This month’s composing spotlight looks at the serene wind and strings piece One World, written as a standalone piece in 2015.
This piece of music was conceived entirely at my own fingertips during a casual free-play session on the piano. Initially a piano piece, it ended up with wind and strings as well. I stopped short of brass out of a desire to write something a bit different to the grandiose pieces I had been producing at the time.
The music is only 2:46 and has two simple themes in a A|B|A+B structure. I didn’t want it to be anything more than what it needed to be; a tender and pleasant piece of music. Not too heavy, not too light. I wanted it to bring hope and unity. Its name signifying the peacefulness and joy that one world and one people can bring.
In D-Major, the music starts with a soft and simple harp introduction. It sets the general pace and feel for the music. The beat is 6/8 and the rhythm offers no nasty surprises to this. Then, the strings enter to bring atmosphere before breaking into a very, very sweet violin solo. Backed only by the harp, the first theme appears. It is not cluttered or exotic, but long and gentle. The solo violin in this part came out far better than I would have ever expected. The strings again rejoin, only softly, to emphasise the violin. After a swell, a flourish and a very tenderly played violin, the 16 bar solo ends.
The theme then repeats with only slight variation. However, this time it is played as a solo by the english horn. This is then backed up by the harp and a countermelody from the solo violin. In a sense it could be seen as a duet. This is the only time I’ve used an english horn in my music and it was a fun experience to do something different - sorry oboe players for leaving you out! The latter half of the repetition ventures off into a higher pitch than previous and adds some finality with its swell and flourish. The countermelody from the violin is a simple arpeggiated chord, yet comes out so nicely!
The theme was crafted with the idea of only having small and gentle changes between bars. The main sustained notes only step by one or two tones between bars. The lead-in notes themselves can wildly vary, but their intention is to add flavour and direct the music to the next chord. The melody itself was created naturally. I didn't really sit down and decide to make a melody it just happened. The descending bass, mixed with the established feel of the piece, lended itself to something simple, yet adaptable.
Then we get to the second theme. The strings stop and the flute arrives. This theme is even simpler than the last, with half of it being a sustained note. Yet the whole purpose is to build atmosphere by developing chords within the harmony. So, the section actually starts as a duet with the flute and oboe. Yes, the oboe. The english horn player is instructed to put down their instrument and play the oboe for all of about eight bars before going back again.
In this duet, the flute lets out call, which is answered by the oboe in a mirrored fashion. Everything is the same except the oboe doesn’t sustain the last note; instead descending into the appropriate chord. At this point I was lightly playing with the instruments and intertwining them. I wanted to develop the theme, but first I wanted to establish it within the context of the previous delicate solos.
Once I had achieved establishment of the theme I handed it back to the strings. Full strings, for the first time. And this is where the brewing and crafting begins to happen. No two instruments play the same rhythm, resulting in a constantly evolving series of chords and accentuated by the return of the english horn and the entrance of the bassoon. The theme is the same, it just blends and morphs and grows… until it reaches and great climax and something different happens. It even involves duplex notes; two notes played in the space of three.
In a sudden flourish the full band jumps out of D major for just one moment with an unexpected Bb major, Fmajor and C Major transition before mashing everything together into a warming finale.
This finale section has the original theme return, with the second theme playing the counter melody underneath it. Everything that has been introduced previously presents itself at once in a dramatic and emotional combination. As the section reaches its end, all the instruments come together to really emphasis the final few chords. It is an intentionally delicate mix.
The music then shows itself out by rehashing some old motifs together as the volume and intensity decrease. It is effectively a restatement of the second theme, but with the countermelody from the first theme underneath. Similarly, it ends with the same Bb-F-C-D sequence that previously led to the main climax.
The final result is an uplifting and dreamy piece built out of soft instruments and carefully constructed melodies and countermelodies. The tone and mood reflect the objectives of the title; unity, peace and happiness. It was not a planned piece. It simply just happened from within. Those are the best ones.
And that is how I wrote One World.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this spotlight!