Composing Competition...

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Chat' started by BrianT, May 20, 2008.

  1. BrianT

    BrianT Member

    Is there or has there ever been a timed composition competition for brass band - say at 9:00 all the competing composers are given a thematic/rhythmic fragment, and then at midday a brass band performs all the finished scores and the adjudicators (or the audience) decide the best? Just wondered. I thought if all the composers used Sibelius, then the progress of their compositions could be monitored by the audience while they work. Could be a real masterclass if you got some big names to take part. Could even video the composers as they work, asking them to explain what they're doing.
  2. Cornet Nev.

    Cornet Nev. Member

    An astoundingly good idea, but who would enter it and who would organise it?
  3. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    I think this is definitely a non-starter, with a totally un-realistic time scale. In the world of classical music, there have been competitions with varous conditions and time-scales attached, but the restrictions have not generally brought out any masterpieces, as can be seen by the list of winners of the Prix de Rome which so many french composers tried for over the years.

    The use of a system such as Sibelius may assist in the production of parts etc, but does not help at all with giving any inspiration, or with the subtleties of scoring.
  4. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    Certainly an interesting idea (although it does remind me of a Python sketch, possibly about poetry) but I somehow can't see many of the better known composers taking part.

    The speed that some composers seem to be able to produce pieces might be seen as encouraging for this type of event, but what it could actually reveal is that their compositions all rely on fairly similar ideas that appear in many of their works. I am sure many of us have played pieces (I find it to be especially true of certain arrangers) by certain composers where we have recognised most of the ideas from their past works, this competition process could show those composers as not being quite as "brilliant" as people may think.
  5. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Maybe I'm being obtuse, but I just don't see the point I'm afraid.

    Why impose a time limit? The end output has to be the important thing here and not how fast it's done, surely?
  6. Cornet Nev.

    Cornet Nev. Member

    Keith, if it is to be some form of competition, there would have to be a time limit of some sort, we couldn't hang around for six years while we wait for Joe Blogs to finish his masterpiece, before any results could be announced.
  7. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Yes - but not 3 hours!!!!

    My competition will have a time limit - but it'll be more like the 3 months ;)
  8. Masterblaster jnr

    Masterblaster jnr Active Member

    Another thing is how do you find a winner, if there is one. How do you compere a razzmatazz high brow piece to a slow melodic piece?
  9. Cornet Nev.

    Cornet Nev. Member

    Some basic rules would be needed, perhaps along the lines of each piece would have to be of a certain genre or style, not last longer than say ten minutes, and must be for a full band, not a quartet or sextet. there may have to be more.
  10. As much as I like this idea ... I think it is a little impractical ...

    It has already been mentioned that the speed at which a composer composes bares no relevance upon the quality of the music produced. This sort of competition could also potentially produce a lot of 'wishy-washy' pieces using the same motifs ... I doubt you'd find an audience for that.

    3 hours is a very short period for composition, speaking from my own experience. I'd probably manage about 2 minutes on a good day ... however, if you were to increase the timescale, you begin putting a lot of strain on the composer. The thought of the pressure of a competition combined with a bizarre endurance aspect of trying to sit at a computer composing for 4/5 hours straight ... well, you're unlikely to get people producing their best work.

    Composing in specific genres was mentioned ... you'd be unlikely to get any big names involved as I can't see many of the big names wanting to have to compose in a style they're not used to composing in.

    A Brass Band is a large ensemble and a lot of care should go into scoring and orchestration. You have a very limited palette in differing timbres compared to, say, an orchestra.

    Anyway, just a few thoughts, speaking as a composer.
  11. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    I've been having a rethink about this - and I guess it goes along with the genre / style of competition - but this kind of thing isn't that far away from (similar) things a media composer would be asked to do....(e.g. compose a jingle for broadcast tomorrow).

    Still don't think it's practical for a brass band composition competition, though.
  12. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Are these found near the artistically sincere group of arrangements by Frank Bernaerts?
  13. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Next to them on the shelf mate. Right opposite the flying pig sausages and packets of horse-feather quill pens. ;)

    I'm a pretty fast user of sibelius, having spent far too much time smashing out arrangements and compositions for my lot - but the hardest part of composing is coming up with the idea you work from, that the whole piece is based around.

    I don't think speed with any package, sibelius, finale etc. is necessarily an advantage to composing - as I know a couple of people who can just sit and write a score out by hand like I'd write a letter.

    I could sit there for a month and not have one 'eureka' moment - or alternatively, I could have three in an afternoon and be scrabbling around for manuscript paper to write them down before I forget them.

    Any sort of composition competition, or any sort of thing that helps some unknown talent to emerge can only be a good thing. I wouldn't however, think a 3hr time limit is likely to be conducive to the end result being entirely to the composer's satisfaction. I can't imagine possibly being satisfied by anything I'd smashed out in three hours and whilst there are several composers out there vastly more talented than myself, surely that's far too short a time to even properly decide on a structure.

    I once had 3 weeks to transcribe a piano score for a concert with a choir, working evenings and weekend... and I only just made it. Composing is astronomically harder than arranging and shouldn't be rushed if a quality end result is desired.
  14. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    :oops: ... I prefer my flying pigs! ;)

    In my opinion the type of competition suggested is more in the vein of what's required when asked to improvise on a theme or rhythm. If you don't have a vast array of ideas at your disposal, it's going to take a little longer to produce that creative spark. In a way it's more like creative arranging than composing.
  15. halsasaurus

    halsasaurus Member

    I'll name that tune in "one"!
  16. BrianT

    BrianT Member

    What I had in mind was for the composers to be in a back room somewhere, but for their computers to be connected to a projector in the auditorium, so that knowledgable musical pundits (a bit like cricket comentators) could bring up the work in progress, highlight parts of it and comment on it "Oh he's developing the theme there", and "is he doubling the tune on the horns to produce his signature sound" and so on. So this becomes a spectator sport. That's also why I suggested a three hour duration, as the audience have watched all the pieces develop from a blank page to completion.

    Similarly, the idea of a video feed from the backroom, so you could go to a particular composer and ask them for an update on how it's going.

    At the end of it the participants go away having earned the respect of everyone for having taken part, and maybe having a new piece that can be finished off with a little more work. And the audience gain a better insight into the mind of the composer/arranger.
  17. Cornet Nev.

    Cornet Nev. Member

  18. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Impressive panels of judges lined up for the kiddies!
  19. Alisop

    Alisop Member

    It all sounds like the requirements for composition in the new A-Level and GCSE music courses. From September (08 AS and 09 GCSE and A2) students will have to produce compositions in response to a brief in 20 hours of controlled time! Nothing can be taken in or out of the exam room. It is going to be a nightmare to manage as by 2010 be 85 hours of controlled assessed time for schools offering GCSE and A-level music. Can you imagine saying to 16 year olds 'ok you have an hour to be creative! Go!' We're going to have to work out how to manage this in school and how we block the time. If they just do the time in lessons, in year 11 they could end up spending 22 weeks of lessons being controlled composition time!
  20. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Pointless for me, I'm afraid.

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