Theme evaluation (Day 6/365)

Here’s a quick report on my music notebook jottings: I’m better than I thought.

You may recall that one of my weaknesses as a musician is my inability to imagine a tune then write it down without resorting to a keyboard somewhere. Part of my plan is to take a music notebook with me on my evening walks and force myself to invent themes and write them down in the notebook.

After a week of this, I finally sat down to see if they sounded like what I thought they did when I wrote them.

First of all, of course, I had to deal with the fact that my sequencer software, Intuem, had lost its registration code when I upgraded the laptop to OS X Tiger. Why this should be so, I know not, but it took me another hour to get this resolved, only I didn’t really, and are you listening to me, Intuem.com??

This was important because my only keyboard is a plain little MIDI number that can only play through other software, e.g., Intuem, and for that not to be registered, and then not to recognize the keyboard…. Grrrr. This is the kind of thing Windows users have to put up with. Are you listening, Intuem.com?

Anyway, I ended up inputting the themes into Finale, my music notation software. Guess what? They all actually sounded very nice! And one that I thought would be my winner actually was my first choice if I had to choose between the ten or twelve melodies I’ve got so far. Here it is, if you’d like to see it:

theme from First Symphony

I think it needs some reshaping in its second half, and I probably could sit down at the keyboard and stretch it into a more 21st century sound, tonality-wise-speaking, but on the whole not a bad little theme. It bears a lot of promise in its simple little outline for all kinds of developmental possibilities.

However, I think in the interest of creative pursuit I will keep working to see what else I can come up with.

Part of the problem is that I’ve decided my first symphony for orchestra (I wrote part of one for band many years ago) will be in G major. Major keys are problematic for us 21st century composers, because purely tonal melodies in major keys are suspect. They don’t sound modern, do they, because there’s no angst. I found that half the tunes I was humming on my walks around the block kept turning into Haydnesque statements, and we can’t have that and be respectable, can we?

I forced myself to move my thematic musings forward from Haydn and have made it as far as Schubert. My next goal is Dvorak, and hopefully before too long I can squeeze out some Shostakovich, not that many of his symphonies were in a major key. At some point, of course, maybe it will actually begin to sound like Lyles.

2 thoughts on “Theme evaluation (Day 6/365)

  1. For me the seduction of the theme is the prospect of spending time with it and pulling everything from it, using it as the genetic code.

    I think the “classical” defining feature of a theme is its ability to lodge in the memory; all of the composer’s work relies on that. There are, of course , other ways of using a theme. It can stay truly genetic and molecular with respect to the body of sound created. Perhaps it cannot be “read” and memorized.

    Be honest. Did the “modal” shift in the second measure come about originally as you heard the theme, or did you sharp the G to pull it out of its classical G-ness? Very pleasant little turn in any case.

    Playing with modes is one good way to make tonality sound “new.” Also, change your criteria for candences. I think it’s the dominant turn which dictates that feeling of “tonality.”

    How’s the theme do with fuguing or canonizing or polyphonic suchness?

  2. The G sharp was deliberate, but it was more of an appogiatura thing than a modal thing.

    One reason I like it a lot is that it does stick in the mind, although part of that is the somewhat annoying lopsidedness of the first measure. It also has lots of potential as genetic code, as you put it.

    It won’t work as a fugue, but canonic stuff should be easy enough, at least with bits of it.

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