Composing Humorous Miniatures

Today’s post will be a bit of an acquired taste, as I’m essentially spinning a cheesy inside joke from the Internet into a post for general consumption.

At best, I’m hopeful it will give some insight into the often arbitrary and absurd sources for inspiration.  I will note here that the short compositions here do not sound good (except for the second of the Ethiopian Rhapsodies I dashed off, which is actually pretty fun).

It all began Sunday evening.  While wrapping up lesson plans for the week, the ubiquitous “These are Difficult Times” meme popped up on Dragon Common Room, the Telegram chatroom that has spawned two published books (here and here).

Difficult Times Meme

I decided to try my hand at composing a short piece (literally, it’s four measures long) in 13/8 (9/8 is really not that difficult; there are a lot of hymns written in that time signature).  Here was the result (note the whole tone scale):

Difficult Times Composition

It does not sound good, but one of the chat members said he played it on guitar and enjoyed it.  Hey, there you go!  He found the A# challenging (third fret of the G-string), but figured it out.

Well, the chat rolled on, and member Goth Kilts mentioned that the best way to trigger her (him?  I still don’t know; s/he/ said that s/he uses “weaponized androgyny” online, which will make for a great song title) is to “talk about Ethiopia.”  Apparently, what we think of today in Ethiopia is somewhat more limited than the Biblical Ethiopia.

Regardless, I joked that “How to Trigger Kilts” would be the name of the next experimental piece I would compose.  It was barely a joke at all—but then I wrote an atonal piece in 3/4 time.

Well, s/he loved it, including the recording of it (see below), I think more for the fact that I absurdly composed a piece about an extremely obscure throwaway comment on Telegram.  As I always aim to please, I wrote two more “Ethiopian Rhapsodies” to round out the small collection:

Three Ethiopian Rhapsodies Manuscript

The text on the left-hand page of my little music journal reads as follows:

Three Ethiopian Rhapsodies

These pieces don’t have much to do at all w/ Ethiopia, but result from the Dragon Common Room chat.

It started with the “These are Difficult Times” meme, which inspired the two-measure [sic] composition in 13/8 on the previous page.  Shortly after uploading that to DCR, someone joked that anything about Ethiopia would trigger Goth Kilts, one of the members of the chat.

That inspired the first of these joke pieces.  User LaserCat called me a “simp,” which inspired the second piece.

Such collections come in threes, so I finished w/ “The Italian Job.”  Too soon?

Tyler J. Cook

As I noted, these are not very good pieces.  I was not sitting at a piano when I wrote them, and I played them very clumsily.  That said, they achieved their intended purpose:  to surprise and delight.

That said, I did try to maintain some form.  The overall key of the Three Ethiopian Rhapsodies is A minor.  The second piece, the allegro, is in the relative major of C.  The final movement is a grave and disjointed affair, as it depicts (well, sort of) the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935.

Here is the first of the Three Ethiopian Rhapsodies:  “Ethiopian Rhapsody No. 1: How to Trigger Kilts”:

Now, my personal favorite, “Ethiopian Rhapsody No. 2: The Simp of Addis Ababa,” a rather bouncy little tune about a man who loves too much in the capital of that great, mountainous kingdom:

And, finally, the gravest of the three pieces, “Ethiopian Rhapsody No. 3: The Italian Job”:

I doubt I’ll win any Grammy awards, but I enjoyed dashing off these little pieces—and then hearing the atonal results!  It is pleasurable to put pen to paper to write anything, but there is a satisfaction particularly with composing.  It’s fun bringing together the notes and unusual rhythms, and I particularly like writing miniatures, little short pieces of a minute or less.

I may very well try my hand at it more frequently—but next time, I’ll be sitting at a piano!

Happy Listening!



16 thoughts on “Composing Humorous Miniatures

  1. Cheers Tyler.

    From small acorns grow mighty oaks, or something like that. Those little pieces could be the start of something more, with a little cleaning up. There were a few bum notes in there.

    Your voice, by the way, sounds, in tone, like mine, or as I hear it played back to me. In my head, my voice is lighter and brighter than it actually sounds to other people. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      • Composition always starts off experimental. Your fingers and brain are trying to find the right notes and order and a direction of travel. I’ll be interested if you decide to go further with those notes and compose something a little longer. For now though, I have a cover request, since you seem not to want to try Muse. Saturday’s Alright for Fighting, by Elton John. I reckon that’s something you could do well. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

    • I neglected to address the voice comment over my morning oatmeal and banana. It doesn’t surprise me that we have similar voices in tone. I’m not sure what that makes sense to me instinctively, but there you go! You’ll have to e-mail me a vocal clip at some point.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I need to find out how to record, as you’ve done (visually and vocally), so I can put something up. I haven’t got my guitar sorted yet – I have 3 but it’s my Fender, the one I’ve had since university, that is my preferred instrument. It’s full of cobwebs and muck and the strings need replacing.

        One of my CW friends, Bruce Mills, is in his mid 70s and isn’t massively tech savvy yet still managed to upload his guitar playing onto YouTube so if he can do it, so can I. I’ll get Tina to give me some honest feedback and if she’s fine with it, I’ll put something on here but not until later in the year.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I just use my my iPhone’s camera to record short videos. I am going to look into getting GarageBand, though, as it is apparently VERY feature rich but easy to use for recording. When I recorded _Contest Winner EP_, I went to an actual recording studio and cut a deal with the owner (I helped run sound for an event for him, and he only charged me the minimum $90 price per session, regardless of how long the sessions went). Still, doing it in a real studio is expensive.

        I think the easiest route is to pop up your cell phone camera and hit record. It’s not the best sound quality, but it works. There are some USB condenser mics that interface with iPhones and the such that can improve the recording quality, but if you just want to do quick recordings, your phone camera and built-in mic will work fine.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you liked that one! I need to woodshed all of them. I think they could be decent little short piano compositions, or possibly rearranged for more instrumentation. Just piddling—as Robert Mason Sandifer, my awesome composing student—would say.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Keeping in mind that I wouldn’t know a rhapsody from a raspberry, would you string all three pieces into one larger work?

        Liked by 2 people

      • That would be the idea. They’d either be movements within a larger work (like a concerto or symphony), or (more likely) a set of solo piano pieces that could be played independently, or played together as one artistic whole.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. By the way, I spotted your post from yesterday about Birtie. If anyone is going to get him on here, it’ll be Audre. She has a much better relationship with him than I do. I haven’t talked to him in months.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Make it happen, Audre.

      What if I get all of these TCW readers over here… then slowly but surely transition to writing just about The Virus?

      “How many spike proteins could they get from the gain of function?” Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz….

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Off topic but I wonder whether either you or any of your readers engage in that tack fest, Valentine’s Day? Both Tina and I see it for the cheesy gimmick it is but this year, we’re going to do it, mainly because I hardly ever cook for her anymore and if I don’t buy her flowers every so often, she thinks I don’t love her anymore (just kidding but she does wave her paws around like a loony!).

    Anyway, if there are any valentines out there looking at cooking a meal for your loved one and you’re looking at the full deal, serve her a twist on apple pie and custard for dessert. Buy a shop bought custard pie and slice a few apples! Bingo!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I mean, when I am in a relationship, I will take my girl out for dinner and get her a small gift. That’s about it. And if Valentine’s Day is on a Saturday or something, we would celebrate during on a less busy night. I actually have a Council Meeting this Valentine’s Day, so I have a date with the citizens of Lamar—ha!

      Ha! A clever suggestion. Another ingenious invention of bachelor cuisine.

      Liked by 2 people

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