Assignment 3 – Advanced Music Composition

I have used the Assessment Criteria to help me reflect and evaluate my third assignment:

Technical Presentation:
This, my third assignment, sees me developing my short score:

Alice in Wonderland Short Score – Revised for Assignment 3

It sounds like this:

Instead of continuing the compositional process, I took the advice of my tutor and concentrated more closely on working on what I had already written; the first 9 minutes 15 seconds. I have not composed any new material.

I freely admitted to deliberately avoiding dynamics, articulation and any further expressive markings on my short score at Assignment 2 because I had been focused on writing the music. However, I have been making rough notes about possible orchestration so that I knew what parts of the story I was interpreting where; I just needed to incorporate this all into the short score to give me a firmer basis for the orchestrating process.

And that’s what I have been doing for this assignment; working out how to include the various descriptive story elements and orchestration ‘thoughts’ amongst the music. I didn’t have a president to follow and I have used my own judgement as to how I included these factors.

Compositional skills:
I have worked on developing my understanding of the orchestra for this assignment, looking specifically at the different sections within it, and the individual instruments that play within those sections (what their ranges are, their different timbres within different ranges, their characteristics).

As I started this research, I soon realised how vast a subject area this was; it could take potentially a lifetime to truly master the intricacies of the orchestra and certainly Rimsky-Korsakov seems to have dedicated his life to the art-form.

It’s a fascinating subject orchestration. I liken it to baking; the instruments are the necessary ingredients, the composer is the chef, and the arrangement is the method. Providing you get the right ingredients together in the most appropriate way, the end result is a beautifully balanced cake.

This is most definitely a ‘work-in-progress’, which now takes equal priority on this third year course to that of my actual composing. I need a much stronger understanding of the instrumentation, what works well together, what creates tension and release, balance, and contrast. At the moment, this feels like a mountain to climb but as I progress, I know that I will learn to make it more manageable.

Owing to the deliberate ceasing of further composing over the last 8 weeks, I cannot demonstrate or discuss my creativity in the same way as my previous assignments.

However, I have been giving thought to the types of orchestration that I’m interested in for each of the sections already written, along with the remaining sections.

I have also worked on the structure of my piece, from start to finish, to give me a stronger starting point for the project.

For each section, I have considered the following areas:
a) Any theme being introduced or reprised
b) The general feel/style
c) Initial thoughts on instrumentation
d) Approximate length
e) The texture (and I have tried to capture the shape of this, how it may build or remain the same, pictorially)
f) Pitch, which also takes into consideration thoughts around individual timbres of instruments I hope to include
g) Rhythm
h) Time signature
i) Key signature
j) Speed

In hindsight, now that I have put thought into each of these areas for each of the sections, I feel that I have a stronger starting point for the remaining part of the composition. The first 9 minutes was written without a structure and was created purely from intuition based on the part of the story. I look forward to reflecting on the effectiveness of this structure and what impact is has on my creativity when I start composing again.

I have started very slowly to start orchestrating the first section. I say ‘very slowly’ because I’m taking great care to really ‘hear’ what is happening and what is needed. I haven’t developed as good an ear yet and this will come from listening to more orchestral scores, which I fully intend to do.

Critical Review:
In all honesty, with the struggles of the past 8 weeks, I haven’t focused on the critical review; I am happy with the title proposed at Assignment 2 and once I feel comfortable and on top of the project again, I can then start to commit more time to planning out this review.

I had been concerned at my lack of attention to this part of my studies recently, but I am discovering that whilst I may initially fret over what I’m not doing, I should stand back from everything and acknowledge what I am doing. I can’t do everything all at once, and I have to be able to manage my studies and focus on the area that requires attention the most.

Stylistic Awareness:
I have tried to engage with various orchestral scores over the past 8 weeks to look at their texture and be inspired with my own arrangement ideas.

I have created a post on my online learning log, which talks specifically about orchestral texture and the piece that I listened to for this research was Tolga Kashif’s ‘Queen Symphony’.

Tolga Kashif’s ‘Queen Symphony’

Assignment 4:
For this next assignment, I want to have progressed with the orchestration of the first 9 minutes of my project. This is going to take time; I feel right now like I’m about to jump into a swimming pool with all my clothes on – and I actually can’t swim all that well, and I chose this analogy carefully because this is exactly how I feel. Frightened and out of my depth.

But I’m staying focused, and being careful to look at one part at a time; that’s where I’ll start to see some progress I’m sure and I don’t want to guarantee getting the whole 9 minutes orchestrated.

To this end, I want to listen to and study a couple of orchestral scores to help develop my ear and sense of texture and structure. I have the following scores downloaded from the Petrucci website:

Mahler’s ‘Symphony No.5 in C Minor’
Mozart’s ‘Symphony No.41’
Debussy’s ‘Prelude a l’après-midi d’un faun’

Online blog:
The address for my online studying blog is:


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