This is the final post in this series and I hope you have enjoyed reading all the posts prior to this one as much as I have. The last assignment I was given was to create a twelve minute though developed piece of music, that had the capacity to engage the listener throughout the whole duration of the piece.
Lets find out how it went down.
The key thing that I had to remember was to keep in mind, sustainability. The idea behind this assignment was not to develop the piece by adding new material, but rather to compose with the material I started with and develop it throughout the whole piece. Not an easy challenge, I found this the hardest out of all the assignments.
When I talked to my teacher, he explained different ways I could achieve this using compositional techniques such as:
- Sonata Form – Where you have two themes, A and B, with three different sections.
- Theme and Variations – Where you introduce a theme, and then compose variations of that theme which are slightly different each time.
- Light Motif – Where you have a specific motif or phrase that repeats and evolves over time.
I actually did a combination of all three compositional techniques. There are two themes, and they are merged together in the third section. Within each theme there are variations that slightly alter the motif, and last but not least, I repeat the motif whilst adding and subtracting notes over time.
To create the motif I used the Matrix Pattern Sequencer in Reason. This was a perfect device to use for this application as I could choose which notes I wanted by setting the pitch and duration for each note.
These group of pictures show how one of the motifs progresses throughout the first half of section A. Even though I am playing basically the same motif all the way through, you can see by looking at the bottom area of the pictures how I start with only two notes, and then gradually enabled more notes to be heard as time goes on.
Another technique I incorporated was using the Matrix to play an evolving texturual sound at a longer interval than the motif. When this element is introduced in the piece, it really helps keep the composition progressing and moving forward.
When I first showed my teacher a draft with just the motifs and other simple elements, he gave me some good advice to try and not make the piece too minimalistic and to make sure there were other things going on. Making a decision to have drums in this piece really helped with this aspect, as it moved the focus away from just being on the motif.
I used many other sounds in this piece but one notable sound, was a short noise sound effect. I used this to enhance the general transition of the variations within the motifs. The sound reminds me of a train running on a track, and this type of feel is exactly what I was going for.
As part of the essential folio, I was given the task of making a number of different mixes, and I decided to base them on this composition. This was a highly useful exercise to do because the music that we hear can be played on multiple systems and sometimes, you need to mix accordingly. I had to make a mono mix, stereo mix, surround sound mix, as well as a master of the final track.
When it came to mixing the track in mono, this was quite intriguing really. Once you take out the stereo field, its amazing how much easier it is to identify issues within a mix as you are only mixing with one speaker.
As there is no left and right stereo field, you have to concentrate more on the levels of each sound and keep the focus of the mix on the centre.
When it comes to stereo mixing, this is the type of mixing that most people are used to. I would highly recommend that people try to mix their tracks in mono first, and then expand it into a stereo mix as the results can be startling.
Surround sound mixing was by far the most interesting as it is something that I have not had much practise in. It was amazing how much it changed the overall sound, as there was now so much space for the sounds to breathe. However, It was still important to place the sounds carefully within the surround sound field.
It is possible to mix in surround without six speakers (like I did) but I would recommend that people buy additional speakers.
When it came to mastering the stereo file, this was a very useful thing to learn and practise. Mastering is a process by which once the song has been completed and rendered to a single audio file, one goes through the process of improving the sonic characteristics of the file to the best possible standard.
What I found with mastering is that you use mostly the same type of processing that you would normally use for mixing but what’s interesting, is that it’s applied in a different way. When it comes to using compression, equalisation and limiting, one has to approach it on a broader scale than one would noramlly look at when treating individual sounds.
In conclusion, this composition was quite difficult to get started on as I had to plan and think carefully about how I wanted to compose each element, but in the end, it was very rewarding to complete. Composing music is really a wonderful thing, and the fact that one can express themselves in this way…is amazing.
All my love, Jamie