University of California, Irvine

Music 150


Assignments are posted here for the immediately upcoming class session(s) and all past class sessions.

Due Tuesday, December 6:

Present a polished performance of your instrumental piece for critique and recording in a group session Tuesday December 6 12:30-3:00 in MM 218.

Due Thursday, December 1:

Come to class prepared to discuss your own instrumental composition, and to ask any questions you might have about the parts you will be performing.

Wednesday, November 30:

Present a polished performance of your song for critique and recording in a group session Wednesday November 30 3:00-5:00 in AITR 196.

Due Tuesday, November 29:

Turn in your completed instrumental chamber music composition, both score and parts to the EEE DropBox called "13-CompScore+Parts", or to the Music Department, by 12:30 pm Tuesday November 29.

Due Tuesday, November 22:

Continue composing your chamber ensemble piece. You should have a significant amount of it written out in a first draft in order to receive comments on it, and deliver your draft to the EEE DropBox called "12-CompDraft", or to the Music Department, by 5:00 pm Monday November 21.

Due Thursday, November 17:

Study the scores for two chamber pieces by Christopher Dobrian: Now and Then and Nonyx. The scores are available on reserve in the large binder labeled "Scores" on reserve under Dobrian in the AMC.

Pay particular attention to the two different notational approaches to achieving ametric rhythms, and notice the advantages and disadvantages of each approach. Think also about the significance of the word "gesture" with respect to these two pieces. In what ways is this music (or any music) "gestural", and to the extent that it is, how is that effect achieved?

Due Tuesday, November 15:

Set up at least one rehearsal, preferably two, with your vocalist and pianist during this week (week 8 of the quarter). The goal is to have the piece in good shape for a recording early in week 9.

Study the online document about analyzing and developing a melodic motive, and think how some of the techniques described there might be useful to you in your own composition.

Begin composing your final project for three or more instruments. Begin with some "pre-compositional" decisions, specifically,
a) What will the piece be about? That is, what will be the primary (perhaps even the singular) conceptual and/or musical focus of your piece?
b) For what instruments will your piece be composed?

Next make as many other compositional decisions as you can. What will be the time duration of your piece? What will be the mood/feel/emotion you hope for it to convey? (Presumably that is closely related to what your piece is "about", but might be considered a separate effect of the music.) what will be the tempo? The meter? The pitch organization? The formal structure? The level of activity/intensity? What will be the assigned roles (functional behaviors) or the instruments? By making as many of these decisions as possible, you define the constraints by which your composition will abide. That will ultimately make your job of composing easier. These early decisions might change later, but you should try to retain them if possible, as they will help you give focus to your piece.

Identify and compose one or two core motivic ideas (fundamental brief musical passages) that lend themselves well to supporting what your piece is about, and begin to devise other musical ideas that come directly from the core motive(s). What role can these musical excerpts that you have composed play in the structure of the piece? (Where and how will you use them?)

Turn in your in-progress work to the EEE DropBox called "11-CompStructure", or to the Music Department, by 12:30 pm on Tuesday.

Your final composition, both score and parts, is due Tuesday November 29 at 12:30 pm.

Due Thursday, November 10:

Read the section on rhythm, pp. 14-30, from The Technique of My Musical Language by Olivier Messiaen.

Read the Preface to, and study the score of, and listen to, Movement I of the Quartet for the End of Time by Olivier Messiaen. See if you can recognize the rhythmic processes he describes in the preface.

These pages are all available in the black binder labeled "Scores" in the section marked Dobrian on reserve in the Arts Media Center.

Bring your instrument to class. Come to class having looked at the 12-tone duo score(s) composed for your instrument, and be ready to comment on the effectiveness and playability of the part(s) written for your instrument.

Due Tuesday, November 8:

Compose a short (approximately one-page) piece for two melodic instruments, choosing from among the available instruments in the class, using strict 12-tone technique. First construct a row and a 2-dimensional transposition/inversion matrix based on that row. You may use one version at a time of the row shared between the two instruments and/or you may have each instrument state a different version of the row. It's advised that you not try to impose a strong tonal hearing on the music, but that you instead emphasize the intervallic strengths inherent in the row while using other aspects of the music (motive, rhythm, dynamics, etc.) to give it direction and coherency. Please turn in your composition no later than 12:30 pm on Tuesday November 8, either via the EEE DropBox called "10-12toneDuo" or in person in class.

Due Thursday, November 3:

Read chapter 8, "Rhythm and Meter", pp. 89-98 from Techniques of the Contemporary Composer by David Cope.

Compose three rhythms using the metric grid techniques discussed in class. Each rhythm should use no more than two different pitches and should last at least ten seconds. You may of course use ties to show varying durations, and written accents to show dynamically stressed notes. Translate from grid notation to standard music notation.
Rhythm 1: Use only a grid of duple divisions (2, 4, 8, etc.) to produce a rhythm that has sonic interest because of its accent pattern, groupings, syncopations, and/or motivic development.
Rhythm 2: Use changes in grid division to produce a rhythm that has sonic interest because of its syncopation, fluidity, and/or sense of shifting tempo.
Rhythm 3: Use irregularly spaced attack points (within whatever type of grid you want) to obfuscate the grid. The focus is not so much to make the rhythm "interesting" or engaging, but rather to make it seem gridless.

Place your notated rhythms in the EEE DropBox called "09-GridRhythms" in the form of a .pdf, .mus, or .sib (version 5) file, or deliver it on paper to the Music Department office no later than 5:00 p.m. Friday November 4.

Be prepared to perform your rhythms in class, either by counting off the beat and then tapping them, or by tapping the beat while singing them.

Due Tuesday, November 1:

Turn in your completed score for voice and piano by 12:00 noon on Monday October 31, either in the EEE DropBox called "08-Song" (as .pdf or as .sib in Sibelius 5 format) or in the Music Department office.

Due Thursday, October 27:

Read "The Composition of Music" from Poetics of Music by Igor Stravinsky, available on reserve in the AMC. If you're extremely pressed for time, at least read the last four pages, from the bottom of page 61 through page 65. Consider how Stravinsky's observations are relevant to your own experience of -- and possible future approach to -- composing.

Continue to work on your song for voice and piano.

Due Tuesday, October 25:

Turn in a completed (or nearly completed) draft of your song for voice and piano to the EEE DropBox called "07-Song2ndDraft", or to the Music Department office, by 5:00 pm on Monday October 24.

More examples of effective simple tonal piano accompaniments (and cantabile melodic writing) are available on the documents page, notably Ave Maria by Franz Schubert, Beau Soir by Claude Debussy, Nana by Manuel de Falla, and piano rehearsal scores of A Nothing on Earth and Working in Garden by Christopher Dobrian.

Due Thursday, October 20:

Read the article "Cross-Domain Mapping", a chapter from the book Conceptualizing Music by Lawrence M. Zbikowski, on reserve in the Arts Media Center.

Due Tuesday, October 18:

Meet with your singer to discuss such topics as the singer's range, preferred tessitura, passaggio, breath capacity, special technical skills or techniques to avoid, stylistic/aesthetic likes and dislikes, your ideas for poetry, and any musical ideas you may have so far. Take notes! Ask the singer to demonstrate the things s/he describes to you about the voice, so that you feel you have a good aural image of her/his voice, capabilities, and strengths. Meet with your pianist to discuss similar things. Ask questions about technique, accompaniment styles they may have encountered and found effective, things they do especially well, and things to avoid. Ask her/him to demonstrate. Take notes.

Try to establish a daily routine of composing for a solid block of time, just as you would devote to practicing your own instrumental technique. Spend some time thinking about the music silently -- developing concepts about it and/or imagining its sound -- and also spend time at a piano trying out your ideas. Try to establish the habit of writing down everything you think of. (I suggest using paper and pencil rather than a computer, as it will be quicker and will interrupt your creative flow less.) At the end of each composing session, take a moment to summarize the ideas you had in that session, and give yourself a task that you plan to start with in the next session.

By 12:30 pm on Tuesday October 18, deposit your work so far in the EEE DropBox called "06-Song1stDraft" or deliver it in hard copy (a xerox, not the original!) to the Music Department office.

Analyze two songs by Franz Schubert: Gretchen am Spinnrade and Erlkönig. Don't focus on Roman numeral harmonic analysis (unless you enjoy that, or you hear something that you particularly want to learn more about), but rather on the composer's expressive use of accompaniment style, harmonic tension (dissonance and/or modulation), vocal range, and timing. Write down some observations about each of the two songs and be ready to discuss them in class.

Due Thursday, October 13:

Compose three or more short phrases of music for SATB choir using only quartal harmony, following these instructions:

  1. Each chord should have at least three different pitches sounding together.
  2. You may base your chords on quartal chords of three pitches (using all three, such as EAD), four pitches (using all four, such as EADG, or using three of the four, such as AEG or EGD), or five pitches (using four of the five, such as EADC or EDGC).
  3. Compose at least one phrase in which all the pitches belong to a single seven-pitch diatonic scale, with no use of non-chord tones.
  4. Compose at least one phrase in which the chords move between different diatonic scales (for example EADE to EbBbCF to DBEA to CBbFBb), with no use of non-chord tones.
  5. Try, in a third phrase, to use some non-chord tones (PT, NT, or sus), but be careful to choose ones that do not too strongly imply a non-quartal harmony. If you think your intended chord is not obvious, use labels (such as PT, NT, or sus) to indicate the non-chord tones.
  6. In this kind of harmony, parallel fourths and fifths are nearly unavoidable, and often they are even desirable (to create a more unified, less contrapuntal effect), but for this exercise try to maximize contrary motion and try never to have all four voices moving in the same direction at the same time.

Here is an example solution to the assignment.

Please deposit your assignment -- as a .sib, .mus, .pdf, or .jpg file -- in the EEE DropBox called "05-QuartalHarmony", or deliver it as hard copy to the Music Department office, by 10:00 am on Thursday October 13.

Due Tuesday, October 11:

Find (or write yourself) two possible choices of poetry for your song composition project. Deposit them in the EEE DropBox called "04-SongPoetry" no later than 12:00 noon on Monday October 10. In a separate prose document(.txt, .rtf, .doc, or .pdf) provide as much information as you know at this point about the song you hope to compose, including such information as preferred poem, preferred voice type, style, mood, important features of the poetry you hope to bring out musically, and any specific ideas you might have about musical content such as tempo, key, meter, accompaniment, text setting, etc.

Read the article published by the National Association of Teachers of Singing on "Suggested Guidelines for the Composition of Vocal Music".

Composer Libby Larsen's comments about setting text to music, composer Matthew Saunders's comments about setting English text,

If you ever plan to publish your score, or make a published recording of it, or perform the piece in a paid concert, you will want to read the ASCAP guidelines for songwriters.

Due Thursday, October 6:

To reinforce your understanding of the lecture on jazz chord nomenclature and symbology, read these few pages by Kei Akagi and these few pages by Jerry Coker.

Familiarize yourself with the following two standard jazz ballads. Study the scores, listen to recordings, and analyze the chord progressions, paying particular attention to instances of predominant-dominant-tonic, especially ii7-V7-I and iiø7-V7-i progressions.

Autumn Leaves, by Joseph Kosma, here performed by Yves Montand and Days of Wine and Roses by Henry Mancini here performed by Tony Bennett (with Bill Evans on piano).

Due Tuesday, October 4:

Practice singing the arpeggiation exercise, saying the note names, transposed to all major and minor keys up to three flats or three sharps.

Using the framework provided in this B-minor harmonic progression, fill in the blank measures in each of three different ways.

1) Write a melody, in any rhythm, in which each and every note belongs to the given chord progression. Your melody need not try to convey the entire harmony, but it must always be in consonance with it.

2) Write a melody, in any rhythm, in which every note either belongs to the given chord progression (i.e., is a chord tone), or is a valid* passing tone, neighbor tone, or suspension between chord tones.

3) Write a two-part counterpoint, with both melodies in treble clef, in which both melodies conform strictly to the requirements of #2 above.

Here is a graphic that you can print out to use as a worksheet for practice, and on which you can write your final assignment.

Please turn in your completed assignment to the Music Department office no later than 2:00 pm on Monday October 3.

Non-Chord Tones Defined:

- A "passing tone" is a non-chord tone that is approached by step from a chord tone and left by step in the same direction to another chord tone.
- A "neighboring" tone is a non-chord tone that is approached by step from a chord tone and then returns to the same chord tone.
- A suspension is a non-chord tone that is prepared by (held over from) a chord tone of the previous chord to become a non-chord tone against the new chord, and that then resolves by step, usually downward, to a chord tone.

This document shows some examples of those types of non-chord tone.

Due Thursday, September 29:

Analyze the harmonic progression of the A section of the Sarabande from J.S. Bach's Partita in B-minor for violin (found on page 6 of the PDF document, printed with the page number 15). Do the same for the A section of the Double that follows the Sarabande (found on page 7 of the PDF document, printed with the page number 16). Print out pages 6 and 7 of the PDF file and write your roman numeral analysis under the notes. Bring your completed assignment to class on Thursday September 29.

Practice singing the upper melody of the A section of the Sarabande, and also practice singing the lower melody. Try to find a middle melody and practice singing that. If the distinction between upper, middle, and lower melodies at times seems ambiguous, try to make a decision about which melody each note belongs to.

Continue practicing the arpeggiation exercise from the first day of class, in increasingly difficult keys.

Due Tuesday, September 27:

Practice singing arpeggiations of the following chord progressions, as demonstrated in class, in all major and minor keys.
Major: I - I7 - V7/IV - IV - IV7 - ii65 - I64 - V - V7 - I
Minor: i - i7 - V7/iv - iv - iv7 - iiø65 - i64 - V - V7 - i
Be prepared to sing the progressions in class.

In classic 4-part chorale style, in even rhythm, in one major key and one minor key each having two or more flats or sharps, write as many variations as you can think of on the following progressions, as demonstrated in class. You'll be credited for good voice leading and for sheer number of (hopefully interesting) variations that conform to these guidelines.
tonic function - "passing" function (could be almost anything) - subdominant (or secondary dominant) function - dominant function - tonic function
Here are a few examples in major:
I - vi - IV - V - I
I - V7/ii - V7/V - V7 - I
I - iii - ii6 - V7 - vi, etc.

Here are a few examples in minor:
i - VI - iv - V - i
i - V2/iv - iv6 - V7 - i
i - VII - iiø65 - V - i, etc.

You should definitely feel free to extend these harmonic functions as far as you'd like, including the use of seventh chords, ninth chords, borrowed chords, recognized chord substitutions, etc. The possible realizations of this chord progression are infinite, so you should be able to produce many solutions.

Please submit your work for this assignment no later than 12:00 noon on Monday September 26. You may submit your work in electronic form (.sib file, .mus file, or .pdf file) via the EEE DropBox called "01-TonalProgressions", or you may leave a hard copy of your work in my department mailbox.

Christopher Dobrian
Last modified: November 29, 2011