Posted in Assignment 4

Assignment 4 – Nocturnal Sea Fantasy

Note: Before you take a look at my assignment piece, you can read my blog post about the genre of fantasy. Also, you can read my old research from part 2 of the course regarding the clarinet, and a new research regarding the marimba. Along with the listening log posts (here and here), these really helped me getting acquainted with the instruments and their special qualities. Finally, Project 11 and Project 12, where I experimented with the free counterpoint and the inventions, as well as the earlier projects and assignment from Part 3 of the course, ameliorated my techniques of contrapuntal textures.


The penultimate assignment is about drawing the work from Part 3 and Part 4 of the course, in order to create a three-minute, two-part piece of imitative counterpoint. Listening to the 20th century preludes and fugues, such as Shostakovich and Hindemith’s, my initial idea was to write a monothematic contrapuntal piece in the impressionist style, portraying Monet’s Nympheas i.e. The Water Lilies, which I was lucky to see recently in Paris. These large paintings are meditative and abstract, yet at the same time not so abstract as to have no realism, which I thought would be interesting to represent musically. I had a specific theme in mind, however, the timbre of the woodwinds and definite-pitched percussion instruments somehow didn’t result in the type of sound I wanted to create. For example, the flute sounded very pastoral and mountain-like, perhaps airy would be the word, while the xylophone and marimba were too playful, and similarly the other instruments didn’t provide the watery, gentle feeling I wanted. I realized this would require a kind of sustaining sound. The vibraphone does offer that mysterious flowing feeling, but I couldn’t find an instrument to combine it with, especially not in the slow, meditative tempo I wanted. Vibraphone’s higher tones are also more bell-like, which again couldn’t materialize my ideas. However, I will save the sketches and hopefully be able to develop the ideas, at least into a piece for piano.

For the reasons above, I had to completely change my concept. What I kept though is the idea of water, only this time to paint a nocturnal sea fantasy. It is once again based on a narrative – which I actually tried to avoid because of my tutor’s feedback about assignment 3. It is another fairy tale – Andersen’s Little Mermaid, except this time it is only an excerpt which is a lot smaller, so that musically I could represent it with three themes. Unlike the previous assignment, I feel the passage served more as inspiration, rather than being a complete framework of the composition. I did try one melodic idea only, as the last feedback recommended. However, I felt that there should be contrasting sections, because the initial theme became quite dull, despite that I’ve tried developing it in different ways. Contrasting my 3rd assignment, I do think the themes are better connected and developed, and I do go back and forth between them with some variations.

Here is the full score of the assignment piece.

The audio version is below:

Continue reading “Assignment 4 – Nocturnal Sea Fantasy”