Author Topic: ... not to be chained to my own plans  (Read 2499 times)

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Jamie Kowalski

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... not to be chained to my own plans
« on: February 01, 2013, 07:55:02 AM »
Sometimes I get to a sticking point in a composition because I previously told myself that I "must" do something specific. Sometimes it just makes sense to let go of your self-imposed requirement rather than bang your head on a wall trying to wedge it in to a piece.

This has popped up at even the smallest levels of detail for me. Maybe I am writing a nice brass chorale and I start to wonder if my third trumpet really has a useful role. I might ask myself "Should I double the part?" "Is there a balance problem?" etc... But for some reason the hardest question to ask myself is "can I leave out the third trumpet here?" Because I had at some point assumed I would be using all the brass, the idea sticks in my head as a requirement. But it was MY requirement, and I am allowed to change my mind. So what if only one brass player is sitting out the passage? Should I really be worried that he will feel rejected?

Another example that I just experienced was with the orchestral suite I'm now writing. I have some core material that I am trying to incorporate throughout the six movements in a number of different ways. In one movement, I was simply writing without these ideas, and I really liked what I had so far. But then I started thinking it was necessary to force the main thematic idea in somehow. I started with a good plan (incorporate core material), but then turned it into some unbreakable law. Well it turns out that the movement is simply better without the material. I don't know why I was so fixated on jamming it in there, but if leaving it out means a better movement, this choice should have been a lot easier for me.

Summary - If it's your rule, don't be afraid to break it!

sandalwood

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Re: ... not to be chained to my own plans
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2013, 09:22:03 AM »
the second example is astonishingly similar to what i have been experiencing (at my amateur level, of course :)) in the last couple of weeks. in an exercise that i hope to post soon, i built the piece around a sketch, an array of ideas which -to me- represented a meaningful processing of the thematic material. though it worked reasonably fine for quite a while, a couple of measures to go i was stuck. no rendering of the blueprint sounded satisfactory and i simply could not let go (OCD?) the "holy plan". finally i had to resort to a murphy principle from my professional days which applies to project management issues and reads "all's well that ends!": abridged/simplified/modified the "plan" and finished the piece. not sure if this was the best possible closing for the exercise, but at least it "ended" and i preserved what was left of my sanity to fight another day :)

Jamie Kowalski

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Re: ... not to be chained to my own plans
« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2013, 09:42:56 AM »
I remember long ago trying to write a piece where every voice moved only in half-steps. I was wondering how interesting it could be, but I couldn't sustain the idea very long and gave up. But if I had allowed an occasional different interval, it probably would have worked just fine. But because I was locked in to the original idea, I had nowhere to go.

This is maybe what bugs me about the idea of 12-tone music, especially at its strictest. If I want to substitute a single note in the middle of my tone row, it's no longer "correct."

"Hey look -- he made a mistake in bar 132. That C natural should have been a C sharp!" Never mind that it might actually sound better that way.

flint

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Re: ... not to be chained to my own plans
« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2013, 09:55:18 AM »
This has popped up at even the smallest levels of detail for me. Maybe I am writing a nice brass chorale and I start to wonder if my third trumpet really has a useful role. I might ask myself "Should I double the part?" "Is there a balance problem?" etc... But for some reason the hardest question to ask myself is "can I leave out the third trumpet here?" Because I had at some point assumed I would be using all the brass, the idea sticks in my head as a requirement. But it was MY requirement, and I am allowed to change my mind. So what if only one brass player is sitting out the passage? Should I really be worried that he will feel rejected?

This is just a tangent... but in a case like this I might want to leave out the first or second player instead. If there are more demanding parts ahead (or just behind) for the first, let him rest and prepare and give the lead to the second. Or, if the second has been taxed (like keeping a high harmony to the first for an extended period), let the second rest.

Just thoughts. :) In long pieces, most wind players don't mind having a place to relax so as to not overtire the embouchure.
"Music is like wine; the less you know about it, the sweeter you like it." - Robertson Davies

mjf1947

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Re: ... not to be chained to my own plans
« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2013, 01:33:38 PM »
Jaimie,


Why not just trust your ear to make the choice?

Mark


Jamie Kowalski

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Re: ... not to be chained to my own plans
« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2013, 03:29:51 PM »
Why not just trust your ear to make the choice?

That's what I try to do. The trick is to keep reminding myself.

winknotes

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Re: ... not to be chained to my own plans
« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2013, 04:27:11 PM »
I completely understand the dilemma between enforcing some set of rules vs. letting your ear be your guide. 

Rules isn't exactly the right word but maybe organizing principles.  Having some boundaries makes all the decision making process seem to go quicker and seem more fluid I think.  On the other hand just letting your ear be your guide almost implies one has little idea of what's going to come out and overall form would be difficult to manage. 

To me what Jamie is saying is have a plan but be prepared and willing to divert from the plan at any time.  Something I have to say I'm not faithful to do. 
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jmsuijkerbuijk

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Re: ... not to be chained to my own plans
« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2013, 05:14:24 AM »
When your ear dictates a different note than the rules allow, you're following the wrong set of rules. Follow your internal rules (which is what the ear does), may they be subconscious; not the set of rules you chose to follow (because they are alien to you).