Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Entry 13.

"Compositionall ADD: Not to be confused with its cousin "Compositional ADHD," this very common though sadly untreatable disease has been known to strike musicians of any age, race or gender and plagues hem with some very unlikeable symptoms for an unchartered period of time. Though its origins are unknown it has become very widespread, travelling through the air and has become a very contageous disease which can be transferred from musician to musicians without the musicians even having come into contact with another. Word of mouth is often enough to provoke a raging case of "Compositional ADD" and sadly, it must simply be allowed to run its course, as a cure has not yet been found."

- The J.B. Medical Dictionary.

This is not fun. I'm trying to buckle down and finish up what I've got left to do on 'Drole de Bete' and I still have a lot left to do for 'S'il te Plait...Apprivoise-Moi!" but I can't seem to find the concentration to do so. I'll sit down to do a bit of writing or editing but I'll get maybe ten minutes done before it becomes absolutely agonizing to sit still and write another note or put in another dynamic marking.

Not that I'm lacking inspiration, however. Over the past few days I've managed to begin two other projects- neither of which, sadly, have anything to do with what I'm doing in composition class. The first piece that I wrote I wrote under the influence of energy drink- something I DO NOT intend to do again. The result: a piece for piano and voice upon the request of one of my friends, called 'Jerkasaurus Rex R.D.' The title is just a joke- he refused to come to a concert last year because he wanted to be uncool and study so I jokingly called him a Jerkasaurus (I like dinosaurs) and later jokingly wrote a documentary on the Jerkasaurus and gave it to him. Yeah, I do weird things like that all the time. Anyhow, for a lark I've decided to put the lyrics in here just so you see why, exactly, I do not intend to write ANYTHING after having had an energy drink.

Jerkasaurus Rex R.D.

The Jerkasaurus Rex is
Very good at hexes
Often visits Texas
In the Fall,

They’re antisocial creatures
Preying upon preachers
And hiding under bleachers
In the mall

They supported Trudeau
Are very skilled on banjo
Grew up in the ghetto
And love chain-smoke

They beat up alligators
And terrorize the waiters
They wrangle elevators
Just for a joke

They like to inhale turpentine
They chase it down with moonshine
Shared a beer with Einstein
And a blind fruit fly

They’ve got X-ray vision
Cannot make a decision
Though they’re stellar at division
But only in July

They can stop a hurricane
Turned water into pink champagne
Built convents in the Ukraine
And painted hippos yellow

Microwaving teletubbies
Is one of their favourite hobbies
Along with defiling lobbies
And reinventing jell-o

So if you see this nasty reptile
You should run at least a mile
Away from this thing so so vile
And never you look back, cuz

Jerkasaurus Rex R.D
Will hunt you down and then you’ll see
That he’d eat either you or me
Just like he’d eat a snack.

Without elaboration, I can bet that you understand now why energy drinks + Jess Blenis = DANGER. The music is equally as strange- I wrote it to sound dinosaur-esque, afterall, so it ain't pretty, and it's only 1/4 serious. This isn't an April Fools joke, folks- I actually did write this piece- in about 3.5 hours, too, between 12:30 and 4:00 in the morning on Saturday I believe.

I began a more serious project tonight as well, and hate myself for doing so even though I like where this piece is going. I was asked today if I would be a chaperone for a high school orchestra trip in May, and said that I would. This is the orchestra I played in back in the day (from grade 8-12) and whenever I'm home for Christmas or the summer I usually help out with sectionals, concerts, workshops and such. So randomly I decided that writing for a high school orchestra would be fun, and now have about a minute and a half of materiel for that.

As nift-o as this is, I'd much rather put this muse toward something productive and necessary. I have a Folklore and an English term paper due within the week and here I am, scribbling nonsense about a Jerkasaurus. I have a piece for band due within the week and instead I'm writing for orchestra. It'll all get done, I'm sure it will. I just have to CONCENTRATE and not succumb completely to compositional ADD.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Entry 12.

So I've come to a slightly daunting realization- I like my stupid mistakes better than I like my intentional compositional techniques.

It sounds weird, yes, but it's definately true at least some of the time. I'm beginning to find as well that about 50% of the little things I like most about my compositions are things I've done by accident. Usually I'll have made a stupid mistake, whether it's forgetting about transposition or writing a rhythm in wrong, and then when I get the computer to play it back I realize my error and often end up keeping it and changing the other parts to go along with it. I could go ahead and use a Machiavellian type of retrospect, I guess, and could say 'hey, whatever, the end justifies the means,' and shrug it off and I know I'm probably digging a hole for myself by admitting that about 50% of my pieces comes from the mistakes I make while writing them. This isn't alays true- sometimes I'll have a piece which is 100% intentional, but other times I'll fling notes on the page without realizing exactly what I'm doing, play it back and decide whether I like it or not.

It could be described as a careless or effortless way to compose, so I'm a bit ashamed of it in that regard. Some people put an intense amount of concentration into developing the right chords or melody while I occasionally find them by experimenting or by making some dumb error which could otherwise be seen as some type of a Freudian slip. I feel a bit guilty calling my pieces mine when even though I am the one fully responsible for all the errors, I still know that they weren't intentional and that I wouldn't have been able to play around with my errors if I didn't have a program which would play it all back to me. In this way, should I give 'Finale 2005' credit for my pieces, seeing as otherwise I might have realized my error before having my piece played and changed it to make it something completely different? This is confusing.

So...Should I go with Machiavelli and say that I don't really care how I compose, as long as it's what I want, or do I side with Freud and say that these mistakes are actually coming from my subconscious mind? I think I'm just going to go with option C and say screw the philosophers, I'm a composer, not a psychologist.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Entry 11.

So it’s back to the grindstone I go…After taking a bit of a hiatus due to health issues which I haven’t quite gotten rid of I’ve decided to really buckle down on this one and do some hard work, even if it's pretty late at night. At least it’s entertaining, and I seem to compose better when I’m less than half awake anyway, as I was shown when I composed ‘Subconscious.’ It’d be nice if I could have another compositional dream, because that way I could both compose and sleep, but I guess we can’t always get the best of both worlds. I'm going to try and pull an all-nighter to finish one of the movements of my band thing just to see how far I get. I just realized now that I have no idea what I'm going to name the thing as an entity, though I'll probably be able to draw some inspiration from the text.

Tonight (well, this morning- I'm starting this at 12:55am) I'm focusing on the second movement, which is called "Un Drole de Bete." My apologies- I still can't make accents on my computer- it has a laptop keyboard and doesn't do the whole 'press down alt and put in a combination of numbers to make an accented letter' thing. The author of the book, Antoine Saint-Exupery, drew pictures that go with various parts of the book, and in this part it shows the little prince in the desert looking down at a yellow snake in the sand. The position of the snake makes it look almost as though it's just another ripple in the sand, which gives me a few ideas about layering chromatic passages one on top of the other- but I don't want the texture to get too muddy.

So I've got to start at the beginning. I want to start with the brass, seeing as I've neglected them a bit in the first movement which hasn't made any progress since I presented it last time in class...I'm a failure. Sometimes.

Random idea- maybe Asteroide B-612 for a title for the entire work.

...And the ADD begins....But I like to jot down ideas as they come to me, even if I'm mid-sentance....But only relevant ones. I think if I wrote down every thought that came to me, I'd be rambling myself off a cliff, and no one would be able to follow my thought process. I'm tryig to keep reminding myself to heed the advice given in Clark's last blog entry about extending the opening section longer than I might be naturally inclined. Looking at what I've got written already, I think he's right. I began with a kind of fanfare-ish opening which lasted a grand total of four bars- but in my defence, it begins in 7/4 time, which is almost like having eight 4/4 bars. The extending has begun...

I've done as much as I'm going to do right now- 26 bars for an intro, which then goes into the 'Tango del Muerte.' I think thats means 'Tango of death,' either that or 'tango of the dead.' I'll google it at some point. It's 2:04am, and I have class at 10:00 which I'd like to be at least semi-alert for, and I really shouldn't be up this late anyway while sick.

I think this is when composing becomes decomposing.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Entry 10.

Sooooo....I wasn't able to find what I had already composed which is a bit of a bummer, but seeing as I wasn't a great fan of it anyway, it can stay lost. I'll probably find it some other day while going through my computer and maybe it'll be of use to me then, or maybe I'll find another way to make it more appealing. It had a good few ideas which I can still remember, but nothing that really stood out to me. I'd really like to do a stellar job of this composition now that I'm finally settling into a kind of compositional niche, and right now it doesn't involve what I had written prior to this.

This being said, I've made a few more decisions about what I'm going to write. It will be a 4, possibly 5 movement work inspired by the book "Le Petit Prince" By Antoine Saint-Exupery. The ideas that I have to the movements are as follows with the text that will preceed each movement (sorry, I can't make accents on my laptop so I'll have to do without right now):

1. "Dessine-moi un Mouton!"
Text: "Le premier soir je me suis donc endormi sur le sable a mille milles de toute terre habille. J'etais bien plus isole qu'un naufrage sur un rideau au milieu de l'ocean. Aloes vous imaginez ma surprise, au lever du jour, quand une drole de petit voix m'a reveille. Elle disait:
'S'il vous plait...dessine-moi un mouton!'
Translation: "The first night, then, I went to sleep on the sand a thousand miles from any inhabited country. I was more isolated than a man shipwrecked on a raft in the middle of the ocean. So you can imagine me surprise when I was awakened at daybreak by a funny little voice saying, 'Please...draw me a sheep...'"
- tonal qualities but with enough ambiguity and movement that it is not quite tonal, tying the listener's ears in (non-painful) knots.
- express the setting- the Sahara desert
- introduce the "Petit Prince," "Serpent," "Renard," and "Rose" themes.
- It will be an overture of sorts but with enough unique elements that it can stand on its own. It wil be predominantly the piece which introduces le Petit Prince and sets the mood for the entire work.
- quiet at the beginning with the desert theme- percussion and use of reed instruments.
- some reference to the magnitude of outer space- brass, use of mallet percussion to make a star like sound.
- "Petit Prince" theme- flute, piccolo and mallet percussion, light, tinkling, melancholic.
- Ends with a quiet question before leading into the next movement after a short pause.

2. "Une drole de bete"
Text: "'Ou sont les hommes?' Reprit enfin le petit prince. 'On est un peu seul dans le desert...'
'On est seul aussi chez les hommes,' dit le serpent. Le petit prince le regarda longtemps:
'Tu es un drole de bete,' lui dit-il enfin, 'Mince comme un doigt...'
'Mais je suis plus puissant que le doigt d'un roi...'"
Translation: "'Where are the people?' The little prince finally resumed the conversation. 'It's a little lonely in the desert...'
'It's also loney with people,' said the snake.
'You're a funny creature,' he said at last, 'No thicker than a finger.'
'But I'm more powerful than a king's finger,' the snake said."
- dizzying yet lugubrious tango
- slides in the brass section
- chromatic up and down runs in the woodwinds simulating the movement of a snake
- return of the desert motif
- ominous, lots of low brass, hand-held percussion
- tension held then resolved in the chords

3. "S'il te plait...Apprivoise-moi!"
Text: "'Tu vois, la-bas, les champs de ble? Je ne mange pas de pain. Le ble pour moi est inutile. Les champs de ble ne me rappellent rien. Et ca, c'est triste! Mais tu as des chevux coleur d'or. Alors ce sera merveilleux quand to m'auras apprivoise! Le ble, qui est endore, me fera souvenir de toi. Et j'aimerai le bruit du vent dans le ble...' Le renard se tut ey regardera longtemps le petit prince: 'S'il te plait...Apprivoise-moi!' dit-il."
Translation: "'You see the wheat fields over there? I don't eat bread. For me wheat is of no use whatsoever. Wheat fields say nothing to me, which is sad. But you have hair the colour of gold. So it will be wonderful, once you've tamed me! The wheat, which is golden, will remind me of you. And I'll love the sound of the wind in the wheat...' The fox fell silent and stared at the little prince for a long while. 'Please...Tame me!'"
Music: Minuet and Trio form.
- Lighthearted, bordering on being tonal though fluidly lilting from one key to the next, unrelated key like wind through the wheat field.
- Only woodwinds/percussion
- 3/4 time, with two repeats, very short.
- Minor key/more melancholic
- bittersweet
- no percussion, just woodwinds
- some rhythmic ambiguity
- return to minuet

4. "Puisque C'est ma Rose"
Text: "'Vous etes belles mais vous etes vides,' leur dit-il encore. 'On ne put pas mourir pour vous. Bien sur, ma rose a moi, un passant ordinaire croirait qu'elle vous ressemble. Mais a elle seule elle est plus importante que vous toutes, puisque c'est elle que j'ai arrosee. Puisque c'est elle que j'ai mis sous globe. Puisque c'est elle que j'ai abritee par le paravent. Puisque c'est elle dont j'ai tue les chenilles (sauf les deuz ou trois pour les papillons). Puisque c'est elle que j'ai ecoute se plaindre, ou se vanter, ou meme quelquefois se taire. Puisque c'est ma rose.'"
Translation: "'You're lovely, but you're empty,' he went on. 'One couldn't die for you. Of course, an ordinary passerby would think my rose looked just like you. But my rose, all on her own, is more important than all of you together since she's the one I've watered. Since she'd the one I put under glass. Since she's the one I sheltered behind a screen. Since she's the one for whom I killed the caterpillars (except the two or three for butterflies). Since she'd the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Since she's my rose.'"
- very thick texture, despite being quiet.
- quite chordal- soft chords being played, with the melody floating over top of it.
- sensitive yet hardly fragile melody- conjuct and disjunct.
- Not much chromaticism in melody but lots in the chords.

5. Retourne a B-612
Text: "C'est la un bien grand mystere. Pour vous qui aimez aussi le petit prince, comme pour moi, rien de l'univers n'est semblable si quelque part, on ne sait ou, un mouton que nous connaissons pas a, oui ou non, mange une rose...
Regardez le ciel. Demandez-vous:'Le mouton oui ou non a-t-il mange la fleur?' Et vous verrez comme tout change...
Et aucune grande personne ne comprendera jamais que ca a tellement d'importance!"
Translation: "It's all a great mystery. For you, who love the little prince too. As for me, nothing in the unverse can be the same if somewhere, no one knows where, a sheep we never saw has or has not eaten a rose...
Look up at the sky. Ask yourself: 'Has the sheep eaten the flower or not?" And you'll see how everything changes...
And no grown-up will ever understand how such a thing could be so important!"
- revival of the 'Petit Prince' theme
- elements of all previous movements
- ends in the same way as the first movement.
- tonal ambiguity, but with a clear, ethereal sound throughout

So that's what I've got for an outline of this monster. It should be quite the thing once it's finished, I hope!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Entry 8.

Well I'm working on what will more or less be the final draft of 'Subconscious,' which is probably ideal- seeing as the concert is on Friday. After meeting with Clark today to go over the piece, I've got a few things to tweak, but none of them seem to be terribly time consuming:
- Add an eighth rest at the end of bar 3 in the cello part (I found another bar later on that was missing a few rests too)
- Listen to see if the D in the oboe part honks in bars 9 and 12 and edit accordingly. I fixed the one in bar 9 since it was held for three beats, but the one in bar 12 I'm not too worried about.
- The flute part and oboe part, where they have the triplet sixteenth notes need to have spaces in which the player can breathe...Obviously I'm not a wind major seeing as I gave them no chance to do so in the original score. I've got this hald done right now, and will finish doing that once I've posted this.
- maybe have the flute/oboe come in a bit later on the triplet sixteenth notes in some places so it's not so predictable
- no capitolization of the 'C' in crescendo
- add tenuto markings in the flute part in bar 65
- maybe edit the ending, with a few more bars in the piano and don't have it end so suddenly- end with a dotted half rather than an eighth note.
- put bowings in the cello part
- Consider rewriting the piano part for two hands rather than putting it all in one clef. I think I might do this later, but it'd probably take up too much time to do it right now.

Crazy, but it's almost finished. Yay!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Entry 7.

So I've been thinking about the next project, and I'm stuck between two ideas.

The first is something that I might compose for orchestra. While standing outside the instrumental room last week waiting for the wind sectional to end so that we could go in for the string sectional, I heard the jazz band playing in the choral room, and had a small discussion with Saird about how jazz bands get some pretty groovy music, and I don't want to knock Haydn or anything, especially since it's the 200th anniversary of his death this year, but I'd rather play a jazz piece any day rather than the 'Surprise Symphony.' So I began to toy with the thought of composing a piece for jazz orchestra. I'd have to listen to a lot of jazz music to get the general idea of it, since I have relatively no experience with it whatsoever thus far, but I think it'd make for a neat composition, though I can imagine that I might run into some balance issues where the orchestra doesn't have quite as many different parts as the jazz band, and I'm not really interested in writing for a full orchestra- just a string orchestra. Sorry winds!

The other idea I have is one that I'm leaning toward actually using, because I'd be able to submit it for the Terra Nova thing and I'd like to at least take a shot at that. The inspiration for this, which I intend to write in several, short movements, comes from a little novel by Antoine Saint-Exupéry called 'Le Petit Prince.' I haven't decided on how many movements I want this piece to have, but I've got a few ideas for elements of the novel I can use as a motif or inspiration for a movement.

- Asteroide B-612. This is the name of the planet that the narrator of the story believes that le Petit Prince came from. It is very tiny- no bigger than a house, and he lived there alone before leaving, carried by a migrating flock of wild birds. On his planet are three tiny volcanoes, one of which is extinct, which rise only to le Petit Prince's knee, a few small flowers, baobabs which le Petit Prince digs up before they can grow to bee too big and one rose, a vain and selfish plant who eventually asks so much of le Petit Prince that he decides to leave his planet, despite how much he loves his rose.

- Les Sept Planètes. Le Petit Prince visits seven planets in total, including the Earth which is his final stop. He meets a man who lives on each small planet (Asteroids 325, 326, 327, 328, 329 and 330) and begins to discover just how unlikable and trivial human adults are. The first is a pompous king who is obsessed with having subjects, the second is a vain man bent on being admired constantly, the third was a drunk, unhappy man who only wants to forget everything, the fourth a serious business man who counts stars believing that he owns everything he counts. The fifth a likeable, yet odd man who spends all his time following the order he is given- to light a lamp every night and put it out every day, though unfortunately for him, his planet is so tiny and turns so fast, each day is only a minute long. The sixth planet is inhabited by a geographer, who is more or less harmless until he tells le Petit Prince that he wouldn't mark a rose down on a map because it is ephemeral, which upsets the boy greatly. The last planet he visits, of course, is Earth. I'm not sure I would use any of this in a movement, because making up seven different themes and putting them all into one movement might be a bit much for such a short piece.

- Dessine-moi un mouton. The first thing le Petit Prince says in the book is this- <> as he asks the narrator to draw him a sheep. He wants the sheep to eat the baobabs which grow on his planet so that he won't have to work so hard digging them up. If he lets them grow too large, they'll take over his planet which is why he must pull them out when they are young. It is of great importance to le Petit Prince that the narrator draws a sheep, but he is worried by the fact that the sheep would eat a rose too, and resolves to have the narrator draw a fence and a muzzle too.

- Le renard et le serpent. Two animals that le Petit Prince meets, which are of great importance, are the fox and the snake. The fox is an odd little fellow that le Petit Prince eventually tames, upon its request. The fox gives le Petit Prince good advice, and the two become good friends before the boy leaves to explore more of the earth. He also meets the snake, who is wise though dangerous and caniving. It is the snake who convinces le Petit Prince that the earth is not a good place, and that he has the ability to send le Petit Prince back to his planet with a single bite.

- Puis-que c'est ma rose. One of the things that le Petit Prince learns from the fox is that he is responsible for everything that he tames, and that his rose is unique to him. While on the earth, he walked through a garden full of roses which were all just as beautiful as his and this upset him greatly, as he thought that his rose was truely unique and beautiful. The fox explains to him, however, that the roses in the garden mean nothing to him, as he has not taken care of them or made them unique to him in all the universe as he has his own rose, back on his planet.

- Pays des larmes. There are several times throughout this book where the characters are moved to tears. I plan to either finish with a movement which is thoughtful and sad, or have it be one of the later movements, to express the sorrow that can be drawn from this book.

- On se console toujours. This will probably be the main motif for the last movement, based around a speech le Petit Prince gives the narrator:
<<...Tu regarderas, la nuit, les étoiles. C'est trop petit chez moi pour que je te montre où se trouve la mienne. C'est mieux comme ça. Mon étoile, ça sera pour toi une des étoiles. Alors, toutes les étoiles, tu aimeras les regarder... Elles seront toutes tes amies. Et puis je vais te faire un cadeau... Les gens ont des étoiles qui ne sont pas les mêmes. Pour les uns, qui voyagent, les étoiles sont des guides. Pour d'autres elles ne sont rien que de petites lumières. Pour d'autres qui sont savants elles sont des problèmes. Pour mon businessman elles étaient de l'or. Mais toutes ces étoiles-là se taisent. Toi, tu auras des étoiles comme personne n'en a... Quand tu regarderas le ciel, la nuit, puisque j'habiterai dans l'une d'elles, puisque je rirai dans l'une d'elles, alors ce sera pour toi comme si riaient toutes les étoiles. Tu auras, toi, des étoiles qui savent rire ! Et quand tu seras consolé (on se console toujours) tu seras content de m'avoir connu. Tu seras toujours mon ami. Tu auras envie de rire avec moi. Et tu ouvriras parfois ta fenêtre, comme ça, pour le plaisir... Et tes amis seront bien étonnés de te voir rire en regardant le ciel. Alors tu leur diras: "Oui, les étoiles, ça me fait toujours rire !" Et ils te croiront fou. Je t'aurai joué un bien vilain tour... Ce sera comme si je t'avais donné, au lieu d'étoiles, des tas de petits grelots qui savent rire...>>

So those are my ideas. I may find other things in the book to add in this to possibly base a movement on, though I'll have to find a French copy of the book first. I went to Chapters to find it and they only had the English version which could suffice, but the French version is so much better. :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Entry 6.

Hard to believe that the semester's pretty much halfway over- I've got my flight booked for home already too though part of me seems stuck in winter mood- I've had 'Rockin' around the Christmas Tree' stuck in my head for hours. I seem to have drawn the short straw this semester, and 2/3 of my exams are late but I guess to find the silver lining would be to find that I've just been given more time to prepare for my two later exams...Neither of which have much of anything to do with music...But this paragraph doesn't really either, which is why I'm going to change the subject now and write about compositions and stuff.

So I presented some new materiel in class today- the piece that I had in a dream last week while in a bit of an ill daze. I got some really good pointers today in class, especially regarding the instrumentation. I'd really like to use the vibes, but as it was pointed out, and as I had suspected myself, the notation would prove to be a bit tricky and there's not very much time left between now and the performance, so I think I might put what I've got written in the vibe part over onto piano, and write something different for vibes with the motor thing running to add to the texture. I should probably research it a bit first, to make sure that that's the sound I want, and how it can be modified.

A few things have been brought to my attention in the oboe part as well, which should be easy enough to fix- I took down bar numbers and will be more mindful of 'honking' notes on the oboe.

I've also been prompted to graph where I want the piece to go, seeing as I have relatively no idea right now. I'm just letting the texture and harmony of it waver all over the place, going where it wants to go, and I'm very relieved to hear that it's not tonal, despite the fact that it has a lot of tonal elements. I'll try and make some kind of graph to give myself a better idea of its path, hopefully It'll help me have a better destination in mind.

I've had a few other ideas come to mind to. We've been encouraged to introduce an aleatoric element to the music, and I haven't exactly done that. I've been toying with the idea of having someone read a text while the musicians play the music- whether I'll write the text or use one which already exists I haven't decided yet, though I'm leaning toward the former. I won't give the reader any indication of speed or rhythm for the words- I like the natural inflection better than notated rhythm, and it'll produce a different performance every time depending on the speaker. It's just an idea, though I'm beginning to like it more and more.