Composers' Forum

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Gav brought this up in his ballad thread. I'd like to hear everyone's thoughts on this, and expand it beyond his piece.

A few ground rules.

1. I'm kind of tired of my topics going to the "Useless Drivel" pile. A few of you that are still here think you know why that happened, but you are dead wrong. If things go south, I'll pull the plug myself, and file a major complaint.

2. If you think this question is too broad, too bad. 

3. I know everyone has interesting things to say about this, so feel free to speak your mind, about this topic, that is. I have no problem with spirited back and forth. But please, put on your Big Boy pants.

I'm actually more interested in what other people have to say about this than sharing my own views, but I'll start things off, anyway.

We are all here for different reasons, and we have vastly different interests and skill levels. A million years ago I studied music ed and composition. I never used either one in real life. I bought Sibelius in 2007, and picked up composing, again, but this time just for the fun of it. And it is fun. Even when this forum tries to rob me of it.

Just because I compose for fun and have no plans to make any money from it, doesn't mean I don't take it very seriously. 

I think it is hard to write any music, fast or slow. That's not a cop out. That's a fact. If you thinks it's hard to write slow music, I think it has more to do with the fact you may just like fast music better. Maybe that's what you listen to most, so that's what makes sense to you. Maybe you think slow music is boring, so of course you might not think you have the tools to work with it.

Maybe you prefer a good chorale. There's just too many notes going by in a presto.

For me, the quality of a piece has nothing to do with the tempo, except that the music has to be crafted for that tempo. Good music is about putting down a note in what ever medium you choose, and then following it with not just any note, but a note that gives the first note meaning, and makes it interesting. The second note must breath life into the first note, and prepare the way for the third note. This is not easy at any tempo. I don't believe that you can just plop a note down an expect the listener to become engaged. The listener wants to listen to your music, but you can't rely on that alone. You have to caress the listener, convince them that they want to hear your whole piece. You can't let down for an eight-note, or semiquaver(...no wait.. that's a sixtee...no....oh never mind).

Personally I tend to prefer something that starts out soft and slow, then builds in volume or tempo or both. Music that has a goal, and we know when it gets there.

What do you think?

Good luck.

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I know for my own compositions, "fast and slow" doesn't seem to matter concerning difficulty, but "matters of importance" tends to dominate that scenario more. For example, if I am commissioned to write a marching band show I won't spend no more than 2 weeks on it, fanfare for a graduation or something for a church or school, 3 days top, but trumpet concerto in 7 movements to be performed at the International Chamber Brass Society featuring one of the greatest trumpet players in the world with a soprano soloist, 2 years already. But, 6 out of 7 movements are 99% done with me hopefully finishing the finale this summer, hopefully.

In my experience, when writing for film/video, if the tempo of the sound track is 'fast' I find i have to come with with more notes to cover the same length of film as opposed to something 'slow' where I can evolve a few harmonies with longer notes and cover the same amount of film. Of course the choice of tempo is decided by the material on film but in regards to this discussion, writing fast music takes more time for me, than writing slow music. I dont think one is more or less difficult in terms of creativity, but just that fast/upbeat/action type scores take longer to get right with fresh twists and turns and not sound repetitive.

Vn

I'm with Rodney on this. Although I will say that sometimes I find faster music can be tricky if I don't keep an eye on the long line. I can work on maybe 10 bars or so of fast music for a time frame that is disproportionate to the time it takes to actually play the music. This can potentially skew my conception of the bigger picture unless I have future markers mapped out to preserve a sense of balance and form (for fast and slow, actually)....always good to know where your headed no matter how fast you are travelling I find.

In essence though, whether slow or fast, I find the same processes at work along with the same concerns.

Excellent. But is writing fast music just a process of have more notes go by? Does a fast tempo automatically mean more notes at all? 

I guess I'm asking if there is a thought process behind what we do. Is it instinct? Do we rely on hit and miss, luck of the draw, best guess?

Is it all based on our skill and imagination?

Let's hear from folks that feel they have real problems with one tempo or another.

Ray, aren't you forgetting that music is a 'liberal ' arts study? Bob even plays the guitar 'left handed'. (lol Bob)

Of course there is a thought process behind what we do. Whether that process is 'controlled' consciously or simply

flows from our subconscious, as some miraculous creativity, or so called inspiration, it is always more important, to me

at least, to convey and capture a mood by the expression of notes. In other words, I don't use 'hamburger helper' to embellish my meals, and I wouldn't feed it to anyone else. Good music has a good recipe. (salt to taste of course)

Still, take for instance Chopin's Fantasy Impromptu in C#m as an example.  Every note is an integral part of the whole piece and 'expression'. No note is without place and purpose. There is no luck involved, there is no hit or miss, and there is no guessing. Good music is not a linear construction, be it fast or slow, and... It is always something greater than the sum of it's parts. On the other side of the equation, I prefer to write pieces that I can enjoy playing myself. Therefore I am somewhat limited by my 'skill level'. And, I am fine with that. No problemo  senor Bob.
 
Ray Kemp said:

I find it hard believing you’ve just asked these questions. 

Bob Porter said:

Excellent. But is writing fast music just a process of have more notes go by? Does a fast tempo automatically mean more notes at all? 

"Good music is not a linear construction, be it fast or slow..."  RS.

Roger,

I'd say the complete opposite to that. Music is played out on a temporal stage and part of its expression and power surely comes from a purposeful exploitation of linear time. This exploitation can either be uniform as in the body of work prior to the 20thC, using recognisable rhythmic unity and metric division or can be fractured as in contemporary rhythmic practice. Either way a listeners in situ reaction to a piece of music (fast or slow, and ignoring the obvious factors)  has to be contingent on what precedes and follows along with the composers formal sense of placement (drama) within the temporal duration of the work -or in other words, its linearity.

This also touches on perhaps an answer to Bob's question about fast music needing more notes. I'd say not necessarily,  but  what it would need to denote a difference between fast v slow would be a pulse, one rhythmically delineated in such a way as to imply more animation in order for a listener to perceive increased pace.

Mike, agreed and obvious. Notes are expressed in a linear fashion. I was implying the idea of the- let's say-

'moral to the story' and how the overall work leaves one with as sense of having had a full meal. Even good poetry is

more than just lines of rhymes, so to speak. And so, it is the works of ALL art that achieve this level of non-linearity, that

transcend the linear 'popularity' of the day to become Timeless Treasures. (ergo, greater than the sum of it's parts. )      Pulse and velocity are both used as tools to achieve that end. Of course there is a difference between Largo and Presto, which would change the number of notes played in a given amount of time. I think Bob is inquiring more about writing in

16th and 32nd notes than tempo.   All in all, it's a trilling discussion : )

My bad Mike, I should have stated '... is not 'the' linear construction ... as much as it is the end product of that construction.
 
Mike Hewer said:

"Good music is not a linear construction, be it fast or slow..."  RS.

Roger,

I'd say the complete opposite to that. Music is played out on a temporal stage and part of its expression and power surely comes from a purposeful exploitation of linear time. This exploitation can either be uniform as in the body of work prior to the 20thC, using recognisable rhythmic unity and metric division or can be fractured as in contemporary rhythmic practice. Either way a listeners in situ reaction to a piece of music (fast or slow, and ignoring the obvious factors)  has to be contingent on what precedes and follows along with the composers formal sense of placement (drama) within the temporal duration of the work -or in other words, its linearity.

This also touches on perhaps an answer to Bob's question about fast music needing more notes. I'd say not necessarily,  but  what it would need to denote a difference between fast v slow would be a pulse, one rhythmically delineated in such a way as to imply more animation in order for a listener to perceive increased pace.

Music as the "purposeful exploitation of linear time". Mike did you just come up with that? Not being on the same level of exploitation as you guys, I had to ponder it for a while to make sure I understood it. It gives rise to all kinds of questions about composition much deeper than tempo. I don't mind getting into them ay all.

But first let's talk about the differences between writing slow and fast music. I saw mention that slow music doesn't have much motion to keep it interesting. Is that true?

Sorry for dropping in out of the blue and probably for not being able to fully participate in this talk as my internet  connection is very bad indeed down here, but Bob, what else is there for any music construction to exist apart from time in its common linear understanding as Mike put it and as most humans comprehend it?

To me the act of composition is completely time-linear and completely purposeful.

Socrates,

I almost feel like you might be talking about two slightly different things.

Mike's use of "linear time" makes sense to me as musical events moving forward, or at least in one direction. Your use of "time-linear" might almost suggest "time-cyclical", also. Probably not what you intended, I know, but that's what came to mind. Thanks for your thoughts.

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