Manual A Catalogue of Original Compositions, Arrangements & Transcriptions

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Compositions/Transcriptions » The Horowitz Website -

Between Le renard et la rose and Baobabs , then, a significant delineation is the difference between specific voices from a particular place and time, and more abstract, generalizable vocal instructions. The very first sound of each work presents an ideal example. In Le renard et la rose a very unique and striking burst of laughter, punctuated by a percussive dry wheeze, opens the work. The recording available by the ensemble that premiered the work reveals a very different quality of laugh than we hear in Le renard et la rose Normandeau , and future performances may yield still different results.


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Acousmatic music does not escape this problem, though in this medium it is perhaps more subtle perhaps even enhancing the temptation toward Musical Platonism. The physical document whether it be magnetic tape or a sound file on a computer remains several steps removed from the heard experience of the music, though there are perhaps fewer steps than in written acoustic music. The quality and number of loudspeakers, their disposition in space, the quality of the acoustic in the room, the possibility of live diffusion, etc. The question of musical ontology is therefore complex across media and I do not mean to answer these perennial questions, only to show the relationship between them and cross-media transcription.

The performative dimension of Baobabs is nonetheless distinct in that the performance is visible and possible to witness in real time. This is of course the distinction presented by acousmatic music where, following the description of Pythagoras giving lectures behind a veil so that visual perception may not influence the content of his words, the physical source of the music-as-heard is hidden Schaeffer , A consequence of transcribing an acousmatic work into an acoustic one is the lifting of this veil; a significant difference between the works becomes the visual performative element.

That aspect of the work necessarily impacts its potential meaning and, through its intertextual link, that of its antecedent acousmatic source. This is not simply limited to instances where the sound sources of an acousmatic work are similar to the live sources of its transcription as in the voices as source in both Le renard et la rose and Baobabs ; the introduction of any physical gesture can forge a new meaning for the sound to which it may be related as in the percussion writing in Baobabs reflecting vocal sources in Le renard et la rose.

Of course, in performance Baobabs elevates this conspicuousness to an extreme and so its relationship with the structure of the work also changes. Normandeau is generally not shy about the referential and imagined visual dimensions of his music Normandeau and his description of Baobabs indicates an interest and sensitivity toward this aspect as revealed through performance. Gordon Fitzell is a Manitoban composer living in Winnipeg whose catalogue includes instrumental, mixed, acousmatic and improvisatory music, as well as sound installations. Therefore, while Fitzell did not anticipate making a mixed adaptation of violence , when eighth blackbird asked him for such a work, he became interested in the idea, as it seemed like a natural extension of the compositional goals of the work Fitzell The instrumental parts of the scores for each work are very nearly identical, save for some extended durations of the material, especially to accommodate a two-minute long diminuendo of violin and electronics that gives Evanescence a significantly different ending from violence Fitzell and The work instead distinguishes itself principally through the constant application of relatively heavy electronic processing to all of the instrumental parts.

Therefore, despite the nearly indistinguishable instrumental writing in both works, the aural result of Evanescence is significantly different, as every sound in the work is reshaped to a certain extent through the electronic media. Both works have been performed together in the context of a single concert, and have been recorded on the same album Ibid. The live processing required to realize the work is described in general terms, but the specific implementation is at the discretion of the electronics performer, as is the optional component for an improvisatory element.

Again, this example of cross-media exchange encourages questions about the ontology of a musical work. The choice of electronic processing was, to a certain extent, an effort to apply acoustically similar manipulations to instrumental playing techniques, such as noisy granulation to bowed scratch tone Ibid. All of the clearest examples of cross-media transcription discussed above have involved the realization of acoustic written music derived from an extant electroacoustic work, whereas the relationship between violence and Evanescence is something close to an example of the converse.

Indeed, the first time I encountered the work was in a concert that I co-organized where Fitzell diffused a recording of Evanescence over a multi-channel array of loudspeakers as one might an acousmatic work, absent of any performative element. Because the work is so transformed by the electronic elements, it seems comfortably situated in such a context. However, the manner in which Fitzell chose some of the electronic processing in Evanescence suggests a more interesting compositional path, where electronic sound was composed based on similar acoustic qualities rather than an exact reproduction.

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This manner of working could theoretically be used as the means of developing an entirely new electroacoustic work from an extant instrumental work, though I am not aware of any example to date. I have attempted something similar as part of the compositional process of sections of single works, including Isomorphic —14 and IF:IFF , which I will discuss in the following section. In my own compositional practice, which includes acousmatic, mixed and instrumental music, as well as sound installations, cross-media transcription plays an important role in several works.

Because the concept is deeply rooted in the compositional process, and I have fuller knowledge of my own process than of any other composer, I hope the reader will indulge a foray into auto-ethnographic analysis and appreciate it as a means to further discuss the conceptual implications of cross-media transcription and perhaps to yield some points of interest unique to the works I will present. Isomorphic , Isomorph and Isomorphia —14, acousmatic, for orchestra and for orchestra with electronics, respectively comprise a triptych of works that share the same form the meaning of the title[s].

The pertinence of this triptych of works to the present discussion is that this technique was applied not only to generate material for an instrumental work, but also more broadly to match the form of an extant work. The more general technique of instrumental synthesis Fineberg , 85 can be observed in various forms as part of the compositional process of cross-media transcription in some of the works by Leroux and Normandeau, and in the works of mine I will discuss as well.

Roughly the first half of the acousmatic work, Isomorphic , was completed by and the work existed as a completed miniature in this state.


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  • The orchestral work Isomorph began as transcriptions of the acousmatic work, and the first half of this work was composed following the form of the Isomorphic miniature very closely, with the occasional injection of new material Fig. The completion of the work followed the more typical process of mimetic instrumental resynthesis as used in other works of mine such as Iron Horses and For or From , in which individual field recordings not arranged in any particular compositional assembly are analysed to generate new instrumental material.

    The electronics consist of triggered sound files adapted from Isomorphic and developed from the field recordings used to generate the later instrumental writing. They are always triggered to synchronize with the transcription point, blending and transforming the heard experience between the source electronic sounds and their instrumental imitations. The instrumental part of the scores for Isomorph and Isomorphia are identical.

    enter Finally, Isomorphic was completed the following year by developing the materials used in the electronic part of Isomorphia into the second half of the acousmatic work. In certain sections, however, the musical material was developed in significantly different ways in the latter half of the two works. Thus, the works preserve the same overall shape but some micro-level details differ significantly. The relationship between the three works is therefore complex and it is not possible to describe one as a transcription of the other, as cross-media transcriptive exchanges occurred between the works recursively during their overlapping compositional periods, including instrumental transcriptions of acousmatic material, and acousmatic imitations of instrumental material.

    The works then highlight the diversity of possible relationships in cross-media transcription.

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    In this case, roughly the first two minutes of the instrumental writing in the work were used as the model for developing an electronic part that appears near the end of the work. This electronic part, consisting of fixed-media triggered sound files was composed before a performance or recording of its instrumental source, and so its development was based on an estimation of the resultant sound of the instrumental writing, and not an analysis of a recording as was the case for the end of Isomorphic.

    It was my goal to realize the electronic part from different sound sources than the instrumental part, but nonetheless observe the same structure and surface musical features of pitch, rhythm and spectral density. The single shared sound source is a struck D-flat crotale. In the instrumental part, this crotale pitch is played live and extended as downward glissandi in the strings. In the later electronic part, the crotale recording is extended by auto-convolution and dynamically pitch-shifted.

    The use of resonant filters on ambience recorded in a cathedral further served to mimic the harmonic structure of instrumental textures in the source material. And so, the work features an inner relationship between an instrumental-dominant section and a later electroacoustic-dominant section where the latter is an attempt to recreate the structure and basic musical features of the former with novel electroacoustic means.

    Empties-Impetus is an acousmatic work that has its own intertextual links: it is the third work in a trilogy of acousmatic works centring around a musical instrument or group of instruments as source material, and has an optional performance modality where the work is partially diffused through speakers attached to or inside of the instruments in the concert hall without performers.

    The other two works are Objects-Interiors and Bodies-Soundings The instruments of concern in Empties-Impetus are those of the traditional string quartet and in performance the piece can be partly diffused through tactile transducers attached to each instrument. The bulk of the sound sources in the work are from these instruments, supplemented by several everyday objects and field recordings. Before composition began on the work, I planned to later transcribe it as an instrumental piece for a live string quartet with electronics.

    This structure was imposed with the idea that the eventual transcription would synchronize with electronics adapted from the opposite half of the acousmatic work. The resultant work, pre-echo after empties was composed in —16 in the context of a two-part workshop, and so the first ten minutes the first movement of the work were transcribed as an acoustic piece, with electronics only in the form of amplification.

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    After this stage of the project, I tested my plan to integrate electronics from the acousmatic work using a recording of the performance of the work for string quartet. The results were deeply unsatisfying! The partial-tracking spectral analysis software SPEAR was used as a guide to map pitches and durations, but all other compositional choices were made based on an intuitive aural analysis. I followed the structure of Empties-Impetus closely, only occasionally quantizing the rhythm and including fermatas to afford performability.

    A significant difference between the works, however, is one of scale: the acousmatic work is very densely layered in many sections, matching the forces of an immense string orchestra rather than a quartet Fig. I finish exhausted and must rest a month sleeping 12 hours a day. But I can do it … if somebody motivate me some words of encouragement. I think the best thing for you would be to get yourself out there, and start getting your music performed.

    Try to find people that can sing or play an instrument that would be interested in having someone else write a song for them to play. I would also recommend, if not being able to play an instrument is making you feel bad, then learn to play an instrument. The process is not that daunting. I play several instruments myself trumpet, piano, guitar, saxophone, a little clarinet. It just takes effort and patience.

    I am intermediate pianist, I only took 4 yrs. To be honest, I am not exactly sure what you are asking. As far as composing advice, I have written many articles on this site about both the theoretical and practical side, and the mental aspects of composing. I would recommend taking a glance at the archives and just clicking through the blog a bit.

    You can get some work done in a hectic environment, but I would recommend finding a quite place that you can go to get away when you compose. If you need an instrument to check pitch, then you could start real simple with a pitch pipe, or try to find a place like a school that will allow you to use a piano. There is also a lot of benefit in learning to compose without an instrument. Try writing down ideas, and then checking them later at a piano or using notation software. You will improve over time.

    You say you have talent, but you are not an artistic, passionate personality. But you do need the desire to compose. Sometimes composing is a lot of work… difficult work. Thanks for the reply! Hello, I appreciate your efforts on making us learn more and more about composing music. I have also been playing piano for so long but i have been wondering how i could come up with some compositions and failing.