T.J. Bergquist 11/17/11 1st Creating A Choral Composition Composing a musical piece is an endeavor that, for many musicians, is a landmark intheir careers. Though this can be seen as a professional accomplishment, there is also a greatdeal of personal, musical, and emotional fulfillment that comes with it. Music, from its verydefinition, is not only appealing to the ear but has meaning. One of the many aspects ofcomposing music that is disregarded or not given enough credit is the joy of creating music inthe first place. Therefore, when attempting to write a musical piece, consideration to both thetechnical and emotional aspects of the music is necessary to make a song more than just anothersong. When writing a choral piece, a variety of different aspects need to be considered. Whencomposing, it is necessary to make the written parts fit the voices they are being applied to.When splitting vocal parts, for example if lower voices are identified, the quality and purity ofthe music will be significantly better when sung (galegroup.com). This identified range will notonly allow for each person to feel comfortable while singing, but also allow there voices to havea fuller tone. When splitting parts, the standard mixed parts are S.A.T.B. (Soprano, Alto, Tenor,and Bass). This basic part structure covers the lower and higher voices of both men and women.However, when making a more layered group, a group with more individual singing parts, evenstructures such as S.S.A.A.T.T.B.B., or Soprano 1, Soprano 2, Alto 2, Alto 1, Tenor 1, Tenor 2,
Bass 1, Bass 2, are possible. Taking advantage of these vocal part systems can change thequality of a piece completely. Though vocal parts are typically assigned based on vocal range, a singer’s personal desirefor a part can carry a great deal of weight within a choral group as well. When a desire to have apart is held, and the stretch to this vocal part is not too grand, the amount of rubito, or emotion insinging, can be augmented significantly. Expressiveness within music allows for flows andlegatos to be drastically enhanced, enabling a choral group to grab a listener’s attention and moreimportantly, make them feel the music. Though typically a person will be more content singingwithin their comfortable range a majority of the time, if pushing your voice occasionally meanshaving more feeling in the music, it is most definitely worth it (www.haydockmusic.com). Withrespect to people’s interest, people’s enjoyment, and for the meaning of the music, pushing vocallimits with care is reasonable when constructing a choral piece. This being said, if expressiveness is going to push the vocal limits of your singers, itmakes taking care of the singers’ voices that much more important. In order to make a piece ofmusic enjoyable while not harming each singer’s voice, and because creating a choralcomposition is different from creating other pieces of music, warming up of a voice and otherprecautions should be taken to help maintain vocal health. Warming up voices safely increases asinger’s range, allowing more possibilities in vocal parts when writing the piece. Warm upsvarying from scales, to increased and decreased volume exercises, or “range pushers” can beused to fully loosen vocal chords to refrain from damaging them. Along with a variety ofdifferent vocal warm-ups that need to be done on a daily basis, drinking water is important aswell. Water thins the amount of mucus within a singer’s throat, which in turn allows for morefree movement of the voice, and decreases the amount of frictional tension felt between the vocal
chords (www.howtosing.com). Especially when creating a part for a choral piece that requires asinger to “belt” at points in the piece, or add volume to give clarity to the part, making sure suchprecautions are taken with the voice can be the difference between a good and a bad piece ofmusic. Before constructing vocal parts and actually writing music, it is also important to have allsingers working on the group piece to practice proper breathing habits. Though this to manycomes off as limiting vocal expression, it ironically can do the exact opposite. When writing apiece of choral music, marking points of expression and wording can make a song anything fromsmooth and liquid in musical motion, to strong and harsh in verses. This can all be improved andexpressed better with proper breathing, posture, and dynamics (www.novachorus.org). Whenconstructing a musical piece, introducing these dynamics or changes in the way the song is sungoften is not given ample attention by singers. If dynamics are acknowledged, the ebb and flowof a grand and expressive piece of music can become possible. This same principal is applied toposture and breath support. If a section in a piece being written requires the singer to have greatpower in their voice, the singer must be able to support their expression through breath support.In order to add more to a piece, singers are typically instructed to sit up straight, opening theirdiaphragms, thus allowing air to travel more freely through their voices. Additionally, markingbreath marks in necessary places in the music you are creating allows singers to have a chance torecuperate vocally and breathe before starting the next section in the music. Apart from supporting voices in a piece, while writing, creating musical variation in achoral arrangement can transform a stagnant and robotic piece into an engaging and meaningfulone. This goal is achieved in a variety of ways by composers. The methods includeembellishing, harmonizing, and compacting vocal parts into melody for volume and emphasis.
Though much of embellishing can be done in a very technical and correct way, for someadvanced and knowledgeable singers, occasionally allowing quick flickers of harmony can allowa piece to gain much needed differentiation (composerfocus.com). If a composer is willing torisk this improvisation, however, he must make sure that the singer attempting the embellishmenthas the musical knowledge or feeling to not let the embellishment take away from the piecerather than add to it. This ensures the piece is an exact representation of the emotions andfeeling intended to be portrayed. Constructed musical harmony is used in a similar way bycomposers. Composers use harmony to add layers to a musical piece, at times building greatmusical suspense, and at others adding a more gentle aspect to the music. This understanding ofharmony is important to those writing music, and is a skill held by the greatest of composers.When you shift tones and pitches to different levels in a progressing melody, an intricate andhighly beautiful picture can be painted, allowing writers a whole new avenue of musicalopportunity (www.menc.org). This variation is usually used by writers to add resolution at theend of a piece, or a return to the main key of the song. If in the climax of a moving piece, allsingers meld into the same pitch, it adds a weight to the piece that can only be attained by aswitch to unison. If a writer executes this transition with proper timing, it can make a piece heartmoving and clear at its end. These different variations allow writers to create a more satisfyingwork than if the song only had melody. If a choral composer is constructing a group piece that requires a large number of peoplefor the proper sound of the music to be achieved, a variety of choral skills must peopleaddressed. In a large choral group, many singers frequently get lost on parts due to theoverwhelming qualities of a large chorus. Ensemble awareness at this point becomes a veryimportant part of creating and singing a song. Ensemble awareness is described by composers as
the ability of any musician, in this case singers, to be able to identify their part and other partsbeing sung in a piece. This awareness allows for a singer within a large group to identify andvocalize the right pitch, or note in a song. If a song that is intended to be very bright anduplifting to listeners is dragged because different parts may go flat from sheer group size, makingsure singers within the group can hear their own part becomes a very important aspect ofcomposing (www.chorus.neu.edu). Along with group awareness of pitch while performing theconstructed piece, solo singing techniques while in a large group should be addressed as well.When singing a solo, typically the singer will be the only one singing within the choir. However,many times background singing is put into composed pieces while the soloist is simply the onlyone singing their part. Due to this being an entirely different way of singing, it is important forthose singing a solo to remember a variety of individual techniques. This includes differentkinds of precision, such as deciding when to take breathes, choosing when or whether or not todo improvisations, and identifying consonance. Group composing requires the composer torealize a variety of different vocal techniques. Music that has emotional significance has some non-technical, but important aspects thathelp make them works of art. Many times when pieces are made, the composer intends for thepiece to be long. This being said, the natural flow of the music must be able to move the listenerthroughout the piece. This musical aspect called balance can be added to a piece with previousmentioned methods, and through meaningful singing. If the chorus that performs a musical piecesings with the rise and fall of a long piece, interest will be more easily achieved by the listener.This “rise and fall” can be provided by contrasts, or in quick musical changes to keep listenersanticipating and waiting for the next bit of a song (www.dolmetsch.com). Another way to writemusic to allow singers and the audience to feel change and meaningful progression in a piece is
adding different groups of singers. Many composers will have pieces switch from the mainchorus of a song to a small group of singers, in order to focus on a more clear and blendedharmony. With the careful use of different choral groups, a composer can allow a small partharmony to add an entirely new level from which to move the rest of the piece. An example ofthis was when I was performing a piece for my school’s choir, when the song went from a solo,to a quartet, to a triplet, a second solo, and finally a full choral singing. Composers add thiselement to choral pieces sometimes to completely change direction of a song, even making adifferent group end a song. This allows a composer to form an abundance of different soundsthat contribute to their musical works (www2.nau.edu.). Another way that composers can addthis emotional significance is by focusing on the expression of each singer. Having a singerfocus on character, or the specific person, place, of feeling directed towards in the piece can leadto a more sincere piece of music (www.articlesofnote.com). This is one reason why manycomposers use history or nature for inspiration, creating a truly moving and genuine experiencefor listeners. Many important facets of singing with emotion help create a magnificent musicalpiece. Composing a musical piece requires a great deal of work on both technical andinspirational levels. When composing a piece for an organized chorus, paying attention to groupwants and maintaining vocal health prove imperative in the song creating process. Properposture and breathing that is incorporated into a piece can greatly enhance the vocal quality ofthose who are singing. Using harmony and embellishment in a way that helps aid the musicbeing written can drastically change the depth and intricacy of a well constructed composition.Along with this, introducing character to singers and looking for sincere inspiration when writing
the piece can create a very meaningful and genuine experience for listeners. Through technicaland emotional exploration of musical creation, truly incredible compositions can be made.