It’s hard to believe that it’s been 6 weeks since I wrote my in-depth learning contract! Needless to say, I’ve learned a thing or two about composition through working on my own composition and guidance my amazing mentor. Last In-depth post, I mainly talked about my first mentor meeting, analysing composition, and trying my new-found website, www.flatio. I also set some goals/tasks last post, and I’m quite proud that I managed to answer/finish everything! The following includes the progress in the last two weeks:
Analyzing an orchestral composition with my mentor in the Baroque era
- I finished analysing an orchestral composition, Four Season Spring by Vivaldi, in the Baroque period, similar to how I analysed my orchestral composition. However, I am not going to attach pictures like my last post (the pictures take quite a while to upload).
Composing an original orchestral composition in the romantic era, with noteable techniques that Berlioz (composer of Symphonie Fantastique) used
- Last week, my discovery of the flat.io website led me to try composing music online and I mentioned that I started out with learning all the functions and trying the piece out. However, this week, I managed to compose 8 bars of the start of my own orchestral composition with 16 different instruments. You can find my composition in pdf form below:
- Although I can play the playback button and here all the instruments at the same time, I haven’t quite figured out how to upload the sounds on to a different form to share on my post. I tried to play the music and record it on my phone, then transfer it back to my computer, but it wouldn’t attach on my blog post properly. By next week, hopefully I will have sorted out the technical problems so that the readers of my blog post is able to hear my composition as well!
- This composition was inspired by the play Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare that we recently read in Mr. Morris’ class.
- The beginning starts out with a minor key with A and E flat and the violins lead the melody.
- However, 3 bars into the piece, the song switches very quickly into a new melody, and a different key as well. Instead of the A flat or E flat used before, E flat and B flat is used. The different melodies and keys are used to symbolize the Montagues and Capulets and their differences as they are enemy houses. Only the strings take part in the two houses at the beginning.
- 6 bars into the piece, there is the sudden interruption of loud chords, crash cymbals, and the addition of the whole orchestra, including brass and woodwinds. This is the prince coming in to stop the fight. There are two loud chords which represents the prince’s orders, and one C note played by all the instruments not playing the chords, representing the civilians who agree with the prince. This sequence alternate three times.
- My mentor’s feedback towards my piece will be combined into my next blog post after I receive feedback for the later section of my piece.
Approaching various players in my orchestra with ranges of music notes to see the comfortable level/range of notes different instruments can play.
- I’m not that comfortable with all members of my orchestra yet (there are 80-90 of us), however, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and consult with other experts in the orchestra. Three pieces of information found are:
- Flutes: http://www.philharmonia.co.uk/explore/instruments/flute
- Trumpets: http://www.philharmonia.co.uk/explore/instruments/trumpet
- Oboes: http://www.philharmonia.co.uk/explore/instruments/oboe
Learning to transpose music (essential for wind and brass instruments)
- I learned transposing with the internet as I wanted to focus my mentor time on my orchestral composition. Not all instruments can be transposed, for example, flute is played just as it is versus trumpet. I used earmaster.com as my main go-to website. Earmaster explains transposing in 4 easy steps:
- Choose your transposition: (Earmaster)
- Are you transposing so you can play the piece on the instrument more comfortably?
- Are you transposing to suit the needs of the range of the vocalist?
- Write the new key signature: (Earmaster)
- Basically, if you decide to change your key, one semitone, one whole tone, two whole tones and so on, you also change the notes as well.
- Transpose the notes: (Earmaster)
- The notes should match the key and should sound pleasing to the ear
- Be careful of accidentals (Earmaster)
- It’s important to be careful of accidentals bc they change with key signature. Accidentals are used in a piece to play a note “natural” instead of with a flat or sharp like the key signature suggests. However, when transposing, accidentals can sometimes cause you to transpose one note too high. For example, a note that is written in with an accidental (so a flat in the key signature) may not have the same flat in the transposed key signature, therefore have to be lowered down one as your transpose. This is really easy to understand if you are a musician, but a difficult concept to think through if you haven’t learned the fundamentals of music.
Here are some questions raised by Ms. Mulder to answer while thinking over my mentorship sessions:
1.What went particularly well during your mentoring sessions?
I think that my mentor sessions are coming along fantastically! First of all, I had the liberty of knowing my mentor before the sessions started which is a bonus. But more importantly, throughout our conversation, it was obvious that we are both very passionate about our music. This made it really easy to connect and communicate with each other, and open new doors (ideas) for us to talk about. I love the fact that we can dive straight into composition every mentor meeting with enthusiastic energy!
3.What learning challenges emerged?
One main learning challenge that emerged is that composition is very subjective to the person writing the piece. I think it is less technical then let’s say, learning how to bake a sourdough bread. This makes it harder for my mentor to give me hard yes’ and no’s, so sometimes there is a lot of confusion, and I find myself questioning: Am I doing this right at all?
To solve this obstacle, I am asking for more recommendations from my teacher towards my music. Although I have only written 8 bars, a lot of learning can come out of discussing it, and few thing we talked about was the tempo and the notes. I am going to be confident and just go with my gut: if it sounds good to my ear, it probably sounds good to other people’s ears too.
3a. What did you do to hold yourselves accountable for the learning?
As you saw through my last post, I try to write as many notes as I can during my mentorship meetings, as well as pictures for evidence. Furthermore, I have been given permission from my mentor to record our sessions so that I can reference back to them while composing my piece or writing my blog post.
4.What logical challenges affected your communication?
My mentor and I had 60 minute lessons every Sundays prior to the start of in-depth. However, now that in-depth has started, I found myself not having enough time in those 60 minutes to have a lesson, and talk about composition. My viola exam, quartet competition, and orchestra auditions are quickly coming up, so I can’t shorten the amount of lessons either.
To accommodate these problems, I tried to schedule longer lessons, however, we quickly found that this doesn’t work out all the time because my mentor is very busy. He mainly works downtown at the Vancouver School of Music, and only comes to the tri-city area during the weekends. I think the next step is to arrange a schedule where one week, I get a viola lesson and get double the practice I need to last two weeks, and skip the next week to get a mentorship session.
4a. What factors affected your ability to interact effectively?
One picky thing is that my mom’s presence subtly affects my actions, therefore my ability to interact with my mentor effectively. She doesn’t say anything, however, I am usually conscious of how I need to act around my mom. Sometimes, I’m more careful about how I phrase my words and little things, instead of focusing on the more important reason: composition. Next time, my mentor and I might discuss composition in the main lesson room, and my mom can watch from outside as there is a glass door between.