MUS 107

Nontraditional Composition Project

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One of the most creatively stimulating, educationally enlightening, and downright fun aspects of the course will be the original music composition each of you will compose and perform in class ... unless you opt to do a World Music presentation instead.  Whether or not you have had traditional music training is irrelevant.  Your composition will be "nontraditional."  That means you will create everything--the "instruments" and your own system of notation. 

First, you must decide what you want to communicate through your composition--a task that confronts any composer.  It may be humorous, serious, or something in between.  Including a theatrical element is perfectly acceptable, as well.

Next, you must decide what kinds of "instrumental" or "vocal" sounds would best communicate your overall idea.  (The voice may be used to produce any type of sound possible--anything from grunts to humming.)  Anything that produces a sound can be utilized as a musical instrument.  For example, the sound of paper tearing may be one instrument; paper crumpling may be another.  The only limitation is the imagination.  Of course, you will want to search the reaches of your imagination for something more original.  Use whatever sound-producing devices (instruments) you can bring to class.  Just remember that your composition must be original--no arrangements of previously-existing material.  Any text must also be original, but it is not required.  An original "traditional" composition (for piano or guitar, etc.) is also acceptable if you play an instrument or sing.

You may perform your work as a soloist, should you prefer, providing that it is conceived as a solo piece.  Or, you may wish to involve others in the class in a chamber music setting.  The size of your performance ensemble is totally up to you.  It could be the entire class, or may be only one or two others.

A brief word about the use of recordings:  You may use sounds which you have prerecorded as part of your composition--i.e., as one of the instruments.  The presentation must be predominantly a "live" performance, however.

After you have in mind what you want to communicate, musically, and how you want to communicate it, next you must devise a way of notating your ideas on paper.  The sound of each instrument/voice, and when it is to occur, must be symbolized in writing.  You may wish to use graphic symbols, colors, a time chart ... whatever.  If other performers are involved, each will need to be able to see a copy of your "music score," or have access to an individual part.  It may be easiest to make one large score (e.g., on poster board) for everyone to see.  In any case, you must create a "music score."

Now that you have a general idea of what you want to happen, you must think in terms of a framework, so as to make your piece meaningful to the audience.  Random noises will be meaningless and boring.  How will you put your sounds together to hold the audience's attention throughout the piece?  Keep in mind concepts we have seen utilized in traditional music works, such as tempo, texture, dynamics, development, climax, form.  These elements are important to the cohesiveness and expressiveness of any music work.  Think in terms of varying these elements throughout to provide interest.  Melody and harmony may or may not be applicable to your composition, but rhythm will certainly play a vite role, most likely.  How will you use it?

Your piece should be at least two minutes in duration.  Before the work is performed for the class, explain in detail:  (1) what the piece is about, (2) what music concepts were utilized in its construction, and, (3) how you notated your ideas on paper (explain your score).

Composers of traditional music go through much the same process in the creation of their works as you will experience in writing your nontraditional composition.  That is the point of the project--to give you greater insights into the creation of music, which you would not otherwise have had opportunity to experience.

Have fun with the project!  This is your big chance to be creatively outlandish, if you wish.  Just try to come up with an original idea that you can structure in such a way that will make sense as a complete entity, and that will hold the attention of the class for freakin' two minutes!!  :-) 

Reminder:  Even though you make ask any number of people to participate in the performance of your original project, each must be individually composed.  That is, two people cannot write a single composition.  We'll leave that for Rogers & Hammerstein, Gilbert & Sullivan, Lennon & McCartney, and a few others.

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