Thursday, December 4, 2008

Farewell, Composition Class

Ok, this is my final blog of the course and it's dedicated to allt he future students of this course. Here's some helpful hints, reactions, and comments on what has occured in composition class.

First things first:
ASAP at the beginning of semester locate/purchase a good notation program (mike cheers: 'sibelius! sibelius!'..poor student: but mike i'm poor...mike: 'torrent! torrent!'). Not only should you make certain such a program is in your possession, but you should familiarize yourself with it. Ask an expert to give you a little tutorial. Plug in your sightsinging melodies to play back to you as an icebreaker-anything to get well acquainted. This close partnership will yield bountiful fruit in your future projects. You see, if you don't procrastinate getting to know your notation program, procrastinating you composition assignments will be soo much easier and less painful!
I have personally experienced such pain and did none of what I have suggested above and therefore had great difficulty doing my score for the final project.

Blogging is a great way for the class to keep in touch and discuss things we can't get around to discussing in class. i think if i had my time back i would read more of my classmates blogs and leave comments. That would also make it easier to comment on people's pieces in class since you'd know the background of their piece or what challenges they are currently facing.

Don't chuck too many ideas in a piece. A fantastic piece only needs a few mediocre ideas. Be committed to ideas and be willing to explore and develop them.

If at all possible, try to get your scores done a day early and set a weekly time with performers to rehearse your piece before class. This makes a world of difference. a)people actually get to hear what you wrote in class b) a lot less time is wasted in class sight reading and repeating c0 when it comes to the concert time it's not a mad rush to learn and put together pieces.

I really enjoyed this course! Don't take all these comments too seriously. I sort of like the living on the edge-skirting distaster adrenaline one can get procrastinating composition assignments. Farewell!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

You know composition is the best class ever when it has a rockin pizza party at the end like it did today. I really enjoyed this course way more than I expected to. I loved the discussion oriented classes where humour abounded and people were scurrying to get their stuff together to show people or perform a piece for someone. It's amazing to see how many different approaches there can be to composing, which the first project emphasized. Everyone had to work with an instrument and a piano and all the pieces were so unique. Creation is limitless! And I especially enjoyed, in the last project, having a little more creative freedom and being able to see the evolution of people's pieces, or, in some cases, death of old and resurrection of new pieces.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

final concert!!!

Unforunately i had to sneak out of the concert Saturday night without hearing many people's pieces. I will, however, be securing a copy of the CD to listen to after the craziness of exams is over so i can hear the final results of everyone's hard work. I must say i was very proud of my performers who pulled together to pull of my piece. I realize that my writing rarely caters to the last-minute efforts required by our student composition concerts. In fact many sections would take quite a bit of rehearsal and repetition to coordinate so a big thank you to my performers for Saturday night and an even bigger thank you for Saturday afternoon when they really nailed the piece and made all my imagined images of the piece come to life. also, each performer helped me immenseley in the writing of the piece-first with improvising crashes for me to hear what I liked, then by helping me notate effects I wanted and giving suggestions for sections of the piece and idioms of their instruments. This project has proved to me the invaluable help of performers and the importance of such a relationship when composing. Thanks guys!!!
Special thank you's go to Andrew for showing up 12:30 every week for a month and half to lug percussion gear up to the classroom and subsequently performing for others in the class AND to philip for actually screaming into Jon's tuba. It made the course.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Marching mayhem......could be the title for my final composition. or not.

Comments from last class on my marching cliche piece:
-Go listen to Stravinsky's "A soldier's Tale" since it has some similarities to my piece and will provide some ideas to inconspicuously steal or incorporate in my piece
-Expand the opening theme
-Expand the brass instrument role reversal snare drum theme
-depart/ go crazier before the "crash"
-the departure at the beginning of the piece may be a little hasty
I love hearing the piece played in class since it reaffirms my mental images that are destroyed by midi instruments on finale and because it is enourmously entertaining to watch Phil, Jon and Andrew read and play the parts. They exceeded my expectations this week especially, nailing some of the more tricky rhythmical sections.
Unfortunately, the class has dispelled my hopes for describing the crash in a paragraph on the score. I'm still not exactly certain what shape it will take and how specific I'll be with notation. i am currently relying on my players to help me notate things i've enjoyed that they've improvised, like Jon's pedal note that holds out the longest into the silence. I also think a whistle would be funny, but that may be a little ambitious for the already uber multi-tasking percussionist.
Nobody has commented on my middle eastern section, which was a relief since i was afraid it may stick out, but it seems to work well. I think I should expand that as well.
The ending is very elusive currently, but since i still have at least another minute of the piece to go I'm leaving it up to fate and timely inspiration.
overshadowing all of this is the fact that, ultimately I will either have to steal someone's version of finale/sibelius or once again write the score out by hand. There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to both. It is so much easier to compose organically, I find, when writing by hand since i naturally add in all dynamics and articulations as I go. With this composition, using finale notepad was essential because i was incapable of synthesizing the parts in my head or playing them concurrently on the piano, however the program has many limitations and i get lazy since i don't want to take the time to figure out how to add everything in while trying to get notes down.
For this week I'm focusing on completeing the piece as far as i can. Next week I'll have to tackle the sheet music.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Marching Mishap Mayhem may be the title of piece. It is certainly appropriate.
Last week the class suggested that I elaborate and expand the section before the crash, which made a lot of sense. So I developed a motif of the melody by displacing it, having a call and answer of it between the trombone and tuba and changing it slightly.
I also decided to apparate (for you Harry Potter fans) to another area of the earth (not quite sure which one) for a few phrases. Did you know there are over 7000 brass marching bands in South Asia that are integral to Hindu wedding celebrations? With that information I could not deny the presence of such a musical section in the piece. I will also eventually add in the xylophone for the percussion melodic part as we discussed in the previous class. Currently I am struggling with some software limitations. Apparently for some reason, free downloadable software does not have the same capabilites of $50 programs. Go figure. Hopefully I'll be able to yoink someone's computer to put my final draft on.
Next up....well still searching for inspiration. 3-5 minutes is a hefty chunk of time...especially when you want to make it the best, most exciting, insightful, enjoyable, amazing 3-5 minutes possible for listeners.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tonight I started my final composition. I love the cliche idea. It's such a great springboard. However, I found it difficult at first to compose an original march-like melody (did i mention I'm doing the march cliche?). I want to start off somewhat typically, have a 'crashing' moment and then restart the march much more crazy and less tonal. Other marches I'm familiar with would get stuck in my head and sound so much better than my attempts. I finally managed to get something I liked for the trombone line and then tried to work out the tuba bass line. I think I will try my best to get a hold of a computer program, even if just to have something played back to me because my piano skills don't allow me to hear what I've composed. Since marches are so predictable in who has what role, I'm planning on doing some role reversal between the brass players and percussionist. I'm also investigating the idea of odd meters and incorporating world music (elements of marching music from South Asia).

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My final character piece was played on Friday in class. (Thanks to Chris Miller- the fill-in trombonist). It was great having Chris play my piece since he loves the trombone sooo much and gave me some really helpful feedback, such as one note I had written for the pedal range of the instrument wasn't really possible. However, he did say it was pretty idiomatic for the trombone- something I've been really trying to focus on, especially since the trombone is (for me) such an interesting and unique instrument.

I was pretty pleased as well with the performance o f the piece because nobody picked out what I feared would be its demise. Sometimes it's what people don't say that makes you happiest. The piece took form out of various ideas that I had discreetly. Trying to format them into a coherent whole was quite the undertaking. I'm still looking at how I can meld them in the best way possible.

I used a pianistic motive for much of the piece (thanks Kim for helping me!!) and it was suggested that this should develop and permeate more of the piece, which I will definitely try to amend.