Category Archives: Writing Music

Latest Obsession: Mozart’s 40th Symphony and Sonata Form

In the last week or so, I’ve been drawn to Mozart’s 40th. I have a student playing a piano reduction of the First Movement’s main theme, I’ve been feeling it’s quiet and raging emotions even without listening to it, and I’ve been teaching Sonata Form (the form of at least the First Movement) to other students who have pieces in that form and style.

So, before you get bored with my music theory nerdiness, go to Google, YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, or whatever to find a recording of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 and listen to it. Just the first movement is fine if you’re short on time, but the whole thing is worth your while. It is nicknamed Mozart’s “Great” Symphony, for that reason. The modulations (changes of keys) and orchestration (which instruments play what where) are particularly inspiring to me right now in the compositional realm.

Then after you listen to it, you can look at the picture below and be slightly less bewildered…maybe. This is what I’m using to show my students what Sonata Form is and also how to roughly diagram a piece of music.

And I love my new neon dry erase markers and my old mirror a little too much. I’ll try to check in again soon.

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New Things, But Now Back To Work

Hello again.  Apologies again. Here’s what I’ve been doing.

I am on SoundCloud now!  My only track so far is a contest entry from a few months ago, but I hope to post more soon.  I want to try (keyword “try”) to post something on there every week, even if it’s just a few seconds long.  Here’s my link.

I have started an business on Etsy, com for my photography and crafting hobbies!  Please go check it out here, OrangeStreetNorth.

I guess that’s it for now.  I’m also still in the midst of juggling too many things at once.  Hopefully, this blog won’t suffer as much anymore.

What I did last summer…Part 1

Three music for media projects during my final, thesis semester.

-Animated short film (for a film scoring contest): Virtus Vitae

Clip (not used in the final version) from the opening of a documentary about breast cancer called “Baring It All”

-Commercial/promo spot from C-SPAN: White House Week

I am Master, and I shall call you Padawan.

In August, I graduated with a Master of Fine Arts!  Consequently, I “feel” like a Jedi Master of Music or something, especially because I currently have students.

I feel like I have a thousand more ideas now too, but first I have to” work.”  I have a freebie children’s piece that I’m doing for a friend, and I have some transcribing and editing work that is paid!  I’m trying to write an orchestral piece (originally, I wanted a symphony) for a contest next month.  I’m also busy with my students, my “little padawans” as I now sometimes refer to them, with festivals, holidays, and recitals coming up.

This time around graduating, I’m thankful that I haven’t gotten much post-graduation depression, as I have in the past.  I’ve still had many ups and downs, but thanks to my many friends (mostly musical) and family, I have a lot more hope for my future of making it in the world.  I feel more prepared, but I have also learned that I’ll never feel perfectly prepared for anything worth that is trying.  So, I have to just remember my support system and take leaps of faith.  Not too hard, right?

Busy, busy, busy, but not much getting done…

Wow, it has been a while.  Sorry.  I’ve been getting busy again…new students, two student recitals coming up, more homework, past homework catching up with me, habitually taking on more than I can handle, etc…

But I finally have it posted on YouTube! (The contest’s short film that I wrote music for.)

Hope you enjoy.

Also, I’ve been seriously considering (finally) getting my own domain name.  Unfortunately, I just ordered 500 more business cards with WordPress in the domain name.  I guess that will have to wait a bit.

Self Promotion

Yes, like the title says, I’m advertising myself right now.

If you haven’t “liked” me on Facebook or “friended” me on MySpace (www.myspace.com/annachapman), please do so.  You can also follow me on Twitter@ACMusic101, YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/AnnaBoomMC), and LinkedIn.  I’m also on Music2Deal.com, MusicDealers.com, and AudioCatch.com, but only recently with these.

I have a piece of my short film score (the credits music) from the recent competition that I entered posted on my MySpace page, and the filmmaker has given permission for the entries to use his film with each original score for self promotion.  I will have it up on YouTube soon with my score, even though I was not chosen as one of the finalists.  (But one of my fellow classmates is a finalist in the competition!)

On another note (haha-I haven’t yet gotten tired of using that pun), one of the non-musical things that I do is photography, where I consider myself an amateur: http://www.annachapmanphotos.printroom.com/

That’s it for now.  Happy browsing. 🙂

Film Scoring…finally!

In my final, Thesis Semester, I am finally studying film scoring, my dream! I’ve kind of been studying it amateurishly ever since I started composing, but this is the first time that I will dive right into it, with the right tools (software at least), for the real deal of scoring for media.

I’m on my second assignment now, but it’s the first official one of the semester. The unofficial one was scoring an animated short for a contest put on by CINE, more info here. I am hoping sometime to be able to show that one online, but right now I can’t because of the rules of the contest.

My current assignment, the first official one of the semester, is to score the opening part of a documentary. That one I might be able to post when I’m done but I’m not sure yet. My deadline for it is next week, so I will hopefully have another blog post then.

Oh, Jazz…

Well, I did end up writing two pieces for the jazz ensemble at my Vermont residency in February, but there was not enough time allotted for me to get to hear them both.  One was an arrangement of the percussion piece that I mentioned in the previous post, and the other was a tango, which was the one I chose to hear, have performed, and have recorded.  I am still trying to put the sound files together for the mix that I want for this tango, and also for the percussion piece.  So, hopefully, I will have them available for listening this week sometime.

Between homework for my new (and final!) semester and the craziness that comes with spring for my music students, I’m kind of overwhelmed right now; hence the short blog.  But I’m going to try again, God willing, to stay more steady with my blog (and updating my online presence as a whole), even if that means this is all you get each time.  Thanks for still supporting me in my musical and life goals!

A “Dual Nature”

“I don’t know what the world is coming to when your Masters degree homework is on YouTube!”

My Mom said that to me when I told her that I had to go get on YouTube to transcribe a hip-hop song for my homework.  Yes, that is what I chose to study this semester: Hip-hop rhythms.  (Big thanks to one of my fellow students who reminded me to “follow my heart,” so to speak, in choosing what to study.)

It’s always been a surprise to the people around me when I reveal that I like hip-hop, or at least the pop/rock versions by TobyMac, possibly my greatest contemporary musical influence.  (Seriously, look him up.  His latest album hit number one on the charts!  And I got to yell, scream, and sing along while seeing him live in concert this week!)  I am a quiet person most of the time, but when I get to know you well enough, my “alter-ego” can’t help but start to come out.  I’ve recently been learning to be able to express myself more easily, especially in music and dance, and I’ve been told that I have a “dual nature.”  However, my strongest personality trait is still my reserve.

In school, it was no different.  In undergrad, I had kept the knowledge of my most favorite music away from my peers and my writing because I wanted to be a classical composer and learn from the best (you know, all the great, dead composers).  But in grad school this last residency, I had been playing around with jazz rhythms and harmony so much that my secret musical love just had to come out.  So it did.  I asked to study hip-hop, and from what I heard of the reaction from most of the faculty to my new musical direction, it was pretty much the same reaction I’ve always heard: “What!?  Where the heck did that come from?”  Fortunately, they humored me, and so far this semester is going even better than my first two did.

My great ideas for the semester were and are: to get a new computer and new music software (recently achieved!) to gain experience with digitally writing and rendering music, to study hip-hop rhythms (and possibly the hip-hop genre) and apply them to my composing, and to write for both of this semester’s ensembles (jazz ensemble and percussion ensemble)(I may even make it to three total pieces instead of two!).

The first order of business was to study, study, study, which mainly meant transcribing a hip-hop song.  My professor and I meant for me to transcribe more than one, but I only have one done so far.  However, the first transcription has helped my ears to be better acquainted with the characteristic sounds and how to analyze them in the other hip-hop songs that I’ve listened to.  By the way, transcription is the process of writing down a song from just hearing it (in my case, having to hear it many times), without any other musical references.  Fortunately, I only needed to transcribe the rhythm of the song, and I didn’t have to worry about the melodies.

I started with Jamaican hip-hop and transcribed the rhythm in a song by Junior X.  From my results, my professor and I chose a specific rhythmic pattern to use as an exercise.  My assignment was to compose with the rhythmic pattern in it’s original form, in variation, and in the retrograde of both.  This is how my percussion piece started, using some small ideas that came out of that exercise.  Through many revisions (and there are many more to come), it has become a piece that has begun to evolve in a new direction (for me, and I like it) using a marimba, percussion drums and cymbals, and an organ.

Stay tuned for more updates.  My piece(s?) for the jazz ensemble will be in the next installment.

“So, I’m composing a dance suite.” “Oh, with an Allemande and Minuet?” “No…it’s…um…Ballroom actually.”

Finally, I have posted the Ballroom Dance Suite that I worked on in the last six months (this last semester)!  It is five dance movements for Piano Quintet (2 Violins, Viola, Cello, and Piano).  You can listen to all the movements here (whether or not you have a MySpace account):  http://www.myspace.com/annachapman

Here is a little bit more about them.

Foxtrot-“Don’t Know What To Do”

Since this dance was invented in the early part of last century, it’s typical music has a big band sound and a medium slow swing tempo.  This was the dance that I did not have specific musical ideas for.  But I was helped by remembering the sounds of dance orchestras in the early part of the century (and in the old black and white movies), especially the string sounds.  After much trial and error, I finally came up with two flowing swing melodies, off-beat piano accompaniment, and a whole step key change.  The two themes then just take turns and dance around each other in bouncy delight, at least that was the intent.

Samba-“Do You Know How To Samba?”

This dance is the most percussive of the ones that I chose.  I tried some special effects on the string instruments that I “hoped” would be percussive enough (without making the musicians too upset about hitting their instruments).  In the result, the sounds were percussive but not loud enough to balance well with the piano and full violin melody sounds.  This might have been the most difficult movement for me to write.  It is the dance that I know the least out of this grouping, but the layers of rhythms in the music were also a mystery to me until I did some in-depth study of the Samba.

Rumba-“So It Does”

Surprisingly, I’m starting to love this movement more and more even though it was the last one I composed, and I was very rushed to get it done.  However, I do feel the need to, at some future point, change the instrumental texture that is under the melody.  Once again, I have the strings playing quieter effects against the louder timbre of the piano, which isn’t always a good mix.  I used some of the rhythms that I learned for the Samba in this movement too because they are similar Latin dances whose main (and most obvious) musical difference is tempo.

Tango-“March of the Tango”

I soon found out after composing this movement that “Tango” can mean several different things to different people.  For me at the time, I wanted it to mean smooth and staccato, affection and tension, and cohesion and conflict…opposites for the most part.  That became a tall order very quickly, but I finally formed it in my mind and got it written down.  I was very proud (and still am proud) of it and what it represents in my compositional journey.

Waltz-“Honey Waltz”

In contemporary classical music, the Waltz does not seem to be a standard or prevalent form of music.  In Ballroom Dance, the Waltz is is considered one of the classic standard dances.  In both cases, I identify the Waltz as old-fashioned, not modern, but still valuable because it is a past form.  When I originally wanted to write a waltz, I had thought that I could “update” it for the contemporary classical era.  To do that, I  thought I would have to abandon much of the standards present in the most famous and popular waltzes that I knew of.  However, the most essential part of waltz music for dancers is the rhythmic stability that it has, so I needed to keep that.  I also could not truly depart from the beautiful and classic/romantic harmony and melodies that the vast majority of waltzes have.  But I did have to keep the tempo slower than many of the famous Waltzes to fit the true Ballroom dance style of the Waltz.