Assignment 1 – Revision and Reflection

I was very pleased to read my tutor’s comments on this assignment, particularly that he liked the way I transitioned the music between sections and that I used the combinations of instruments well.  As this was my first assignment, it was also good to hear that he thought the structure I developed was effective, as well as the tempo and time signature change in Section C.

Most of the feedback was on technical presentation, and so I have now revised the score to:

  • Add explicit dynamics at the end of crescendos and diminuendos
  • Make the general pause places clear in all instrument parts
  • Rectify some editorial issues e.g. extraneous time signatures

 

Assignment 1

Overview

The brief for this assignment was to take an existing beginning of a ‘Wild dance’ for untuned percussion, and continue it for a short composition of around two to three minutes duration.  I used the structure I had already planned in Project 4, which was an interesting experiment – I wasn’t necessarily expecting to enjoy working in this way, but in actual fact I found it was very helpful to have the scaffolding already in place.

Breakdown

In the sections below I have summarised briefly what I was trying to achieve in each part of the composition.

Sections A+B

In the continuation of Section A I kept the same basic rhythm sequence, introducing the temple blocks and adding tambourine shakes for some variety.  In the development (Section B) I decided to stretch out the meter changes a little.  I used the sequence of [5/8 3/8 6/8] on each of the primary instruments (representing dancers) to introduce their themes – first on the woodblock, then the snare drum and finally the bass drum.  Then leading up to the bridge section there are elements of the different motifs playing at the same time to create a thicker texture.

Bridge

In the bridge section I am using the [4/8 3/8 4/8] sequence as planned, and decided to use an accelerando to help build towards the mini climax before the next section.  The instruments are mostly playing the same rhythms as each other here (or very close to), which was also done to help drive towards the climax.

Section C

I enjoyed the change in tempo and dynamic in this section, and it was fun trying to work out how to use the percussion instruments to create a different mood.  At the beginning of the 5/8 bars there is an accented quaver followed by a rest which I think helps to keep the suspense going.  When the temple blocks are introduced they are given a fairly long decrescendo which is to give the impression of the dancer moving slowly away from the chief demon.  I tried to keep this section fairly simple as a break from the chaos of the principal section, but I’m not sure if I went too far with this as my feeling is that it is possibly a little too repetitive.  To transition into the finale I started off by introducing occasional beats on the snare drum, which alerts the listener to ‘something about to happen’.  I then used an accelerando and crescendo to build up the tension and changed the tambourine back to its primary rhythm from Section A in preparation.

Finale

In the final section I am repeating the initial sequence as planned, and also combined the individual instrument motifs from Section B so that they are heard simultaneously – I was worried this might sound too messy but I think it just about came out ok.  The bar’s rest wasn’t pre-planned – it was initially there as a placeholder until I decided what to put in it, but on playback I thought it worked well as a rest so I left it!  It ends on a climax as you might expect with a big crescendo on a tambourine shake and temple block roll.

Summary

While I was working on the piece I found it quite difficult to decide how well it was going.  I think when you are embedded in something (especially with frequent meter changes like this) it is difficult to imagine how it sounds to someone who hasn’t heard it before and isn’t familiar with the rhythms.  This is probably something I need to develop with experience.  After getting to the end of the piece, I had about a week’s break before going back to refine it and I found that it didn’t need as much altering as I expected – though I’m not sure how much that is due to the ideas having been cemented in my head already!  My other uncertainty with this piece is whether I got the right balance between repetition and variety and so I will be interested to hear my tutor’s feedback.