Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Next Project: Using Musical Clichés in Creating Art

Cliché (Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary (on-line)):
  • A comment that is very often made and is therefore not original and not interesting:
  • Eg., "My wedding day - and I know it's a cliché - was just the happiest day of my life."
Cliché (Wiktionary):
  1. A phrase or expression that is overused and has thus lost its original impact; a trite saying; a platitude.
  2. Anything other than a phrase or expression (such as a plot device, etc) that is similarly overused.
  • Putting a love interest into a film is a bit of a cliché.


A phrase that has lost its original impact due to overuse is not usually desirable in art (except, perhaps, minimalism) or life, but what would happen if you were recontextualize a cliché in an unexpected way?

Consider this sentence (excerpted from an incredibly-famous novel with the permission of the author):

"My wedding day was the happiest day of my life," said Wanda Hufnagel dreamily. "It's not every day that an act of revenge works out so perfectly!"

It begins with a cliché and is then immediately followed by information that places it in an unexpected context, and if you have read my (incredibly-famous) 9-part series on Composition Issues (note the handy link to it if you missed it!), you will know that one of the dichotomies that I believe is at the core of all successful compositions is the relationship between the Expected and the Unexpected.

And so, with this in mind, here is your next project:
  • Write a composition that makes prominent use of one or more musical clichés, placed in a context that is unexpected/fresh/original.

  • Style: There is no restriction as to style when it comes to your choice of clichés, but your aim should be to write something that falls into the broad spectrum of contemporary classical music. The question of what exactly constitutes "contemporary classical music" is well worth considering and discussing, but for now just think of it as an attempt to create art through music, as opposed to, say, an attempt to sell refrigerators and colour TVs through music (to borrow a concept from Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing")! [And no, I am not denigrating pop music; the best examples of music in any genre may be considered art. I don't buy into the "high art/low art" dichotomy!]

  • Duration: A single movement, 3-5 minutes in length.

  • Form: Any form, including one of your own invention, as long as it it can be seen to be an organic, motivically-unified composition showing development of musical materials.

  • Instrumentation: 3 performers. One of them can be a singer, and no two instruments can be the same.

  • Due date of score and parts: Friday, November 22 (5PM).
In progress works will continue to be presented in class every week.

These will be performed at our end-of-term recital (Nov 29, Petro-Canada Hall).

Any questions you may have will be answered in class.

Delinquent Bloggers

The Thanksgiving break was a great opportunity to catch up on your journals and blog commenting, but if you did not do so, consider this a gentle reminder to spend some time on these activities in the near future.

Journaling can provide the opportunity to clarify your thoughts about your composition by keeping a record of the feedback received in class and your responses to it, but the longer you go without posting a journal, the less useful the process will be. I would also guess that if you wait too long to post your blog, it will be very difficult to remember what exactly was said about your piece.

And the reason I made it a requirement to make at least one weekly comment on my blog entries is that these provide a forum in which to think about and discuss ideas relating to composition and the creative process, something we tend to have little or no time for in class. These too work best if you try to make at least one thoughtful post per week, because doing so might give you specific ideas that you find useful in writing your music.

Most of you have posted a journal entry in the past week, which is great, but a few have not posted anything for anywhere from 2-5 weeks, hence the gentle nudge!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Order of Class Presentation

Nothing profound today, just an "official" order of presentation for Mu3100 students.
  • You must be ready to present your work on the day scheduled (and don't forget about the late penalty if you are not!).

  • If there are extenuating circumstances, you may switch days with someone, as long as you can find someone to switch with.

  • The order of presentation within a class is free, however. Generally, we will start with compositions that involve performers that are not in our class, and, other than that, we'll proceed more or less in the order you arrive. We'll also try to change the order of whoever happens to be last to present on any particular day, since the last person often gets a little less time due to time pressures.

  • Getting through 6 compositions on Wednesdays is obviously going to be an almost impossible challenge, so there may be times when someone gets bumped from their assigned day to the next class.

  • Classes will start at 1PM sharp.
Monday: Saird, Mike, Kate, Melissa B, Kim

Wednesday: Dylan, Phil, Melissa W, Robbie, Meg, Mathieu

Friday: James, Heidi, Neil, Justin, Jessica