And… scene.

I just finished the piece for Hill Country Middle School Band. Well, at least in first draft form. There are still dynamics to fix, and percussion mapping to finalize, but the writing itself, I think, is done. (I also wrote about this process a few days ago in another entry.) A few stats…

Date of the first save file (that is, the date I started the piece): January 9. That’s when I wrote the tune (see the PDF of that first day’s work by clicking here), although I revised it. (Measures 15-16 were the right idea, but the notes were all wrong.)

I left the next day to go to Oklahoma for the premiere of Clocking. The next week, I got married, then I went on my honeymoon. I was home for a week, then I went to Austin, Dallas, Tucson, San Antonio, and Tucson again. I was finally home for a solid week (well, six days) starting on February 18. I’d been planning the structure of this new piece the whole time, but I didn’t start working on it with full attention until February 20.

On Wednesday of this week, AEJ went out of town to visit her family, and since she’s been gone, all I’ve done is work on the piece. I slept some, but when I’m working this intensely on writing, I don’t sleep well, and the music loops in my head so obsessively while I’m in bed that it nearly makes me insane.

Just to give you an idea of how absorbed I’ve been by the piece: until tonight — and it’s Saturday night — I hadn’t showered since Wednesday morning. If you’ve ever seen me in public, you hopefully wouldn’t think, “that looks like a dude who doesn’t shower very often.” Why wouldn’t you think that? Because I don’t typically leave the house without showering. I haven’t left the house since Wednesday, so why shower? I mean, other than the fact that by this morning, I smelled vaguely homeless. Don’t worry; I’m clean and good to go.

I always save the hardest work for last when I’m writing. There are always parts of a piece that have been making me crazy the whole time, things that never worked, and I know it’s going to be pain to figure out how to fix them. Every time I hear those parts, I cringe, dreading the amount of time it’s going to take to make it right. As of this morning, all I really had left to do was to fix all of those things. I took a few breaks (thank you, Guitar Hero III on the new PS3), but other than 15 minutes here and 10 minutes there, the day was spent putting the last puzzle pieces in place.

In the time since AEJ has been gone, the file version number of the piece has gone from version 10 on Wednesday morning to version 37 — the final draft version. I up the number every time I make a major revision or addition, so 27 “things” happened in the past 4 days. The finished piece is a total of five minutes long (209 measures at quarter note=160), and I wrote about two minutes of that since Wednesday. (I’m not fast, so that’s a huge amount of output for me for four days.)

I’m excited about the piece. I’m also a little worried that I botched the percussion writing. I can air-drum the parts, but just barely. (That’s how I write all of my non-pitched percussion parts — by air-drumming them. If you hid in my studio and watched me write, which would be creepy, you’d think I was quite the dork.) There’s a tom-tom and timpani duet in the middle of the piece — the “drum break,” where the drummers get to go crazy, all by themselves — and it’s pretty tricky. Still, that was my initial germ for the piece: to write something for this level of band that gives the percussion section fun stuff to do, other than doubling the flute melody on a friggin’ glockenspiel. (I hate that.)

I suppose I should go to bed, but I’m completely wired. I want to listen through the MIDI some more, but every time I do, I get all worked up again, and I also find tiny tweaks I still need to make. If I’m going to stop working for the night, I guess I’ll stop now.

Here’s a little sneak-peek of the first page. What do you think of the title?

“As Eagles Fly!” It’s so moving! So evocative! It’s also a joke. If I ever a) write a piece with a title like this, or b) write a title with an exclamation point in it, please stab me in the eye — preferably with the talon of a beautiful, majestic eagle.


YXZ says

Major ugh @ the title. It was terrifyingly close to this:

"As Eagles Fly . . . into Turbines!" would be a much better title, if I might say so.

Jeff says

One hundred dollars, my friend. One hundred dollars.

Montoya says

OMG! I was ready to revoke your cool card with that title.

I say it should be called "Gulfstream."

Anyone... anyone?!?!?!

Trevor says

OMG!!! Great title for this piece
Comme la Mouche d'Aigles-French
Als Adler-Fliege-German

Don't freak out if you do As Eagles Fly in different languages no one would know actually how weird and goofy the title is....If you want them go for it just an idea.

John says

Yes, credit where credit is due: Jeff Gershman came up with that title. $100 to Gershman -- if I use his title.

Montoya's idea isn't bad. Or maybe: Desert Gulf Stream.

I think YMZ's title is the best so far.

Scott says

Here's some really awful middle school music:
Sorry, yes, this is a shameless plug to my own website, but go there and you'll see how it relates to your post. I took a day to write a terrible piece (aka publisher-quality educational music), give it a stupid title, and offer it for non-discriminating directors to use.

Yes, YMZ's right on the money.

John says

Oh. My. God. I just clicked YXZ's link above. Yes, that is a link to a band piece called "Where Eagles Soar." No joke. It's worth clicking the link, if nothing else, to see the cover. It could only be improved by putting an American flag behind the eagle.

I'd admit that the piece is surprisingly catchy.
But the glock does double the flute.

John says

And Trevor, you can't put the title in German, and DEFINITELY not in FRENCH! That totally cancels out the patriotic eagle aspect! Maybe I'll call the piece "Freedom Flies."

trevor says

ok i guess....not french or german but how about......"Talon".....or...."The Majestic Talon"...or maybe...."An American Pursuit"

Ray says

Freedom Flies might work!

How about TALON? It's simple, and it fits with Turning, and Turbine. Haha.

Is this a happy piece, or a dark piece?

Josh says

How about name it "CAWWW!"

kinda like an eagle's caw.

John says

I kind of like a combination of Trevor's idea: "The American Pursuit of My Majestic Talon." I like it 'cause it sounds dirty.

It's funny; if I didn't already have pieces called "Turbine" and "Turning," "Talon" is not a bad title. Seriously.

"CAWWW" is brilliant. You have to say it really, really loud, and kind of high-pitched.

Nelson says

Don't you know the formula for yound band titles? Pick a bird (Falcon!)...pick a natural landmark (Mountain!)...pick a song form (Overture!)...then you've got a grade 2-3 title (Falcon Mountain Overture!).

I anxiously await Buzzard Ridge Holiday (ha ha).

Mark says

The title is almost as bad as my Flight of Eagles.

but if it's a cool song, then no one will care.

Travis Taylor says

Wow, 14 comments? Might as well make it 15. Exclamation marks always make a title more interesting, it's obvious, why else would they have been made?

Should have gotten GH3 on the Wii, then we could play each other. Would've had some grand times.


Travis Taylor says

Oh, and I found this.


Ray says

I don't think a Mackey piece could ever fall in with the formula for band pieces, regardless of the grade level. Haha.

Anyway, I still think a combination of all the titles could be in order:

Perhaps "CAWWW!: The tale of Talon, the Majestic American Eagle"

Ben says

alex says

I have heard the MIDI and I think it should have a darkish title.

Jesse Leyva says

A title that somehow combines deer, prancing, and happiness would genuinely reflect the gestalt of the piece...

Jonathan says

I aware that I'm late replying to all this madness, however:

"F.U.: A Concert Overture for Young Band"

I am writing a piece for the junior high I went to, and told her about this idea. She said no, however, Mrs. Floyd might like it. Anything vulgar and inappropriate is usually good.

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