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The Watch for Agamemnon



 Genre: Classical

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This is one rescued from the archives. This performance was recorded onto an audio cassette live in 1982, and has been sitting on a shelf since then.

The performance is by the UCSB Symphonic Wind Ensemble with myself on classical guitar (poorly mic'd). This was one movement from my Senior Project there.

The music: This is a programmatic piece based on a poem by my brother. The story is the return of Agamemnon from the Trojan wars...the long wait for his return...the rush to the sea to welcome the army...and the site of so few returning. Not really mentioned in the poem but is in the piece is the over-riding trajedy and foreshadowing of Agamemnon's doom upon his return.
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The poem that was inspiration for the piece:

Watching the Captain in his perch --
the craggy rocks
above the coast

I saw his face light --
ten years waiting
washed from his brow

We ran to the sea --
the tortured gravel
down breathless valleys:

No song in that azure harbor --
just the silent sorrow
of empty boats.

(copyright 1981 Christopher Metcalfe)
Song Stats
Hits: 3833
Comments: 21
Fans: 3
Plays: 312
Downloads: 130
Votes: 6
Uploaded: May 24, 2006 - 09:22:56 AM
Last Updated: May 30, 2006 - 11:32:07 AM Last Played: Jul 31, 2019 - 01:16:31 PM
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Song Actions
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Clarinets in Bb
Bass Clarinet
S-A-T-B Saxophones
Trumpets in Bb
Baritone Horn
French Horns
Concert Harp
Alvarez Classical Guitar
Double Bass
said 4863 days ago (May 24th, 2006)
I Appreciate the Restoration Effort
I've got at least one 30 year old cassette in a shoe box some where ...
with nothing to play it on - metal has probably flaked off by now.
I enjoyed this - especially the final quarter. Lacking any theory, I'll say it
sounded more 'cohesive' and 'thematic' than what preceded - although,
more careful/second listening on my part would probably reveal themes
earlier that are reprised in this section. It's my simple reaction of 'oh, the
ensemble is playing together, the tension that's built up from the
beginning has been relieved/resolved, that sounds good'.
An uneducated "Well done" from me. :)

Bubowski said 4863 days ago (May 24th, 2006)
I Appreciate the Restoration Effort
Thanks for the comment. There's definitely a lack of overall melodic continuity. There are a couple of really wonderful melodies in there that should see more development in the piece...I always had an issue about being focused on the orchestration and timbral combinations and not developing my melodies properly. When I look back, I'm amazed that I survived music school at all!

FWIW, this piece was originally written mostly on guitarand then orchestrated from there.

Check out my latest song called Yosemite Voices
Ed Hannifin said 4863 days ago (May 24th, 2006)
There's a sense of tension in this...
...along with loneliness, I'd even say a terrible loneliness, and

Pretty well suited to Agamemnon. The tone of this suits modern
evocations of the old myth, such as those from Yeats and Eliot. I could
imagine a chorus wearing masks chanting a choral bit in the middle of
this. Beginning with harp evokes the lyre, and that works, too... The
initial pipes that sound dissonant bring in that pan-pipe feel of the
ancient world...

The musical themes suit the building tension, waiting for the return of
the warriors, then the relief of their arrival, the disappointment of the
few survivors, and the foreknowledge yet more death to come...

And of course, with Greek myth, the tragedy just keeps moving down
the generations...

I expected much worse sound from your desciption. It's not the fashion
in classical recording, but this recording sounds pretty room-filling
when the volume is pushed up... but then the loud parts get too loud if
it's loud enough for the quiet parts... so what I'm getting at is the
notion of playing with it with a compressor, tightening up the dynamic
range for purposes of sound reproduction. For instance, this would be
hard to listen to in a car. Or my noisy house.

Oh heck, slap a mellotron on it and call it a day...


Check out my latest song called Chime (Alone) (Inspired by Particle Dots)
Bubowski said 4862 days ago (May 25th, 2006)
There's a sense of tension in this...
I tried to run it through a compressor/limiter, but I got some weird artifacts in the harp/guitar solo parts. I think if I mess with it more, I might just do some judicious level adjustments with automation (this is in Logic Express after all) to bring up only the really quiet guitar parts. It'll also probably bring up the noise more as well, but there's not much I can do about that. I should post a sample of the unprocessed audio so you can hear what the original recording sounded like.

I'm in the process of putting the second movement into Finale for playback with virtual instruments, so balance shouldn't be a problem there :-). When I get that done, I may go back and put this one in as well. I know it may not be apparent to everyone out there, but I can hear all the missed cues (there's about 5) as I listen and read the score in my mind.

Thanks again for listening, Ed. Your comments are always appreciated.
Check out my latest song called Yosemite Voices
composerclark said 4862 days ago (May 25th, 2006)
Many nice touches
Very atmospheric, colourful. Brings back somewhat painful memories
of having my stuff played or read by ensembles when I was an
undergraduate, where the recording quality usually sucked. The
performance actually seems reasonably good here, however. Nice
oboe solo! There's some nice melodic writing here, and, in spite of the
guitar being poorly recorded, you can hear that you play well, and with
nice tone. I'm also a classical guitarist, BTW. I'm not sure what you
were thinking when you decided to write for guitar and wind ensemble,
though! I'd think you'd have to mike the guitar to get some semblance
of balance? I'm not crazy about the ending; seems to end mid-

Glad you're writing music again. How do you feel about this piece, now
that almost a quarter century has gone by?
Check out my latest song called A Little Song About Our Mom
Bubowski said 4862 days ago (May 25th, 2006)
Many nice touches
Not sure how to feel about that Quarter-Century crack there Clark ~8>0. Anyway, the performance is OK, but the director was somewhat disorganized and swapped out about half the players with only two rehearsals to go. That's his girlfriend on the oboe. Of course it's easier for me to hear the mistakes, since I have the score to look at.

As to what was I thinking? Hehe, well, I wanted to write for a large ensemble, and since the school symphony didn't play student pieces (they do now, though) I wrote for the wind ensemble. I was also a senior member of the ensemble (Timpanist of all things) so I had good access to the director. The ensemble was pared down from the standard ensemble, and only used one player per part instead of the usual massing of clarinets and flutes. The guitar was mic'd and amplified, but the sound projected out, and the recording mic's were mounted high up near the ceiling in the concert hall about 5 rows from the stage so I think that's why the sound is so unballanced. It's been pretty standard practice for quite a while to mic classical guitar performances when playing with most large ensembles, so I thought it would be fine in this case...I also left the critical guitar parts as solos or in very small ensembles within the greater framework.

How do I feel about it? Proud and dissapointed at the same time...a LOT of work (as I'm sure you're aware) for a passable performance...but as I mentioned in another reply, I can see where some of the melodies could be really developed into a more cohesive piece. I DO like the ending though...it's supposed to feel inconclusive...sort of an anticlimax that is part of the whole tale.

Check out my latest song called Yosemite Voices
ledebutant said 4858 days ago (May 28th, 2006)
Time Machine
It was enjoyable hearing something recorded live and I'm really very
impressed with the quality all this *cough* quarter century later. Was
1982 really that long ago? It can't be because I'm only 25 and I was
born in 1970...

The music is beautiful. It's out of my ability to comment intelligently on
a classical piece, so I hope it's enough to know I liked it and especially
enjoyed the last third. All the coughs and wiggles in seats, just added
to the ambience of the recording. I'm glad to hear you might develop
this further.
Bubowski said 4858 days ago (May 29th, 2006)
Time Machine
Thanks for the comments LeD. Somehow during the cleanup phase I managed to
get rid of the worst thing...somewhere about halfway through someone is
opening a candy wrapper and it goes for about 15 seconds! Anyway, I appreciate
this listen, one of these days I 've got to get to something new, hehe. Actually, I
owe Ed H some backing keys...so that shoud be first (I know he's reading
this :-).
Check out my latest song called Yosemite Voices
Bubowski said 4850 days ago (June 6th, 2006)
Time Machine
Hey wait...I just got the "born in 1970, only 25" thing. Right...hehe

Graham Metcalfe

View my portfolio at www.ghmetcalfe.com.
Art Direction and Information Architecture
Check out my latest song called Yosemite Voices
kristyjo said 4857 days ago (May 30th, 2006)
Great Restoration
Actually, the guitar isn't that badly balanced with the ensemble - your
instrumentation is well done so that guitar doesn't get drowned out. As
an undergrad, the only ensemble that would look at my pieces were the
Women's Choir and the jazz band. The pop music (swing choir &
instruments) group did a lot of my arrangements, though. That was back
in 1981, and I believe those performances have gone to "shoebox full of
tapes" heaven. It would be interesting to hear your 'Finale' version here,
too. I agree, there could be more development of melodic ideas, but there
are some beautiful moments, and the posting of the poetry adds to the
poignancy of the performance.
Check out my latest song called How Far Is It to Bethlehem
Bubowski said 4856 days ago (May 30th, 2006)
Great Restoration
Thank you for your comments Kristi, I was hoping you'd stumble across this
sooner or later :-). I appreciate your trained ear and commentary. I was
having a talk with Composerclark about the issues with student pieces being
played by university ensembles. Apparently we missed out, as there has been
a sea-change in attitude in that regard. I know that my college, UCSB, now
plays properly prepared student pieces as a matter of course, instead of as
the rare exception.

I've been studiously reviving as many old tapes as possible now that I've kind
of got it down. Most WILL NOT appear on MJ (they are in the "yikes" category)
but there's a couple I may post later. I sure wish getting the music into a
notation program was less laborious, but I guess I've got to pay the piper now
and be happy about it later :-).
Check out my latest song called Yosemite Voices
kristyjo said 4855 days ago (June 1st, 2006)
Great Restoration
You're right - It is quite a laborious process, but I've found myself doing more
cerebral listening, and that's a good thing, too. When i 'just play' a piece, I find
that I assume everyone else can 'hear' things that I can, but then I realize that a
secondary harmony part or rhythmic motive isn't actually in the music - It's
implied, and only exists in my imagination. Doing the 'drudge work' of
transcribing makes me more objective about my music, and also makes me
clean up performances and really decide what I'm trying to write. (Is that a
dotted eighth/sixteenth, or two eighth notes? Should it be consistent? ) Good
Check out my latest song called How Far Is It to Bethlehem
Morris R said 4854 days ago (June 2nd, 2006)
Nicely Done
It's a bit over my head, I'm afraid, but I can hear the skill it must have
taken to write something like this. I liked the guitar parts the most. I
thought they were played really well, and I didn't think there was a
balance problem. I also liked the melodic writing in the wind instruments.

How old was your brother when he wrote the poem? I read this a few
times assuming it was a translation from ancient Greek, and only just now
noticed that you say it was written by your brother. Parts of it don't make
sense to me (tortured gravel; breathless valleys), but it's got an overall
bleakness that I like.
Bubowski said 4854 days ago (June 2nd, 2006)
Nicely Done
Interesting questions and comments. He was about 25 when he wrote it...I find it interesting that you thought it was translated from Greek. I think he WAS thinking along those allusions from Homer...something like "the wine-dark sea" that is all over the Illiad and Odyssey.

"the breathless valleys".... if you've ever spent time in the desert during the summer you'd know :-)...when it's so hot and dry, with the air shimmering around you...it seems hard to breathe....also as in "breathless with anticipation" I think. That's the nice thing about poetry, it can have a lot of interpretations.

Also the final line is a direct reference to a Genisis song from "The Lamb Lies Down on Braodway"
Check out my latest song called Yosemite Voices
macgalver said 4848 days ago (June 8th, 2006)
lucky us
Oh, this is lovely. Understated elegance with room for me to feel.
Thank you for sharing. Downloading now. xxoo, kelli
Check out my latest song called First Sight
Bubowski said 4848 days ago (June 8th, 2006)
lucky us
Thanks Kelli. I like your music very much! I love folk music of any stripe (believe it or not) so your comment is much appreciated.

Graham Metcalfe

View my portfolio at www.ghmetcalfe.com.
Art Direction and Information Architecture
Check out my latest song called Yosemite Voices
DOCTORBIZARRE said 4801 days ago (July 25th, 2006)
Amazing piece!
I just love this and the fact that it is live is great too! Man you are a talented cat! It's got an Alfred hitchcock theme to it! Marvelous!
Check out my latest song called STORM
Bubowski said 4801 days ago (July 25th, 2006)
Amazing piece!
Thanks for the comments Dr. Glad you liked it.

Graham Metcalfe

View my portfolio at www.ghmetcalfe.com.
Art Direction and Information Architecture
Check out my latest song called Yosemite Voices
Setmose said 4752 days ago (September 12th, 2006)
Notes from a Poet
Well, it was nice to hear this piece again. This is one of two recordings that I have, in which I am in the audience -- the other being Pink Floyd performing Animals / Wish You Were Here at Oakland Colliseum (May 9, 1977).

Cool that you remembered the reference to "Silent Sorrow in Empty Boats" from Genesis, "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway."

Thanks to Morris R for the comments on the poem. It's quite a complement that you thought it was a translation from ancient Greek. Graham is right in his comments -- in those days I was reading a lot of ancient Greek writers, especially Pythagorus after a reference to that sage by Peter Gabriel in "Apocalypse in 9/8" from the Genesis song "Supper's Ready."

I owe a lot of my early romantic reading list to those 70s art-rockers. I also got connected to William Blake by Jon Anderson, who quoted him: "Energy is Eternal Delight" (from "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell") in a Yes tour program.

And thanks to Ejh who mentioned Yeats and Eliot. What a boost! :-) I also think that the harp was a nice interpretive touch evoking the ancient Greek lyre.

Best regards,

Christopher Metcalfe
Bubowski said 4751 days ago (September 13th, 2006)
Hey Bro (literal in this case)
Thanks for taking the time to drop by from the other side of the world. Not sure what prompted you to do so, but what the hey. Got some other left overs from my UCSB days that I'm cleaning up so check back for some other gems :). Talk to you soon!
Check out my latest song called Yosemite Voices
said 4114 days ago (June 11th, 2008)
Wonderful piece, has a relaxing feel and a nature sound. It must been a while since you got a comment here (round 2 years!!!)... I hope you'll see this. Great piece!

Take Care
- Yeman A. Al-Rawi
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Name: Graham Metcalfe
Location: Santa Rosa CA United States
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Classically trained composer and orchestrator. Been doing sound design and synthesis for a long time. Enjoying the incredible power of computers and samples, but it's great just to sit down with a guitar or analog synth and just play too. Graham ... [see more]

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