In this video I concentrate on the fourth storyline out of the orchestral composition Seven. I named it “Losing the memories”. It’s that typical melancholic sound. How did I write this? What were my thoughts? My process? Which pointers can I give you to write something similar? All topics in this video which I will address.
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Timestamps of the video
- 00:00 – Introduction
- 01:02 – Tip 1: dorian is your mode for a melancholic emotional sound
- 02:41 – Tip 2: make smart use of the colour tone
- 04:19 – Tip 3: create a coherent set of sounds that tell the story
- 06:07 – Tip 4: call and answer is a strong method for writing music
- 07:28 – Next week: storyline 5 which is truly sad
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Tip 1: Dorian is your mode for a melancholic emotional sound
If you have followed me along during the deconstruction videos of Seven so far, you know I already used myxolydian for the friendly opening. Phrygian was my mode for a dark sounding scene. And I used lydian for a floaty and mystical sound in the third storyline. So the ones left are ionian, dorian, aeolian and locrian.
For this fourth storyline I pictured myself a sad discovery in the garden. When life in it started to restore, one of the animals noticed that another one was injured by the black angry cat. A feeling of melancholy took over and memories between the animals were shared.
The choice for such a scene led me towards the mode Dorian. This mode uses the formula of semitones and tones like: T – S – T – T – T – S – T. Or in half and whole steps: W – H – W – W – W – H – W.
When we have a look at the score of the fourth storyline and the notes I have used, you will see two sharp: the C# and F#. That means I wrote this storyline in E Dorian.
Tip 2: make smart use of the colour tone
This is going to be a bit theoretical. But yet important to utilize the great sound of dorian to the fullest. I’ll try to explain it in my simplest words, realizing I’m not the best teacher for music theory. So it’s a bit out of my comfort zone, but stay with me.
The mode dorian sounds melancholic and a bit sad, cause it’s a mode based on the minor scale. Which sounds sad by default. Now when we compare E minor with E dorian we notice one difference. The sixth note, in this case the C, has been raised a halve step. So E dorian has a C# while the E minor scale has a natural C. And that makes the C# the colour tone of E dorian. Making it special.
When you write in modes, you have to hammer in the tonic. I already mentioned that a couple of times. And now I add something to that. You also have to make smart use of the colour tone to exploit the sound of the mode in a maximum way.
And that is exactly what I did in this storyline. You’ll find numerous C#s in this part. In the string section, the piano line and also in the melody played by a flute. And that gives that typical dorian sound to this scene.
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Tip 3: create a coherent set of sounds that tell the story
In my opinion music needs to tell a story. It needs to evoke an emotion. That can be happy and jolly, a magical fairytalish experience or in the case of this storyline a melancholic and sad feeling.
When you have a clear idea what you want to tell the listener, it should point you towards the choice of instruments, playing techniques and maybe things like tempo, rhythm, dynamics etcetera.
In this storyline I only used strings, piano and a flute. That’s not much, but your mind will have full focus on all three of them. Which helps to experience a cohesive sound. And that is what I was after.
The piano sets the mood immediately in the beginning with an Alberti Bass line. With the sustain pedal on, so it has a continuous sound. Dynamics written in piano, so it is quiet and soft sounding.
The cello, another great instrument for a sad emotional feeling, joins the piano. From pianissimo to piano. So again, very quiet and demanding full attention from our ears. It slowly pulls you in.
The other strings out of the section join too, making it a beautiful breathing full sound.
And then the flute joins. Again all attention from our brain goes towards this new orchestral sound that plays the melody line.
Tip 4: call and answer is a strong method for writing music
In this storyline I tried to incorporate a call and answer movement. This method is very strong for storytelling in music.
Let’s have a look at the score. The chord progression in the strings and piano follows a structure of i, ii, i, IV. Or in other words E minor, F# minor, E minor and A major.
That means I didn’t resolve the story at the end of bar 74. It doesn’t end on the i. The E minor chord or tonic. No, the harmony in the strings and piano ends in A major. The IV chord of E Dorian. And the flute ends on a C#. Which is the colour tone of E Dorian as I told you before.
And that gives that typical feeling that the story didn’t end. It screams to be continued. I left the listener behind with a question. On purpose! Cause that is my bridge towards the fifth storyline of Seven which I will discuss next week.
Next week: storyline 5 which is truly sad
That’s it for this week. Hopefully I gave you some valuable insights and pointers to start writing your own melancholic sounding scene.
Next week I will continue with the fifth storyline which I named “The end of an era”. It builds further on the melancholic sound and sad melody of this weeks video. Already looking forward to that! I hope you do too!