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Week 4, discussing Week 2 composition Premiere of An HYMM

February 1, 2016

1/12/16 How to compose a heart-rending melody. Or a memorable touching one. My limited experience to date has been that I have used  notes "randomly" charted from  names (and I have composed 5 interesting tunes using this method);  and I have taken the Noel Nouvelet melody and used it as a model. And yesterday I sat down sternly at the piano to just put a tune out there. I only have 4 more days according to my schedule to produce a minute and a half - 3 minute tune for youtube.




An HYMM: an anthem to my imperfection










I have always liked how Carolan started his tunes. Carolan's tunes often start on the dominant below, and up a fourth to the tonic. Like Fanny Power or Lord Inchiquin. So I twiddled around to try to make something happen, and everything I play , every interval starts to lay out into something I have heard before, someone else’s melody. I thought, to compose, perhaps I need to be inspired by something: maybe a  weather event, or season, or sailing,etc. Which brought me to thinking of Swan LK243, and Inisheer, swooping sea songs that start with a larger interval. 
So I started off with an interval; any interval.  Music starts off with an interval or unison or one note. But then to where; just make a little motif, and toy with it, and I can do that , thinking of the improvisation lessons where you use patterns of intervals, scales, jumps. And when I try to analyze what melodies are made of, well, generally not too much more than  maybe 10 notes; I don’t know the general range of voices, flutes, cellos etc, but that melody part doesn’t depend on covering the full range of the harp or piano scale. That helps if I remember that.
I find that I can play something that sounds fashioned. Yes, I can start out for 2 measures, with a few notes and pull it back and toy with it and wrap it up pleasantly in maybe 4-8 measures. It sounds like its " packaged", but my ear does not respond, with immediate pleasure.  I don’t know if it’s a memorable melody . Did Mozart, Schubert, Vaughan Williams know, that the melodies they used would be using were special. And then, after all, Vaughan Williams took melodies from folk tunes and churned out great epic pieces. But I am not trying to get to the epic, just 2-3 minutes of a  ditty I guess. Throughout the day I am thinking of music: Fur Eloise, Magic Flute, Irish tunes, etc, etc;  what is it that makes me prefer certain ones.
A professional harpist-friend recently remarked that I have a good ear for finding /playing very special music. I took that as a high compliment, and think it is true; oh a super power, to use to remember, that may help me to accept what I am writing down. And to wait; it takes awhile for me to fall for a tune, usually not on first hearing, though occasionally. Often it takes maybe 10 hearings before I commit.

I like minor keys and am pulled to that, but purposely, sternly imposed composing in a major key for my 2nd week. I spent 3 days fussing with notes, and not committing anything to paper/computer. On the third day, I knew my week was getting behind me, and I just accepted what came out, determined to have a melody.

This melody started growing on me, even though it does sound like a hymn or a national anthem. Not the music I intended to compose, but starting to win me over despite myself. In the 2 weeks since composing the melody I have set the melody to 4 variations, but am not satisfied with the arrangements. I decided to write out a simple accompaniment, that is not interesting harmonically or rhythmically, just to have something done. I love this melody, and want time to develop it with the ideas I have started for accompaniment.

That was a good starting point, just to get a simple arrangement down; no fuss, no frills. Here is that effort. I am playing on my desk, because I am considering entering the tune in NPR's Tiny Desk song composition competition. And a desk is supposed to be in the video.  The desk provided a nice resonating board for the harp.




2/14/2016 02:37:27 am


I love to read about your journey, Alexandra. It is good to know that I am not the only one struggling with the tiniest pieces. And it is wonderful no know that you actually DO complete something every week. This weeks tune is simple (in a good way) and warm and reminds me of my childhood. It is soothing and consoling.

Thank you for sharing!




2/16/2016 11:35:34 am



Nicole: thanks for commenting; my goal of 1 tune a week has been a bit sidetracked by the Blues Webinar; and wanting to give the compositions a bit more in the way of the arrangement. So this week I hope to have some variations on this melody.

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