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Escaping Limbo

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Author Comments

I am not entirely sure where to start this description.

This is the most time and effort I can remember investing into a single piece, at least in recent memory. In a sense, this could be said to be a love song. I wrote it as an appreciation piece for my partner who moved to Finland for me.

Though moving countries comes with many wonderful experiences and opportunities, there are also many unforeseen challenges. There's bureaucracy to go through, language barriers, culture clashes, dependency, and most of all, the uncertainty and seemingly endless waiting. Because of these things it can feel like you're stuck without many options that could help move you forward.

That feeling of being stuck in limbo and desperately trying to find a way out is the cornerstone of this piece. There is more to it though, but I'll leave the rest up to the interpretation of the listener. Please enjoy, and thanks for listening!

For this track, I recommend just listening to it instead of/ before you watch the video. That said, here it is anyway:


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I noticed your mixing got a lot better. :O Jordi really inspired you

I'm rooting for ya

LucidShadowDreamer responds:

Thank you! I feel like I'm very slowly getting the hang of mixing, but I've still got far to go. He inspired me indeed! It has been really fun to compete this year. We will soon see how it goes, I guess!

This is an official NGADM '19 Review

I'm not sure what needs to be said about this. There is no doubt the theme you were trying to create with this. I could probably guess what the topic was about without knowing of the description or the title. It's something that I could definitely place as your type of song, but it still felt fresh. All the work you've done with the main theme\motif is always present in each phrase, and so much of it worked towards bringing across the emotions you needed in the song.

Production and Sound Design:
The reversed notes are fantastic. It's also not just that you had reverse notes to make it unsettled, but you did a great job of blending them within the melody. To the point, even, that sometimes you can't tell when the actual notes end and the reverse notes took over the melody. I wouldn't have expected you to use sound fx in your music, but it also largely added to the imagery of the piece, and I never felt that it was a cheap attempt either.

I bit of a longer one, but it was worth it. It was 8 minutes but it felt like 4. I really enjoyed how each section had a different variation of the same phrase, and each time it was well accepted.

Emotion / Conclusion:
Holy biscuits batman. This was probably one of the more emotional ones that you have made IMO. I welcomed it in, and left away with more than what I wanted.

Composition: 10

Production: 9

Sound Design: 9.5

Structure: 10

Emotion: 10

LucidShadowDreamer responds:

Thank you for the review, and sorry for the late response!

It's nice to see that you feel like I was able to communicate the theme through this piece. You're probably right that there are some elements in this composition that are somewhat characteristic of my style. Even so, when I was composing, it also felt very different from anything I had made before. I suppose that is a good balance! I'm glad to hear that the recurrence of the different mofits is appreciated. In my opinion, the structure of this piece is really well thought out, as I had to justify the length by having every second and minute make sense as a part of the whole piece.

Seems like most people liked the reversed notes, which is good. It was fun to see that I wasn't the only person to make use of them during this round in particular. I used two different methods for reversing the notes; one simpler, one much more intricate. For the simpler version, I layered NIs Una Corda on top of the main piano, and played around with the "reverse" knob. For the more complicated version, I used an algorithm in Cubase to reverse the entire finished MIDI, exported the audio, imported it, and reversed the audio, and then moved it a little bit earlier than the actual piano sound, to create a kind of wave motion. Naturally, I didn't have this running the whole time; only where it fit the composition and the theme.

As for sound fx, it is something I don't often make use of indeed. But I felt it necessary and additive for this piece in particular. I'm glad you feel similarly!

Finally, I'm once again glad that the length wasn't an issue, and that the emotions were able to shine through. Thank you for the thorough review, and for the generous score!!

This is an official Semi-Final NGADM track review.

Where do I even begin with this? There's so much that I love about this piece, especially considering there's so much that's backing up the one thing you know best: playing piano. I decided to read the description before reading, and I could feel all those barriers portrayed throughout the song (the vibrato on the piano at 5:26 gave me literal chills, as well as the reverse keys throughout the piece). But the best part is that it's not just the effects; there's so many playing techniques that are used on the piano that brings out the most in it, polyrhythms especially. Plus, it's a homemade, live playing of a piano - making it all the more better. This is a piece, despite its length, that I would go back to and listen again - which I did as I played the video after listening.

If I would have to nitpick, I'd say the one thing I would point out is that when the rain sounds come back in full force at around 0:40 (and again at 7:31), I feel as if they start to push a little bit on the piano in terms of volume, so just be cautious of that in the future.

But honestly, that's really my only nitpick, and it's hard to really mention anything else wrong with the piece. I really enjoyed this, and I think I will come back to this again, or even download it to listen in my off time. Good luck in this round, and I'll see you again in the final!

LucidShadowDreamer responds:

Thank you for all the praise, and for the high score!

Thank you also for pointing out the vibrato at 5:26. That is the only part of the piece where I used it, and it was for such a short time. A lot of editing went into the small details of this piece...

I'm also really glad to see you note all the playing techniques. This is the composition Where I was most worried about the recording process. Not only is it really long, which leaves room for mistakes (I sometimes let small mistakes pass, but I pretty much always rerecord the whole thing from the start when I make a bigger one), but like you noted, there are many trills, grace notes, rolled chords, accentuations and left/right hand techniques or patterns throughout the piece.

Thankfully, the length doesn't seem to have put many people off.

I'll heed your warning about the loudness of the rain, I can hear what you mean a little bit. Thanks again for listening, and for taking the time to leave a review ^___^

I like the thunder and rain sound effects (or, perhaps a recording?) at the beginning. It really sets the scene, and the bright chords add a profoundness to the tone of the piece. The texture smooths out considerably by the 1-minute mark, with your characteristic flowy wave-like style. The piece feels conspicuously empty at around 1:25, which I thought was a somewhat odd choice for what isn’t a particularly climactic part of the piece otherwise. I love the feeling of floating at 2:04, which is contrasted with the heavy chords at 2:42. The piece really gives off the sense of capturing a journey. At 3:04, there’s another one of your somewhat unexpected modulations, but at least the equally odd harmonic shift at 3:16 maintains the jarring chord progression across that section. I like the sound of footsteps at 3:30 (I’m not sure they’re footsteps, really, but it seemed to fit the journey metaphor). There’s such beautiful phrasing at the section starting at 3:55. The pitter-patter rhythm and delicately articulated swells complement each other so well - haunting work there. I also like how the piece periodically resets itself throughout this middle section. You’ve set up a really intricate arrangement here, and it doesn’t always work for me (5:04 seemed like a pretty sudden stylistic change, for example), but you’ve mostly found some particularly effective ways of transitioning between the various sub-themes of the piece. The reverse piano action at 5:30 was another strong compositional detail that adds to the pensive mood of the piece. I think 6:15 really serves as the arrival point of the piece - it feels so cathartic and freeing. Admittedly, the crackles in the background there didn’t quite work for me, though. I don’t think they built on your previous use of sound effects very effectively, and I almost thought the first one was some sort of recording mistake. There’s another rather awesome transition at 6:52, and the little sound wave manipulation going on at 6:56 works well to draw the listener’s attention to the background just before the rain starts up again. You’ve really taken some risks in this piece between the reversing of the piano and the generous use of sound effects. The ending is a bit jarring for me - seems like the grand crescendo of background noise was more for dramatic effect than to serve a more contextually appropriate compositional purpose. Perhaps that’s a bit stringent, though. Overall, this piece is fantastic. I’m particularly impressed with your continued ability to make such a simplistic sound design so engaging and varied, even across different pieces. If I was getting even slightly bored with your piano compositions this summer (which I was not), these last couple of rounds would renew my interest in a heartbeat. Well done, Ale! ^_^

Mixing, mastering, and balance
Structure, transitions, phrasing, and variety
Melody, tonality, harmony, and texture
Instrumentation and sound design
Emotion, atmosphere, and catchiness
Originality and uniqueness
Overall (how do the elements above interact?)
Composite score

LucidShadowDreamer responds:

Wow, thank you for the in-depth review! I am glad you liked the sound effects. I did not record these myself, but they're all CC0, free to use sounds. I intentionally stayed away from any popular or often used ones. I tried to get effects with as few downloads as possible, but only if they had just as high quality/fit the piece as well as the popular ones. Thus, there are a few exceptions.

I wanted to make something really different for this round, for many reasons. I realise the risk in composing only solo piano pieces for a competition like this. Regardless of how good they are, they would feel a bit boring in the long run if they were all too similar. My laptop can't really handle too many instruments in Cubase at the moment, but it quite easily processes sound effects. I also wanted to tell a story and set an atmosphere with this composition. I felt it especially important to set the feel, as this track is partially dedicated to something Jordi was/to some extent still is going though.

I knew it was also a bold choice to say the least to compose something this long. It's a habit I have by now, as it has happened before. But certain pieces just require that kind of depth to portray what is intended, I think. I've been very happy to hear that people haven't found this piece too dragging despite its length and heaviness, though! I actually had 11 or 12 minutes of material at least, but I fought hard to cut it down to the most important elements of the story and progression.

I'm glad you like the footsteps, btw! As for the crackles, I have to agree with you there, to some extent. I had to keep it in for conceptual reasons, but no matter how hard I looked, I couldn't find the kind of sound that I feel would've really fit there. I suppose I should've started a fire myself, and kept my microphone at an apt distance. Maybe next time :)

I'm glad you appreciated my risk-taking. For this NGADM, I've really tried to capture a balance between being creative and taking my pieces in all kinds of crazy directions, with reigning them in so that others can fully enjoy them too. Hopefully, it's working somewhat okay, at least...

"The ending is a bit jarring for me - seems like the grand crescendo of background noise was more for dramatic effect than to serve a more contextually appropriate compositional purpose."

=> This is one critique I have to disagree with, though. The very start of the piece is a loud thunder strike, followed by some rain. The very end is reversed rain, followed by a loud reversed thunder strike to null out all other sound. To me, this signifies a full, seemingly never-ending loop; limbo. So I would argue it is kept in mostly for compositional purpose, and perhaps you found the effect lacking?

Thank you again for always writing such extensive reviews. I can always tell that you've really listened to the songs, when you describe the parts that stood out to you in some way.

It's brilliant and just what I needed for some story writing inspiration.

LucidShadowDreamer responds:

Hi! Lovely to see you around, I hope you're doing well. If my music can inspire, I feel that it has done its job well. Thank you for listening, as well as for the praise!

Credits & Info

4.84 / 5.00

Nov 10, 2019
11:37 PM EST
File Info
19.1 MB
8 min 21 sec

Licensing Terms

Please contact me if you would like to use this in a project. We can discuss the details.