My inspiration for this piece came from a photograph taken by Kenneth Leung during CAS week in Phuket. I chose this image and decided to title my piece “Travels”, with the majority of the inspiration coming from the idea of traveling, and the imagery of the kayaker in the photograph. I took the idea of a traveler, and I added the narrative of him being alone, finding others to travel with him, going through challenges on the path, and then finally finding somewhere where he felt that he belonged. This journey is what I hoped to translate into the piece.
The texture is varied within this piece, which is meant to illustrate my ideas from the inspiration. The piece starts with a thin homophonic texture, which is representative of the lone traveller and his footsteps. As other instruments start joining the alto saxophone, piano, and drum set, the texture becomes thicker. The instruments also start playing rhythms containing more notes per measure, making it seems as though the sound is fuller. The piece then goes back to the roots of the piece when the traveler goes through challenges on the path, losing the full sound and returning back to a very thin sound. As the piece concludes, the texture returns and the sound becomes more full, with it having a more polyphonic texture.
A homophonic section:
A polyphonic section:
I decided to use the key of G for my piece, because I wanted to use a major key that I know as a saxophone player works well and is quite easy to play. It also allowed me to easily use all of the instruments in my piece without having to worry about too many accidentals.
I initially decided to use only a few dynamic changes in my piece, because I did not feel the need to add so many dramatic shifts to my piece. I did add some major dramatic changes against my prior opinion, but I feel like they were complementary to the piece and the idea. Besides the occasional shift from mezzoforte to piano, I did use a crescendo to fortepiano on all instruments in measure 16 to show a dramatic change. What I wanted to do with this measure was create the idea for the audience that the traveler had found something exciting, but in reality, he was wrong, so he just continued on his path back at the normal mezzoforte/mezzopiano range of dynamics. I also did add a crescendo into the final polyphonic section
I originally wanted to keep the melody as simple as possible, and keep it only on one instrument, but as I was composing my piece, I wanted to shift the melody between some more instruments in different sections to show that a new phrase was beginning or because I wanted the melody to be in a different octave. I also added more countermelodies than I originally thought that I would, especially with the piano using repetitions and imitations of some of the melodic ideas that were introduced earlier in the piece. In terms of conjunct and disjunct motions, I know that I usually stick to more conjunct melodic ideas, so I kind of wanted to stray away from that and add more disjunct motions, which I think I succeeded in without too much error or straying away from note playability. In terms of NCTs, I think I did pretty well in using more uncommon NCTs such as anticipations and appoggiaturas, instead of clinging to more basic NCTs such as neighbour tones and passing tones. I also intended for the bridge to have a more dissonant sound to it, which I think I achieved through anticipations, and it also sounds like a sea shanty in some ways, which fits the inspiration that I chose for myself.
The harmony and chord progression of my piece was always meant to be quite simple, with it repeating throughout the piece and the other instruments creating the melody around it. I did add two changes in the chord progression when phrases changed. Once was the use of an imperfect cadence in measure 16, and one is the addition of a IV chord in measure 28. I decided to use the repetition of these chords, especially the imperfect cadence, because I wanted to illustrate the inspiration by showing that the traveler’s journey was unfinished. The imperfect cadences give the listener a feeling of longing and incompletion, just how I would imagine that the traveler would feel when traveling alone.
My instrumentation for my composition included alto sax, electric guitar, piano, electric bass, and a drum set. I used these instruments because I wanted to have a more contemporary feel to my composition, with a heavy emphasis on rhythm and repetition, and I thought that using a more modern style band arrangement would focus on that, especially the electric guitar, piano, electric bass, and drum set sections. My original idea was that those four instruments would serve as accompaniment to support the alto sax, which would have the main melody. My idea changed however, because even though the alto sax does still play the majority of the main melody, piano and electric guitar also share the melody and countermelodies at different stages in the piece.
My original idea for the timbre was to have a smooth acoustic contemporary band, with acoustic guitar and acoustic bass, but after experimenting with that sound a bit, I found that I wanted more of a harsher sound from the guitar section to juxtapose the smoother sounds from the piano and alto sax, so I decided to change the acoustic guitar to an electric guitar. And because an acoustic bass sounds a bit strange with an electric guitar, I decided to change that as well, changing my acoustic band into a more Springsteen-esque style of band. Some sections of the piece have a smoother timbre, especially more of the homophonic sections, and the polyphonic sections blend together but there is more of a harshness and brightness in the polyphonic sections.
This piece starts as allegro. I chose to use allegro because I wanted to have a faster pace to the piece, especially during more of the thicker sections. I used the drum set in the piece to set the tempo, and especially during the section of polyphonic texture, I used the drum set to simulate double time, using twice the number of notes played by the drum as opposed to what it played in the rest of the piece. I also added an accelerando near to the end of the piece when the polyphonic texture comes in, so I could better represent the traveler’s desire to reach his destination as it was coming closer.
The structure of my piece was originally going to follow an ABACA style. I moved away from that idea and I developed a more intertwined structure, with repetitions from the introduction repeating themselves throughout the piece. The structure consists of 3 8-bar Verses, a 4-bar Lead into Bridge, 1 12-bar Bridge, and 9-bar Conclusion (with the final measure being one whole note root chord. The bridge is the only very different part of the piece, as the introduction and verses contain many repetitions of rhythm and imitations, and the conclusion is a sort of all-encompassing finish to the piece with overlapping sections that were introduced individually at earlier times in the piece.
I think I did a pretty good job in this composition project, but I feel that I could have improved in some areas. I think some of my strengths were the creative thinking behind the music, the catchiness of the music, and my success in repetition and imitation. I think that I was really successful in being able to explain my creative thinking behind a lot of the phrases and sequences in the piece, and I think I was quite successful when creating it. I also think that the music I created was quite catchy and pleasant for the listener, which I think is one of the most important parts of creating music. This was largely due to the repetition in the piece. I also think that I was really successful in creating intricate polyphonic phrases through my use of repetition, and I feel like it created a strong connection to the motifs I used from the beginning of the piece to the end. I also think that in these polyphonic sections, I was able to put together multiple phrases with many different NCTs, and it worked well and created a nice sound.
Despite these strengths, I feel like I could have improved several aspects of the piece, especially the length of the piece, the rhythmic structures, and creating more melodic structures. I felt that the piece I created was quite short, and I think I would have liked to have extended it if I had managed my time more wisely, but it did reach the requirement of 24 measures so that should be fine. I also think that I could have used more advanced rhythmic structures. I clung closely to using dotted halves, quarter notes, and sixteenth notes, and I think I could have at least had a bit more variety in the piece. Maybe some 32nd notes, or more dotted notes to add more flavour to the rhythm. As much as I think that the repetition I created was good, I think that at times it was a bit overdone, and more melodic and rhythmic structures could have been introduced at different times in the piece. I think that if I had a more defined and lengthy structure to my piece, I would have been able to add more of these ideas and motifs.
Overall, I’m really happy with the piece of music that I’ve created, but I think I’ll try and create a more sophisticated piece next time rather than a more repetitive one.