Due Tuesday May 22:
Study the following chamber music pieces, all available in the Anthology for Musical Analysis by Charles Burkhart, on reserve under Dobrian in the AMC. (CD call numbers are listed in parentheses when available.) Read the brief analytical paragraphs before each piece, summarize in your own mind the significant techniques and ideas being explored by the composer in each piece, and examine the musical effect achieved by that technique. Think -- and be ready to discuss in class -- how you might adapt at least one of those techniques to your own instrumental composition.
Using the instrumentation that you have chosen for your small ensemble piece, compose at least 30 seconds of musical excerpts (each excerpt can be of any duration, with the total duration being at least 30 seconds) focusing on timbre (tone color) of the instruments or the instrumental combinations more than on melody per se. You might want to employ rhythmic ideas from your previous assignment, and/or ideas derived from your analysis of the pieces recommended above. Bring at least five xerox copies of your work to class.
Due Thursday May 17:
Complete and hand in any past assignments you have not yet completed. Be sure also to provide a copy of the score of your song for the singer, the accompanist, and Professor Buck.
Due Tuesday May 15:
Hand in a xerox copy of the completed score of your song for voice and piano. On your own, provide a copy of the score for the singer, the accompanist, and Professor Buck, as well.
Read the following (on reserve in the Arts Media Center):
Techniques of the Contemporary Composer by David Cope, pp. 89-98 (meter and rhythm), 99-121 (texture and timbre).
Lou Harrison's Music Primer by Lou Harrison, pp. 1-3, 8-11, 17-19 (and more if you'd like,m of course).
The Technique of My Musical Language by Olivier Messiaen, pp. 14-30 (rhythm), pp. 47-54 (harmony). Note that the text is in volume 1, and the musical examples are in volume 2. Twentieth Century Harmony by Vincent Persichetti, pp. 93-108 (quartal chords), 109-120 (added note chords), 121-132 (clusters), 135-180 (polychords), 230-267 (alterations, polytonality, atonality).
Decide upon the instrumentation and performers for a short instrumental piece. The piece must include at least three "voices", which is to say at least three instruments, or instrument plus piano with the piano taking on the role of two distinct voices or components of the texture. The piece must use a harmonic structure that is not strictly tertiary and triadic (i.e., three-note chords built on thirds). This can include any of the harmonic devices discussed in class, such as extended tertiary chords, chords built on synthetic scales, chords built in fourths or seconds, chords built on particular interval sets, etc., or some logical extension of those ideas. In addition, the piece should focus especially on rhythm or timbre (or both) as a primary element of the compositional structure. (We'll discuss this more in class.)
Compose an interesting rhythmic structure for one or two instruments, using ideas of motivic development as discussed in class on May 3 such as articulation of points in a time grid, composite rhythms, cross rhythms, "similars", etc. Use different pitches only as a way to articulate (highlight) some aspect of the rhythmic idea you're trying to convey. Bring several xerox copies of your work to show to the class.
There will be no class sessions on May 8 and May 10. Make use of this working week to complete all of the assignments due May 15.
Due Thursday May 3:
Turn in a xerox copy of your song in progress. Provide as much of it as you can in order to get useful commentary before you consider it completed.
(Optional) Read the article on Composing for the Voice on reserve in the Arts Media Center.
Due Tuesday May 1:
Compose as much as possible of your song for voice and piano, and meet with your singer to show her/him the piece and get feedback about the difficulty and appropriateness of what you've composed.
Study the use of motive and harmony in the accompaniment of "Branch by Branch" by Leslie Adams (provided in class on the preceding Thursday).
Due Thursday April 26:
Read chapters 1 and 2 of Vincent Persichetti's "Twentieth Century Harmony".
Due Tuesday April 24:
Study pp. 1-42 of René Lenormand's A Study of Twentieth-Century Harmony (volume 1), on reserve under Dobrian in the Arts Media Center. The chapters deal with chord progressions including parallel fifths, non-traditional resolutions of seventh chords, and the use of ninth chords. Play the examples on the keyboards provided in the AMC, noticing the effects of parallelism used deliberately by French composers in the early 20th century. Notice the way that that parallelism evokes a sense of the entire musical texture ascending or descending, and consider how that effect might apply to your own compositions. (Note: Lenormand uses the term "species" to refer to different types of seventh chords: 1st species=dominant seventh chord; 2nd species=minor seventh chord; 3rd species=half-diminished seventh chord; 4th species=major seventh chord.)
Analyze the harmonic progressions, voice leading, and arpeggiation style in the two songs provided: "Gretchen am Spinnerade" by Franz Schubert and "Beau Soir" by Claude Debussy. Notice how Schubert's arpeggio patterns are based on classical voice leading and relatively classical progressions while Debussy's arpeggio patterns imply parallel fifths and less orthodox chord progressions (sometimes including 7th chords, 9th chords, and chords with an added tone) based on a mixture of major-minor tonality and (Phrygian) modality. Notice the way each composer sometimes uses a change of texture (i.e., breaks the arpeggiation pattern) for dramatic effect.
Compose as much of your song as possible. Begin by using your decisions about the character of the text (mood, tempo, level of dissonance, etc.) to make some initial decisions about the tempo, the type of harmony you want to use, and the texture of the accompaniment. Experiment with finding a distinctive motive (a distinctive rhythm, texture, harmonic progression, and/or melodic idea) that will serve as a recognizable "hook" for the song. You might also make some global decisions about the over-all structure of your piece--the length, the sectional structure (if applicable to your text), where it will stress consonance and where it will stress dissonance, and where there will be significant changes or features. Write those ideas out as text and/or plot them on a large sheet of paper to give yourself a formal overview of your song. Then compose ideas for the opening and the ending of your song. Bring to class five xerox copies of any planning documents you've made (sketches or formal plan), and of the parts that you have composed. They don't need to be polished, but they should be enough to demonstrate clearly how you plan for your song to sound.
Due Thursday April 19:
Come to class with your poetry selected for your song composition, information about your singer's range and tessitura, and your characterization of the text (the implicit mood, tempo, descriptive adjectives, suggested accompaniment style, vocal style, type of harmony, etc.).
Due Tuesday April 17:
Study the way that Bach combines harmonic progression and counterpoint in his Sarabande and Double movements from his Partita No. 1 in B minor. Note how the melody of the Double follows exactly the same harmonic progression as the Sarabande, how he uses the melody to delineate those harmonies, and how he uses the cognitive phenomenon of streaming in the Double to imply counterpoint with a single melody.
Write at least one melody for voice (any range, tempo, and mood) that conforms to the chord progression shown below, and that uses only traditional classical types of non-chord tones.
Write two-part counterpoint for two voices, one male one female, that conforms to the chord progression shown below, and that uses only traditional classical types of non-chord tones. Bear in mind the guidlines of counterpoint and melody discussed in class.
Study chapters 1 and 2 of Choral Arranging by Hawley Ades, on reserve under Dobrian in the Arts Media Center. You should play through all the examples in those chapters to understand what he is describing. (You can use the music keyboards in the AMC.)
Thursday April 12:
Guest lecture by composer Daniel Catán. (No assignment due.)
Wednesday April 11:
Attend the "Word & Music" class held Wednesday at 1:00 in Music 196 (the choral/vocal studio). Listen to the singers there, paying attention to their vocal range and quality. Meet with the singer for whom you'll be composing, share your ideas for song text with the singer, and discuss ideas for style of song you will compose.
Due Thursday April 10:
Read pages 1-54 of The Contrapuntal Harmonic Technique of the 18th Century by Allen Irvine McHose.
Spend a lot of time at the piano playing as many variations as you can think of on the basic chord progression of Tonic-Bridge-Predominant-Dominant-Tonic. (You can interject additional tonic chords at any point in that progression. You can also omit the bridge chord and/or predominant chord. You can also add secondary dominant chords for interest, if you'd like.) For example: I-vi-IV-V7-I (in minor i-VI-iv-V7-i), or I-IV64-I-V65-I (in minor i-iv64-i-V65-i), or I-iii-ii6-V7-I, or I-I6-ii65-I64-V-I, or I-vi-V2/ii-ii6-I64-V-I, etc., etc.
Study some of the Bach chorales (e.g. #102, #67). Analyze the chord progressions. Do they follow the rules of progression? Does his voice leading in four parts follow the rules discussed in class? Do his non-chord tones follow the rules? At the piano, try using some of his chord progressions (but using your own sense of voice leading).
In some key other than C major or A minor, write as many chord progressions as you can, in four-part chorale harmony, following the rules of progression, the rules of voice leading, and the rules of non-chord tones.
After you have written several such four-part progressions, organize them into a single chorale (modifying them slightly as you need to in order to make them work together as a larger piece). Make at least 5 xerox copies of your finished "chorale", legibly written, so that we can sing it in class. Also make 1 xerox copy of all the chord progressions you wrote, to hand in along with your chorale.
I encourage you to meet with your classmates outside of class time, to discuss the reading, show each other your chord progressions, etc.
Due Thursday April 5:
Compose two melodies, each at least 8 measures long (but keep going longer if you want to), using only the pitches of a single triad, to be sung with the syllable "la". Before you begin, establish what voice you are writing for (baritone, tenor, alto, or soprano), and restrict your melody to the range of that voice (or some subset of the voice's range). Choose a different key for each melody, with one melody in major and one in minor (any key except C major or A minor), using a different meter and tempo for each melody. Bear in mind the topics discussed in class such as controlling your use of the range and the contour of the melody, using motives to enhance coherency, avoiding a lull in momentum due to overemphasis of the root on accented beats, etc. Don't forget to include tempo, dynamics, and any necessary articulations, slurs, expression marks, etc.
Compose a third melody, this one at least 16 measures long, that remains centered exclusively on a single triad as before, but that may also include non-chord tones of the type that are standard in 18th-century theory. These include most commonly passing tones and neighbor tones, less commonly appoggiaturas and escape tones. (Suspensions and anticipations are not relevant when the melody is based on a single chord.) You may choose any chord except C major or A minor. Try to avoid using accented non-chord tones in a such a way as to imply other chords too strongly. (Feel free to compose more than one such melody if you'd like!)
Come to class with at least five xerox copies of your melodies, and be prepared to sing your melodies in class.