My level of unease currently being felt as a result of the feedback I received from my tutor recently prompted me to ask further questions. I assume – hopefully rightly – that these feelings of unease will reduce soon!
Questions asked were as follows. My subsequent thoughts and reflections follow the answers:
Q. What do you mean by avoid using presets in Sibelius for presentation?
A. If you create a score of any kind in Sibelius, the software imposes all sorts of defaults regarding score size, fonts, layout, etc – and creates a generic looking Sibelius score. You’ll find that most experienced composers begin to develop their own style of presentation and change these presets accordingly. This will really help to show the examiners that you’re on top of all areas of presentation and making personal choices rather than just what the software sends out automatically.
Reflection: I will take time to reference the Sibelius manual and write a post specifically about layouts, presentation, etc, to see if I can develop my understanding on this. I didn’t appreciate that by changing presets you could advance your own style; I considered it amateurish to ‘play around’ with fonts, etc and feared it may lose me marks but I will explore this some more.
Q. Should I lift actual text from the book and include in the text? I could put the credit at the front of the score?
A. A few lines of text might be really helpful – if you can find short quotes to put in that are relevant to the music it might help to bring it all together (think of Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – the text is really helpful in setting the mood).
Reflection: I will look at the 4th movement of Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ and see how I can interpret a similar notation in my score.
Q. How should I edit accompaniment parts when currently my score is only for the piano/two hands? Should I include additional lines for other aspects of the texture or simply maintain the piano part? It’ll be hard to physically play further lines in accompaniment otherwise!
A. What I meant here was that you have to try to conceive of the music as an orchestral piece rather than a piano piece – so piano-style accompaniments aren’t really going to be relevant to the final piece. That means in your sketches it might actually be enough just to map out harmonies so that when you write the accompaniment in the orchestral music it takes on orchestral-style textures rather than pianistic ones. For a short score, you’re just pulling together the basic, main elements of the piece and it will evolve and develop as you flesh everything out, so don’t get too fixed into piano writing and think more about the basic elements of melody, harmony and rhythm.
Reflection: Now that I have written the first 9 minutes or so of my composition as a piano short score, I will continue to use this as the basis for my orchestration work. However, when I continue to write further music, I will instead write melody lines with chords instead. Therefore, I will be able to demonstrate two different approaches to my orchestration and will reflect at the end of the course which worked better. Or ask further questions!
Q. Being more adventurers with the rhythm means re-writing sections? Not to sound too dim but is that an expectation? Same with the melody; should I write in Sibelius a sketch book of different/alternative ideas for both rhythm and melody for certain sections?
A. Again, I think it’s important to think of what you’ve done as the basics of the piece rather than a final version, as it will need to be difference within an orchestral context. In terms of rhythm, think back to the changing time signature percussion piece as assignment 1 of level 1 – the examiners will be looking for rhythmic invention appropriate to the piece – so it doesn’t need to be crazily complicated all of the time, but it is advisable to show more advanced techniques, such as changing time signatures, triplets, syncopations, dotted rhythms, use of accents, etc. Sometimes writing in basic time signatures is appropriate to the music, but if you want to demonstrate skill and technical ability, think beyond 3/4 and 4/4 and see how adventurous you can be. Of course, that adventurousness has to be part of your musical language rather than just used for its own sake, but I’d advise making some experiments and keeping a note of them in your learning log, so that even if they don’t make it into the final piece you can show that you’ve thought about it. And remember too that rhythm can apply to accompaniment and countermelody as well as the main melodic material, so there are lots of ways to bring in rhythmic variety.
Reflection: Despite writing the short score for piano, with it’s limited accompaniment lines, I have already got ideas of alternative rhythmic lines to play with the piano part. I will have sections that are homophonic in texture, and some that have different polyphonic lines. There will be a lot of contrasts created. But I think that I need to ask more questions or raise more concerns with my tutor.