Jun 19 2010, 02:57 AM
I'm looking for listening recommendations to "flesh out" composition studies. I'd love to have a "listening list", and thought that maybe other forumites would be interested too.
Here in Japan, Viohazard is studying composition from certain standard Japanese texts (very compact and narrow-focused, cover the basics fast). However, the books include no examples taken from "real" composers, and Viohazard's laughable piano skills mean that his historical listening up to now hasn't included all the "standard" keyboard repertoire.
P.S. I think he's doing composition of descants at the moment, if anybody has some listening recommendations for that area.
Jun 19 2010, 10:16 AM
This raises a question: why should a composer listen to music? I can think of a number of possible reasons, some of which are more important than others.
1) To learn harmony;
2) To learn counterpoint;
3) To learn how to balance variety and similarity, otherwise known as "form";
4) To learn how the voices and instruments sound;
5) To hear textures and timbres that one would like to incorporate into ones own compositions;
6) To find out what one likes and what one would like to compose;
7) To find out what other people like, for commercial purposes.
The first three are very well covered in books and, nowadays, on the internet, but being able to hear them is useful also. 4) and 5) complement the book study of orchestration.
I learnt composition through copying the techniques of specific composers, starting with Renaissance counterpoint and continuing with Corelli trio sonatas. For two-part writing, two examples that spring to mind are Morley canzonets and J S Bach two-part inventions, of which the first is more closely related to writing descants. For four-part writing there are many examples of madrigals, both Italian and English, and for later examples of high quality, Haydn string quartets. If I were listening for educational purposes, I would want to follow the score at the same time.
 "Canzonets for two and three voices" by Thomas Morley were published in a single volume by Stainer and Bell in 1956. Recordings exist.
 My favourite composers in this genre are Byrd, Gibbons, Weelkes, Wilbye and Ward, but most of my favourite pieces are five- or six-part.
Jun 20 2010, 02:43 PM
Thank you for that extremely pertinent reply. Viohazard is cogitating a reply, but I thought I should slip in a thanks just to tide you over the inter-glacial!
He was delighted to find that Morley came in recorder flavour, as he enjoys playing tenor recorder at school. Had been listening to some ars nova music a while back, I recall. What I notice is that 4)~7) are areas where he listens very much to modern/contemporary classical composers and/or nonwestern music. Now that he's a senior student, he does not even have core music classes at school any more (music is not available as an academic subject in Japan), so what he listens to is entirely what crosses his path and catches his ear...lots of Lully, and who the heck is Telemann??
You may be interested to hear that Airman is now aerodynamically occupied and wishing he had time to join the manpowered flight club at his university...
Jun 27 2010, 02:45 PM
Thank you very much for your reply. I have listened to the music from the composers you named, and as all ears said I liked the recorder in some Morley Canzonets. (I've actually tried composing a recorder piece, which went nowhere.)?I like the Renaissance.
Sometimes it doesn't seem worth all the effort of harmony homework, because even if I try hard and make something that is the only possible answer, it's not that beautiful...or if it's beautiful it's full of mistakes...and then my teacher shows me how to do it by writing something beautiful AND correct.
Now I've finished whining. At least I can enjoy listening to music.
Jun 28 2010, 07:01 AM
'Boneson is studying A level music and particularly enjoying the composition. I've been particularly impressed by his Edexcel Anthology of Music, which is a big book, about an inch thick, of scores of decent sized musical extracts (mostly movements, or whole songs), from early renaissance all the way through to modern pop and jazz classics. He has spent probably
days weeks listening to these on spotify/youtube/any other listening resource he can find for (mostly)free to understand the structure, harmony and context of a large number of these. I think the book was about £20 and is widely available to order on the internet. Do make sure you get the right one, the A level one has a purple banner along the bottom and mostly yellowy-orangey on top. It's worth every penny/cent/yen!
ps just been upstairs to double check the title - to find that it says on the cover that there is a companion 4 CD set available - we've not needed that but it might be helpful if you cannot access online music cheaply or for free in Japan.
Jun 28 2010, 08:13 AM
Thanks for the reference! Does Boneson get the chance to compose what he likes in A-level music, or is it just exercises?Edexcel A-level anthology
...is it this one? If so , it looks as if I can order it from the UK via Amazon.jp, though at rather more than 20 pounds!
I know there are US listening anthologies too, but those I've seen mentioned are even pricier. For a long time I thought there might be a Japanese equivalent, but there really doesn't seem to be, maybe because music is not an exam subject here (Viohazard no longer has even core music at school).
P.S. Sorry, this is all ears, I forgot that Viohazard had logged on to my computer.
Jun 28 2010, 09:04 AM
Hello All Ears, yes, that looks very familiar!
As to cost, we had to buy our own, but school did a bulk order so we probably got it at a discount... however it weighs a TON so if it's a bit more expensive for you they've probably factored that in. Would it be any cheaper to get it through Amazon UK website, rather than the Japanese one? Listening to the tracks a lot is very valuable too - does yours in Japan maybe come with the CDs included?
I have to be very honest, I don't know exactly what 'Boneson composes - other than it seems to be very well and enthusiastically taught, so he spends a lot of time, both at home and in free periods at school tinkering with compositions for potential submission for A level. I have a feeling he's having to do about 6, in different styles, with the best three being submitted, but I could have got this completely wrong.... I very much doubt that he does much in the way of what 'our' generation might have called traditional harmony and composition exercises, that doesn't seem to be the way of things at his school (a reasonable state school with a great and inspirational music department). He's also been doing more and more arranging for various brass/wind bands and combos for groups that the kids have set up at school.
ps good to see you in these parts again!
Jun 28 2010, 11:21 AM
I'm not doing any theory exams at the moment (did Grade 5 last year) and am learning the piano for pleasure, but was interested to read about the Edexel anthology as I would really like to improve my general music knowledge. Is the anthology something that one could use on its own with the CDs, or would you really need a teacher or a textbook alongside it to explain and put things into context?
Jun 28 2010, 10:02 PM
You could certainly listen, to follow and analyse the scores by yourself. Grade 5 theory is a fairly solid starting point for harmonic structure and form, however, as A level material, you will probably get even more out of them with more input to help you to identify more and interesting harmonic progressions and learn and understand more about the structure of the compositions. It's rather like a poetry anthology - interesting to read/listen to in and 'overview' way , but becoming more and more interesting the more you learn to read from it in more depth.
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