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I want to ask the question that was suggested in another thread because I think it's important. The question is: How should an inexperienced composer who wants to write dissonant and rhythmically complex music learn how to do that?

I've been writing and playing music a long time but I'm basically a beginner at 'classical' composition. I can read score at an intermediate level. I know basic theory and have some experience with extended harmony and odd time signatures and syncopation. I can write four part harmony and I have a basic understanding of counterpoint. I haven't spent much time on orchestration. I do spend time studying scores and listening to a variety of composers. I can write basic pieces that mimic (poorly) composers of the baroque and classical period.

So my question is: What else should I be doing, what is the next step? I don't post music here because lately I haven't much time to write anything; and to be honest, the level of bickering and personal attacks on this site in the past at least makes me think that it is a waste of time.

But I'd like to hear any thoughts or suggestions.

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I apologize for not reading the entire thread, but I personally believe set-theory is a great place to start writing in a "modern" style. 

How to Compose Using Set-theory (For this example I picked C, C#, G for his set.)
  1. Write out the chromatic notes and their number values: C0 C#1 D2 Eb3 E4 F5 F#6 G7 Ab8 A9 Bb10 B11

  2. Pick your notes to become your set: C0 C#1 G7 (Hint: 5 notes normally work really well instead of 4 or less.)

  3. Starting from lowest to highest, write your “original set” down (C0 C#1 G7) as “O1” then find all of the 11 transpositions of the original set creating your different “pitch classes:”

    O1: 0, 1, 7 (C, C#, G)

    O2: 1, 2, 8 (C#, D, Ab)

    O3: 2, 3, 9

    O3: 3, 4, 10

    O4: 4, 5, 11

    O5: 5, 6, 0

    O6: 6, 7, 1

    O7: 7, 8, 2

    O8: 8, 9, 3

    O9: 9, 10, 4

    O10: 10, 11, 5

    O11: 11, 0, 6

  4. Find the inversions (I) of the pitch classes by first writing the original number, then subtracting the other numbers by 12. Then simply transpose like you did in step 3.

    I1: C0, B11 (for example 12-1=11), F5 (for example 12-7=5)

    I2: 1, 0, 6 (C#, C, F#)

    I3: 2, 1, 7

    I4: 3, 2, 8

    I5: 4, 3, 9

    I6: 5, 4, 10

    I7: 6, 5, 11

    I8: 7, 6, 0

    I9: 8, 7, 1

    I10: 9, 8, 2

    I11: 10, 9, 3

  5. To take it a couple of steps further you could then find the retrogrades (R) of both your pitch classes and retrograde inversions (RI) by simply spelling them backwards.

    For example: RO1: G7, C#1, C0 or RI1: F5, B11, C0

  6. Set-theory Hints
  1. Pick a set around 5 different notes that can be composed into a cool motive. Be creative especially rhythmically.

  2. You do not have to use all of your pitch classes, inversions, retrogrades, or retrograde inversions. Simply pick around 2 or 3 in each category.

  3. To harmonize your set-theory melodic lines pretend that each new pitch class or inversion that you are using at the time is its own new scale and harmonize your melodic lines by staying “diatonically” or within the pitch class that your melodic line is using.

  4. Have fun, don’t stress. Play around with little melodic figures, and then see if you can make them flow seamlessly to other pitch classes, inversions, etc.    

Here's one of my pieces that uses set-theory called "Sins of the Old Testament: Listen to Sins Of The Old Testament by Rodney Money #np on #SoundCloud


I've got visions of you doing a Messiaen in a swamp deep in NC with waders on, ms and pen in hand, listening intently to the pitches of the redditts whilst cursing the mozzies.

I played through your piece and found it very satisfying. It's interesting isn't it that I did not need any of the literature that inspired you to enjoy this work because like Igor S, I also believe  music expresses nothing but itself when played out of context or when written as absolute music. (or am I just too shallow?). The efficacy of the piece was enhanced with knowledge of the intent though.

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