Wednesday, 6 November 2013

A compositional project

Link to the project

About a year ago I wrote what I suppose you could call a 12-track piece for percussion ensemble. I say '12 track' because, although it used 10 separate instruments, I feel like 'track' is a more appropriate way to describe the way in which each stave was a whole composition unto itself.
I named this piece 'Mechanism No. 1', with the aim of writing more pieces in a similar style in the future. I recently completed Mechanism No. 2, which also has 12 'tracks'. You can find both pieces here:
Mechanism No. 1
Mechanism No. 2

I write most of my music in Sibelius, which has a mixing panel. While writing
anything with more than a few instruments, I usually mute or solo tracks and adjust volumes to hear how different combinations of instruments sound together and to make sure there aren't any unwanted dissonances.

With these very large, complex scores, such as the Mechanisms, often things come out in a reduced combination of instruments that are completely lost when all parts are blaring away at once. For example, just the marimba, vibrophone and harp together can convey a completely different mood to the work as a whole, and sound almost like a separate composition in their own right.

Often this has to do with each instrument's place in the harmony: with the combination of instruments just mentioned, you might never hear the tonic, so the whole key of the piece sounds different. In the work as a whole, these instruments might be filling in the 4th, 6th, or 7th degree of the scale (perhaps all at the same time!), but on their own, they create a new scale altogether.

It made me sad to think that my listeners would never get to hear all these different combinations of instruments I encountered while writing the Mechanisms. Short of uploading a Sibelius file to the web and hoping that everyone who wanted to hear the piece HAD Sibelius, there was no way of providing the same 'customizable' listening experience that I had from within the software during the composition process.

For this reason, I've decided to export several extra audio files of Mechanism No. 2 using a couple of different instrument combinations which I think are particularly interesting, and plan to do the same with Mechanism No. 1. I'll upload these to a Soundcloud playlist in the coming week. A link will be posted here when it's ready!

P.S. I originally considered exporting and uploading EACH STAVE individually, making them downloadable, and letting people remix. While I love projects like this, it would take a lot of time and probably not be worth it, since nobody knows I exist :P

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