Non-Narrative Music Composition

Song Cycle

The Ripening of the Year

Composed September 2019 - March 2020
This was my final project for my Music Composition minor at Michigan Technological University. The goals for this project were
to compose a large, ambitious vocal-based musical work that explored sonorous beauty in a classical sense. I knew at the very beginning that I wanted to use the works of Romantic Poets to set the music to because of the very distinct and sublime use of language. 

I wanted the cycle to be unified by a grand universal theme and decided on the sublime grandeur of nature and human feelings as they change with the seasons. Poems were selected based off of this concept and divided into chapters within the cycle into each of the four seasons.

I decided to compose a cycle of vocal chamber pieces rather than art songs because I wanted the pieces to have a gravitas larger than only piano accompaniment, but also an intimacy that a large orchestra would not have been conducive for. Instead of trying to mimic the techniques of the era of music concurrent of the time period the poems were written in, I decided to compose in a more ambient style that supported the tone, scale and environment of the poem. During the initial composition stage I looked to the work of Ives, Vaughn-Williams, Mussorgsky, Shostakovich, Saint-Saens and Max Richter for influence as I thought they all demonstrated intelligence in using virtuoso composition technique to compose for atmosphere and strong sensations. 

I had originally planned to record this work extra-curricularly, but had to cancel all the sessions due to the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic. 
Pleasure - Tyler Quinn
This piece was to be played after a prelude that briefly introduced the main melodies across the cycle. It is selected to begin the cycle at large and the Summer chapter. It expresses a boundless enthusiasm for life and the epic majesty that is accessible within nature. The music is composed to reflect joy and an adventurous energy. It is one of the more heavily orchestrated pieces in the cycle to support the vastness of the text's scope. Many instruments play identical phrases in this piece to further enlarge the sound. 
Poem by Charlotte Bronte

Cafes in Damascus - Tyler Quinn
This song opens the Autumn chapter of the cycle. During this chapter changes in instrumentation are selected to support the Autumnal atmosphere. For instance, piano is swapped out for classical guitar and the Clarinet of the Summer season is swapped out for English Horn. Letitia Elizabeth Landon's poem Cafes in Damascus has numerous depths of poignancy. The gentle, nostalgic wistfulness is already evident in the tone of the text. Another is added when taking into account the juxtaposition between the Romance the Syrian capitol is portrayed with in this poem and it's state today in the Syrian Crisis. I researched Middle Eastern music composition, but chose to use it sparingly to avoid the inevitability of cultural appropriation and to maintain coherence in the cycle at large. In the end I decided to use the Kurd Maqam because of how widely it is incorporated into Western music as the Phrygian Mode, and because the gentle, romantic feeling of the scale supported the poem very well.
Poem by Letitia Elizabeth Landon

Cold Months of Winter - Tyler Quinn
I chose to begin the Winter chapter of the cycle with one of the darkest poems I found during my research. I interpreted de Castro's poem to express crushing despair in the midst of the oppressive darkness of Winter and an enticing pull toward suicide. I chose to support the dark tone of this poem with cold textures played in high string drones, wispy celesta chords and ethereal choir support. The bassoon is introduced as the woodwind instrument for the Winter sub-cycle, selected for it's dark, wintery texture. 
Poem by Rosalia de Castro

Night - Tyler Quinn
Cold Months of Winter is followed by the more hopeful Winter Stores by Charlotte Bronte. Before segueing into the brightness of Spring, the cycle makes peace with darkness in Radcliffe's gothic ode, Night. This piece struck me as the dark counterpart of Pleasure. I wanted it to err on the epic side as Pleasure did, but maintain it's own identity with an atmosphere deserving of it's text. This song benefitted greatly from what I learned from listening to Charles Ives. Ives is known for his atonal contemporary pieces, but I learned from his work that incorporating tone clusters gradually into large sonorous chords is a great way to create atmosphere without necessarily creating atonal dissonance. 
Poem by Ann Radcliffe

I. Summer
1. Prelude 
2.Pleasure (Bronte)
3. When Life's Realities The Soul Perceives (Seward)
II. Autumn
4. Cafes in Damascus (Landon)
5. The Last Song of Sappho (Hemans)
III. Winter
6. Cold Months of Winter (de Castro)
7. Winter Stores (Bronte)
IV. Spring
8. Night (Radcliffe)
9. To the Newborn (Hemans)
10. Life (Bronte)


The Intended Full Cycle

Art Installation

El Mirador/The Observer - Tyler Quinn
El Mirador/The Observer by Raquel Alvizures, 2018:
This piece was created to be played in conjunction with the exhibition of a mural painted by Guatemalan painter, Raquel Alvizures, for the Rozsa Center at Michigan Technological University. This composition was conceived to be evocative of the shapes, colors and textures of the painting.
Programmed by Tyler Quinn, 2018

Jazz Quartet

The Epoch of Winter - Tyler Quinn

Brass Quintet

Upon the Throne of Gore - Tyler Quinn

Bassoon Solo

Salting the Earth - Tyler Quinn
Dan O'neill - Saxophone
Mike Christianson - Piano
Tristan Robb - Bass Guitar
David Renaldi Drums
This piece is a four movement Jazz suite with each movement evoking a different winter visual.
I. Snowscade
II. December Dusk
III. Christmas
IV. Snowscade (Reprise)
Recorded by Yannick Christiansen, 2016

Upon the Throne of Gore was composed to convey a sense of evil and devastation. It was conceived to represent the reign of terror of a Ghengis Khan figure, with the visceral timbre of brass instruments used to evoke images of bloodshed and gore.
Programmed By Tyler Quinn, 2016

Claire Allison - Bassoon

Taking influence from Stravinsky's "the Rite of Spring" and the BBC TV film
"Threads", Salting The Earth was composed to evoke a sensation of shock experienced after emerging from rubble after a nuclear attack, looking around and seeing only fire and destruction. The piece was deliberately composed to include notes that dramatically push the range of what a bassoon is capable of producing, so as to effectively characterize such a haunting sensation.
Recorded by Andrew Summers, 2016


Blitzkrieg - Tyler Quinn
This was intended as a composition derived from researching Surrealism, though it ended up aligning more with Dadaism. Blitzkrieg is a result of me completely disregarding all thoughts of logic or rationality, and letting my imagination trample everything in it's path. The result is a spontaneous, chaotic, experimental composition that combines elements of musique concrete, post-rock, ambient and Drone music. Much of it was created through sampling, including snippets of rain, ducks, chainsaws, squishing raw meat, political speeches, vocaloid, cats and various TV shows.
Programmed, recorded and sampled by Tyler Quinn, 2017 
Spectre - Tyler Quinn
Spectre was created by recording a line of writing (in this case, The Communist Manifesto) and recording the track played back through speakers with reverb, recording that track with more reverb and repeating this process again and again in order to make a piece out of resonances, but all stemming from the original piece of writing. I also included varying degrees of distortion placed onto the track after the recording. In time the resonances became very close to feedback, so I recorded a track where there was just a slight threat of feedback and subsequently recorded another track where I cranked the gain, which produced an ear shattering caterwauling. I then processed that with varying degrees of distortion and pitch shifting, creating a rather musical soundscape of drones. 
Recorded by Tyler Quinn, 2017
Sculpture - Tyler Quinn
I created this piece by using, exclusively, the "sculpture" modeling synthesizer in Logic Pro X. With this project I was encouraged to have the changes created mostly with playing with the dials, knobs and faders within the plugin, rather than changing notes. This created a piece that mostly utilizes a single note that pulses, expands, contracts and evolves into a sonic supernova, before fading into darkness.
Programmed by Tyler Quinn, 2017