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Holy Song of Thanksgiving – Beethoven’s String Quartet number 15

In the spring of 1825, Ignaz Schuppanzigh, an Austrian violinist, was engaged to perform the premiere of Beethoven’s latest string quartet, written some 15 years after his last quartet which premiered in 1810. Schuppanzigh, with his quartet consisting of Karl Holz on second violin, Franz Weiss on viola and Nikolaus Kraft on cello, gave the first performance of this piece on 6 November 1825, and whilst reports said Beethoven was not pleased with the performance and blamed Schuppanzigh, the quartet would go on to perform the two other quartets that were commissioned by the Russian Count Nikolay Galitzin.

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In Christ Alone – Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

“In Christ Alone” is a popular modern Christian hymn, written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. Composed in 2001, the lyrics of this song are credal in nature, speaking about the life, death and resurrection of Christ.

This arrangement is an adaptable arrangement suitable for many uses. The first, repeated section contains a basic hymn tune arrangement that is easy and able to be played by all players. If accompanying singing, then you can just repeat this section for the four verses.
Following this, the arrangement explores the text musically. A short shift into the tonic minor expands the words “There in the ground His body lay, Light of the world by darkness slain” before a sudden shift back to the tonic major with the words “Bursting forth in glorious day.” The accompaniment becomes a triplet ostinato which helps bring out the victory theme in the latter part of this verse, invoking a feel of a snare drum in a marching band.
The music then starts preparing for a final verse, taking a small melodic motif and passing it around the quartet as it modulates up a tone to E major. The last half of this verse is repeated, with the second violin accompanying part mirroring the melody an octave lower to provide a base for the soaring melody of the first violin high on the E string.

This arrangement would be suitable for church accompaniment (first section repeated), or for special performance. The first violin part is quite advanced, ranging to G#6 (sixth position), however the remainder of the parts would be playable by intermediate players.

String Quartet Arrangement. List Price: US$12.99. Buy it here.

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Sunflower (From Spiderman: Into the Spider-verse) – Post Malone & Swae Lee

Sunflower (from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) is an atmospheric, glitchy, soulful track that perfectly captures the movie that it’s from. Walking the line “between hip hop and dream pop” (Patrick Doyle, Rolling Stone), this arrangement for String Quartet attempts to capture that essence in a style that is still enjoyable for the players.

The glitchy, sample driven nature of the track means that the inner parts have a fair bit of repetitive parts, while the melody – influenced by hip hop, is rhythmically complex, yet melodically simple and repetitive.

String Quartet Arrangement. List Price: US$12.99. Buy it here.

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Head Above Water – Avril Lavigne

Coming from Avril Lavigne’s sixth studio album, Head Above Water was Lavigne’s first single since 2015. The song details her struggle with Lyme disease, writing “I had accepted death and could feel my body shutting down. I felt like I was drowning. Like I was going under water and I just needed to come up for air. Like I was in a river being pulled in a current. Unable to breathe. Praying to God for Him to help me just keep my head above the water. To help me see through the stormy weather.”

“Head Above Water” is a “powerful, spiritual epiphany” (Marina Pedrosa, Billboard), with a “highly personal note” (Robin Murray, Clash). A pop rock ballad that could just as easily fit as a praise and worship song.

This arrangement for String Quartet has the melody mostly in the Violin 1 part, with one section with the melody taken into the Cello – where it goes into the Treble Clef to a C above Middle C. 

String Quartet arrangement. List price: US$14.99. Buy it here.

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People Get Ready – Curtis Mayfield

Arrangement for String Quartet. Starts in Db and modulates to D major. Melody passes through all instruments.

“People Get Ready” was written by Curtis Mayfield, and was first a hit for the Impressions, with noteworthy covers by Bob Marley and the Wailers, Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck, and Human Nature. Rolling Stone magazine named it the 24th greatest song of all time, 20th in their list of the 100 greatest guitar tracks, and has been included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

The lyrics draw on the religious messages Mayfield was hearing from his church, but also draws on the tradition of African American freedom songs. As such, this song is useful in a wide variety of situations.

List Price: US$12.99. Buy it here.

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The Stations of the Cross

For String Quartet and Narration. Composed 2014. 4 Movements. AUD$40.

 

A number of years ago now, when I was 21, I was housesitting over Easter. I watched The Passion of Christ on Good Friday. Through watching it, and thinking about music (as I was want to do at the time, studying Classical Music), I realised that there weren’t many compositions that explored this idea of the Stations of the Cross. While there are many examples of pieces relating to Easter, such as Bach’s St Matthew Passion or St John Passion, I couldn’t think of any that actually combine the stories as is found in the Stations of the Cross. Part of the reason is probably because many versions of the Stations of the Cross include extra-biblical material – that is, parts that have been accepted into the stations through tradition, and weren’t actually biblical. So I decided that I would start writing a piece based upon the Stations of the Cross.

First, I found a version of The Stations of the Cross to follow, which was the one that Pope John Paul II followed in 1991, which I chose because the 14 stations were based on passages from the bible narratives. Of the 14 passages, there’s 3 from Matthew, 3 from Mark, 5 from Luke, and 3 from John. I decided to write for String Quartet and Narration, mainly because I knew how to write for strings, and would be able to utilise the colours and effects effectively to evoke the text. In terms of overall arrangement, I decided that it would work best in 4 movements – the first covering the first 6 stations, then the second with stations 7 to 9, the third with stations 10 to 12, and the final movement with stations 13 and 14.

I originally wanted to base this work from a relatively popular translation of the text, however the number of verses was more than their fair use policy allowed, and upon seeking out permission to use it, I was going to be charged a large amount to use the text, for a licence that would only last 3 years. (As it’s been 7 years since I started this, I’m glad I didn’t shell out the money). As such, the text comes from the Open English Bible, an “open source” Bible released into the public domain. The Narration is notated, but is only intended as a guide as to where it starts, and roughly where it finishes. The narration is intended to sound as natural as possible, but lining up with the elements in the music.

I started by writing prose notes to describe my thoughts as to how each of the four movements would come together. The notes that follow are largely based off those notes, along with what it actually ended up as. Continue reading The Stations of the Cross