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Composition project


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As a follow-up to the Maestro Music concerts, we have prepared this PowerPoint presentation to help students write a piece based on Schoenberg’s ‘Farben’.

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Composition project

  1. 1. A Composition Project Copyright Katy MacKintosh and John Poulter 2012
  2. 2.  This pack has been designed to give Higher music pupils an insight into early twentieth century music of the Second Viennese School, using “Farben” from Schoenberg’s Five Orchestral Pieces
  3. 3. • Farben, translated as “Colours” was written by Schoenberg in 1909• It is a sound picture based on a single concept – texture• Schoenberg uses this one technique to focus our attention on the individual instruments of the orchestra and their sounds
  4. 4. • Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg was born in 1874, and is famous as the leader of the Second Viennese School• Here, along with Webern and Berg, he revolutionised composition by a novel approach to harmony and development, and his name would become synonymous with atonality and the development of the twelve tone technique
  5. 5. • Schoenberg’s work, Five Pieces for Orchestra, is important as it signaled a change in the use of orchestral instruments – using them for their variety of sounds instead of pitch• Of the five, initially published without names, we are going to look at the third• In later editions, this piece was titled Farben, and in 1949 Schoenberg gave it the name “Morning by the Lake”
  6. 6.  Farben was revolutionary in 1909, and even today still sounds modern and fresh in its approach Yet in 1909, Princes Street in Edinburgh looked like this…
  7. 7.  And Argyle Street in Glasgow looked like this…
  8. 8. Let’s start by putting the piece into a historicalcontext: 1902 Marie and Pierre Curie isolate radium 1904 Teabags invented by Thomas Sullivan 1904 Britain and France sign Entente Cordiale 1904 Invention of ice cream cone 1909 North Pole reached 1909 First aeroplane flight 1912 Titanic sinks 1915 Italy declares war on Austria-Hungary and Germany
  9. 9. And also in a musical context: 1900 Rimsky-Korsakov writes “Flight of the Bumblebee” 1902 Scott Joplin writes “The Entertainer” 1908 Debussy’s “Children’s Corner” is premiered 1909 Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto no. 3 is premiered 1910 Stravinsky writes “The Firebird”
  10. 10.  The structure of the piece is simple, in that rhythm, dynamics and harmonic changes all build to approximately two thirds of the way through, before returning to material very similar to the beginning The piece is built upon the concept of texture – chords morphing from one another, with instruments creating different sound colours There is no real melody in the piece, but a growth of texture builds to a climax The piece closes with a coda section
  11. 11.  The first section starts very smoothly and with a gentle pulse moves from chord to chord without any jumps In the second section, the piece develops, as pitch climbs and more colours change, leading to a third section where much more overlapping, dovetailing and sharper chord changes are evident The piece finishes very much as it started with a slowing of chord changes Throughout, there are small decorations which develop in complexity as the music progresses These “leaping fish” add to the textures and give the piece a slightly uneasy feel
  12. 12. La Parade de Cirque Georges Seurat
  13. 13.  Seurat developed the technique of Pointillism, which uses small distinct dots of colour to form an image This technique relies on the eye and mind of the viewer to merge these individual dots into a complete picture The musical version of Pointillism is called Klangfarbenmelodie It involves distributing a musical line between several instruments, instead of assigning it to one soloist, to add colour and texture Schoenberg was a pioneer of this technique and most notably used it in Farben from his Five Pieces for Orchestra
  14. 14.  The piece we are going to write requires five notes Schoenberg chooses his notes by mixing the chords of a minor and e major (linked by the note e), to create c gsharp b, e and a You can use his notes in your piece or choose your own using two separate chords
  15. 15.  You may want to use xylophones or a piano to find your five pitches Later, you can transfer these pitches to another instrument
  16. 16.  Now we have all the material required to start our piece Each pupil should pick one of the chosen notes, then as an ensemble try playing your chord together
  17. 17. • Do some notes sound better with a variety of instruments playing them, or just one?• Experiment with using different instruments and timbres
  18. 18. • Schoenberg changes his chords chromatically• Practise moving upwards and downwards by one semitone from the original notes as an ensemble• To blur the chord changes, Schoenberg moves each note in the chord individually• Practice taking it in turns to move, waiting until all players have moved to the new chord, before moving back to your original chord• Try this at various speeds
  19. 19. • We now have the basis to our piece• To help create the atmosphere use cymbals, shakers, and other resonant percussion instruments to supplement your chords• Schoenberg renamed Farben in 1949 to “Morning by a Lake”• Can you represent sounds found in the title with your instruments?
  20. 20. • There are four sections in Farben - A,B,C and A• For section A, start by playing your original chord and very slowly, move to your chromatic variations, returning to the original chord with a pause, which marks the start of section B• You can experiment with different sounds by using mutes and flutter-tonguing on woodwind and brass, different sticks on percussion instruments, and tremolo and pizzicato on string instruments
  21. 21. • For section B we need to create some new material using the original five notes from your chord• We are then going to alter them in a technique used by Schoenberg later in his career• Experiment with ordering the five notes from your chord• We call this original melody the Prime version
  22. 22. • To turn this row of notes into the Retrograde version, write out the Prime version in reverse order• An Inversion form of your melody can be created by writing the intervals upside down, with all the interval directions changed• Finally, a Retrograde Inversion of your original melody can be created by writing the notes of the inversion in reverse order• Here is an example using Schoenberg’s original chord:
  23. 23. Prime, Retrograde, Inversion and Retrograde Inversion
  24. 24. • To develop the piece into section B, take the material you’ve created in section A and place your melody in its various forms on top• Experiment alternating the chords with your melody• You can play the melodies on their own with your original chord underneath, or with your sound pictures from the percussion used in section A
  25. 25. • In Section C the music develops so that movement between chords is quicker and more agitated• You can do this by using staccato notes and pizzicato, and by changing the chords more rapidly• Throughout this section your melodies can be played at random, in full or fragmented• Try to develop the underlying percussion textures by using harder sticks and shorter sharper sounds before building to a climax
  26. 26. • The final section, which should take the form of Section A, finishes your piece. Good Luck!
  27. 27. Katy MacKintosh is the RSNO’s Associate John Poulter has been the RSNO’sPrincipal Oboe, a position she has held for Associate Principal Percussion for sixeight years. In addition to her orchestral and years. As well as his orchestralsolo work, Katy is passionate about her responsibilities he also works with theeducation work which includes regular education department helping to deliverworkshops at Yorkhill Hospital, Glasgow and projects, giving pre-concert talks and inRachel House Hospice. She is a keen Childrens’ Hospices. In his spare timeparticipant in mountain marathons, and John enjoys hill walking and has recentlyspends a lot of spare time in her kitchen. taken up canoeing.
  28. 28.  I can use my chosen vocal and/or instrumental skills to improvise and compose, showing developing style and sophistication [EXA 4-17a] Having developed my ideas from a range of stimuli, I can create and present compositions using a broad range of musical concepts and ideas [EXA 4–18a]
  29. 29.  Coda  Tone row Muted  Inversion Flutter  Retrograde tonguing Pizzicato IntervalCredit Higher