Expanding My Melodic Voice

These next two tracks were from my Berklee Online Winter Semester, Week 4 in Compositional Voice Development in Film Scoring.

Octatonic Melody was an exercise to “…compose a short melody in one of the scales we previously discussed…major, minor, chromatic, Lydian, Dorian, Lydian dominant, Phrygian, Spanish Phrygian, Mixolydian, octatonic, whole tone, and altered scales…with traditional melodic phrasing…you do not need to write accompaniment material for the melody…you may add a pedal point drone…if you wish, but it is not required.” I chose (half-whole) Octatonic with F as tonic. The melody is in the cellos and there is a tonic pedal underneath, in the basses.

Mystical Chant was the end-of-the-week assignment to “…write a one-minute piece using a scale or mode you’ve never used before…the music should be unique in some way, but need not break from every established tradition of melodic writing.” For this assignment, I chose the Whole Tone scale with an added note. I structured it ABA’, and the A sections focused on the C Whole Tone scale with an added dominant (G), but the B section tonicized the G in “traditional” fashion, allowing me to use the Whole Tone scale with the added tonic (same pitches, but a “mode” of the original scale). I figured this scale was going to have a “dreamy” quality, but with some stability, as well as dissonance because of the added note. The more I played around with this scale, the more I got a vibe of “extra mystical Gregorian Chant”, so I chose to use male voices. I used only two voices at the beginning, so that there is some ambiguity as to what the implied chords are. I didn’t want to be too in-your-face and obvious about the Whole Tone nature of it, so at the beginning it seems like it could be in major, but as it progresses, each new note that is revealed implies a different mode, until near the end of the A section when there is an implied augmented triad, which really brings in the Whole Tone flavor. For the return of the A section, I added a third voice, so that all of the harmonies are solidified, and it is clear that this piece does not use a traditional mode.

Personal Experience Assignment

Marimba Solo was from my Berklee Online Winter Semester  for Week 3 in Compositional Voice Development in Film Scoring. The assignment was to compose a short piece “influenced by some aspect of your personal experience… creative preferences of your past clients, ideologies promoted to you at school, characteristics of music that you admire, or other life experiences.”

I chose to compose a piece that was influenced by my time at the University of Rhode Island. One of my main influences  was playing solo marimba music , especially works by Mitchell Peters, and Rhythm Song by Paul Smadbeck (I was supposed to be learning the basics like sight reading, but I would borrow solos that the upperclassmen were learning, and try to learn as much of them as I could). I had also been interested in progressive rock since high school, so a lot of marimba music that I liked meshed well because of the mixed/changing meters (7|8 is my favorite).

I also started getting interested in World Music, especially percussion, and that was when I bought my first djembe. After hearing a performance of the Ethos Percussion Ensemble playing Rhythm Song, and incorporating djembe as well as other drums and percussion, I was re-inspired by that piece for new reasons. Soon after, the URI Percussion Ensemble ended up doing a similar arrangement/performance, and I played djembe. 

I was also excited to have the opportunity to write for strings since my high school didn’t have a string program, and I only had a chance to play in an honors orchestra in my senior year (I was instantly hooked). I love how percussive strings can be, and I love the contrast of long lush string lines over rhythmically active percussion. 

That was also when I first became interested in minimalism, partly because it was so closely related to drumming and some of the marimba music I was learning. I love the idea of taking a small germ of an idea and seeing how much you can get out of it. 

Parallel Harmony Assignment

Hero Theme was my Berklee Online Winter Semester assignment for Week 3 in Composing the Orchestral Film Score. It is “an eight-bar piece using parallel harmony” and we were also allowed to use a tonic pedal if we wanted to. I wrote a melody in G Locrian and harmonized it with parallel major triads. I scored it for brass, percussion, choir, and strings. There is a low G tonic pedal played by the bass trombone, tuba, timpani, bass voice, cellos and string basses. It was composed in Sibelius so it isn’t as well produced as some of my later works are, but maybe someday I’ll drop it into Logic…

Berklee Online Film Scoring Masters

For those of you who don’t know, since the end of September 2021 I’ve been in Berklee Online’s Film Scoring Maters program. During the Fall Semester I didn’t compose any new music except for a score to a student film (which will be posted later), but during the Winter Semester I had multiple short composing exercises every week. Most of these were for Compositional Voice Development in Film Scoring, and there were also a few for Composing the Orchestral Film Score. Now that I have time to breathe, I’m going to release one of them every week, so you have a chance to hear what I’ve been doing for the last six months. I hope you enjoy!