Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Look Back...

Throughout this term, because of our class setup, guidance from Dr. Ross, and our specific assignments, I feel as though I've definitely grown in composition and I like it even more than I did in the beginning. I'm relatively new with composition...probably started around 3 years ago. Our class has been supportive of each other, offering suggestions and encouraging feedback and appreciation. It's been a great term!

My final piece, "Crucifixus" went through some changes along the way, including even the desire to change ideas completely and write something new with only 2 weeks remaining in the term. I'm glad you talked me out of this option, Dr. Ross! I remember my initial thoughts for this piece at the end of finishing our class recital, when a brand new thinking process began. I had vague, individual ideas as to the sound of this new piece and individual work on specific sections had already begun. I am pleased with the finished product, and the feedback from the class really had a lot to with this.

Compiled below is a collection of the feedback I received over the many weeks:

- The piece intensifies more and more as it goes on - each section feeds into the next effectively.
- The opening soprano statement of the entirety of the text could use something else half way through - there is a point at which a break in the text can act as an opening for another entry, either from a voice or a brass instrument. (I *really* played with this...part of me still likes the ambiguity of only a soprano line with nothing else, but the alto adding the P4's below has grown on me!) These P4's can also be brought back - which I chose to end at the final line of text in the tenor and bass entries. Great idea!
- Sometimes, the harmonic language is confusing - there are traditional V-I cadences following a non-traditional, more atonal harmonic base. (I think this was part of my escape from tonality...I DO understand where this comment comes from, and I am more aware of the instances where it happens now - definitely something I will consider in future compositions.)
- Try to identify the climax of the piece - there was a point where we were reaching the end, and there hadn't been a heightened point yet.
- Brass clusters work well, and I should try to use them in this piece. (I wanted to, but what I had thought of didn't really fit with everything else; it seemed a little too different and would cause discontinuity in the piece.)
- The opening brass motif is really catching to the ear. (I made this re-appear at the climax of the piece, and I think it works well!)
- The chorale section of the second statement of the text has a great sound world. (I really like the harmonies I've used and it was exactly how I heard it in the beginning stages!)

- Also, the rests in the chorale section, and other areas in the piece work well.
- Think about using more voice and brass together as the piece goes on. (This was on my mind, and I was trying to write it in such a way to avoid any possible balance issues, however the climax of the piece invites all voices and instruments to play together.)

All of these comments have shaped my composition and I tried to implement all, or some parts of them, into the piece.

I would love to have the chance to rehearse this piece with musicians and have it performed. This was a goal I had set for myself during the term, and hoped for it to happen while the piece was on-going. BUT, (there's always a but), time was an issue, as well as scheduling rehearsals while trying to work nine different ones! Eeek! I'm really genuinely interested in having my compositions performed, and writing even more pieces. Even though I will have soon completed a music education degree, I still think composition is going to be a huge part of my career. I've already started thinking about writing a Christmas musical for elementary-aged students, and composing a requiem. I have big plans for myself and I hope they work out!

I feel as though I will definitely keep up with composition, and keep growing throughout. I went back and listened to the final piece I composed for the first composition course that I did last Fall, and it's strictly tonal. I used a lot of borrowed chords, switched from major and minor keys, and that was pretty much the extent of it. I DO like it, but I can certainly see that I've expanded a lot in my writing in only one year.

It has been a fabulous term, and I look forward encouraging my future students to compose, improvise, and make music. I think students learn a lot by writing and composing and I will definitely include it when I teach.

That's it!! It's been a pleasure! What a great course!

Friday, March 6, 2009

I am really happy with how my piece is going so far...it was received well today in class, and I was given a lot of helpful suggestions and ideas as well as great comments besides.

1. The textures are good, in terms of the brass quintet, and the 4-voice texture. Going back and forth between the two is working well. (As I get further into the piece, there will be more instances where all parts will come together.) Also, Dr. Ross mentioned about playing with harder and softer textures of the instruments themselves - I will look more into this as well.

2. Consider the possibility of using mutes - this wasn't one my initial thoughts. I don't know why, but when it was brought up today in class, it was sort of a "yeah, how did I forget about those????" kind of reaction. I will spend some time with brass players and become more familiar with the sounds from the individual mutes.

3. The opening soprano line needs something between the phrases. I'm a little stuck...my initial thought was to only have a single voice at the beginning - a very thin texture. I know for sure that I want to save the entry of the brass directly after the horn plays the last part of the second phrase from the soprano opening. I like the ambiguity and openness of this line. I'm not completely opposed to the idea of having another entry from the alto line (as suggested by Megan) but first I think I'll play with a little less of a break between the phrases - maybe that will help. I want to keep the opening as simplistic, yet as effective, as possible. I think the silence keeps the listener's attention and makes them wonder where the piece is going. I'll do some further experimenting with it and see what happens!

4. Something else related to the opening soprano line - the absence of a meter may not be necessary. By writing "freely", even in measured time, it should still give the effect I'm looking for.

Looks ok so far - I'm pleased with it!
Have a good weekend everyone!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Second Composition Excitement

Congratulations to everyone on a fantastic recital last night!! The recital was such a nice way to end off the week - and if your week was as stressful as mine was, you probably felt the same way! It was great to sit back and really listen to all the compositions. I wanted to play the piano part for mine, but I also wanted to have someone else play it so I could listen to it from a different perspective. I'm glad to I chose the second option! It feels very rewarding to have the performance over with, final bound copy of the score in hand, ready to submit on Monday.

I must admit though, after such a good night, I felt inspired to do more work on our final assignment. As much as I would love to write for choir, I understand that it doesn't present a balance issue...but, I am choosing to write for SATB (2 singers per part), with a brass quintet. The reason for 2 singers on each part is because the brass instruments are loud anyway, and I think with only 4 voices, it may be very challening. With 8, I think there will still be balance issues to work out and think carefully about, but not as easy as a full choir with brass quintet. I am writing a "Crucifixus", and I'm really looking forward to digging into it! Just to briefly cover the text, it reads:

Crucifixus etiam pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato: passus et sepultus est.
[He was] crucified also for us, under Pontius Pilate:[he] suffered and was buried.

I am definitely playing with semitones here for sure!! I think the brass quintet will capture the idea of crucifixion and suffering. This is exciting, and I feel really motivated to get to work on this!!

All for now - see you on Monday!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Project No. 2 - Thoughts

As I think about the second project, many thoughts come to mind. I would love to write a piece for concert band or orchestra. I've actually wanted to do that for a long time. But, the time constraint scares me! I'm also from a very chorally-related person, as opposed to coming from an instrumental background, so this makes me want to explore the band or orchestra option more.

I know that the choice for writing for choir isn't possible this term, but I have an idea that I'd like to present, and hopefully this may work. Something else I've always wanted to do, and hopefully will in the future, is to compose a mass or a requiem. I have toyed with the idea of writing a "Crucifixus" for SATB and brass quintet. This wouldn't necessarily have to be for a choir, just one singer per part. This is only one option - I could compose any part of the mass or requiem really, and I will put more thought into this, but the "Crucifixus" stood out to me. Using the brass quintet, it also presents a balance issue. My question, is if this would present ENOUGH of a balance issue for choir and brass quintet. If not, I am equally happy writing for 4 singers and the quintet.

I am curious as to whether or not this is acceptable or not. Dr. Ross - could you make a comment or suggestion as to what you think of the idea? Also from anyone else, what are your thoughts??

Have a wonderful midterm break everyone!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Nah, maybe not THAT crazy...

I'm pleasantly surprised as I'm working on my new composition...I was stressed about starting something BRAND new a week before the due date, but I am relating to this one far better than I was with the first. I think the difference, is that I am working with text. That's not to say that writing vocal music is easier, but I personally think I relate to it better. I found a poem that really speaks to me, and of course, if I really like something, the motivation is greater. I come from a more chorally-dominated music background, as opposed to one of an instrumental nature. I think I jumped into my first piece and made it complicated too soon; this one is going quite well. I have no worries about completing it for Monday.

Last week was also a very stressful week with an abundance of assignments and exams - I think my brain was flooded, and then I tried to work with composition, and didn't succeed as I had planned. I love working with choral/solo voice works, so I think I'm definitely writing in the right direction.

Here's to a weekend of composition!!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I Must be Crazy....!!!

I don't think I've experienced something like this before...

I don't know if it's simply because I just don't like my piece anymore...if it's because I've gone too much into the depths of atonality and I'm afraid of it, or if I'm just really in a rut with my piece.

BUT. Guess what Jenn did this weekend??
Jenn started a new piece....altogether. Brand new. EEEEEP. I was concerned about doing this first, but I needed something to present tomorrow, and "Shipwreck" wasn't going to get me anywhere. So, I now introduce to you all, "Of Pearls and Stars." Am I completely out of my mind???

I went back to my first blog post, and read Dr. Ross' comment about mine, which read "However, I now think that it may not sound as atonal as it could."I think my understanding of atonality has changed - it doesn't have to sound chaotic and "unattractive." I did some re-thinking, and in this new piece, there are definitely recognizable chords (major or minor) but their functions are not the same as in a tonal piece of music, or at least, I tried not to write functional harmonies. For instance, a brief look at a section of the piece: "F# walking down to C minor, to Eb minor, C7, A major...."

My new instrumentation is scored for soprano, tenor, cello, violin, and piano. I am taking the text from a poem written by Heinrich Heine, "Of Pearls and Stars." I am already having more luck with this composition than I was with the other - in 2 days, I wrote as much as I did in 1.5 weeks with "Shipwreck." I'll leave you to read the text, and I'll see you all tomorrow!


The pearly treasures of the sea,
The lights that spatter heaven above,
More precious than these wonders are
My heart-of-hearts filled with your love.

The ocean's power, the heavenly sights
Cannot outweigh a love filled heart.
And sparkling stars or glowing pearls
Pale as love flashes, beams and darts.

So, little, youthful maiden come
Into my ample, feverish heart
For heaven and earth and sea and sky
Do melt as love has melt my heart.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Digging In Deeper...

I am pleased with the progress I'm making on my composition thus far. Just this past weekend when adding other details to my piece to present on Monday, I found myself completely braindead, for lack of a better term! I read Kate's blog entry for this week and felt the same thing about having so many ideas, but then sitting in front of the computer screen listening over and over again, feeling as though you actually didn't have those good ideas because you can't write. I don't know why this is, but it's an interesting concept. I suppose maybe it's because we're thinking outside the box a little, and notating different sounds or effects that take some extra thinking as to the most effective way to go about doing that. I find it funny though, that ideas have come to me when I haven't been in "composition mode", so to speak, and then it's a mad dash to the computer or the piano!

Once again this week, I received a lot of encouraging comments about "Shipwreck." The sudden tempo change from the quarter note = 60, to 120 or 130 was received well, and I want this to be a very direct change. I am firstly illustrating the colour of the picture in the slow section - the white background, the desolate, almost eerie atmosphere, to the second section, which represents the rough water and the unsteady ship. I was possibly weary that I had too much going on at one time here, but I've thought about it more, and I like what I've come up with. Each line has its own melodic line, but they work together and create atmosphere I was aiming for. I don't remember who made this comment, but someone commented on the spatial element of the piece, and said it worked well.

I think one of the things I'm "stressing" about is the instruction in the piece...the piano introduction for example. Dr. Ross - thank you for your interpretation, which I like far better than my idea. Constantly brushing the lower strings of the piano, creating a wash of deep colour works far better than single strokes, one after the other. The sound is a little more permanent this way - I will make that change.

The piano accompaniment is very chordal, so I was given the suggestion to experiment with that and make it a little more interesting. I actually plan to have these chords rolled, so maybe I can work with that element...maybe rolling up and then down, to foreshadow the roughness of the water? Maybe???

I'm still finding it hard to decide on the ending of the piece. I need to finish the middle section, but I'm trying to think ahead...I really don't know if I want the piece to end abruptly, similar to the second section, or if it should represent something similar to an ABA form, where the tempo changes again for the 3rd part. I'm leaning more towards this option, but I'd love to hear your opinions as to what you think...

That's all for now! Happy composing, everyone!