Music Composition Independent Study at Oklahoma City University
IVANOV (Anna's Monologue)
Written by Anton Chekhov
Dr. Kris Maloy, Professor
Project Outline and Concept
During my final semester at OCU, I studied music composition with Dr. Kris Maloy. My final exam project was to compose music for a live theatrical performance. I was tasked with finding a script and actors to perform at the final exam recital. I reached out to a fellow student, Lauran Dewey, to participate in the project. From her repertoire, I chose Anna's monologue from Ivanov by Anton Chekhov.
I approached this project by analyzing the text, and identifying simple emotions that were felt and conveyed by Anna. The concept for the composition is to support and be a companion in the story telling of Anna's emotions. I identified the journey to begin with anger/defensiveness, flowing into romantic nostalgia, then slowly decaying into the unpleasant reality that is crowned with a foreshadowing of death. Dr. Maloy served in the capacity of director for the performance, though he only worked with me as I developed the composition and did not work with the actor.
Jump to Final Composition
Click below to enlarge the image or download the PDF.
I created this recording in order to better understand the emotion behind the text as well as to get an initial timing and pacing for the composition.
After identifying Anna's emotional journey in her monologue, I sat down at the piano and began to experiment with different rhythms, chords, melodies, and styles. My goal was to evoke easily identifiable emotions for each section in the monologue, and then to tie them together. Below are my initial sketches of various themes and how they were developed.
Once I was able to create a base outline of the work, I notated a piano score version using Sibelius. I then proceeded to split the voices into different instruments. When consulting with my professor, we decided that using Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, and Flute would give a complete range and picture of the composition.
I did not have access to musicians to play my piece for the recital performance, so I used sequencers to create the music digitally. Once the Sibelius score was complete, I exported the MIDI data into Logic Pro X where I employed higher quality sample libraries. The final piece was then played back to underscore the actor's performance during the recital.
I began my process with developing rhythm, chords, and chord progression. Below are examples of my composition sketches and development. The recordings are live midi recordings that I created. Click on a staff for a magnified view.
Opening Chord - Version 1
An upward motion arpeggiated chord was used to create the building tension of Anna's thoughts before she bursts out in frustration with the start of the monologue. These first few measures tell the pre-story and help set the emotional scene for the text we hear next.
Opening Chord - Version 2
In the second variation of the opening chord, I took the same idea as the first version and evolved it even more. I started with a D7 chord, but then changed to a D7 fully diminished to add darkness to the beginning. I then changed the chord to the first inversion to make things more compact and crunchy, and then used the arpeggio idea to create a rolling undertone. In the recording, you will hear the regular D7 chord, Ddim7 chord, and Ddim7 1st inversion chord.
Opening Chord - Final Version
I found that the arpeggio undertone idea was too complex. After testing out different rhythms, the complex arpeggios with a complex rhythm seemed to be distracting. Instead I went with a more simple single note with interesting rhythm at the very beginning of the piece. The opening then gives way to the D7 fully diminished chord. The Ddim7 first inversion chord is heard as a broken chord in descending order.
Because the monologue ends kind of ambiguously, I wanted to leave some kind of a cliff-hanger in the music. From my research I found that suspense thriller movie scores have a low bass with fast action in the far upper register. In keeping with this idea to build suspense for the unknown future, I played around with different versions of a low register sustained note with a high register rolled chord. In the recording, you can hear the first version and then subsequent variations. I played around with the chord to create an even more heightened suspense to the reference of the owl cry, which foreshadows death.
Love Theme - Version 1
There is a shift in Anna's tone as she is reminiscent of her young love for her husband Nikolai. I approached creating the love theme by starting with a simple chord progression and added a small rhythmic variation.
Love Theme - Version 2
In my next pass at developing the love theme, I expanded the chord progression and added a small rhythmic variation.
Love Theme - Instrumentation
I originally scored this theme with a flute playing the melody. I found that the theme seemed to lack power and did not fall into the quintessential love theme feeling that I was trying to achieve. Influenced by a combination of being partial to the original piano score version and the use of piano in other common love themes, I assigned the love theme melody to the piano in the final version of the score.
Outlining with Rhythm
After identifying these primary themes, I began outlining the entire piece working first with rhythm only. Once I crafted sections of the piece with rhythm, I began to add in the chords, chord progressions, and other ideas that I had previously brainstormed and developed.
The final composition was heard as part of the Composition Study Recital held in a 40-seat rehearsal hall at Oklahoma City University. The monologue was performed live while the recorded composition underscored the live spoken word. The piece was played back through a pair of Mackie XR824 studio monitors. A recording of the live performance is below.
Click on the score below to enlarge the image or download the PDF for the full score and parts score.