I started this project just over two months ago. When I started I didn’t know how it would end and I certainly had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that I wanted to learn all that I could from my musical endeavors without always having to start from scratch. In school, you are never forced to just make up something to learn (could you imagine that) that would be insane. Instead you are assigned to a class with a specific educational goal, like international sports or film production. And in the parameters of those classes you are given assignments in effort for you to learn as much as you can about one thing. So, that’s what I did.
Last time I presented to you a set of themes that I had written in the style of John Williams. Arguably those themes are some of the best music, if not the best music, I have ever written. I can still say that, though in my mind they are considerably lesser to this piece I am about to show you.
Weirdly enough this piece actually began with the middle section. I had hoped, as I always do, that the music I was writing at the time would have been fulfilling and eye opening, but at the time it was only fulfilling. It was derivative. And I even claimed it was when I posted a variation on it called the New Republic theme suite. It was only after I wrote the theme suite that I realized the potential of what I was doing and so I seized that potential. I wrangled it for a few months all the while balancing my social life and my schooling and what have you until I had finished the Family That Stray Together Stays Together theme suite (a theme suite that took me a whole month to write). Then, I knew exactly what I wanted to do…and two weeks later I am here with the most intense four minutes of music I have ever written.
As I have mentioned before, this music was set to a scene in a novel at the end of a trilogy where everything was at stake. That is kind of how I felt writing this music, because as the due date approached I realized I would have to cut many grand ideas out of my final product in order to publish it on time. How could I possibly end the piece when it was unfinished? I had so many reservations about what direction to take the piece in when I started, but as I got into the writing process I suddenly had no reservations at all. I only had possibilities, and now those possibilities had to be thrown to the wayside because I put a deadline on myself.
Now with all of that being said and done, I am glad to say that I have come to a wonderful agreement with myself about the music: It is complete. All themes are present in this piece of music, even if only briefly, and I am so proud of the amount of Star Wars that I captured here that I just want to brag about it! I won’t though. I have heard that such actions are unbecoming. Rather I will explain to you how it is that I feel this piece should be listened to. First of all, it is to be treated as a singular cue in a much bigger scene. That is why the music sounds like it will continue, and why it does not. Secondly, as a listener it has always been a fun game of mine to try and spot the little thematic variations and developments. So, listen carefully for those. Lastly, I would like to put a disclaimer out there that I have in fact used a very small amount of actual Star Wars music. When you here it, know that I do not own it and I do not intend to profit off of it. I simply couldn’t resist the urge when I saw the opportunity. (Let me know if you can hear it).
Returning to the analogy of using classes and musical artists I would like to express the things I have learned over these last couple of months writing all of this music. After all, that is what these Case Studies are be about.
1) Translating a harmonic language is more than half the battle. John is famously known for mostly being a neo-romantic composer and to discover what that meant I had to break my personal and academic sense of tonality in order to do it. I can’t say that I have mastered his tonal language, but I can say that now that I have used it and I have begun to understand it; it will never leave me.
2) Time is fluid, and so my manipulation of it has to be as well. I maintained 4/4 for most of the piece, however when it came time to switch between styles or even break up tonality in order to introduce other motives I had to be able to cycle through time signatures like crazy. Overall the result is pretty satisfying.
3) Sometimes all preconceived notion have to be thrown to the wayside. There is a section in here that is unlike anything I have ever written and it came from a moment when I thought: What would being shot down feel like? What would that sound like? And so, one of the most nonsensical things I have ever written throws all notions of harmony away for an extremely jarring moment that gave me some great responses from my test audiences.
*Stay tuned, later today is the last post of Until Death for the rest of the year. There are some exciting things in store for you!*