Sunday, December 12, 2010


This course marks the end of my composition courses at memorial. When I started by taken Mus. 3100 over a year ago, I couldn't have imagined the music I would create over the next year or so. This really gives meaning to what Dr. Ross always says, that like anything else, to get good at it you just have to practice. I am thankful for the opportunity to be able to present my ideas to my classmates and get feedback in a comfortable environment.

Since last fall, every moment of my spare time has been occupied by composition. I continued to compose music during last Christmas, throughout the summer as well. The more I composed, the more music I listened to to steal ideas from, the more I realized what type of music I want to compose, the better I would become at composing.

While it is very sad that I may never take another composition course at memorial, I am relieved for now to not feel the need to compose any music (for a little while anyways) and I can just relax and maybe play music for a little while (something which always gets tossed to the back burner).

pressure vs. compromise

This final piece for this course has taken it's toll on me. I was very pleased with the work that I had done and the way which the piece was unfolding. it felt very natural and cohesive to me. I loved the way it felt like impressions were being put on the listener and nothing concrete was really played with the clusters. However my satisfaction with this had raised the bar for what would be to follow it.
I've worked very hard on the following section, and went through many ideas that just didn't seem to work. This would normally just be a matter of time, and working through for me. Normally when faced with this problem I would take a couple of days to come back fresh to the piece and see if I had any new ideas. Time in this case was something I didn't have. Therefor I had to just keep working away on it.

Ultimately, to fix this problem I made a slight compromise. I do enjoy what I have composed for the following section, however I know it is not as strong as it could be, however time dictates all. I do plan on coming back to this piece in the near future and making major revisions.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

New Adventures

This past semester I am thankful for the progress that I've made in my composition. I feel like I'm developing somewhat of a voice with the music I write. The funny thing is, is that I am able to hear the relationship with my music in all of my compositions thus far, even though they may be totally different works.
I believe the music I write is getting better, however I still feel rather conservative with my writing. I wonder if breaking down those barriers is something that takes time to achieve. That seems to be the way in which it has been working for me.

When I look back to my first project in 3100, my character piece for glock and piano, it is atonal however still very consonant. This is logical I guess, I always strive to create something that is pleasing to listen to.

My attempt at writing a band piece last year in 4100 was my first attempt at handling dissonance. And ever since I've been introducing it a little more. I guess I'm still figuring out the most tasteful way to use dissonance and have it be pleasing. I respect when music can be highly dissonant but very pleasing all at the same time, however I have been unable to do this to any great degree at this point. I guess it's something I'm still striving for.

Monday, December 6, 2010


For this song I decided to use a set of my own lyrics. I'm not sure if it's a good idea or not, considering I do not consider myself a poet by any means, however my reason for setting a text which I wrote myself is solely that there is something very specific in which I wanted to convey with this piece.

When dr. Staniland presented his piece for voice and cello, there was something very grabbing about it. The poem had such emotion and passion. It led me to think that hey, I haven't felt that passionate about anything in a long time...and as a matter of fact, passion that intense doesn't seem to be apparent in our society today. The more I thought about this the more uncomfortable with the notion I became. My thoughts as to why people in our society lack this passion is because we have been given everything we need. We are able to live very comfortable lives, thus meaning that we dont have to fight for the rights to live comfortably, and when you get everything you want, you appreciate what you have less. This leaves our society content and probably with the feeling like we shouldn't have to work for things we want.

This mindset for me has changed a bit and I believe I have a more realistic, less polar view on society now. However I do feel it was important for me to get myself out of the complacent mindset which has dominated this semester. It is also an uber romantic notion, over the top kind of view on things.

Couldn't hold on

to a dream where I felt

that there was something within me

that cared for all the things

that I'd been given

and I fell from the warmth

to the cold of the certainty

as I'm stripped of the sheets

and tossed into complacency

I am no poet by any means, however I feel very strongly for what I have written, and I believe that using this to express myself will result in something a little more meaningful.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


The comment from class the other day that really struck a chord with me was how the sections in the piano interlude seemed to be a bit random. I felt that the material I had presented was totally organic and all related. In a way it was I guess, however I made no plan with this piece at that point. I just played something I liked on the piano and expanded on it very freely. This was the first time I had composed this way in a good while....and for good reason (har har).

I think sometimes the best thing when writing a piece is a set of fresh ears. I would just get very into composing at the time, and I was just trying to make very beautiful sonorities and build and release the tensions gradually with the addition and reduction of notes and registers. This did give me some nice material, however form, and other technicalities (such as the piano register with the voice) were tossed into the ocean to be forever forgotten about.

With the new understanding of this, I went back and decided I needed some unifying factor, some compositional device that I will use if I get stuck. Since I had random accents, I decided to use prime numbers to decide where to place these accents. Each accent falls on the 2nd 3rd 5th or 7th eighth note of the measure. Each following measure would be decided on the previous, therefore the second measure can only have an accent on the second eight note because it is the 2nd eight of the measure, however it is also the 11th 8th note of the whole piece. HOwever I would not be able to have an accent on the 13th eighth note of the piece because it is the 4th beat in the measure which is not a prime number. Once 3 Measures has past I repeat the process.

This was one instance on how I want to use prime numbers. I don't stick to that method strictly for musical reasons, however it does generate a cool rhythmic feel. It's funny, it just so happens that my intervals are also based on prime numbers, (3rds, 2nds and 7ths). These intervals are the characteristic intervals of most of the chords I use, however they are fairly standard. It's no surprise either that the intervals I do use are prime, because only 2 intervals inside the octave dont have a prime number.

Either way......I plan to use this element to unify my whole piece, and use prime numbers to develop larger structures as well, and what I have revised so far I am so much more pleased with. The material is the same, just arranged a little differently so I am very happy with the outcome of Friday's class.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


After finishing the scores to send to the ECM, and many sighs of relief, I began to reflect on the process that was composing this piece. The realization came to me a little late that notes weren't enough. Pitch and rhythm don't make music. In fact there's music out there that disregards both (maybe not so much rhythm, but pitch). So what does this leave us with?


The discovery of this came after the fact that most of my piece was completed. But I now know and see how much a gesture can effect the music that precedes and proceeds it. It has so much to do with the mood and the tone established, that the notes are not as important, and with these things we get closer to what we want to convey....musicality.

I now feel silly looking back on my other compositions with how little direction I have given the performers. I am thankful that my works were not performed by robots and that the performers were able to interpret what they thought I had wanted instead of play the expressionless notes that I had written. My intent has to be in the score, and every note needs direction, a way to help determine the phrase.

If nothing else, I am happy to have had this experience if for nothing else than to realize the amount of detail I was neglecting in my composition.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stuck Like A buck in a truck

Many times when composing things will be going great until the section I'm working on ends, or an idea just runs out of steam. That' s where I am now. My ideas in the way they are presented have got me in a bind. I feel like I am in a creative bind and I don't have the problem solving skills to get me out of this bind.

Normally when I'm in this position, I listen to as much new music as I possibly can and see the way in which those composers treat their material. The main things I listen for is not so much the way that they develop their ideas, rather the way they introduce new material, or use old material in a new way, and make the cohesion of this material with the material already present in the piece.

Presenting my work in class, it seems to be an attractive piece with good ideas, however I feel like my development of the ideas thus far, has been weak. If my piece were a buffet, I merely walked down the serving table and looked at everything, rather than took anything on my plate and ate it yet. I think this may be an interesting formal design, where I could spend the rest of the piece developing these ideas and concluding it. Or this could be a terrible idea, considering I am stuck and cant find direction, and I should probably go back and develop my ideas before leaving them so quickly.

What to do....what to do.....