Sunday, December 28, 2014

Composition as codified improvisation

I improvise a lot.

I've got several "patterns" that I use to improvise, and sometimes I use them to create compositions. Some years ago, I started applying a carillon-type pattern to Antioch ("Joy to the World") as a postlude. I've since used it just about every year. Finally, this year on Christmas Eve, I used it to introduce the carol, an event that went quite well.

And so I felt that since I've done it so often, it was time to write it down. I several years ago composed three "Improvisational Etudes" and compiled them together as a little suite. This is not that set (they'll come later, I'm sure) but instead a piece that no one will be using for about eleven months or some such. Regardless of that, though, I'm still doing it, since I figured it was time to put it down and put it online.

The "carillon" concept is in the hands at the start - a descending scale repeated. I use held notes to highlight the harmony (in this case a 5/4 chord). No registration is specified, but the pedals (having the melody) should stand out somewhat, if only so that the congregation get the melody. On a smaller instrument I would cut the volume of the pedals when the extended pedal point happens, now I just change manuals.

Having learned my lesson, there's a download link in the picture caption.

Here's the piece:

Creative Commons License
Carillon on "Antioch" by Mike Cutler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
"Antioch" is by Lowell Mason, written in 1836, based on the work of G. F. Handel

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Christmas gift

Sunday afternoon at Crescent Fort Rouge United Church our choir had its Christmas concert. Present were two good friends of mine, excellent musicians both, flutist Charmaine Bacon and trumpeter Frank Burke, who both contributed so much to the music. Looking forward to doing it all again soon!

Charmaine also happens to be an organist. When, as I do, I improvised the harmony to the last verse of the last carol (O Come, All Ye Faithful), she commented on wanting a copy of that harmonization. Well, since it was improvised, no copy exists, clearly. Regardless, I approximated at closely as I could (without listening to the recording, which I now realize would have given be a better approximation) and instead of not posting anything before Christmas as I had planned, I'm posting this before Christmas.

As with everything else, a PDF is available on request!

Final verse for Adeste Fideles, with choral unison:

Creative Commons License
Adeste Fideles (Final Verse) by Mike Cutler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
"Adeste Fideles" attributed to John Francis Wade, c. 1743

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Beach Spring meditation

It's too late to be posting Christmas music. So I won't. I'll save that for next September or some such.

Instead, I'm still in the process of revisiting some old material. Here's one specifically for small organs, using a 4' stop in the upper registers to imitate the sound of mutations and mixtures. For those who don't play the organ and don't understand the latter half of that sentence... I really can't help you with this one. There will be more comprehensible things on the way, I'm sure.

Mind's a bit mush today. I'm pretty sure I'm fighting a cold, and I'm definitely certain that a week of organ tuning is not especially good for the body. Fun, but a bit rough when you're not used to it.

So without further ado, Meditation on Beach Spring. Hope you have big hands. If you'd rather a PDF, contact me.

Creative Commons License
Meditation on Beach Spring by Mike Cutler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
"Beach Spring" melody from The Sacred Harp, publ. 1844

Monday, December 8, 2014

First post, and first offering

So, I've decided to make my music available online. And also, to write a blog. Go me. We'll try and keep posting regularly, although "regularly" right now - just before a week of organ tuning, just before Christmas - is probably not often.

Anyway. The first piece of music I want to present to the world is this four-part hymn I set five years ago as part of my hymn project. My 2009 hymn project was an effort to improve my compositional skills by following a quote of Robert Schumann's, where he opines that the German parliament should pass a law forbidding composers to publish any work before they published an edition of good four-part chorales - that in so doing we might have better sonatas. And so, I wrote sixty hymn tunes. This isn't one of those sixty; instead, through my research I came in to contact with the writings of Robert Lowry and decided to set this hymn to some new (and hopefully interesting) music. But it's reasonably concurrent with the sixty.

And do please let me know if you use it!

(if anyone would like a PDF file, just let me know)


Creative Commons License
Text by Robert Lowry, and is in the public domain