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How Does a Composer Compose? A Lecture & Demonstration

I am available to give a lecture & demonstration on how a composer writes music. This presentation can be 30-60 minutes in length, and is geared for adult audiences who have minimal or no musical training.

In this presentation, I lead the audience through the steps I used to create my choral piece Give Me Hunger, incorporating visuals and sound to illustrate various stages of the composing process. We explore my analysis of Carl Sandburg’s poem At A Window (which I re-named for my choral work), look at my early pencil sketches, and hear examples of how I shaped the piece using a computer notation program. We end with watching a video of the final composition, performed by the world renowned all-men’s choir Chanticleer.

For rates, please email me.

Visuals and audio will include:

- A demonstration of the composing process through three stages: early pencil-and-paper sketches, notation of the work-in-progress into a music notation computer program, and the fully edited version of a score ready for publication.

- We will also explore how a composer hears the music during the composing process. While composers typically rely on their “inner ear” to guide their compositions, using computer software for playback and reading sessions with live musicians aid the composer in this process. We will listen to how a piece of music is depicted through a computer software program, and compare that with an actual group playing the piece.

As time allows, we can incorporate:

- Understanding the structure of a composition before writing it greatly aids a composer in understanding where it needs to go musically. What does a composer’s structural “roadmap” look like?

- A multitude of decisions are made when composing a piece. For instance, what motive should be used? Is this motive played loudly or soft? Fast or slow? How does a composer navigate the decision-making process without getting overwhelmed by choices?

- Each piece begins with a blank page, ready to be filled with notes. This can be rather daunting! What strategies help a composer pull through this early stage of the process?

- What happens when a composer hits a roadblock and can’t seem to get further in writing the piece?

- How does a composer balance the need to write material that will absolutely work (which will save rehearsal time with performers) with the desire to take chances and experiment with new ideas (which will eat up rehearsal time with performers)?

From the presentation:
Pencil sketches for Give Me Hunger

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Moving the sketches into a computer software program:

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