Music Performance 361, Fall 2005: Introduction to Composition
Assignment 6: due Monday, November 7, 2005
Compositional challenge: compose a brief collage for vocal trio. Your collage should juxtapose at least twenty-five different materials; use sharply contrasting ideas and varying durations to get the most bristling and energetic effect possible. John Zorn's pieces (Cat O' Nine Tails is on the syllabus; we'll listen to Roadrunner and Snagglepuss in class) are the most direct model for this project, but think about Stravinsky, Berio (not only Sinfonia but also the Sequenzas) and Xenakis as well.
You are welcome (and encouraged) to incorporate not only singing, but also the whole universe of vocal sound into your piece. Speaking, whispering, and shouting are all game; so are tongue clicks, hums, buzzing noises, cries, and whistles. (Berio's Sequenza III is a useful source of ideas; Ligeti's Aventures and Nouvelles Aventures also suggest a significant range of possible vocal activities. You can surely generate more through your own improvisations and experiements). You are welcome to use any three vocal ranges that you prefer (for instance alto / tenor / bass or coloratura soprano / lyric soprano / mezzo-soprano); you are also welcome to specify that some or all of your vocalists are speakers or reciters rather than singers. If you want to incorporate text into your piece, it may come from any source (or a variety of sources). Be as free-wheeling and experimental as you can be as you define the elements of your collage -- go for maximum color, personality, and contrast in all the different musical parameters.
Also think carefully about the ways that your materials are juxtaposed. While you want every element of your collage to contrast strongly with adjacent elements, that doesn't mean that you can't project a larger-scale form. What if the durations of your material expand over the course of time? What if there are a number of elements in a row which explore different kinds of pianissimo textures, or if contrasts between piano and mezzo-forte gradually expand to encompass materials written ffff? What if a variety of different "pitchy" materials are juxtaposed, and then gradually "noisy" materials are intercut (as in the transitional technique of Sequenza III)? There are many ways to control the overall impression of your collage as well as its moment-to-moment succession....
Vocal ranges (according to Alfred Blatter's Instrumentation/Orchestration, and where C4 specifies middle C):
As always, have fun with this project --