Slavonic Dance for Piano & Orchestra

The life of a composition is quite interesting. This piece started several years ago as a short (1:30) piano ‘mood’, created while thinking about Lyle May’s piano playing.

Listening back to it last week, I felt it had a ‘Slavonic’ colour to some of the harmony, and with all the awful news from Ukraine decided to write a larger format piece dedicated to the people of Ukraine (where 3 of my 4 grandparents came from).

As is the way of these things, I’m not sure the extended compositions maintains or weakness that Slavonic feel - and if not is that a reflection of my lack of skill and discipline as a composer? - or was I right just to go where the composition process took me?

Either way, I am quite proud of this composition, and of course would love to hear any feedback you may have on it.

Thank you.

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Some of you may be interested in this. I’m using BBCSO Pro in Logic, merged with the individual NotePerformer audio stems from Dorico.

Both these libraries are meant to be pre-panned, therefore you shouldn’t pan them again in Logic. And that’s what I did at first.

But, I don’t know…just felt it sounded muddier than it should have done, and almost had a mono recording feel, even though there clearly was some minimal and subtle panning going on.

So I went ahead and fully panned each track in Logic (I used the Virtual SoundStage 2 plug in, although didn’t need to) and if you ask me it’s transformed the sound. Really opened it up. Much more clarity, less muddiness, etc etc.

So, maybe people already knew this, but take pre-panned libraries with a pinch of salt. Maybe leaving as it is gives a more natural, ‘realistic’ sound for an orchestra. But it didn’t work for me. Not in this piece anyway.

The link above is now updated to the ‘panned’ version.

Very nice! It has a really nice flow to it. I’m not sure if it has a specifically Slavonic feel to it, but I kind of felt it as ride down a flowing river. The most interesting harmonic movement for me happened at around the 4 minute mark. I think calling it an exploration of a mood is very apt. I really like it. Parts of it sounded kind of Stravinsky-esque.

I think the transition from piano to orchestra and then back to piano later could have been smoother. And maybe a bit of the piano during the orchestra section would have worked well.

For the panning, I think it really depends on what your end goal is. If you want to make a recording that sounds how you want it to sound, then pan it however you think sounds the best. But if you ever imagine this being played by an orchestra, it helps to pan things into a common orchestral stage arrangement, or go with the prepannings of the library. The pre-panned sections can be a good indicator of problems in the arrangement if things are sounding muddy. It could be showing too much frequency overlap in the instruments that are playing. But BBCSO is a bit trickier with muddiness than a lot of other libraries. Really just go with whatever mixing method sounds the best and achieves your goal.

If you are wanting to do your own panning on pre-panned libraries like BBCSO, something that can help is to use Logic’s Direction Mixer plugin and reduce the stereo spread. It’s like converting it to mono in order to pan, but with a little bit more control. This can help with muddiness too because when you pan a pre-panned instrument you are also panning the sound of the room and that can cause some weird problems.

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Thank you so much for the detailed feedback Mike! And I’m very pleased you like it.

I agree with much of what you say: The ‘development/modulation’ section is my favourite part too :wink: - maybe I can develop that further. And there are a couple of bars at the end of that section, just before the recap in a new key that (and it wasn’t intentional) always reminds me of the Rite of Spring! (not that I’m claiming one iota of his skill or talent!). It even occurred to me to actually quote from it…but decided against it.

And I agree with you about the piano/orchestra relationship. An earlier version did have piano playing through the middle orchestral section, but I decided I didn’t like the part and muted it for now. It is on my list to try again. It’s not much of a piece for ‘piano & orchestra’ if I don’t do more with that…:wink:

Regarding the panning, someone on FB said something similar, and I think while you were likely listening to it I did tweak the panning to be less extreme, and more like a true orchestra layout. I also EQ’d some of the very low end off most of the parts to try to help tidy up the audio a bit. This new version is up on the same Soundcloud link now. I’ll have a look at the Direction Mixer - haven’t used that yet. Thanks for the tip.

Thanks again for listening and for the thoughtful feedback. It is much appreciated.