Monday, October 4, 2010

V.S. Various Items

Each of these could be a post in itself, but if I do that, the piece will never be written, or at least, not anytime soon.

Instrument specific music:
I've always written with specific instruments in mind, so the downside is that it's often not easily adapted to other instrumentation. To me, one of the hallmarks of Bach is that his music can sound great, no matter the instrumentation. The upside, though, is letting the way an instrument is played, and it's range and tone, be the very suggestive starting point in writing the music. 

The harp:
 I can't think of another instrument where the physical gestures of making music so closely map the music itself. I've been playing a lot of "air harp" to get some sort of feel of what it must be like to play one. The major discovery is that the little fingers of both hands play lower notes than the thumb, whereas I'm used to piano where the right thumb plays lower notes than the right little finger.

It keeps shifting, but right now thinking of a two flat key signature with F as the tonic. That makes the I chord a flatted seventh and the V chord minor. Also have thought to mention that I like to start out using octaves with the fourth and/or the fifth played in the middle. This is neither major nor minor, and besides having that ambiguity, it hearkens back to when thirds were thought dissonant, which they are when compared to octaves, fourths and fifths. If you use thirds from start to finish you're limiting your tonal palette to secondary colors.

One of the things the neuroscience is telling us is that what pleases us is a combination of the expected and the unexpected. Using modal harmonies and odd key signatures, neither of which are drastically different than the norms, makes it easier to do fresh sounding things without going too far over into the unexpected. As I write measure by measure, there's always the judgement as to whether what's written is somewhere between the expected and the unexpected in a balance I find appealing. There must be some consistency in these judgments, and everything else I'm doing, as several people have commented that I have a recognizable "style" or "sound". 

Not repeating compositions:
Every time I write something I try to push a little beyond whatever has worked before. Looking back on some of the old discarded pieces, a lot of them were abandoned because they were too much like things I'd already done, and somehow, trying to make that sound fresh is harder than setting out in a little different direction.

A real title:
If I can write something to go with it, may call the piece A Louisiana Sashay. Sometime back I wrote a piece for Susan and gave "at a moderate sashay" as a tempo indication. She liked that and played the piece that way. She and Carol both have strong Louisiana connections. Lou -si an -a  sa - shay fits the 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 1 2 rhythm if I go back and change the four grouping to two twos. Having lived in New Orleans for two years back in the early 70's, there are a lot of images and associations I can draw on. 

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