Monday, March 16, 2009

Thematic Growth, part 3

[This is a re-post of 2 blogs from last August, since they are relevant to the "Thematic Growth" discussion]

4. The pros and cons of development
(pro) Do not abandon your babies!
•Think of your musical ideas as your children (or, if that is too mind-boggling, your pets!). It is your job to help them grow and develop; be a responsible parent/custodian/pet-owner!
(con) Don't let ideas overstay their welcome!
•Not all musical ideas need to be developed to their maximum potential. There needs to be a balance between the familiar and unfamiliar. (See below for more on this:)
•Growth is of fundamental importance to the European classical music tradition. It is essential to extend, develop, or otherwise 'grow' your musical ideas during the course of a composition. •Is growth of equal importance to other musical traditions? Could a person write a good, extended composition that totally disregards the growth principle?
•How to grow: After you have identified musical ideas you have created (label them idea 1, idea 2, (2.1, 2.2 for variants) etc.), try to extend them. There are many, many ways to do this (see next entry), but the starting point is to want your ideas to grow. Yes, just like the 'How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb?' joke…*
•(i) Composers all limit the growth of any idea, probably because to do otherwise would make compositions sound like academic exercises. (ii) Consider Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Is it a model of economy of means? If not, is it 'bad'? What about M's Pno. Cto. #21?

*Only one, but the lightbulb has to want to change.

5. How to Extend or Develop Musical Materials; Specific Suggestions (may be used in combination with one another)
•… with different dynamic•… selected motives (i.e., a, or b, or c, etc.)• … a + b +b' (or a+b+a', etc.)
•… in a different register•… truncate• … continue with similar intervals, i.e., la-do-ti-fa, la-do-ti-fa-mi-so, la-do-ti-fa-mi-so-di-re, etc.
•… with different orchestration•… invert, retrograde, retrograde inversion• … reorder same pitches, i.e., la-do-ti-fa, do-ti-la-fa, la-ti-fa-do, etc.
•… with different harmony•… insert/subtract rests• … combine previous two, i.e., la-do-ti-fa, la-ti-fa-mi, so-fi-la-si-ti-la-fa-mi, etc.
•… in a different mode•… reorder, interpolate (insert), substitute• … using similar or different rhythms.
•… with different counterpoint•… make nonretrogradable• … make sequence
•… with different texture (i.e., pointillism, thicker, thinner, etc.)•… rhythm• …turn into a transition (how? Discuss…)
•… with different accompaniment figure•… shift rhythmic emphasis, rotate• … add dissimilar materials
•… in a different tempo•… augmentation or diminution of all or any portion• … gradually change character.
•… in a different meter•… mode• … create a dialogue
•… in a different key/transposition•… articulation• … reverse roles (melody/accompaniment)
•… with overlap•… selected intervals• … continue linear contour


Jill A. said...

Thanks for reposting this! I know it is important to develop ideas before putting them aside and moving on to something else, but the biggest problem I am generally faced with is how to go about devloping this material. Sometimes I just draw a blank. This post gives me plenty of options that will help the musical development of my new composition!

Jessica Blenis said...

This is really helpful, Clark, and it makes it a lot easier to tinker with things when all these options are put out in the open so we can pick and choose.

...And the lightbulb joke is stellar too.

Michael Bramble said...

Too many of us turn a blind eye to development. There is so much to learn about developing ideas. Many of us don't realize that we can base large sections of our works on single ideas or motifs. I found writing in a chorale prelude helps me realize that for both the theme and accompaniment is derived from a set motif.
If ever lost I find it helpful to look at works such as the Bach Inventions, or Beethoven's symphonies to see how well these geniuses can develop ideas and extract so much musical material from short simple motifs.

Melissa B. said...

This was definitely a beneficial post. I think this is something I really need to work on. I guess where I haven't had much experience with composing jumping from idea to idea without really developing it to its full potential is something that occurs somewhat frequently.

Jenn Vail said...

I love this! It's definitely helpful, and I will keep this in mind when I encourage my students to compose their own music. It also guides our thinking tremendously!

Steve said...

These "Thematic Growth" blogs are great.. through writing in the past I have had some success in keeping ideas interesting through several of the mentioned approaches (changes in register, texture, rhythms, mode, etc). However, I have a tendency to develop ideas that are relatively short and have a distinct melodic/rhythmic element that persists.. these blogs have made me want to try different approaches, such as a much longer initial idea (as mentioned in blog #1), or have ideas that are completely based on texture, for example. Thanks!

squinlan said...

I have a hard time developing ideas. I wish I had seen this while writing the three character pieces at the beginning of term! During the first project I had a lot of issues with trying to stretch an idea and develop it. Not so much when setting the text, because it really guided the process, especially with opportunity for word painting and such. But with my character pieces, in particular the second one, there were some great ideas that really could have been developed. Maybe some day I'll go back to some of them.

Bekah Simms said...

Charts are awesome. Ideas presented in a logical order.. kind of like a composition..

I've bookmarked this page. So helpful!

Kyle Andrews said...

This chart has been a great help this semester. I find a lot of the times I want to develop my ideas and I do some variation, but I always end up forgeting things I can do, and here are most of the things in one place. AWESOME!