Note: Your presentation and performance combined should be no longer than 8 - 9 minutes total (7 minute minimum). It is very important to heed this time limit so we can schedule all the performances during class time.
Your final project should consist of the following four items:
The schedule for your presentation/performance is now available: Section 01
The performances will take place in Brooks Concert Hall during the last three classes of the semester: Wed., May 4, Fri., May 6 and Mon., May 9. Your report and actual composition are not due until May 9 (last class) even if you give your performance at an earlier date.
Timeline of Due Dates:
In-class Work: We will devote a couple of classes specifically toward working on your composition. On April 13, you will pair up with a classmate and share your description of your piece as well as some of its music. We will play a few examples in class and provide constructive feedback. A similar class will take place on April 27.
The Composition Itself: You are require to turn in your composition on staff paper. You can write it by hand or you can use one of the many computer programs available to assist you. The department has a few copies of Sibelius , a leading, user-friendly software program that allows you to hear your piece as you compose it. However, given that only two computers in the music department have the software, it may be challenging to find enough machine time to work on your piece. I have been using the free software Lilypond which is fairly simple to use (on a PC or a Mac), although familiarity with a computer programming language would help.
Note: You are encouraged to speak with me at any point during the composing and planning process of your work. I would be happy to look at rough drafts of your composition or discuss possible ideas for your piece.
I've never composed before. Where do I begin?
There is no easy answer to this question. First, decide what instrument(s) you are writing for (eg. piano, voice, violin, tuba, percussion, etc.). Are you going to have more than one part? Your choices may depend on your musical abilities or those of your peers. Next, try writing a simple melody (say 4 - 8 bars long) by sitting at the piano and playing the notes. Write your melody down on staff paper. Is there any obvious symmetry apparent? Do you want there to be? From here, you could compose a counter-melody or play around with your original to create more music. This is a good place to utilize some of the ideas we have been discussing regarding musical group theory. Deciding on the overall structure of the work first may help you in the composing process. Be sure to be conscious of your rhythm, which, if used effectively, can bring your work alive.
What are some of the mathematical ideas I could use in my composition?
You could use virtually anything we have discussed this semester: change ringing, musical group theory, 12-tone music, magic squares, minimalism, the golden section, etc. Some of the specific mathematical concepts available include symmetry (reflections, translations, rotations), group theory, permutations, patterns, phasing, creative use of rhythm, the Fibonacci sequence, etc.
How will I be graded on this project? What if my piece sounds terrible?
First of all, music sounds differently to different people. Just as with art or literature, what can be incredibly moving to one person may have little effect on another. This is not a popularity contest nor are we voting for our favorites as in American Idol. You will be graded on your ability to complete the assignment. If you fulfill all four requirements listed above (piece, performance, presentation and report), then you will do fine. The goal here is to be creative! Use your imagination and use some of the mathematics you've learned this semester/year.
Should I practice my piece beforehand?
You bet! If you are not performing, make sure that the person or people who are have rehearsed beforehand. Part of the challenge of this assignment will be organizing effectively to ensure that your performance goes off smoothly. For example, if you have more than one performer, you will have to write out the music for each part, find time for them to get together and practice, make sure they can be at class for your scheduled performance, etc. This takes extra time and planning! Another good reason to practice is that your piece must be no longer than 6 or 7 minutes, so a run-through beforehand is a good way to judge the length of your performance.