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I have created this site in order to provide performers, listeners and composers with a description of a composer's experiences with the creative process. The posts will provide discussions of the inspirations, challenges, and successes of a composer from the inception of the piece to the culmination in performance. I will provide a link to where you can see and hear the works in progress. Comments and questions are always welcomed. They will not posted unless you grant me permission.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Modal Suite Movement 3

This is the 3rd movement of a composition for the Tucumcari Rattlers Xylophone and Recorder Ensemble. My comments in this blog post are written for the students in the ensemble as well as other readers. I hope that I can get my ideas across so that what I am doing as a composer is clear to all my readers. 

The Mixolydian Mambo is a syncopated dance movement. The mambo originated in Cuba and then became popular in Mexico and eventually in other countries. Its key characteristics are the use of Latin percussion instruments and the use of syncopation. The use of Latin percussion instruments was easy to accomplish as I wrote for bongos, claves, and maracas. The syncopation was more of a challenge because of writing for young musicians.

First of all, syncopation means accenting a beat or part of a beat that normally is unaccented. By doing so, tension is created because it goes against the normal pattern. In its simplest form, accenting beats 2 and 4 of a 4/4 measure would be syncopation as beats 1 and 3 are normally stronger. In the Mixolydian Mambo I do some of this by having the recorder players shout "hey" on beat 4 of measures 21-26. The bongo rhythm creates another form of syncopation by doing the rhythm eighth, eighth, quarter. This in itself is not syncopation, but by changing the pitch pattern, syncopation is created. Higher sounds feel stronger than lower sounds. The pattern goes high low high for the first to beats and then high tones align with the normal stressed parts of the beat (down beats). Then it switches to low high low and the stress then falls on the upbeat of beat 3, therefore creating syncopation. The third form of syncopation that I use first occurs in the xylophones at measure 3. A normal rhythm in 4/4/ would be 4 quarter notes where each quarter note occurs right on the downbeat. I use the rhythm quarter note, eighth rest eighth note, quarter note, quarter note. Therefore where one would expect to hear a note on beat two, one hears silence and the note occurs on the weak upbeat of beat two.

I used the D Mixolydian mode (D,E,F#,G,A,B, C, D) for most of the piece except for measures 31-34 where G Mixolydian occurs (G,A,B,C,D,E,F,G). I don't actually have the F in this section as that would involve changing the bars on some of the instruments, but the tonality shifts to G and adds variety to repeated material. The form of this movement is Introduction (1-4), A (5-10), A' (11-16), an ostinato (repeated rhythmic pattern) interlude that builds in intensity (17-29), grand pause where there is total silence for 4 beats to let the tension relax (30), a shortened A (31-34), A' (35-39), and an ending similar to the introduction (40-43).

I export my Sibelius Music Notation file as a movie (new to version 7.5). I also use Noteperformer software for the sounds. These are sample sounds, but the software also includes an algorithm that reads ahead in the music and phrases the music according to context, therefore making the realization closer to live performance. I  upload these videos to youtube and embed the video for each movement. I hope that this technology allows the reader to have an easier experience and a more realistic performance. To see and hear what I have discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/Modal_Suite_blog.html

As always, your comments are appreciated.
Dr. B

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