Monday, February 18, 2013

Rhapsody in A minor

Another original composition by me!

This rhapsody for piano and violin was inspired by an Itzhak Perlman concert my Dad took me to in the late 1990s. Until then, I'd only heard people describe how emotionally expressive a violin could be but never fully appreciated the instrument's full potential until that performance. In recordings, the best performers are certainly captured getting the job done, but it is only when one has the opportunity to be there in person that the full effect can be felt. After experiencing Perlman's masterful playing accompanied by his tremendously talented pianist whose name I wish I knew, my mind was set then and there on trying somehow to approximate that beauty in my own way. Well, as it turns out, Itzhak Perlman performances aren't created from scratch overnight, and at this point, I am still trying to reach that goal.

The recording here is not of a violin and piano but, rather, an oboe and piano. Being without access to any skilled violinist, I used an oboe patch from Logic instead because there was no way to create a virtual violin performance in a DAW full of all the expression and articulation that I wanted. This is not to say that I settled on the oboe as if oboes are by default less expressive or beautiful, but they are certainly easier to manage in a virtual musical environment than a violin.

As for the music itself, the motifs were created on the piano in the Loftin Student Center at San Antonio College in the Fall of 1999 during my first try at higher learning. I wasn't much of a piano player then (nor now), but the ideas were satisfying and I held onto them while waiting for the chance to record them properly. Something of this chance came in the Spring of 2013 during a much more recent college stint at San Francisco's Academy of Art University. In a class on using Logic 9 taught by the inspiring Dean of Dopeness known as Lenny Kiser (, I was tasked early on in the semester to play with Logic's MIDI recording and arranging capabilities in order to get a feel for how it worked. With a no-pain-no-gain attitude in mind, I decided to give this old Rhapsody in A minor a shot figuring if I could make it sound good in Logic straight out of the gate (this was following only the second day of class), I could use Logic for anything. It was quite the challenge but I did learn a lot about the software and ended up, at last, with something that sounded fairly close to what I'd wanted to create back in 1999. One day, perhaps, I will finally have the violin/piano arrangement I've been longing for but, until then, I'm very happy with how this turned out. Also, I think I got an A so that was cool.

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