Contemporary Techniques in Music Composition 2

I actually really enjoyed Contemporary Techniques in Music Composition 2, much more than CTMC1. Perhaps I already had an idea of what to expect this time around, or maybe it was due to the way the material was presented or just the type of material that was covered.

In any event, this course ended up being a highlight of the term for me and I really enjoyed the pieces that I came up with for it. I’ve added a SoundCloud playlist highlighting some of the pieces towards the end of this post.

Here’s what was covered in the twelve weeks.

Week 1 – “Extended Techniques for Strings, Winds, and More”, Apr 2 – Apr 8
Introduction, Meet and Greet, Writing for Strings: Expanding Harmonics, Glissando, Seagull Effect, Exercise 1.1: Transcribe a Melody with Harmonics, Discussion 1.1: Gyorgy Ligeti’s String Quartet No. 2, More String Effects: Pizzicatos, Bow Techniques, Beyond the Fingerboard, Bow Techniques, Extended Techniques on Violin, Discussion 1.2: Lachenmann’s “Pression”, Extended Techniques for Winds, Quiz 1.1: Identify the Extended Techniques, Extended Techniques for Harp, Extended Techniques for Accordion, Assignment 1: Compose Using Extended Techniques, Recap

Week 2 – “Microtonality and Tunings”, Apr 9th – Apr 15th
Introduction, Temperaments and Tunings, Equal Temperament and Just Intonation: a Brief Explanation, Workshop: Equal Temperament and Just Intonation, The Microtonal Pioneers, Ben Johnston and La Monte Young, Harry Partch and John Luther Adams, Alois Haba, Charles Ives, Ezra Sims, Enno Poppe, Jon Catler, Workshop: Microtonality Perception, Notation and Instrumental Limitations, Workshop: Order the Standard Notation Microtone Accidentals, Workshop: Order the Sims-Maneri Accidentals, Discussion 2.1: Limits of Microtonal Composition, Microtonality and Notation Software, Assignment 2: Microtonal Composing, Recap

Week 3 – “Writing for Voice”, Apr 16th – Apr 22nd
Introduction, How Our Voice Works, Vocal Registers and Ranges: A Quick Review, Vocal Registers, Bel Canto, Writing for Voice Today, Discussion 3.1: Vocal Techniques, Text Setting: Playing with Meanings, Discussion 3.2: Text Setting, Text Setting in Practice, Twentieth Century Text Setting, Exercise 3.1: Text Setting, Assignment 3: Vocal Composition, Recap

Week 4 – “Serial Music”, Apr 23rd – Apr 29th
Introduction, Historical Context: The Need for Something New, Discussion 4.1: Atonal Music, The Core Concepts of Serialism, Expanding the Row: Transposition and Canonic Transformations, Exercise 4.1: Transposition, Inversion, Retrograde, and Retrograde Inversion, Transformations and the Magic Square, Exercise 4.2: Twelve-Tone Row, Series as a Theme, Rhythmical Devices and Serial Counterpoint, Other Serialisms: Total Serialism and Beyond, Discussion 4.2: Serial Music, Assignment 4: Serial Techniques, Recap

Week 5 – “Process Music/Textures and Soundscapes”, Apr 30th – May 6th
Introduction, What is a Texture?, Monophonic, Homophonic, Heterophonic, Polyphonic, Quiz 5.1: Identify the Texture Type, Texture in the Twentieth Century: The Context, Composing with Texture/I: Morphing, Composing With Texture/II: Stratification, Micropolyphony, Discussion 5.1: Texture and Your Listening Experience, Assignment 5: Texture-Based Piece, Recap

Week 6 – “Minimal Music”, May 7th – May 13th
Introduction, Core Concepts/I: Silence, Limited Material, Repetition, Core Concepts/II: Texture and Tonality, Core Concepts and Techniques/I: Phasing (Steve Reich), Motive Transformation (Philip Glass), Workshop: Clapping Music, Core Concepts and Techniques/II: Motive Transformation (Philip Glass), Other Minimalists: Rzewski, Adams, Laurie Anderson (2.40 Glass), Discussion 6.1: Your Perception of Minimal Music, Assignment 6: Composing Minimal Music, Recap

Week 7 – “More Rhythmic Devices”, May 14th – May 20th
Introduction, Expanding Meter/I: Polymeter and Charles Ives, Expanding Meter/II: Metric Modulation and Elliott Carter, Expanding Meter/III: Metric Modulation in Practice, Exercise 7.1: Metric Modulation, Other Uses in the Twentieth Century: Serial Rhythm, Accelerando/Rallentando Patterns, Rhythm and Meter/I: Polyrhythm, Rhythm and Meter/II: Hemiola, Rhythm and Meter/III: Polyrhythm and Non-Western influence, Discussion 7.1: Rhythm and Pitch, Exercise 7.2: Compose a Polyrhythm, Assignment 7: Rhythm, Recap

Week 8 – “Postmodernism, Musical Quotation, and Appropriation”, May 21st – May 27th
Introduction, What is Postmodern Music?, Quotations and Classical Music: a Never-Ending Idyll, Quotation in the Twentieth Century/I: The Early Years, Quotation in the Twentieth Century/II: After 1945, Exercise 8.1: Identify the Quotations, Pushing to the Limit: Multiple Quotes and Humor, Quotation vs. Music Appropriation: Imitating Style, Discussion 8.1: Quotation, Assignment 8: Past as Present, Recap

Week 9 – “New Tonality, New Spirituality”, May 28th – Jun 3rd
Introduction, Looking at the Past, Hinting at Tonality, Discussion 9.1: Neo-Tonality, Tonality as Spirituality: Pärt, Tavener, Discussion 9.2: New Spirituality, Assignment 9: New Tonality, Recap

Week 10 – “Spectralism”, Jun 4th – Jun 10th
Introduction, What is Spectralism?, The Precursors: Proto-Spectralists, The Spectral Composer at Work: Basic Techniques and Terminology, Discussion 10.1: Grisey’s “Partiels”, More Techniques and Terminology, Software Tools: Preparing for your Assignment, Assignment 10: Sound Analysis Composition, Recap

Week 11 – “The Early Pioneers of Electronic Music”, Jun 11th – Jun 17th
Introduction, Noise, Electricity, and Experimentalism: Electronic Music and Sonic Arts, The Early Electronic Instruments: Theremin and Ondes Martenot, Discussion 11.1: The Role of Technology, The US: Minimalism and other Experimentalisms, Germany: Elektronische Musik, France: Pierre Schaeffer and Musique Concrète, Hands-On: The Key Techniques of Early Electronic Music, Workshop: Composing Tape Music Today, Assignment 11: Compose a Collage Piece, Recap

Week 12 – “Looking Ahead”, Jun 18th – Jun 24th
Introduction, Tape, Instruments, and Live Electronics, Composing with Live Electronics, Music and Multimedia, Music Installation, Beyond Spectralism and Minimalism: Saturiation Music and Totalism, Discussion 12.1: The Future of Composition, Assignment 12: Write for String Quartet, Recap