Hello composers!

This semester’s Composers’ Seminar will be divided into main activities into three types:

Discussion of questions central to contemporary compositional endeavours

I propose the Socratic method, using questions to interrogate and help develop individual compositional approaches and to stimulate critical thinking. I have a number of questions which we can address but am also open to students’ questions.

Just in advance or at the meeting, I will post/show the main questions followed by a short series of related questions. We’ll read the questions together then use them as a basis for discussion. After the seminar, students are invited to summarise the responses to the seminar as well as to further the discussion in general by posting to the blog for that week.

Student presentations

These are assessed and should address a paper/chapter from the course bibliography which can be found in the main Course Catalogue online. As well as a summary of the issues the paper addresses, the connection to the student’s own work should be made clear. Presentations should be 10-15 minutes in duration. In order to streamline seminars please don’t prepare powerpoint or other computer-based presentations.

First readings of short compositions for solo instruments

We will aim to have a few professional instrumentalists visit the seminar to sight-read short works (2-4 minutes) written by students in advance.  Each composer having their work read will act as a “fly on the wall”, i.e. they will not  say anything whilst it is being worked on. Only after the reading is complete should the composers begin to comment and discuss their work with the player and the seminar group.

The intention of such an approach is for the student to see how their works are understood and worked up at a first rehearsal (when composers are generally not present). For example, aspects of notation, instrumental technique, and written or symbolic explanation of extended or personal notation strategies will be interrogated by the player and afterwards by the group. The composer should gain insights into how their pieces work on first sight; how much of their musical idea is transported and communicated by the score; and how scoring strategies can be improved upon in relation to any identified notational/technical ambiguities or problems.

Students who don’t work with standard Western notation can propose different strategies to realise their work, such as text, graphic scores, etc.