Dawn with A Crescent Moon | The Nguyen Composes

This is a short piece inspired by this beautiful morning sight at 6:30am.

Since I didn’t write this piece in a notation software (I used GarageBand instead), the following sheet is just an outline of melody and harmony for analysis purpose.

If you like this piece, you will also enjoy The Starry Night, aother meditative piece inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night painting.

My composition process for this piece:

I intended for the bass going back and forth with string pizzicato to bring a rhythmic, routine, somewhat hustling feel to the night time. The melody dabbles briefly to Dorian but back to Minor at the end of each phrase so maybe that’s where the folkiness comes from. I want it to represent the beautiful scenery that is always there, longing to be appreciated, but neglected nonetheless by the busy and hustling lifestyle of the night. Maybe the pensive sadness is also inspired by the downward crescent moon like an eye looking down with eyelid almost closing.

But then all of that is washed away by the sun (soon to be) rising at the end, inspired by that bit of pink sky above the trees. I want the sun rising to cast some overwhelming brightness to the piece, thus the Picardy third shifting modes from Dorian/Minor to Major, and the crescendo sustained strings. Hm, maybe I should even increase the volume there a little.

Something Romantic, Something Ruined | The Nguyen Composes

Two people long for, yearn for the magical spark from the beginning. Where did it go?

If you like this piece, you will also enjoy my other melancholic piece Every Journey Ends.

My composing process:

I wrote the slow waltz part at the beginning first and feel that it exudes strong yearning. So I decide to explore that emotion more. The middle part is intended to be the part where the music explores what is being yearned for. It serves as the happier cousin of the beginning, where the harmony stays the same for the most part, repeated, with a cloud on its feet, and spiccato string to provides the dancy feel. The middle part progressively gets happier until it suddenly all come crashing down again at the chromatic whole tone scale climb and fall back down.

I could wrap the piece up here by restating the opening, but I want to add a bow on top of this story. I modulate this piece to its relative major, playing a similar melody to the beginning in the same tempo. Although a major scale usually sounds bright, in this context, it highten the difference with its surrounding, always make me shake my head in sorrow because it’s just too beautiful. After the brief moment of crying out in major, the piece goes back to the original melody and harmony in minor key to conclude the yearning journey, disappointedly that through all that longing, all that imiginary happiness, and crying out for something, anything out there for help, nothing changes. Perhaps, it’s too late.

Note on the romanticism of the piece:

I chose the picture of a couple for this piece since I think it is the concept most often associated with the yearning feeling. But this piece doesn’t necessarily need to apply to romance between two persons. The core feeling of the piece can be applied to romance with an idea, with a concept. The original thing I thought of for this piece is dreaming of a wealthy life, or dreaming of being happy, just to realize that it wasn’t real.

Music connects directly with our feelings while words have to go describe can never describe the precise feeling. Just like I can never use words to explain to you the exact experience of getting punched in the face (not that I did experience it, just close), I can never use words to explain to you the exact experience of listening to a piece of music. It evokes something different for each and everyone, either due to nature, or nurture. So experience music, specifically, and art, generally, for what it is. It doesn’t matter if our interpretations of art differs from the majority’s.

October 2019 – A Curious Reflection

Hello, it’s Thien The Nguyen. We have much to catch up on.

I took off in October to focus on different music activities. I think the model of alternating months of blogging and not blogging is working for me so far. That means one month of intensive writing and composing (and sharing them on this blog), following by one month of pressure free studying and reevaluating my goals.

I believe that deadline is helpful, especially in art to produce and move on to creating the next thing. If the artist is sucked into the black hole of perfectionism, he will not able to move on to learn the next thing. I’m been there. I’ve been so afraid of churning out a bad product that I let it catch mold in my computer for forever. Deadline definitely help with that, it helps us move on, to quit working on the previous project when they are good enough. This way, we will learn, and be able to churn out gradually better stuff day by day. Just have to accept that sometimes we don’t do well, but it’s important to push them out anyway so we can move on to the potentially better one.

And we should not be concerned with whether this recent product met the expected quality that other people expect of us based on past performance. This is exactly why the movie sequels stuck in a rut of repeating the same thing again, they don’t try to experiment with new things, but stick to the old formula that works to please people.

The month off is still necessary, first to avoid stress of constant deadlines, and to dive deeper into things that require more time investment upfront. For example, I tried out a new notation software and a new Digital Audioi Workstation, That requires time of not being able to produce music. But because of this time investment, I can potentially make better music in the future.

Ok, so what did I do in the October?

In October, I pushed a local music composing group into reality. The group is where people compose to weekly challenges, share, and critiques our work, so we can learn from each other. It takes place every Monday, hence this quirky audio I made for the group:

The music composing group is now the reason I enjoy Mondays.

Throughout this, I learn that consistency is key to starting something, when we know there is a need. I know that there isn’t a composing club or group in my local community, so I stick with it. I only do this for my own need of making more friends who share the same passion as I do. The by product is I organized something, figure out the logistic of making music, sharing music, and commenting on each other’s, at first offline, then online.I take the hard work of organizing so I and other people can have a good time only worry about making the best music we can. I’m by no mean the leader of the group, but I did lead in willing this group from an idea into existence.

Then it dawns on me, I tried so much in high school and college to join club leadership positions, but they all feel bland and I didn’t enjoy it. But now, I see this as necessary to get what I want (a music composing group) since no one else is willing to do it. So wanting to lead is the incorrect desire, incorrectly wanting to do something and, if required, lead people in the process is the correct desire

In October, I went to music jamming sessions for the first time and join a beginner band. It was fun, and eye-opening at the same time. I thought I’m decent at music performance until I’m at the band stand, struggle to jump in at the right time for my part.

While improvising, I learn that if I approach it randomly, I will soon run out of ideas of things to do, I’ve already run up and down the highest and lowest notes of my vocal range and varies tempo, what I’m going to do next? When I tried to approach it like a mini composition, which means I established a core idea and gradually expand on it, introducing new idea one thing at a time, saving my vocal range for later iterations of the idea and keeping it slow at first, so I can make it more exciting later on during my improvisation. Improvisation is still composing, but on the spot.

In October, I tried a Cubase (a DAW or audio software), not liking it a bunch, though, due to the complexity. I find myself enjoying writing notes on the staff paper than arranging sounds. I later discovered Dorico, from the same developer as Cubase: Steignberg. I’m loving it. The ease of writing notes on the staff plus the great sound library available meaning I can create better sounding music. Comparison of Every Journey Ends in the old software and the new software.

Audio from Noteflight (old software)
Audio by Dorico (new software). The violin sound is a bit more smooth. But of course, still nowhere comparable to a real performance

In October, I started to transcribe the music pieces of the level that I want to achieve. Transcribe every single sound. This way, I can learn how the great composers arrange different instruments in their piece, how it all fit together, the dynamic of them, and understand the harmonic structure as well.

In October, I started to train my ear so I could recognize different notes in the Major scale so I can potentially identify the chords in split seconds after hearing them, and not necessarily have to replay the same portion many times. It’s definitely slow, but I can see some progress. I can start to hear the different qualities between I IV and V chords while jamming blues.

What’s next, then?

With the slightly better sound quality, I decided to start uploading my music to YouTube. First, this platform makes it easier to look for and jump between my different music pieces, rather than having to look for specific related blog post on the blog. Second, YouTube is more geared toward sound in compare to a blog. But why not Soundcloud, for example? Each social media platform has its own ettiquet. I’m using YouTube pretty much on a day by day basis and know how to navigate it. Also, YouTube is kinda big, if ya haven’t heard.

And of course, I will keep writing, composing. Prepare thyself, especially, thy ear.


Rhythmize and Harmonize A Melody 1 – The Nguyen Composes

Here’s a challenge: This is a melody without any rhythm.

Use the notes in this specific order, from the beginning, and choose the duration for each one (a whole note, half note, eight note, etc.) to form some musical sentences. It doesn’t need to have a 4/4 time signature (and it’s also fine if it is). We don’t need to use all the notes. Stop where we think it makes sense. Or, if we need more notes, loop back to the beginning, still in that specific order. Then, harmonize the new melody we came up with!

Here’s the results:

Melody 1

Melody 2

Melody 3

Melody 4

Melody 5

Here’s the interactive noteflight music sheet with all the melodies.

Every Journey Ends – The Nguyen Composes

And this is where we part…

1. Shall we enjoy this moment a while longer? May as well.

If you like this melancholic piece, you will also like my other pieces: The Starry Night: inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night painting, and What Remains: expressing the knowingly acceptance towards an ever changing world.