Author Topic: November, 2016: change or stability throughout the years  (Read 1861 times)

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Michel.R.E

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November, 2016: change or stability throughout the years
« on: October 17, 2016, 10:42:09 AM »
So for November, I thought why not take a brief overview of our own musical output for the last x-number of years.

In what way do I mean?

Are there motifs that tend to recur in your output from years ago to now?

Are there harmonic idiosyncrasies that tie your output together from then until now?

Are there approaches to form/structure that have remained important to you over the years?

Are there extra-musical elements that have stuck in your mind throughout this time, to which you've returned regularly?

And the inverse of all of these:

What do you feel has changed in your output?

How do you feel your output has changed?
« Last Edit: November 02, 2016, 09:45:58 AM by Michel.R.E »
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

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Ron

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Re: November, 2016: change or stability throughout the years
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2016, 12:32:44 PM »
When I first started composing about 15-16 years ago, I was just happy to get notes onto a staff that I could play back. So, symphonies, tone poems, string quartets just poured out of me. Now, because I think about each note I put on a staff it takes me forever to finish something of any consequence. I can't get passed 30 or 40 measures in something for full orchestra because there are just so many decisions to make I get overwhelmed and short-circuited. Short works for a few instruments seems to be about all I can handle these days.
Ron
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Michel.R.E

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Re: November, 2016: change or stability throughout the years
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2016, 07:36:34 PM »
I've been writing for a bit over 40 years now, though my first formal composition lessons weren't until a couple of years after that.

Recently I've looked back on some of my earliest works, and started noticing some "trends" that seem to have remained with me from the get-go.

Even in works I wrote as a teenager, I had already adopted the use of polyharmony, although I wasn't using it in as thought-out a manner as I do now. I was always drawn to the dichotomy between extreme dissonance and extreme tonality. I think the works that appealed to me, from a listening perspective, were usually works that contained both extremes as well: Strawinski, Barber, Hindemith, Copland, Bartok, and to a lesser extent, Debussy and Ravel (the tonal ambiguity of the latter two was a big attraction to me).

So examining some of my most recent work - the 3rd and 4th symphonies, the clarinet quintet, and the contrabass sonata - I'm seeing again and again this juxtaposition of relatively dissonant elements contrasted with very consonant ones.

I think having a better handle on my craft now, I can better juggle the two contrasting/opposing elements, to the extent that they don't seem as disparate and contradictory anymore.

So I've seen a gradual evolution of my music stylistically, but also a common thread that has run through all of my work from the very beginning until now.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

SethT888

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Re: November, 2016: change or stability throughout the years
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2016, 12:18:36 AM »
Micheal,
   I'm struggling through finding a way to think about/manage polyharmony now. Mostly it's by the seat of my pants, so to speak. Usually starting from a melody.
   How do you  think-out your  approach to polyharmony?
thanks
Seth

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gogreen

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Re: November, 2016: change or stability throughout the years
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2016, 06:08:03 AM »
I've been composing since seventh grade. I've noticed that my works beginning in college and thereafter for some years had what I now consider to be annoying couplets--I'd write phrases with repeated measures. I think I did that because I was so tentative about where I wanted to go in the music. I let that stand occasionally in my edited music when I think it's appropriate, but most of the time I've removed the repeated measures for what I hear these days as better flow.

More recently, like in the last 30 years, I've tended to write imitative passages, sprinkling motifs to all instrument groups, and, when they play better, putting them up or down a fourth or fifth. I like this aspect of my music. I also tend to write countermelodies to add interest.

I also notice that I tend to double xylophone or glockenspiel with a flute line.

Art
« Last Edit: November 03, 2016, 12:55:21 PM by gogreen »

sandalwood

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Re: November, 2016: change or stability throughout the years
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2016, 07:42:00 AM »
Would the repliers care to also comment on whether their aesthetic/technical attitude/approach regarding writing tuneful melodies (such as JSB Air on G string, Dvorak english horn melody in the New World, Barber oboe melody in Summer Music !st mvt) has undergone any evolution along the way?

Michel.R.E

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Re: November, 2016: change or stability throughout the years
« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2016, 09:12:06 AM »
Seth: I'd have to say that I spent years and years "flying by the seat of my pants" as well as far as polyharmony is concerned. It was very "instinctive" for me, not something I was even really consciously aware of.

It didn't become really clear and focused until my graduate degree, but even then, I struggled to really classify and codify my use of polyharmony.

While the largest chunk of my master's thesis was devoted to classification of polychords, I never really got down to establishing any sort of theory on their use. I think I was afraid that if I did I might end up trapped stylistically?

Mostly now, I think in terms of "zones". I establish movement from one zone to another via the number of accidentals in the "main material" for that section. So I might start with an area that is mainly polychords comprised of triads a 2nd apart, let's say, C major and D major. This generates a "harmonic pool" from which to build harmony and counterpoint. As the music advances, the addition of accidentals moves from one zone to another, such that I might end up in a zone where the harmony and counterpoint is mostly made up of material drawn from a polychord of Ab major and D minor.

I tend to write contrapuntally. That is, thinking in terms of lines interacting. This is another common thread in my writing from a very early age. My very first compositions were attempts at fugues. Let's say that I had a LOT of bad habits to break when I finally got to do some formal counterpoint at university.

Thus far, I can only say experiment and try stuff out. Create your own hierarchy of chords. (this is particularly difficult when one takes into account the sheer amount of material available AS polyharmonic) Try keeping elements cohesive and "strict", see how you like that. Then break from your set of rules, and start including non polyharmonic material. I think with experimentation you'll find a way of really making the theory be more than just a theory and be truly an expression of your musical thought. The idea is not to get too caught up in the theoretical aspect of it and get to a point where it becomes second nature. Most rules of harmony are there as a set of guidelines.


Sandalwood:
I think my counterpoint studies did more for me melodically than anything else. When you become comfortable with the very strict linear rules of counterpoint, you realize that most of them apply to writing a single straight-forward melody, and in pretty much any harmonic language (with a few exceptions).

Speaking purely for myself, I think I've become a bit more comfortable writing longer melodic lines than when I was younger, say in my 20's.

(and Barber is an unfair comparison :-p
NO one compares to him melodically in the 20th century!)
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

Ron

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Re: November, 2016: change or stability throughout the years
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2016, 10:54:18 AM »
I went through a long period where my harmonic progressions was by thirds. For example: C+ Eb+ G- B+ D- F#- Ab+ C-. I think this is because of my infatuation with rock n roll when I was 13-14 where the primary chord pattern is C+ A- F+ G7. Also, I like the idea of the new bass note being outside the "scale" implied by the previous chord. So, C+ -> Eb- is common in my work. I like the disorientating effect. I've drifted away from strictly following patterns like this lately, but it still lurks.

I took a course on Beethoven's piano sonatas two or so years ago and was delighted to discover that one of his favorite modulations was to the mediant (eg. C+ -> E-). Not being a pianist and so not intimately familiar with his piano scores I had never realized that before.
Ron
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RJB54

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Re: November, 2016: change or stability throughout the years
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2016, 11:49:35 AM »
This is a timely topic for me as I am in the process of moving and am going through boxes of stuff deciding what to keep and what to throw out. This has resulted in me unearthing a lot of my old (terrible) compositions.

One thing that has been consistent for me is that I love asymmetrical meters. From my earliest pieces to today asymmetrical meters have been a major component of my musical thinking.

Looking over my old stuff makes clear that I have always been a 'motivic' composer never really a 'theme/melodic' composer. After a lot of meditation on the topic over the years I've decided that it largely was due to my lack of actual training (I am a self-taught composer) coupled with being a woodwind player which resulted in me, as a composer, primarially thinking of music horizontally rather than vertically. Add into the mix my feeling that most 'great melodies' are considered great more because of the harmonic background rather than the tune itself, and my focus, from then to now, has always tended to be the manipulation of relatively small motives.

Another consistent aspect of my writing from early on has been the utilization of tone rows as well as the treatment of the rows in various ways in order to create semi-tonal configurations, in a simplistic manner originally, but as my understanding of Berg's mature approach towards serial composition has increased, it has a greatly expanded presence in my music.

On thing that has changed is that I wrote much more conventionally avant-garde pieces in my youth compared to the type of pieces I write now.
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