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Monthly news items, video links and blog on the Frans Absil Music website


January 2019: New document, YouTube channel subscribers and videos

New content:

  • YouTube Channel 500 Subscribers (2:20). Milestone reached on December 24, 2018. Thanks for the views and subscriptions. Plans for next year, help this channel to grow. Happy New Year!
  • Harmony Tension Level Control: Schillinger, Hindemith and Pitch-Class Sets, Part 2 Tetrachords (24:10). Merge Schillinger Diatonic-Symmetric Harmony with the classification of all possible Pitch-Class Sets using Hindemith’s Chord Groups. Harmony tension control within a chord progression with an expanded pool of structures, including 28 4-element PC Sets. Fundamentals, three progressions and three orchestral examples. You will find this movie in the Music Composition Techniques playlist.
  • Guitar Harmonics: An Overview in Diagram. The natural harmonics of the 6-string guitar. The mechanism for generating natural harmonics on a fretted string. Guitar natural harmonics in standard tuning, and in ascending pitch order. Mechanism for generating artificial harmonics. Minimum fair price: € 3. (4 pp., 198 kb, December 2018). This is a new addition to the Document Library.
  • ADAM Audio Soundtrack Competition 2018 (0:30). My competition entry. Soundtrack to the photo by Tobias Zielony, The Opening (2005). Orchestral-electronic texture. Two phrases of atonal music, based on sets of 12-tone triads.
  • Read more about this and other YouTube videos. Descriptions and links.

December 2018: Schillinger System Diatonic-Symmetric Harmony: The Bass Part

Watch the YouTube video tutorial:

  • Schillinger System Diatonic-Symmetric Harmony: The Bass Part (22:20). This Schillinger harmony type by definition combines diatonic roots with independent chord structures. This normally yields a diatonic bass part, except when using the chord groups G6, G64, or a special case of chord inversion. This tutorial demonstrates these principles and the best approach to a bass part with altered notes. You will find this movie in the Music Composition Techniques playlist.

November 2018: Harmony Tension Level Control Video Tutorial and New Composition

New content:

  • Harmony Tension Level Control: Schillinger, Hindemith and Pitch-Class Sets, Part 1 Triads (27:38). Control the tension level curve in a chord progression, using the Schillinger Diatonic-Symmetric Harmony System, the chord classification scheme by Paul Hindemith and a Pitch-Class Set interval vector mapping. This episode shows the fundamentals for triads, presents three chord progressions and one orchestral music cue example. You will find it in the Music Composition Techniques playlist.
  • Redo Or Undo Last Action >> is a composition for electric guitar and string orchestra. It is a tribute to a foreign friend who passed away recently. The piece was written after an extended period of computer stress, during which not only precious files were lost. (On this page there is a description of the piece, plus links to the PDF full score and the Soundcloud audio). The piece is also on YouTube: Audio and the making of 'Redo Or Undo Last Action' (9:32)

September 2018: Dissonant Chords in the Schillinger Diatonic Harmony System: An Overview

Watch the YouTube video tutorial:

  • Dissonant Chords in the Schillinger Diatonic Harmony System: An Overview (27:37). This episode summarizes the essentials from the separate tutorials on the Seventh, Ninth and Eleventh Chord. Aspects discussed are chord structure and position, preparation and resolution of the dissonant 7th, 9th and 11th, and root cycles. Two new example diatonic chord progressions are presented in detail. You will find these movies in the Music Composition Techniques playlist.

August 2018: The Eleventh Chord in Diatonic Harmony video tutorial

Watch the YouTube video tutorial:

  • The Eleventh Chord in the Schillinger Diatonic Harmony System (26:01). The 11th chord in diatonic harmony has three dissonant chordal functions 7, 9, and 11, that require preparation and resolution through careful voice leading. This tutorial discusses the S11 chord structure and position, and dissonance preparation and resolution techniques through suspensions, descending and ascending stepwise motion. Usage of the 11th chord is demonstrated with chord progressions and an up-tempo rock music example. You will find these movies in the Music Composition Techniques playlist.

July 2018: The Siege of Lemongrad

Last month I saw the movie The Death of Stalin (director: Armando Iannucci) with the wonderful score by Christopher Willis. The music is in period style, with a socialist realism idiom. At first I thought that the score was a compilation of musical quotes with new transitions. But then in an interview I read that Willis had spent months studying scores to identify the Shostakovich and Prokofiev style elements, before coming up with his amazing original score for large orchestra.

So I decided on a homework assignment and see how far I could get spending significantly less time over a period of weeks. I reread the Dover score of the Shostakovich symphonies No. 1 and 5, listing typical style elements. Then I spent a couple of days sketching a piece as a condensed score. After that I wrote the full score for symphony orchestra in Finale (find it in the composition list on this site), before moving to Logic Pro for a Midi mockup. As usual, creating a more or less realistic synthetic orchestra is a labour-intensive process, especially on my old 12 Gb Mac Pro. For pragmatic reasons, I limited myself to the Spitfire Symphonic Library, bounced regions with specific instrument articulations to audio, then did the mix.

In the YouTube video, there is the audio mixdown, with an annotated condensed score and cartoonesque graphics, telling a mockery story about the fictitious Siege of Lemongrad. I hope you'll enjoy watching this experiment. Happy summer holidays 2018!

June 2018: Reusing Compositional Elements From the Tristan Act 3 Prelude

New content:

May 2018: Composing with a Pitch-Class Set: the Orchestral Score for the 'Nika Albi' Trailer

There's a fresh YouTube video tutorial and new audio demos on SoundCloud:

  • Composing with a Pitch-Class Set: the Orchestral Score for the 'Nika Albi' Trailer (12:25). PC-Set 5-Z17 (Allen Forte prime form numbering) is used as the unifying source in the atonal orchestral score for the Spitfire Audio Albion ONE 10th Anniversary trailer scoring competition. PC Set properties, derived chord structures and melody are demonstrated. Form and set application shown in an annotated condensed score. You will find it in the Music Composition Techniques playlist.
  • New ambient and film music audio demos on SoundCloud. Here's the link:
  • NEW: The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) takes effect from 25 May 2018. In compliance with the GDPR there is a statement that applies to the website and webshop. Read my GDPR Compliant Privacy Notice >>

April 2018: Ninth Chords in Diatonic Harmony video tutorials

Watch the YouTube video tutorials about 'Ninth Chords in the Schillinger Diatonic Harmony System':

  • Part 1: Fundamentals (21:02). Using the 9th chord in diatonic harmony requires careful treatment of the dissonant chordal functions 7 and 9. Part 1 presents the fundamentals: the S9 chord structure in root position, the stepwise descending resolution and the three preparation options.
  • Part 2: Progressions (21:43). This episode discusses three diatonic chord progressions with the ninth chord S9, and a short piece of mood music. You will find these movies in the Music Composition Techniques playlist.
  • Read more about these and other YouTube videos. Descriptions and links.

February 2018: Euclidean Rhythm in Police Precinct Five movie

After reading the Godfried Toussaint 2017 paper I applied an Euclidean rhythm in a thrill music cue. This composition uses various rhythm and orchestral techniques. In the example there is a combination of fandango, Euclidean and cross-rhythm. A YouTube video discusses this piece in detail:

January 2018: Two Videos and One Copyright Claim

I decided to participate in the January 2018 Spitfire Audio scoring competition. My entry is an orchestral score for the Albion ONE 10th Anniversary trailer movie. The short piece in atonal style is called 'Nika Albi' and here's the media: Albion ONE trailer movie with soundtrack >> | Description >> | PDF Full Score >>

Two videos were added to the YouTube channel and there is a disappointing start of 2018:

December 2017: Lemur Script for Articulation Keyswitching and Drumpad Playing

A new YouTube video episode discusses a specific Midi controller Liine Lemur script:

November 2017: Schubert's Road Sign Movie

The 6th Edition of the Musical Analysis e-book (NEW) contains a detailed analysis of the Franz Schubert song cycle 'Die Winterreise'. In it there are many harmonic gems. A YouTube video is dedicated to a section from one of these songs:

October 2017: Musical Analysis: Visiting the Great Composers, 6th Edition.

The NEW 6th Edition of the e-book 'Musical Analysis: Visiting the Great Composers' is available in the Webshop.

Other news:

August 2017: The Pitch-Class Set Tool explained on YouTube

In the Musician Toolbox, see the Document Library under DOCS, there is a graphical toolkit for analysing and manipulating Pitch-Class sets. These are used in the composition of atonal music. I have provided a 'How To' video on my YouTube channel and added a companion episode with an example music cue:

July 2017: YouTube videos Seventh Chords and Film Music Tempo Calculator

There is new content on my YouTube channel:

June 2017: YouTube video about Symmetric Harmony Nomenclature

There is new content on my YouTube channel:

May 2017: Statistics and updates

There is some news to report:

December 2016: Three Recent Compositions

Three new compositions have been completed: The Victorious Ride of Prince Uberti (Epic Orchestral), Under the Spell of Orlua (Fantasy Music), and Zenobia's Farewell (Melancholic Orchestral Ballad). For more details (description and links to score and mp3 audio demo): 'The Victorious Ride of Prince Uberti' >>, 'Under the Spell of Orlua' >>, 'Zenobia's Farewell' >>.
Or go to the full List of Compositions >>

July 2016: Film Music Tempo Calculation Tool V 3.1

The Film Music Tempo Calculation Tool has been updated after receiving a feature request. Enter up to 10 event hit points in a movie scene and find the best three options for the appropriate fixed tempo film or game music cue. What's new in Version 3.1? - Flexible cue starting time (time offset) - Enter the hit points as either SMPTE time or frame code (for 24, 25 or 30 FPS) - Use smaller tempo steps within a given BPM range - Select the meter in beats per measure (time signature).

In case you would like to run the Film Music Tempo Calculation tool locally in a browser program on your computer, send an e-mail for more information.

October 2015: Revision of the Theory of Rhythm e-book

There is an updated version (Rev. 2.2, Sep 2015) of the e-book A Guide to Schillinger's Theory of Rhythm. Based on reader feedback there are now 10 additional pages with explanations, more comments with the examples, more consistent notation and errors corrected.

July 2015: Absolute chord notation in the Musical Analysis E-Book explained

Users of the E-Book 'Musical Analysis: Visiting the Great Composers' occasionally ask why there is absolute chord labeling, and not scale degree notation. In the book you will find chord labels such as in this cadence: C - Am7 - Dm7/F - G7b9 instead of I - vi7 - ii65 - V7b9. The former is used in song lead sheets and jazz scores, the latter is common in classical music literature. Here is the motivation behind using this notation in the E-book:

  • In classical harmony, based on intervals of thirds, there are 4 types of triads (major, minor, diminished, augmented) and 7 types of 7th chords. Using the 12 chromatic pitches as roots this yields a total of 12 x (4 + 7) = 132 chords. Using extensions such as 9th or 11th chords (e.g., G7b9) increases the set even further. In major-minor tonal harmony based on the 7-degree diatonic scale there are 14 chords. Frequently used alterations such as major chords on 2nd, 6th and 3rd degree (intermediate dominants), minor 4th degree Fm = iv, and using other diatonic modes will increase the set size. The smaller diatonic chord set implies transposition relative to the local root to obtain the actual pitches, the absolute chord label is unique.
  • The book is full of tables with these absolute chord labels in jazz style. These will help the conductor to quickly find the appropriate concert pitch in the orchestral parts, including the transposing instruments (my scores are full of pencil marks that label the parts with chord functions such as 1, 3, 5; this helps in checking inversions, doublings and voice leading).
  • The tables also have a column with the local root and key. I find the mental mapping from the absolute chord label with the local root into the smaller functional diatonic set easier than the reverse. That may require a bit of reading practice, though.
  • Diatonic degree chord notation may become complex in (rapid) modulations. In tonal harmony, there is a set of well-known modulation schemes, such as the pivoting chord(s), that create(s) ambiguity until the new key is clearly established, typically through a dominant-tonic cadence. In books on tonal harmony these schemes are illustrated with score examples and typically use two lines with diatonic functional chord labeling, pointing out the pivot chord (e.g., Am = vi/C = ii/G) and showing the length of the ambiguity (usually 2-3 chords). My book provides observations, and keeps the interpretation to a minimum (identifying the start and end of a modulation is a frequent issue in musicological studies). The book contains the chord data in tabular form; this is a great time-saver for musicians when starting the interpretation process.
  • There is a most pragmatic reason for using absolute chord labels. In the current edition there must be 40,000-50,000 chords. Adding multiple lines with alternative interpretation in diatonic relative chord notation would more than double the page count. This book is meant to grow in the future by adding more compositions and I keep an eye on its file size and page count.

Hopefully this does not discourage you from using this reference book; it is highly appreciated by conductors, music students and other users. The 5th Edition of the E-Book 'Musical Analysis: Visiting the Great Composers' was published in January 2015.

June 2015: Updated layout for mobile devices

As we all know Google has changed its search engine algorithm as of April 2015. Page ranking is affected by responsive and mobile-friendly website design. Therefore, this site needed udating for both desktop and mobile device browsing.

The current status is a compromise. Font and button sizes have increased, figures and sidebar items are scaling or floating with the display width. Most information pages with tables now read properly on 320 pixels wide smartphones. The E-books and PDF document library have obviously not been affected.

Not all pages have been updated yet; there is simply too much content. Some composer tool pages with interactive Javascript GUI's still require a 800 px wide landscape window orientation (a warning will display when you try to open these on small devices). Redesigning those pages will require some thinking and programming. This is the best I could do for now to remain friends with you, the regular and mobile visitor to this site, and with grandmaster Google.

May 2015: A Guide to Schillinger's Theory of Rhythm

Now the Second Edition of the e-book A Guide to Schillinger's Theory of Rhythm is available in the Webshop. It replaces the incomplete book on rhythm that was already on this site for many years. This e-book covers a set of techniques for creating rhythm patterns, generate variations and developments and the application of rhythm in a musical score. The new Second Edition contains 159 pages, 58 figures, 4 tables, and 40 examples. In the Document Library there is a trial version of the book.

March 2015: Concert Band News

On 1 April 2015, the Marinierskapel der Koninklijke Marine (The Royal Netherlands Navy Marine Band) will play the collection of 'Seasonal Songs' at a concert. These four concert band arrangements of 'Let It Snow', 'It Might As Well Be Spring', 'The Summer Knows' and 'Autumn Leaves' will undoubtedly receive an incredible performance. See this website for more information about the pieces (scores, description, MP3 demo).

A customer request triggered a revision of the concert band arrangement of 'The Shadow Of Your Smile', a Johnny Mandel song in a relaxed Rumba-Bolero style. It is now available in the Webshop.

February 2015: Composing with the Fibonacci Series

There is a new member in the set of composition technique examples. The application of the Fibonacci integer number series to musical composition is demonstrated with a brief film music cue, entitled 'Tension Cue 13'. The Fibonacci series is applied to the rhythm and pitch domain, yielding a fragment with increasing tension. The example includes the full score, a description page and an audio demo.

January 2015: Musical Analysis 5th Edition e-book published

Musical Analysis e-book 5th Edition Poster The Fifth Edition of the e-book 'Musical Analysis: Visiting the Great Composers' has been completed. The book contains detailed analysis of a large collection of pieces from the tonal music period. It is meant for composers, conductors, musicians, music students and lovers. Previous editions of the book have received thousands of monthly hits. It has proven to be a most useful reference source.

The Fifth Edition is available in two versions. There is a free, incomplete demo download version on this website. Order the full version from the Webstore. The expanded edition contains many new music pieces; the number of pages has increased to 736. The book provides formal and detailed harmonic analyses, melody structure breakdowns (NEW!), descriptions, and key relationship diagrams (NEW!). The 5th edition contains more than 265 compositions and movements from the symphonic and classical music repertoire.

November 2014: Film music composition example added

The film music 'Suite Benjamin Button' has been added to the set of composition examples. You will find the full score, an mp3 audio demo and a detailed description of the techniques used.

October 2014: Composing with Pitch-Class Sets

Recent questions in the e-mail triggered the addition of a new score example, illustrating the process of composing in an atonal style using Pitch-Class sets. See the title ’Volcano Brass - Shock and Awe’, a short film music cue from 2010. The website has the full score, a description and mp3-audio demo file.

June 2014: Risset rhythms MIDI tick calculation tool

Risset rhythms MIDI tick calculator Risset rhythms are characterized by a continuous speeding up (accelerando) or slowing down of the musical tempo. These rhythms are shortened and repeated at smaller timescales (the fractal, self-scaling property) creating the sensation of a perpetual tempo change. Composer Jean-Claude Risset used these rhythms in electronic music. The technique also appears in Electronic Dance Music (EDM) productions.

In the Archive (the document library) there is a new Javascript calculation tool that determines the MIDI note positions for Risset rhythms. Specify the pattern length, the meter, the shortest note duration and the MIDI resolution. Then start the calculator and see the table with Risset rhythm note positions at multiple levels.

March 2014: New E-book order buttons

Ordering the E-books from the Webshop has been simplified by introducing PayPal Buy Now buttons. The procedure now requires only two clicks from any page on this site. Since its introduction in February 2014 the free demo version of the 'Arranging By Examples: The Practical Guide to Jazz and Pop Orchestra Arranging 3rd Edition' e-book reached more than 2,100 hits. The counter for the free version of the 'Musical Analysis: Visiting the Great Composers, 4th Edition' recently hit the 20,000 mark.

On the Compositions Page a number of functional music (film, mood) full scores were added recently, with a brief description and analysis. This information may help those that have sent me mails about contemporary music composition techniques. I hope to extend that collection.

February 2014: Third Edition of the Arranging By Examples e-book

Arranging by Examples E-book, 3rd Edition There is a new, greatly expanded Third Edition of the 'Arranging By Examples: The Practical Guide to Jazz and Pop Orchestra Arranging' e-book. Encouraging earlier version reader response triggered the work on this update. The number of pages has more than doubled and now is 239. The book contains over 100 examples with score fragments and detailed discussion in the text. Basic and special techniques, instrumentation and arranging approaches are presented. An extensive cross-referencing and index system with hyperlinks allows easy navigation through the book.

The number of hits for the 4th Edition Musical Analysis E-book free version reached 13,000. Thanks to user feedback there is a minor modification in the guidelines of the Film Music Tempo Calculation Tool (update Vs. 2.3).

January 2014: Music analysis book, online teaching, MO blog

The Musical Analysis: Visiting the Great Composers 4th Edition e-book received more than 7500 hits since its publication two months ago. Read more or visit the PDF Document Library on this website and download the free trial copy.

There have been regular requests for online teaching (harmony, arranging, composition and orchestration). This new service will be started soon; more information will be available. For those of you, who were waiting for this type of personal musical guidance, send an e-mail expressing your interest. A working set-up will be arranged.

Metropole Orchestra logo For readers from the Netherlands: although the reports and musician interviews still are being read, and the year 2013 was most turbulent for the Metropole Orchestra, the MO weblog will be stopped. There were not enough events to keep the page alive and interesting. The new MO website obviously is the best place to find information.