The Biggest Orchestral Composition I've Ever Written - "Commencement Overture" - (Original Orchestral Composition)

in music •  4 months ago  (edited)
Hello everyone! The beginning of this summer left me with time to kill, and the upcoming year has left me with music to write. So, write I have (at the expense of other posts I should have made). I began writing this piece several months ago, and eventually decided that it would make a good piece for my class' graduation in this upcoming year. Every year, I have played a different graduation piece for the graduating class. I decided that I would try my hand at writing something to make my class' graduation special. This piece has 29 different orchestral parts. Bear in mind that this is draft 1, and I have many more plans for stuff to do with this. But, this is a skeleton outline of what I want the final product to sound like. First, I will present the piece, then I will talk about what is going on. By the way, the picture above is one I got at last year's graduation. Here is the piece:


I have laid out a lot of fun little ideas within this piece. I will try to list some of them out for you. But first, the form.


The form of this piece is notably sonata allegro. I would say that this piece is the first time which I have felt comfortable writing sonata allegro form, or writing for orchestra. However, the variant of sonata allegro form I used utilizes three themes rather than two. One of which is a "transitional theme." I learned of this "three theme" sonata form by analyzing some of the earlier sonatas of Beethoven (such as the first movement of the Pathetique). This variant is also quite notable in some of the sonatas and chamber music of Schubert.

The term "transitional theme" is a term my piano teacher uses to describe it. The reason being that it generally comes where the transition should end (at the half cadence on V/V or V of the relative major in this case). However, instead of the transition ending, we go to a different key (the parallel minor of the relative major in this case) in which a series of modulations occur in order to get us to the second theme's actual key. Notably, the transitional theme does not cadence (as I noticed in Beethoven). It instead shifts the tonal center around, avoiding a cadence until the final arrival on V of the new key.

Foreshadowing and Theme Building within the Exposition

One idea I played with a lot within this piece is foreshadowing the coming themes. In the first theme, I had some of the instruments emphasize the 3 + 4 + 1 motif which I utilized for the transitional theme. The transitional theme is also notably a complete extension of the first theme. You will notice that the first part of this thematic section focuses on descending thirds; an inversion of the first theme which was built from an ascending sixth. You will also notice that I continue the ostinato from theme 1 under the transitional theme. This is to subconsciously alert the audience that the two themes are connected and we have not yet arrived at the second theme.

The motif for the second theme (+ 4 + 1) is foreshadowed under the transitional theme within the horns and saxes. This turns out to be what the second theme is built of of. It can be noticed that the second theme is the complete opposite of the first theme. The first theme had one pickup eighth; the second has three. The first theme was built off of mainly arpeggiated leaps (with steps too); the second is built from mainly scalar steps (with leaps too).

I would say that the closing theme begins with the horn solo because of the return of the first theme's ostinato to the timpani part, as well as the key now being Eb major. If I were to repeat, I would use Eb major as a pivot (VI of g minor) and prepare an exciting cadence returning to the beginning. However, it doesn't repeat, it goes right into the development.


The development notably lands in C major, and I quote and sequence the opening measure of our school's Alma Mater (by Samuel Barber). This sequence lands us in b minor where I combine several concepts for a sequence. The oboe-sax motif from theme 1, the transitional idea (introduced by the bassoon) from theme 1, and the actual theme from theme 1, all stacked on top of one another. This is sequenced with an occurring decrescendo until the sequence is interrupted by the scalar pickup of theme 2 combined with the other (3 + 4 + 1) motif from the transitional theme. This sequences and builds until it finally reaches a cadence towards the strong point in a minor (right before which I utilize the sixteenth note idea from the bass part in the ostinato in the repeat of theme 1). The a minor section brings back the ostinato from theme 1, but this time the bass line continues down chromatically until it reaches F#. On top of this ostinato, we get the accompaniment idea from theme 1 presented by the horns and saxes, which is eventually combined with the scalar motif from theme 2 until it then brings us to a g minor chord which functions as vi of Bb and moves us towards Bb, only ever reaching a half cadence on F. This then repeats with a contrast of soft and loud between the woodwinds and the orchestra (the contrast in volume stemming from the FortePiano in the exposition), it lands on Bb, but utilizes this as IV of F, I then use F as IV of C, then utilize C as VI of e minor which leads us to the recapitulation.

Changes in the Recapitulation

I decided to make the recap in e minor so that it would end in G major, the parallel major to g minor. Notable differences occur within the orchestration, for example, the strings present (a much shorter) theme 1 this time.

The next big change is the second theme is now augmented (it is half the original speed [eighth note=quarter note]), and I turn it into a huge brass moment. This is fitting because I kind of deceived everyone with the build up towards the second theme in the exposition, which amounted to pizzicato strings (I'm still laughing about that one). You will notice that the snare drum continues the + 4 + 1 motif which eventually also halves and becomes 2 3 4. This is to help the ensemble observe the molto ritard at this slow and loud moment. I would also point out the percussion I placed on beat "3" (which is really beat 1 of the second measure). This comes directly from the analogous concept first introduced in the exposition.

Finally, the closing theme contrapuntally stems from concepts from each of the different themes, the tenth leap from the closing theme in the exposition, the motif from theme 2, the eighth note idea from the transitional theme, and the sixteenth note idea from theme 1. I am quite proud of this ending and look forward to hearing it in person.


Thank you for reading this! I am almost certainly going to need to make a ton of revisions within the next year, but I feel that the work I have put in necessitates an article describing my progress thus far. Please let me know of any criticisms you may have, as always, feedback is very much appreciated. Thank you for your time! Have a nice day!

(Note) In order to encourage meaningful feedback on the platform, I will check comment trails of users who leave superficial comments (ie "Awesome post," or "Upvoted.") and will mute any users who exhibit a pattern of leaving "spammy" comments.

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Hi cmp2020,

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Must be a nice piece for music lovers, the fact is that you know it is very difficult to understand common souls. But you somehow really made it simple..the way you described the three themes and how you made it to the main music.

Music composition is a god'd gift to any those who masters in it.. They are playing with sound to make it melodies and rhymes which other people usually call it as noise and nuisance. I used to wonder how a composer can co ordinate as a number of different instruments like guitar, key board, violin etc played by different people in front of him and convert it to a soulful music...

Just incredible.... ALL THE BEST FOR GRADUATION...

Thank you..

It reminded me of my old school games.. Specially Final Fantasy series!
I really enjoyed your composition...
I think you got a taste of that games too!
It's kinda a like a story telling one! ♥

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Dude, this is freaking brilliant. Probably not the feedback you were likely going for not exactly having an ear for that type of classical music. As a student keep up this work the sound is very dramatic and very cool. "Like a classic Nintendo game music on steriods citing changes and maybe impending doom likely around the corner." Again, maybe not the feedback you would like for a graduation piece like this but again incredibly creative. I am thrilled that we have people like yourself on steemit @cmp2020. I feel cheated having found this post after it was 8 days old, message me on discord (cryptkeeper17#6637) or here on steemit when you come out with something again I would be thrilled to hear any changes or any other posts related to this things you are doing. Keep up the great work and thanks for posting-1097 votes are a lot, but still not worthy acclaim for this type of original content. Also Nice post, lol.