My inspiration for this music composition was a set of images taken in Tokyo city, of various places during different times.
In my composition, I chose to have a form of A – B – C – A, and each image corresponds as the inspiration for each section. Reminiscing on my trip to Japan last summer, I wanted to compose a piece based on Tokyo and the wide range of atmospheres/feelings that can be evoked by the surroundings that change during different points of the day.
Before beginning, I had to choose which time signature, key, and instruments to use. I decided to start the piece at 4/4 time, simply because it was one of the easier time signatures to count/compose for, and I was familiar with it. However, I changed the signature to 3/4 for Section B, which will be discussed later on. With the key signature, I chose a major in E flat as I wasn’t planning on creating any abundantly dark, sad sounds. Instead, I knew that I wanted to choose a key which could evoke warmer emotional qualities. At first, I decided on using 4 instruments: piccolo, violin, oboe, and piano. The piano was chosen as it was a very familiar instrument that I’ve used every time I composed before, and it would serve as the base of the music, providing chords. I thought that the piccolo could only be used in a few bars to provide a contrasting tone, while the violin and oboe would serve as the main melody/ countermelody parts. However, it soon became clear that I bit off more than I could chew, and I had to remove an instrument for the sake of time. I decided to scrap the oboe part so that I could focus on fewer instruments to work on quality rather than quantity. I chose the violin for it’s rich, bright and smooth timbre, with the piccolo so that it’s higher register and clear, delicate and sometimes piercing sound could cut through to create interesting contrast and variation in sound. The first image depicts a street, dimly lit by the warm glow from store signs, street lights, and lanterns. It shows a part of Tokyo that was taken at dusk, in the transition where the sky is not fully bright nor dark. In my interpretation, I felt that this picture showed a soothing, calm, but almost slightly melancholy mood as it represents the ending of the day. To convey this feeling to the listener, I decided on choosing a relatively slow
Section A relates to the first image, which depicts a street dimly lit by the warm glow from store signs, street lights, and lanterns. It shows a part of Tokyo that was taken at dusk, in the transition where the sky is not fully bright nor dark. In my interpretation, I felt that this picture showed a soothing, calm, but almost slightly melancholy mood as it represents the ending of a day. To convey these feelings to the listener, I decided on setting a relatively slow tempo and did not include complex melodies. The melody was given to the piccolo because it’s sweet and graceful qualities, while the violin provided counter melodies. For the chords, I decided to follow the circle of fifths progression but modified it slightly as I continued the process of writing the melody, and had to change the chords in order to adapt to it. In the A section itself, there are two parts to it, distinguished by the use of a ritardando and a perfect cadence near the end of the first part. After coming up with the melody, I felt that the start was somewhat abrupt and it felt like the listener was being thrown into this somber melody, and came up with a two bar introductory phase with the violin. I particularly liked the use of descending tuplets at the last few bars, which really helped to enforce the idea of the day coming to a gradual close, emphasized as well by the diminuendo. I made sure to end this on an interrupted cadence, creating anticipation and signifying that there is more to come after.
In Section B, the scene changes to that of the vibrant nightlife found in Tokyo. With the bright neon lights from skyscrapers, malls, and busy traffic this shows a city that does not sleep. It’s memorizing, hypnotic, and creates an almost ecstatic sort of feeling that makes you feel as if you could accomplish anything. Choosing a fast tempo was an easy decision, and I decided to use the violin for the melody to create a dramatic, rich sound that could show an inspiring energy reminiscent of the scene in Tokyo. into sound. In distinction to the previous section, I chose to create a thicker texture. The use of a broken chord pattern on the piano helped to achieve that, layered with a counter melody by the piccolo and supporting notes from the right hand of the piano.With the chords, I chose to use a descending 5-6 progression. This section would serve as the climax in the overall composition, as it would be the section with the quickest tempo and loudest dynamics.
For Section C, the inspiration came from a picture of an alley lined with shops taken in the same city at the same time as the previous photo, but in a quieter area. I chose this photo as I thought it showed a different take on Tokyo and allowed the viewers to see that there are many different sides to the city, it is not only the lively nightlife it’s known for but there is also a tranquil, calm and quiet side. This section only consisted of 6 bars, which can be representative of how it’s the peaceful little shops are a rarer sight to see in Tokyo, more hidden and unknown. In contrast from the previous section, the tempo was chosen to change back to Moderato, and again the piccolo was chosen for the main melody because of its delicate and graceful sound.
The whole process took longer than I expected, and I reached several difficulties along the way. In the beginning, inspiration was hard to come across and I wasted a lot of time coming up then scrapping old melodic ideas. While I had an understanding of the overall atmosphere and feelings that I wanted to express, it was hard to put those ideas into notes. I decided to first choose the chords, then create a rough melody with the mindset of just starting first. With the chords, I decided to follow progressions we learned in class so that the choices wouldn’t be random and instead have some sort of pattern. After a rough idea was created, I could then add additional details such as slurs, ties, articulation markings, ornaments, and more. Along the way I would constantly change the tempo and dynamic markings, so that I could create the melody in consideration of those qualities.
Sarah listened to my composition a few times throughout my process in completing it and provided feedback along the way. Often she would help point out a note that sounded out of place or clashed with another note, and this allowed me to identify which parts needed correcting. A lot of feedback was given from Mr. Dacho, who helped to remind me that not all parts have to be playing all the time. I was too set on the idea that the composition couldn’t look too empty, that every instrument had to be playing something at all time. However, he helped to remind me that in choosing to take a few bars or even a whole section off for an instrument, it creates diversity in the sounds and allows the listener’s ears to take a break. To make it more realistic or easier for the piano player to follow, with the piano chords I could adjust the inversion so that the notes would be closer to each other, and it wouldn’t be awkward to play. Lastly, he reminded me that while I included triads for the violin part, only some notes are able to be played at the same time on the violin, which I didn’t think about as I’m not a violin player.
If I could continue to work on this composition, I would make sure to create a better transition from each section. Currently, it sounds quite blocky and although I think that each section matches each image well, the connection between each one seems abrupt and awkward. Perhaps I could add a few bars of transitioning melody to make the change smoother.