C.52 - "Sports Advert"

Composed: October 2013 to January 2014

     This was a fun one! For the 2nd year of A-level music, students had the option to write a composition as a part of their course. I did not hesitate to write one! Similarly to the previous year, Edexcel (the chosen exam board for music at my college during 2013/2014) published 4 different compositional briefs for the task. The only two I remember were:

  1. To write a sonatina (which I had previously attempted: "C.48 - Sonatina in Eb")

  2. To write music accompanying a made-up sports advert (no video footage was given - we simply imagined the advert ourselves)

     It shouldn't take long to realize from the title which brief I had chosen, and so I began working on this towards the end of 2013, a few weeks after the start of the new academic year in October, and finished it by early next year. It is another of my early orchestral pieces, this time utilizing several more instruments than the rather static "C.20 - Into the Forest". It was also another attempt at exploring the use of motives, notably as the opening flute melody returns several times throughout the piece.

     I separated this piece into multiple chapters, each realizing a different sport through music. The final chapters were:

  • Fishing

  • Sailing

  • Archery

  • Sprinting

  • Skiing

  • "Olympic Opening" (Not a sport, but more a ceremonial fanfare)

 

     All of the chapters remained the same from the first draft, except the opening chapter – ‘Fishing’ – which I revised after feedback from my teacher (which I wholeheartedly agreed with).

     The first chapter, ‘Fishing’, was exactly that – fishing. The static and increasing vibrato on the strings was meant to reflect ripples on the water, and the first chromatic excursion leading into bar 13 represented a fish tugging on a fishing line, but then after it is plucked out of the water at bar 13, the fish has escaped. Thus, the fishing line returns to the water at bar 14.  It was here from bar 14 onward that this chapter was extensively revised.

     The next chapter, ‘Sailing’, took on a sea-shanty vibe with steady yet bouncy rhythms and simple harmonies. As to whether that was successful, you can be the judge of that, but you can see the opening motif appear here in a few variations.

     ‘Archery’ was a very short segment, and I attempted to visualize archery through the music by the release of an arrow at bars 30 and 32, and the arrow reaching its target respectively by bars 31 and 33 as you will hopefully discern. The appoggiaturas in bars 31 and 33 were an influence from Mozart with his persistent appoggiaturas in his piano sonatas.

     The next chapter, ‘Skiing’, is my personal favourite. The modulation from ‘Archery’ into ‘Skiing’ is very simplistic, but ah, I love it because it is seamless. This segment explores polymetre by juxtaposing two metres: 6/8 and 3/4. I can’t quite recall why I chose polymetre to represent skiing. The repeating violin figure and brighter timbres were meant to represent a snowy landscape. The descending flute scales, accompanied by the timpani strikes, represented a skier jumping off a ramp. And then the rest is just pleasant fluff.

     ‘Sprinting’ is divided into two sections. First, an introduction that reveals the different teams that will be racing – strings, brass and woodwinds – one after the other with the same introductory fragment. And then the race commences, jumping around between the different teams, giving each one the foreground of the music as each one overtakes the other. The constantly rising bass motif, combined with the changing time signature, were a direct influence from Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring (yet again!), particularly the conclusion to the first part "The Adoration of the Earth". It is thus very similar to how I wrote the ‘Trapped’ chapter for "C.20 - Into the Forest". I particularly enjoy this chapter from bar 71 onwards. The contrast of keys between A major and D-flat major is rather exciting progression that I am surprised I used, especially considering how inexperienced I was (and still am) at composition! This progression also incorporates the opening motif, in yet another variation.

    The final chapter, ‘Olympic Opening’, is cliché rubbish. A repeating turn in the upper registers with simple harmonies underneath, yes it might sound pleasant, but ack, it’s too simple for my taste. I suppose it is quite amusing that this was probably my most extensive brass writing I had yet written (I don’t know why I avoided writing for the brass in orchestral music!) – sorry brass players! You will also see the motif again in the horn part of bars 89 – 90. The whopping great finish with a sudden modulation to E-flat major was simply to make sure I reached 3 minutes (the required length for the brief), and that is the sole reasoning for the 5/4 time signature change (cheeky and cheap, I know!)

     After listening to this again just now, I feel even more shocked to state again that this composition, as much as I dread to think, also garnered full marks from Edexcel. Some part of me raises an eyebrow towards Edexcel that compositions of such a low-quality as mine were enough to receive full marks – I am wholly certain that there were geniuses out there that wrote incredible compositions of such complexity that did not receive full marks (simply because the examiners didn’t understand them!), and I feel partially responsible.

     As there was no ‘Sleeve Note’ required for the 2nd year composition task (the marks were entirely from the composition and recording itself) I do not have very much in the way of extra context to share. One that I do have here, is a small plan from my initial drafts dated from 22nd October 2013, with a few plans of instrumentation for the opening chapters:

Figure 1: The initial chapter draft for "Sports Advert"

Sports:

Fishing:

  • C pedal to indicate ripples – High instruments only

  • First introduction of piece motif and rhythm on a solo faint instrument

  • Oboe (Or other metallic sound) mischievous trills to aspire fish

  • Pizzicato strings indicate disturbance in the water

  • Silence once a fish is caught; leeway into the next:

 

Sailing:

  • Strings follow typical rhythm for sailing (Reference Pirates of Penzance)

     Not much, but it is something. I don't recall submitting this piece to any competitions – it has simply been rotting away on my hard drive.

     I created both an original version and a final version, the latter I submitted for my A2 assessment. The 'Original Version' contains the earlier version of the chapters 'Fishing' and 'Olympic Opening', which were later revised for the 'A2 Version'. Other than this revision, I don't recall there being any other major differences. In the 'Original Version' you will note the several boxed comments I've left in to remind myself to change various things in the 'Print Score' versions, as well as a curious comment: 'Can you spot the tristan chord?'. Well, I've forgotten where it is, so have at it! The 'A2 Version' I've given here is the 'Print Score' version, which is far tidier than the 'Original Version'. The recording accompanying the 'A2' score is, similarly to "C.20", the same recording that I submitted for the assessment.

Reminiscence written on 17th July 2016

Last updated: 20th October 2018

© 2019 Jonathan Shaw