Community Music Center

Composition Workshop

 

This hands-on class explores general composition methods through a series of weekly, short exercises. In each class we discuss specific techniques and share/critique student work. Knowledge of music notation is not required, but notated assignments (in any manner) are welcome. Any level of music theory knowledge (or none) is ok, and students are encouraged to compose at whatever level they feel comfortable.

 

The goal of this class is to develop compositional skills by studying a variety of established techniques through listening and writing exercises. Class meetings will be a mixture of reviewing student work and discussing specific techniques. Students are expected to record and/or notate (via .mp3s & .pdfs, or links) assignments prior to each class meeting. I will post these on our class website unless you ask that I not.

 

In most cases your compositions will be short (i.e. 1-3 minutes in length) exercises that ask you to limit your focus to one or two specific techniques. Because of this, your "exercises" may not feel like "real" music–you may need to exclude (or set aside) ideas that you think "sound good" for the sake of accurately featuring the assigned technique(s). While this may feel challenging, down the road it could help you develop more discipline and productivity if ever you hit a writer's block within your creative process.

 

Ideally, to make the class function efficiently, you will email me your assignment by Wednesday afternoon. This will give me time to download/evaluate it before our Thursday night meeting. I will then be able to play your assignment in class.

 

 

Week

Topic  & Class Materials

(subject to change as the class evolves)

Assignment Due/ Student Examples

1:

July 1

Overview: compositional process; outlining and breaking down a composition into component

 

Composition Overview

 

 

***

2:

July 8

Imitation (as flattery) and derivation

 

Chopin: E Minor Prelude / Radiohead: Exit Music for a Movie (modeling the melody)

 

Field: Nocturne No. 8 / Chopin: Eb Nocturne (modeling the melodic leap and general texture)

 

Armstrong: What a Wonderful World / Mozart: Ah, Vous Dirais-Je, Maman

 

Beethoven: Symphony No. 7, 2nd movement / JK: Beethoven 7th/5th symphonies mashup

 

Diagramming and annotating an existing composition

 

Rich/Siberian Butterfly

Noah/Milk Man

Jonathan/SF Sorrow is Born

 

Andrew/Psycho Killer

Sabastian/Watermelon Sugar

Mac/We Made It

Annelise/Reincarnation

 

3:

July 15

Emphasizing/highlighting a single method or idea

 

Gyorgy Ligeti: Musica Ricercata I (using mostly one note; focusing on rhythm, dynamics and density)

 

JK:5ths (focusing on the interval of a 5th) (audio) (score)

 

Bartok: Mikrokosmos No. 129, Alternating 3rds (focusing on 3rds)

 

Debussy: Pour Les Quartes (focusing on 4ths)

 

Imitating/modeling another piece

 

Rich/Jucifer: Pontius of Palia

Noah: Happy Birthday

Noah/Pavement: Shady Lane

 

Mac/I Shine U Shine

Annelise/La Vie en Rose

Andrew/Struggle for Pleasure

 

 

4:

July 22

Motif: variations and development

 

Beethoven: Symphony No. 5, 1st movement

 

Rollins: Tenor Madness

 

Beethoven: Symphony No. 7, 2nd movement

 

Howard: Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words)

 

Feature a single focus, method or idea

 

Annelise: Diablo

Mac: All One Note

Andrew: ii V, ii V chords only

Noah: 3rds

Rich: I IV V

 

5:

July 29

Rhythm only: motif/density/dynamics

 

JK: Rhythm (audio)  (score)

 

Melodic motif with variations

 

Rich 1, Rich 2

Lynda

Annelise: score, audio

Andrew: score, audio

 

 

6:

Aug 5

Melody and text

 

JK: melodic version  instrumental version

 

SS: Romney Quotes  

 

 

Rhythmic/percussive piece organized around a motif, varied density and conscious dynamics

 

Rich

Lynda

Annelise

Mac

 

7: 

Aug 12

Form and contrast

 

Beethoven: rondo from Op. 13, 2nd movement

Deathwish: Tailgate (utilizing the slow-fast-slow... technique)

 

A melody based on a text (poem, etc.)

 

Rich/lyrics

Lynda

Annelise

Mac

Johnny

Andrew

 

8:

Aug 26

Modern ideas (time permitting)

Short composition in a specific form utilizing contrast

 

Rich

Lynda

Annelise

Andrew

Johnny