Friday, August 5, 2011

Crafting a Composition - working the music

Working your skills to make better music

In a previous post I spoke of Composition as a craft and the need to work it every day. Another aspect of the craft of composition is the detailed work needed for existing works in progress.
Every composer I know has "issues" they're working on. Not pieces of music, but techniques in their craft they aren't as accomplished at as they'd like to be. Several years ago during my undergraduate studies one of my 'issues' was dynamics. I liked writing music, but I didn't like including dynamics other than f and p - and even those were few and far between. Several of my instructors told me I needed to improve my dynamic usage, so I set about doing just that.
I went back though a series of completed works and focused on the dynamics. Each piece was played through with meticulous detail in terms of what I wanted the dynamics to do. Not only was I adding more f's and p's but a large number of hairpins cresc. and decresc. marks as well.
At the same time, I tried to focus on including dynamics during the composition process of new pieces. Up to that point, I composed in layers, first the melodic line, then the harmony, then dynamics and/or tempo, then phrasing... and so on. What I was writing was a series of disjointed elements stuck together and as a result they were not really great pieces of music. However, when I started to include the dynamics as part of the process, the melodic and harmonic lines flowed together better and phrases jumped out at me which needed to be marked.
Now, all of these elements and several others are all part of the initial phase of writing a piece. But they've only become that way because I spent the time to hone the skill in the first place. The more your skills as a composer become second nature, (part of your sub-conscious and not conscious effort), the more you'll tap into the inner inspiration as a composer.
Craft your compositions to improve your skills and see how that will in-turn improve your music.

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