composition project update (chorales)

See earlier posts on the composition project here.

After finishing my own harmonization of a Bach melody, I was pleased to see two other very different takes on the harmonization from Douglas A. Bradley and Michael Blostein. We each had own goals in mind. I'll share those briefly with scores and recordings for each.


My goal was to keep the rhythmic activity to a minimum and focus on interesting harmony. I wanted to reinforce our work on the chromatic scale in the 7th and 8th grade band. I was afraid of overwhelming the band and listener with too much surprise, so I kept the dissonance to a minimum and used mainly major and minor triads. You can see a score and listen to the recording below. Email me if you'd like parts.

Douglas A. Bradley

I really like the way Doug Bradley broke up the melody so that the bass instruments get to play it for the last two phrases--it totally changes the flavor of the harmonization, which was already interesting (quartal!) to begin with. One of the posters on my band room wall says "Bring out the dissonances, or they will sound like wrong notes," and working a bit on this version of the chorale was a great reinforcement for that concept. When students shy away from playing any note, it tends to sound wrong. Playing more confidently helps fix many tuning issues. Score.

Michael Blostein

It was nice to see Michael's creativity in stretching phrases and including a few touches of percussion outside of mallets. My band did not do justice to the phrasing or dynamic markings, but working on these things was helpful. My favorite part is the series of dissonances leading into the second to last cadence. Check out the score.

short post--composition project update

This week is the first "due date" for the composition project I mentioned earlier.

I finished mine in time (whew) and sent it to the other three participants. So far this week, one other person has finished and sent out parts. I'm planning on recording all of them and posting next week what they sound like. I'm pretty excited to hear them all, as even the first two are very different in character.

Check back next week for the musical results and more details!

upcoming composition project

Exciting news!

During the next nine months or so, I'll be working with three other teacher/composers on a series of projects for our school ensembles. There are four compositional challenges for each of us to complete. At the conclusion of each one, we'll send parts to each other and have our ensembles read the results. In future posts, I'll detail the group involved and hopefully be able to share some of the products of the project. For today, I'll explain our guidelines and the first project.

First, we are going to write for grade 1 - 1.5. The ensembles we teach are a mix of high school and middle school groups, so we are aiming at a level that everyone will be able to play without spending an enormous amount of rehearsal time. None of us have huge, complete ensembles, so typical scoring for grade 1 - 1.5 allows for ample doubling. Our instrumentation is:

2 Clarinet parts
Alto Sax
Tenor Sax
2 Trumpet parts
F Horn
Bass - (including bassoon, bass clarinet, bari sax, trombone, baritone, tuba)

The first task is simple--harmonize a given melody in four parts. The melody is taken from a short Bach chorale, and we have an early November deadline for the parts to be finished. In some ways, this is the simplest of the four projects. Still, I don't want to mess up the Bach too much!