The end is merely the beginning

Two nights ago, I completed the first draft of the orchestration of my project, all 19 minutes and 45 seconds. I had thought this process would take me longer but once I got into it, thinking about the melody and harmony lines across a broader soundscape, it all started to come together quite fluidly.

And when it didn’t, I stopped. I took a break; the golden rule of being a creative person – if what you’re doing doesn’t work, you have to walk away.

I made the following changes to the piece as I went along, and all for various different reasons:

1) I added two additional bars at bar 71 leading into ‘The White Rabbit’ section to aid the transition. I introduced a rhythmic pedal note 2 bars earlier @ bar 70 and built in a linear accelerando to bring the tempo up steadily from 100bpm to 180bpm.  The additional 2 bars allowed more time for this 2 happen. I also needed a harmonic transition to pull listeners into the new key of Am, so I wrote a tonic Am chord for the flutes and the oboes in at between bars 71-72, followed by a dominant E major chord.  This established Am in bar 74 at the start of ‘The White Rabbit’ more definitely.

2) I changed the articulation in the cello in bar 104 because I wanted to lighten the texture; instead of legato phrases I changed it to pizzicato.

3) I stretched the accelerando from the reprise of ‘The White Rabbit’ theme so that the tempo increased more gradually from bar 111 and then brought the repeated ‘E’ in a bar earlier than previously written so as to establish the theme again. I overlapped the additional crotchet B-flats at bar 111 and made them fade out, which again helped with the transition.

4) I introduced a rallentando through the long diminuendo in bars 121-126 in order to reduce the speed from 180-100bpm.  I also reduced the sustained chord by 2 bars as it felt far too long across six bars.

5) At bar 151, I changed the flute on the last semi-quaver from B-sharp to B-natural; I felt it kept the tone of the interval established at the end of bar 150.

6) I alternated the dynamics and articulation during the ‘Falling’ section when the bpm changes to 110.  I made every 4 bars mp and then mf, with the mp phrases being smooth and the mf phrases contrasting with pizz sections.  I felt it added to the chaotic feeling.  However, in hindsight, when I go through the first draft, I want to be mindful of giving the strings enough time to alternate between arco and pizz.

7) I removed the tenutos during the ‘Falling’ section at bar 194 – I felt the music was moving too quickly to articulate it fully and the technique was lost.

8) I added 2 extra bars at bar 208 to repeat the last 2 bars of the descending semi-quavers.  The section needed slightly longer lead into the sustained chord before ‘Drink Me Eat Me’.

9) The long sustained 8 bar chord leading into ‘Drink Me Eat Me’ didn’t give a strong enough harmonic lead into B-major.  So by raising the sustained F to F-sharp in the last 4 bars of the chord, I hinted at the dominant of B-major and made the transition clearer.  I also introduced a dotted crotchet on each 8 bar phrase played by the harp to help in the change of tempo through the rallentando to the new bpm at ‘Drink Me Eat Me’.

10) I changed the articulation of the accompaniment part of the first 16 bars of ‘The Caucus Race’ to pizzicato to lighten the texture.

11) I slowed the tempo from 80 to 65bpm in ‘The Cheshire Cat’ – it was too fast originally.


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