Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Things to Consider when Composing (outline for 9-part series)

     This is a handout prepared for my introductory composition class, posted here in case anyone might find it useful, or have any suggestions for improvements. Its main objective is to provoke thought about issues that come up when composing, and to engender discussion on these issues. There are usually no right or wrong answers to the questions posed, but some may find benefit in considering and debating them.

     Here are the 9 sections, and how they break down; each is a separate blog entry:

I.  Originality and Quality of Initial Musical Ideas
     1. The quality of ideas may not matter very much in determining the quality of the complete composition that emerges from them; and
     2. The degree to which these ideas are original may not matter very much.  Shocking, isn't it?

II.  How do you Develop Compositional Craft?
     1. Study the music of others.
     2. Compose as much as you can.

III.  Getting a Better Understanding of your Musical Idea
     1. Live with it for a while.
     2. What's it about?
     3. Does it change character?
     4. What is its function within the context of the piece?
     5. Structural Analysis.
     6. Harmonic (or Pitch, Scale, etc.) Analysis.

IV.   The Pros and Cons of Development

V.  How to Extend or Develop Musical Materials; Specific Suggestions

VI.   Balancing the Old with the New, the Expected with the Unexpected

VII.   More Dichotomies to Ponder…
     1. Less is more, vs. More is more.
     2. Always leave them wanting more, vs. Give them what they want.
     3. Don't treat the listener like an idiot, vs. There's a sucker born every minute.
     4. There can be 'too much of a good thing,' vs. If you have a good idea, then stick with it!
     5. The George Costanza approach.

VIII.   I think my idea has run its course. Now what?
     1. The three models for composers' roles.
     2. Mastery or Mystery?
     3. The value of a plan.
     4. Getting stuck, and possible workarounds.
     5. Don't obsess!
     6. Challenges = Opportunities for inspired solutions!

IX.   Taking your inspiration from wherever you find it

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