Summer Rain – a final few notes

A couple of weeks ago, I posted some notes about Summer Rain – a semi-structured piece I had almost finished. True to my word, here are my final notes!

One of the first key problems with this score that I picked up on as I was writing the post, was that of layout. My first task on the next stage of the piece was to make all the notation of equal size; in order to make it a reasonable size, I quickly found myself running out of space on the one sheet of A3. I therefore decided to change the layout to three sheets of A4. This idea was confirmed when I talked to the performer, who also thought the additional space would be helpful. However, this makes the whole issue of ensuring the fragments are lined up somewhat more confusing. To clarify the issue, I made the layout a little more abstract, and employed the use of lots and lots of arrows.

The most important elements, in terms of layout, for me, were:
– To ensure the fragments are all readable
– To ensure dynamics and tempi (see below!) are placed in sensible positions
– To ensure each fragment is labelled, in case performers want to sit down and ‘map’ out their pieces
– To ensure arrows were clear and concise, and that the different areas of different branches were as clear as possible (this I feel could be made clearer).

Against that, however, there are the publishing considerations:
– I wanted it to be deliverable as a PDF, and printable by performers in the future. This means sticking to A4 (originally this was on A3), and not going overboard on colour. My original idea was to have colour coded sections, which I have abandoned in this edition, but may return to later. The more linear layout I played with early in the layout stages was nice, but was proving difficult with the number of fragments, and the size they needed to be. Perhaps a way round this would be to use four pages of A4….

Dynamics and tempi
In the sketch I posted last week, both of these elements were missing, but in mind. With regard to tempi, I have placed a vague tempo indication on each branch (with the exception of the chordal branch). Dynamics were also treated in the same way, with some basic dynamic markings present on some of the fragments to give some rough ideas. As I want the performer to interpret the entire piece in their own way, it is important they are able to manipulate dynamics and tempi to help support their interpretation – the main reason for leaving them so loose. However, some performers are unsettled by this concept – therefore, I have put a few in for guidance, but specified in the notes that these are purely for guidance, and may be deviated from if that makes sense within the larger devised structure the performer has created.

The ‘extended techniques’ question
Only a couple of so-called ‘extended techniques’ are featured within this piece – dead sticking is a requirement (featured in both intro paths), and bowing is optional as part of path 1, the chordal path. Triple sticking could also be considered a more extended technique, which is an option performers can choose to employ in that section.

A few further structural notes
Although I discussed structure in considerable detail in my first post, I didn’t talk much about silence. I believe silence to be an important element of music, and would like performers of this piece to employ it as they see fit. Performers may therefore choose to leave slight gaps between fragments as they see fit; however, the first time a branch is explored, the fragments must flow together seamlessly. For example:

2 –> pause –> 3 –> pause –> 2 –> 2a –> pause –> 2 –> 2a –> 2ai


My final thoughts? Well, once the performer has workshopped it, I’ll post a recording (or several!), and we’ll see. I think the layout still needs work, but there are various elements to balance. Feedback I’ve received from the performer and various others suggests that the idea is good, but I think it’s all down to the implementation – both through the score and via the notes that accompany it – that will dictate whether this piece is a success or not – alongside the musical material of course! More than just being about the musical material it contains, though, this is an experiment in semi-structured writing: it’s been an interesting experiment, and one I’d like to repeat. In fact, I know an oboist who loves contemporary composition, and might be interested in such a concept…

A thought for another day!

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