Thursday, February 24, 2005

Adagio Thing Update, and some Ruts

I really need to come up with a more interesting title than "Adagio Thing." But not today.

Today at lunch, Piano, Cello, Clarinet, and I worked on the draft (do they call them "drafts" in music?) for Piano and Cello, measures 1 through 8, and I've written measures 9 through 11 for just Cello and poor rejected Oboe Clarinet.

I think I heard Violin hanging out in the hall outside The Sanctuary. I suppose she wants to play, too. But for the time being, she's not allowed. My poor head is already about to burst.

Piano was supposed to be playing plain old chords while Cello sang, but no. Piano came up with this little motif on top of the chords it was already playing. So I just let her play it. If anyone in this little trio knows what it's doing, it's Piano. Even when I'm not sure where she's going, her instincts generally prove pretty good.

Whew ... B-flat Clarinet is confusing to write for because it doesn't make the sound it's supposed to make. If you write a "C," it goes and makes a D. Huh. Kind of like my singing voice, only different.

(See, I really am a beginner!)

So things are going fine, but Piano and I seem to fall into ruts. Here are a few of them:

1) The Cycle of Fifths Rut: That's where I just start playing/improvising and going round and round through parts of the cycle of fifths. It's musical masturbation. It sounds pretty and pleasant, and it makes me feel good about myself because I can do it without thinking ... but that's just the point. I'm not thinking. I'm doing because it's easy and because it's something I've done for years and years. Or I will come up with the nicest little transition and then realize that I've just repeated the same-old same-old.

2) The "How Can You Be So Unoriginal?" Rut: I don't let this one bother me too much. I'm so new at composing that I don't put a lot of pressure on myself to be original. I'm just trying to learn the ropes for now. When I feel like I've written something trite, I just remind myself that these are little old baby steps I'm supposed to be taking.

3) The New-Age Arpeggio Rut: Argh, this one annoys the heck out of me. I'll just fall into Yanni mode, without warning. Again, it's very pretty and pleasant, but it's easy and it's not the kind of thing I want to write.

4) The Cool Jazz Chords Rut: This is a bit of a variation on the Cycle of Fifths Rut. I once spent an intense few days learning how to do a ii minor 7 to V dominant 7 to I Major 7 progression in every key, in every inversion, when reading a jazz how-to book. It's a very useful little progression, and it sounds pretty and pleasant. But it's easy. And it's easy to fall into the rut.

These "ruts" are actually good tricks to have, and I'm sure I'll learn dozens more tricks as I study more theory. But for now, the ruts also seem like traps.

But I guess that's why I'm taking theory in the first place. To learn how to work my way out of these traps, these ruts, and let myself be led to someplace more interesting and challenging.


geezer squeezer! said...

big respecto! you certain dig your music.

Forrest Covington said...

Yes, they are called drafts, at least that's what I call them.
Glad you liked Valerie's site. She's an original.

Circle of fiths..... Let one of them, now and then, resolve up a step (as in the misnamed 'deceptive' cadence) and you'll end up a third away. Do it again and you'll come back to where you started.

Try chords by thirds sometime. A lot of them in a chain sounds odd, but a harmonic movement by a third can be very effective, especially when you are moving into a new section.

Keep composing, and try your best to write what you hear as closely as possible. Don't worry about originality, no one has invented anything new in the tonal system for a few hundred years. Learn and gain freedom in the basic elements, and eventually you will develop your own style quite unconsciously.
I have heard many startlingly good pieces by so-called amateurs, which is a good way to keep oneself humble.

Good writing!


Waterfall said...

Hi Forrest, thanks for the advice. I'm getting braver about using "deceptive cadences," and I do like the sound of moving up a step harmonically. I'm meeting with my theory "coach" this afternoon and will get some feedback from him as well. Hoping to get some productive work done this weekend. Thanks!

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