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Old 02-17-2013, 05:13 PM   #1
jazz_rock_feel
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An Afternoon with Stravinsky (Analysis Inside)

Rationale and Housekeeping
I wanted to post an analysis to the forum for my 8000th post. I hang around here a lot and barely contribute so I thought that I should get around to actually doing something, and while it's a little late, here it is.

There seems to be a few people around lately that are interested in composition, or at the very least, classical music, and so I thought I'd help shed a little light on some of the procedures that a giant of classical music used (also, Xiaoxi's Brahms analysis which you should definitely check out inspired me to actually get this done). Analysis is obviously one of the best ways to learn more about music and will teach you more than almost anything else. I included a little background on the piece and Stravinsky in the first couple of sections, and while it's not absolutely key that you read it, I think it's important to realize that while the techniques of 20th century composers are interesting, the reason for them turning to these techniques and the circumstances in which they did so are also very interesting. You'll also notice that I have links scattered through this. They're just explanatory links that link to either a Youtube video or Wikipedia article. You don't have to watch/read as you're going through this, but if you ever want to know a bit more about what I'm talking about you should check them out.

The reason I chose Stravinsky is because I wanted to share something a bit different that you may not have been exposed to before, while still keeping it in a musical language that is somewhat familiar and not too scary. I'm mostly going to discuss form for a few reasons:
1) Form is what I like looking at because it tells you a lot about a composer.
2) No offense meant, but Stravinsky's harmonic language is complex and I think we'd just get bogged down with terminology. There's a certain level of maturity you need with words like “modes” and “scales” before you can effectively talk about Stravinsky's harmonic language. And beyond just the words, 20th century harmony is a different beast from the common practice (which is what we talk about here, virtually exclusively) and you have to look at it through a different lens.
3) Form is an incredibly important element of music and is the weakest aspect of composition for young composers and the least inspired aspect of most “non-classical” music.

Before I even get started I'm going to clear something up. If you read the Brahms thread you'll notice there was a bit of a tiff about what exactly form was. I don't give a shit how you define it, but here's how I'm using it for this purpose. The form is the shape and structure of a piece and essentially how people perceive music. How the composer presents material, how the composer develops material, the flow and pacing of the piece all contribute to the creation of form and, in essence, are part of the form. Now on with the show!

But Before that, a Bit of History
In short, Stravinsky is a pretty interesting cat. He is sometimes called a “musical chameleon” because he changed his methods and musical language almost constantly throughout his life. He was born in Russia, but he wasn't a Russian (Shostakovich and Prokofiev, for example); he lived in Paris for a long time, but he wasn't French (Debussy, Ravel, Les Six), although he did have a huge influence on French music forevermore; he also lived in Switzerland for a time, but certainly wasn't a Dadaist (no one important); he lived in the US, but he wasn't really American (Ives, Babbit, Cage). Whatever he was, he became, along with Arnold Schoenberg, the 1 and 1a of musical composition in the post-tonal era and remains in many ways the most significant composer of the 20th century (with Schoenberg, of course).

He had three major periods, the Russian period, the neoclassical period, and the dark days of serialism. The Symphony of Psalms was smack dab in the middle of his neoclassical period and reflects a lot of the aspects of neoclassicism. Now what is neoclassicism? I'll tell you what it's not. It's not neoclassical metal. In fact, neoclassical metal is essentially the opposite of neoclassicism. The metal version takes the harmonic and melodic constructs of classical music (note the small 'c') into the formal language of metal, whereas neoclassical music proper, takes the formal rigidity, musical objectivity and intellectualism from the Baroque or Classical period (big 'C') into a more modern harmonic and melodic language. Composers did this as a reaction against the Romantics, ESPECIALLY Wagner. Remember that as we look at this piece: this music is a reinterpretation of Classical form.

Overview

I'm talking about the second movement which is a double fugue. What's a fugue you may ask? I turn to the ever helpful Xiaoxi in this situation, who did another exceedingly useful thread on writing a fugue, and even posted a video about it. The crib notes version is that a fugue is similar to a canon or round (think row, row, row your boat). There is a main idea, called a subject, that is stated all alone and after it finishes that same idea comes in again in a different voice while the first line continues doing some other related things. This can happen any number of times, but the classic fugue has four fugal entries. I'll highlight more of this when we get to the piece. Now what makes it a double fugue? Basically there's two fugues going on at once, or more specifically, two fugal subjects being developed simultaneously. In this case, the winds do an exposition of the first subject, followed by the voices doing an exposition of the second subject. The double exposition is then followed by three episodes that treat the subjects in various ways and a coda. That structure is how I'll break down this analysis.

Just one more thing before we really get to the nitty gritty, I swear. The instrumentation of the piece is something to take note of. It's written for orchestra and choir, but the orchestra is a tad unusual in that the brass and wind section is full-sized or larger, except there are no clarinets, and the string section does not include violins or violas. I have no idea why he did this, I can only guess.

Here's a recording of the piece that is actually pretty great. The second movement starts at 3:55.

And here's a link to the score.

And an annotated score that you can use to follow the analysis

Translations:
Fl-picc is Piccolo
Fl-gr is Flute
Oboi is Oboe
Cor is French Horn
Fag and C-Fag are Bassoon and Contrabassoon
Tr-ba is Trumpet
Tr-ne is Trombone
SATB is the choir
V-C is Cello
C-B is Double bass

When you're listening to the piece I highly recommend following along in the score as best you can. If you really want to get a lot out of this, listen to the piece (ideally more than once) before reading my analysis, listen to each section as I finish talking about them and then listen to the whole piece again at the end.

First Subject

The first subject is an interesting beast. In the score it runs from measure 1 to rehearsal 5 (the big boxed numbers are what I'll use to talk about the score). Conveniently, Stravinsky has already outlined the fugal entries for us with his rehearsal numbers. The beginning to 1 is the subject, the answer runs from 1-2, the next entry of the subject from 2-3 and the final answer from 3-4 (Oboe 1, Flute 1, Flute 2, Oboe 2 in that order). The beginning until 4 is what we call a fugal exposition. Basically, he's fully presented his subject in each voice. The entries all happen in the flute and oboe, an interesting orchestrational choice because while individually flutes and oboes sound very different, they blend extremely well together. This results in a texture that has teeth, but is still very homogenous.

In a lot of ways this exposition is typical of a Baroque fugue. I've already outlined how the entries happen, which is straight out of the book of Bach, but also note that the answer (the entries at 1 and 3) comes in on the “dominant.” Also notice that the subject and answer appear to be different lengths (5 bars vs 7 bars). That's because he has a two bar transition between the answer and the next statement of the subject. Again, these things are both totally typical of Bach. What's interesting here is why? Bach would have the answer in the dominant, but does Stravinsky? Well yes, but in name only, because here we're not really dealing with functional harmony and I'd argue that until 4 there's barely any harmonic movement at all. Which also begs the question, why the transition? Bach would use a short transition between answer and subject to get us convincingly back to the tonic from the dominant, but like I just said, we never really move harmonically. The concept here goes back to the idea of neoclassicism. Stravinsky is consciously taking the container of a Bach fugue, but filling it with his own unique language. He's very closely adhering to the idea of a fugue by starting his answer on the dominant and having a transition, but these things aren't functional as in Bach, they're more vestiges of a bygone form.
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Old 02-17-2013, 05:14 PM   #2
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First Subject Continued
Now let's get our hands dirty and see the real beauty of this subject. Look at the first three bars. What do you notice about the notes he's used? There are only four of them (what I'll refer to as a cell). If you take the first three bars and squashed everything down to the same register you'd get something a lot less interesting. Just play this on piano or guitar and see for yourself:

show


But how does he make the subject sound so full with only four notes being used in the same order throughout the vast majority of it? Notice how he takes those notes and displaces them up or down the octave. That creates tension by varying the register in the melody and adds to the excitement. Also notice the rhythmic manipulation he puts it through. It's the same four notes, but it's not just straight eighth notes, he displaces the figure by a sixteenth note each time through the cell (as well as having the subject begin in eighths and move to sixteenths). The offbeat rhythmic profile accenting different notes in the cell, combined with the registration accenting different notes gives a haunting, lilting motion to the subject, which only consists of a series of four notes (with a little chromatic noodling in a tag at the end).

I said I wasn't going to talk about harmony, but I'm a filthy liar. Let's take a quick peak at how he's constructed his four note cell. The notes are C-Eb-B(natural)-D.

The first thing to notice is that that is two minor thirds offset by a semitone (C-Eb and then B-D).
The second thing to notice is that the interval structure of that is S-T-S (B-C-D-Eb) which is also the interval structure of the first four notes of an octatonic scale (Oct(2,3) or half-whole diminished depending on your pedigree). Along with Bartok, Stravinsky basically owns the octatonic scale, but what's interesting is that he never really uses it in this piece in it's full form.
This leads to the third thing to notice, which you can't notice because you don't have the whole score and probably haven't listened to the first movement of this piece, but this 'two minor thirds offset by a halfstep' became a very important motive in the first movement. When you hear this subject after listening to the first movement it sounds strangely familiar. You've never heard it before, but you've heard it before, if you catch my drift. Throughout the first movement he alludes to the subject of his fugue very frequently which creates a remarkably audible structure. This integration of movements goes back a long ways, Beethoven notably uses it a lot, and the concept of musical integration becomes very important later in the 20th century as well, but I think we've had enough history for one day.
The last thing to notice harmonically is something I've already touched on before, which is harmonic stasis. Because the subject is made up of just four notes pivoting around an axis, there's no real sense of harmonic motion throughout the initial fugal exposition. There's more of a sense of floating through suspended harmonies or something along those lines. It's definitely tonal-ish, but it's unclear where the center is (until we look at the score and see that it's C minor) and there's no direction in the harmonic or melodic motion.

When the voices finish their entry of the subject they contribute to this harmonic stasis by just snaking around chromatically with the current statement of the subject. The lines are logical, but don't really go anywhere. After he's finished with the exposition there's a five bar transition in which the oboes drop out and a flute choir brings that chromatic, contrapuntal snaking to a close and sends us off nicely into the second subject.

One last detail about the first subject. Look at the oboe line at 1 and the flute 1 line at 2. Pretty similar right? This is what's called a countersubject. It's a secondary subject that is stated immediately after the subject while the next entry comes in. It's typically developed alongside the subject throughout a fugue. Stravinsky does this, but in a very roundabout way. SEGUE!

Second Subject (5:46)

At 5 the voices begin their exposition of the second subject. As an aside, throughout the piece the voices never touch the first subject, that is only developed by the orchestra, but the orchestra does develop elements of the second subject. The entries of the second subject are in a similarly typical fashion as the first subject, beginning in the soprano and then moving through alto, tenor and bass. Again, the answer comes in on the dominant and there is a two bar transition between the answer and the second statement of the subject (the entries are marked by rehearsal numbers 5, 6 7, and 8). This time though, there is more harmonic context for this. As you'll notice, as soon as 5 starts he throws us into a very tonal world and it approaches the sound of a Bach cantata in some ways. He also centers the music on Eb minor (which marks a modulation from the C minor of the first subject). What's interesting about the answer this time is that while it is in the dominant (Bb minor), he leaves the soprano and the accompaniment in Eb minor, which gives us our first real taste of polytonality in this movement. So now when he moves us into the dominant for the answer, there is actual motion, albeit only by the voice stating the answer.

Now, we think we're in the second subject right now, but let's back up a bit and check out what the strings are doing at 5. Notice anything special? They're engaging in an exact restatement of the first subject in Eb minor. Already he's begun developing the two subjects together, before we've even heard the second subject all the way through!

Remember how I said Stravinsky develops the countersubject in a very roundabout way? Well take a look at the second subject and compare it to the countersubject of the first subject. There are a lot of striking similarities there. The second subject begins with a falling perfect fourth, the countersubject begins with a filled in rising perfect fourth. The next figure in each is a chromatic descent. There is also a dramatic sigh gesture in each (on Dominum in the second subject and from D to G in the countersubject). So what he's done is reverse engineered a countersubject out of the second subject of the double fugue, which means that every time he's developing the second subject, he's also developing the countersubject! This is a great example of a conservative use of material, which again reflects the Classical period.

Throughout the second exposition, the orchestra is simply counterpointing around the voices. There are moments that are vaguely reminiscent of the first subject, or the second subject, but generally the instruments are guided by pure, horizontal concerns. Essentially he's going back to the idea of chromatically snaking counterpoint, but this time in a much more tonal and directed setting. Every once in a while a statement of the first subject comes up (3rd measure of 6 in the bassoons (Fag.), second measure of 8 in the trombone, first measure of 9 in the trumpet), and what's interesting is that he's already abandoned the subject proper. He's stripped it down to the bare essentials of what the subject was made of, which are those first four notes.

At this point, just sit back and relish in the counterpoint he's created here. This is truly some of the most lush and tasty counterpoint you'll find. Notice the statements of and references to the first subject, as above and also the flutes at 6 with octave and rhythmic displacement; notice the imitative figures at 7 between the winds and strings (looks a bit like that countersubject, no?); notice the individuality of each and every one of the lines as they slither around directionless and yet always lent a sense of purpose by their harsh chromaticism; notice the scoring: it's not particularly dense and yet the texture is thick, this is accomplished by putting instruments in their sweet spots and spreading the register wide, in conjunction with the choir singing almost constantly.

At 9 the second exposition has just finished and we have some of the most obvious restatements of the first subject in the trumpet, horn and oboe. We also see that imitative melody from 7 return in the strings. This five bar transition sends us off into the first episode.
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Old 02-17-2013, 05:15 PM   #3
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First Episode (7:21)
Stravinsky being Stravinsky and never wanting to do anything quite by the book, throws us into something interesting here (10). If you'll notice, the soprano begins on something that looks an awful lot like the second subject, then the alto follows a beat later, then the tenor a beat after that and the bass a beat after that, all of them working off of a very similar rendition of the second subject. What we have here is a series of tight imitative entries on the second subject, which is what in a fugue we call 'stretto.' What that means is exactly what I said earlier, the subject comes in entries, almost like the exposition, but before the subject can finish the next statement of the subject has already come in. Bach loved doing this to show off exactly how smart he was, because they're pretty tricky to write effectively. There's a few strange things about this stretto, though.

1) It comes as the first episode. Strettos are almost always reserved for very near the end of a fugue (with some notable exceptions and extenuating circumstances, i.e. Bach REALLY wants to show us how smart he is) because they intensify the contrapuntal texture to the maximum degree and serve as the climax of the piece.
2) That bit about 'intensify the contrapuntal texture' I just said doesn't happen at all here. In fact, he strips away the texture, leaves just the voices alone and arguably has the thinnest counterpoint he's had since the last entry of the first subject.
3) It's not really a stretto. A true stretto would have more or less exact statements of the subject in each voice overlapping one another. That doesn't happen here. What we end up getting is something that sounds very much like the second subject in contour and character, but isn't actually the second subject.

So why do I call it a stretto if it isn't? Because it's as much of a stretto as this piece is a fugue. Remember, Stravinsky is writing this in 1930, not 1730. As I said before, this is a reinterpretation, or a re-imagining of an old form, not the old form itself. This is the difference between writing an exercise and writing a piece of music. I'm almost positive Stravinsky would have interpreted this as a stretto, so that's what I'm doing too.

Second Episode (8:00)
At 12 he proceeds to develop the first subject (remember, the voices never touch the first subject, and are absent here). Essentially, the second episode is defined by two points of imitation. The first is on the first subject's 4 note cell in the trombone, horn, english horn (C.I. in the score) and oboe. The second is on something reminiscent of the second subject and forms a short three bar canon. The canon starts at 13 in the flute, then oboe, then horn. Notice that the horn condenses the last several notes of the canon, which is to allow the oboe and horn to end at the same time. This is a very important aspect to take note of because it leads to the coolest moment of the piece.

Back tracking a bit, check out the trombone at 13. It has a very distinctive dotted rhythm that's important for two reasons.

1) Look at the shape and content of the melody. It is almost entirely made up of the four note cell from the first subject. It has the same or similar octave displacement, and although the rhythmic profile is very different, it still goes through rhythmic displacement.
2) The rhythm here foreshadows what is upcoming in the next section which begins with the dotted rhythm dominating the texture.

The third episode starts at 14, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention one of the best moments in this piece. That would be the 2/8 measure. A full two beats of silence that is fraught with tension. He's created a slowly simmering form through the first two episodes, and it almost petered out completely at the end of the second episode. He then has the balls to have two beats of absolutely nothing before the third episode starts. The reason I'm mentioning this is because a lot of people don't take enough consideration for the power of silence. There is a lot of potency in that 2/8 measure and it makes the explosion at 14 all the more effective. Just something to mull.

Third Episode (8:42)
Shit hits the fan. Here we get the culmination of material that we've been waiting for, the double fugue finally living up to it's name. Sure, we've had flashes of both subjects together, but now we have them both in full force. Don't let the rhythm fool you, in the bassoons and strings we get a very close statement of the first subject, which is tightly imitated after a beat in the trombones. The trombones' imitation however, is truncated when the strings and bassoons finish their statement, but they still continue on with a dotted version of something very subject one-ish. As they continue on, the strings blare out the first subject's four note cell. This then leads into a calming of the rhythmic texture and a reversion back to the snaking counterpoint in the bass instruments and slow moving chords in the upper registers. Another statement of the first subject in the bassoons and strings and we find ourselves at 17 and the coda.

Backing up to 14 again, let's take a look at what the voices are doing. We see that they're doing something chorale-ish, they're almost in rhythmic unison and the bottom voices appear to be playing a supportive role to the top voice. The lines here definitely sound similar to the second subject, although perhaps more distant than they have been before. We still get the chromatic motion and some large sigh figures.

At 15 is where this really gets interesting though, so get ready to have your mind blown. First look at the first three measures of the soprano (in fact, everything I'm going to talk about for the next little bit is in the soprano), and then the next three measures, and then the next three measures. Almost identical, but slightly different. Now, remember the figure on Dominum in the second subject? It went up a minor 6th and then curled back to a perfect 5th. Look at the figure on 'nostro' and notice that it goes up a major sixth and curls back to an augmented 5th (minor sixth). The three bar figure then repeats, but this time it begins a half step down, on F# (the note we ended up on on -stro) instead of G. Look at 'multi' now and notice there's also a large leap, but this time it's a minor sixth, curling back to a perfect fifth (like the original subject). Then the three bar figure repeats again, again starting on the note the previous figure left off on (in this case F). Now on the '-me-' of 'timebunt' there is a perfect fifth curling back to a tritone. The note it curls back to just happens to be an Fb, which you'll notice provides perfect chromatic voiceleading into the coda, which features the voices intoning on a unison Eb. This little piece of brilliance happens with a very simple process, all he does is repeat the same melody three times, compressing the leap while leaving the rest the same (with a bit of cheating: if you learn one thing from all of this, learn that Stravinsky always cheats his own processes). Pretty cool, amirite? This is hard to explain, but make sure you look in the score and see how this works because it's definitely nifty.

Coda (9:36)
And now we find ourselves in a short little coda. As I said above, the voices are intoning on a unison Eb. The strings are (ho hum) on the first subject in Eb and the trumpet is on the first subject in C (concert pitch). If we had talked about harmony at all, you'd realize that was really cool, because throughout this whole piece he's been contrasting the two key areas of C minor and Eb minor. The piece ends on a big fat C minor chord, but notice that it's in first inversion and has a bunch of Ebs in it, which further confuses whether or not the tonal center is on C or Eb.
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Old 02-17-2013, 05:15 PM   #4
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Conclusions
1) We've yet to really take a look at the overall structure of this piece. So here it is:
Code:
first subject (orchestra) – second subject (choir + orchestra) – first episode (choir, stretto) – second episode (orchestra, points of imitation) – third episode (choir, homophony + orchestra, first subject) – coda (choir, intoning + orchestra, first subject)


Look at how sectionalized that is. He's not particularly concerned with cute or smooth transitions, he just says, here's an episode, here's another and another and now it's over, go away. It's very square and very rigid, and yet we never have any doubts listening to it, because it's so clear and we can instantly understand it.

2) Look at my analysis and see how much more information there is on the first and second subjects than there is on the episodes. That tells you a lot about how this form is constructed. In the initial stages of the piece he's building his material, this is where he's designing the building blocks that he'll use to make the rest of the piece. Once we get into the episodes we've almost hit a critical mass and he's just finishing what is already a foregone conclusion. We already know what the piece is about, he just has to write it. This is an important lesson to learn. A lot of people ask, “How can I finish this piece, I've got half of it done?” Well, if you have half of a piece or a third of a piece, you've got the material for the whole piece. You've already, whether you know it or not, told everyone what the piece is about, you've just got to get it to that point of being done. It's not always about more material, but how to use the material you already have.

3) Look at my annotated score. Look at how much of that is circled or boxed with either red or blue. It's covered, and what that tells you is that this entire piece is based off of two short, simple ideas that he's spun out into a full structure. And remember, what I've boxed is only surface level restatements and references. If you delved deeper into pitches and harmonies, you would probably be able to draw even more connections than I have. And don't forget the countersubject. Although I said it is very similar to the second subject, there is also some development of it by itself as well.

4) Notice how he's treated his motives. As I said earlier, he abandons his first subject in full pretty early on, but he keeps what is key: those first four notes. But it's not just the notes, he keeps the shape of the line. He knew that just having those four notes B-C-D-Eb was not enough to draw connections, the listener needs the contour, but he also knew that they didn't need anything more. Yes the rhythmic displacement was cool and shifting octaves was cool, but we didn't need that to see the relationship between the second subject and his developments. He's stripped away the subject to it's bare essentials.

The second subject is similar. By almost exclusively developing the second subject in the voices, every time we hear singing we connect with it, which is a very strong formal tool. He barely has to keep the subject the same, and yet we immediately think of it whenever the choir comes in. That's development through instrumentation.

Wrap-up
If you read that whole thing, wow, you're a real trooper, and thanks a lot, because it took a long time to write. I realize that it's very long, but this is a complicated piece in a way and there's a lot we can take away from it, so I hope you've learnt something. I tried to keep it fairly easy to read and kept the technical lingo down to a minimum. If you need any further explanations (I know I glossed over some of the aspects of fugue and some other things) or have any questions, feel free to ask.
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Old 02-17-2013, 05:18 PM   #5
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Old 02-17-2013, 06:08 PM   #6
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Old 02-17-2013, 07:14 PM   #7
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I'm going to enjoy this. AWWWW YEAH
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Old 02-17-2013, 07:31 PM   #8
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he also lived in Switzerland for a time, but certainly wasn't a Dadaist (no one important)


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Old 02-17-2013, 08:03 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Hail
hey, fuck you

Just jokes. But honestly, in terms of music there weren't many relevant dadaists. Dada was a really important art movement, even for music, but there just aren't that many composers to be remembered. Varese was influenced by the New York dada movement, but he wasn't really a dadaist per se.
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Old 02-17-2013, 08:08 PM   #10
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Old 02-18-2013, 12:32 AM   #11
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tl:dr

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Old 02-18-2013, 01:00 AM   #12
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Old 02-18-2013, 06:15 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Xiaoxi
my gf's here this week so yea........gonna check in next week lool


did she really like my composition
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Old 02-18-2013, 06:17 PM   #14
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Read a line of that and got bored, but I'm guessing you did a good job, so happy 8000th post.
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Old 02-23-2013, 09:52 AM   #15
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Old 02-23-2013, 10:17 AM   #16
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Really interesting analysis, thanks!

Although...I really don't like this piece, I think it sucks. Just my opinion!
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Old 02-23-2013, 11:21 AM   #17
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What don't you like about it?
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Old 02-23-2013, 03:47 PM   #18
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there isn't even a breakdown, dude.
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Old 02-23-2013, 05:29 PM   #19
jazz_rock_feel
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Originally Posted by Hail
there isn't even a breakdown, dude.

Listen again, second episode.
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Old 02-23-2013, 06:56 PM   #20
Hail
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it's not even in drop G, fagboy
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