music 1: start composing music

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Throughout this course in musical composition, challenges to ingenuity and inventiveness will lead to an approach to composition which has breadth.


C us sm l or a p e e

Start Composing MusicMusic 1 Written by Patric Standford

Level HE4 - 40 CATS

This course has been written and illustrated by Patric Standford. Cover image: Violin, 1911-12, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Pushkin Museum, Moscow, Russia Open College of the Arts Unit 1B, Redbrook Business Park Wilthorpe Road Barnsley S75 1JN Telephone: 01226 730 495 Fax: 01226 730 838 E - mail: Registered charity number: 327446 OCA is a company limited by guarantee and registered in England under number 2125674 Copyright OCA 2008 No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means - electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise - without prior permission of the publisher (Open College of the Arts)

About the author

Patric Standford is an award-winning composer, a teacher and lecturer of repute, a writer and music journalist, occasional broadcaster and a musician who has played a major role with many British musical organisations he was the chairman of the Composers Guild and British Music Information Centre from 1977 to 1993. He is perhaps best known as a composer. His 1st Symphony gained the Premio Citt di Trieste in 1972, and a large scale oratorio Christus Requiem earned him the Yugoslav Governments Arts Award after performances in Skopje in 1976; his 3rd Symphony has the Ernest Ansermet Prize from Geneva, and he received the First International Composers Award in Budapest in 1997 for a choral masque The Prayer of St Francis. He has awards from Spain, Finland and Belgium. The BBC commissioned his 5th Symphony in 1986. He worked as an arranger for West End shows in London, composing and directing light music recordings and an album for the jazz group Continuum, and ghost writing for Rod McKuens classical American recordings. A regular visitor to Hungary and France as a jury member for choral competitions, he taught composition and orchestration at the Guildhall School of Music in London for 15 years, moving to Yorkshire in 1980 to become Head of Music at the Leeds University college at Bretton Hall.

ContentsIntroductionCourse overview Course outcomes Starting the course Music theory Notation software Keeping a listening log Project and assignment plan


Exploring rhythmIntroductory note Project 1: Percussion solos Project 2: Duets Project 3: Three and more instruments Project 4: About structure Assignment 1: A composition for a group of untuned percussion


Exploring melody and scalesIntroductory note Project 5: Pentatonic melody Project 6: Analysing a solo composition Project 7: Exploring different scales Assignment 2: A composition for a solo woodwind instrument


Rounds, descants, polyphonyIntroductory note Project 8: Rounds Project 9: Descants Project 10: A contrapuntal trial Assignment 3: A little polyphony


Exploring counterpointIntroductory note Project 11: Inventing free counterpoint Project 12: Two-part inventions Assignment 4: A contrapuntal composition


Exploring harmonyIntroductory note Project 13: Elaborate cadences Project 14: Improvisation on a dominant Assignment 5: Harmony in the round

Appendix A: suggested reading Appendix B: suggested listening

IntroductionCourse overviewIt is widely thought that teaching the creative process in any of the art forms, whether through the medium of visual forms, language or sound, is not only near impossible, but quite unnecessary. Being a creative artist is, perhaps like medicine and teaching, a natural gift. People are themselves created in just such a way that unknown forces propel them into a need to express themselves in a particular fashion. Nothing can teach the instincts with which an individual is born. But acquiring the craft required to achieve the imagined goals can be assisted greatly by forms of instruction that make the journey rather easier. Being a beneficiary of the broad experience of a good teacher (that is, one who has found some successful routes through a forest of mistakes!) can point the way more directly. Students can then move more quickly through their own forests of mistakes and discoveries. They should do so on a firm foundation. In this course, an exploration of the craft of musical composition begins with limitations. Even the frustrations of being confined will challenge ingenuity and should provoke the discovery of unexpected solutions. With limited means, the creative process must be at its most inventive. Throughout the course, challenges to ingenuity and inventiveness will lead to an approach to composition which has breadth. The constant questioning of contrasting means to achieve an end is an important ingredient of compositional skill. Trying a quick passage slowly, a loud passage softly, or changing the instrument playing it all these aspects of lateral thinking are all part of the composers skill. Becoming aware of this process and being able to apply it to all creative situations will, it is hoped, be the most lasting outcome.

In addition, there is a wealth of practical information and demonstration designed to broaden a composers horizons.

Course outcomesUpon completion of Composing Music 1 you will be able to: write short pieces for untuned percussion; compose melodic lines, add descants and explore less familiar scales; write counterpoint more freely in two and three parts; make some explorations with harmonic progressions.

Starting the courseWhat to do firstBegin by reading the introduction and then look through the whole course. Make a note of any questions you might have and consider a rough timetable you can work from to complete the course.

Student profileYou will find in the Student Handbook a form called Student Profile. Use this to tell your tutor a little about any past experience you have and how confident you feel about learning some of the skills. This is an important document. It is your first link with your tutor and gives you the chance to introduce yourself. Give your tutor as much information as you can about your previous experience, your reasons for exploring this subject and what you expect to achieve from taking the course. OCA tuition is on a one-to-one basis and so it is possible for our tutors to angle their advice to meet individual needs; but only if these are defined in the Student Profile. Your tutor will write to you, introducing him/herself and suggesting a date for the submission of your first assignment in line with your timetable. Please note that this date is given as an indication and that there is a degree of flexibility. If

you feel you can complete the section earlier, then by all means do. If you feel you need a little longer, that's fine. If, however, there is going to be a considerable delay we would appreciate your contacting the tutor and giving an anticipated date for the submission of your assignment. The most important thing is that you gain the maximum pleasure and satisfaction from taking the course. When you submit an assignment your tutor will comment and advise on your work and answer any questions relating to the course. Once you have looked through the course and sent off your student profile, you can begin to start your first project.

Music theoryThe OCA expects students on its Composing Music courses to have a basic grounding in Music Theory. It would be extremely difficult to achieve any progress with the craft of composition if there was an additional need to interrupt the series of projects frequently to explain the fundamentals of musical notation. To this end we are recommending the AB (Associated Board) Guide to Music Theory by Eric Taylor, published by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. Part 1 of the Guide is particularly relevant to Level 1 of the course, Part 2 is an essential background to Level 2. The chapters in the book are referred to as appropriate before each Section in the course, and it is expected that the student will read and revise this material before proceeding with each group of projects. It will be most advisable to invest perhaps a couple of months in making sure you are thoroughly familiar with Part 1 of the Guide before commencing the course. Do discuss this with your tutor if you feel you need more information.

Notation softwareYou will need a means of hearing your own work and sharing it with your tutor so that recommended revisions may also be returned to you and played. The best means to this end is to acquire a good music software package, and set up an email connection so that the software files can be sent direct to your tutor. This is a matter that should be discussed with your tutor as it is important that you should both have compatible software. Here are some suggested programmes to find out about: Sibelius Software Finale Notation Software Others include: Score Writer Allegro Noteworthy Composer Overture and Cakewalk

These are two of the best and most widely used professional and student programmes but they are quite expensive. If you expect to continue composing it would be well worth the investment.

It will be worth finding out more from school, college and university music departments or from friends, and doing some research through websites (

Keeping a listening logFor the Composing Music courses, the learning log will primarily take the form of a listening log. It is vitally important for all composers to have a solid experience of music through its major developments: from Ancient, Oriental and Medieval music, through the Renaissance and the age during which Opera and Church music rose to a peak during the 17th century, to the repertoires of the Classical, Romantic and Modern


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