Crossroads really...

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by HBB, Mar 29, 2006.

  1. HBB

    HBB Active Member

    Hi there, just wanted tMPer's thoughts really.

    I've been composing for a while now, and generally I stick to audience friendly material, taking influences from Peter Graham and Philip Sparke, as I like that sort of style.

    However, I'm looking towards a crossroad really, I'm looking to venture into some different styles, looking for something original, a niche I can carve for myself.

    So I started a larger work, for advanced band and heavy percussion (especially tuned) that pushes personal boundaries for players and conductors. However when I sought feedback for what I'd written, someone said it was me trying to be modern and failing hopelessly and others really liked it and urged me to continue?

    Should I carry on, even though it will never get played - or stick to cheesy music with audience appeal?
  2. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    Why would it never get played Ben...??? of course it would. You should stick to what you feel is the right thing to do. I don't feel you should only compose for audience appeal, if you have an urge to compose more serious material then go for it.

    People's opinions are of course very important, but they should only matter seriously to you if;

    (1) they are qualified to make such an opinion
    (2) you are trying to sell to them

    If (1), then you always need to take into account the views of those more qualified than yourself. it doesn't mean they are always right, but they perhaps have more experience and ability than you and you ought to at least try to learn from them.

    If (2), then these are your clients and you should treat them as such.

    However, in music you are never going to please all the people all the time and so you need to balance these views and take many of them with a pinch of the preverbial salt. If you want to write to sell music to the masses, then obviously audience and playing appeal is vital in achieving this. However, it shouldn't stop you from venturing into the world of more complex and MODERN composition if you want to. Don't let the words of one person stop you fro doing what you want to do.
  3. Steve

    Steve Active Member

    I would PM Mr Sparke Ben, Im pretty sure he will point you in the right direction! Obviously from a market point of view writing things that are accessible to as many bands as possible is the best move, I would always encourage someone to push their limits though as you never know when you will fall on some absolute gold!
  4. drummerboy

    drummerboy Member

    I think it partly depends on what you want to do as a composer. Some people have made a good reputation and good money out of, how shall I put this, less serious music?
    But on the other hand, if you feel you want to progress, then go for it. It might take a while to be able to do it, but it's like any form of composing, the more you do it, (in theory anyway) the better you'll get.
    Modern music in its widest sense can be compositionally adventurous and audience friendly too. Someone like John Pickard is a good example. Just don't let one person's opinion put you off!
  5. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    If you've got something to say (musically), then say it ;) (where would we be without John McCabe's Images?)
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2006
  6. Kerwintootle

    Kerwintootle Member

    Does you own band play your more advanced compositions?

    Why not send some music to Huddersfield Uni Band. There is the annual contemporary music festival there. The Uni band have done many new works there and I'm sure Mr McCann might be able to help.

    Good luck and don't give up. :tup
  7. HBB

    HBB Active Member

    Thanks Guys - I think that John Pickard has exactly the right idea!

    TIMBONE Active Member

    John Manduell, the first principal of the RNCM, said that if you compose a piece of music, even if it is never played, you have still performed a creative act, which is spiritually and mentally theraputic. As you know Ben, I arrange music from the sublime to the ridiculous, which I love doing, as I have always enjoyed entertaining people. On the other hand, I have original music scored for brass band, some of which is not even on my website. Unfortunately, original composition can sometimes seem an uphill struggle, but that is not a reason to be daunted. I have in the past had a few of my original compositions performed, recorded or broadcast, but I have never sold any. I remember taking a handwritten piece to a brass band, it was quite contemporary, with lots of bi-tonality and time changes. Some of the reaction could have been quite hurtful had I not been older and wiser. Ben, I have heard an audio file of one of your pieces, and all I can hear is great potential. Write what is right for you, and knock at every door and go down every avenue until it is listened to and appreciated. Never give up, but remember that it is your music, and you are writing it for yourself, and hoping that maybe someone else will want to share it one day.

    A final note. I spent a few months recently, adapting a magnificent symphonic rhapsody for brass band. This is an orchestral piece which I fell in love with when I first heard it. Although I would love it to be played and receive critical acclaim, I have resigned myself to the fact that, unless I am very lucky, this may never happen. So why did I do it? Because I wanted to, and it did me good.

    Believe in yourself Ben, even if it seems that sometimes other people don't.
  9. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Go where your imagination takes you! Sure, learn the techniques and developments of others but go into areas that you want to explore, regardless if it takes you into unknown territory. It's you that counts and nobody else ... you have shown you have the guts and ability to be recognised as an up and coming composer so don't allow others to thwart your interests and beliefs. Be selfish, just do it! :cool: :tup
  10. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    I certainly reckon you should carry on writing what seems right for you, and if you get the opportunity to have it played by a band then so much the better. I like the idea of contacting one of the college-based groups, as they are less likely to be phased by any supposed modernities in the writing. Have you thought of contacting someone like Simon Dobson at Zone One to see if they would run it through?
  11. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Forgive me Ben, I don't know you (apart from your posts here) and I apologise if any if this sounds a bit patronising. I assume you are a student? If so, there is no better time to push the boat out and experiment. If you have a go at writing really challenging avant garde stuff and you don't think it's much good, or you simply don't enjoy it, you will nonetheless learn from the experience and at least you've had a go. While you're a student, the only opinion you will really need to bow to is that of your composition teacher(s). Once you're trying to get stuff published commercially (assuming that is your eventual aim) you will have to take some account of your market/audience's requirements and may not get the chance to really experiment.

    I wrote a few fairly dissonant works at uni, including a band piece called Odyssey which was full of 13/16 time signatures and the like, plus an entire shedfull of percussion including stuff like crotales and marimba that you don't get in the average brass band. It was a bit pants, frankly, but I learnt a lot from doing it. I'd also recommend looking at scores outside the band world - try and listen to some Ligeti or Messiaen with the score, for instance. Personally I'd also strongly recommend the symphonies of Peter Maxwell Davies, anything by James MacMillan, Alun Hoddinott or Elliott Carter, plus Louis Andriessen and maybe John Adams for a less "dry" approach! See how they tackle particular challenges and try to pick out the developmental techniques. I learnt a lot from analysing Sibelius symphonies (5 and 7 especially).

    I'd also strongly recommend that you try to write something not for brass band. My compo lecturer at uni banned me from writing for brass band for a year because he felt I was getting stuck in a rut and it did me a world of good. Try writing for percussion ensemble, or a wind band - I did a piece for chamber ensemble (2 Vns, Va, Vc, Cl, Fr Hn, Bsn, Tpt, Pno) which opened my eyes to a lot of stuff I hadn't previously tried.

    Hope this is some help
  12. drummerboy

    drummerboy Member

    I agree with Andrew. Writing in a 'modern' style for brass band is hard enough as it is, let alone if you are new to such techniques. I became more familiar with modern techniques by writing for other ensembles, particularly orchestra and smaller divisions of it. I think it's then easier to transfer those techniques to band. Plus you have the added advantage that a lot of composers don't have - actually knowing how a band works and how to score successfully for it.
  13. englishgill

    englishgill Member

    you could always try some modern stuff for a group called brake drum assembly - its percussion only but I've added a link for contemporary music - not a fan of the stuff myself, but solo horn in my band plays for them

    COMA (Contemporary Music-making for Amateurs)
  14. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    You shuold definately go with what your heart tells you to do (corny, but true). I used to compose a lot at College and my composition teachers were quite encouraging. I felt that I could have continued, but I got so many negative and hurtful comments from my fellow students who couldn't really understand what I was doing (it was all quite way-out), I gave up and haven't been able to compose since. Please don't fall into the trap of composing to please people! Beethoven broke all the rules and was ridiculed for it!
  15. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Mind you, I've not heard anything new from him in ages ;)
  16. yorkie19

    yorkie19 Active Member

    Didn't he take up acting?

    Ben, if it makes you happy writing more challenging music, then write it.
  17. HBB

    HBB Active Member

    Thank you - have been persevering.. might post snippets later!
  18. HBB

    HBB Active Member

  19. BeatTheSheep

    BeatTheSheep Member

    best wishes for your composing, and go where your feelings take you. If you try to write avante-garde and then dont like it later, some of the techniques and styles you tried may come in useful in your later (probably lighter) style - you'll have found your own middle ground. I think that's called synthesis. I did sometimes pay attention at salford.
  20. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member


    As I understand it, you're about to embark to the RNCM where you will be studying (amongst other things) composition.

    As someone who at such a tender age (forgive me if that sounds patronising, it's not meant to be!) is supremely talented, I reckon that in ten years time, you'll look at your original post and think 'What was I worried about?' My guess is that your composition tutors will encourage YOU to follow your instincts, whilst nudging you in whatever direction that is, based on your already magnificent talent. That you've had a go at moving in a different, more 'modern' direction shows that you're already willing to take risks. I suggest you carry on taking those risks, but in the end, it's your choice.

    As has been already suggested, try writing for different forces. Whatever, the chances are there'll be some rejection along the way, as with the vast majority of composers but I'm willing to bet there'll be many who take your music on.

    I'm no composer by any stretch of the imagination, but I'll leave you nevertheless, with one more piece of advice, for what it's worth: have some self belief! ;)

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