Monday, April 9, 2012

Re: Ora Ensemble

Having recently finished my composition for the Ora Ensemble, I thought it'd be nice to think back on the compositional process for this work. 

I put this piece through extensive revision, and it was probably at an adequately "completed" length many times. However, it just wasn't convincing, and I'm still not happy with the final product. That is, however, how it goes sometimes, and I'm thankful that, whether or not a piece is a success, it is nearly always a learning experience. I definitely learned a lot.

One of the first things I realized is that writing 12-tone is not something I'm keen to do again in the near future. I recognize its validity, but I didn't particularly enjoy the process. I think there are other aspects of my composing that I'd like to strengthen more before I tackle it again.

12-tone fugues don't work. Mine didn't, at least. It was definitely a fun exercise, but I wasn't pleased with the resulting music. I modeled the idea after the 12th of Ligeti's Ricercata (Homage a Frescobaldi), because I really liked what he had done with the idea.
What I realized, however, is that Ligeti's "subject" is far more than just a collection of 12 different pitches. He organized them in a very specific way, which is part of what gives rise to the endlessly falling sense of this particular piece. I tried to model my subject and countersubject after his patterns, but I realized that what he had written was not so easily transferable to another subject. So...scratch that idea.

Although I didn't like what I came up with initially, I did like the idea of atonal counterpoint, so I kept some of the material but discarded much of it.  I tried treating the "subject" as a collection of short motives which could then be used independently of the complete row. I actually really like this idea, and it led to some interesting results, but I didn't think it worked within the context of this piece. I think this is something that I'd like to experiment with in a short piece of music, just to explore the potential of the idea.

The end result for the middle section (easily the most difficult part for me to fill) is a more of a textural experiment than anything else. The row exists somewhere within, but it'd be a challenge for anyone (including me) to try and find it. I was inspired by a piece a contemporary composer wrote for a similar ensemble size:
I didn't have much time to write this, so, again, I think there's more that I can do with the idea, but there are some neat moments. I guess what I'll have to remember is what the neat moments are and how to be more consistent with them in the future.

That's about all for now. There's a reading on Wednesday, which should be exciting. It's always a treat to have professional musicians read one's music. My teacher, Kristina Szutor, performed my piano pieces in a student recital this past Sunday, and it was such a great experience. 

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