#1
Hey guys,

I am in a class of vocal composition this year, and I have just completed the first exercise, which was to explore basic vocal writing using a given text, which was Psalm 67: verses 1 and 2. It is supposed to be short (mine is a minute and 17 seconds), but still feel self-sufficient.

As this is my very first attempt at choral writing, I very much need and appreciate lots of criticism on both composition and general choral writing techniques. So I appreciate any comments on both of these issues (both positive and negative)

Anyways, here's the midi mockup:
http://profile.ultimate-guitar.com/nmitchell076/music/play1038604

And here is the score:
https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B9wYtm5NwTTVODlmYzBhZjYtYzYxNi00ZTkzLWI5OWUtMjk2NzdiYjIzZDU2&hl=en_US


As the actual sound file does not contain the words (since it's midi), here are the lyrics.

God be merciful to us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us;
That thy way may be known upon the earth, thy saving health among the nations.



EDIT: There were some errors in the score that I've already corrected but since I had already uploaded the file, are not corrected there. It mainly has to do with text (like I used "up-pon" instead of "up-on" occasionally), or with the piano reduction part, which you don't hear in the audio file anyways, so nothing is incorrect about the audio file. Just to let you know that I'm aware of these, but any other criticisms or errors you find are welcome!
Last edited by nmitchell076 at Aug 28, 2011,
#2
Good job! This is nice!

A few critiques:

1] 1st measure: I don't think there should be a breath right there in the 1st measure, it interrupts the phrasing. Try a crescendo or something to offset all those common tones (if that was the reason for the breath). The other breath's are fine for me.

2] The beginning: You give us an open 5th. Just starting this way, immediately conjures up the Renaissance era and sets up listeners' expectations. I'm not saying this is wrong, but I think you should bring us into that 1st dissonance in measure 2 more smoothly. The A natural is dissonant to both the G and the Db (which are also dissonant to each other). When considering the piece as a whole, going from an open 5th to this is too jarring, especially at the very beginning.

I would advise approaching this dissonance by common tone. I also think it would be more effective to build up to a dissonance like this as the measure progresses, instead of hitting us with it right from the get-go. This would also give the several A's and Ab's in the melody (mm-1-3) more contextual interest (i.e., hearing the same notes as the harmony becomes more dissonant).

3] The End: The G natural common tones in the bass (mm 19-20) don't make for a convincing ending. It needs more melodic interest, more motion (more on this below). I would approach the cadence by step in contrary motion to the soprano.

4] Also at end, the last three measures (mm 18-20) in the soprano have too many B's and A's. This causes the melody to basically stall here, and since the melody ends on an A, it contributes to the unconvincing ending (in conjunction with the aforementioned bass issue). I think you need a better melodic curve here.

Otherwise, I think you have a really good piece of music.
#3
Quote by Harmosis
Good job! This is nice!

I appreciate it!

1] 1st measure: I don't think there should be a breath right there in the 1st measure, it interrupts the phrasing. Try a crescendo or something to offset all those common tones (if that was the reason for the breath). The other breath's are fine for me.

Well, that was me trying to set the text more then a musical device. I was trying to set up an atmosphere of fear and timidity, so the pause after the first note (on the word "God") was meant to be a hesitation on the part of the speaker, as though he were afraid to continue on.

That being said, might take it out if the effect doesn't work
2] (i.e., hearing the same notes as the harmony becomes more dissonant).

I think you are right, looking at my harmony, i do approach dissonances very directly, and perhaps in a score like this, I should consider more subtle counterpoint.

3] The End: The G natural common tones in the bass (mm 19-20) don't make for a convincing ending. It needs more melodic interest, more motion (more on this below). I would approach the cadence by step in contrary motion to the soprano.

The problem is that I've set up a modified palindrome. The second half is the first half backwards, with a few minor differences. Besides some rhythmic shifts to allow for better rhythm of the spoken text, it's shifted up a semitone, and the ending section is constructed by multiplying all the intervals of the first section by two (ie, a semitone becomes a whole step, a whole step becomes a major third, a minor third becomes a tritone, a major third becomes a minor sixth, etc.) If I change the voice leading there, it would disrupt this process and would break up the form I've attempted to set up, unless I also adjust the voice leading in the first section to compensate (which you had issue with anyways, so that might be an option).

The other thing is that I don't really want a clear cadence here, I don't want it to resolve completely since I don't feel the mood of the text suggests resolution.

4] Also at end, the last three measures (mm 18-20) in the soprano have too many B's and A's. This causes the melody to basically stall here, and since the melody ends on an A, it contributes to the unconvincing ending (in conjunction with the aforementioned bass issue). I think you need a better melodic curve here.

Otherwise, I think you have a really good piece of music.

Another formal aspect is my inclusion in the soprano line the gregorian chant "adoro te devotem," more commonly known as "Blessed Spirit, Dwell with Me."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPhv9PcBidU&feature=related

You can hear it in the soprano beginning at measure 11. The concluding melody of the section is just the conclusion of the hymn.

Also, as I said, I don't really want the ending to be conclusive or really all that convincing. I think these last two aspects are really unchangeable at this point or I risk throwing my entire form out (or at least reconstructing it). I will consider some adjustments though. I appreciate it!
Last edited by nmitchell076 at Aug 28, 2011,
#4
Well, that was me trying to set the text more then a musical device. I was trying to set up an atmosphere of fear and timidity, so the pause after the first note (on the word "God") was meant to be a hesitation on the part of the speaker, as though he were afraid to continue on.

Oh, OK. In that case, I'd place a fermata there instead of the breath mark.

The problem is that I've set up a modified palindrome. The second half is the first half backwards, with a few minor differences. Besides some rhythmic shifts to allow for better rhythm of the spoken text, it's shifted up a semitone, and the ending section is constructed by multiplying all the intervals of the first section by two (ie, a semitone becomes a whole step, a whole step becomes a major third, a minor third becomes a tritone, a major third becomes a minor sixth, etc.) If I change the voice leading there, it would disrupt this process and would break up the form I've attempted to set up, unless I also adjust the voice leading in the first section to compensate (which you had issue with anyways, so that might be an option).

I understand not wanting to upset this, but I'd say don't let extra-musical considerations prevent you from creating more effective music. I know it can work, but sometimes it doesn't. I wish I had a dollar for every piece of crap, based on a Fibonacci tone row or mathematical formula, I had to sit through in music school (often composed by people I liked and respected!). I'm not saying don't do it; I'm just saying don't be confined by it.

The other thing is that I don't really want a clear cadence here, I don't want it to resolve completely since I don't feel the mood of the text suggests resolution.

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree here

Another formal aspect is my inclusion in the soprano line the gregorian chant "adoro te devotem," more commonly known as "Blessed Spirit, Dwell with Me."

Cool idea, but I don't think the melody is strong enough to be in the soprano. I would move this to an inner voice or bass (as was common, and for good reason, when composers used a cantus firmus in the past).

In any case, you've got some good stuff here. Keep up the good work!