Wednesday, 11 April 2012

What I Learned this Semester

    I feel like I learned a lot this semester, mostly due to the challenge to expand our music harmonically, more away from conventional tonality. I also learned a lot about focusing on one idea, and making pieces sound less sectional.

The major challenge of this semester has been writing for Concert Band. This was the first time I had ever written anything for a ensemble so large, and It felt like a pretty intimidating challenge. Overall I feel like I did a good job at it, especially for my first piece for the ensemble. I enjoyed it quite a bit once I got used to it, and wouldn't hesitate to do it again.

I had a great semester, thanks all you guys for your comments and suggestions.

Extending ideas

                  One significant contribution to finishing my piece was extending a few sections, that were too short. One being the triplet section, and the section with a of winds interacting with each other.

extending each section wasn't too difficult, it just took a lot of restraint to stay focused in the idea, and not begin another idea.

In the triplet section I did change the patern of the triplets from just two notes, to some times running up the scale  before returning ot the pattern, and each instrument has this variation at a differetn time, so there isnt really any point when all you hear is the two note pattern.

finalizing piece

          When I was writing the last minute or so of the piece, it was a little weird to just be using previous ideas and trying to bring the piece to a close.
          Using all my previous ideas even more than I had makes it feel a lot less creative, however it's so much easier to write, and makes better musical sense.
          I was just trying to return to original ideas and gradually let the euphium solo come back but I interupted it with a sudden tutti ending.

Wind Ensemble reading.

         The reading was very interesting. Especially since I had forgot to print off one of the parts and had to do a lot of running around and rushed printing.

          In terms of sound, it was a little different than I expected, and parts that I wanted louder were more quiet. However upon hearing it played I ended up preferring the way the balance was when it was read rather than in the midi. Overall I didn't change anything that I had already written, but the reading definitely changed how I wrote after the reading.

Composer vs. Performer

            Last semester the Wind Ensemble played a piece by John Mackey , called Xerxes. In this piece there was a bunch of percussion parts which used some traditional instruments for us, but also some interesting colours through placing a bell plate on a brake drum etc. The piece itself sounds awesome, however there was something that turned me off from the composer. That was the paragraphs which were directed to my part specifically about how I HAVE to use the SPECIFIC instruments he listed in the parts, and went on to say what I SHOULD NEVER use as a substitution. I normally wouldn't really mind this but he used a lot of caps lock words and was so specific it just sounded rude. Upon reading this I showed someone else and they told me a story where the composer was listening to a band play this piece, and they had used one of the things they were told NOT to use because they didn't own the instruments specified. He spent the first ten minutes freaking out at the percussion for not listening to his instructions, even though to a listener they probably wouldn't notice any change in the sounds.

         To me this feels inappropriate. Of course the composer has the right to want a certain sound and not another, however they should be a little bit flexible when the performers don't own the specific instruments requested. On the opposite spectrum I am playing a piece for Vibraphone called Drifts by Steve Kastuck. In this piece a lot of the notes are only the note heads, leaving the performer to play whatever rhythm they want. From another composers point of view this may seem as lazy, or not knowing what you want to hear in your piece. However what I enjoy about this piece from a performers point of view is the freedom I have to do whatever I want. It's also exciting to hear how other performers interpret the piece, which creates a lot of incentive to listen to the piece many times, cause it'll be a little different every time.

        As  a composer I do feel like I should be as specific as possible, but I also feel that you can't get too upset when people interpret your piece differently than you envision, and this doesn't mean that you failed as a composer. as a listener I find it exciting when piece lend themselves to interpretation, so they always sound a little different, and remain interesting every time you hear the piece.

Monday, 2 April 2012

  One thing i have been wondering about recently is when someone suggests you change something about your composition, but it is one of your personal favorite things about the composition. In this I am in no way saying that the advice given is bad, in fact I do realize that the advice makes a lot of sense.

 Now, just doing a school project this has no relevance to me, however I was wondering what people who are making their living writing music what they would do when the person who commissioned the work wants them to change something which they like a lot about the composition. I suppose in this case, you should try and make the costumer as happy as possible with the music. Though i guess if they have commissioned you then they tend to like your music.

  Then I think of composers who have challenged what music is, for example John Cage, who definitely had people who didnt like what he was doing, or schoenberg as another example. These people obviously had their supporters, or they would not have been as successful.

  I'm not sure why I wrote this here, but it was a topic i was wondering about, when someone who definitely knows more about composition, and is much much better, disagrees with something which you really like, how does someone know when to stick to their guns, or listen to someone who knows more than you and has more experience.
One of the comments a few weeks ago on my Band piece was about slowing down then tempo of the euphonium solo at the beginning of the piece, as well as creating a arrival point at the end of some crescendos that, seemingly go no where.

What i did about this was essentially follow those suggestions quite strictly. I did slow down the euphonium solo at the beginning to 80, where as before it was 100. This end up giving the solo much more weight, and underlying tension. In regards to the crescendos, I did at a down beat in the percussion as a arrival point for the crescendos.