... in which David gets another AWESOMEly fun assignment.
My next uni assignment is another composition. Last time, you may remember, I composed a short-ish cello piece suitable for a funeral with a brief musical representation of spiders that suffer from ADD and who are on crack. This time, I either get to compose a serialist piece of chance music.
In a serialist piece, the composer writes rules on how to compose the piece and then follows them. One way to do this is to organise the 12 tones of the Western scale in some sort of order (a tone row), numbering them 1 - 12, and then create a list of 11 transpositions (movements up or down by a set pitch interval for each note) where you transpose the row by the interval between the current starting pitch and the next. For example, say your tone row is A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G#, each transposition would be by a semitone because each tone is separated by a semitone. However, in the tone row A C G F# D# E B A# C# F G# D, the first transposition would be by a tone and a half as C (ie 2) is a tone and a half away from A (ie 1). The second transposition, however, would be by seven semitones as C (ie 2) is seven semitones away from G (ie 3). To actually compose using such a matrix doesn't mean you just follow the tones 1-12 then 2-1, then 3-2 etc; you can use inversions and retrogrades of each transposition, or in less formal serialism, simply draw straight lines across your matrix up, down, left, right or diagonally, and follow the pitches. That pattern can also be used for dynamics and rhythms etc.
Another way you can do serialism is by creating a ten tone row and applying a ten digit number, like your mobile number, to it. This can lead to double-ups in notes, though - if your number starts with 0408, you already have two 0s, no matter what else comes later in the number. But these rows don't have to be followed quite so strictly: you start and stop mid row as long as the groups of tones you end up with are in the same order as they appear in the row. For example, with the number 0418 567 123, your composition could be as follows:
0418 | 0418 | 0418 | 5 |
6712 | 6712 | 3041 | 8 ||
Chance music, however, is far more fun. You roll dice. Or look at sports results. Pull pieces of paper out of a hat Kris Kringle style. Or do anything random. Then you use these Random Generators to compose your piece. You may roll a three followed by a four by a one by a six. These numbers correspond to predetermined tones, or rhythmic snippets, or dynamic markings, or even the instruments that are playing.`
I'm thinking I'll do chance music. (Random Generators for the win!) In fact, I've already constructed my Generator based on drawing from a deck of cards. Each card from Ace to King has a pitch value, rhythmic value and dynamic value (actually, King has no pitch value - the problem with using thirteen cards for twelve tones - so I've made it represent a rest). I will start by drawing for pitch, but each time I draw a Joker, I will move forward one field: pitch -> rhythm, rhythm -> dynamics, dynamics -> pitch. Oh, and to set the tempo, I'll draw two cards and use their values to make a two or three digit number - if I get two single-digit numbers, x and y, I'll use the speed [x][y] (eg One and Five would be 15); if I get a single- and a double-digit, I'll do the same; if I get two double-digit numbers, I'll draw again and depending on whether the card is even or odd, I'll use the first card's value and the first number of the second (even) or add the two numbers together and use the total value (odd).
Within each field there are rules. In pitch, when I draw a club or a spade, it means I move to the closest note above the last that corresponds to the card's number (ie ace of clubs means the next A above the last note). In Rhythm, the last three cards are not note types (like crotchet or quaver) but are note markings, so they will affect the next drawn card. In dynamics, the first six cards are the pure dynaic markings, fortissimo to pianissimo, and the ninth and tenth cards are crescendo and diminuendo, but I do not want each note to be a new marking necessarily, so the card drawn after each dynamic card will determine their duration; the number of the card will determine how many notes are to be played before applying the next card's affect. If, however, it is card seven, eight, or Jack through King, I'll apply their affect by drawing a second card and using that number to count from the last marking (eg I draw a King, then a Five, so I count five notes from the last dynamic marking and place the King's affect [a tempo]* there).
It should be pretty easy to compose doing it this way. It probably won't sound very good, to be honest, but that's not what chance music is about. If it sounds absolutely awful, though, I might switch to serialism... or just reduce the randomness of the chance music post-production. Maybe I should put it in a key, actually... that'd help make it sound better. But would that just make it less Chancetastic?
edit: duh! leave the tonality/atonality up to chance! silly david.
P.S. I just realised I left something out of my last composition. FUCK!
*Jack, Queen and King are tempo markings, not dynamic, but I figured they were close enough to put together seeing as there was no more space in the draw for rhythmic markings.