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Leo R. Van Asten

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About Leo R. Van Asten

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    Soul Scientist
  • Birthday 01/27/1979

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  • Biography
    Composer, Pianist, Teacher
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  • Occupation
    Composer, Church Musician, Teacher
  • Interests
    Besides music, trains and Legos
  1. All I'm saying is that if you want the degree, that piece of paper that says you know how to compose, and if money is an issue, study where you can best study cheaply. If all you want to do is learn to compose well, hire a private teacher. What my friend was able to get was a masters and therefore, a step closer to a PhD and a collegiate teaching post. He learned what he could from that school and what they wouldn't/couldn't teach him, he sought elsewhere. He didn't waste his time because he wanted a degree as a stepping stone. If that is all he wanted, he got it...and good for him for getting it cheaper than elsewhere. You can always blow a wad of cash on a school that you want to attend if you are willing to take out loans. If you need to do it cheap, you have to do it cheap. What's the big deal?
  2. Last I heard, here in the US, a major key that has the same key signature of a minor key is called relative. (A minor is the relative minor of C major) Parallel keys have the same tonic. (C major is the parallel major to C minor)
  3. Keeping your focus narrow is a sure-fire way to be dissapointed. Cast your nets wide and see what schools will give you the most money to attend there and then study there. I realize the importance of getting along with a professor but I would suggest seeing what you are offered and then choosing the path of least resistance. A classmate of mine from undergrad went and did his masters in composition at a school that he couldn't stand. They offered him the most money and he wanted a degree. (He and I attended an intensive seminar two summers ago along with a few other classmates. He brought his masters thesis composition along for the sole purpose of giving us all a good laugh. He thought it was awful music but his teacher loved it! Atonal and a strange score with lots of pictures rather than notes.) Take what you can get, learn what you can, seek what you need, get the degree.
  4. Stephen Hough playing Beethoven's 5th piano concerto at an outside concert in Chicago last summer. (Not Ravinia)
  5. Oh...I see...communication and understanding without language. I'm going to try this for the rest of the day. Music not a language? In written language, we have symbols...lets call them letters...and they tell us what sound to make. In music we have symbols...lets call them notes...and they tell us what sound to make. In language, we have context clues that put a spin on other words. In music, there is harmony. In spoken language, we can use voice inflection to convey our point. In music we have dynamics, and articulations. The point of language is to communicate. The inflection which we end a sentence indicates what kind of sentence it was. (Question etc.) Lets call that a cadence. We have cadences in music right? You yourself stated that we as composers should find effects that we want to create and then try to create them ourselves. If the effects mean nothing, why bother? If they have meaning, they communicated a meaning to you. Communication is only possible through a 'language'. Beethoven demanded communication through music and even said that music had to power to convey what words couldn't. Mozart demanded communication through music. As did Bach, Chopin, Liszt et al. I am not suggesting that all music should be written to follow rules. Clearly that would be boring. One advantage of studying theory as a composer, however, is that you don't have to reinvent the wheel each time you want to achieve a specific effect. I can't for the life of me think of a significant composer through history that didn't have a fairly strong knowledge of theory. I could be wrong, but nobody comes to mind. Do the math on that one.
  6. SSC, in other words, it is OK to write in a language which you don't understand the grammar? As composers, we are free to write what we wish and to convey what we wish but this doesn't release us from the obligation to know where to place notes. This is something that a theory text book, or a good private teacher, can show. Also, how is one supposed to follow your number 2 instruction without knowing what it is that they are looking at? A strong background in theory can help a composer understand exactly what it is that makes something sound a specific way. Looking at a score and seeing a D major chord doesn't explain why it sounds like it does. Only when a composer is able to see it in context and realize that it has no diatonic business in the key of F major can a composer use the D major chord with the same effect. (Which, in my opinion, is a pretty cool effect.) Melville, I suggest finding a good composition teacher as well as a theory teacher to really get you through specific issues you are having. From what you wrote in your post, it sounds as if you could use work with harmony and notation of rhythm. Even a simple chart of note values would help with the rhythm stuff. If I misunderstood what you are looking for please ignore my suggestion. Conventional harmony may or may not suit you but like it or not, it is the root from which modern music grows, so either way you should know and understand it. I agree with SSC on the point of experimenting. But you have to have the fundamental building blocks to work with in order to understand why you achieved a set of results. This goes for tonal as well as atonal music. I hope this helps. Cheers,
  7. Yes, I have written 5 different settings of the mass. The state of church music at least in the Catholic realm isn't the best. There is pretty much one setting of the mass that is almost universally known. The problem with new settings of the mass is that in a church setting, very few people are willing to do/learn something new. So many church folk are too set in their ways to 'experiment'. In addition, there has been much talk in the past few years about changing the text of the mass parts so this would render present settings obsolete. Which also means that there could be a good sized market for new settings of the mass in the near future. I have no idea when the change would be made or where the bishops are in the discussions of this area. As of the last time I submitted masses to publishers, they all said that at the present time they weren't accepting submissions because of the impending changes. If you want to know about the sad state of liturgical music, simply poll the church musicians that you know. Look for common threads in their responses and set about to 'fix' the problems. Personally, I find the accompaniments boring and meaningless. That is my biggest beef with church music.
  8. The pentatonic scale was first found in a tomb from about 3000 BC (or thereabouts) in the form of tuned bells. The Chinese had created what we know as the major scale but they didn't care for the instability of the interval between the fourth and seventh degree (tritone) and so they eliminated it.
  9. So long as what you write enhances the intended effect, it doesn't matter what technique is used. The best way to see if you have achieved a given effect is to ask a non-musician. A composer should not do something without thinking about it. Trial and error is a good way to start and continue to write until you 'know' through experience what will and won't work. Beethoven sketched out the first four notes of the 5th symphony dozens of times to get it right. Despite what the movie Amadeus says, Mozart crossed off stuff in his scores as well in order to get it right. (Dover publishes a volume of one of the piano concerti as an autograph score that proves this and is rather inexpensive.) An audience will know when music is out of place...or goes on too long. The best people to judge music are the non-classicaly trained, because they don't get hung up on the technical side of things. Just the same as non-authors don't get hung up about the grammar used in a novel. (Well, Ralph, the whole book was pretty good but I can't stand your repeated use of the adjective 'dark'. Plus, your adverbs need revision and your nouns are horrible.) Someone who is a trained musician may be able to appreciate very strange techniques and the resulting sounds. In the broad scope of things (ie. the world) Trained musicians are a pretty small market to be writing for...especially if you want to make a buck at it. If you don't, write what ever you want. People (non-musicians) have a tendancy to describe music using phrases like, "This made me feel ..." "I didn't like this part because it sounded too ..." Often times, these blanks are filled with some kind of emotional response; happy, sad, angry, irritated, uncomfortable, joyful etc. Then, as composers, we need to check if that is what we were going for or not. If it is, congrats. If not, change it. When I tell my composition students to 'change it', they give me that dagger look that says, "How dare you tell me to change my work." I always tell them that the point of composition is to communicate. If you didn't communicate, you were unsuccessful and need to try again. The fact that they didn't meet the goal isn't a reflection on their mental capacity, just on that particular work. If a student got a math equation wrong, they must do it again right? No hard feelings. When a work is performed, the audience should be treated to a work so effortless to listen to, that they are transported to another place. If you use old techniques, new techniques, invent your own techniques, or steal techniques...that isn't finally the point. What the finished work is able to express is the final point.
  10. No. Mainly because I don't have decent recordings of the works. They all (with the exception of the operetta) have had great performances but no recordings. MIDI is horrible for playback and so I refuse to post that because it isn't a fair representation of the work. Especially when the work is setting a mood.
  11. I have written one musical theater piece, incidental music for two plays, and just finished (really late on Sunday night) an operetta. One of the most important things, I found, was to study the character I was writing for very closely. Then study the scene. Write music for the two. Understand the mood, understand what is to come (foreshadowing etc.) An audience will know the minute a work places a character out of character. Or a scene out of a scene. In the case of incidental music, the music is there to serve and help the flow of the show. If it doesn't, than it is creating more of a problem than helping and shouldn't be there. What I found worked the best is to have the text first. Write the melody and then the harmony and other parts.
  12. If you wish to study composition, I highly recommend working with Dr. Young at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. He is one of the three greatest teachers I've ever worked with. (The other two are his teachers.) In addition to composition and theory, you could study ear training with him. He is one of few teachers in the country who teaches the Ploger method. This is the best method I have come across for training ones ears.
  13. No, Tum. You didn't say that it wasn't a romantic piece. Someone else did but I threw in the food ref. for you. :D
  14. I have written a number of pieces of different levels for my piano students. Some very easy and some not so easy. Mainly solo piano but one for piano-4 hands and one for piano-6 hands. (That was for a family that took lessons from me.)
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