Hooray for a clear idea

I’m a learner. It’s what I do for fun, and sometimes I think I’m good at it. This morning I’m studying A Geometry of Music by Dmitri Tymoczko. (Reading one section per morning with a five-day learning week should get me to the end in about 24 weeks…) 

Dmitri just gave me a clearer way of formally understanding something that has made sense to my ears for a long time. The idea is that inversionally related chords sound similar, and visually they share a reflective relationship. 

This is useful to me because I keep hunting for ways to stretch my grasp of harmony and extent myself into the extended common practice, away from strict functionality where I think I know the ropes better. 

Now, time to review (relearn?) orchestral percussion in my Adler. 

Very Sketchy

I’m starting a new orchestral piece, a 4-7-minute concert opener. I guess you’d call it an overture. My dictionary just told me “overture” means “an introduction to something more substantial.” I have no idea what of more substance this overture should lead to (that feels more existential than it probably should), but perhaps I’ll find out by writing.

And—as an aside—I should confess that writing for orchestra is one of the most thrilling, most exciting thought experiments for me. Nothing makes me smile more than trying to wrap my head around sounds like this.

My new habit is to begin each project with a meditation on what I want to learn from doing it. So far, I know I’d like to work on orchestrating long diminuendo and crescendo passages with deliberate expansion and contraction of pitch ranges.

I’d like to broaden my vocabulary with orchestrating accents via adding/subtracting instruments, register shifts, and color changes.

I’d like to create a thrilling rhythmic ride for the listener, which results from a full but playable use of the percussion (and good choreography).

I’d like to write an explosive orchestral swell. (I have an example from Christopher Rouse’s flute concerto fresh in my ears.)

And … I’d like to play with hocketing. For fun.

Is all of this too much to ask? I guess I’ll find out.

Incidental Music

For the last few days, in between other things, I’ve been writing some incidental music for a new play, written and to be directed by a friend of mine. He requested several short cues, each with a different mood. I’m trying to channel Vince Guaraldi and I’m looking forward to a recording session with a great drummer.

Usually I write slowly and obsess about each successive simultaneity of what I write, but this time I’m going for speed and flow. And fun. Fun matters more than I usually remember!

I’m also trying to work away from a piano keyboard as much as possible so as to change the mental balance of powers. Since the music needs to be idiomatic (dare I say “groovy”) on the piano too, I’ll end up at the piano—but not until after I have some solid conceptual, structural, and rhythmic sketches.