Thursday, December 10, 2009

Music Works: Deconstructing the Record

One thing I've noticed about contemporary music, whether it be popular or more of the academic idiom, is that people have been searching for new ways to not only compose the music, but search for original ways to use instruments (or any other medium that is able to produce a sound).

In this article it speaks of how three particular musicians achieve this by using old record players and phonograph's to communicate their art. Vinyl has always been used to produce music, or play music that has already been produced. Than at some point in the latter half of this century people reinvented the way in which it was used. People began to use vinyl to scratch, in particular in the hip hop and club genres. It was a new sound that became very popular, and it kind of died out again.

The group "vinyl interventions" has taken this a whole step further. They not only scratch, they used broken records, they use different ways of producing sound from the records (i.e. using a sewing needle attached to a microphone inside of a paper cone).

After reading this article I went online to hear some of their music, and it was very surreal. The timbres they use, a hitting, scratching noise. I was impressed with this amount of creativity.

It also reminds me of some of the more popular music I already listen to, some bands that are more oriented in the genre of "noise rock", Artists like Chad Vangaalen and the band Holy F***.

Chad Vangaalen incorporates a lot of electronic noise, created by pitch bending, and using unuaual instruments in a new context. What I like so much about him using pitch bending is the unpredictability in that form of music production. He often takes childrens toys, and rewires some of the cicuits to create a short circuited loop or noise that he will construct a musical idea around.

The group Holy F*** are similar, although they have more control over the music they create. They use toy keyboards and other various things and run them through various effect pedals to base drumbeats around. The effect again is somewhat surreal and the timbres generated are totally unique and new.

There seems to be a movement towards more aleotoric processes of composition amongst a number of musicians and composers these days. Also, there is a lot of experimentation with new ways of generating sound with older mediums. In today's age, it's no surprise that people are resorting to these older things to find new uses for them, it's the recycling era after all.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Finally, the end of the semester is here. This semester went by so fast, but at the same time I am more than thankful that the end is here. I am taking the advanced composition class next semester, and I'm excited to start, however I am in no rush for that time to come.

I am happy with the work I've done in this class. Listening back to my compositions I feel very satisfied and fufilled through what I've done, which I think is a first for me. I've always recorded little instrumental things on my computer, just to pass some time and stuff, but I never really would be overly satisfied with what I've done.

I'm always very self concious to let anyone here anything that I create because I beleive it's a reflection of who I am. And it's not about quality, or whether they like it or not. The thing I'm self concious about is if I want those sounds to be assosciated with me or not. And this is the first time I really feel totally confident in people hearing my ideas, the overall sound that I've created in my two pieces. It just seems to make sense to me for that to be written by me. I don't know if this will make sense to anyone else...reading this back makes me feel a little bit crazy. but whatever.

I was able to find a sound that was very much my own I think. A shimmery dreamlike sound that would just surround me when I'd play it by myself in the practice room. That's where both of them started out, just me screwing around on the piano and im pleased with it. However, I do think the two pieces are similar and think I need to move away from that sort of sound. Only to learn how to develop and present new ideas. I never want to get stuck relying on a certain way of thinking or writing, that stunts growth.

Friday, November 27, 2009


So last week I was quite discontent with my piece. I really liked all of the musical ideas that I've had, but they felt too marginalized, too blocky and didn't have the flow that I wanted it to have. I also felt that the ideas that I did have didn't match the character of the poem. I was tempted to just give up on what I had and start totally new.

However I felt too stubborn to throw away what I've already done. I talked to some of my classmates about it, and at their suggestion, I just made each of the sections longer. And this makes sense. Each of the ideas didn't really have enough time to settle in and have time to morph into the next idea. So when I began to extend each of the ideas into longer phrases, I began to see opportunities to quote earlier material in a different context.

The idea that I had at the beginning with the chords in the melodica seemed very unrelated to the rest of the piece to me, but I couldn't let go of them. Than I suddenly realized that the chords fit over several sections that I've already written, which was really exciting to realize. I was able to restate this exact progression 2 times in the melodica and once in the piano after the beginning.

Apart from those quotations I was able to bring back much of the melodic material in the different instruments. I am now much more satisfied with the cohesion and coherence of my piece. It's funny how you can get stuck, and be close to giving up. But thank goodness I have some people around who are able to point me in the right direction.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

internal resonance

As I've recently mentioned I have finally found some ideas to base my text setting on. I did start with a completley idea before however that did function musically. I was aiming for this piece to have a gypsy jazz type feel, very swingy, implied diminished harmonies never resolving just moving, and melodies based on the gypsy scale. I had only worked out a sort of introduction in this style, and I beleive it was decent music, butwhen I listened to it after a little while of being away from it, I didn't like it. Not because of the quality, just because it didn't feel right. I wouldn't want someone to hear it and assosciate it with me. And I beleive that's what's difficult about being a good composer, well not necessarily a good composer, but a composer who is fufilled with their own music, not just settling for good music, but music that has that extra resonance with themselves.
Also, I realized that continuing in that style would have boxed me in a lot faster than I would have appreciated. It was just the introduction and I was already limiting myself to get it to sound like this one paticular style which drove me nuts, so how could I base 4-5 minutes of music on these continuing confines?

Slow Beginnings

starting the new composition is taking a great deal longer than I had anticipated. I had a lot of ideas of how i wanted it to sound, but no solid ideas of actual little motives or themes. I think a lot of it comes from the instrumentation that I plan to use. When writing for the piano, it comes more naturally because I can sit at the piano and wank away at some keys until I play something that resonates with me.

Where I have no intention of using the piano, finding certain chords I like can only bring me to a certain point. Organizing these chords into rhythms and finding appropriate ways for them to progress is where I find a problem, also with the voicing of the instruments.

However, last night I was fiddling with some of the chords on my guitar and finally found a rhythm that matched the chords I wanted to incorperate. So I finally had my first real pliable musical idea in about 6 days of chipping away at them. This worries me in a way though, I'm afraid I will be limited to ideas that I need to work out on an actual instrument first...and there are many instruments I would love to write for but do not know how to play them. Are there any solutions to this?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The real thing

While I'm working on my second revision, I'm keeping in mind how important it is to get a set of fresh ears to listen and comment on my composition. The motive I took from my second piece and placed in the first revision of my first piece (the low rumbling chords) seemed like such a brilliant idea and great way to transition sections. It sounded great and a little unexpected to me which was what i was going for. However it didn't really make sense to anyone else, and when I really thought about it it didnt make much sense to me either.

My compositions had always sounded a great deal better when they were performed than on the midi playback (which isn't a surprise). It kind of made me begin to think, if it sounds ok on the midi it will probably sound a lot better when it is performed. Not always the case.

It is for these reasons, I went to Simon and asked him if he could just play through some of the changes that I had made and experiment with some of the other ideas for changes I haven't made yet. This way i won't have to rely on the midi playback or attempt playing it , and can hear how my ideas will actually sound in the performance. I am truly thankful that simon was able to do this because it gave me a much better sense of how everything will sound.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Revisions, Revisions

Last week I began to revise my first character piece. I wasn't overly worried about it, thinking that if I have my main ideas down, just touching up the little things will be a breeze because I wont really need to articulate anything new. Funny thing about that.

The revision process actually became to be much more difficult than I had origionally anticipated. I begin to pick up on little things that I want to fix, and the makeshift segues don't cut it. And that's the thing, for the first edition of this composition it was just presenting my main ideas, and I could find some little thing to connect them for the time being. With the revision, It's not about ideas, it's linking main ideas to make it flow better, which for me is the hardest part. I feel like I could come up with a million new musical ideas, but making them flow is the killer.