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Thread: Urgynes

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    Senior Member Crudblud's Avatar
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    Default Urgynes

    Just under 35 minutes of music for piano, cello and accordion in five parts. Each part has its own 12-tone matrix (except for the fourth, which has two) but their use is not strict in any way, rather, by applying patterns, shapes, directions and other truncations/filters, I use them to generate material which is then combined with free writing. The extent to which the row underpins the music in a given part varies, but overall there is an even balance, and I employ many techniques which take serially generated material and transform it into something completely different.

    To those who listen: I hope you enjoy it, and please feel free to ask any questions about the music that might be on your mind.

    To those who come to bicker about serialism and their misconceptions thereof: go away

    Get it here and wish you hadn't!

    The first part is also available to stream here if you are so inclined.

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    Jazzy and, as always, filled with unexpected twists. The superhuman effects you put on the piano part in particular were quite a nice surprise. You didn't let any technique get the best of you; you seem fully in control of your technique.

    And I don't care how academically "classical" or "serial" it is.

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    I've listened to the piece.

    I THINK IT'S URGY xDDD xDDDDD xDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD

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    Senior Member Crudblud's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    Jazzy and, as always, filled with unexpected twists. The superhuman effects you put on the piano part in particular were quite a nice surprise. You didn't let any technique get the best of you; you seem fully in control of your technique.
    Thank you!

    I think working on this piece has been something of a breakthrough for me. I'd always had trouble with 12-tone technique and writing for piano, but by the time I got around to this one I was no longer concerned with following the row or writing "pianistically," I was able to just work with those tools freely and confidently. I'm glad it shows in the music.

    The way the piano effects ended up in the final piece is interesting in terms of its history. I had tried to use them in every part, but they just didn't fit. By the time another fifth part was deemed necessary (the original fifth part was subsumed into the fourth, which is why it has two rows) I got to a point where I was stuck, and all of a sudden these strange "minigun" sounds just seemed to fit naturally. They mirror the jazz piano sections in the first part, initially seeming like an abstraction but later becoming an integral part of conclusion, or at least that was how I intended it.

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    Member SergeOfArniVillage's Avatar
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    The highlight of this is obviously the piano -- tasty jazz licks, controlled yet sudden sonic booms in bass accompanied by fleeting, "scuttling" high treble runs. I can appreciate serialist jazz.

    But the inclusion of the accordion, I cannot reconcile. Its presence really, truly seems completely unnecessary. Almost every passage it plays is needlessly obnoxious. I had a sweet moment of bliss when the sonic boom at 3:28 seemed to silence the creature, but alas! it survived. In fact, this piece could be entitled, "How To Assassinate Weird Al Yankovich".
    "To play without passion is inexcusable!"

    -- Beethoven

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    Quote Originally Posted by SergeOfArniVillage View Post
    The highlight of this is obviously the piano -- tasty jazz licks, controlled yet sudden sonic booms in bass accompanied by fleeting, "scuttling" high treble runs. I can appreciate serialist jazz.

    But the inclusion of the accordion, I cannot reconcile. Its presence really, truly seems completely unnecessary. Almost every passage it plays is needlessly obnoxious. I had a sweet moment of bliss when the sonic boom at 3:28 seemed to silence the creature, but alas! it survived. In fact, this piece could be entitled, "How To Assassinate Weird Al Yankovich".
    Your comments give the impression that you have only listened to the first part, so I can't really offer up a detailed rebuttal. I suggest you listen to the whole thing, but for now...

    The coming together of the instruments to make music is the highlight. The piano is integral, as is the accordion, as is the cello, as are the myriad ways in which they interact; a piece for piano, cello and accordion without piano, cello or accordion wouldn't be much of a piece at all. As in architecture, if all the components are not present and correct the piece is not structurally sound.

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    "a piece for piano, cello and accordion without piano, cello or accordion wouldn't be much of a piece at all."

    I may be more inclined to agree that the accordion is integral, if it wasn't given the unrepentant role of taking the dissonance to unnecessarily dissonant levels.

    I did only listen to the first part, so I downloaded the rest. Again, I just can't get over the accordion's tone in the other pieces. I think if it were given unisons or open fifths to complete your serial construct, it could contribute something, but treating it like just another instrument, or a portable piano, with constant minor 2nds, just plain doesn't sound good.

    The program notes are hilarious, on the plus side, giving yet more proof that Weird Al does, indeed, have a part in this piece (obviously the accordion player).

    I can't help being an accordion bigot, I was raised that way.
    "To play without passion is inexcusable!"

    -- Beethoven

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    Weird Al, although I do like some of his songs, never really entered my mind while I was working on the piece, and the liner notes owe more to Robert Ashley than anything.

    As for the "unnecessary" dissonance, in this piece it is functioning predominantly as colour. It is also worth nothing that the piano has just as many if not more extremely dissonant parts than the accordion. Take for the instance the sequential truncations of the Grandmother Chord, the stabbing octave blocks, the incredibly dissonant section of the first part played in the bass register, which, by the way, you seemed to quite like on first hearing. You don't like the accordion tone, and that's fine, but to suggest the material I have written for it is out of step with the rest of the piece, that's simply not true.

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    Member SergeOfArniVillage's Avatar
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    I guess we'll have to agree to disagree then ^_~

    Until then, I will definitely be pondering just what Urgyness really is!
    Last edited by SergeOfArniVillage; Feb-13-2014 at 02:53.
    "To play without passion is inexcusable!"

    -- Beethoven

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    Senior Member aleazk's Avatar
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    I think this piece is definitely one of the most "Crudblud pieces" that Crudblud ever produced so far!.

    I really enjoyed the piano writing.

    Without the accordion, this wouldn't be a Crudblud piece.
    Last edited by aleazk; Feb-13-2014 at 18:10.

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    Ah, you see, aleazk understands! The accordion is more than just an accordion, it is love.

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    Note: This was originally written for Jfong's "Midnight Fantasy" thread in response to a question about serialism. I decided to post it here as it is directly related to this piece and the techniques used in making it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jfong View Post
    ah I see what you are talking about.
    Maybe due to my lack of musical knowledge, I just do not quite understand why you described my music as "algorithmic" while you compose using serialism(yes, I checked out Urgynes).
    Could you please tell me more about it so I can learn a bit more?
    There are better people on this forum to ask about serialism than me, but I will try to explain some of the ways I used 12-tone matrices in Urgynes, since you have heard it. Here is the matrix from the second movement.

    D# I 1
    2
    3
    4
    5
    6
    7
    8
    9
    10
    11
    12
    P
    1
    0 8 3 7 1 10
    6 2 4 11 5 9
    2
    4 0 7 11 5 2 10
    6 8 3 9 1
    3
    9 5 0 4 10 7 3 11
    1 8 2 6
    4
    5 1 8 0 6 3 11 7 9
    4 10 2
    5
    11 7 2 6 0 9 5 1 3 10
    4 8
    6
    2
    10 5 9 3 0 8 4 6 1 7
    11
    7
    6 2
    9 1 7 4 0 8 10 5 11 3
    8
    10 6 1
    5 11 8 4 0 2 9 3 7
    9
    8 4 11 3
    9 6 2 10 0 7 1 5
    10
    1 9
    4
    8
    2
    11 7 3 5 0 6 10
    11
    7
    3
    10
    2
    8
    5
    1 9 11 6 0 4
    12
    3
    11
    6
    10
    4
    1
    9 5 7 2 8 0

    The numbers along the outside detail the Prime and Inverse rows, so when I say "P11" I'm referring to the 0 at the very start of the matrix, when I say "I25" I'm referring to the 7 which is the second interval in P5.

    From that matrix, or grid, there are endless possibilities for generating material. What I did, in addition to simply following a row in a straightforward manner, was to apply various patterns and shapes and non-standard (e.g.: diagonal) directions to movements about the grid, sometimes I would even jump from one instance of a number to another somewhere else (e.g.: reaching the 8 at P12 and jumping to the 8 at P39 and continuing in any direction). Deriving material in this way became a game, and I was often devising different rules for getting from one end of the board to the other and seeing what the resulting melodies, harmonies, chords etc. were, and naturally I would alter or discard the results I was not pleased with.

    One technique I used throughout the piece was to apply shapes to the matrix, and the portions of the matrix above highlighted in bold red resemble a particular division I used in the very first movement; two large isosceles triangles from P61 to P127 and I61 to I127. Within these triangles I used all my other techniques to generate more limited melodic material while I derived chords from the space in between them. In the final movement I used isosceles triangles again, this time to form eight equal divisions of the matrix which operated independently of each other.

    Of course, the whole time I was combining all of this serially derived material with free writing and applying transformative techniques independently of the matrix. So ultimately my work was not serial in the strict sense, the matrix was only one tool of many used to reach the end result. I did not apply any complex mathematical processes to the matrix, certainly nothing like Set Theory, which I must confess I do not understand, so for me at least working with serialism was nothing close to an algorithmic kind of composition.

    I hope that answers your question, but if it doesn't, feel free to ask more and I will try to explain.

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    Crudblud, I'm fascinated with the idea of constructing a formalism to generate music. I read in detail how Xenakis used constructs that initially seemed "far away from" music but were then used to produce compositions. To me I imagine the composer would not know how some of the music will sound until it is actually produced. This procedure appears far removed from the more traditional method of deciding how a composition should sound and then writing music. I hope my questions are not too naive.

    How did you construct the matrix above? Other than each row and column consisting of a 12 tone row, does it have specific patterns? If so, did you create them with musical ideas in mind (other than eventually it would be used to produce parts of your piece)?

    Now this is the most difficult question to ask (and maybe answer). Hopefully I'm asking something sensible here. Once you had worked through much of the piece, did you think you could have created a "better" matrix? In other words would a different matrix have generated less music that you had to discard? Or is that not the point? In other words the matrix let you play with pre-set musical ideas that you were free to accept (and work with) or reject and move on?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mmsbls View Post
    Crudblud, I'm fascinated with the idea of constructing a formalism to generate music. I read in detail how Xenakis used constructs that initially seemed "far away from" music but were then used to produce compositions. To me I imagine the composer would not know how some of the music will sound until it is actually produced. This procedure appears far removed from the more traditional method of deciding how a composition should sound and then writing music. I hope my questions are not too naive.

    How did you construct the matrix above? Other than each row and column consisting of a 12 tone row, does it have specific patterns? If so, did you create them with musical ideas in mind (other than eventually it would be used to produce parts of your piece)?

    Now this is the most difficult question to ask (and maybe answer). Hopefully I'm asking something sensible here. Once you had worked through much of the piece, did you think you could have created a "better" matrix? In other words would a different matrix have generated less music that you had to discard? Or is that not the point? In other words the matrix let you play with pre-set musical ideas that you were free to accept (and work with) or reject and move on?
    Each row was constructed differently, sometimes I wanted particular intervals to be emphasised, but some were almost created blindly. This row in particular is the most extreme example of doing it blind, I just asked friends in an IRC chatroom to call out numbers between 0 and 11 and wrote them in the order they came up, ignoring repeat numbers. If it had moved a little too predictably I would have scrapped it, but as it came out it seemed pretty interesting on paper. Initially I was not too happy working with it, however, so for most of the second movement I completely ignored it, but then I had something of an epiphany as I was working it back into the ending, then I went back and reset a lot of the material using the matrix as a guide and it sounded a lot better, more unified. So that one in particular was a case of having to get away from the row to write the music and then coming back to it later on. If I had rewritten the row, the movement would have become far too laborious a working process, and I think the end result would have suffered because of that.

    The construction of the matrix itself is quite simple, all you need to do is invert the prime row to create the inverse row, then use each interval in the inverse row as the beginning of a transposed prime row. In that matrix I12 is 4, so P2 is the prime row transposed up two whole steps. The rest falls into place the same way: P3 is P1+9 half steps, P4 is P1+ 5 and so on until the entire thing is filled out. Every 12-tone matrix is crawling with patterns, whether intentional or accidental, just take a look at those two red triangles on the example I posted, notice how they are diagonal inversions of each other. P16 to P712 (10, 10, 11, 9, 10, 7, 3) is I61 to I127 (2, 2, 1, 3, 2, 5, 9) inverted, the same is true of all those left-to-right diagonal lines. The right-to-left diagonal lines offer up some interesting prospects as well: I8 to P8 is 2, 10, 7, 6 followed by its own retrograde inversion 6, 5, 2, 10, and the same is true of all diagonals in that direction. Simply put, using the left-to-right line of 0s as a dividing line, the left side is the inverse of the right. There are lots of other recurring figures, in this one the relationship between 7 and 3 is strongly emphasised, in most instances you can find a 3 right next to a 7, whether straight or diagonally. I think it's an exciting feature of the 12-tone matrix, the way patterns inevitably emerge, recur, invert and transpose each other etc.

    Awareness of the results one will get from a matrix, that's something Milton Babbitt talked about, I think in the documentary Portrait of a Serial Composer, and he's lamenting composition students trying to use serial techniques without considering the musical outcome of the rows they create, their lack of understanding means they end up scrapping a lot of unsatisfactory pieces. Of course, Babbitt was very strict in his application of serial organisation, to the extent that the piece was determined by the rows before it was composed (if he was answering your question about patterns, I have no doubt he would talk about planning them out meticulously when he constructs a row), so when he talks about that awareness it is within the context of strict application, my applications are much looser and do not underpin the entire work so much as supplement it. Each movement begins with an exploration of the row but is soon enough suffused with free writing, so the construction of the row itself is not so important as the application from then on, but even in those initial explorations the vertical spacing and ordering of the notes makes all the difference, some sections will benefit from a more lyrical treatment while others will require large leaps from one register to another and so on.

    I'll leave it there before I start rambling (even more) incoherently, but do let me know if there's anything you want me to be clearer on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crudblud View Post
    Simply put, using the left-to-right line of 0s as a dividing line, the left side is the inverse of the right.
    I see how given the initial row everything else follows. I should have seen the symmetry around the diagonal 0s, but I guess I wasn't expecting to find so much order. Silly me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Crudblud View Post
    Of course, Babbitt was very strict in his application of serial organisation, to the extent that the piece was determined by the rows before it was composed (if he was answering your question about patterns, I have no doubt he would talk about planning them out meticulously when he constructs a row), so when he talks about that awareness it is within the context of strict application
    This is what always seemed so incredibly difficult to me. The original row could be straightforward, but the variations start to get rather complicated (at least it seems). I guess that might be what separates good serial composers from lesser ones. As I understand it, others here at TC have said that in many cases the vertical structure is more important than the horizontal "melodies" so there can be less emphasis on the specific intervals.

    Quote Originally Posted by Crudblud View Post
    ...my applications are much looser and do not underpin the entire work so much as supplement it. Each movement begins with an exploration of the row but is soon enough suffused with free writing, so the construction of the row itself is not so important as the application from then on, but even in those initial explorations the vertical spacing and ordering of the notes makes all the difference, some sections will benefit from a more lyrical treatment while others will require large leaps from one register to another and so on.
    This makes perfect sense. Using the matrix but deviating where appropriate or desired can produce a nice blend of structured and free form music. I guess the trick is to use the structure as a guide but leave it aside when it becomes too constraining. When I first encountered serial music, it seemed almost non-sensical from a musical standpoint, but the more I learn about it, it just seems like a relatively modest variation of more traditional methods.

    Thanks for you thoughts and thanks for posting the piece.

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