Theme for the Woods (Draft 2)

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License and ©2011 Gregory Weaver.

I know it's been some time since I worked on this piece, and I apologize!  Between grueling over the other posts I've made, trying to finish the "Time's Scar" analysis, work, and life in general, it was difficult to find time to sit down and work on it.  So, since I was on a train for seven hours or so to get from Charlottesville, VA, to Stamford, CT, last weekend, I decided to bring my whopping 49-key MIDI keyboard along.  Yes, it hung out in the aisle and part of it rested on the lap of the friend with whom I traveled.

My first order of business was to change the title of the tune.  I only got as far as changing the location, however, because I don't want to christen it until it's finished.  The reader may recall it being "Forest or Village Theme," but I changed it to "Theme for the Woods" for a couple of reasons.  First, I got rid of the "village" part because I didn't want to limit the location.  Can this be a theme for a village in the woods?  Certainly, but I'm not going to focus on what a village atmosphere might sound like so I thought it best to oust that detail.  Secondly, to me, "woods" seems lighter than "forest."  When I think "forest," I see large, think pines; darkness; and wolves; when I think "woods," I imagine squirrels with acorns, camping, bird calls, and sunshine through the trees.  Since my tune is a little on the springy side, it is quite a bit more apt for the latter location.

Below I've posted my second draft.  It sounds a little different from the first because it uses Finale's Garritan instrument library while Draft 1 used Logic Pro's.  From now on (thanks to a suggestion from my girlfriend), my drafts will be MP3s of my work in Finale until I am satisfied with the score.  After that day comes, I'll rewrite everything into Logic Pro so that I can take advantage of my superior sound libraries, add expression, and mix and master the track.

[audio|artists=Gregory Weaver|titles=Theme for the Woods Draft 2]

Two notes: 1) The flute is an octave higher on the other draft.  I think I like starting with the lower octave, but haven't decided for sure yet. 2) The solo violin at the end is just a placeholder.

When I started to write I had an idea of what I'd like the form to be.  To this point I've been thinking:

- A Section: Flute/English Horn main melody

- B Section: Pizzicato strings bridge

- A2 Section: Full strings main melody

- C Section: Full strings melody extension

- Section featuring flute and english horn?

The build of the B section has been on the horizon for a while.  Unfortunately, most of the time that I thought of ideas was while I was daydreaming at work, and there I don't even have any chances to get mere fragments down.  So, by the time I got home from there or whatever else I had to do last week after work, all the specifics just went out the door.  One day I'll be able to compose all day and I won't have that problem!

As for the compositional process on the B section, I started by sitting on the train just trying to remember what I had thought of before.  That method did not work--it was counterproductive and time-consuming.  So, I just toyed around for a while and essentially forced myself out of my funk, the end result of the force being most of the violin and cello lines.  I also did the viola counterline in the repeated parts (i.e., measures one and two in the section), but not for the ones that change (i.e., measure three) because I had to throw myself off the train in Stamford (Amtrak doesn't mess around; they blasted off within 15 seconds after I dashed out).

Sometime during the ride I also did the flute and english horn parts.  They were the only parts that came naturally on the train--I hadn't planned to do them, but when I got inspired to put something in they just kind of came.  It was obvious to me at the time that they sounded very reminiscent of Secret of Mana, and I was really hoping that they weren't knock-offs (I mentioned having this fear last post, as well).  Listening to Hiroki Kikuda's "What the Forest Taught Me" again affirmed that I didn't really gank anything from that particular track, and that's as far as I'm looking into it!  So far I'm winning two for two in the thou-shalt-not-plagiarize game.

Anyway, those instruments' parts are supposed to represent the sound of sunlight through the trees (told you the woods reminded me of that), and to that extent I made them color tones an octave and a third apart from each other.  For instance, in their first appearance, the strings are playing an F#M7 chord while the english horn plays the 7 and the flute plays the 9 (I wouldn't consider the 7 a color tone normally, but maybe in VGM, no?).  Personally, I think they end up creating a nice amount of dissonance with the strings--hopefully it's not cringing for the average listener, but I wouldn't expect it to be.  As an aside, I admit that I have a little fear of things sounding a lot worse when I use better samples... they've tended to be revealing in the past, which is horrifying to think about.

Two nights ago, on the fourth night after the train ride up (the ride back was not productive in the least), I worked on the B some more.  At this time, I was very chord-minded.  Whereas before I had just used my ears and wrote what I heard without thinking about the specific harmonic implications too much, I then felt the urge to toil over that subject and therefore tweaked pretty much all of the parts to fit my outline.  In the end, the chords I chose weren't complex in function, but I made sure that the color was there to keep things interesting.

To me, choosing chords (if I didn't have the movement figured out already or didn't start composing by chords) is the hardest thing to do.  I always want to make sure that the ones I choose are the most perfect for the situation, so I wind up trying a lot of different things before settling, whether that be out of a wish to explore or an admitted obsession to find something outside of typical voice leading to make the movement of the piece have more depth and be more interesting.  And then, even after I decide on what chords I want, I have to make sure the voicings I have are the ones that are the most befitting.  Sometimes (oftentimes) I wish I had picked up a chordal instrument early on... but there's no use complaining--I just have to make due with that which I'm able to make due and keep practicing until things become second nature.

The final thing I did to the draft then (aside from reharmonizing a couple of spots last night) was figuring out how I wanted to transition back to the A from the B, knowing that I'd be using full strings when I return to the A section to flesh out both the melody and harmony.  I knew I wanted to put on the breaks a little but still have movement, so the first tactic I used was having the strings drag along with half notes while continuing to have the woodwinds play quarters and eighths.  Next, I changed the meter from triple to duple.  The reason for the change is that I simply thought that holding each note in the strings for three beats was too long while two beats seemed just right in length for the combined push and pull that I wanted.  Plus, time changes can be musically interesting, and this one allows the woodwinds to come in earlier than otherwise.

After I was done the other night, I felt like the transitions between sections were weak, but they're growing on me.  I know that the rit. into the accel. in the duple-metered section is awkward in Finale, but that wasn't necessarily a factor in those feelings.  What do you as a listener think?  What do you like or dislike or think that I need to change?  I love to hear feedback.


Alright!  So now that draft 2 is done and explained, I want to review last week's action items and add some new ones.

  1. Tighten up the time.  Finale's a robot.  I'll remember this point later and change it to include "... in Logic."
  2. Alter the beginning.  This part has grown on me.  That's not to say that I won't review things when I get back to Logic, but I won't at the moment.
  3. Add fills.  Check!
  4. Review English Horn part.  Check!  Keeping it the same.
  5. Expand.  ‘Nuff said (still).
  6. Review bass part in the B.  I just want to make sure that I don't want to add more movement in certain spots because I definitely used a lot of dotted half notes so that I could hear the chords more easily.
  7. Think about percussion parts.  I mainly want to think about them in A2, but exploring the idea of adding them in the first two sections isn't a bad thing.

I hope you're enjoying this work!