At Play with Rhythmical Structures – Finale Grande

There is this vast array of tools a composer can use to both drive music forward, and create interesting patterns. One of the joys writing music, is the exploration of new ideas and textures. Building rhythmical structures, layering multi accented meter patterns with underlying harmonic waves and beats interests me.

Don Ellis had this very large impact on me. I had a chance to play this revolutionary music he was writing, when I was 15, when he was a guest soloist at my local Junior College. He really influenced me more than any other individual I can remember. He was writing in strange meters and was really infusing his jazz works at this time in an interesting fusion of rock and Indian rhythms and harmonies. I don’t recall, anyone ever directly studying with Don Ellis. I can’t even recall even saying much more than “hi” to him, let alone having any discussions with him about anything. I never played in his orchestra, but I did attend his concerts on a very regular basis(almost nightly), since my best friend and co-band leader, David Crigger, was his drummer for many years. We started an ensemble called Turbulence, which took these idea’s to a new place.

So a lot of my music is written in odd meters and contains a variety of multi-rhythms that interlock, and if played correctly holistically work. If not played correctly, the music can sound like musicians who can’t hold a beat. Can be rather challenging to play. So figure I will write a bit about one of the movements from the Piano Trio, called “Finale Grande” as a point of discussion.

Finale Grande is written for Piano, Violin and Cello. This work is in 9/8 sub divided as 3,2,2,2 . It starts with a Rock Piano version of Chop-Sticks.
I then proceed to using different accents against the 3,2,2,2 piano accents in the violin and cello such as these types of patterns. In the figure below the first part of the phrase pushes a 4,3,2 pattern and you can see how the accents start building and pushing against the 3,2,2,2 rhythms.


The remaining 4 bars of this phrasing use a 2,3,4 rhythmical accent against the 3,2,2,2. Which is basically the first phrase of 4,3,2 reversed into 2,3,4.


The over arching structure of this piece is basically,
(i)8 bar introduction.
(a)8 bars of rhythmic melodic accents.
(b1)8 bars of driving 3,2,2,2
(b2)8 bars of driving 3,2,2,2 with a violin melody.
(c) 8 bar descending 3,2,2,2 pattern
(a 2x)16 bars of rhythmic melodic accents.
(d)New 8 bar Coda section
(b2 x2) 16 bars of driving 3,2,2,2 with a violin melody.
(c) 8 bar descending 3,2,2,2 pattern
(a augmented)14 bars of rhythmic melodic accents.
(d)New 8 bar Coda section

All that is going on, is 4 different sections repeated, with a repeated coda.
Simple but highly complex.

This weekend I have decided to actually re-orchestrate this piece for a Jazz Big Band, which should be highly interesting.

The piece was originally performed Feb 11th, 2014 at VCFA, this is the video of the performance.

Finale Grande for Piano Trio.
Feb 11th 2014 Live premiere at VCFA .
Jennifer Choi – Violin, Yves Dharamraj – Cello, Stephen Gosling – Piano, Craig Pallett – Composer

For the Ensembles Album, this same group was recorded at Reed Robins NYC studio in October 2014. Reed is currently mixing these pieces for release.

I have attached the score to this piece for anyone who is interested.

Finale-Grande – Full Score

Love song for a Bullfighter in a Coma – Mi corazón añora

Mi corazón añora
I originally composed these themes, as a composition scoring exercise for the Spanish film, by Pedro Almodóvar called “Talk to Her”. It’s a great quirky movie about loving women bullfighters and dancers in a coma. My mentor John Mallia picked out these sections to “compose to”. I wanted to learn how to create and fill a fixed length segment using odd meters. So I created this quick sketch.

The score was orchestrated for a small chamber group, string quartet, contra bass, 3 woodwinds and snare drum. These clips are the Midi Mock up’s of the end result of this exercise.
Talk To Her – Scores

I decided to completely re-write this piece for a string quartet.
So it needed a title that has nothing to do with the movie which I decided should be “My Longing Heart” in Spanish. I consulted with my dear friend, Mexican spiritual artist, Blanca Rosa for a proper translation of the term “My Longing Heart”. Primarily since this is about a heart which longs for contact with the Divine, not another individual. We used the translation “Mi corazón añora”.

The quartet is structured with a 20 bar introduction, which builds segments of the theme slowly. You can see a snapshot of this introduction development.
Mi corazón añora Intro
This 7/8 introduction evolves into a 7/8 Jig, building on the elements and themes of the original sketch. I start pushing the momentum forward using the 2,2,3 accents in the viola and cello.
Mi corazón añora-jig.fw
The middle of this work, uses the original 3/4 meter from the sketch. Don DiNicola suggested that we alter the harmonic structure, by moving the beginning of the section up a minor third. The original chord structure used:
Am7 | Dm7 | F C|C | Am7 Dm7|Dm7 | Dm7 | C |
We altered this to be adding two additional bars
Cm7 | Fm7 | Ab Eb|Eb |Gb Db| Db |Am7 Dm7|Dm7 | Dm7 | C |
Mi corazón añora Letter CWe eventually pushed these chord changes more with this eventual pattern utilizing a diminished chord and the V chord to lead. See the “C” section above for the final structure which uses.
Cm7 |Fm7 |Ab Eb| Eb |Gb Db| Db | Fdim7 | Fdim7 |Fdim7 E7|E7 |

The final section of this piece is driven by this rhythmic statement played by the cello and 2nd violin . The 1st violin and viola trade off melody statements over the top of this rhythm.
Mi corazón añora Rhythm

The ending contains a soaring violin part which is answered by a “french horn” like statement in the viola which drives this piece to a final conclusion Mi corazón añora Ending

Here is the video of the premiere of the piece.

Tiferet-Mi-corazón-añora-Final-2.0 – Full Score
So this piece is really a love song for a Bullfighter in a Coma.

The Grace of Your Love – Ensembles

When I decided to go back to school in August 2013 to get my masters, I needed to submit a score. In the 1970’s probably wrote over 50 large ensemble compositions, primarily for Jazz Ensembles, “Turbulence” and even more paid arrangements/scores for a variety of artists, Rock and Funk bands and commissions. Full scores written and copied by hand.

I have no idea when or where I purged this material from my life. Probably one of my spiritual mentors encouraged me to discard my past. So I just submitted this simple lead sheet and probably some excuse why I only have this one score, and was accepted into the program.

Copyright 2000 - Affinity Systems, Inc.

Copyright 2000 – Affinity Systems, Inc.

This is a church hymn dedicated to the divine in us all. Originally written for a teacher I was studying with at the time, who taught Surat Shabda Yoga, which can be described in English as “Union of the Sound Current and Soul”. It is one of five pieces I composed in 2000 for a session with Steve Kaplan on Acoustic Piano, and myself on Trumpet. Recorded at Steve Kaplan’s studio in Malibu in Oct. 2000. This is the original version of this piece.

I am actually whispering into the trumpet on this recording. A Coles ribbon microphone is jammed directly into the bell of the horn. There is a certain innocence about this sound that I was looking for, and it was really hard to play in this fashion. Simply breathing and pushing air lightly into a piece of brass.

Steve was killed flying his own plane to a rehearsal in 2003. He was the accompanist to all of the recordings I created between 1980 and 2000. One of the top LA studio keyboardists, on hundreds of albums and film scores. In the mid 90’s became the composer and re-wrote the themes for “Wheel of Fortune”, and “Jeopardy”. He was a spiritual brother to me, we both studied with the same spiritual teachers and that would be the primary topic of our conversations and adventures. I still miss him today, writing this.

Grace of Your Love – Ensembles version for String Quartet

I created 5 string quartet pieces for my final thesis project called the Tiferet Suite. Removed two of them for the actual concert. One of the works, was the Grace of Your Love re-orchestrated and arranged for the quartet. This video from August 5, 2015 is the premiere of that piece.

In January 2016 the Power Quartet, recorded the 3 pieces, in NYC at Steve Addabbo’s Shelter Island Studio for the Ensembles album. These recordings have already been mixed by Steve Addabbo and will be a part of the Ensembles album.

Link to the score – Tiferet-Grace-Version-2 – Full Score

Notes about the composition and arrangement.

Grace of Your Love Structure
The original arrangement of this piece uses the structure of, 8 bar verse, 8 bar verse. 8 bar chorus, and an 8 bar coda which is repeated 3 times (Grace of Your Love lead sheet at top). I worked out the structure of the new version with Don DiNicola using a variety of methods. One method I used to show him the basic existing structure of the first arrangement was to build a visual layout in Microsoft Visio software of my first draft. The sections marked with a “X” were removed based on a mutual editing decision.

Draft structure of Grace of Your Love - Visio

Draft structure of Grace of Your Love – Visio

Musical sections are color coded. I use Visio in my day to day work, designing computer systems and find it helpful to give high level visual representations of segments. This image shows the eventual structure of the string quartet version of Grace of Your Love.

Grace of Your Love final structure..

Grace of Your Love final structure..

The new structure of the string quartet uses intro, verse, verse, extended chorus (13 bars), extended coda (9 bars). A fugue like exposition of the melody (26 bars), then a triplet arpeggio is used to build momentum underlying a return to the 8 bar original phrases of, verse, verse, chorus, coda and a fade.

Grace backwards introduction

I created this extended one minute introduction to the piece, which is actually the ending played backwards. This introduction builds and then fades and the beginning of the forward part of the piece interacts with the backwards components for perhaps an additional 20 seconds. This is the ending of the piece.

Grace of Your Love Ending

Grace of Your Love Ending

The triplet section is used at the beginning and the tempo is first set so the groups of three are natural in the beginning, so I used a 9/8 pattern at 1/3rd the tempo to make this understand-able and play-able and this helps “wash” the sonic spectrum when the actual beginning of the piece starts at letter A.

Grace introduction

Grace introduction

As compositionally interesting as this might appear, using the 9/8 metric modulation at the beginning, didn’t end up being a great idea. The revision of the score for the recording, I reverted this back to being a 3/4 meter and made adjustments.
Link to the score – Tiferet-Grace-Version-2 – Full Score

Grace – other modifications
The new version of this piece uses a new introductory phrase before the primary melody. This phrase is re-introduced at the end of the piece.

Grace new intro

Grace new intro

The new middle section of Grace, has a slight fugue, using the original melody, I shift chords underneath and develop these two counterpoint active lines in the violins.


The fugue-like section drives the momentum forward and eventually a triplet pattern is added to the first violin This sets a triplet feeling that is then carried by the arpeggios in the viola and cello which accompanies the use of the melody until the end.

Grace Triplets.

Grace Triplets.

The melodies are re-introduced, and build to the final chorus. The piece then fades to nothingness. The Grace of Your Love represents the receptive part of Tiferet.

Based on a suggestion by Wendy Law, for the recording, I actually changed the key of the piece, to make it easier to play on the cello. Wasn’t planning on writing this much, but the piece does have some history, so at the least thought I would share a bit of it.

When you compose, sometimes you can pull things from the past, and make them relevant for this moment.

New Ensembles Album

Finding names for new creative ideas can be a challenge.
Business names, software product names, books, articles, musical pieces, and video titles,
names are important, your stuck with it for a lifetime, if your not careful.
For the majority of the 2 years I was creating this music I really had no idea what to call this and even how to organize it.

As with most creative manifestations one day this title popped up, seems like last summer. I stewed on it, started checking it  online, and decided to call this album Ensembles. Now that I am writing this article, actually looked the meaning of the word up, and of course, what follows is the obligatory definition.

Animal Spirits Ensemble Jan 2016 Dubway Studios, NYC

Animal Spirits Ensemble
Jan 2016 Dubway Studios, NYC
Wendy Law, Lev ‘Ljova’ Zhurbin, Craig Pallett, Mary Rowell, Jennifer Choi.
Photo – Joe DeRenzo

en·sem·ble  /änˈsämbəl/
noun    plural noun: ensembles

  1. a group of musicians, actors, or dancers who perform together.
    “a Bulgarian folk ensemble”
    synonyms: group, band; More company, troupe, cast, chorus, corps;
  2. a group of items viewed as a whole rather than individually.
    “the buildings in the square present a charming provincial ensemble”
    synonyms: whole, entity, unit, body, set, combination, composite, package; More

Cool word. Seems to be pretty representative of this music. 3 years ago, I decided to go back to school, and get a Masters in Music composition. I participated in a program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. 30-40 students, 6-8 instructors, five weeks of residential, on campus courses, and 4 semesters of mentoring, over a 2 year period. All of this music was worked on during this time period. I made an over arching decision to learn how to write for strings.

So primary consideration for this material, is what kind of music should this be. I am now attending a school, filled with songwriters, graphical score, jazz, classical, electronic, and experimental composers, all pretty much styles I have written previously, and have varying levels of training in each. The school brings in professional musicians each residency to play student works. I take maximum advantage of this and write for a wide range of different chamber groups. Decide to focus on melodic works using harmonic structures that drive the music forward.

The Ensembles project started Sunday, Oct 5th 2014 recording the Piano Trio, Jennifer Choi – violin, Yves Dharamraj – cello and Stephen Gosling – piano at Reed Robins studio in NYC. Since that date, besides writing additional works, I have been recording various ensembles, at a variety of studios, some live recordings, others tracked or recorded by a wide variety of musicians in their own home studios. To date there are over 28 incredible musicians and engineers who have contributed to this album. You can see the current list at this link

This is the start of a series of articles I will be writing in the next few weeks as I add more content to this web site. Excepts from my thesis will be included, which describe both how the music was created, the structures used and production techniques used to create, market and distribute this music.

There will be 66 minutes of music, 12 works.
Right now in post production, mixing the audio with a wide range of co-producers/engineers. 3 are finished, only 9 more mixes to complete in the next couple of months

So a good working title, is a good start. Ensembles


Out of content – out of context

Context DoorI’m back.
Back where I started with this web site.
Finally looking at what needs to be done,
filled in,
pulled out,
in order
to present
both new directions for myself and music that I am currently creating.

I decided to go back to school, and get a Masters Degree in Music Composition.
Lots of new works, sketches, performances, scores, rehearsals, considerations, communications and instructions leading to one planned outcome, besides getting a Masters. I have avoided writing about this, and communicating much about what is going on, other than small glimpses and postings in Facebook, which is really not very public at all.

So for almost 3 years, other than posting new material on the home page, have not put an ounce of focus on this web site, and have stayed quit and mum. Finishing school, really doesn’t change my working life, I still work contracts for large corporations, building back end business systems. Has nothing to do with that work. But it does have everything to do with my passion, which is creating music.

At school, I decided the primary focus of my masters degree, was to create an actual album. Use my own name, and have it be simply compositions. What emerged from this decision, was to create an album called “Ensembles”. The album is now in the post production phase, everything is recorded (well for the most part). Several pieces have just completed final mixing, and I am organizing, sharing, a variety of file types to a wide range of mixers/producers/engineers who are currently spending time helping me prepare this work for release.

Half the time I feel like I am the librarian of my ever evolving computer filing system. I work as a bloody analyst, programmer and architect involving unimaginable documentation. Yet my own filing systems, are always evolving. What complicates matters more, is that I have become highly fluent in too many software programs. Right now interacting with various participants, using Sibelius, Pro Tools, Digital Performer, Logic, and building visuals using Adobe software. All this is needed for me to compose and create audio and video content that I can distribute. Each of these packages does some things great and better than another, use one for creating this type of material, the other to create something else in a different way. I’ve been using this type of software for way to long. Each package has it’s own formats, and sharing projects between them at times become slightly complicated, the larger the projects become.

Also the entire distributed world, that exists outside my desktops and hard drives. Managing content, for music participants, what is private and public, how it is organized and eventually presented, along with associated meta data, tags and descriptions. Way to librarian for me… At times seems like it has very little to do with actually composing music. So the composer now needs to be the producer.

At any rate, this is just the start of a revamp of my web site. The start of adding new content.

Going to start writing articles that talk about the process of creating this new album called Ensembles.

more to come…