Thumbnail Image

Composition Portfolio

I have enjoyed this year, writing pieces that are special to me because they relate to experiences during 2008. I've written for orchestra, choir and an ensemble of xylophones and saxophone. Each piece has extended my skills and creativity in different ways from previous compositions. Prelude to the Unspoken This work is for symphony orchestra. Last year, it was rehearsed and recorded by the NZSO as part of the NZSO/Todd Young Composers Awards 2008. The pieces were recorded in the Michael Fowler Centre and conducted by Hamish McKeich. It was exciting to hear the piece come alive and watch the orchestra rehearse. Now I have heard the recording in a calmer state and know what it actually sounds like, I have been able to evaluate some decisions and whether or not they worked. As long as I have played instruments, I have played in orchestras. I can draw on these experiences when composing because as a clarinettist, you sit in the middle of the orchestra, and can hear the different sections playing and how their parts/notes relate to the rest of the orchestra. As a percussionist, hearing the orchestra from the back (when counting rests!) also reveals a different point of view. This year I chose to compose a slower, more contemplative piece. Last year, my compositions were dense and busy, so writing this piece required me to use space and texture in new ways. The title Prelude to the Unspoken alludes to something being stated but stopping before anything is revealed. A Schulwerk Orffering I was inspired to compose for the forces used in this piece because of an Orff- Schulwerk teacher training course I attended in 2008. As part of the Masters of Music degree, I completed a Level 1 workshop and on-line component - Orff Music Education-Theory and Practice 1, and more recently, completed the Level 2 workshop. Orff-Schulwerk education is a holistic, hands-on approach that explores music physically and through different instruments such as body percussion and approachable instruments (for children) such as recorders, mallet instruments and small percussion. One activity during the course was playing a tune from the Orff-Schulwerk volumes, where everyone was playing a mallet instrument - xylophone, marimba, glockenspiel, from soprano to bass, while the teacher improvised a tune on the recorder, over the top of this moving carpet of sound we were making with our ostinatos and drones. This was just like being in the middle of the orchestra. While playing my ostinato, I was in the centre of all of this sound, hearing how each simple ostinato made an interesting accompaniment. I was also influenced by Philip GIass' Fascades, where the cross rhythms of the accompaniment create a carpet of sound, while the simple saxophone melody floats over top. I wanted to create something similar with tenor saxophone and the educational xylophones. I chose to write for two alto and two bass xylophones (small, educational instruments with no chromatic notes). These instruments were available at the course and I was able to have these with me while I composed. Because I do not usually play a mallet instrument, I composed ostinatos that I was able to play. All the techniques are those explored in Orff-Schulwerk - ostinato, drone, sound carpet, imitation. The saxophone sits quite high in the first movement, holding long notes, while in the second movement, the saxophone is active with a wide range of notes. I recently had an item about this piece in the Orff New Zealand Aotearoa newsletter 'Sounding Orff'. I hope to get a recording/performance of this piece from a response to the newsletter. Missa Brevis I sing in the Hamilton Civic Choir and have sung many Masses so was interested in writing a Missa Brevis. The movements Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei are for SATB with some movements scored for divisi voices. The style of this piece is approachable for many choirs because of traditional harmonic and musical organisation, while including modern arrangements of the text and approach to the music. Some choir members queried the fact that sometimes their part does not say a whole word, for example, just singing 'Dom', not 'Domine'. The words were deliberately set like this because when using block writing, as opposed to polyphony, I felt the extra syllables would change the desired musical and rhythmic texture. I wrote this piece with the Hamilton Civic Choir in mind because I know their capabilities. For example, I know the second basses can reach a low D. For the very low notes, I've added an octave option for the first basses or all basses if another choir cannot reach them. This recording by members of the choir was not up to the choir's usual standard because of time restrictions. The piano is used in my recording but is for rehearsal use only. The Gloria will be performed in the Choir's first 2009 concert in March.
Type of thesis
Johnson, K. A. E. (2009). Composition Portfolio (Thesis, Master of Music (MMus)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2780
The University of Waikato
All items in Research Commons are provided for private study and research purposes and are protected by copyright with all rights reserved unless otherwise indicated.