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Everything posted by siwi

  1. Perhaps it would be helpful to consider all your interests as being outlets of the same creative impulse. It's much better to have something on the go that you want to do at a certain point than force yourself to compose because you feel as if you should give priority to one discipline or artistic medium. Unless your project is actual work with a deadline, composing should not become a chore and you should only come to it when you have something you want to write and feel ready to do so. Often, taking a break can be helpful to step back from something. I always have a few weeks of the year when I don't practice one of my instruments, so that when I come back to it for a new project it feels fresh and my ear is more ready to analyse how to improve my playing. I think it would be more worrying if you felt you had nothing to say or no ideas for new projects.
  2. This is actually a very good thing to be asking about, as any kind of transition can be a difficult undertaking for even relatively experienced composers. (Personally, I think the reason why this is so is that 'classical'/'art'/'concert' music is a discipline that generally elevates the process of development across a temporal space, and the dramatic success of a piece within these parameters depends on how well linking together developmental ideas is handled, but this is a topic far beyond the scope of answering this question). At the risk of stating the obvious: transitions range from the very subtle (two subsequent melodic ideas, in the same key and tempo in the exposition of a Mozart symphony) to the highly dramatic (the first movement of SIbelius' Fifth, which over 15 minutes masterfully changes from a slow and mysterious landscape to a breakneck tutti). Likewise, the methods of achieving them are varied, from gradual change to a sudden contrast. My feeling is that to the listener a successful transition is one that bridges two ideas by mixing elements of both. Study some minimalist piece for one method of doing this: the composer will often change one element at a time until after a while the music has moved away from the original idea. Note that this does not necessarily mean a complete change: some element such as tempo, underlying harmonic rhythm or pulse rhythm may remain the same. Of course a lot of what you can apply from the repertoire depends on what style you write in: the transition techniques of the baroque would not necessarily suit an impressionist work, nor those of high romanticism an electronic serial piece. One thing I will say is that writing in a style which generally has a melody-and-accompaniment texture may make the task harder because of the expectations created in doing so. It becomes more difficult to use textural, motivic or timbral ideas, which can be a valuable resource, if you have set the music up as always having a tune on top. The other reason is that a tune presents the danger of being too 'stable' an entity to continue the piece from with any interest. Remember that the most destructive thing in maintaining the flow of piece is if it feels as if it has ended or come to a point where the material sounds settled enough to make it sound stalled. You need to keep some element of tension going to prevent the drama from being resolved and continue the piece. (Stravinsky's jibe that 'too many pieces finish too long after the end' is highly perceptive). One of my favourite things about Holst's Jupiter is that he doesn't bring the big tune back at the end. This is because it would upset the rest of the movement to have to transition into it again, as had he done so he would be backtracking, which would destroy the dramatic arc of the piece. If I may, I would like to point you towards this workbook by a Canadian composition professor, Alan Belkin. Ideally you would start from the beginning, but Part 5 will be of particular interest as it sets several exercises in transitioning between ideas. There is also a section worth reading on his web guide to composition. https://www.webdepot...DF/FormWKBK.pdf. This also ties in to my final piece of advice: practice makes perfect. Not just as a beginning composer, but always. Personally, I always try to avoid using the same methods twice, instead I seek out new ways of solving a particular problem.
  3. Dunno...spam is generally intended to sell things: Marzique I think is doing the opposite for his music.
  4. Should be alright as long as the celli shut up - you could have them muted of course, and mark the bass up one degree of dynamic. And there are no rules against dividing the celli into three (or moving between two and three); plenty of examples from the repertoire although be careful of having so many voices in a low register to avoid muddyness. There is probably no need to double anything at the octave in this register.
  5. Yeah, this is a bit of a silly question. All the instruments on your list (arguably all instruments, full stop) have a different timbre. There are some that can be used as acceptable substitutions (xylophone for a string pizz., Eb clarinet for high flute or trumpet) and a list of these are suggested in Blatter's Instrumentation and Orchestration. But the reason why the orchestra is made up of so many different instruments is precisely because they offer so many different timbres. The ensemble which comes closest to homogenous tone is the choir, but even then there is variation between voice types.
  6. Wait, this is too much fun to abandon this soon... The kazoo-ness of Flanders and Swan The Python-ness of Monti (yeah, see what I done there, huh? HUH!? Yeah, A-grade, yo kids can't touch dis shiz) The Repetition of Philip Glass The Prokofiev-ness of John Williams The Rotary-Wing Aviation of Karlheinz Stockhausen The Repetition of Philip Glass The Sequinned Glasses-ness of Elton John The atonal serial technique of Schoenberg. Schoenberg of technique serial atonal the. eht lanota euqinhcet fo grebneohcS. grebneohcS fo euqinhcet lanota eht. T shtnss o Wbern The (almost) certain dead-ness of Elvis The Siderial rocking of Bill Hailey The Repetition of Philip Glass
  7. Inching ever closer towards completing my cantata. Less than five minutes to write now.

  8. I think some things in a composition can be attributed to a composer's personality. Haydn liked practical jokes and, sure enough, there are plenty of those in his output ranging from the obvious to the very subtle. Bach's religiousity is evident in several features of his compositions, as is Bruckner's and Messian's, manifested in different forms. Puccini's liking for fine living is reflected in the luscious orchestration and expressive vocal writing in his opera. Composers who are also expert performers will demonstrate a particular approach to writing based on their ideas as a soloist. We can't attribute everything to a certain personality trait, indeed there are many aspects of composers' techniques that often seem to contradict their personal characters, but neither can we ignore it. With regards to myself, I see several traits I am aware of in many of my compositions and in the process of writing them. A meticulous approach to some areas (orchestration, interpretative markings) is tempered by a tendancy to rush into an important moment too quickly and to have to go back and flesh out the approach to make it more effective. Another is my vital need for the parts to be interesting for everybody concerned. I can't stand anything cliched or predictable, and so I try never to write a boring, unimaginative, disposible or thoughtless passage for any of my performers. I think a certain intellectualism manifests itself in the amount of counterpoint I try and incorporate into a piece, and also that I like to end works quietly, so the listener is guided towards contemplation about what has been presented and not just made to acknowledge the end. This in turn is tempered by a need for drama and dramatic contrasts.
  9. Do you people really think that all the virtuoso harpists of history haven't all considered exactly the same thoughts you're writing here? Don't you think that if what you are suggesting were possible, composers and performers would have exploited it by now*? Harpists don't use the pinky. Ever. Believe me, I know several pro-standard harpists well. This has nothing to do with the strength of the fingers but simply the fact that if the hand is playing a chord involving the fourth finger the little (pinky) finger could barely reach any further. Whilst it may seem that the stretch is easily acomplished on the piano, that is because a pianist presses keys with the hand horizontal. A harpist, on the other hand, plucks strings with the hand held vertical. The angle of the wrist, fingers, and all the tendons and joints connecting them are at a completely different angle and as such the little fingers becomes dramatically less useful. The harpist cannot stretch the hand as much due to having to reach round the strings to pluck them. Not really, just get used to it. All the harpists I know can sight-read these complex enharmonic spellings because it's standard practice. For a pianist who doesn't play serial works, maybe not. You could in theory adjust one pedal from each side simulataneously but this will risk dropping the harp, which players understandibly don't want. They are pretty quick at pedal changes though. Not quite sure what you're saying here; the harpist needs both the finger/thumb and the soft part of the hand in contact with the strings, so to play three harmonics at once is very difficult indeed, almost impossible, and the notes would have to be on neighbouring strings. Don't write more than one for each hand at a time is the best advice.*Actually, several composers including Vaughan Williams, who should have known better, have tried to write 5-note chords for harp.
  10. If you have any amateur ensembles in your area that might be willing to perform things (perhaps in exchange for a favour or a small fee) start asking around and write something within their ability but which shows your compositional technique for them. I would not expect the conservatory to require professional-quality recordings (or perhaps I should?) so a single microphone set-up or iPhone would probably do. I've just looked at the USC website (not the best to find invididual faculties on, I have to say) and wonder if you're appliying for the Composition programme or the Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television programme. Based on your eventual goal, the latter might be a better choice, and for thisMIDI recordings are permissible! I do agree that this requirement is faintly stupid. There are pro composers who only have MIDI demos of orchestral works on their sites because there has been no means to get a recording made. Unless you are already a published composer or have access to a willing amateur orchestra or group and can get them to give up the time to rehearse and record your piece(s), there is going to be little chance of recording any music for more than a few players. I can understand why they want to hear things live, why they want a variety of orchestrations, and obviously performability is going to be taken into consideration, but surely any composition professor worth their salt will get a reasonable impression simply by looking at and playing through the dots? Can't these people score-read? I also find it difficult to believe, unless the course is over-subscribed and places are very competitive, that they have the time to actually listen to everything they get sent. I think it would be a much better process to submit scores with optional recordings and an appraisal from a current teacher.
  11. Well, fair enough if you never intend to use real instruments, but it's disappointing that you've decided to pick yourself up and carry on walking having stumbled across a brilliant opportunity to increase your knowledge and skills in using the orchestra. If something sounds right, then it is 'done properly'. We can suggest repertoire examples and guidelines for treating any particular problem but after that it is the composer's choice how to proceed. Please eliminate, by extreme force if neccessary, any notion you may have that us 'classically trained' musicians have a Big Book of How to Do Things the Good Ol' Fashioned Right Way whose sacred and indisputable text we regard as law during acts of creation. You will be judged for not doing thing properly only if what you write sounds naff. Please could this work ethic extend to spelling and grammar?
  12. Well, fair enough if you never intend to use real instruments, but it's disappointing that you've decided to pick yourself up and carry on walking having stumbled across a brilliant opportunity to increase your knowledge and skills in using the orchestra. If something sounds right, then it is 'done properly'. We can suggest repertoire examples and guidelines for treating any particular problem but after that it is the composer's choice how to proceed. Please eliminate, by extreme force if neccessary, any notion you may have that us 'classically trained' musicians have a Big Book of How to Do Things the Good Ol' Fashioned Right Way whose sacred and indisputable text we regard as law during acts of creation. You will be judged for not doing thing properly only if what you write sounds naff. Please could this work ethic extend to spelling and grammar?
  13. You'll want to read this then: http://ostimusic.com/blog/music-publishing/
  14. That's not what I said. You seem to think I am trying to dismiss 'surface style' as trivial and distracting from deeper levels in the composition. I'm not. In fact I am strongly opposed to over-analysis of music and the idea that it could be taught and appreciated via an analytical approach that ignores the emotive aspects of a composition. The surface 'sound' of the piece is in no way a trivial aspect of the composition and composers should not expect to produce an original and coherant creation simply by conforming to some meta-structural theory. I resolutely don't hold that 'the actual sound of the piece is second to the theoretical principles'. My point was that too much emphasis is placed on dividing up works based on the surface style without appreciating that they may have other aspects in common.
  15. How much orchestration have you done before? Debussy piano music is hard to orchestrate well, partly because he did it so well himself and because it's all piano music and not just music for piano. There is so much that is so closely tied to keyboard technique that you will have to work out different ways of doing for an ensemble. I would strongly reccomend practicing on another piece less specific to a solo instrument if this is your first go at orchestrating for a large ensemble. Range considerations are pretty peripheral difficulties to such a project, if I'm being frank. Debussy usually transcribed for a standard orchestra, but you can write for any combination of instruments and transpose as neccessary. I've heard his music for harp, sax quartet, string quartet and string orchestra, all adapting the original with reasonable success. But simply copy-pasting what is on the piano staves into orchestral instruments will not create the same effects. With bass instruments your scoring choices for a particular note have to take into consideration the resonance of the piano and the effect of the sustaining pedal. A loud note in the low register of the piano, for instance, will have a sharp attack followed by a reverbaration and decay that can only be partially replicated by the contrabass, tuba or drum or a conbination of these. Conversely, a short note at the start of an arpeggio is often transcribed as a long held note with a decrescendo in the basses or celli with a pizz. at the start, to replicate the sustain pedal. These kinds of tecniques will only be revealed after careful study comparing his transcriptions with piano originals. Chamber ensembles will offer potentially an easier time in performance as there will be fewer problems co-ordinating complex rythms. However you'll have fewer colouristic resources to use and again possibly issues replicating piano-specific effects. And if you can get this performed or rehearsed at all it will teach you a lot. Sibelius and Finale do not offer feedback. As I said earlier, I would strongly reccomend not choosing this piece as a first project. Do something like Tchakovsky's Album for the Young or Kabelevsky pieces to get used to handling an ensemble transcription. Make versions of the same piece for different groups. The Debussy is an advanced project that will provide a rewarding challenge once you are more experienced.
  16. I couldn't agree more. Far too much aesthetic emphasis is given to elevating the surface style of music - or indeed any other narrative artform; cinema, literature, even painting - above other deeper elements that are often more fundamental to making music music. Specifically, what a piece sounds like has only a limited role in defining its worldview and aesthetics, and often has the irritating side-effect of pigeon-holing it under some vague term as 'classical', 'romantic' and so forth. I've said this before but there are certain deep aspects of music that are common to almost all works even beyond the western classical tradition. Obviously we are writing in precisely this tradition and so can widen our aesthetic Venn diagram to include only things fundamental to it alone, but the point remains. What this means is that whilst they may sound very different, that squeaky modern piece you heard last week might actually have a lot in common with a Mozart quartet. It's of limited use to seperate the two in terms of compositional tecniques just because one is atonal and composed on a computer program and the other is based on decorating a functional harmonic pattern with a melody (if this is even how we should analyse Mozart). Perhaps finer study might reveal structural similarities, or that certain devices both composers use are intended to have the same effect or the same function, or even that the 'intensity curve', the narrative of the piece, is very similar. Another way to think of it is with a diverse group of dogs. They may all look very different - big, small, hairy, cute, aggressive - but they have a common ancestor and over 99% of their genes will be identical. So it is with music. Fundamentally, the elements that affect the listening experience are the same. What varies is the composer's choices regarding the deployment of these elements, for which there is great scope. What does this have to do with formal training? Firstly, it should be the responsibility of every composition pedagogue to emphasise this more fundamental aspect of musical creation and to regard surface style as being only of arbitrary interest. It is also as bad to only study the most modern avant-garde music as it is to ignore it completely. I remeber putting my hand up in a composition seminar entirely devoted to contemporary works and asking 'Is there anything we can learn from Haydn?' and getting a funny look and some dismissive answer from the lecturer. (Luckily my next teacher was more broad-minded). Teachers should ensire students see and understand as diverse a range of music as possible and most importantly introduce the idea that the vast majority of it is still relevant to the contemporary composer. Secondly, avoid labelling more than is neccessary as it will comporomise this view and encourage the student only to write in a 'contemporary' idiom (for which read a contemporary surface style). If I write a completely atonal piece using electro-accoustic overtone analysis but arranged the material in prototypical sonata form, is it a 'classical' or 'modernist' work? To ask the question 'why do all modern composers write is a modern style' is disingenuous: the answer is, they don't. What they do do is write using ideas and techniques borrowed from other musicians according to their own aesthetic choices, the end result of which eventually is labelled 'modern'. That should be your training.
  17. With an orchestra voice-leading becomes more complicated because you suddenly deal with 20-odd different instruments, all with a different tone and dynamic curve rather than four voices all with a (nearly) homogenous timbre. But as long as the orchestrational effect is coherant and the most important lines are the clearest there is no prohibition on crossing of voices. Voice-crossing in vocal music is generally avoided for practical reasons - it is more difficult to sing when the position in the texture suddenly changes.
  18. Could somebody Schenker johnbucket's piece, I'm having difficulty finding the Urline amongst such a complex web of motivic development...
  19. YouTube is an absolute godsend for finding new music, and by 'new' I also mean music from history that is new to me because it is obscure. Stuff copyright, I think it's nothing short of a public service that people are taking the time to upload their record collections so we can all hear pieces we wouldn't otherwise knew existed. A couple of suggestions that haven't already been mentioned: James MacMillan is a Scottish composer who works as a Catholic church musician. A lot of his output therefore is of choral music, both accompanied and unaccompanied, but he also writes symphonies, concerti and chamber music often as commissions from noted performers. Worth checking out are the percussion concerto 'Veni Emmanuel', the Symphony No.3 and the SInfonietta and Tryst as well as his motets. It's all quite approachable and often presents a modern twist on traditional British folk music. Thomas Ades is a bit of a controversial figure: as well as a composer he's also a fiendishly capable conductor and pianist and so sometimes gets derided for being flashy and all about style over substance. He notoriously wrote an opera, Powder Her Face, which depicts fellatio during its telling of various political scandels in the 1980s. However he is also capable of writing wonderfully tender moments in things such as the Piano Quintet, Tevot and piano music inspired by John Dowland. Again lots of big-name commissions. Kenneth Heskith (another contemporary Brit), Witold Lutoslawski (died 1990, Polish modernist), Kaia Saariaho (electro-accoustic music from a school known as Spectralism) and Sofia Gubadulina (pupil of Shostakovich) also worth checking out.
  20. When the ghost of Mozart shakes your hand and tells you 'Bravo! Ihr Stück ist würdig durchgeführt werden in einem Konzert!'
  21. Is that the brief for your film score? I seem to remember them being a little more detailed than that, with hit points at time markers in the score which you were expected to co-ordinate the music with. To be honest I would advise just watching film and television to get some ideas. At A-level they're not loooking for anything blindingly original; rather you should just demonstrate that you can write something that illustrates the required scene.
  22. Not much to add to Tokke's comments, other than to reiterate the importance of doing things for free to improve your craft and make connections. Also as important, as far as I can see, is being known as a performer. There are a lot more opportunities to be asked to play than to write, but if you make friends through your playing it gives you a base. All the arrangements and compositions I have been asked to write have come from people who knew me as a performer before they learned I was also a composer. If you're good at one there is a degree of expectation that you will be good at the other. Competitions are another way in, again as they give you a base and something to back up your abilities if you win or are commended. Some even have a recording and/or publishing prize which will be a massive boost to your career chances. I can't say it often enough though: connections are the key to doing anything in music. You need to make as many people as possible know who you are, what you do and how good you are at it.
  23. A diamond-shaped notehead is not the correct notation for a natural harmonic. What you have written here are artificial harmonics which will sound two octaves above the pitch of the normal (lower) notehead. Natural harmonics are notated by writing a small circle above the note to be touched lightly. They can only be used for notes within the harmonic series of the string, but the same harmonic may be available in several places and it is generally best to let the player work out the most practical string on which to play each one. Artificial harmonics touched at the third and fifth are not as successful on the cello as on the violin and viola. The passage you show is just about playable but quite difficult. If you mean to write artificial harmonics here, the player must move their entire left hand to a different position for every note and be able to tune it accurately.
  24. If you're an absolute beginner, don't spend too much. Stentor or Chinese-made student instruments will do fine, you're not going to be playing the sort of repertoire or have the kind of technique where amazing tone or a careful set-up matters, rather you just need a reliable and sturdy instrument to learn basic technique on.
  25. I don't think this is really an issue with contemporary music. By the middle of the twentieth century composers had pretty much exploited the abilities of every section of the orchestra equally (witness the massive expansion of the percussion section under Stravinsky, Varese, Messian and Lutoslawski amongst others) and brass were no exception. This saw new approaches such as using a few brass soloists in smaller orchestras (Webern's orchestration of the Bach Ricercer), external brass groups with an orchestra (Ives, Janacek) and things such as simply not just using the brass section as noise-makers but using every dynamic level. This is not even to mention the many extended techniques that have come from jazz and elsewhere. If you look at some contemporary orchestral works or even more mainstream music such as film scores you will see the ways in which the brass section can be used nowadays.
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