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Question about composing a piece over a poem (Your insight is much appreciated)


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Hi, im a college student mayoring in music composition. This year Ive been attending a class about composition over poetry. The thing is this class was not very good. Most of my college mates agree that most of the time in class was wasted, and that the professor we had wasn`t very good and had no idea how to keep us engage (unlike most of our college professors).
Anyways, this professor insist in the importance of keeping the stressed syllable in a strong time (first or third beat) everytime. I consider this is a very generic way of working over a text. Sometimes in music you can place a "stressed" note or chord in a weak beat, and then release the tension of that note or chord on a "strong" beat, than in this case will sound softer in comparision. 90% of Mozart`s cadences work this way. If this can be done with "instrumental" music, why can`t it be done with a piece that includes text?
I have to comply to my professor demands in this regard and place every stressed syllables in strong beats in the works im presenting to him, but I doubt this rule has to be abided every single time. Id like to know the opinions of other composers who composed vocal pieces. Is my professor %100 right or is there room for this rule to be broken?
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That sounds like an intro class thing. For things with a tetrametric hypermeter (4 stresses per double period), that's generally a good rule to follow, but like you say it's not mandatory. Your professor is likely just making sure you have a general idea of how to text set rhythmically, which is perfectly reasonable, imo, before you get more in depth. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

It would be helpful is to know what examples he used to back up his argument. But to me, music that is tightly coupled to a text effectively becomes a song, in that the same rules apply, as your prof points out. Faster tempi more so than slow. Emily Dickinson more than e. e. cummings or prose poets. Poetry is a vast area. I wrote some music for a Langston Hughes poem and the treatment did follow the strong and weak beats. If you want to go against this, you would need a good reason.

Edited by Ken320
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