Tuesday, April 13, 2010


my chamber piece for piano, vibes, and 2 vlns is complete. I'm happy with how the final section turned out, it really unified the material and made it seem like a functional piece of music as opposed to before, when it just resembled a bunch of related-ideas placed together. There is an introduction with a slower tempo that accelerates into the first main section, and I used that intro material to develop in the climax of the piece. It has melodic/rhythmic fragments from the slow intro, but since it remains in the faster tempo, it feels closely related to the other material as well. I also gave it more of a pushing-forward feel with the harmonic decisions I made, and so the material flows quite nicely for a while - this is a nice contrast from the unpredictable and sporadic nature of the previous sections. After this more sonorous and fluent section, a suprise transition back to some staccato figures from before build into the final chord, which (as per usual) has a comedic and insincere effect... this suits the piece, and I do enjoy music that makes people (me) laugh, but someday I would like to write something that is a little more "serious"....

Monday, April 5, 2010

final project almost there

some technical suggestions last week helped me tidy up my piece a bit.. putting vln 2 below vln 1, playing around with different 8ves as opposed to unisons between vibes and piano, etc. I am also aware that I'm moving around a few different key centres, but I don't have a specific plan on where/when I'm doing so. I've been throwing in some wonky variations of V-I and moving a lot of motives up or down by whole-tones, but it's mostly just been spur of the moment decisions. Since I still have a couple of minutes to go, it would be good to graph out the key centres and see where it would make sense to go next.

I was thinking of having some sort of rondo form, but since my material is sporadic and all over the place and rondo form has specific key areas, I better not limit myself to that... the only rondo element is a recurring A section, so I guess you could say my piece has a refrain. As of now there is intro-A-B-A'. I think for the next section I'll try to develop the intro material and then go back to A one final time... I think there's enough material present now that I just need to develop it rather than come up with new ideas.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

final project entry #2

Today I presented a rough sketch I have for the introduction to my final piece. I wanted to have a slow introduction with small fragments that jump out and hint at the sporadic nature of the mid-section, and eventually start an accelerando that speeds up to the faster-tempo middle section. Some ideas here seem to work, but others need some fixing. The transitional chord I chose to accelerate on creates an alternate texture previously unheard, and my intention was for it to be very tense and create a desire for resolution. Everyone seemed to find it had the opposite effect, and wanted to hear more within this idea. I'm unsure how to treat this now, because harmonically I feel that the chord I chose to speed up on needs to go right into the mid-section. I'm thinking that this texture, along with other ideas in my introduction, can all be expanded upon a little bit. Perhaps if this texture is introduced earlier, on some other chords, then when I bring it back again on this transitional chord it will serve the purpose I initially intended it to (leading into the mid-section).

I also took Josh's suggestion from last week and had a tutti approach for my intro, where all the instruments are present in almost every measure. The middle section is also very active for all performers, but the material is clearly grouped into instrument pairs (vibes+piano, vln+vln). Dr. Ross suggested maybe a lighter approach to start the piece, and I may try to incorporate this. If I can start out with thinner texture, then build into pairings of instruments, and THEN maybe build into more of a tutti approach near the end where all 4 instruments are working together, the piece would have a constantly growing texture within its form which could definitely work. We'll see what happens!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

chamber piece

I'm a bit behind, but I've got my piece for a small chamber ensemble underway. The instrumentation is piano, vibraphone, and 2 violins. Suggestions in class yesterday gave me a lot of ideas of the sonic possibilities with this instrumentation, and how I can apply them in the overall structure.

All 4 instruments have the ability to play very percussive/dead sounding notes, or sustained notes (pedal vs. no pedal, bowed vs. pizzicato). The glissando effect on violins can also be somewhat imitated by bending a sustained vibraphone note, as I found out yesterday. The material I have so far mainly pairs the violins together, and the keys instruments together, playing mostly stacatto notes in a sporadic, almost pointallistic way. Some good ideas thrown my way were to keep this theme of "pairings" present throughout, but mix them up (vln +vibes, vln+piano, etc. ) Playing with the attack of one instrument and having a nother instrument provide the sustain (sharp, staccato piano attack with sustained vibraphone providing the echo, for example) was an effect I hadn't thought of, either.

Structural suggestions were helpful as well. The material I have does not seem to be introductory, unless this were a short, character piece. I think it would be more effective mid-piece, as a contrary mood to whatever precedes it. Josh suggested using a tutti approach at the beginning, perhaps something semi-cacaphonic but somehow fitting all 4 parts together, and then maybe I can break into the sporadic feel out of nowhere... I think that would work. I also like steering away from the pointalistic stuff very briefly, with a singing melody over sustained pitches or something, and then going right back into the more sparse material... so I'll play with that idea some more too.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I have an idea started for my third piece, and Andrew Staniland + class helped me with some great suggestions of how to finish it. It is a very driving piece, mostly straight 16th notes with lots of open sounding intervals/sustain pedal, meant to be very washy at times, but also very rhythmic. I am trying to keep the driving feel throughout, but changing the rhythmic emphasis as harmonic changes occur so as to keep it interesting.

Some suggestions: m.4 has an accompanimental figure of simply 5ths and 8ves, with a pretty melody on top.... taking those melody notes and fitting them into the accompaniment gives the part a lot more color! something to keep in mind if similar figures occur
- a lot of 3+3+3+3+3+3+4 and such rhythms occur (in 4/4), I could come up with some sort of numerical system to decide the rhythms OR the intervals for me
- the idea of a "blur" at some point in the piece, where so many notes are played very fast and loud, with the sustain pedal all the way down (maybe moving up a chromatic scale), and then slowly lifting off the pedal to reveal the original theme in a new key area. I think this will sound great in the context of what I have so far!

As with most of my pieces, I'm going to keep the rhythmic element a very key component in the compositional process... I now have lots of ideas on how to do this!

Newfound Music

I always enjoy Newfound Music day, and the concerts that accompany it. This year was particularly enjoyable!
The two presentations that I chose to write about were "Inner Space/Outer Space", a presentation about the Sound Symposium, and Derek Charke's presentation on "Sound Ecology".

I am vaguely familiar with the Sound Symposium, and it was great to get an inside scoop of 2008's festival. I've attended several and even performed in some "Night Music" events at the Ship, which are sponsored by the Sound Symposium, so I knew that sound spontaneity, improv, and new approaches to music and art are the basic approaches involved. 2008 had a theme related to geographic locations, how they can affect sound, and the way we perceive it. Concepts such as a "sight-specific" piece (where the composition was intended to be executed at a certain place and certain time), and an individual's "sound biography" (referring to all the sounds one has heard in their lifetime, and the emotions and memories we then associate with such sounds) were new concepts to me. Watching several performers set up experiments of music in strange locations, or having pieces entirely dependant on the participation of the audience were interesting as well.

The idea of Sound Ecology was very intriguing to me as well. I've done a fair bit of processing and messing around with recorded guitars/percussion that I do at home, and in electronic music class last year, some other random noises I created... but capturing the wide array of sounds that occur in nature and using them as a basis for a composition was something I had never thought of. Taking the crunch of someone walking through hard snow and looping it to create a driving rhythm sounded amazing, and layering this all to a tape and then playing flute over it was something Derek did in some of the concerts.. GREAT STUFF!

Monday, January 25, 2010


I received more helpful suggestions for my second piano piece. I'm not entirely sold on my harmonic material, I was mostly trying to organize a fragmented rhythmic approach into a cohesive structure. I think I achieved this, and it was said that this piece worked in its short length. That said, there are a few key musical events that could have went on slightly longer to further emphasize what I was trying to do with them:

The first page jumps between 2 ideas, and each idea is often displayed in a slightly altered manner, such as having 1 less beat or 1 more beat in the measure. Other than slight rhythmic variations, the only other changes are in register. Some felt this should be expanded in length a little bit, and in doing so I could add some more interesting notes, since I felt the harmony here got a bit stale after a while.
Later in the piece there is a more open-sounding section, which could easily be expanded some more and would make more sense if it were slightly longer, especially if the first section is expanded.