Musical Interlude

A few years ago, before I spent the time I now spend blogging blogging, I sometimes wrote music. The only people who’ve heard any of it is me and the wife, and for the last few years those files have been gathering dust in a forgotten subfolder of my Dropbox.

Well now I have this place, so I thought: why not just put some of them here? At least I’ll have done something with them. Maybe someone will listen, maybe even like them.

Since I’ve never learnt how to play an instrument and instead tried to teach myself music theory (because that’s how I work), my efforts resulted mostly in classical-ish style and form. I specifically have a fetish for counterpoint, so my favorite genre is the fugue:

In music, a fugue is a contrapuntal compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject (a musical theme) that is introduced at the beginning in imitation (repetition at different pitches) and which recurs frequently in the course of the composition. A fugue usually has three main sections: an exposition, a development and a final entry that contains the return of the subject in the fugue’s tonic key. /…/

Most fugues open with a short main theme, the subject, which then sounds successively in each voice (after the first voice is finished stating the subject, a second voice repeats the subject at a different pitch, and other voices repeat in the same way); when each voice has entered, the exposition is complete. This is often followed by a connecting passage, or episode, developed from previously heard material; further “entries” of the subject then are heard in related keys. Episodes (if applicable) and entries are usually alternated until the “final entry” of the subject, by which point the music has returned to the opening key, or tonic, which is often followed by closing material, the coda. In this sense, a fugue is a style of composition, rather than a fixed structure.

Here are a few (headphones are recommended, I’m no sound engineer and it sounds like shit on laptop speakers):

On an original theme, for piano.

On a tune from a children’s christmas song, for woodwinds.

On a tune I made up as a child, for saxophones.

On a tune from a children’s summer song, for piano.

I also like chaconnes (way easier than fugues):

A chaconne is a type of musical composition popular in the baroque era when it was much used as a vehicle for variation on a repeated short harmonic progression, often involving a fairly short repetitive bass-line (ground bass) which offered a compositional outline for variation, decoration, figuration and melodic invention.

Here’s one on a chord progression I swiped from Veronica Maggio, for guitars and electric organ.

And another (on the chords from the theme tune of The Big Bang Theory of all things) with a two-part canon on top, for organ.

One (ish) on a chord progression built on repeating the famous bass line from Seven Nation Army, for steel-stringed guitars.

Plus some miscellany:

Early effort, a small and cutesy invention.

Frenetic piece that makes me think of running, for piano.

(and a version for strings)

Slow “mood piece” that makes me think of a train, for piano and strings.

Rhythmic piece that makes me want to go fight a war, for bass, drum and synthetic horns.

Strange, I’ve never felt as self-conscious about a post as I do about this one. Somehow it feels way more presumptuous to expect people to listen to your music than read your essays.


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6 thoughts on “Musical Interlude

  1. Decided this afternoon, since I have some spare hours, I should catch up a bit on reading Everything Studies partly in order to inspire some writing energy in myself (although maybe it’s turning out to be a method of procrastination instead :P).

    I appreciate posts like this, as someone who studied classical piano and violin through most of my childhood and adolescence and who did some composing when I was younger (one of my pieces won a statewide competition when I was 11; unfortunately I sort of lost my muse a few years later but I still hope to get back into it someday). I regret to tell you that, lacking headphones, I did listen to these on particularly shitty laptop speakers, but I was still impressed at the overall sound quality as well as the fact that they don’t sound particularly mechanical. Music synthesis technology has clearly come a long way since I was last trying to write music!

    Am still listening as I write, but so far I think my favorite is the one based on a children’s summer song (I assume this and the Christmas one are traditional Swedish tunes, as I’d never heard them before). Have you looked into publishing any of these counterpoint arrangements?

    Also, in case you haven’t heard it, you may be interested in this fugue arrangement of Miley Cyrus’ “Came In Like a Wrecking Ball” (in my opinion, slightly more entertaining than the original hit).


    1. I’ve had that “Wrecking Ball” fugue on my playlist for quite a while :), but I’m partial to this one on Britney Spears’s “Oops I did it again”:

      “Idas sommarvisa” and “Midnatt råder” are traditional Swedish tunes, yes. As for publishing counterpoint arrangemets, is that a thing people do? I’ve never publicized any of this before because I’d be way too embarrased and insecure, being such a beginner. Putting them on this blog is as far as I want to go, I think.

      Music synthesis is indeed quite good nowadays, which is a blessing for people like me who can’t play an instrument at all. And you really should start composing again, if you’ve got a serious theoretical foundation you can accomplish a lot with modern tools (and you get music to listen to that perfectly matches your preferences!).


  2. Also, my best explanation for why it feels more presumptuous to ask someone to listen to your music than to read your essays is that expository/persuasive essay-writing (mind you, not writing in general!) ultimately feels like just an extended form of direct communication rather than art. We don’t feel all that presumptuous asking others to listen to us talk, and reading what we write isn’t so different in essence.


    1. That’s probably correct, and there’s also the fact that people following this blog have already expressed interest in reading my writing but not listening to my music, so it feels a bit like a bait and switch.


  3. I’m glad you shared these pieces-they sound very logically put together and each part flows nicely into the next. As someone who is an instrumentalist and composer, I find it very difficult to compose away from an instrument and fascinating that you composed these works without playing an instrument. Just curious: did you compose purely via theory knowledge, was it mostly hearing it in your head, or some combination of both?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I can pretty much only write music by theory-guided trial and error. As mentioned I can’t play an instrument and I don’t have much of an ear either — transferring tunes between my head and musical notation is an inefficient and error-prone process in both directions.

      Liked by 1 person

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