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#2101811 - 06/13/13 03:08 AM Composition class
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4762
Loc: USA
I want to minor in composition in college. What kind of general information could you give me? Do they make you write different kinds of works? String quartets, fugues? If so, how much time is allowed for personal composition? Are you obligated to perform any of yours or other people's works?

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#2101813 - 06/13/13 03:27 AM Re: Composition class [Re: JoelW]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5223
Loc: Europe
haha!

It's SO different from country to country and from college to college that it's impossible to say really!

But in general terms:

As a composer you need to:
a. Analyse works of other composers
b. Learn about compositional techniques
c. Learn instrumentation (how the instruments work) and orchestration (how to orchestrate a work).
d. compose
e. compose
f. compose

You are obliged to follow the curriculum of the school. If you are a composer but NOT a performer how on earth will you be able to perform your or other peoples works? And many composers ARE quite bad at performing! But it's in your benefit to try and get as many performances of your own works as possible. After all this is how you learn: It's one thing to know something theoretically and another to actually hear a performer yell at you because of something totally idiotic you did (and no, this has never happened to me. Performers don't yell at composers. Usually the other way around is happening! grin)
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#2101825 - 06/13/13 04:54 AM Re: Composition class [Re: JoelW]
Dara Online   blank
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/18/09
Posts: 1028
Loc: west coast island, canada
good response from nikolas

it depends also on the school and program you enter.
there was no such thing as a "minor" in composition where i studied.
and if you didn't jive with the 'famous' composers on staff you were weaned out very quickly.

string quartets, fugues .... forget it
well , maybe things have changed

you have all the time you want
to pursue your own composition,
irregardless of school

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#2101828 - 06/13/13 05:45 AM Re: Composition class [Re: Dara]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4762
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Dara
if you didn't jive with the 'famous' composers on staff you were weaned out very quickly.


What do you mean?

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#2101829 - 06/13/13 06:20 AM Re: Composition class [Re: JoelW]
Dara Online   blank
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/18/09
Posts: 1028
Loc: west coast island, canada
Meaning there was personality (ego) of supposed intellectual stature to suck up to and current trends in contemporary composition required ... unless you were cute and female.... and with a bit of talent

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#2101835 - 06/13/13 06:47 AM Re: Composition class [Re: Dara]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4762
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Dara
Meaning there was personality (ego) of supposed intellectual stature to suck up to and current trends in contemporary composition required ... unless you were cute and female.... and with a bit of talent


And if not, the price to pay would be? As long as I don't get booted from the class (which can't happen for such reasons) then I'll be fine.

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#2101842 - 06/13/13 07:24 AM Re: Composition class [Re: JoelW]
Dara Online   blank
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/18/09
Posts: 1028
Loc: west coast island, canada
Originally Posted By: JoelW

And if not, the price to pay would be? .

You ought to be fine ....not fined . wink
I'm sure Nikolas and others can give you more insight.

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#2101862 - 06/13/13 08:42 AM Re: Composition class [Re: JoelW]
Schubertslieder Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/02/13
Posts: 373
Loc: Michigan, USA
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Originally Posted By: Dara
if you didn't jive with the 'famous' composers on staff you were weaned out very quickly.


What do you mean?

I wouldn't worry about it. Just to be on the safe side, knowing your material is always better than knowing certain professors well.
There were drop outs and professors announced the number of students who are not making it in class along with numbers of A's and B's. Unless you are in third or fourth year in college as a music major, you won't feel the pain as severely, smile. It will get progressively much more painful in graduate school, laugh

I do agree with Nikolas as I think the college will make you take music classes that are not just composition only. All the non composition music classes will tie in with minoring in music in the end. It also depends on where you attend.

If you are anything like me, you will enjoy college music courses. thumb
_________________________
Charles Peck (American)--Metropolitan
Debussy--various pieces
Grieg--various pieces

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#2101901 - 06/13/13 10:20 AM Re: Composition class [Re: JoelW]
Schubertslieder Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/02/13
Posts: 373
Loc: Michigan, USA
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Originally Posted By: Dara
Meaning there was personality (ego) of supposed intellectual stature to suck up to and current trends in contemporary composition required ... unless you were cute and female.... and with a bit of talent


And if not, the price to pay would be? As long as I don't get booted from the class (which can't happen for such reasons) then I'll be fine.

Although I have not heard someone being booted out of a class for not being cute, female, and talented, there is always a first time for everything, grin

Many of us here on PW could fall into that category, laugh
_________________________
Charles Peck (American)--Metropolitan
Debussy--various pieces
Grieg--various pieces

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#2101907 - 06/13/13 10:33 AM Re: Composition class [Re: JoelW]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5223
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Originally Posted By: Dara
Meaning there was personality (ego) of supposed intellectual stature to suck up to and current trends in contemporary composition required ... unless you were cute and female.... and with a bit of talent


And if not, the price to pay would be? As long as I don't get booted from the class (which can't happen for such reasons) then I'll be fine.
Eventually you need to understand something (honestly keep it in mind for all your academic life): You will get some enormous pressure to get into contemporary music. Even if you don't like it. Pastiche is frowned upon and actually for good reason: You're there to learn the new trends, the new ideas and everything new. Not to copycat Chopin!

You're there to learn EVERYTHING there is to know about composition, more or less! Once you do that and you're through with academia (keep in mind that if you're serious about composition a Bachelors degree is certainly not enough) you can do whatever the heck you want and start doing music like Beyonce if you want! But until then you ARE locked in. And if you do fail I'm not sure about the US, but in the UK I did notice at least a couple of people getting booted out of academia (in PhD level of course, but it DID happen).

As for your own music: If you are organized well enough you can do whatever you want: I've been composing for computer games roughly since 2005, which is when I started my PhD. There's time for everything if you really really really really really really really want it! wink
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#2102032 - 06/13/13 03:17 PM Re: Composition class [Re: Nikolas]
Charles Peck Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/03/13
Posts: 50
Loc: Minneapolis, MN, USA
Learning the trends is a very important part of developing for every composer. If you don't know what is out there it can be difficult to craft a unique and fresh voice that builds-on/breaks-away-from our centuries of collective musical evolution.

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#2102318 - 06/14/13 07:10 AM Re: Composition class [Re: Nikolas]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4762
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Originally Posted By: Dara
Meaning there was personality (ego) of supposed intellectual stature to suck up to and current trends in contemporary composition required ... unless you were cute and female.... and with a bit of talent


And if not, the price to pay would be? As long as I don't get booted from the class (which can't happen for such reasons) then I'll be fine.
Eventually you need to understand something (honestly keep it in mind for all your academic life): You will get some enormous pressure to get into contemporary music. Even if you don't like it. Pastiche is frowned upon and actually for good reason: You're there to learn the new trends, the new ideas and everything new. Not to copycat Chopin!

You're there to learn EVERYTHING there is to know about composition, more or less! Once you do that and you're through with academia (keep in mind that if you're serious about composition a Bachelors degree is certainly not enough) you can do whatever the heck you want and start doing music like Beyonce if you want! But until then you ARE locked in. And if you do fail I'm not sure about the US, but in the UK I did notice at least a couple of people getting booted out of academia (in PhD level of course, but it DID happen).

As for your own music: If you are organized well enough you can do whatever you want: I've been composing for computer games roughly since 2005, which is when I started my PhD. There's time for everything if you really really really really really really really want it! wink


I hope you're not saying I'm a wannabe Chopin. I've never written anything pastiche, and I never will. An artists unique sound is crucial and I stand behind this 100%.

About trends... no art should ever be about following trends. I'm all for being educated in contemporary music, but I'm pretty turned off by the apparent social pressure to "get into it". What is the atmosphere like? Is it composition class, or contemporary composition class? wink

If the answer is the latter, then I'm not interested. Bias doesn't belong in the classroom, especially that kind of classroom.

Also, when you say "contemporary" what you saying? Is all contemporary 12-tone and abstract? Who says you have to be these things to be a contemporary composer? Like I said before, being educated in 12-tone music is perfectly reasonable, but being pressured into becoming that kind of composer is not okay.

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#2102352 - 06/14/13 08:57 AM Re: Composition class [Re: JoelW]
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2703
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Originally Posted By: JoelW
About trends... no art should ever be about following trends. I'm all for being educated in contemporary music, but I'm pretty turned off by the apparent social pressure to "get into it". What is the atmosphere like? Is it composition class, or contemporary composition class? wink
In my experience it's contemporary composition class. There is no music school in the world that is interested in teaching how to compose in anything prior to 20th century style. You get that in music theory, though theory courses don't ask you to compose, but there's plenty of analysis.
Originally Posted By: JoelW

If the answer is the latter, then I'm not interested. Bias doesn't belong in the classroom, especially that kind of classroom.

Also, when you say "contemporary" what you saying? Is all contemporary 12-tone and abstract? Who says you have to be these things to be a contemporary composer? Like I said before, being educated in 12-tone music is perfectly reasonable, but being pressured into becoming that kind of composer is not okay.

Think about it this way the school has an administrative and academic hierarchy. As a student you are at the bottom of that hierarchy. If you're not interested I suggest you find what you want elsewhere, you're not going to change the school (any school). Learning to compose in the various contemporary idioms will take several years anyway, by which time you'll have your degree. I believe it's when you get to the graduate level that the pressure to conform to a style ramps up (I've not experienced graduate school as a composer). FWIW, I would probably be viewed as horribly conservative and passe in almost any academic situation.

There was a recent discussion on orchestralist (a Yahoo group) about various schools of composition, composition competitions and the dichotomy between what's taught in academia and what orchestras are interested in performing. Some people shared stories of their difficulties as composition majors (and FWIW in the past being female meant being at best dismissed and overlooked). Some people had very positive experiences with professors who's own style was very different from their own. It's the philosophy of teaching not the philosophy of composition that's important.


Edited by Steve Chandler (06/14/13 09:04 AM)
Edit Reason: add orchestralist comments

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#2102357 - 06/14/13 09:01 AM Re: Composition class [Re: JoelW]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4762
Loc: USA
I see. Thanks for clearing that up, Steve.

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#2102414 - 06/14/13 10:54 AM Re: Composition class [Re: JoelW]
Michael Sayers Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/13
Posts: 886
Loc: Stockholms lšn, Sverige
Maybe the best thing would be to interview with some of the music professors at the school being considered. Ask what their expectations are, then explain your goals as a composer.

This advice is from experience - I began higher education when I was 16 and should have done this with several music departments when I was a teenager. I didn't know who Nyiregyhazi was, and was not familiar with the historical pianists as pianists, but I knew I played differently than other pianists and that it would not be worth pursuing if for any external reason I were to adjust the playing.

This would have been better than to withdraw from two schools rather than "pay the price" - one piano teacher threatened me with an F in the first semester over disagreement concerning tempo and rubato in the slow movement of the first Beethoven sonata and I withdrew immediately. I ended up as an English Major at a university eventually, but inevitably met with the music staff and played in very unfamiliar tempos and dynamics some of Schumann's Op. 82 for the head of the piano department - he liked the playing and I switched to the Piano Performance Major. He introduced me to Busoni and the historical pianists (but still not Nyiregyhazi), and let me have carte blanche as a student performer including omission of all 20th century repertoire requirements and all technical requirements such as scales at tempo X as long as all repertoire work was technically proficient (there still were disagreements with other student performers and their performance instructors when accompanying was involved, as if in the music of Saint-Saens when the other other instrument is silent and the key switches to the relative minor with diminuendo there is supposed to be no ritartdando with the piano, which is a percussion instrument, simply because "rit." is not printed on the page!).

When I was 16, had I done the interview process suggested here, that university would have been included and probably I would have enrolled. I never would have been an English Major or withdrawn from any school when asked to select between my integrity as a musician (which to be firm must connect with the integrity of the entire person) and a professor's approval.

For anything that involves a lot of time and money you want as much information related to it as possible in order to advance on a secure footing.

Support from parents with these goals is as important as anything else!

p.s. - I like much 20th century music now, but I still do not practice piano technique!

M.

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#2102481 - 06/14/13 12:59 PM Re: Composition class [Re: JoelW]
Charles Peck Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/03/13
Posts: 50
Loc: Minneapolis, MN, USA
I would not pigeon-hole contemporary music into 12-tone or abstract any more. That period ended several decades ago. There are certainly still folks who write in those styles, but there is a much greater variety of trends than there has ever been, same as in popular music. Studying all of this is valuable whether you like it or not. Even if you are just confirming something that you disagree with.

There is some amount of social pressure to be interested in certain composers or styles, but it is not oppressive or omnipotent. The main focus is always about finding your own voice, so whatever it takes to get you there is fine.

Having said that, if you are expecting to write in a romantic or classical language, then I would probably argue against pursuing composition in this way. Theory classes will give you the foundation you need to approach this style. And while lessons and additional coursework would be very helpful, I think you may end up butting some heads.

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#2102497 - 06/14/13 01:26 PM Re: Composition class [Re: JoelW]
Michael Sayers Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/13
Posts: 886
Loc: Stockholms lšn, Sverige
Composers in all eras have butted heads when they had something to say. Music has much further to go and there is much more to give.

M.

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#2102528 - 06/14/13 02:26 PM Re: Composition class [Re: Michael Sayers]
Charles Peck Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/03/13
Posts: 50
Loc: Minneapolis, MN, USA
Haha, a fair point Michael.

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#2102554 - 06/14/13 03:46 PM Re: Composition class [Re: JoelW]
Michael Sayers Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/13
Posts: 886
Loc: Stockholms lšn, Sverige
"I promise, I promise the opening chords of my Symphony No. 1 are okay!!!!!" - L.v.B.

(he didn't really say that as far as I know)

M.

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#2102938 - 06/15/13 02:50 PM Re: Composition class [Re: JoelW]
ScottM Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/05
Posts: 553
Loc: Southern Oregon
As an undergrad in California I felt pressure to be "with it" and I fought it. I was not degraded for it, but I don't think I was taken very seriously either. When I went to the University of Minnesota (this was the 1980s) there was none of that pressure. There was a subtle expectation of being interested in modern trends, but it was by no means expected to be forced in composition class. To the credit of my teacher there all students were expected to write certain kinds of pieces, but the style of those works was up to the student. That also included an assignment to use electronic equipment (tapes and synthesizers and such) to create a new piece. In my case I used synthesizers to create melodic lines like Gregorian chant and then proceeded through a few later periods of style and culminated with superimposed sections of a recording of Tchaikovsky's 4th symphony. It was just a student piece, but it was a great assignment. The point was to become familiar with the tools. What I did with the tools was up to me.

There is some value, too, in being assigned a task where you must take a certain style and use it. I believe I was told to write a 12 tone piece or two, but again, it was only to give the student a taste of the style and not a hammer to force the student into only taking on that style. A good teacher will understand that the most important elements of composition training are not the styles at all, but the ability of the music to move the listener in some way. How is that accomplished? What are the goals? How do form, pattern, texture, use of rests, rhythmic impetus and instrumentation come together successfully? Too many people look at composition as a science, as though simply taking on a style or following this or that rule will lead to success. It's an art, so it takes knowledge plus experience, PLUS intuition and a little luck. You want a teacher or program that recognizes that and doesn't force you into a box unless there is a clear reason for the exercise.


Edited by ScottM (06/15/13 02:52 PM)
_________________________
Scott

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