Music Composition Assignments for 2.2.2018

Music Composition Assignments for 2.2.2018

Reminder, your original and edited compositions are due to me by email on Wednesday, January 31st. I will then send you a Dropbox link to all the compositions on Thursday. On Friday, please be prepared to play a portion of your original, discuss your edits, and play a portion of your edited piece. If we have any time next week after your presentations and our discussion about copyright, you’ll have some lab time. However, I anticipate we’ll take up the whole hour.

Today we talked a bit about how to transition between keys or sections in a piece. Essentially, there are three ways to do it: suddenly, gradually, or deceptively. An example of a sudden transition would be the key changes in Mozart’s Sonata in C. An example of a gradual transition is the early part of the overture to Richard Wagner’s TannhauserNotice how he has several false resolutions between 1:05 and 1:45 before he finally resolves to a new key. Another method is a deceptive transition where you give the listeners clues that you are going one way, but end up going in another, such as the last half of the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Starting around the 6:00 mark, you think several times he is going to resolve and end the piece, but he keeps going and going until it sounds almost exhausting. These are all options available to you as you decide how to edit your pieces, and may come in handy in a few weeks when we start to tackle multi-movement pieces. (Woohoo!)

We then talked about some famous chords that have occurred in music history, most of them coming in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some examples are below:

The Mystic Chord was used by Alexander Scriabin to great effect in his Piano Sonata No. 5. Notice he sounds the chord as a complete unit only a few times, but draws it out and uses it as an arpeggio more often.

The Psalms Chord, the opening chord in Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms mvt. 1, is essentially an e minor chord that is used forcefully, over and over, in a somewhat off-kilter way, and spread out over a great distance.

The Elektra Chord is a polychord, which is two chords from different keys sounding together. The way Richard Strauss spelled it out displaces the third from the lower chord to sound above the top chord. It’s essentially an E major chord on the bottom and a C# major chord on the top, but he takes the G# out of the bottom chord, changes it to Ab, and puts it above the top chord. That makes for an interesting clash. The whole opera is rather long, and rather distressing, but you can listen to a concert version here if you choose.

The Petrushka Chord is another polychord, an F# major over C major, and is used in Stravinsky’s ballet, Petrushka. It’s first occurrence is at 17 seconds.

The Tristan Chord is from the Prelude (otherwise in opera known as the “overture”) of Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. He uses a solo line to ascend into the chord, and then the oboe resolves upward to eventually get to an e minor 7 chord.

The repeated chord in Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, starting around 3:27, is another polychord that is repeated insistently, with various accents to make it seem somewhat violent.

Finally, something we didn’t discuss today but is used very often now in choral music is the cluster chord. An example is “Water Night” by Eric Whitacre.

Whew! That’s a lot of listening examples! To clear the palate, here’s something completely different that made me happy to listen to this week. Breakfast Burrito Song