I remember at the start of winter quarter walking into my first composition lesson with a CD full of music that I had composed a year previous to the occasion. My professor was sort of peculiar about the style being very eighteenth century. Out of the five pieces I presented, he took a liking to two of them because of the modern style about it. As I was sitting at the computer in Finale continuing a choral work called "Gutter in the Praries," was staring at how traditional it sounded, thinking, 'There's nothing wrong with this. It's got a beautiful melody about it. Is there anything wrong with composing in the traditional vein? Not that I'm totally opposed to composing non-traditionally once in a while (Ex: "The Rise and Fall of the Rose" for solo flute that I've started). It's just that sometimes, I like to harken back to my old ways for just a bit--to have the taste of a beautiful melody. In fact, the last piece I finished, "Clarinet Sonatina" featured modal textures in F lydian and C lydian. That opened the door for me to experiment (the flute work, and another work for two pianos called "Turbulence," featuring one piano in A minor, the other in E major simultaneously). I'll probably continue in several of these experimental styles for the remainder of my academic career at Cal State while composing traditional works on the side (as well as performing pop tunes) I've got so much poetry that I'd like to incorporate into my music too. What's up with just composing avant garde? I believe that one should incorporate many or all styles into their music. Like I asked my professor, "where are we in the 21st century?" "What kind of styles are being used?"

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    • Well, that's certainly a good way to put it. I don't particularly bash many things about the 20th and now the 21st century style of music. It's just that I'm trying maybe to marry the traditional with the non-traditional and I'm still trying to find ways to do that. I actually have had the creative 21st century sort of bug in me since I finished that clarinet piece, getting great reviews from my professors. My only worry is that many graduate institutions push the more scientific approach to composition, notably the avante garde style (the banging of the tin cans, for example, may count or other non musical sort of ideas) and may not nuture the individual student. Of course, there are other kinds of avante garde such as programatic music which I think is the best style of this particular branch. Many universities I've heard of (especially here in CA) produce the scientific styles of avante garde and expect the students to follow suit when that's not where their heart is. It's what I call music by numbers, which can be creative, but it's not something I particularly find interesting. I like experimenting with styles that are more musical and less scientific, but I'm learning to make my melodies darker or more obscure, perhaps than typical traditional melodies. However, I'm still trying to keep a balance of melody and rhythm without going to extremes. That's my only concern.
  • That's too bad to hear about you dropping out. I'm currently at Cal State San Bernardino and my composition professor is really good. He's trying to get me into many, many styles, which I now understand and appreciate. Did you study at one of those institutions where the professor expects the student to become just like him or her? If so, that's shameful. After my B.A. is done, I plan to go to UCLA for MA and Ph.D studies in composition. I've looked at the department over there and I'm impressed with the variety of styles their composition department supports with each professor seeming to have a different style and knack for composition. Thanks for the tips on popular music. I'll take time to research these and listen to some of the music you're suggesting. That's bound to inspire me.
  • Wow. Those are some unique concepts to compose. Here at Cal State, I really do get one-on one attention in composition lessons. I had the same professor for completing freshman piano (my instrument of choice to be fulfilled prior to composition). He was very technical, but always listened when I had problems and would explain things to me in a patient and full way. Never has he shown arrogance.We have a closer relationship too, because I have a slight case of cerebral palsy which hinders motor skill ability while he has an adult son who is disabled in the same way, but more severe. In piano, he was able to refinger things for me to make it easier to play the pieces. In composition, he welcomes ideas and helps all the way through the process. We basically bounce ideas off each other. I believe that this is the way it should be done in every institution of music. I'm disturbed to hear that so many composers are hindered from being individuals. Same with the fellow majors in this department. We are all one big family it seems. I even have many instrumental and voice majors asking me to write pieces for their recitals--not caring about the style of the piece. Professors need to give their students time to crawl before they could walk instead of expecting their students to jump into the styles they're into cold turkey. Students are not the creation of their professors. This is one thing I believe my professor, Dr. McFatter is really firm with is to not copy what styles he prefers exactly. I wish you well in future compositional endeavors.
  • Well thank you. Keep composing as you've been. Do have any interesting projects going on lately?
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