Here’s a tip for composers, revealed to me by a young person I recently worked with:
“You should be a composer, Dave. You know, most composers were musicians before they were composers.”
-Viva Youth Choirs chorister, age 9
And hopefully they remained musicians long afterward! Evidently, I meet the prerequisite for writing music: I have to make music first! I couldn’t agree more. Hearing new music and performing is essential to growth as a musician. It’s only natural that composing new music follows from that. The ability to dream up interesting music springs from a foundation of basic musical knowledge and exposure to many different types of music. So listen and play every day!
A great piece I’ve been listening to lately is Mendelssohn’s Octet for strings. Here’s part of the 1st movement:
An even better recording is on iTunes:
What are you doing to hone your craft? The comments below are open.
The neat thing about hitting a big milestone is that it can cause you to look back at where you were, and ahead to where you’re going. Music has always given me something to strive for. I’ve been making music for 20 years, and most of the hours spent practicing piano have been a small part of a bigger project, whether it was a performance (in a hotel lobby, for example) or in learning a new ability. It’s the completion of small goals (ie: I’ll practice this Chopin piece for 20 minutes at half-tempo) that eventually lead to something bigger.
About ten years ago I decided that I wanted to compose music on a regular basis. I was captivated by the orchestral film scores of John Williams and the quirky music of Danny Elfman, among others, and dreamed of one day doing the same for the cinema. I knew that one day my scores could be played by a professional orchestra.
That day is close at hand! On March 23, the Victoria Symphony will give me the chance to hear some of my work come to life. The long wait just makes it sweeter.
What keeps you motivated to keep working?
“Whoever wants to reach a distant goal must take small steps.”
Those words are true to my ears today. If you’ve been following me on Twitter or Facebook, you may have noticed my announcement last week. Prayer Without Words, my freshly-composed piece for orchestra, has been selected to be played by the Victoria Symphony! They will play it at a composers’ workshop held in March, where I’ll have the chance to get feedback from the ensemble. This is one huge step closer to realizing a dream. More on that later.
Here’s a sneak peek of the winning score:
What a rush. For a composer, nothing can equal the adrenaline caused by hearing his own work performed in public. On Saturday evening, Viva’s Boys and Girls Choirs sang my piece, Rat Milk, as part of their year-end concert. Having my own work played has always been exciting, but this time I was serving as both accompanist and composer. I had written myself a few tricky piano bits, but we stayed in time and in character, and the kids performed beautifully. Our conductor, Marnie Setka-Mooney, did an admirable job of leading the choir in concert, and preparing them in rehearsal. “Do it for Dave!”, she would say, as we hammered out harmonies and practiced our entries. They came through in the end, and delivered a great performance, which is the greatest gift they could have given me. So thank you, choir, and thank you, Marnie!
Why Rat Milk? It’s an odd title for a piece of music, but it is the name of an excellent poem by Victoria’s Poet Laureate, Linda Rogers. The poem tells a dramatic tale of survival, describing vividly the struggle of a mother rat foraging at night to feed her children. After a treacherous journey, she returns home safely. I chose to set this poem for the choir because of its message of love and hope, and also because it seemed like great material for the kids to sing. I think it sparked their imaginations and piqued their curiosity. In the end, the kids’ enthusiasm made all the work worthwhile. Our performance was a memorable end to a fun year.
Viva Choirs has recorded a complete CD of our concert that will be available soon. If you’d like to order one, just message me or visit the Viva website.