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Six Compositional Challenges

I’m a great believer in growth by challenge: taking on tasks that force you to reach beyond your personal comfort zones and clichés. With that in mind I give you the following six compositional challenges. Take them seriously and I guarantee they will nudge (perhaps even kick) you forward in your personal musical evolution.

Create a piece of free groove. A piece with great rhythmic vitality and interest, but whose rhythms do not adhere to a meter or BPM grid. Think: extraterrestrial IDM.

Create a piece for your own solo voice. Song, narration, mouth percussion, whatever. But no effects, no overdubbing, no accompaniment; just you, in all your vocal glory.

Create a piece with (at least) 50% silence. Regard the silence as a presence rather than an absence. Strive to make the piece breathe … rather than choke and gasp.

Create a piece that uses only sounds the likes of which you have never heard before.

Create a piece in your least favorite genre. Can’t stand hardcore? Write a piece of death metal. No fair trashing or satirizing; the goal is to compose something competent in a genre you despise.

Create a piece that no one (except you) will ever hear. Observe carefully how your composition process and results differ from pieces you write for an audience.

If you’re into it, please share your results (except, of course, for the last challenge). I’d love to hear what you come up with. :-)

Posted on February 8, 2012 at 5:36 pm by rachmiel · Permalink

3 Responses

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  1. Written by martinrach
    on February 13, 2012 at 10:46 am
    Permalink

    great post. i often like to challenge myself with completely heterogenous ways of composing.
    i will post here a piece that was done sometime before reading your suggestions, but which falls within ‘free groove’ or the first challenge.
    i call this way of composing ‘anarchistic’, meaning finding ideas to do it in quite rhizomatic assembling of differences.

    http://soundcloud.com/melynabarzdis/for-the-bearers-of-the-flag

  2. Written by David D. McIntire
    on February 19, 2012 at 11:23 am
    Permalink

    Interesting challenges, and I may take you up on a couple of them. The 50% silence piece is an interesting idea, and one I’ve encountered before. Tom Johnson’s ‘Organ and Silence,’ which I heard performed in 2009, takes that idea a bit further and is comprised of 70% silence, though I didn’t perceive it that way. Tom is also very interested in the “silent music” that has been explored by the Wandelweiser composers.

  3. Written by martinrach
    on March 1, 2012 at 1:49 pm
    Permalink

    This is the piece under 4th challenge. Even though it’s hard to imagine if there could be sounds that don’t sound like anything we have heard before – it’s like imagining colours that we haven’t seen – imposibble, i used the sounds that are not recorded or generated by any sound device. Technically, they don’t exist in nature or anywhere else, the waveform of this piece is made entirely by drawing lines and bits in soundforge empty workplace file – drawn on nothing so to say. Hand made noise with the very few recognizable ‘musical’ moments appearing from lone use of repetition (copy-paste).

    http://soundcloud.com/melynabarzdis/heart-murmurs

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