Fun and Games

Fun and Games

This week I composed a piece of new music in a completely new way. Well, it is new for me–many composers use this approach as a matter of course.

I started up Sibelius, my notation program. Teamed with it, is a plugin program called NotePerformer. This plugin plays back the music on the page, in a startlingly realistic manner. It uses Artificial Intelligence to interpret the musical phrases. It applies a sample library to play back each instrument, using the proper articulations and dynamics that are printed on the page. Many of the notations that are printed on the page, describing how a phrase is to be played are interpreted, such as con sordino (with a mute), legato, vibrato, and so on. Several dozen different notations are read and realistically interpreted. So, if you use one of the major notation programs (Sibelius, Finale, or Dorico), then you can use NotePerformer to render a very nice interpretation to the playback. The various MIDI control messages that are necessary to use in a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) for simulated realism are unnecessary with NotePerformer. I highly recommend it.

Anyway, what I did in composing this piece, is that I started by composing a piano sketch. The sketch consisted of three piano staves; two bass staves and a treble staff. I put the oom-pah-pah accompaniment into the two bass staves, and the melody into the treble staff. At this stage, I did not think much at all about the orchestration, that is, which instruments would be playing which lines of music. This allowed me to concentrate on the rhythms, the melodies and harmonies.

At a certain point in the piece, I changed the meter from 4/4 to 5/4. This abrupt change allows a quick surprise to the listener, and adds some variety to the piece. I didn’t really plan it this way–the accompaniment and melody that I wanted simply didn’t fit into a 4-beats-per-measure structure. So, for several measures I changed the meter to 5/4.

Only after I completed the piano part did I begin to orchestrate the piece. At first, I put the accompaniment to the string section, playing pizzicato (plucked). At certain times I moved part of the accompaniment to the horns. I put the melody initially into the trumpets. Then I switched the melody between various sections of the orchestra; woodwinds, strings, and brass. Finally, after getting the phrasing and melody sounding how I wanted, I added some ornamentation. First, I added a dissonant rhythmic phrase to the trumpets and woodwinds. Then I added percussion to liven up the piece a bit.

Fun and Games

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