Third time is always a charm and the third instalment of the Suite for Piano and Orchestra is here! I have once again stuck to the tried and true method of condensing the musical information into short-score, with orchestration happening after the musical-sketch. I love the Composers Ravel and Piazzolla, and if you listen intently, you will hear the influences in this work. Ravel’s inspiration comes from the use of Lydian mode and Piazzolla’s comes from the rhythms. I will explain the inspiration in further detail, but first, let’s have a listen!
People have described the Lydian mode as unsettling and some ancient Greek societies even banned its use, believing it would cause unrest in the masses. Today, we are thankfully allowed to use this beautiful mode, and to me the sound is not unsettling at all, to be honest it is my favourite mode!
So what is the Lydian mode? The Lydian mode is the seventh mode in Diatonic Harmony, and can be achieved by playing any major scale starting from the seventh degree. It is not just a major scale played in a different position (although technically it is), it has its own personality and while the chords that make up the Lydian are all found in the major scale, the order of the chords is what helps to make this mode unique. If we were to start on chord one, for example, we would find that it is a diminished triad. To have a diminished triad as chord one would possibly explain the history of the mode’s temporary exclusion from music in the past.
In jazz theory, a common chord progression is ii – V7 – I. In the C major scale, this progression would be d minor (ii) – G Major 7th (V7) – C Major (I). For the third instalment in the Suite for Piano and Orchestra, I have used the same chord progression of ii – V7 – I, but have started on the Lydian, meaning the chord progression is now C Major (ii) – F Major 7th (V7) – B Diminished (I). This gave me the opening motif, played by the strings. To me, this sound is reminiscent of Ravel and Debussy.
Piazzolla was one of South Americas greatest performers of Tango music and was a gifted composer. His works are often rhythmically charged and syncopated, a feeling I tried to capture in the opening motif. If you haven’t heard Piazzolla’s music then I suggest that you do.
ADDITIVE MIDI ORCHESTRATION
I used the technique of Additive MIDI orchestration in this piece and if you would like to learn more about this technique then please check out a previous blog post of mine, where I describe it in more detail. When I started this piece, I was contemplating making this piece a string quartet, the harmonies are nice and tight, and in four parts. As I got orchestrating, I couldn’t help adding more instruments and it became another piece in the Suite for Piano and Orchestra.
PARALLEL CHORD MOVEMENT
Near the end of the piece (01:57), you will notice a section that sounds wondrous and mystical, like little fairies are going to start sprinkling pixie dust everywhere. I have achieved this sound by using parallel chord movement. The chord I have used is just a Major 7th chord. That’s right, one chord pattern in parallel movement makes the whole section sound interesting and intriguing. The Chord sequence starts on A Major 7th, then the sequence moves down a Major 3rd to become F Maj 7th.
I was watching a helpful video tutorial on YouTube by Rick Beato on using Chromatic-Mediant chords when composing. Rick explains that chromatic-mediant chords are chords that are related to each-other with a common tone. So for the piece I have written, the chords in the mystical section (01:57) are related to each-other. A Maj 7th is made up of A – C# – E – G#, which moves downwards to F Maj 7th. We find there are two common tones, A and E (F Maj 7th is F – A – C – E). I then move the chord progression of A Maj 7th/F Maj 7th to C Maj 7th/E Maj 7th. The common tone between A Maj 7th and C Maj 7th is E.
Using chromatic-mediant chords is a fantastic trick, and if you haven’t already, I suggest checking this concept out in further detail. Parallel chord movement works equally well when using minor chords and a good place to start is to move the chords up and down in minor 3rds, this gives a “Harry Potter” sort of mysterious sound.
I hope you have found this useful in your MIDI adventures, the techniques I use are what makes my music sound the way it does, so please try these yourself and see what you come up with. If you make a piece that has these techniques then please share it in the comments below!
Until next time, stay creative! 😀