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Discussion: September-October Competition, 2013

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Note: This thread is for discussion only. Do not sign up to be a judge or an entrant in this thread; do not post pieces in this thread. - Changes will be made as issues come up. Keep in touch with this thread.

 

(By popular demand, pitch-class sets won't be the topic of this bimonthly competition. If anybody would like to make an alternative competition dedicated to pitch-class sets or something related, feel free.)

 

Topic: Compose a grand weird waltz. - You could dip into odd time signatures (5/4, 7/8, and so on); use strange orchestration and uncommon instruments; difficult rhythms, so long as the 'waltz feel' is there; the waltz could allude to other composers, like Schanni Strauss (it's the Waltz King's 188th birthday this October 25th), Stravinski (it's been noted that this year is the 100th anniversary of The Rite of Spring: a 'Rite Waltz' could be a subject of composition), Shostakovich (it's that composer's 107th birthday this September 25th), etc - let your creative juices flow and use your own musical judgment for what would make an interesting, weird, unique, and unexpected piece of music. - It should be noted, too, that the deadline (for Americans and Britons and maybe others) is Halloween: the piece could be made weird in that light, though it's not an obligation.

 

Guidelines:

  • Score required with audio presentation (electronic or acoustic): without both the entrant will be disqualified.
  • Any instrument grouping acceptable.
  • 10min time limit; can be multi-movement or -part, but keeping the collected time under 10min.
    • While being multi-movement or -part, the waltz should amount to being a single, unified piece: rather than having multiple disparate parts or movements, they should move into each other or be alike to one another as to seem to be a continued and continuing narrative. A single piece.

Scoresheet:

  • Creativity: 40pts.
  • Structure and Coherence: 20pts.
  • Instrumentation: 20pts. - Judged not only on how well the instruments are composed for, but how interesting or weird the instrument selection is: Composing for solo piano, for instance, wouldn't be very interesting; composing for prepared piano would be more interesting.
  • Score Quality: 10pts. - Are the pages cluttered and difficult to read? or is there too much whitespace? Unneeded clashes between notes and other markings; effective use of accidentals; effective use of dynamic and instructional markings; etc.
  • Audio Quality: 10pts. - Is the volume too high or too low? (Note for entrants: listen to the recording with and without earphones and try to come to a volume that's bearable on both.)

(Points above [in total out of 100pts] are given at the judges' discretion: for instance, with Creativity an entrant can be given anywhere between 0-40pts. Points below are given in full if conditions are satisfied; otherwise no points are given.)

  • Live Performance (given atop the points for audio quality): 10pts free.
  • Theoretical Analysis of the Piece and/or Program Notes (on a separate PDF from the score): 5pts free.

 

SIGN UP HERE TO BE A JUDGE OR AN ENTRANT

 

Judges (four limit):

  1. Morivou
  2. danishali903
  3. Igor Livramento
  4. Open (filled by the moderator)

Entrants:

  1. Austenite
  2. Sonataform
  3. NRKulus

Post Entries Here

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'Write a piece using: two or three interacting sets, as long or as short as [the] composer chooses.'

You'll have to be a lot more specific than that, as pretty well every piece of music ever written (which uses pitched notes) would qualify.

Edited by p7rv

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You'll have to be a lot more specific than that, as pretty well every piece of music ever written (which uses pitched notes) would qualify.

 

It's not about 'pitched notes', it's about pitch-class sets - which, though related, refer to different things. Go to the links above to get an idea of it.

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It's not about 'pitched notes', it's about pitch-class sets - which, though related, refer to different things. Go to the links above to get an idea of it.

 

The point stands, almost every piece of music is based on a specific pitch class set/s. All common practice music would qualify, and 99% of atonal music would qualify. In fact, the competition would be more interesting if the requirement was to avoid using pitch class sets.

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Why does it feel like we keep trying to reinvent the wheel with these monthly competitions...? it just feels like after the last 2 competitions we'd do something a little more practical.  I don't know, just my two cents -Perhaps, I need to look further into pitch class sets and maybe then the idea might interest me.

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I'm not joining this anyway either as a participant or as a judge, and I don't want to be a spoilsport, but I agree with p7rv and U238. The pitch class set thing is just a fancy name for "modes" or "scales" you can get within the frame of the equal temperament, systematized through some mathematical concepts and notations that help with their classification and analysis of their interval structure. While not denying the usefulness of the pitch class theory as an analytical tool and as an aid to composition, the notion of "pitch class music" is too generic to be actually meaningful, since as pointed out, every music that uses the 12 equal-temperament tones would qualify. Unless you specify that other classes than the common diatonic/pentatonic or even 12 tone be used (or that the conventional classes can be used, but subsets that would yield chord structures other than plain triads), I'm afraid the theme of the competition seems pretty pointless, unless there is further clarification. I guess it has to do with the "interaction of two or three pitch classes", which I can only imagine being intended to sound at the same time so that the competition makes some sense, but still, any number of different sets sounding at the same time can be reduced to a single superset divided into that number of "interacting" subsets. If the request had been "one pitch class", the result would have been the same, because in order to work with one pitch class one must divide it up and use some other more or less related class.

 

I don't know, maybe I'm just missing the point. Best wishes for organizers, entrants and judges, anyway.

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It is not like the topic is terrible by itself; it is just that without more clarification, the "pitch class music" that can be obtained by systematic application of the "pitch class theory" can be pretty much anything from a Gregorian plainchant to an avant-garde serial music. I guess the entries are meant to be systematic explorations of different tonal systems other than the more common ones, be they tonal or atonal (even plain 12 tone rows should be considered standard and given low marks). The topic needs more defined conditions to be viable, that is all.

 

Some half baked ideas for this competition or for future ones:

 

- Hybrid composition: For instance, it could be a baroque dance suite where every dance is constructed upon a blues progression; or a pop song in sonata form, or an isorythmic tango or whatever strange combination of forms, techniques or styles the composer comes up with. (This topic sounded more interesting before I wrote it, but whatever).

 

- Kitsch composition: I think it was suggested by p7rv and did not pan out. It could be interesting.

 

- Generative systems: The definition and illustration of a generative system, instead of a closed composition. For instance, I recently imagined a simple system based on the Gray code, which is scalable, has a built-in climax, and can be used vertically and horizontally.

Edited by Sarastro

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Here's my idea that stems from Sarastro Generative Systems idea:

 

Create a piece of music based off a pre-composed set of pitches. Part of the requirement is to explain how you came up with those set of pitches.

 

In Sarastro's case he based it off the Gray code. 

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Actually, in my system, the Gray code was not used to derive the pitches, but to give the "structure". Any set of pitches (or more generally, sounds or rhythms or even algorithms or other generative systems could be inserted into the Gray code framework).

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Another simple "generative" experiment I did this Summer was based upon the mensural prolatio canon and isorhythm ideas. This system consisted of three components: a rule to more or less systematically derive different mensurations out of a base rhythmic sequence, a rule to combine those sequences horizontally and stack them vertically, and a systematic rule to assign pitches (or "pitch classes", if you will) to the notes. I did a demo of the system using the Frère Jacques rhythm and a very simple horizontal and vertical organization, with equally minimal pitch-assignment rules; the result with those particular was a percussive, demonic mantra chant of sorts...

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For some reason I'm unable to explain, the idea of building up a full musical composition based solely and exclusively on theoretical considerations leaves me absolutely cold. Of course I'm not saying others won't find anything of interest in exploring such concepts or else (more than a handful of of avant-gardists surely will), and it can certainly be useful as an exercise - but personally I don't think this will spark any desire of writing in me.

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Why does it feel like we keep trying to reinvent the wheel with these monthly competitions...? it just feels like after the last 2 competitions we'd do something a little more practical.  I don't know, just my two cents -Perhaps, I need to look further into pitch class sets and maybe then the idea might interest me.

I think the point (or part of the point) of the competitions is to get people to explore something different and move them beyond their comfort zone. Obviously I am disappointed that the last competition had only a single entry, but I'm not sure if that was a problem with the idea itself (maybe it was seen as too much work? Something else?) or because the site seems a little moribund lately.

For some reason I'm unable to explain, the idea of building up a full musical composition based solely and exclusively on theoretical considerations leaves me absolutely cold. Of course I'm not saying others won't find anything of interest in exploring such concepts or else (more than a handful of of avant-gardists surely will), and it can certainly be useful as an exercise - but personally I don't think this will spark any desire of writing in me.

 

I occasionally wonder if it would be interesting, but depending on how one interprets the idea, it seems unbelievably tedious. Serialists, though, would often talk about the freedom their system gave them to explore other aspects of composition--I dunno, maybe it's true.

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Obviously I am disappointed that the last competition had only a single entry, but I'm not sure if that was a problem with the idea itself (maybe it was seen as too much work? Something else?) ...

 

I was disappointed as well, since I actually thought it was a great idea and was initally very enthusiastic about giving it a shot. Unfortunately, it also required a few more spare nights than I could afford, and despite I actually beginning not ONE but TWO compositions, I quickly burned myself out of it. Perhaps if we had pushed back the deadline...

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If we were thinking of changing the prompt, and I may suggest a different competition, I'd like to propose we write a piece inspired somehow by "Rite of Spring". It's 100 years old this year, and within the public domain, so it's easy to look through the original material. Then, there's so many ways to take inspiration from, from quotes to plot to structure to tonal schemes. You can do almost anything with the Rite, as long as you explain what you did and how you got there. Is that any good of an idea?

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My suggestion, as before:

 

Compose and produce a live recording of a piece of any duration or instrumentation. You do not have to perform the piece yourself, but you should be personally involved in the recording process & any post-production you wish to do.

 

but i don't know what kind of criteria one would then use to judge the results

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I still think there'd be more interest in these competitions if we were allowed to enter pieces we'd written in the past! (not criticizing the system, just throwing it out there)

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To recap, here are some of the options so far:

 

1. Extend the Summer competition

 

2. Rite of Spring centenary

 

3. The proposed "pitch class set" thingy, but perhaps with more defined guidelines or just more stress in the "avantgardesque" angle.

 

4. Definition of a "generative system" (algorithmic, parametrized music and the such) with examples of some of the "musics" that can be obtained by using the system with different parameters, conditions, etc.

 

5. Composition and live recording of a piece of any style, duration or instrumentation. While I appreciate how this can push growth as a composer, for it will force them to write realistically for the odd resources they might have at their disposal (which can be a derelict toy piano curbed from the sidewalk, a kalimba tuned in G pentatonic that some relative bought in some exotic location and a cousin who can strum some chords on her guitar) it can also handicap lots of people and severely limit the participation...

 

6. Pieces written in the past. I don't see how this one could be a challenge, but I agree it can be appealing for people who wish more detailed analysis and feedback on old pieces they have written than they get from regular reviews and need an ego boost. Only, there should be some kind of pre-screening, tough criteria for admission or something to guarantee the submissions have a minimum of quality, lest the competition be flooded with tons of junk, and if there is not a theme, at least there should be categories (chamber, orchestral...)

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You should keep these competitions simple. For example, the last competitions that had more than one entry were generic.

 

"Write whatever you want for orchestra about some random mythological figure."

 

"Write whatever you want for some random solo instrument."

Edited by Thatguy v2.0

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You should keep these competitions simple. For example, the last competitions that had more than one entry were generic.

 

"Write whatever you want for orchestra about some random mythological figure."

 

"Write whatever you want for some random solo instrument."

Those are still too complicated. Why not just "write whatever you want" ?

 

Actually, we should perhaps launch a metacompetition :D

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Those are still too complicated. Why not just "write whatever you want" ?

 

Actually, we should perhaps launch a metacompetition :D

 

Aren't those the YC awards at the end of the year? ;)

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Why not just "write whatever you want" ?

 

I'm having a tough time figuring out how could judges give bad markings to that :unsure: ...

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I'm having a tough time figuring out how could judges give bad markings to that :unsure: ...

 

Well, that is in essence what the "pitch sets composition" is about. Unless you want to write microtonal music, music based on other tunings than the equal temperament, or music for non-pitched sounds, which are outside the scope of the pitch class set theory pretty much everything would apply, as a couple of members have pointed out ;) Of course, you would get bad markings if you fail to write the things you want (it would be up to the judges to determine if that would be the case).

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