Composing Music – Part 1 – Exploring Rhythm

Project 4 – About Structure

This is where I have been introduced to the concept of drafting a design for the proposed work.

The plan that I come up with is not a strict plan but it aims to guide me into the structure of the piece that I am working on. P putting these steps into practice is ideal for the assignments ahead in this module.

The plan is to state the main idea or theme. Then work out the contrasting middle section and finally the closing section which also needs to recall the opening part.

I will need to work out the bars per minute to come up with the final time for the piece that I am working on.

The advice given in this section is to avoid big or sudden changes to patterns before they have been well established. Once you have established what the piece is all about , you can introduce changes in the development of the material, otherwise yo are at risk of confusing or using the listener in the early stages.

In summary

  • Concentrate musical ideas in clear statements
  • create a structure in which ideas and the overall composition can be developed
  • research and apply practical information about speed, dynamics and the instruments you intend to use in your composition

Research Point

Using the suggested link for Marc Zouitendijk Percussion Information where there is a list of pieces for percussion I chose the following pieces to further explore percussion.

Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion – Bela Bartok

My initial thought about this piece were that it wouldn’t be out of place as he soundtrack to a silent movie. It had a very dark piece as it starts, all I could think about was the essence of danger, maybe where the young woman who is there falls into the hands of man who is the personification of evil. As the piece moves along it feels as though you are listening to the music that would accompany a chase, the music is perfect for that chase where the young woman is hiding. In the second movement things are darker. I can now visualise the heroine being caught. The music is that perfect to the situation and you can almost see her being tied to some railway tracks where we will believe she will die. The movement has that funereal thing about it but the piano gives an element that something will get better, where we know the heroine will be rescued right at the very end of the piece. I can feel a sense of optimism at the very end of the movement. In the third and final movement everything feels much happier. At the beginning of the ounce the drums were bellowing, deep and very morose, but the third movement provides us with lighter percussion with something that sounds very much like a xylophone to me, and the sounds are lighter in feel. Drums are present though the whole piece for beat but now the percussion is is lighter. A very slow depressing mood has been replaced now by a brighter more cheerful set of percussion. Back to my thoughts that this is like a silent movie score. The heroine has now been rescued and together with her hero they are running away from the danger ever mindful that the villain could still be about but they are winning. The drums at the end of the piece feel like someone running off into the sunset.

This may seem like an odd way of presenting my thoughts on a piece but that is how I felt about it and the pictures that it was giving me.

Drumming – Steve Reich

I chose this piece as I am familiar with it, as I listened to this in the first module and I now know much more than I did before and felt I could do the piece more justice with a proper examination of it.

The piece fascinates me as it moves from a single beat which is constant and then joined by further beats. I believe it has some kind of African influence, as I think it starts off with bongos. I like how you can hear the variation in beat from one player and then another player changes it every so slightly. It is also very hypnotic and as I said African. I am referencing those clips that we have seen where African tribal men and women are dancing to a hypnotic beat which is sometimes frenzied. This is how this piece feels to me – high energy dancing where the dancers are lost in an hypnotic beat.

I am not sure how complex this piece is to play but it sounds very complex to me as I am listening. Movement one I think consists entirely of bongos and it must take some discipline to play the way they are played during this piece. I have not looked at any official review of the piece as I want to decide for myself. Are there multiple players or are there just one or two. As I move through movement one, it slowly builds up and it is very effective and still manages to be hypnotic. I love the following movements where there are different pieces of percussion, which are very interesting in the pieces but the piece never loses its hypnotism – the piece just becomes that more interesting and colourful.

I feel that the difference in the four movements of the piece are the instruments used, just different colours being added with the different percussion instruments, and to be honest I feel that I have enjoyed this better now, as I have a better understanding of the piece.

Zyklus -work no 9 – Karlheinz Stockhausen

Stockhausen is a name which comes up a lot when I read in depth about the music I like, the times I have heard band members refer to the influence of Stockhausen is incredible. This piece of work is one of his pieces that I have never heard before which is why I chose it.

Zyklus. It took me a little while to realise that this is probably referring to the Xylophone. The Xylophone is the dominant instrument in this piece (it could be a Glockenspiel but I am going to assume Xylophone which is like the title of the piece) but I am hearing other instruments being brought in. I am not sure what the piece is trying to say but it is very eclectic. I feel that the instruments which are introduced are stitched rather crazily into the piece. I do like the way in which the Xylophone is utilised with runs up and down the bars with the beater, that is interesting. The score is very unpredictable but that is a piece by Stockhausen for you. It is engaging, unpredictable and rather wonderful.

Ionisation – Edgard Varese

Varese is another composer that I actually like so as I had not heard this piece before I chose this. If I recall without referring to the first module, in some of his work, I think he has used real sounds, from trains to the sounds of the city. In this piece the sounds I heard at the start sounded very much like vintage aeroplanes, the sounds of them when they are diving down ready to attack an enemy, I found this quite unusual.

A short piece, I think I may have heard tubular bells at one point which reminded me of the chime which we know as “Westminster” (they do sound like Big Ben). The piece is bleak and short but I liked it very much, the aeroplane noises I think I am hearing being the difference to me not liking it.