Jump to content


Old Members
  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


siwi last won the day on April 26 2018

siwi had the most liked content!

Community Reputation

170 Excellent

About siwi

  • Rank
    Intermediate Composer
  • Birthday 11/21/1987

Profile Information

  • Gender
  • Location
  • Occupation
  • Interests
    Cello, long walks, cooking
  • My Compositional Styles
    A sort of 'romantic modernism'
  • Notation Software/Sequencers
    Sibelius 5
  • Instruments Played
    Violoncello, piano, organ, viola

Recent Profile Visitors

3,971 profile views
  1. STOP! There is no such thing as a universal, archtypal 'Sonata Form'. The best we can say is that there are 'sonata forms' but even this is not accurate and 'sonata theory' is the furthest most academics will go. Do not go looking for a formula that all sonata movements are based on, because there isn't one. The idea of the sonata is a theoretic notion which is used to analyse a hughly diverse body of works written between about 1730 and 1950 and is based on what people had already written, not the other way round. Nobody devised a sonata form plan and then composers started using it as a handy cheat sheet to write pieces. It should be seen at best as a very general guide as a basis for analysis, with the expectation of some major deviations from the formula. There are absolutely no rules regarding what a sonata actually consists of. There are 'sonata' movements from the time of Haydn and earlier which have only one subject, miss out the development, recapitulate on the second subject area, have three subject areas, are split over several movements, have all the subject areas in the same key, have the development in between the subject areas, have interludes which are nothing to do with the other subjects, introduce new material in the recapitulation, use key relationships other than tonic-dominant, anything you can think of. Please do not think you can work out the formula and pin your own ideas on it to create an instant masterpiece, this has been tried by many and nevitably leads to dry, academic music that is predictable and uninspiring. As a more opinionated coda, I really feel that the sonata idea in all its forms has little more to give to composers and we should all be working towards devising new original forms of our own.
  2. Hello all, I am putting the finishing touches on a work for solo cello which utilises several extended techniques and have been struggling to find a suitable Italian term for one. The passage in question requires that the bow be drawn over the strings with less than the usual pressure so that the sound is thin and glassy (mostly upper overtones are heard) rather than the normal full tone of the instrument. It is supposed to be in the usual part of the string and not close to the bridge so ponticello would not be the correct term. Flautando came to mind but I have always understood this to require playing over the fingerboard and producing a pure tone rather than the slightly scratchy effect I intend. Can anyone suggest anything? My best attempt to coin a term is graffiato but would prefer to use something more widely understood to mean an specific technique. Attached is a sample of what I am trying to describe.graffiato sample.wav
  3. It's the convention amongst both professional and non-professional orchestras, at least in Europe, to assume divisi unless otherwise stated in the part. You need to be aware of this as a composer. The most experienced twentieth-century composers were careful always to clarify divisi or not, and in many scores it is obviously impossible to perform all the parts at once. Chamber and solo music, of course, is another matter.
  4. The thing is, individual percussion instruments seem technically easy until you factor in the likely performance circumstances. The reason a guy gets paid the same to hit a triangle a couple of times to the other guy playing his violin non-stop for two hours is that the triangle player is also being trusted to count massively long rests accurately, stay alert during long periods of rest, and move around the stage. Not to mention that he also needs to play marimba, snare drum, toms, bells, possibly timps and piano as well in his job role. Mastering the instrument is only half the work, and the learning curve of musicianship is equally hard for everybody. Any small child can bang a tambourine but how many can bang it with perfect rhythm and nuance for an entire piece?
  5. I don't want to sound presumptuous but your plea seems worryingly close to 'please provide a handy formula I can apply to generate some decent-sounding music'. This is not how composition works and we certainly don't write great music using formulas, ever. The best I can come up with is learn how to self-study. As you admit to knowing nothing about the mass besides the texts, your first line of attack should be familiarising yourself with as many extant musical examples as possible. Ideally sing some masses yourself, or failing that, listen to the works of others with scores. As for writing in the Renaissance style: firstly, seeing as there is a massive body of work from this era already, how much of a point is there really in doing so other than as a study exercise? Secondly, the fact you are only using 2-3 voices but having an organ makes a significant departure from the sixteenth-century idiom already, as most music from this period was unaccompanied and used a minimum of four voices. More interesting would be to combine elements of Renaissance music with minimalism and other styles, but again we come back to knowledge of repertoire and techniques. So start listening!
  6. Not to mention that unless you are specifically composing electronic or electro-acoustic music (for which very different samples and knowledge of production are needed), live performances/recordings have the added benefit of contact with real players who can offer advice on writing for their instruments. This is better ear training than even the most venerated instrumentation textbook. If you play piano, try and get together with others to play chamber music, or at the very least go to as many concerts as you can. My usual caveat that this, like most aspects of composition, takes years of work to build up, goes without saying.
  7. I echo the above post: please do not try and write a symphony straight off, you will give up in a few weeks and fall out of love with composing. I'm looking at PhD composition and have not yet felt ready to take on a symphony - whatever the word actually means in modern composition. Start small and you will feel like you are progressing. So what would be a good path to take? Piano is on the right track, but you should learn an orchestral instrument too and join an orchestra as soon as you are technically able to (what did you play in the concert band?). This will give you familiarity with the repertoire, knowledge of how to deploy the different instruments and hopefully some friends who can play your music. I would recommend spending some time on traditional methods of theory such as chorale harmonisation and figured bass. Whilst they may seem completely irrelavant to modern music and the style anachronistic, they actually remain the most valuable starting points for the composer even today. In particular, they will encourage you to consider the indicidual 'horizontal' lines of a texture and not just the 'vertical' chords. Too much film and TV music today is just based on overused sequences of chord-chord-chord-chord with equally cliched rhythmic devices to keep it moving and no interest in the individual parts. That's the main difference in 'sound' compared to classical concert music which isn't just an atmospheric accompaniment but a self-contained work. Play through scores at the piano. You will take apart the orchestra and see how different sections and instruments can be combined. Finally - take an interest in contemporary music, whatever that means to you. I come across far too many people who think they want to be composers but won't listen to anything that isn't a product of eighteenth- or nineteenth-century cultures. Copying the stye of Bach or Mozart to learn the basics is fine but you should think about developing an individual voice as soon afterwards as you can. However, don't fall into the trap of thinking you have to sound like Schoenberg or Philip Glass to be valid either.
  8. You've fallen for a common myth. The piece Bartok was actually satirising is part of Lehar's The Merry Widow, supposedly Hitler's favourite opera. Although the Shostakovich theme contains descending scales these are halfway through the melody and there are only two of them. Bartok's joke dissonance clearly follows the phrase struture of the Lehar and includes the whole melody, as well as making far more sense as a satire. Anyway, to address the subject, I'd have to vote for Thomas Ades. Proven in every genre, he is consistantly interesting, inventive and able to re-invent his music. That doesn't stop him from being an iconoclast, but it doesn't matter because the quality of the music is so high.
  9. Tokke indeed covers most of the points. Most orchestration books worth their salt have a chapter on laying out score and parts, and for the real engraving details books like Behind Bars are a must. The presentation of the music makes a real impression on the performers and we can instantly see whether we should trust the composer/arranger and what knowledge of our instrument they have. One thing which may be of comfort is that any decent conductor will get the score in their head before going anywhere near the first rehearsal (even a read-through). So you won't need to concern yourself with providing a score that they can scan in detail whilst waving the stick, as this is done beforehand at the piano or desk. The players, on the other hand, may well be literally sight-reading. Hiding staves that contain instruments that are resting is a good idea in scores (Sibelius has a function for this) as it means only things that matter appear on the page and can save space and create clarity. Lutosławski and others used a 'scrap-book' layout where only the actual bars an instrument it playing in are shown and the rest hidden on the same page, which is suprisingly clear.
  10. This has been asked before, but still useful to hear thoughts. I recognise many things that others have related here. I can, when neccessary, force myself to come up with ideas. Some of these will be formulae for generating ideas that I have devised. Sometimes I will think about an existing work and try and recompose it in the style of myself so that it becomes a different development altogether. But where there is sufficient time, I like to begin just by thinking about the sound of the ensemble or instruments involved and devise a gesture accordingly. If I wish to write a piano work, what sound or features would I like to include in the piece? Does this provide an opening or should it come later? Can I think of other ideas that will work with the first to create a series of 'hit points' that define the structure of the piece? Now go to the piano to try them out and then notate on Sibelius. Again the works of others can be a stimulation, to adopt a gesture or timbre from, but the majority of features do end up being original. Once a few ideas are in place a better idea of how to connect them needs to be thought about and so the piece takes shape. The playback button on Sib/Finale has been highly contraversial but one thing it will always provide is a rendition of the structure of a piece. A lot of time is spent refining the proportions of a work, whether more or less music needs to be added to any particular place to improve the direction and balance of the music. I hope to recommence formal studies next year and one thing I am keen to test whether I should adjust my process to produce stronger works. At present i sometimes feel as if I concentrate too much on creating quality ideas but am not judicious enough to deploy them as well as I might. In particuar, I find it very difficult to set aside good ideas for the sake of the work's coherance, and often move things around that I should just remove. I think I have got better at this from a few years back and can spin out fewer ideas for longer in a more convincing way, but still would like to improve further.
  11. You're aware that most European states (okay, so not Greece) will offer anybody with sufficient qualifications from free state education a place at university either through a student loan or, better still if you're Scandinavian, state funded right up to doctoral level? Money is not really an issue until it comes to getting work out of it. 'Talent': along with 'tolerance', a weasel word for our times. Means somebody who is percieved to possess a special superpower in some kind of entertainment form, this resulting from varying ratios of successful study to the ignorance of the observer. Anyway, to address the point, I find a deliciously postmodern thing to do is to intentionally set out to sound like somebody else and then, well, distort it a bit. Mahler was already doing this with all the 'horror marches' and 'broken waltzes' in his symphones (Charles Ives too, but in a different way), and the Second Viennese School then carried on the experiments via Shostakovich until we arrive at something like Berio's brilliant Sinfonia and avant garde works using 'found' materials. I'm starting to find that my compositional mission is very much involved with re-casting past forms and ideas into modern 'clothes'...
  12. No, this is absolutely not a contrapuntal piece. It is still regularly moving block chords with a bit of consonant decoration in the mix. Contrapuntal music inplies that all the lines are of equal (or nearly equal) importance to the texture*, such as is found in Bach and some Steve Reich pieces. To be honest, if you write in this style, which is essentially the same as pop music, it's very difficult to produce true counterpoint becuase you will always have a bass and harmony notes however much movement you add to disguise them, and have all voices playing chord tones all the time. Getting away and creating a genuinely new textures from this involves having harmonic movement unconstrained by the barlines. *Properly contrapuntal music is as much about rhythm as pitch.
  13. Berlioz had mastered the flute whilst still a teenager and could also play the guitar reasonably well. Wagner could play the piano at least well enough to demonstrate his scores to performers, and was also a proficient conductor, something all aspiring composers should also try to get experience in. John Mackay's music is reasonably proficient and well-written - clearly playable - but also rather conservative and not particularly distinctive in the way it uses the instruments deployed. His lack of performance experience in the ensembles he writes for shows somewhat: as well as demonstrating rather 'textbook' orchestration and inexperience with strings (too often 'stacked' rather than written in most advantagous registers, next-to-no bowings, assumes basses have a C extension, etc). He even admits in the blurb to one piece that he didn't realise that drumsticks shouldn't be used on timpani, something which all orchestration books point out and which the 'ear' of somebody used to hearing timpani in an orchestra would probably notice.
  14. 'Discourse' is certianly a highly important element in a composition, not just for the structural unity it provides but for facilitating much of the engagement with the listener. As far as I can see, the most successful works of the contemporary canon are those which address the latter purpose, whilst not simply parodying the eighteenth- and nineteeth-century dramatic elements that performed this function. Where works become weak is if other, more decorative, features overrule the discourse, or if the composer is too inexperinced or technically deficient to realise a coherant narrative. What's interesting is that this premise doesn't exclude serial, atonal, electronic works etc from being successful according to these terms, provided the composer can handle the elements and provide some subtitute for common-practice melodic and harmonic features (or else adapt them satisfactorally to the new style). Schoenberg was very aware of this, and it shows in almost all of his early atonal output. The main mistake of the later twentieth-century composers was to presume that even a highly-developed musical ear would be able to perceive highly complex structures. Essentially, art must contain drama to engage, even if this is at the most subtle level.
  15. Being able to play at least one instrument to near-professional standard. There has been no great composer who was not also a capable performer.
  • Create New...