Writing Music for a Dance

I recently wrote five pieces of music for a dance project at Bath Spa University, called Secret Project. Two groups of students were given the music and had to use them in their own site-specific dances, which they performed on campus. Uniquely, on the grounds of the university are remnants of Newton St Loe Castle that was originally built as a fortified manor house in the 12th century. Below you can see the surviving keep. Both groups used the grass space just in font of the keep, during their performance.

Bath Spa Uni 1
This was my first venture into the world of dance as a composer, so it was fascinating to watch, and see how the dancers had used/interpreted my music. Hopefully I’ll have some photos of the performances soon, so when I do, I’ll be sure to share them.

The Arrest of Ai Weiwei (Coming Soon)

In my last post I mentioned that I would be working on the music and sound design for a local production of the play, “The Arrest of Ai Weiwei“. Well I’ve now finished writing all the music for it and creating all of the sound design ready for the production in April. I’ll be at the show each night cueing up my sounds, and will be uploading my music to my website once the show week is over. In the meantime here is a little teaser for the production which features some of my music.

The play will be showing at The Rondo Theatre, Bath, UK, from Wednesday 15th April – Saturday 18th April at 8:00pm.

Making a Start: Writing for Orchestra

I thought it was about time that I attempted my first orchestral piece. And so I present to you… “The Sweet Shop”.

So far this piece has gone through two iterations: the original piano composition, and the above orchestral demo. Each one took me about a week to write. However, the orchestral demo is not the finished version.

The orchestral demo has 12 instrument parts, but I’m not sure how many players will be needed on each instrument. One problem with writing orchestral music is that the size of an orchestra can vary greatly. When writing for film, then the size of your orchestra very much depends on the budget, and the size of the orchestra, impacts how you write the music. There are certain techniques in orchestral writing that require a larger orchestra and so employing them with a smaller orchestra won’t deliver the sound you’re after. These issues are to do with orchestration, an area where my knowledge is pretty limited. However, I’ve just started a home study course on the subject, which coupled with some rewriting will allow me to further shape and develop my piece.

My first score to film…

I recently finished my first score to an actual film. Although oddly enough, the film hasn’t been shot yet!

A close friend of mine is a singer-songwriter on YouTube, and was approached by one of his fans to see if he could do an instrumental piece for her film. However, he very kindly passed the project on to me. The track would be for an AS level film project where she had to film and edit the opening sequence to a thriller movie.

“Thriller, chilling, mysterious, starting out slow and building throughout.” These were the words I had to go on, since there was then no script. However, this didn’t stop me from making a start. I recorded a few ideas quickly before bed, and got cracking on it as soon as I could. Sitting at the piano I cast my mind back to some thriller films I had seen, and for some reason The International sprung up. I kept the opening scene from this in my mind and also threw in the words I was given. At times I found myself musically wondering off towards different moods, and so had to keep reminding myself that I was writing for a thriller.

It took me about a day to write and produce the finished track. And here it is:

Two New Piano Compositions

I recently completed two piano compositions. The first is just above, and came about due to an exercise I was doing from my Music Composition for Dummies book. I had to make an 8 bar chord sequence, using randomly selected chords and create a melody to fit it. As it happened I steered away from the exercise pretty early on and instantly started placing extra chords between some of the random ones to help keep it smooth. But I managed to use all of the chords within the first minute of the piece and from then on I had to choose all of my own chords. The reason I like this piece is because I use the same theme again and again, and each time play it in a different key. Modulation isn’t something I’ve spent time learning about, but back in May, when I learnt the first movement from Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, I noticed that he was continuously changing key and so tried to emulate the way he changed key. I’m quite pleased with the end result as I feel the modulation happens quite naturally and even comes full circle, ending on the key it began in, A minor. However, I’ve still a lot to learn about modulation as I don’t fully understand it yet. So far I’ve merely been exploring it through experimentation, which has been great fun, but I also plan on gaining a theoretical understanding of it.

This next piece started out as a mistake. I was teaching my friend a song on the piano but had my hand in the wrong starting position and played four completely wrong notes. Although surprisingly they actually sounded really nice and I could hear the next few notes in my head, so I decided to play on. I came up with a simple four chord loop, recorded it on my phone and then went back to playing the notes I was supposed to, for the song I was teaching. Later that week I then sat down at the piano and worked out the melody.