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Classical Music Today
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These exercises are meant for musicians who wish to explore the world of classical composition. They may be completed in any order. I will periodically add composition exercises to this page. Feel free to share these with your fellow classmates and students.
I completed many of these exercises during my studies. I hope that you find them both challenging and useful.
Exercise 1: Compose Three Short One Minute Compositions
In this exercise, you must complete three short compositions in no more than two weeks. Each composition must differ significantly from the other in style, meter, harmony, melody, instrumentation, and rhythm. One or two compositions must include voice. At least one work must be a duet. When composing these pieces, concentrate on a single motif and develop it over a short time period. The compositions can be no longer than three minutes, no shorter than sixty seconds.
Upon completion of the compositions, play back the compositions in a live or computer setting. As you listen and review the scores, think about similarities, pitfalls, mistakes, harmonies, rhythms, etc. that the compositions have in common. Try to find your faults. Have others listen and make notes. Now you have discovered your "box" - where you are most comfortable. Now you must write music outside of the box.
Exercise 1b: Compose One Composition Two Minutes Long
Now that you have completed Exercise 1, write a two minute composition avoiding all of the musical elements within your comfort zone. In other words, create a piece that challenges you by forcing you to write in ways that you prefer not to. For example, if you find that you always fall on traditional western harmony, write an atonal work or a work inspired by classical Indian scales. If you find that you avoid mixed meter or complex polyrhythms, then include these as major elements of this new composition. Complete this assignment in less than a week. The speed forces you to avoid overanalyzing the works.
Exercise 2: Vocal Rhythms
Choose three different texts in your native language: sacred, poetry, prose. Each section should be no more than a few lines. Say the text aloud with emotion several times until you begin to feel the natural rhythms of the text. Using manuscript paper, not a computer program, write out the rhythms of each text in 4/4, 3/4 or 6/8, and free time. Add accents and articulations. If possible, have a friend read back the rhythms and text to you. How accurate were your rhythms? Which rhythms work best? Which need work? Revise accordingly. Do not speed through this exercise. When done properly, it should take several hours per text to set it correctly.
Exercise 2b: Vocal Rhythms in a Foreign Language
Complete the same exercise in a foreign language. Be sure to take all of the nuances of the text into consideration. Have a native speaker of that language read back your rhythms and help you with correction.
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