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This is not super-novel, but if you are stuck compositionally, just take two measures (or four or more) and repeat them transposed at a different interval.  Grieg does this all the time in his Lyric Pieces!

Up or down a fourth/fifth if you want to be tonal, up or down a third/sixth if you want to be a little more adventurous, up or down a 2nd if you want to blow minds...  You may have to do a little soldering work to clean up the joints or sand down the accidentals, but it works pretty well as a pure crafting tip.

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Hi John, thanks for the good tip and the illustration example is good to see also. Lots of variations possible with that one simple concept!

He's one of my favorites. Found on YT https://youtu.be/BEcArp2KZKg

"if you are stuck compositionally, just take two measures..."

I thought you were going to say... "of Miralax".

John, Assuming you don't terribly mind a modulation of the topic you brought up... I have a question for everyone out there: Has anyone ever tried to use change of speed to aid in music composition?

For example, composing a very simple melody, then slowing it way down beyond recognition, then adding detail at a normal speed in between.  Or the opposite of that, speeding the simple melody way up and continuing the composition process at higher speed. Then increasing the speed again and try to use that as a theme and expand on that to a new melody.

The result would be a piece of music with a different melody depending on the speed it's played at. 

I'm sure I'm not explaining the idea clearly enough, but I'm wondering if you've heard of anything like that being done.

With modern notation programs where you can specify playback tempo, it should be doable to experiment with such ideas.

I never tried but it could be interesting, since our perception of musical phrases seems to be limited to certain bounds of speed.

Manfred,

What you describe is an essential part of a composers' technique - motivic development. It is a sure way of guaranteeing a  unity in line and even harmony because it develops the initial material into a cohesive musical syntax.  A suitable motif can generate scales and harmony and can be the genesis of a whole work. 

The obvious example of what you call slowing and speeding up melodies, is in Bachs' use of augmentation and diminution. But he goes further too with retrograde and inversion, as indeed do a lot of composers.

Motivic development is an excellent way of utilising technique to find the music that lies within an idea - a search tool if you will, to help you root out, explore and assess any music implied by the idea and to give you an informed aesthetic as you continue composing - it can take the guess work out of what to do next.  More often than not, it will lead you on to new ideas too.

mikehewer.com

For me?

What Mike says but without the responsibility of calling any development "my ideas".

I say this because once I start any development doesn't seem to be through a thought process but more of a, "just popped into my head" addition. Of course there is reason in what pops into ones head namely, reference. All the stuff we've performed or listened to previous to this point in our lives. 

Hey Manfred,

As Mike notes, you refer to playing a melody at different speeds, but just changing the lengths of each note in a melody proportionally (while keeping the same tempo) results in the melody appearing faster or slower within the same piece.  This is augmentation/diminution and has been done for a long time. 

Some examples here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augmentation_(music)#Augmentation_in_composition

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diminution#Diminution_in_composition


Manfred Goop said:

"if you are stuck compositionally, just take two measures..."

I thought you were going to say... "of Miralax".

John, Assuming you don't terribly mind a modulation of the topic you brought up... I have a question for everyone out there: Has anyone ever tried to use change of speed to aid in music composition?

For example, composing a very simple melody, then slowing it way down beyond recognition, then adding detail at a normal speed in between.  Or the opposite of that, speeding the simple melody way up and continuing the composition process at higher speed. Then increasing the speed again and try to use that as a theme and expand on that to a new melody.

The result would be a piece of music with a different melody depending on the speed it's played at. 

I'm sure I'm not explaining the idea clearly enough, but I'm wondering if you've heard of anything like that being done.

With modern notation programs where you can specify playback tempo, it should be doable to experiment with such ideas.

I never tried but it could be interesting, since our perception of musical phrases seems to be limited to certain bounds of speed.

Manfred,

     I think I have used both methods in the last six months, in one case speed up to make a cute ending and in another slow down for a grand finale.  But what you are suggesting, with the help of the computer, could be a whole new ball game.  For instance, stretch out a melody in quarter notes to one note per measure in 4/4.  Then fill in the spaces with another melody.  Then stretch out that melody and fill in with another melody.  As the piece progress the tempo would slow down to reveal the next melody within the first melody, etc.  Or reverse the process speeding up.  Veeeery interesting.

You got it exactly right, Lawrence.

I'll try to respond to other posts a bit later when I have a bit more time.

It's a rush-rush day for me today.

Lawrence Aurich said:

Manfred,

     I think I have used both methods in the last six months, in one case speed up to make a cute ending and in another slow down for a grand finale.  But what you are suggesting, with the help of the computer, could be a whole new ball game.  For instance, stretch out a melody in quarter notes to one note per measure in 4/4.  Then fill in the spaces with another melody.  Then stretch out that melody and fill in with another melody.  As the piece progress the tempo would slow down to reveal the next melody within the first melody, etc.  Or reverse the process speeding up.  Veeeery interesting.

Hey John -

Repeating a melodic theme or motif by starting on a different note is called a sequence.  Most composers use sequences, including my students - both the beginners and the more advanced students.  Those who write tonally use diatonic sequences, but those who love post-tonal sounds, including my six and eight year olds, use sequences for continuity.  When you don't have any tonal center, no functional harmony, no standard cadential formulas, patterns become very important to hold a piece together.  Sequences are one of the many patterning devices my kids use with great imagination and creativity. 

We're always thinking about Contrast and Continuity in each piece, and the different patterning devices, including sequences can help with both.

It's not the interval of the sequence that keeps things tonal or "blows minds", but rather whether the sequences are diatonic or instead move out of the key.  Notice that in your Grieg example, his first melodic motif (m. 3) is followed by a sequence up a major second from the original and then one down a minor second from the original.  These are all tonal, so no big surprises or shocks there!  I'd say these sequences help with continuity.  When he moves by 4ths or 5ths in his later sequences (the first four phrases after the double bar line) he takes us temporarily out of the key for some interesting harmonic variety.  A very welcome contrast!

Messiaen uses some interesting sequences in his first Prelude, starting in the 4th bar of the example below.  His first sequence takes us out of the key, then goes from a full measure sequence to half a measure sequence, then to two-chord sequences.  All very lovely.  He achieves continuity by the repetition of an idea, and contrast by harmonic changes within the repetition. 

Here are Messiaen's Preludes, in case you've never heard or played them. 

Hi Julie,

What I guess I was trying to get at in my post was how Grieg does this almost constantly in his music (arguably a bit of crutch) and it is a useful way for composers to generate lots of new material.  But yes, I have been writing music for 30 years and am familiar with the concept of sequences.  When I said "blowing minds" I was not referring to diatonic sequences!

Thanks,

John

Julie,

     The old circle of fifths, which I fall back on when I can't think of anything new.  Changing keys with a sequence sounds good but can be difficult for musicians if done too frequently.  It also can be annoying. To avoid monotony you can vary the sequence slightly with each rep which also helps disguise the circle of fifths.  

     A few years ago I was looking over a Bach piece where he changed keys every two measures in a circle of fifths, so I one upped Bach and changed keys every measure , 5 or 6 six times.  I think the musicians liked it but we had to practice that section quite a bit more.
 
Julie Harris said:

 

 .

It's not the interval of the sequence that keeps things tonal or "blows minds", but rather whether the sequences are diatonic or instead move out of the key.  Notice that in your Grieg example, his first melodic motif (m. 3) is followed by a sequence up a major second from the original and then one down a minor second from the original.  These are all tonal, so no big surprises or shocks there!  I'd say these sequences help with continuity.  When he moves by 4ths or 5ths in his later sequences (the first four phrases after the double bar line) he takes us temporarily out of the key for some interesting harmonic variety.  A very welcome contrast!

 

Here are Messiaen's Preludes, in case you've never heard or played them. 

Hey Lawrence -

Good ole Circle of Fifths!  It hasn't yielded all its treasures yet! 

One of my students tattooed a Circle of Fifths on his arm when he was in high school.  He's finishing college now and just got his first commission to score a 2 hour silent film for a local film festival.  I wonder if he used his tattoo?  ;-)

Here's something you might appreciate:    Interactive Circle of Fifths

I also wonder - do you know about using the circle for tritone substitution?  Jazz musicians love tritone substitution, but so did Bartok.  What a guy.  I might write an article about tritone substitution.  Surely it's time for one of my current students to get a tattoo!!!

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