This is my 3rd article about composition. As you may have guessed I’m pretty keen on using it as a learning tool in the classroom – extremely keen. It is one of the 3 major areas for the Australian curriculum given equal weight with performance and listening. ‘Students will listen, perform and compose’ yay!
To me composition is where the real magic happens in music. Theory – anybody can learn, playing an instrument is just a case of practice – but composition, that is the creation of something new, something that is your own and has never existed before. Creating programme music is even more magical. Creating music that crosses over senses. Sound that makes you ‘see’ or imagine a scene. That is seriously magic.
There are not that many senses that do that – not many things you taste that make you hear things – although this is the kind of sensory cross over that Heston Blumenthal is playing with. He still has to add sounds though. Occasionally a smell will trigger a scene (like the beach or pine trees) but that is usually based on triggering a melody – not the creation of something new.
How does music affect mood? We all know it does. There is nothing better than your favourite 80s song coming on to brighten your day (or is that just me?). The Barber – Adagio for Strings is the saddest piece in the universe, closely followed by the 2nd movement of the Rodrigo Guitar Concerto and Nimrod. Well that’s how I feel when I listen to them. I know that I simply can’t listen to that music at certain times – it affects me too badly. I don’t know of any smells that can affect me like this. Garlic and onions make me happy but only because I know I am about to eat them! Not quite the same. Certain tastes make me very happy but I don’t know of a taste that can make me sad. I don’t have an emotional reaction to the feel of different surfaces. Maybe some people do?
These are all things that young composers need to be aware of. The magic they are capable of creating in their music. This is one of the reasons why I don’t believe that students should ever start their compositional journeys from a purely theoretical angle. There is no magic – just notes and rules. Compositions should always be taught as a combination with some creative activities and some theoretic, or creative compositions that are then written down.
As Richard Gill says – nobody teaches painting by just replicating it or just getting students to look at it.
Students learn so they can create their own brand new, unique and magical art.
Creative composition resources: