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Chaos of the Subconscious

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"Chaos of the Subconscious - in three movements, intermingled." This is the latest piano piece from my current commissioned series of solos. My working titled for the entire project had been Chaos of the Subconscious, but then I came up with this really cool artwork displaying 13 faces, and so I've renamed the project 13 Masks. But I thought this track captured the essence of the commission, and so I gave it the old project name.

It also could pass for a Halloween piece. So I've posted it in time for Halloween.

The commission is supposed to involve works that illustrate the chaos of the subconscious, weaving together twentieth century styles, jazz, ragtime, and neo-classical. I am trying to give each piece a whimsical feel; this one is the darkest so far. For artwork on this I altered an image by my good friend Eric Green, a wonderful surrealist. For more art by Eric see: Eric Green's ArtsForge Featured Artist page.

This work has influences by György Ligeti, Dmitri Shostakovich, Alexander Scriabin, Stravinsky and Beethoven. It took a long time to craft and play. Altho it runs 7 minutes, it may take a few listens to truly appreciate. Please use headphones if you can... and please TURN IT UP; it sounds better loud, but compressing the track takes away from the piano realism. It was recorded using Ivory's Bosendorfer Imperial grand.

There is one section, a transition involving a bass run, at the 2:54 mark, that I rewrote and replayed dozens of times. If that section bothers you (and you liked the rest), please let me know. Also, my favorite part is about 4:40 in.
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Other pre-mastered recordings from 13 Masks posted at Macjams:

Chromatisome Swing (tribute to Oscar Peterson)
Two Peas in a Chili Pod (dedicated to McBoy)
A Monk Caught In The Thelonious Sphere
The Gumshoe Wears A Rag
You Make My Heart Skip A Beat

Song Stats
Hits: 7747
Comments: 60
Fans: 23
Plays: 436
Downloads: 188
Votes: 27
Uploaded: Oct 24, 2006 - 12:59:27 PM
Last Updated: Dec 26, 2007 - 09:40:06 AM Last Played: Apr 11, 2019 - 03:30:40 AM
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DP 5; Synthogy's Ivory plugin
Roland A-90ex keyboard
said 4594 days ago (October 24th, 2006)
Orderly Chaos
I enjoy the dark colors you evoke with your choice of notes and the
sometimes phobic/claustrophobic response I get from the rapid
Oddly - and I don't mean this as an insult - this seems much longer than
7 minutes. I seem to lose my sense of time while listening.
TobinMueller said 4594 days ago (October 24th, 2006)
Actually, it runs 7:30 or so. It feels like 15 or 20 when you try and play it. It
leaves me with the feeling I get after listening to an entire symphony, so I
understand your time comment. And it makes my mind go in places in need of
escape, and then return there, places I don't want to stay, and time gets lost.
Thanks for the listen.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
poodyglitz said 4594 days ago (October 24th, 2006)
When I used to hear this kind of stuff at University, I would roll my eyes
and endure it, because it always came off merely as an exercise. It was
like the film student to would make the movie where someone got killed
at the end. Either a lot of time has passed between then and now, or this
is really good and has substance. I'd like to think the latter. I'll have to e-
mail this to my non-MacJams friends.

Keep it up.
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TobinMueller said 4593 days ago (October 25th, 2006)
At University
When I was at University, I used to write stuff a lot weirder than this. But I rolled
my eyes a lot then too. My compositions teacher once wrote a piano piece
called "Sans C" which, you may guess, used every note on the keyboard except
middle C. I think I tried to hit every not on this one, including middle C. Thanks
for staying with it and letting it just thrash around you; sometimes that's the
best way to listen to things.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
chikoppi said 4594 days ago (October 24th, 2006)
I can usually associate a color with a piece of music (or rather, one is
suggested by my subconscious). With this piece I think of oil on a
metallic surface - many bright but indistinct colors interspersed with
bright flashes. This is definitely frenetic! The relentlessness of the
discordant notes made me wince more than a few times, but in an
enjoyable way.

Regarding the section at 2:54, what struck me is that I didn't expect a
return to the same melodic/rhythmic pattern. In other words, the break
led me to expect a departure that didn't materialize. I don't know what
your intent was there - maybe you nailed it. I think I regard breaks as
being similar to complex sentance structure. A break might say "this
thought and then there's also that" or it can prolong a breath for
emphasis, as in "here and, And, AND, HERE again." The run at 2:54
seemed less like a break than it did an introduction to a transition.
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TobinMueller said 4591 days ago (October 27th, 2006)
When I started this piece, nearly all my internal images had to do with liquid (liquid against protruding solids); interesting you should imagine something similar. For me it was a rugged coastline, perhaps southern England/Wales. There are many passages based on pentatonic scales in which I was trying to capture the fluidity of subconscious energy, and I saw towers on rocks above, like Vortigern's, trying to impose a different kind of order on the a dreamlike landscape. I used the block chords to represent the changes to the landscape caused by Vortigern's tower (that was unable to stand), by the rocks, by beliefs and certainties amidst the subconscious pulse. I can't help but think in visual terms when trying to imagine the shape of music. Not very Baroque of me, I know. Thanks for your poetic thoughts, they made me feel very good about the piece.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
said 4594 days ago (October 24th, 2006)
...very good arrangement for sure. I very much enjoy the dissonant
chording and harmony that runs throughout. It does fit in time for
halloween. I would have to say the jazz chording is the best and most
thought out. Very well executed and planned. I tremendously enjoy
this and to me it does not feel that long. I haven't played classical
piano in a long time but this brings it all back, very enjoyable. I feel
definitely that there are two sections, but then there is a small section
change at the end (maybe around 4-5 minute area) that is very nicely
in contrast from all the fast and chaotic structuring of the early
beginning parts. It is almost a fugue throughout, but in a different
form. I really like it, this is the longest post I've ever written!!! No
constructive crit either, this is very good.
TobinMueller said 4591 days ago (October 27th, 2006)
Thanks for the long post. This piece actually started out as a short work, but I kept adding stuff, and then an entire middle section. The reason I called it "in three movements, intermingled" is that the first section I wrote as two separate sections, the block chords in one, the eighth note figure in another, and then combined them to capture the imagery I mentioned in my response to chikoppi's comment (above). The idea of interruption, folding back, inability to complete a thought, and a drive that cannot be waylaid all went into my decision to combine those two sections into one (intermingled). So, yes, it sounds like an A-B-A construction, which it is, but in my twisted head it is actually three sections jumbled together.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
thoddi said 4594 days ago (October 24th, 2006)
First, I'm impressed with the high level of your work Tobin. And especially how every single note in detail is so clear and precise throughout the piece. I could never do this on any instrument.
Strangly enough, in contrast to what Mungo felt about the length, I felt it was shorter than the seven minutes...

As this is very far from music I relate to, I wont comment any further. But I can recognize a skillfull musician in here:)
Check out my latest song called The King has left
Jim Bouchard said 4593 days ago (October 24th, 2006)
That's some playing! The Ivory sounds great, and totally convincing to my
ear. There are a lot of knotty parts to this, yet it all makes sense. I can't
see how that part at 2:54 could bother anyone, I mean, if they've not been
bothered by anything else before it already... That section at 4:40, well, I
can hear why you would particularly like it, it's a delight. Thanks for
sharing your music!
Check out my latest song called Big Yawn (Apogee One mic demo)
Ed Hannifin said 4593 days ago (October 24th, 2006)
This is you actually playing, right Tobin?
Quite something to wrap one's head around...let alone play...and let
alone play and have it come out sounding like music... I will be brave
and admit to my pedestrian listening habits and say that I probably
wouldn't pop this on for a relaxing listen between sessions at the
office... On the other hand, I am genuinely awed by the emotion,
technique and intelligence that you bring to music...I may still return to
my ditzy little folk pop preferences, but I also can recognize how good
this is... poodyglitz is right; this DOESN'T sound like an exercise, and it
IS 'really good and has substance'...everything I've heard you do is
musical, Tobin... It's interesting for me to reflect on yours and others'
comments about this song and experience how you have a very VISUAL
auditory mind... And then relating that to your eye as a
photographer...The piano sounds phenomenal, by the way... With great

Check out my latest song called Chime (Alone) (Inspired by Particle Dots)
TobinMueller said 4593 days ago (October 25th, 2006)
Repeating myself = death
As time grows shorter on this earth, I tend to try and do things I haven't done
before, to do things I've never heard, quite that way, from anyone. Repeating
myself is a kind of premature death. So I am having a great time with the
whimsy and modern classical influences I am ask to combine in this
commission. A delight, really. I appreciate your comments.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
mikkinylund said 4593 days ago (October 24th, 2006)
You are the KING!
This is awesome music, brilliantly crafted, perfectly performed and edited.
The music is crazy, like Kaj Munch vs. Sibelius..or perhahs a combination.
A great Film "Noir" shot with the camera handled by Tobin... This is by far
my favorites thus far, call it taste...and call it good taste. Love/M
Check out my latest song called Rune XV
gregd said 4593 days ago (October 24th, 2006)
Well, like everyone else has said . . .
this is whacky, fun, front-page musicianship. I like the John Cage
experimental feeling, and I also like how you keep the whole piece
more musical than a John Cage piece usually is. It's a fun listen, not
simply a chore in virtuosity, as I feel such pieces can feel like.

Do you think you could do this on a toy piano next time? :-)
Check out my latest song called 08nov08
mikkinylund said 4593 days ago (October 24th, 2006)
Need more ears!
Again, this is, wow... But the first impression is never wrong; they say.
This piece has so much to offer -it has so many levels that it would be
impossible to vote on it (personally speaking). A masterpiece, as far as I
am concerned.

Check out my latest song called Rune XV
TobinMueller said 4591 days ago (October 27th, 2006)
Second listen
Thanks so much. If your second post implies a second listen, double thanks. What started as a short etude turned into an epic sonata and I'm really glad you appreciate it so. I'm doing a bunch of things only multiple listens uncover, even tho I try and repeat myself enough to make it work one time thru (even tho nothing repeats without some kind of variation). I enjoyed trying to craft a different sort of tonality, based on 7ths and pentatonic fragments. I was hoping you'd really like that.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
DWL said 4593 days ago (October 25th, 2006)
Easy listening it ain't!
Brilliant playing it is. The energy and skill levels are amazing. If this is
any indication of the quality of music on macjams I'd better get my act

Excellent stuff :)



Check out my latest song called I'm Right, You're Wrong (with Hickling-Stan)
tatin said 4593 days ago (October 25th, 2006)
What a playful track.There are some deep ,colorful,dark,bright chords
bubbling throughout. While I like the whole track my favoriye part is from
2:22-3:44. To me it sounds playful,beethovenish at times, dark at times,
but bouncy and dissonant/consonant. The little bass run at 2:54 sounded
a bit odd,maybe to glissandoish. It's the only nitpick I could find in this
amazing track.
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TobinMueller said 4591 days ago (October 27th, 2006)
I'm glad you found the playfulness in it. I was a little afraid the darker colored claustrophobic frenetics would overshadow. Your great ear caught the bass run anomaly that, indeed, sounds too much like a gliss, in some ways due to the plugin, I think. I rewrote that section a dozen times, replayed it 3 times that, and it still rings not perfect. I know its in the writing, but like a word that you couldn't spell and now looks misspelled no matter what you do, this transition is just not it yet. But I like the playful aspect of the run and have to just let it sit for a while to figure out how to fix it. Thanks for listening so closely.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
cchaplin said 4593 days ago (October 25th, 2006)
Even Bach !
Nice work. As well as Ligeti, Shostakovich, Scriabin, and Beethoven; I could have sworn I heard just a hint of what could have been the beginnings of a modern JSB prelude.
You must have very large hands, in some places it nearly comes of as a two piano composition - Bravo !

Check out my latest song called IV
TobinMueller said 4591 days ago (October 27th, 2006)
Faux fugue
One of the pieces I've done with this project is more of a play on the fugue (see "You Make My Heart Skip A Bit" on my 13 Masks project page.) Now that you mention Bach, I hear a little bit of the trauma and exhaustion I experienced when learning the Two Part Inventions. There is no greater composer, and I think of him often when coming up with something new. Thanks for mentioning him. I hope he is an influence in everything I write.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
Scott Carmichael said 4593 days ago (October 25th, 2006)
way past me
I realise what a sophmore I am when I listen to what you are capable
of... right out of the box I can visualise a Fossey troup scampering out
every which way... it seems you have broadway in your blood... you are
an extremely gifted player and the Ivory plug in sounds incredible... I
hate reading manuals and I only use the stuff already installed on the
ESX24... but I think I will have to have that piano sample
Check out my latest song called He Has Passed this Way
TobinMueller said 4591 days ago (October 27th, 2006)
Even when trying to escape it, it seems everything I do sounds a bit like a showtune. Altho I cringe at the comment, I appreciate the vaudevillian aspect of the faster sections of this piece, which was intentional. Beethoven appearing in Vaudeville, produced by Schoenberg. I often wonder what sort of music the masters would write today if they were still alive.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
ziti said 4593 days ago (October 25th, 2006)
tobin MILLER
hehehe....it amazes me that a human being capable of creating music
this great and deep, would have the least interest in the music i
make...this is phenomenal...i think i had a sneak preview of it? it
sounds unreal, and the composition is ...um....exceptional

you are an amazing talent!!

deepest bows
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Enrique Gil said 4592 days ago (October 26th, 2006)
Hey Tobin
This music stirs anxiety and anticipation on me....in a nice sort of way. I
like it! It belong on a thriller movie!
Can Ivory be used with GB? It is quite expensive though. Beautiful sound.
Check out my latest song called Simple Feelings
TobinMueller said 4592 days ago (October 26th, 2006)
Ivory works with GB well
Yes, Ivory works well with GB. The main limitation to consider is disk speed.
I have two firewire 800 disks and a special firewire card to give me optimal disk
speed and I still get "Slow disk" errors and sometimes have to separate left-right
hand bounces during pedaled sections during dense passages.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
twonicus said 4591 days ago (October 27th, 2006)
Stravinsky meets Sibelius. Those masks are really cool. Every chord is a pleasant surprise. I imagine this one goes with the one on the top right? I can't wait until my hand works right again - I could play along to the first note three notes then maybe. Proud, proud.
Check out my latest song called Say It Loud (MJRF)
Mcboy said 4591 days ago (October 27th, 2006)
a pianistic workout.....were ya sweating afterwards....whole lot of music here...kool maacabre fantasy...!
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moorlandt said 4590 days ago (October 28th, 2006)
I love this kind of 20th century (oops, 21st century!) classical music. The dissonant chords bring in so much tension and keep the listener's attention awake for every second this song lingers on. So many images that come into my head when listening. So many different emotions at the same time: joy, fear, sadness, anger, yes... even 'love' came to my mind in certain parts... Gosh, this must have been damned difficult to play! But then again, if Tobin can't do it, who else can? Greatness. - Walter
Check out my latest song called Free (remix)
TobinMueller said 4589 days ago (October 29th, 2006)
Thanks so much for the thrilling comment. Yes, so many different emotions at the same time, even 'love.' You're the only one to mention that, thanks. Sometimes I get filled up when I'm writing, it is one of the reasons I write, becuz of how it fills me up. I try and have the writing be like a spilling over; if I don't keep getting goosebumps as I write and learn a piece, I usually never finish it. Ever since hearing The Rite of Spring as a 16 year old, I've been a 20th century music fan (the change in century numbers does throw a wrench into the label thing). The next piece in the cycle will definitely need to be easier to play, unless I work in an internmission.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
bud said 4589 days ago (October 29th, 2006)
It's sunday morning
i just finished my oatmeal and i'm sipping my tea listening to this fabulous piece of music. Thanks for starting my day off with a vivid example of the beauty and power of music.
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Z293 said 4589 days ago (October 29th, 2006)
Amazing Work
I can't even begin to comprehend the structure of this piece, so I won't, I'll just sit back and listen and maybe that's the best way to enjoy your pieces.
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said 4589 days ago (October 29th, 2006)
Very cool...
Hey Tobin, this is really cool stuff. Indeed, if you were to add some dynamic bass playing and heavy drumming you just might give Emerson, Lake and Palmer a run for their money! As someone who loves keyboards (but can't play them worth a damn!) and prog-rock, I find this piece very engaging. Thanks so much for directing my attention to it!

Be well!

PS---Your great cover art reminds me of the 2nd King Crimson album cover.
TobinMueller said 4587 days ago (October 31st, 2006)
An era gone by
I've tried to emulate Keith Emerson's solo from Brain Salad Surgery but just can't; but it inspires me. His articulate precision is astounding. I smiled about the KC album cover reference. What an era gone by! Thanks for the enthusiastic listen.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
said 4587 days ago (October 31st, 2006)
But what an era, eh?
I saw E.L.P. once---opening for Jethro Tull (what a night!!!). Keith was simply astounding to watch. Brain Salad Surgery was/is my favorite album by them, although I'm still quite fond of Tarkus. I figured you as a fan!

Ever heard GLASS HAMMER? They are an up and coming keyboard-based prog rock group that (thus far) takes most of their inspiration from Tolkein! They are quite good. If interested, I recommend THE INCONSOLABLE SECRET (2005) for starters. This is a double album and will expose you to the wide variety of styles they employ.

Also highly recommended is 2004's SHADOWLANDS, which contains the piece "Behind The Great Beyond"---which is one of my favorite pieces of music by anyone ever (clocking in at 20:26 it's ELP, Yes, Jethro Tull and Kansas rolled-into-one).

Anyway, nice chatting with you man.

Be well!
TobinMueller said 4585 days ago (November 2nd, 2006)
Prog talk
I have Chronometree, Lex Res and Inconsolable, but not Shadowlands. I dig Tales of the Great Wars best, I think. I gotta email you to continue this...
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
SmokeyVW said 4588 days ago (October 29th, 2006)
Sorry for zooming in on one tiny detail, but I love that effect where the rhythm slowly evolves from even tempo into syncopation. A very cool technique!

The precision of this recording is astounding. Bravo!

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TobinMueller said 4585 days ago (November 2nd, 2006)
I really appreciate zooming in on details, since I labor over them when I write. Thanks for noticing. In a piece full of sudden changes, it is nice someone notices the slower evolving aspects. Thanks again.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
eanbardsley said 4588 days ago (October 29th, 2006)
really enjoying this work
I am listening to this piece now and am really enjoying it. Such an acomplished player you are. Such a wonderful portryal of the labyrinths that emerge in New York.
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eanbardsley said 4588 days ago (October 29th, 2006)
New York??
I was thinking New York, because of the dense complexity, but I now see you are in CT. Wonderful Journey at any rate!!!
Check out my latest song called Bulerias
TobinMueller said 4588 days ago (October 30th, 2006)
I lived in New York before moving just across the boarder to be with Suzanne. Still feel more like a New Yorker. But now I have a backyard. Less than 50 minutes from Grand Central. The labyrinths, yes. Part of the claustrophobic energy, the sense of paradox of subconscious musings. Thanks for the listen, and welcome to MJ.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
John Stebbe said 4588 days ago (October 29th, 2006)
A very listenable track
Reminds me a lot of a Bartok piece I was assigned to play as an undergrad. I did not like it at first, but as I grew to know it and "own" it, I really appreciated it much more than I ever thought I would.

You've got a lot of wheels turning in your head, Tobin, to create something like this! Your creativity seems like it is bursting, ready to come out, whether anyone is ready or not! (And I meant that in a good way.)

Love the pedal tone section near the middle.

This does not sound too new-agey. I'm guessing this track did not make in onto your "Morning Whispers" CD. Probably a bit too jarring for that opus of yours. But there's good jarring, and bad jarring, and this is surely the good kind.

Your ability to hear complex harmonies and execute them in an interesting way is enviable. Love the high-register stuff about 2/3 of the way through.

Some of the bassy lines sound like a chase scene.

This is so different from 99% of all MJ tracks, it's very refreshing.

This could be a soundtrack for a Sc-Fi Channel Original Movie. (And that's a compliment!) The quick high-register complex parts could be where the giant insects probe their feelers into people's houses, trying to see where they are at.

Tobin, you're a tremendous talent, and I am glad that we have gotten to know each other a bit on this site.



Check out my latest song called Midwest States Song
TobinMueller said 4587 days ago (October 31st, 2006)
Bartok and Bugs
Thanks. Yes, I forgot Bartok's influences. I love his string quartets and studied them extensively back when I wrote for those instruments. Also, its interesting that you mention insects. I have another posted track, an experimental synth epic "Escaping the Fray Zone" that was called "bug music" by a few commenters; I hear a them emerging... You are right about this not fitting into "Morning Whispers." But this commission is totally different, a new level of challenge, and a fun opportunity to show a different side. Actually, I think a lot of MJers have multiple personalities when it comes to making music (and other art); one of the great things about Macjams is that anything goes here. There just too many ways to express yourself; life is simply too short.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
Bowman said 4584 days ago (November 3rd, 2006)
Complex and enjoyable.
Intentional discord all over the place but it's the rhythmic structure and inventiveness that really held me. At times it has a ruckus jazzy quality and it was then when I would have liked more playfulness on the keyboard - which was usually very precise and appropriate. Still a wonderfully inventive piece that really engaged me.
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TobinMueller said 4581 days ago (November 6th, 2006)
Darkest of the collection
This is the darkest piece of the collection. I tried to apply more jazz and flights of playfulness to this one, but they kept getting edited out. I hope to satisfy a playfulness quota to subsequent pieces in the cycle. Still, I find myself smiling several times during this one, especially when I sit back and listen to the recording (as opposed to smiling while playing). Thanks for your careful and enthusiastic listening.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
composerclark said 4582 days ago (November 5th, 2006)
The trouble with asking a composer for an opinion...
The trouble with asking another composer for his opinion is that he tends to give it... Hope none of this is taken badly, because it is certainly not intended that way!

Also, I'm not clear whether you mean this piece is in three movements, or this whole piece is one of three movements... but in any event, I'm usint the numbers below to refer to sections within this piece.

#1 Opening figure is immediately captivating, conjuring an image of mindless hustle bustle, kind of like everyone's in a hurry but no one quite knows where they'e going. I like that, and it seems to link well to your title.

What I like less - what I don't understand, I guess - is the way you have essential two elements - the 'busy chaos,' if you will, and the percussive chordal interruptions - but I don't really hear either of these evolving in any way. The length of time between percussive interjections varies, as does the number of interjections; also, the repetitive 3-note figure changes, of course.

But, after several listenings on different days, I find myself wishing that the repetitive figures would take us somewhere. I like it when a little swing feel works its way in there - I'm thinking we're heading in a different direction - but then you don't do it again. Why have it there if it's not to be developed in some way?

Hard to explain in words what I mean by "take us somewhere," but most music can be represented (crudely) in graph form, where the horizontal axis is time, and the vertical axis is tension; as the music progresses, there tend to be dips and peaks along the way, ideally with one major peak (region of greatest tension) distinct from the others. Typically, things start and end with relatively low tension, and the listener is left feeling as if he has been on a kind of aural/emotional journey.

Now, just because a lot of classical composers did things this way in no way means that contemporary composers should, and I like that you throw us immediately into the busy chaos described above. I'm just not sure that I was able to hear much deviation in tension level from that with which you started, and I found myself wishing that it were otherwise.

#2 I like more; it presents a nice respite from the steady tension of #1. It sounds good; it's hard not to like anything with an ostinato in it, as Stravinsky knew. I'm not sure how we got from the dissonant harmonic language of the first one to the neo-baroque feeling of this one, but it doesn't bother me particularly. I have more of a sense of journey here, albeit one that ends prematurely; it feels like it could easily be 50% longer.

#3 is, for me, close to being a masterpiece. It obviously references #1, but now things move along; no more 'rude interuptions' by the percussion chords. Somehow, it just feels like we are moving forward here; I particularly like the way it works it's way into the extreme high register and stays there for a while. Also, this time, when the swing feelin is introduced, to stick with it for a while. I like pretty much everything about this section, and, while it feels like a good length, here too I could hear it go on longer.

#4 Another introspective interlude, well-placed after #3, with some references to it. It's basically got the feeling of a coda, but, it feels somewhat unfinished to me. Maybe that's exactly what you were going for here (?), but, if not, consider expanding this a bit.

All in all, a significant achievement for which you should feel proud, but in my mind at least, it might benefit from just a tad more tinkering to help it realize even more of its potential.

Best wishes, Clark
Check out my latest song called A Little Song About Our Mom
TobinMueller said 4581 days ago (November 6th, 2006)
Thanks for the lengthy look and comments. I think the critical aspects of your comments boil down to: 1) some of it (especially #1), breaks rules you were expecting to apply; 2) themes are introduced that don't seem to develop as far as you wanted; and, perhaps, 3) some of it didn't make as much emotional sense as you expected (for example, the juxtaposition of the block chords and the 8th note chaos in #1).

First, the idea was to break rules, not illustrate them. Right off the bat, the subtitle "in three movements, intermingled" - this is a whimsical description, not a literal one, which a careful listener like yourself discovers. The piece is really an A-B-A construction with an unresolved coda. I actually began the piece as an A-B-C-B-A construction, and then combined the original A (the 8th note chaos) with B (the block chord section), creating a sense of chordal interruption to the 8th note chaos, like a thought or substantive manifestation of some kind was trying to form but could not quite. I kept the C section in tact (the "neo-baroque" middle section), and then used what you call #3 to highlight my original A section ideas. I liked this much better, and so this is what I developed, and why I call it "intermingled" - For me, it captured in a much more visceral way the chaos I was trying for.

Using phrases of varying lengths was a calculated way of trying to express the chaos of sub- or pre-conscious creative energy. I broke rules on purpose, and, ultimately, satisfied an intuitive voice inside me, not a rational one.

As for the specific comment that there is not enough development, the main development involved the 8th note chaos material (and connecting material), not the chordal interruptions. The interruptions represent the same idea trying to emerge, so I did not want to develop that too much. However, I count a #1 main theme, 2 variations, and then, in the #3 recapitulation of the 8th chaos section, several additional variations of elements, including variations of several connecting phrases, and several rhythmic and dynamic variations of the chordal interruptions; but I wanted to stay away from normal theme-variation techniques. The interruptions are varied mainly by the context in which they interrupt, which I thought was kind of clever. Afterall, this was my subconscious speaking, not my trained mind.

The Coda section reprises the chordal section as a final variation, briefly. There is no resolution since I did not think it fitting; dreams and subconscious chaos rarely value resolutions of any kind.

This is merely one piece in a 13 piece song cycle. This one sits at about the mid point. I felt it imprudent to create a longer piece. Anyway, after playing it for two weeks, I liked the shorted version better. Less is more, sometimes, even in pseudo sonatas. The piece was 2 minutes longer at one point, but I bowed to Suzanne's belief that it was too long and my own wrists that suggested the same thing. I do not want to exhaust the listener half way thru the show.

My inspiration for this work was initially György Ligeti' s Études, Book I: I. Désordre. His arc is an emotional one, not a rationally balanced one. He never lets up on the energy, mainly creating variations thru changes in register, and leaves the piece, which is an etude, unresolved. I tried to provide structure in intuitive ways, not overt structural ways, so it would be the personality of the mind in chaos that bound it all together, not external rules and forces.

Again, thanks for your insights. I hope my explanations help explain why I did what I did.

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composerclark said 4580 days ago (November 6th, 2006)
You wrote: "some of it (especially #1), breaks rules you were expecting to apply;"

I'm not sure where you get the notion that I was talking about "rules." I don't believe in them, and I don't teach them. There are conventions that are specific to different styles and periods of course, and there are conventions that span almost all styles and periods, such as the one I mentioned -- the sense that most music has of taking the listener through some kind of emotional journey, with variable levels of tension along the way, leading to a sense of relative resolution by the time the journey is complete.

But it goes without saying that any composer can disregard any or all conventions. Minimalist music, for example -- whether it be the unique and very different styles of Reich, Adams, Feldman, or Ligetti (4 of my favorite composers, btw) -- does not, as a general rule, follow the model I described above.

My comments were simply an attempt to explain my reactions to the music, which is presumably what you were seeking when you asked for my thoughts; your clear explanation above helps me understand what was on your mind when you wrote it, but it doesn't change my response, which was that #1 just didn't (and still doesn't) connect with me, and yet #3, which uses similar materials, did. It's often hard to say why something clicks with us or doesn't, but my hunch in this case is that it has to do with my sense that #3 is taking me somewhere, but #1 isn't, despite several attempts on my part to give it a fair chance (listening in different moods, different environments).

This has nothing to do with "rules," and very little to do with expectations. Hope this all makes sense!

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TobinMueller said 4580 days ago (November 7th, 2006)
Defining sound
I didn't mean to put words in your mouth, I was just trying to condense before I answered your comments. (Altho, personally, I place the idea of "rules" and "conventions" in the same category of guides, taboos and genre/era-specific expectations. I see one idea as a subset of the other.) Also, I appreciate your candor and thoroughness. And your shared love for Ligeti. I understand your disconnection with the opening section (Suzanne had the same reaction, altho she now likes it, after I cut out those 2 minutes no longer included); connection is something hard to explain, but also something I don't share. I like it, as an opening statement, as a philosophical intuition, and as a musical set up for things to follow. I do hear sufficient development, if you take the piece as a whole. Perhaps our differences are that I do not consider the piece as something with stand-alone sections, ultimately. They all work together, albeit toward a purposefully unresolved finish. I am more and more satisfied with the final product the more I re-listen. Answering your critique has actually made me like the piece more, which is very cool.

One of the joys of doing this sort of commission, as opposed to writing for musical theatre or for many other projects I am involved in, is that I can write whatever I hear, regardless. The freedom is extremely exhilarating and fulfilling. I thank you for helping me define what it is I am hearing.
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composerclark said 4578 days ago (November 9th, 2006)
I see
... and thanks to you for your considered responses. I understand what you're saying, and you're right; I'm sure my reaction would be different if I were to hear this in its fuller context. Cheers.

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SpasmodicMan said 4577 days ago (November 9th, 2006)
Scott Joplin on meth
I was afraid something had happened to Scott Joplin, like a nervous breakdown, or transporter malfunction, but then I realized it was a totally masterful piece of invention by MJs very own resident genius. Blown away. Cant wait for me. Love the faces too.
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Cameron said 4577 days ago (November 10th, 2006)
Not being a professional composer myself, I will refrain from specific technical and structural critiques here, which have already been explored in such great length and depth.

However, I will share my impressions.

This is an extensively thought-out, deliberately constructed piece. It is very cerebral, as though you are sharing the inner workings of a chaotic mind. It sounds like you are releasing something, trying to resolve chaos through musical expression.

To me, it speaks of the frustration of dealing with the modern world, with its escalating fear and anger combined with increasingly sophisticated technology, which we seem to be slaves to these days. This music is very machine-like, and the dissonant, percussive bursts throughout express the emotions described above.

When this piece first started, my first impression was that it would fuse well with modern dance. I could easily visualize a dozen dancers onstage, milling about aimlessly, then forming themselves into straight lines passing through one another across the stage.

This impression continued throughout the piece.

Although I did not "enjoy" listening to this music, per se, I appreciate all the work that obviously went into its creation, and I was also especially impressed with your masterful piano playing. It is truly inspired.

Thank you for pushing the envelope and stretching my ears in the process.

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said 4574 days ago (November 12th, 2006)
The Minotaur, the maze of sounds.
Precarious stratosphere heights, falling and ascending, great music!
alfalpha said 4524 days ago (January 1st, 2007)
as per my note to you...r.e. 'Prokofiev'...
...& once I managed to track down this track due to the many genres I thought it could be associated with;) There's a sense of early 20th Cent. Russian harmony at play here. I can hear Prokofiev in a kind of funky ragtime at the beginning, becoming a little 'Scriabin' during the more 'piano' sections

Oh, I've just noticed that you've already pointed all this out in your song description, which I have now read whilst listening & typing my quik post, so there's probably nothing new I've just described to you LOL!

Anyway, another well-crafted piece, which I enjoyed very much, Tobin.
Thank You!

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Norman Goodman said 4514 days ago (January 11th, 2007)
To my ears this comes off as abstract and rife with darkly compelling lines that are as beautiful as they are full of such ominous tension. I actually felt a palpable sense of foreboding. I have a great deal of respect for those who can compose music that almost seems to trancend the conscious awareness of time all the while creating an aural soundscape that can be every much as expressive as visual imagry. You have succeeded with this .Well done!
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Grathy said 4105 days ago (February 24th, 2008)
Wow....I can't imagine what chords these are...
I'm a sucker for dissonance, and this is quite interesting...
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said 4101 days ago (February 29th, 2008)
Chaos of the Subconscious
Sort of reminds me of Bernstein..on acid. I like the rhythmic inventiveness most. The harmony is interesting as well. I heard little snippets of the various genres that you mentioned. I quite like the bass piano timbres. Memorably creative work!
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Name: Tobin Mueller
Location: Rowayton CT USA
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I am a professional musician, composer, playwright and director. I've led a charmed life. I'm married to fellow MJer Suzanne and MJer Twonicus is my son, who currently sings and writes for rock bands in the NYC, D.C. and Cleveland areas. My second s... [see more]

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