My Q&A Thread - Instrumental Music Composition

Hello everyone :slight_smile:

I’m posting this in case anyone listens to it and has questions that might help with their own writing. I’ve been composing, to varying degrees, since 1988 and leading groups playing my music exclusively since 1994. The other details aren’t necessary right now; I’ll address them if questions give them context. I have many more compositions that range from solo piano (I’d be hard pressed to find those right now), string quartet / quintet, piano quintet, small group ‘heads’, small group compositions, large ensemble things, etc, etc.

I’m not looking for feedback. I address why toward the end.

Ways I write:

  • The usual - things pop into my head, I ‘write’ them down
  • A theme or an idea appears and I develop it / cobbling
  • I ‘hear’ music and write it down
  • While listening to sessions I might hear something in an improvisation, extract it, and orchestrate. The one that comes to mind was a piece that I built from some things the drummer was playing on a piece. I orchestrated and developed a piece around what he played. That kind of thing.
  • The usual “use a phone number” kind of things
  • …other ways I’m forgetting right now.

Some notes about this piece / rendering:

  • You will (most likely) not enjoy listening to this from beginning to the end, and probably won’t be able to stomach the parts I refer to below. That’s ok, you aren’t expected to. Most people don’t like the music I write and play. I address why toward the end of this post.
  • The score is in non-transposing mode, which is why the ranges of some of the instruments seem rekt.
  • This is a bad midi rendering, but it’s necessary to help me record the parts. It also gets the general point across for the composition.
  • I spent the weekend recording saxophone parts from the end of section F (~3:28) to the end. I’m nowhere near finished with that section, but I did put a small dent in it. It’s probably best to listen from that point, since the entire thing can be exhausting to listen to, due to:
  • Right now it’s one tempo through the entire thing but during the recording process there will be very small parts taken from it and developed to add variation in tempo / intensity to ‘glue’ everything together. There will also be some ‘thinning’ out to reduce a bit of the density. In the past, ironically, what I consider to be ‘too dense’ hasn’t always matched what others thought was too dense.
  • The crappy drum sound / part is a placeholder. It’ll be dealt with during the recording. The click is audible in this rendering.
  • The composition was originally intended for the large ensemble I was running a while back (16 pieces), but I changed the focus / direction of that group and this was no longer valid for that group.
  • The guitar part shouldn’t be an issue, technically, since my various groups have played Sections A 'til D (with some slight variation) as a ‘head’. I say that it shouldn’t be an issue, but right now so many things are problematic for me on guitar, so we’ll see.
  • Edit: if this piece was going to be played by a group, I’d adjust some of the register jumps. When I’m composing, I’m not overly concerned with playability.

I’ve always (well, since the mid-late 80s) had a very clear vision of what my music was going to be, the path I would take, and at what times in my life I was going to do the ‘bigger picture’ things (expand my group, start playing other instruments - and how ‘accomplished’ I needed to be by ‘what age’, etc). Early on I also knew nobody would care about what I was doing, so I let go of the idea of touring, selling albums, etc. Because of that, I don’t write / play for anyone other than myself. Well, I don’t write ‘for’ myself, I write what hits me, if it moves me. I don’t care if it’s listenable to other people. What counts, to me, is if it’s intoxicating to me. If people dig it, cool. That mindset is likely very different from many musicians, since music tends to be a way to communicate with and to people.

I have a massive, MASSIVE backlog of compositions and fragments that needs to be dealt with. Most of it is beyond my technical ability, which is one of the reasons I’m on CtC.

Anyway, let me know if you all have any questions about composition or anything else I brought up in here and I’ll do my best to answer them. Over time, I’ll post other pieces for the same reason.