music composition

The last day of the Christmas holidays in London was unexpectedly sunny, crisp and breezy. After the departure of some visitors, my husband Robert and I were about to go out for a walk and some tea and cake, when he suddenly pointed to a patch of light on the wall behind me. The reflections from the garden of waving branches and the wrought iron of a clothes post were casting flickering shadows onto the wall in an astonishing fashion, almost like a silent movie. Robert grabbed his iPhone and captured some video. “You could use that for a film-poem, “ I remarked, thinking about the beautiful short videos some friends had made recently.

When we got home from our walk, I began improvising to the footage on the piano, while Robert, listened and wrote.  Within twenty minutes, we both had something. Remarkably, when Robert read his poem aloud, it was exactly the same length as the video footage. He recorded it, using the free application Audacity, and then I recorded my part onto a different track so that we could experiment with individual volume and color.

I’m not a recording engineer, but I know what works when I hear it. In this case, I knew we needed to take the ‘edge’ off the sound on both tracks. It took a little while to find the right effect for the piano part. It wasn’t until Robert added a little reverb that it harmonized with the imagery. It sounded as if it had been recorded many years ago in a dusty, cavernous ballet studio on a slightly tinny upright. Perfect. [···]

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(Improvisation Journals, Budding Ideas, Blossoms and Bouquets)

Last month I talked about students making improvisation journals to jot down their musical ideas. Paralleling the creative process to stages in development of flowers and bouquets, ideas were offered in these areas (see Blossoming Improvisation – Part One dated 9/25/09) :

  • Preparing the Soil for Creativity
  • Planting Seeds (motifs).

Today I want to talk about the remaining three stages in my flowery discussion of creativity:

  • Budding Ideas (phrases)
  • Blossoms (sections)
  • The Bouquet (the composition)

Budding Ideas (Phrases)

In this section, short motifs from the “Planting Seeds” section (see Part One of this series) will be expanded in to phrases. The motifs may be used as “take-off” points, or combined to create an interesting theme.

Since a phrase is a musical sentence, it needs to have a beginning, and build through the middle to a period or question mark at the end. The picture of a rainbow shape is a helpful analogy of a phrase shape. Though all phrases do not follow the same melodic and dynamic shape, the rainbow shape will ensure nicely rounded, successful phrases for introductory purposes. Once this is achieved, turn up at the ends of the phrases to create question phrases.  [···]

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