Assignment 4 – Tutor Feedback

Herewith a link to the feedback received from my tutor Douglas Seville for Assignment 4:

Amy Balcomb (510035) Level 2 Composition Assignment 4 Tutor Report

The main points that I took from this feedback were as follows:

1. The tied notes in the melody would benefit from more support from the accompaniment, which could emphasise the tied rhythm.  One suggestion is to not only double the pitches (C-D-E) but also add a fourth?

2. The melody in the second half could again benefit from stronger rhythmic support in the accompaniment instead of lines being doubled in the strings.

3. The upbeat effect of the second violin in bars 5-6 would be improved with more support, perhaps from the cello to balance with the other instruments.

4. Provide an introduction to the clarinet countermelody in the upbeat from bar 4; this will help to resolve the question of which 3 pitches to choose and which instrument to arrange them for.

5. Remove staccato dots from tied notes in the melody.

6. Add more dynamics generally.

7. Check that both arrangements are of a suitable length.

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Assignment 3 – Tutor Feedback

Herewith a link to the feedback received from my tutor Douglas Seville for Assignment 3:

Amy Balcomb (510035) Level 2 Composition Assignment 3 Tutor Report

The main points that I took from this feedback were as follows:

1. I should delay the Violin 1 entry until bar 9 and instead, transfer the line to the second violin and the accompanying lines in the viola and cello.  This will reduce the doubled pitches and give the first violin more impact when it does enter.

2. In general terms, more variation to the sound can be created with more contrast in the arrangement.

3. I should look to vary the rhythm of repeated phrases in the main melody in bars 17 & 18; this could help to make the arrangement sound more unpredictable and in turn add more excitement.  Moving the varied second phrase to the second violin would also create more contrast.

4. I should move the off-beat accompanying rhythmic line in bar 17 to the cello which will allow me to create a more substantial secondary line in the viola.  This will in turn contrast more with the main melody and rhythmic accompaniment which could be used elsewhere later on.

5. Move the melody line in bar 24 from the first violin to the viola and move it up an octave for a more resolute sound…the change of sound will also help to focus the listener.  More allargando could be created with more quaver movement in the accompanying lines.

6. Generally, more detailed indications of expression and dynamics would be good.  I also need to remember the rules around phrasing and bowing, e.g. how the phrase in the first violin of bars 9-10 should be played.

7. In playback, my tutor wasn’t sure the instruments sounded like they were being played by single instruments and I need to ensure that I have the solo versions of each allocated to the arrangement and not the ensemble versions.

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Assignment 2 – Tutor Feedback

Herewith a link to the feedback received from my tutor Douglas Seville for Assignment 2:

Amy Balcomb (510035) Level 2 Composition Assignment 2 Tutor Report

The main points that I took from this feedback were as follows:

  1. Create an alternative line for the upper voices in bar 6 on the last 4 beats of the second line of text in the lower voices on the word ‘sing’.
  2. Contrast could be created by putting the leading section in bar 9 into the lower voices and follow them with the upper voices.
  3. Bars 13-14 needs an accent on syllable ‘wake’ instead of the sforzando and change the dynamics from mp to f which would help emphasise the meaning of the declaration.
  4. Throughout the piece add additional notated dynamics for more accurate expression.
  5. Make sure phrase marks in vocal lines are only used to show the lines of pitches they should sing using the same word/syllable/other sound.  E.g.: bar 7: 2 quavers in alto and tenor on the word ‘this’ should be phrased together. Bar 15: 3 quavers in the bass on word ‘while’. Bar 16; the alto part on syllable ‘fin’-(ger). Bar 18: the alto and tenor on ‘sin’-(ger).
  6. Critical Review – the choice of topic and composer  is up to me but it should reflect my understanding of that composer’s techniques so that I can explain how those techniques have influenced me in my development as a composer.  I still don’t have any idea about this review and will continue to keep my mind open as I move through into Part 3 for inspiration.
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Part 5, Project 15 – A Serial Piece

To understand this movement in music in more detail, I began my work researching Arnold Schoenberg.

Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) was an Austrian composer and painter and was leader of the Second Vienese School, which comprised of a group of composers and associates in the early twentieth century. It was here that Schoenberg’s atonality through total chromaticism was taught, and later, his serial twelve-tone technique.

Based in Vienna, Schoenberg’s principle members at the school were Alban Berg and Anton Webern, who were amongst his first composition students. Others included Hanns Eisler, Egon Wellesz, with John Cage, Lou Harrison, Earl Kim and Leon Kirchner joining later.

Schoenberg’s twelve-tone technique was a specific way of using a set series of the twelve notes in the chromatic scale.

His compositional output spanned three distinct periods. The first period, which fell between 1894-1907, saw music that followed the legacy of the high-Romantic composers and also the ‘expressionists’ of poetry and art.

His second period of writing between 1908-1922 saw Schoenberg abandon the normal key centres, which was described as ‘free tonality’. From 1923, the third period concerned itself with Schoenberg’s invention of his dodecaphonic, twelve-tone technique.

Much of his work was not very well received, although the 1913 premiere of the ‘Gurre-Leider’ in Vienna received a 15 minute standing ovation and Schoenberg received a laurel crown. His twelve-tone technique was difficult for people to understand, in part because of the ‘truly revolutionary nature’ of the system (Ethan Haimo). Ernest Krenek reviewed an unamed brand of music in 1920 as ‘self-gratification of an individual who sits in his studio and invents rules according to which he then writes down his notes’; it is presumed Krenek was writing about Schoenberg et al. Schoenberg responded in kind by saying he wished for ‘only whores as listeners.’

To continue my research further, I listened to the following pieces to get a better idea of what Serialism sounds like:

Schoenberg’s ‘Verklarte Nacht’ (Transfigured Night), Op. 4
I listened to the orchestral version of this piece, which was written in 1899 for string sextet.  This version had a violin and cello duet accompanied by piano.  The violin and cello work together with polyphonic lines.  It is a beautiful melody, very rich and reminiscient of the romantic era.  The piano has a shimmering chromatic part and each instrument compliments one another both harmonically and texturely.  There is tension introduced with a very dramatic moment at 1′ 25 when the strings play in unison and then suddenly in harmony with one another.  The piece is beautiful and I liked it very much, but this was one of his earlier works that preceded Schoenberg’s atonality and twelve-tone technique, and so harmonically, it was diatonic, which I far prefer.

Schoenberg’s ‘Gurre Lieder’
This piece is set out in three parts and a total of 22 movements; 11 in Part 1, 1 in Part 2 and 10 movements in Part 3.
I listened to Part 1: 1 – Orchestra Prelude
This felt very gentle and pastoral, with woodwind opening the piece with subtle strings beneath.  The occasional trumpet punctures through the texture, and a soft triangle is heard at times.  Slowly, the harp joins and the piece builds.  A sudden crescendo at 1′ 20 with the strings then softens just as suddenly.  It sounds and feels very romantic, and I felt that it had a sense of Disney about it; magical, floating, a sense of expectation.
Schoenberg moves the tonality around; major to minor and back again within bars and with this, a shimmering effect that takes the listener almost into a dreamy like state.  I didn’t hear it rooted within any tonic key – rather, more inverted chords, which reinforces the romantic period’s preoccupation with rich harmonies.
I really liked this piece and look forward to exploring the rest of the movements.

Schoenberg’s ‘Pierrot Lunaire’, Op. 21
This was written in 1912. I’ve heard this piece before and upon second listening, I remember exactly how it affected me; it disturbed me!  I couldn’t make any sense of the piano, flute and violin lines, each of which sounded like they were choosing random notes and improvising along with one another (such was the atonal harmonic ‘structure’). The female vocalist sounds like she’s in pain singing extreme notes up and down the registers.  Dramatic dynamics, harmonies that by definition of free atonality have no tonal centre.  Whilst this piece is important to demonstrate Schoenberg’s free atonality phase, it is extremely difficult to listen to and I personally would not enjoy exploring it any further.

Schoenberg’s ‘Variations for Orchestra’, Op. 31
This piece was written in 1928 and is made up of 12 movements. I listened to the first one, the Introduction.
It opens with tremelo strings and woodwind.  It feels uneasy, anxious almost.  We hear tonguing in the flutes and all the parts explore very chromatic, constantly moving parts.  Schoenberg gets each section to play alternately and the movement has an undercurrent of unrest, very unsettled feelings that makes it  both difficult and intriguing to listen to.  This piece demonstrates Schoenberg’s use of the twelve-tone technique and it is because of this that everything sounds at odds with one another.  It is difficult to discern a tonal centre and at times it is uncomfortable to listen to.  I didn’t enjoy it as much as his much earlier romantic pieces.

For my project, I took the basic set from my course materials and wrote the principal melody line for the clarinet.  It explores this basic set and it’s retrograde, inversion and retrograde inversion patterns.  The second melody line, the violin part, only explores the basic set and it’s retrograde.  And for the cello part, I wrote it to explore the inversion and retrograde inversion:

Project 15 – A Serial Piece

And it sounds like this:

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Part 5, Project 16 – A little minimalism

This is my attempt at a very short minimalism piece:

Project 16 – A Little Minimalism

And it sounds like this:

I had enormous hurdles to climb to score this project on Sibelius.  I had only tried to score in ‘free rhythm’ back in my first year composition course and found it tricky to recall how to do it.

I also needed to ensure that I could create barlines where I wanted to and within free rhythm scoring, I needed to utilise plug-ins to not only give me the ‘Draw Free Rhythm Barline’ but also trim the bars of any unwanted rests that were occasionally showing; for this I used the ‘Resize Bar’ plug-in.

I also wanted more repeats to occur and I learnt how to manipulate the number of repeats of each bar in the ‘Repeats’ section.

This project is very short project because I didn’t have as much time to develop it as I would have normally.  Needless to say, I discovered that this was a very interesting area of music to look at; I was surprised that I was as intrigued by it as I was, and I am proud of what I learnt technically with the software in order to get this done.

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Critical Review – Revised Version

Upon reviewing my tutor’s feedback in his last report, I have now updated my Critical Review and include the revised version:

Amy Balcomb (510035) Level 2 Composition Revised Critical Review

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Critical Review – Original Version

This is the first version of my Critical Review submitted to my tutor Douglas Seville:

Amy Balcomb (510035) Level 2 Composition Critical Review

However, after submitting this, I realised that I was 500 words short of the required 2000 word count and will therefore need to write more when I revise it.

I also realised after submission that I forgot to include the references, which I will ensure are added to my revised version.

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