Matt McCutchen's Web SiteMusicDream Chorale  (Top, Explanation, Bottom).  Email me about this page.

Dream Chorale

This is a piece in g minor for flute, piano, and drum set with lots of unusual/spooky chords and a fast middle section in Eb major.  I composed it in my high school Music Technology class in fall 2006 using the Sibelius notation software.

DescriptionFileSizeModification time
MIDI file of musicdream-chorale.mid125182007-01-08 13:20:00 +0000
Synthesized WAV filedream-chorale.mid.fp.wav82026562008-01-01 21:57:39 +0000
Scoredream-chorale.pdf1626492007-01-08 13:20:00 +0000

Explanation

Here is the explanation I wrote for class.  You might find it interesting or insightful.

I chose to write my piece for flute and piano because that would give me enough instruments to do something interesting and my brother and I could play the piece together.  My inspiration was the second movement of Ravel’s Sonatina, which I had recently learned to play.  I had composed two pieces last year, a rather somber chorale in c# minor and a piece in 3/4 time that I called “Dance and Variations”, but this year I wanted to write something more mysterious using unusual and dreamy chords.  I think I succeeded.

I also decided to write a theme that I could use several times, as in a baroque piece.  Of course, I started on the second beat of the measure.  My theme was D E F# G Bb-C-D.  When I was experimenting with ways to harmonize the second measure, I happened on a major seventh chord and decided I liked it, so I kept it as my first unusual chord.  In the first section, I went from g minor to F major and Bb major and then ran short of ideas.  I did not want to end up switching back and forth between the same relative majors and minors.  Chopin did that in many of his Mazurkas; it is effective at first but gets boring as the piece goes on.

I showed the piece so far to my piano teacher, who suggested that I enter Eb major and also complained that the piano part was not interesting enough.  In response, I added a contrasting middle section, giving the right hand of the piano triplets the entire way through; he thought this was overboard, but I liked it.  In the first eight measures of the middle section, I aimed for a pleasant but idiosyncratic sound and achieved the latter with some mismatching A naturals.  I am especially proud of the second half of measure 35.  Following those eight measures, I used an unusual diminished third (Eb->C#) and repeated almost the same melody, harmonizing it differently to make it sound spooky.

I took another idea from baroque music and decided to build up to a "four-way stop”, after which the theme would return.  My four-way stop was a half cadence from an augmented sixth chord (Eb-G-Bb-C#) into the dominant, D major.  When I wrote the percussion, I noticed that a cymbal splash sounded (at least to me) like a secondary dominant for a cymbal crash, so I used the splash and crash sounds accordingly; I wonder if an entire theory of percussion cadences could be worked out similarly.

In the recapitulation, I used mostly the same melody as in the very beginning but split it between the flute and the right hand of the piano.  In places, I put those two voices in canon, which my piano teacher especially liked.  I also emphasized the phrasing of the melody from the second beat of a measure through the first of the following measure.  Probably the most difficult part was writing the final cadence into g minor.  I tried and tried again, but I had trouble getting two independent, interesting melody voices to resolve properly into a g minor chord. Eventually I had the idea to build in a switched-around version of the theme, which worked very well: Bb-C-D D E F# G.

I am proud to add this composition to the “portfolio” I stared last year with my c# minor chorale and “Dance and Variations”.  I was at a loss for a title that pinpointed what I had tried to accomplish, although I knew I wanted “Dream” in it.  At first I titled the piece “Contrapuntal Dream”, which nicely suggested that I took some ideas from baroque music, but my piece did not turn out so contrapuntal.  Finally I settled on “Dream Chorale”.


Matt McCutchen's Web SiteMusicDream Chorale  (Top, Explanation, Bottom).  Email me about this page.
Modification time of this page's main source file: 2009-05-06 04:24:37 +0000
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