Category Archives: composition1

composition1 computerMusic1 computerMusic2 computerMusic3 max musth625 sonicArts

(sonicArts) online storage

I’ve been pushing iLocker in class, an online storage solution offered to all of you from Ball State. (I won’t call it free, given what you pay in technology and student services fees, not to mention tuition.)


If you don’t have a good FTP program, or otherwise know how to set it up on a computer that isn’t your own, it is ugly to use. UGLY.

So I would recommend Dropbox, or Box, or some other free online storage service. Make sure you put the file in your public folder, and copy the link to give to me.



(musicComp1) Final Composition – Duet

Due: Friday, May 3, by noon. (turn in to my MU 207 office).

Your final composition is a duet, approximately 1.5 – 2 minutes in length. One of the instruments should be from an instrumental group that you haven’t written for in either of your solo compositions. Both instruments should be from the woodwind, and/or brass, or bowed string families. Your composition should be diatonically chromatic or atonal.

Consider rhythmic texture as a compositional device, using the model pieces we have looked at in class. Consider how the combination of homophonic rhythmic textures with independent contrapuntal textures to create organization. Don’t just use imitative alternation in your piece.

We will not have this final composition performed in-class.

To summarize the requirements:

  • one of the instruments must be from an instrumental group that you haven’t written for previously.
  • both instruments should come from the woodwind, brass, and/or bowed string families.
  • length should be between 1.5 and 2 minutes, approximately.
  • Notation should be neat and clear, including tempo markings, dynamics, and expression markings.
  • Title and your name should be on the first page.
  • Staves should be labeled with the instrument names, at least on the first system.
  • The two staves for each system should be bracketed on the left edge. Use the Ran, Private Game, as an example.

(musicComp1) counterpoint assignment

Complete the worksheet I handed out in class (First and Second Species Counterpoint). Due 4/8 or 4/9.

For the first melody, change the first C5 to a Bb4.

I realize that I told the T/Th class I wouldn’t assign this until Tuesday, but given that you have done some first and second species counterpoint in your music theory classes I think you should be able to complete this exercise.

I have some previous posts on counterpoint that should help.


(musicComp1) second solo composition project UPDATED


Due April 1 and 2

Compose a 3.5 – 4 minute composition for solo, single line instrument. Your composition should explore diversity and extremity of expression than your first composition. Consider using adjective prompts like we used for the last melody assignment, but don’t necessarily go with your first idea. Give some thought to your guiding prompts.


  • Length: 3.5 – 4 minutes in length
  • Instrumentation: a different instrument group than your first composition (woodwinds, brass, strings are the three instrument groups available).
  • Atonal or chromatically diatonic. NOTE: at least one of your compositions must be atonal this semester. You will write one duet in addition to this solo piece.
  • Turn in a copy of your composition to me – not your original score.

The usual requirements of clean and neat notation, with dynamics, expression marks, articulations, and tempi indications are expected.


(musicComp1) blog reading and continued extremism in the pursuit of art

Now would be a good time to point all of you to a recent blog post I wrote about consonance, dissonance, and beauty. I posted it on my rather sporadically updated blog, processed_sound. You can poke around, but other posts are all much older. (I’m trying to get into a habit of posting twice a week, but so far only making it to one per week.)

Read the post by next class. It seems an appropriate time, coming off group wailings about the Ferneyhough and Xenakis works. We will continue to discuss the Ferneyhough and Xenakis this week, along an introduction to ways of composing atonal music. You will have to compose at least one atonal work this semester, so it is time to think about how you might do that.


(musicComp1) 4 melodies, with prompts

Due Friday 3/1 (both classes, before you leave for spring break!)

Compose four melodies, two to three phrases long, using the following prompts:

  • frenzied
  • serene
  • searching/questioning
  • M/F: adventuresome, T/R: foreboding

The melodies should be for specific instruments, and should include at least two for an instrument family (woodwinds, string, brass) different from the one used for your most recent composition. These melodies will not be performed in class – you do not have to bring in performers.

Label the melodies clearly with the corresponding prompt, and as always, include tempo markings, articulations, and dynamics.


(musicComp1) listening/study: xenakis and ferneyhough

Your next listening and score study assignment involves works that are quite different from what we have been listening to in class, and probably quite different from your normal listening habits.

  • Iannis Xenakis: Mikka (violin)
  • Brian Ferneyhough: Time and Motion Study no. 1 (bass clarinet)


You should understand that the musical selections for study are intended to help you learn compositional techniques and to expand your understanding of what is musical. Your ability to come up with new compositional ideas is enhanced by confronting the unfamiliar in music. These two virtuosic works from the 1970s sit firmly within a tradition of late-20th-century modernism that draws upon mathematical relationships and experimentation with the very nature of what is musical sound. They are beautiful and exciting – exhilarating, even.

You will need to listen to each work multiple times and with multiple listening strategies. I suggest starting with the Xenakis and then listening to the Ferneyhough.

In the Xenakis work the violin plays with constant glissando, the shape being dictated by an abundance of quarter tones that create a feeling of being completely unanchored to any tuning system of discrete notes. In many ways it is an acoustic composition using an electronic music aesthetic of pitch, or for Xenakis, an aesthetic rooted in drawing. First listen to the work a few times without looking at the score. Focus on the musical gestures as defined by shape, range, and length. Next look at the score without listening to the recording. Focus on the pitch shapes of the gestures, thinking about changes in direction and pitch range. Finally, listen to the work while following the score. It may be difficult to follow the score, as although it has many notes which should suggest lots of events to follow, the constant glissando can make distinguishing pitches within a gesture quite difficult. Look for starts and stops along with more pronounced changes in range as reference points.

Some people refer to Ferneyhough’s style as The New Complexity. It is exceedingly virtuosic, with complex rhythmic relationships, extreme changes of register, quarter-tone pitches, and a compendium of extended techniques (playing techniques not found in the traditional classical literature, such as flutter tonguing, multiphonics, fingerings to produce timbral changes, etc.). Although certainly not jazz, it isn’t much of a conceptual leap from Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman, and Eric Dolphy to Brian Ferneyhough. The Dutch bass clarinetist Harry Sparnaay has released a recording of this work on a CD that includes music by Eric Dolphy. Ferneyhough arrives at his complexity by repeatedly applying a process to isolated material to arrive at variations and new material that is necessarily related but not always in ways that even he can describe.

My suggestion is to first look at the Ferneyhough score without listening to the work. (I strongly suggest either viewing it on screen at full size or printing it out at it’s full 11×17 dimensions.) Skip the performance notes/instructions and take in the actual notated piece. The score is a work of art, carefully crafted to communicate both the frenzy of the work and how events connect via ultra-precise notation, and the manuscript is the composer’s own hand. Ferneyhough often sets his tempo markings to the eighth note, which allows him to use beaming as a means of communicating phrase structure. Look at the increasing complexity, especially on pp. 3 – 5, and an often polyphonic notation of gestures. After a good-faith examination of the score, listen to the work while following the score. Like the Xenakis, it will be hard to follow throughout on your first attempts. Use the same advice I gave for Xenakis – contour, range, pauses, etc., can provide guide points even if you can’t follow every note. Listen to the work with the score multiple times, making a conscious effort to sometimes follow the score focused on small details of pitches and rhythms, and at other times pulling back your focus to follow the larger sense of gesture, phrasing, and the arcs of directionality.


(musicComp1) solo wind composition

Due 2/21 and 2/22

Write a composition for solo wind (woodwind or brass) instrument of your choice. The piece should be either chromatic tonal or non-tonal and approximately 2.5 minutes in length.

The work should have at least two important motivic ideas, but how you present and develop these ideas is up to you. You do not need to concern yourself, nor should you be too thoughtful about traditional classical forms. Rather, think about presentation of ideas, profile, development, dialog, continuity, and contrast. You may find that simple structures, like ABA and Arch forms are helpful for organizing your ideas into a composition, but there is not a small/finite set of formal possibilities.

You are again responsible for finding your performer to perform the composition in class. It will be good for you to get some of the harder spots, and to try out ideas in general, with your performer as you go along.


(musicComp1) listening/study: persichetti and carter

Two new works to look at for next week:

  • Vincent Persichetti, Parable for Solo Horn
  • Elliott Carter, Gra for Solo Bb Clarinet

Scores and audio are together in one folder, downloadable from my iLocker.

Look over these two works for motivic/thematic content. We will probably also revisit the second and third movements of the Stravinsky.


(musicComp1) composition/notation checklist

As you prepare your next set of melodies for performance on 1/31 and 2/1, here is a list of basic notation, instrumentation, and composition issues that you should make sure you address.

Always include a tempo marking, in the form of durational value = number of beats per minute. It can be useful to also include some descriptive term (preferably in English) to give an additional sense of musical style to the performer. Terms like calm, agitated, excited, ponderous, heavy, etc., can be very useful.

Include a clef and key signature (if used) on every staff. The meter is written at the beginning only, unless it changes in the course of the melody.

Stems go down for single note heads on the middle line and above, and up for note heads below middle line – no exceptions. If notes are within a beamed group that include down and up stems, take the average position of the notes and use for all.

Include dynamics, articulations, and any expressive markings.

Indicate the instrument for which the melody is written. Instrument names should include the key of the instrument if transposing (Horn in F, Bb Clarinet, Eb Alto Saxophone, etc.).

Make sure you write for the range of the instrument. Instrument ranges are readily available on the web with simple searching. Keep in mind that if you write for extreme ranges for winds (high/low) you may not get predictable results. If you write pitches that are outside of the instrument’s range, you will definitely get unpredictable results.

Ledger lines should be spaced evenly and consistently. Use the same line spacing as found in your staff. Performers read ledger lines using a combination of counting lines and recognizing vertical spatial distance.

For wind instruments, it is almost always preferred to write ledger lines than to use 8va and and 8va bassa. Fingerings are not the same for notes in every octave, and the overuse of octave symbols creates a cognitive dissonance for performers.