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Frost

The latest experiments of using the season of Autumn as an inspiration for some compositional ideas abruptly ended in true Scottish tradition of bypassing the season entirely as winter seemed to set in a whole two months too early. It must be said that snow may be a long way away but the onset of the early morning frost has certainly begun. I have noticed a pattern to my compositional ideas where I often adapt my personal emotional thoughts on a scene into the work. As much as I have done that to an extent here, I decided to set myself a task as though being instructed to compose for a specific genre or scene in say a movie, play or piece of art. The goal was to envisage a scene of winter and convey despair, loneliness and uncertainty specifically using a scene of winter onset as the visual muse.


Some initial concepts came from Schubert’s Wintereisse Song cycle. Lauri Suurpää discusses the journey described in Willhelm Mullers poem Die Schone Mullerin (1823).  The journey in the poem is many sided reflecting love, loss, hope and despair while the music has many faces and is often unpredictable. There were specific elements I wanted to incorporate in my own composition particularly the pulsing pizzicato cello with the unpredictable pizzicato viola. The cello being constant represents a heartbeat but also draws upon the trudging experience focused on by Shubert in conveying the initial journey in the Wintereisse song cycle. There appears to be a rhythmic expectation from the feature of a pulse, as the Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology suggests, there is a basic expectation and perception of continuity from a pulse. To break this pattern or expectation in my composition, I abruptly add a break in the middle of the piece using a dim chord followed by aug5th then the relative major before returning to the original key of Em. As David Huckvale describes in Touchstones of Gothic Horror, the use of diminished chords and tritones assists greatly in providing horror and melodrama in a soundtrack. Similarly, Neil Lerner discusses the use of sustained drones as offering sonic repletion which assists in conveying disquiet and anxiety on the listener. I attempted this in my composition through use of the high-pitched violins which is maintained throughout apart from a fleeting moment during the chordal section where the drone fades then returns a moment later. This was done to amplify the chordal section and maintain the feeling of the high-pitched drone when it re-enters. A final addition to this work was to use my DAW to fade in and out a solo violin playing a single note in the second section of the piece. It is hoped that this creates uncertainty particularly because it enters randomly rather than on a certain beat or phrase.  

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©2017 by Jacob Hodge