this piece.

I'm glad you liked the 8th and 9th variations. The dynamics at the end didn't play for some reason in the midi, and this makes a big difference for the ending. But I do agree with you here to a certain extent. Although I do like the ending, I feel that the last 2 variations stand too seperate from the rest of the piece. Up until the 6th variation, everything flows so perfectly one into the next, and I feel like there's something missing before the last few variations. This could mean I need to write more variations -- or not, but it almost feels like a different piece at the end.

Regarding voice-leading: yes, you're right, this isn't the 1750's. ;\) However, I actually was very mindful of voice-leading, especially in the 3rd variation, which you mentioned (moving scale-wise from 2 to 5 and back to 2, not going down to the tonic until the very end of the variation). I'm a big fan of parallel fifths. A few weeks ago, I posted a recording of another piece that I wrote, called "Bulgar." At the end, I play a melody in unison and then repeat it again in parallel perfect fifths (adding accidentals as needed to keep them perfect fifths).

Thanks for your detailed response, and thanks for listening!
_________________________
Sam

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#1149732 - 09/24/07 11:09 AM Re: some new music -- 8 Variations on an Original Theme
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Originally posted by Allazart:
Congrats, this brought a smaile to my face!

I don't agree that variations should necessarily do violence to the theme so as to make it almost unrecognizable. Certainly that 'deconstructionist' approach is possible as evidenced by some Beethoven works but it's not the only way.

Many Mozart varations, for example, keep the theme mostly intact while changing harmomy, key, contrapuntal setting, adding melodic ornaments, changing the time signature, or syncopating the rhythm. Your set of varions seem to follow a more Mozartean plan which is perfectly acceptable, IMO.

BTW, I also think the arpeggio variation works quite well in its setting. For some reason, the fifth varation is my favourite. [/b]
Thanks for listening and commenting. I'm glad you liked it. \:\)

You've posted some good ideas for making variations. In fact, the only variation sets that I have actually studied have been by Mozart. Multiple people here have recommended studying scores -- this is a good idea, and I really should set aside some time at the library to pull out Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms...

The fifth variation is one of my favorites, too. I like the syncopation, and the little grace notes in the left hand. \:\)
_________________________
Sam

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#1149733 - 09/24/07 11:16 AM Re: some new music -- 8 Variations on an Original Theme
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Originally posted by Steve Chandler:
I have commented on this forum several times that composing variations is a good exercise in composition. I may be completely wrong, but my impression was that Sam was taking up my suggestion. So you're completely right that he doesn't have to compose abstract variations. My point was that a composer doesn't really begin to exercise creativity until he/she has exhausted the obvious. Maybe the reason so many liked the arpeggio variation was that it began to explore the not so obvious. To Sam's credit several of his other variations also beyond the obvious.

I gave Sam plenty of kudos for his variations as they are, but as an exercise in compositional creativity they only began to scratch beyond the surface. [/b]
Steve, as always, thanks for your very helpful comments and advice. Yes, I took you up on your suggestion. An English professor once told me that as a student she was assigned to write 2 or 3 pages describing a particular piece of tree bark. After about half a page, she ran out of the obvious ideas, and the rest was very difficult but rewarding. To write 9 variations has been a stretch for me -- last time, I only wrote 4. Next time... 20! (If I can do it!)

Thanks for the Whitacre links. My brother has sung Whitacre songs with a couple of choirs recently, and they're certainly a nice contrast to the standard canon.
_________________________
Sam

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#1149734 - 09/24/07 11:19 AM Re: some new music -- 8 Variations on an Original Theme
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Originally posted by Bkek:
I liked it a lot. It has a great mood. I'd love to play it. [/b]
 Quote:
Originally posted by Bkek:
Parts of the melody keep floating into my head. It's damn annoying!!!!![/b]
I'm glad you liked it. I posted the sheet music -- feel free to play it as much or as little as you'd like! (Though, if you play it too much, you won't be able to get it out of your head ;\) ).
_________________________
Sam

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#1149735 - 09/24/07 11:31 AM Re: some new music -- 8 Variations on an Original Theme
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
Witold, thanks for such a detailed and helpful response. It's given me a lot to think about.

To my surprise, I don't remember / can't figure out what I was thinking when I wrote the 8th variation! I was obviously playing around with the thirds idea, which could in a sense make it a variation of the theme, but it is of a different kind than all of the others (which follow the same melodic structure) (It would be more like R. Strauss -- starting a similar way, and then taking off in a completely unrelated direction. But I'm certain that's not what I had in mind.)
_________________________
Sam

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