Expanding My Tone Color Voice

These next three tracks were from my Berklee Online Winter Semester, Week 7 in Compositional Voice Development in Film Scoring.

Orchestra and Rock was an exercise to “…compose a short phrase that combines orchestral and popular music instrumentation. You may combine orchestral and pop elements in any way that is musically interesting to you.” I combined bass guitar and drum set with strings and brass, and had the strings and brass play power chords in place of an electric guitar.

Orchestra and World was an exercise to “… compose a short phrase that combines a world or historical instrument with the orchestra. You may combine orchestral and world/historical elements in any way that is musically interesting to you.” I used a Middle Eastern Zurna as the melodic instrument and accompanied it with sustained strings, concert toms, and concert bass drum. I used the scale C Db E F G Ab B and came up with a bass line for the strings to play, then improvised with that scale for the Zurna part. I also experimented with using extra reverb to try to counteract its very nasal sound.

Tone Color was the end-of-the-week assignment to “…write a one-minute piece using an instrument or tone color idea you’ve never used before. You may use common or rare instruments, acoustic or software sounds.” I continued with the concepts that I experimented with in the two exercises this week: combining rock/pop instruments with orchestral instruments, and combining world instruments with orchestral instruments. I used a combination of all three, and while I was combining things, I thought it might be interesting to use 12 Bar Blues as my form. For rock/pop instruments, I used electric bass and drums again. For orchestral instruments I used strings, and had the low strings play a pad, while the violins played a melody in octaves. For world instruments, I used the Indian Tanpura, the Middle Eastern Zurna, and a Middle Eastern Darbouka. I also used a vocal synth sound in the C section. The drum set has such a wide range of colors between bass, snare, toms, and cymbals, and there is such a punch to it that you don’t get from orchestral percussion. Similarly with electric bass, you get a nice percussive attack that cuts through (especially in the higher register) in a way that string bass doesn’t. I didn’t want this to sound like pop music or a chamber ensemble, so the strings give warmth and a roundness, and also make the track sound bigger. The Tanpura has a buzzing, sustained sound, with a fuzzy attack, so there is only a vague sense of rhythm, all of which creates a meditative bed underneath everything else. The Darbouka has a nice high pop sound which makes it work well with, and stand out against the drum set. It functions the way bongos might, but with a more unfamiliar sound because it isn’t used as often as bongos are. The Zurna comes in for the C section and final A section, and it cuts through everything with its intense nasal timbre. Once again, I used a huge wash of reverb on it to try to give it a less abrasive sound. In the last A section it is playing in unison/octaves with the violins, which also warms the timbre.

 

Expanding My Rhythmic Voice

These next three tracks were from my Berklee Online Winter Semester, Week 6 in Compositional Voice Development in Film Scoring.

Changing Meters was an exercise to “…compose a musical idea that incorporates more than one meter… consider how the meter change interacts with other aspects of the music. Where in the phrase does the meter change occur? Is the meter change paired with a change in harmony or counterpoint?” I assigned 7|8 (3+2+2) to the tonic chord, and whenever the chord changes, I changed the meter also.

Syncopation was an exercise to “…compose a musical idea that employs syncopation.” I set up the accents in the percussion and strings to really make it clear that the ostinato is in 4|4. For the chords, I incorporated a “rhythmic acceleration” because in addition to most of the attacks being on unexpected beats, the note values get shorter and shorter and the attacks move earlier and earlier in the measures in each phrase.

Rhythm was the end-of-the-week assignment to “…write a one-minute piece using a meter or rhythmic idea you’ve never used before.” I explored an idea that I’ve wanted to try for a while: fitting a measure of 5|8 and a measure of 7|8 together in a measure of 12|8. My A section alternates between 5|8 and 7|8 and explores the different subdivisions of each. The first phrase alternates between 7|8 and 5|8 and the second phrase alternates between 5|8 and 7|8. I arranged them so that in the first phrase there is an underlying 3 2 2 pattern that repeats four times followed by a 3 2 pattern that repeats four times, and in the second phrase there is an underlying 2 3 pattern that repeats four times, followed by a 2 2 3 pattern that repeats twice. For the B section, I switch to a more straightforward 12|8, but I emphasize all of the different even groupings that can fit into 12|8: groups of six 8th notes, groups of four 8th notes, groups of three 8th notes and groups of two 8th notes. After four measures, the A section material returns and is layered on top of the continuing B section material, so all of the different ways of dividing 12 8th notes are played simultaneously.

Expanding My Harmonic Voice

Hexatonic Complements was from my Berklee Online Winter Semester, Week 5 in Compositional Voice Development in Film Scoring. The  assignment was to “write a one-minute piece using a chord type, progression, or harmonic idea you’ve never used before.”

I used hexatonic scales that are complements of each other because they have an unfamiliar melodic character, but have many major and minor chords to choose from, and fit well within each other. I began with the scale that starts with a m3 then m2, and with C as tonic (C D# E G Ab B) and its complement (D F Gb A Bb C#), and used one scale per phrase. In the first phrase of the A section, the chord progression was CM AbM CM EM, and for the second phrase DM BbM F#M DM. For the B section I  used the other two transpositions of the hexatonic scale, which are also complements of each other, and I switched from 3|4 to 2|4 and used all minor chords: Ebm Gm Bm Ebm and C#m Am Fm C#m. For the return of the A section, I kept it in 2|4 so that it would have some variation from the beginning, and I also brought the melody up to D instead of A. I really like the contrast of unpredictable melodic movement, but moment to moment consonance and stability.