Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Reflections on Class

The reading for the Ora Ensemble piece is tomorrow, which clues up this 4100 class, as well as my last composition course of my degree. I'm kind of sad about that - while I'm a Theory/Composition major, the new curriculum will allow Composition (no theory!) majors to study composition every semester. I feel like my writing has improved a lot just over this one semester, so imagine having four! It looks like it'll be a great program.

Although the character pieces were fun and a good exercise in piano writing, I think the longer, one-movement piece has been a challenge and a good learning experience. I recognize that one of my weaknesses as a composer is developing my ideas into a coherent form. Upon listening to recordings of some of my older stuff (older just being a year or so old!), I've noticed that ideas are often underdeveloped and things frequently sound fragmented. With a push to fix these things, I've become more aware of them, and as a result am writing with a bit of a different process now. I try not to just fill up the page with things that I think sound cool. Instead, I'll start with a single idea and try to draw most of the rest of the material from that idea. I'm very thankful for this progress!

Composition seminar has been invaluable for my progress this semester. I'm just a little sad that I don't get to come back!

Monday, 2 April 2012


What am I listening to? Hildegard Westerkamp

I think I may have a title for my piece finally. I kind of feel like pieces named in different languages are a little pretentious from an English-speaker (unless there's non-English text), but I do feel compelled by this one. And it wouldn't be the first time I was called pretentious sadly... haha.

I'm leaning towards calling it "Drei". This means 'three' in German, which is appropriate because of the recurring triplet motif.

But why in German?

"Drei" is pronounced like the English word "dry" - which I feel also applied to this piece. The sparse textures, the repeated attacks, the sharp and pointy articulation.. I feel like "dry" is an apt descriptor.

Now just to print and bind!

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Almost, almost!!

The end is in sight!

Coming in at 4'42", there are no more bars to be added in my Ora Ensemble piece. I just need to add in a few more articulations, dynamics, and just do some minor minor tweaking to the fast part (probably just adding some crunch to clarify the downbeat in the piano.)

I'm very excited about the upcoming read. I'm hoping that if it's recorded, I'll be able to use it for a future "portfolio item." I'm hoping that despite the rhythmic interplay, reading from parts will still ensure rhythmic accuracy. I'm sure reading from the score would be useful but it's too clunky and impractical.

The only thing that's proving tricksy is the title - nothing is leaping out at me. Here's hoping to inspiration on that front before Wednesday!

Friday, 30 March 2012

Cluing up..

I presented again today in class, and it looks like my piece for the Ora Ensemble will be finished by the end of the weekend (although I'm sure adjustments and tweaking could go on forever!) I'm looking at it right now and although it's always fun to be writing, sometimes putting in that last bar just feels awesome.

Class feedback has been so useful for this piece.. I really feel like it has come together in a large part due to constructive comments. I got some good tips for the "climax" of the piece - the trill is a good way to add tension, but it originally only lasted two bars and didn't actually swell to the arrival. It was also suggested that the piano and flute keep their interplay, and increase the rhythmic interaction between them to the climax. With these edits, this section is already sounding much better and clearer in intent.

Off to do some finishing touches!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

To recap...

After some more edits to my piece, it looks a little different than before! I've expanded the opening section with some motivic development, voice exchange, and sequencing, and I've brought back thematic material from this opening into the second, faster part. I also expanded a development section to try and have a "climax" in the piece that would be easy to come down and resolve from; I got the comment that it seemed like it was going somewhere but then never did. I got that feeling too - it would be nice to have an especially exciting moment or something.

It's sitting at just over 4 minutes now; I feel that it's definitely winding down and will end soon, which is good - the deadline is drawing close!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

A New Piece

What am I listening toMoondog

"I'd like to believe, that when he was 16, he closed his eyes, and fell in the most weird, bizarre and beautiful dream."

After deciding to write for band and the Ora Ensemble simultaneously, I know that the chamber group is definitely more in my comfort zone and will be the piece done first (and likely better.)

I brought the first 1'30" to class, and the reception was actually pretty good (which was nice!) I'm trying my darndest not to abandon ideas after introducing them so that the opening section and the second dance-like section are coherent. I think that is mostly effective. I got some very useful comments, including the unidiomatic repeated triplets in the piano. I've changed them to octaves and other intervals in a (mostly) unpredictable pattern. That was another comment - repetition can lull an audience, so I should let even repeated/accompaniment figures grow and develop. The first four measures of the new tempo were commented on as being unrelated to the rest of the material; I've incorporated a little later in the piece, as I kind of like how it sets the tone of the dance section by introducing our key-ish centre with intensity - before it, the piano is silent and it really has a "bang" to it (or so I think!)

Right now the piece is sitting at 2'50" and has a required time of 4'00. I think I can expand it to fill that requirement, and I'll definitely have a return-to-the-beginning type ending that is slow and atmospheric, so that should help with that too. Maybe it's just that my attention span is short, but I like shorter pieces and writing shorter pieces.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Self Promotion ?

What am I listening to? Feldman and Joanna Newsom

Achievements can be hard to talk about.

I can't seem to shake the feeling that I'm being obnoxious or boastful if I mention a success. It's almost like it's a dirty thing to be happy about something good that's happened to you.

Likewise, I also find it hard to do self-promotion (ie, come to my concert!) I don't know if this is something everyone struggles with, but I do know that it's a necessary evil. If we don't vouch for ourselves, who will? It is somewhat in our hands whether we're successful or not, and putting yourself out there is the first step.

What does that mean for people who feel a little more introverted? I didn't always feel that way but when it comes to talking about composition, I do find myself very shy in front of groups. At my composition recital, I was more nervous about the whole "opening spiel" than anything else. To be fair, everything else was out of my hands and in the (very able) hands of the performers. I can't help but feel that talking about what I write is very much "talking myself up" and it would be great if I didn't feel that way.