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pateceramics

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pateceramics last won the day on October 17

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About pateceramics

  • Rank
    Seasoned Composer

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  • Biography
    I'm 33, and just got into composing over the last year or so, although, I was always the kid who made up an extra harmony part when singing along to the radio. When I was a very shy teenager, I'd sing a little harmony part when we sang at summer camp, and other people picked the part up until, suddenly we had two parts. And then I'd make up another part, and other people would pick it up too, and then there were three parts. It made me unbelievably happy.

    Since I'm mainly a singer, I've been writing for a cappella choir, but when I feel a little more sure of myself I'd like to learn to write a decent piano part if nothing else.

    Over the years I've had 5 violin teachers, 2 banjo teachers, a brief fling with penny whistle lessons, 3 voice teachers, and sung with 2 a cappella groups, 7 choirs, and a wee bit of musical theater which got me out of taking gym in high school. Thanks for the warm welcome to this community and your continued feedback. Can't get better without feedback!
  • Gender
    Female
  • Location
    Malden, MA, USA
  • Occupation
    contralto, potter
  • Favorite Composers
    Vivaldi, Brahms, Lauridsen, Thompson, Gillian Welch
  • My Compositional Styles
    Eh, you tell me.
  • Notation Software/Sequencers
    MuseScore
  • Instruments Played
    alto, clawhammer banjo

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  1. Techniques to deal with the "creative blocking"

    7. Poetry usually has a very strong sense of rhythm and an internal structure of beginning, tension and development, and resolution. Just add pitches and that is a well-structured piece of music. Try to set some poetry you like to music, as if you were writing a choral piece. Then erase the words to turn it into an orchestral piece, add more parts to fill it out, and play with orchestration.
  2. Techniques to deal with the "creative blocking"

    Hmmm... I'd say: 1. Keep trying to write at least a little while every day, because sometimes you just have to sit in the chair and work at it to give an idea the opportunity to appear. 2. But be sure you aren't doing nothing but work. If nothing is appearing in your brain, it may need some new outside stimulation to get the ideas started again, so take time to go for a walk, read new books, go out with friends. Put yourself in situations that are rich for your physical senses in new ways so your brain will start creating new pathways, even if that just means trying a different sandwich for lunch. You don't have to take a two week vacation, but find at least a little novelty every day. 3. Make sure you have the right physical environment to work in. I need to be somewhere comfortable, quiet, and alone, so I can hum out my ideas. I have to be able to hear it out loud as I'm working to get the next part of the idea to come. Maybe you like the background hum of the dishwasher so it isn't too quiet in your house, or to know someone is in the next room so you don't feel too lonely. 4. If all else fails, try listening to some music you like and singing along on a harmony part. Then shut the music off and keep singing your harmony. It often develops a life of its own and becomes the start of an idea. 5. Sometimes you can't think of a beginning, but you CAN think of a middle or an end, so go ahead and start with that part and then work backwards. 6. Some of the best works by famous composers are based off of simple scales, and key changes. Don't be afraid to write according to basic principles as a start. What you add to the texture can make that incredibly exciting. Writing absolutely according to expectation with respect to chord progression, and then denying the listener the resolution is a wonderful tension-creating device that keeps a work moving and developing when you are stuck.
  3. Who has Perfect Pitch? Does it help you?

    Oh, all choirs tend to drift flat. It happens when people are unsure of a note. Overshooting the pitch somehow feels stupider than undershooting, so when people are unsure, they end up singing tentatively and singing flat. It also happens if people are worried they are going to crack on a top note. Or if people are just vocally tired. They try not to over-sing, and the result is again, slightly flat. In a choir, since you're constantly retuning to each other for blend, everyone ends up retuning to try and make the one voice that's off fit back in correctly, so by the end of an a cappella piece, if several notes have gone a little flat in individual voices during a 3 minute piece, the whole choir has recalibrated the idea of where the key is several times, and may be a tone below where they should be. But what's interesting, is that it means everyone is hearing pitch, hearing small gradations of pitch, and establishing that slightly off note as a new "do" and using relative pitch to decide that means "mi" is now THIS slightly off note, and "re" is now THAT slightly off note. People who actually have perfect pitch generally only like to be in choirs with other people with perfect pitch, or sing accompanied pieces, because if someone has a vocal production issue that means a note sounds a bit squidgy, people with perfect pitch don't readjust the key to an in-between-key. They know where the key really is, and they stay there stubbornly, and that off note sticks out like a sore thumb, but the key stays constant until the end of the piece if there are enough stubborn perfect pitchers in the group. But if there is only one person with perfect pitch, they are the ones who sound off when they don't adjust. And they really hate adjusting, because they know deep in their hearts that they are right. They tend to become directors so they can use their powers for good instead. Makes it easier to diagnose problems quickly when you can just hear a note and know it's not what you see on the page without solfeging. So the real question is, if you asked a random musician to sing you a note, having kept them in complete musical silence for several hours beforehand, would they have the same thing happen that happens to me, and sing you an actual note, and not halfway in between? I suspect most would. But what does that mean about how our brain processes this stuff?
  4. Who has Perfect Pitch? Does it help you?

    That's my question. How is it that my brain knows enough to produce a pitch vs. the micro-intervals the fall between pitches in Western music without any outside reference for a starting point, and yet is NOTable to produce a specific pitch, say, middle C, on demand. It would seem that both of those problems would require the same mental skill set: the ability to recognize pitch by frequency. Here's the scenario. You wake up in the morning. You have just slept for 8 hours. You haven't heard any music. You don't wake to an alarm that has a pitched beep. You walk to your keyboard, try to sing middle C, and check it against the instrument. You discover that you have sung a C# instead of a C natural, but your C# is on pitch. It's not halfway in the space between C# and D natural. To make a visual metaphor, perfect pitch is the ability to pick the blue crayon when you are asked. If I don't have the mental wiring to pick the blue crayon on request, how is it that I can consistently pick the truest red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple from a box of 120 crayons that includes all the shades in between. I can give you the straightest blue in the box without hesitation, not the blue-blue-green, not the blue-purple-purple. I can always reduce the larger set to the classic box of five colors. And yet, I can't consistently tell those colors from each other. An interesting puzzle. And it's not a question of being used to singing on pitch, because choirs drift slowly flat all the time, and if the rest of the choir is drifting, you have to drift with them. So I'm totally capable of singing a red-orange-orange note. And yet, the starting point, absent pitch-related input, is always smack-on red.
  5. Who has Perfect Pitch? Does it help you?

    I definitely don't have perfect pitch, but since I'm a singer, I know where my voice switches from chest voice to head voice. It moves around a bit from day to day, if I have a cold, etc., but it gets me close to right. From there you can relative pitch your way to any other note you want to find. I just tried an experiment. Tried to find the D natural above middle C. What I guessed was actually an Eb. Can I find the right notes out of nothing perfectly? No. But if you want to start a piece, a cappella, without a pitch pipe, I can usually find close enough to the right key to keep the basses from bottoming out or the sopranos from running out of high notes, as can many singers if they bother to think about it. What I find interesting, is that even if I am a step away from the note I'm looking for, whenever I try this experiment, I am actually on a note. I'm never between two notes. I'd be curious to know how that part of our brain processing works. If I can't always pick a particular pitch, what is it that my brain does that means I at least pick... some pitch?
  6. Composer fee for unfinished film

    Charge them a lesser rate, but get it in writing that you have full rights back to the music, so you can adjust it and re-use it with a future project as you see fit? Lets them off the hook a little, doesn't completely throw you under the bus, and gives you a good reason for the discount so you look business-like, and not like a pushover?
  7. College audition piece idea

    I guess one important question is... how long do you have before you need to send in your applications? It does seem incredibly unfair that schools want you to have so much knowledge in a subject that is so rarely taught in public high schools in this country, but they do want to be sure that you can survive when you graduate. They only have 4 years to get you to that point and there is SO much to learn. You aren't in as bad shape as many students though. The beleaguered music professors I know describe kids who want to be music majors who don't play any instrument and can't read music. (These students do not get to be music majors). Since you've been taking piano, you're a step ahead of that crowd. Piano also gives you more career flexibility after graduation, since there are always people looking for accompanists, and it means you can write for piano and play the whole thing yourself, rather than having to hire other musicians or pester your scores into the hands of film directors or groups that play contemporary music to bring your compositions to an audience. An online theory course is definitely a good idea, but be aware that the free ones are often for people with no music experience at all, so they start with teaching you to read music, which is not what you need and time is of the essence. Would your piano teacher be able and willing to add theory lessons or recommend someone else? Are there any semi-famous composers living near enough to you that you could take a private lesson with them once a week or every two weeks? (Google is your friend. Everyone has a website these days, and even famous composers have to live somewhere). If your high school doesn't teach AP Theory or composition, is there another school in your area that does? I'm sure that teacher would be happy to tell you what textbook they are using and you could buy it online. Does one of the local churches in your area have a kick-butt music program? Would their music director be willing to meet with you and look at your compositions? Can you find out what the Intro Theory textbook is at any of the schools you are applying to, and go ahead and start reading it now, and Google anything you don't understand? How would you feel if you got into music school, but ended up making your living in some other musical way than as a film composer? How would you feel if you had to have 3 jobs?
  8. Compose longer pieces

    I'd suggest you start with pieces you already know. If you know it, and you like it, try to figure out what the composer does that you enjoy and you can apply to your own work. If you know it, but you hate it, (had to play it for school, so you know it well, but you can't stand it), try to figure out what the composer did that you dislike so much, and you'll know what NOT to do in your own work. There are plenty of pieces that are technically well-structured and "good" pieces, that you might not like. Figure out why. It can also be helpful to look at beginning work here or on youtube or sound cloud. You'll start to see the same mistakes crop up again and again. There is never any "wrong" answer when writing music. People can always write whatever they want. And yet, if you listen to enough work by beginning composers, you start to hear the same problems over and over again, and think, well if I wrote it, I would change... It's much easier to notice these patterns in other people's work than in your own, but once you start noticing, you'll be a better critic of your own creations, and can edit them if you catch yourself falling into the more common beginner patterns.
  9. Compose longer pieces

    I think you will want to take the time to really sit down and study some scores, as Monarcheon suggested. Sit down with some music and a pencil and ask some concrete questions. (If you don't want to scribble all over a good score, find a piece that is available in the public domain and can be printed off the internet for free. You can write all over it without feeling guilty). Start by identifying the main theme. Mark it somehow. Mark it each time it reappears. Look at the material that's left. Is there a second theme? Mark that every time it appears. Is there a fugue? Where is the same material repeated, but in a new key? What is different about each time the theme is repeated? Different instrument has the melody? Different harmonization underneath the melody? And then, how are the different restatements of the theme linked to each other musically? You want to look at the large scale organization of some large works. Don't worry about small details. You know how to do small details already because you can write short works. Think of it as writing an essay. For this exercise you aren't looking at individual words or sentences. Instead, how does each paragraph function to support the larger argument? If you aren't confident about what to look for when studying scores, you can also read some analysis of well-known large-scale works by other people. You can find wikipedia articles about major works that discuss their basic structure. Read a few of those and look for patterns in the way these works are put together. Concert programs from the local symphony, opera, etc. also often contain a page or two discussing the structure of the pieces to be performed, and how they relate to other famous works that influenced the composer. Graduate school analyses are often published online these days and you can study them for free. (:
  10. SMALL PERCUSSION

    It may mean the percussionist will bring whatever you need for the piece, as long as it's standard sorts of stuff that they have already, but I agree, it might be a good idea to ask. Most percussionists seem to enjoy amassing large collections.
  11. So you're already in school for mechanical engineering? Or you know where you want to go, and want to add a music major at the same time? Then talk to your school's music faculty about what they are looking for. They are real human beings and would probably be delighted to find out someone is motivated enough to ask the question and start seriously working towards producing a good portfolio. Or if you are working toward applying to schools for engineering, there may be a limited number of schools that you are focusing on that also offer a major in composition, so you can use that information to narrow things down and then, again, just ask. Don't worry that you will be giving away that you are a beginner by asking the question. They will be able to tell that from your portfolio, and that's why you want to study music: to learn. But the fact that you are asking how best to prepare NOW, and planning on taking the time to really put together a good application will tell them what sort of student you will be if accepted. (A hard-working student, a self-motivated student, a passionate student). You don't want to take up too much of someone's time before you even apply, but sending a polite, succinct email asking where you should focus your efforts can only help you.
  12. Learning Violin in order to improve composition?

    It's always worth learning something new! Just be aware that the music you will be capable of playing, as a beginning student, will probably have little to do with the more advanced music you will be interested in composing. Since you can already read music and have good dexterity and musicality from playing wind instruments, you may learn a little faster than other beginning students, but probably only a little. This will be a long-term learning project. On the other hand, even in the very beginning, having taken some lessons will give you better access to good violinists, and you can ask them for their honest opinion of your scores, and will be better able to understand their comments. And they are more likely to give you careful, detailed feedback if they know you are taking lessons and are serious about composing for strings. Wanting to do this is a good learning opportunity, but it's also a mark of your dedication to composing. You are taking the time to think about where there are gaps in your musical knowledge and trying to fill them. That's definitely a good mindset for a composer. (:
  13. A level Composition

    This is a great start! Going forward, I would suggest you think about ways to use the left hand more in your piano compositions. In this piece, it never has the starring role. If this was an orchestra piece, those bass notes would be played by a few sad orchestra members, who would never have a chance to lead the music. Even though this is piano, and technically, all notes sound the same, if you think of each musical line as being played by a different person, it's easier to give each part more character. Let the right hand respond to what the left hand has just said, and elaborate on its statement, and vice versa. There's nothing wrong with what you've written, but it could have more impact if the musical texture didn't stay the same all the way through. Thinking about ways to vary your rhythms, or the meter of your piece is another way to attack the same problem, but from a different angle. It can give you the kind of contrasts that help your work feel more like a conversation, or a narrative. For a short piece like this, it's not as important, but it's a good skill to learn going forward as you start composing longer works. It can help propel the music forward in a structured way. That said, this had some good harmonic changes that kept the piece moving and you transitioned between them smoothly, which means you're probably further along than you think! Nice job and welcome! Oh, and it's easier for people to give you specific feedback if you post a pdf of a score along with the audio file. The we can cite measure numbers and notes more easily. (:
  14. 2 Questions

    Yes, I agree with the comments above. One more tip... if you want to write unmeasured music for a group, you can do it, but provide some markers that can be referenced in rehearsal: rehearsal letters or rehearsal numbers. That's helpful for solo pieces as well, so that a teacher can discuss the work with a student. "Just after rehearsal one, where your line ascends?" "Yeah?" "You played a D natural instead of a D flat. Circle that in your score please." If you want an unmeasured section followed by a metered section in the same piece, be sure you mark the measure number of the first measure that returns to standard meter, or people will waste a lot of rehearsal time trying to figure out where the conductor is when he/she asks the group to start at measure number ___, particularly if the measureless section crosses a page turn. The less conventional something is, the more you have to anticipate questions that may occur during rehearsal. (I'm looking at you, editor of that Holst piece we performed last season who just didn't include sign posts in a 15-minute work, where the conductor, choir, and orchestra members all had different pagination in their scores. Ugh. So much confusion and wasted time trying to figure out which bar we were all starting at.)
  15. Restrictions of Language in Vocal Music

    Yes, you can absolutely combine languages. There used to be very strict rules about how text was used that came from church leadership. Since the church was the main patron of choral music, (they paid the composers), they could set whatever rules they liked, and to the church, clarity of the text was very important. Mozart was fired from his first church job for composing a work with too much counterpoint, which was felt to be sacrilegious because it obscured the text. Haydn was rebuked for writing a mass that "telescoped" the text. (Different sections of the choir sang different sections of the text at the same time. It gets you through the long, wordy, but required sections faster and makes it much more fun that it usually is, since your ear is trying to follow all four choir sections at once). But those rules have long since gone out the window, and now you can play with text to provide rhythm or texture without every word being perfectly distinguishable. We've discovered that, yes!, the human brain really can sort out multiple lines heard simultaneously, and that people usually find it very fun. The fact that audiences are now literate and you can print all the words in the program also removes some stodginess about clarity. If someone misses a word here or there, they can read the whole text during intermission. John Rutter uses multiple languages simultaneously in his "Mass of the Children." The Gloria movement has an adult choir singing in latin while a children's choir sings the same text in English. The Dona Nobis Pacem finale movement has the adult choir singing the traditional "Dona nobis pacem" latin mass text, while a soprano soloist sings an adaptation of a 5th century english poem, and then the adult choir sings the "Agnus Dei" part of the latin mass text while the children's choir sings a second poem with an english text by poet Thomas Ken. Here's a link to a youtube of the finale. It's a bit long, but you might find it helpful. If you want to pull something like this off, repetition can be your friend. Repeat each line from the text several times, so that the listener can take their time figuring out what's going on. "Oh! These people are singing "Dona nobis pacem," over and over, and these people are singing, "Christ be with me in my waking and my sleeping, Christ be with me in joy and in sadness." Or whatever it is. It can also be helpful to have noticeably different musical functions for each vocal section, to help the ear make sense of it all. Maybe the basses are singing in one language with a very repetitive rhythm, while the sopranos a more melodic line in a second language. Maybe one section is singing long, held, whole notes while another section has running eighths. There are no rules and you only know something works or doesn't by trying it. You can try recording yourself speaking the rhythm of all the parts in Garageband or a similar application to see if you can still understand everything, even if you don't have the range to sing all the parts. (:
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