This is an introductory ensemble class for playing the accordion. After the course, students should have an understanding of the physicality of the accordion, and enough knowledge of its mechanics to compose music for it. The course requires an ability to read notated music. During the course we'll go over some traditional accordion music, as well as look at contemporary music arranged and/or written for the accordion. Instruments will be provided for the course.
This is an independent study to focus on an intensive study and exploration of Balinese Gender Wayang, the music to accompany Balinese Wayang Kulit theatre.
In this project I will work closely with Nyoman Wenten to practice and perform material for traditional balinese shadow theatre. I will also use my research to compose a contemporary style Gender Wayang piece to be placed alongside a contemporary stop-motion animated Wayang Kulit style movie. This research will include a performance/demonstration at the end.
Building a physical music collection:
As in any endeavor there are advantages and disadvantages to building a physical music collection. We will be discussing the strengths and challenges of the three main physical forms of music for sale people have traditionally used to build music collections - Vinyl, CD’s and cassettes. We will also strategize on practical ways to build and maintain a physical music collection, and play examples from various styles and mediums.
Five CalArts faculty composers will present, lecture about and analyze their works in depth.
Each composer will present a short introduction to their career and philosophy, followed by an in-depth analysis of one or two works. A class discussion and Q&A will follow. The students will summarize their experience in a final paper.
This mini course will look at compositional form and the manner in which composers have chosen to organize their musical materials across a wide variety of musical milieus within the historical lineage of Western European Art Music. Composers to be discussed in the class include, J.S. Bach, Johannes Brahms, Alexander Scriabin, and Michael Finnissy, among others.
We will prepare and present togethert a concert of small and large chamber works by Cassandra Miller, Morton Feldman and (CalArts School of Music founder) Mel Powell. Students will be invited individually by course instructors and assigned parts by the last week of the Fall Semester; rehearsals will take place the week of January 14-19, TBA to accommodate all performers. The performance will take place Saturday January 19, 8PM in the Wild Beast.
JANUARY 14th – JANUARY 25th, 2019
Persian Daf Ensemble
Misaq Eshaghi, Matin Eshaghi – Faculty Sponsor Randy Gloss
The first week of this intensive course will be primarily focused on learning about the History of Daf, different style of playing in addition to learning basic strokes. In this collective hands-on process, we will explore group rhythm exercises and learn basic playing techniques for a variety of rhythm pattern with basic strokes based on Persian classical and folk music. Like “hay-allah”,”saghezi”....
The second-week students will learn new techniques and ornamentation to add to their basic moves, and also they are gonna work on 3 original pieces. They can adopt Persian rhythms to the instrument of their choice.
Depending on student interest within the course, there may also be an opportunity to play a selected repertoire as an ensemble, using variety of instruments. There may also be discussions on how students may consider integrating Persian music into their own artistic practices. Supplemental materials to be used throughout the course will include audio & video samples, charts of selected repertoire, and readings.
Instructors for this course will be Matin Es’haghi(MFA-2 Performer-Composer) and Misaq Es’haghi (MFA-2 performer-composer). Prior experience playing percussion, while helpful, is not a prerequisite to register for this course. 4 3-hour meetings, Credits .50
This course will provide an introduction to Digital Signal Processing (DSP) for artists. It will focus primarily on audio, but also look at use of digital filters and other algorithms for non-audio data streams such as those coming from sensors. Emphasis will be placed on linking the student's intuition and physics to the fundamentals of DSP. Homework will consist of specific practical exercises in ChucK.
For the Culture: Explorations in Hip Hop Producton
The DJ Element of Hip Hop Culture can be analyzed into production and performance components. With the work of a master such as Prince Paul, the concept of Hip Hop production is pushed to its limits, and seems to takes on aspects of conceptual art, theater, film, design, etc. How can these conceptual limits be explored and positioned to respond to and to ignite the Dance Element within the Culture?
These questions and more will be explored in an advanced masterclass in Hip Hop production with special guest artist Prince Paul. The class will continue into the second week as a platform for the development of compositions in tandem with choreographer/dancers from the companion course For the Culture: Explorations in Hip Hop Dance, taught by Nina Flagg.
Exploring Microtonal Woodwind Fingerings
We’ll investigate and practice a large number of microtonal fingerings presented in various fingering charts for the oboe, clarinet and saxophone, and perhaps also for the flute and bassoon – precisely measuring their pitch deviations from the notes of Equal Temperament with the aid of a JI-synthesizer, analyzing them with regard to their timbre and degree of difficulty and discussing their usability within musical contexts. This hands-on research course is primarily designed for woodwind players interested in expanding and refining their microtonal pitch repertoire and for composers keen on exploiting it, but interested brass and string players are also welcome and invited to bring along their instruments.
Five 3-hour classes (1 credit)
Gear - Gear? – GeAr - GEARRRRR!
In this course we will go down the rabbit hole. First, we will look at the history of pedals. Who used them, who developed them etc. Then we will explore various guitar pedals, listen to examples through videos and live in class, we will discuss and demonstrate various chain orders and how to go about searching and buying from the rich/confusing market.
If Time and budget allows it, I would like everyone to make a simple fuzz using no more than 6 components. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rv5iQ_aenX8)
This course is not just for E.Guitar/E.Bass players. I will be presenting the use of guitar pedals for other instruments (Saxophone, Keyboard, Voice) through examples and maybe some guests. Composers that are interested in writing for pedals are also welcome!
NONE. You don’t have to own pedals to join this class.
Topic 1: History and Listening examples of that Era.
Topic 2: Pedal Categories Saturation (Boost, Overdrives, Distortion, Fuzz), Modulation (Phaser,Tremolo,Vibrato) , Time based (Delay, Reverb, Echo, Loopers) , Eq, Wah-Wah, Filters.
Demonstrate Live Experiment with different Chain orders.
-Guitar pedal compatibility for other instruments as well (Keyboard,Saxophone,Voice,etc.)
Topic 3: Listen to a big variety of pedals and talk about searching and buying.
-Online samples: What was used to record the sample; Who is playing the sample.
Will I sound like the sample based on my gear?
-Branding and Marketing _ How do companies present themselves, audience targeting.
Group brass fundamentals will be lead by faculty with the intention of helping students build a daily maintenance routine that focuses on the essentials for healthy playing. The focus is on understanding the logic of how to develop and maintain a daily balance that supports creative exploration and experimentation while keeping the traditional skills needed as the basis for one's exploration. Each faculty member (Storm and Barbier) will lead the class on separate days.
Open to all brass players regardless of program.
- •Exercises in 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9,10, 11, & 12 against 2 in preparation to play James Tenney's Septet for 6 Electric Guitars and Bass
- •For 6 Electric Guitarists who will work on the piece itself during the spring semester.
- •Others are welcome to participate in the Boot Camp even if they will not be in the ensemble.
A course focusing on the forms, geography, language and spirituality in Persian traditional and regional music, including influences from aesthetics, philosophy, and the interactive role of individuals in shaping the improvisation.
Knitting is scientifically proven to improve focus, connect intuitive and abstract thinking, promote math skills and reduce stress...while you get to play with fuzzy yarn and make nice things. Come join Erika DK with special guest knitting goddess Christine Tavolucci for five nights of in depth knitting. Open to all levels of knitter; Beginners will learn casting on, knit & purl stitch, binding off, and knitting in the round. Veterans will also learn increase/decrease stitches, making cables, & more! Students need to bring a circular needle; you can bring in your own yarn or we will provide from our large stashes (stash=large pile of yarn) Tea and cookies also provided :)
Any students interested in having individual coaching/discussion on orchestration, composition, conducting, or extended electric guitar techniques and pedalwork.
- •Lessons and Coaching for individuals or ensembles on material which can dealt with in a few sessions.
- •Learning classical guitar technique or other beginning guitar skills are not appropriate subjects for this short time frame.
- •Students must contact me directly in advance to arrange for lesson or coaching times.
Though it is impossible to fully delve into every composers’ work in such a short amount of time, the class will be able to give an overview and expose students to artists that they perhaps have not heard of from other classes. Class time will be used to focused on brief, relevant biographical details of the composers as well as listening to and discussing the music of each composer. The goal of the class is to give an overview of a variety of female composers that will allow students to individually continue exploring the work of these truly inspiring composers as well as seek out the work of other underrepresented composers.
This course will explore the use of mechatronic systems in artistic environments. It will teach students how to use the machine to make objects move. Each student will learn how to make custom electronics with a variety of actuators. Solenoids, motors, and gears will all be discussed. This could include building individual or one class mechatronic musical instrument or an interactive installation based on the interest of the students.
This course will cover the basics of creating and controlling mechatronic art, including:
- Electro-Mechanical Actuators
Which electro-mechanical devices create what type of motion how to control them.
The programming needed to control various electro-mechanical actuators using micro-controllers.
The circuity needed to communicate between a micro-controller and electro-mechanical actuators.
The assignments for this course will be used to motivate the students to elaborate upon the materials covered in class. For example, if the class period was focused on programming, an assignment might be to take the code developed during class and add additional functionality or to use it to create art.
Final Project: 40%
The most important objective is for students to gain an understanding of the concepts taught, and to be able to apply those ideas in their own work. With this in mind, it is our hope that the assignments are seen as an opportunity to further the understanding of the concepts taught in class. Attendance is very important because much of the work on the final project(s) will be done in class.
Time honored Buddhist techniques of meditation will be introduced and practiced in the hope of establishing an excellent, constructive daily habit. There will ben an emphasize sound. There also be a little reading from a few sages, from the distant past and present, along with some discussion. We will also listen to Bach that will hopefully help to point us in a fruitful direction. The goal is to become a little more peaceful and concentrated.
Music and Memes will explore how we understand art and daily life. Why is Sleeping Shaq funny but Haydn minuets aren't? How come today Bach=American Express commercial (or a plotting Hannibal Lecter)?
We’ll look at various memes including Baby Shark, Jealous Girlfriend, Spider-Man Pointing at Spider-Man, and same/mood/retweet/share if you agree. We'll also look at music from Lana Del Ray, Haydn, The Greatest Showman, Berio, BTS, Bach, Kendrick Lamar, Shostakovich, and Tierra Whack.
The first week will focus on artistic and social meaning in contemporary art and culture including narrative, symbolism, (re)contextualization, collage, and BS. We'll discuss modern trends according to student interest and do in-class analysis of modern music.
The second week will center on using what we know about our own culture to dive into the music of other cultures and times. Is Galaxy Brain a theme and variations? Have musicians always been writing dis tracks? Trolling in MY music curriculum? It's more likely than you think.
This course will be about Iannis Xenakis' music and his contributions to the musical world through his usage of scientific and mathematical theories. We will examine some aspects of Xenakis’ acoustic and electro-acoustic work including score study, guided listening and discussing his stylistic developments.
The class will explore the broad range of techniques and textures used in modern Fingerstyle/Percussive guitar today and trace them to their origins. We will cover various open tunings, polyrhythms and fingerpicking textures and will incorporate elements such as two-handed tapping and percussion. The ultimate goal is for students to apply elements from this workshop to jumpstart or enhance their own compositions.
Class is open to guitar and bass guitar.
Students should bring their instruments to each class.
Each student will be required to learn at least three excerpts from pieces explored in the class and gain a basic understanding of DADGAD tuning.
This is an intro level course aimed at developing fundamental electronics skills and literacy for artists, using practical circuits to generate sound and video. Understanding electronics and technology is a fundamental part of navigating the modern world as an Artist.
Private lessons on Dagomba drumming, Ewe Drumming, World percussion, and general rhythm studies
This dynamic, intensive 2-week course will offer multiple perspectives on various regional musical traditions of Peru, Colombia/Ecuador and Cuba.
We will begin this two week journey with an introduction to the artistic and cultural expressions of the African diaspora in the Pacific. The first part of this course will focus on learning about and playing different genre of Afro Peruvian music, including Festejo, Lando, Son de los Diablos, Panalivio, Zamacueca, among others. This part of the course will be focused on techniques and rhythms to be played mainly in cajon, with additional accompaniment in congas, bongos, cajita, quijada, cowbell, and zapateo. As we learn about the traditional Peruvian rhythms we will also learn about the songs, dance and historical context that accompanies them.
During the second part of this course we will move north towards Colombia and Ecuador to explore a series of musical styles rooted in the traditional Currulao/Marimba genre shared in rural communities in both countries. In addition to the drumming, we will also explore songs and melodies of traditional marimbas that define this genre. As well as technique and rhythmic patterns played in Cununos hand drums and Bombos.
During the final part of this course we will learn about Afro Cuban Bata drumming with its social and religious context. Students will learn proper technique and exercises for bata drumming, in addition to the songs and stories that accompany each rhythm. Students will also learn to identify instrumentation and rhythmic structures that have historically defined these styles, as well as some of cultural context that have shaped this expressions.
Depending on student interest within the course, there may also be an opportunity to play select repertoire as an ensemble, using instruments of their choice. There may also be discussions on how students may consider integrating this music in their own artistic practices. Supplemental materials to be used throughout the course will include audio & video samples, charts of selected repertoire, and readings.
In this course, students will learn to play music from the Samulnori repertoire. Samulnori is the modern outgrowth of traditional Korean percussion music called Pungmul, and is typically played on four instruments: Changgo (hourglass shaped drum), Buk (barrel drum), Kkwaenggwari (small hand cymbal), and Jing (gong). This workshop is open to the institute and to all levels of musicians including beginners. No previous music reading or musical experience required. The class will be taught by Eyvind Kang and MFA student Roger Kim, with special guests artists from Korea. The class will culminate with a performance by the students and guest artists in the main gallery.
Six Student groups will be chosen by December 5th through a process that will be announced at least a month in advance. There will be three rehearsals during the first week of Interim, and there will be two recording days in ROD during the following weekend. Each band will get approximately 2 1/2 hours of basic tracking in ROD and 2 hours of overdubbing in DRS. Students will be given the protools sessions at the end of the weekend. While this project will not include mixing and mastering, we will try to guide students to find those resources themselves. Band leaders and all other performers who wish to take this from credit should attend all rehearsals which will be open coachings.
How does the pace of our existence filter our ability to connect to our experiences? Is multitasking really possible? How can we become glacial? We will ponder, discuss, and act out modes of slowness in expressing our artistic media, using the gained perspective to make a new work of collective art. Along the way, we will contemplate experiences such as drones, meditation, deep listening, the films of Andrei Tarkovsky, and the wait at the Newhall DMV.
In addition to their more conventional rolls, musicians can (and do) move, dancers can (and do) make sound. From (at least) Fluxus onward this awareness has informed seminal works of experimental music and dance. We propose a pair of workshops (open to the institute) that address this (becoming) artist. The class will develop from a first workshop (presented by guest Abigail Levine) in body awareness and kinetic movement. In the second workshop we will work towards realizing compositions based on visual and sonic diagrams. We will rehearse some of these (loose) compositions. The final hour will culminate in a performance. Abigail Levine is a well-known New York-based choreographer and performer, who creates works that are rooted in dance and draw from visual and performance art. She is visiting professor at Wesleyan, but will be in town from January 23-25 (the last part of interim). But to expand on it, I have two ideas. We could do one more meeting (so W, Th, F) and have that one be a kind of historical introduction that I could do (Cunningham/Cage/Warhol, etc.) - and then she comes for the next two. _Or_ if there was a way to do say, a one hour _evening_ performance, I think Abigail would be up for that (so, say the two workshops on W + either Th or F, and then one of those evenings). Does either one of those sound good?
How has the digital era changed the soundscape? How has our listening and hearing changed, expanded and contracted with this shift? How has the production and consumption of music changed? How did the mp3 disorient and dismantle an industry? What new sounds have emerged in the digital age and what sounds have decreased or become obsolete? What ways have humans combined with technology to create new cyborgian ways of listening? How is music reflective of our current relationship to duration and attention? How does an immediate stream of unlimited music change how people listen to music? This lecture and seminar class will seek to explore these questions and more through lectures, discussions and readings on the themes of ‘Time, Technology and Music,’ ‘Issues of Authenticity and Ownership in Digital Audio’ and ‘Sonic Phenomena Unique to the Digital Age.’
This lecture and seminar class will take place over four classes. Each class will include a lecture and a short in-class reading followed by a group discussion with student presentations on the final class. Student work outside of the class will consist of readings and preparation for a final presentation. (.5 Credits)
Class 1: Time, Technology and Music
This class will begin by deconstructing digital media’s relation with time: comparing the discrete units of digital media to the continuity of analog media and the capacity for digital media to multiply and extend without expiration while analog media decays over time. Culturally, this class will look at ways that the internet, and its qualities of interconnectivity, instantaneity, multiplicity and acceleration, influence how we experience and understand time and how this is reflected in the production and consumption of music. Topics will include current issues in attention span, duration and presence, contemporary nostalgia in audio, ways that changing the bpm of songs has created entire new genres of music, the differences in streaming and listening and the present-day significance of live music’s capacity to shape collective experiences of time.
Class 2: Issues of Authenticity and Ownership in Digital Audio
Topics will include a brief history of the commodification of audio, the rise of the mp3, a critical look at streaming platforms, ways that DAWs and automation have influenced music production and the changing cultural standards of what is perceived as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ sound quality in recorded audio. Furthermore, this class will also discuss challenges in live performance with digital music production, issues with the digital ease of appropriation and sampling and ways that the internet has made electronic music culture both a more welcoming and more hostile environment for minority groups.
Class 3: Sonic Phenomena Unique to the Digital Age
This class will look at sonic phenomena in public and private spaces. In the public sphere, topics will include ultrasonic tracking, Adobe VoCo, the ubiquity of music in retail and public spaces and contemporary qualities of noise pollution. Within the private sphere, topics will include phantom ringtones, the sonic shift in communication from speaking to text and email, the culture of headphones and highly personalized soundscapes and sound design for digital interfaces.
Class 4: Student Presentations
Students will present a topic that could only have been produced under digital conditions or they feel is expressive of the digital era. This could be a technique of audio production, an artifact, a genre of music, a social / cultural phenomenon, an accident, a specific artist, a specific sound, an advertisement, an experience, a failure, the history of a sound, etc! Students will be encouraged to contextualize their topic with a critical approach, questioning the topic’s potential significance and larger implications.
This class examines the genesis of music for animation with reading, screening, listening, writing, and discussion. Topics include the transition from live music for silent film, techniques invented by composers such as Carl Stalling at Disney and Warner Brothers Studios, race/gender/class politics in Betty Boop and other animation, library music and the nature of copyright and authorship, and the relationship to music in early abstract animation by artists such as Oskar Fischinger or Hans Richter.
Students will be graded on their participation in class discussions, one essay, and one multiple choice exam.
Course materials include (but not limited to) excerpts from:
º Goldmark, Daniel, and Yuval Taylor. The Cartoon Music Book. A Cappella, 2002.
º Goldmark, Daniel. Tunes for Toons: Music and the Hollywood Cartoon. Univ. of California Press, 2007.
º Sound Unbound. MIT Press, 2008.
º Cox, Christoph, and Daniel Warner. Audio Culture Readings in Modern Music. Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.
º Hollander, David, et al. Unusual Sounds: the Hidden History of Library Music. Anthology Editions, 2018.
º Other books TBA related to copyright law and music in early experimental animation
º Screenings of related film/video such as work by artists mentioned above
º Audio recordings of related music
The maintenance and repair of Tabla.
As this aspect of being a student and performer of tabla is essential to know, and something not usually examined in the curriculum, Winter Session presents an ideal opportunity to spend the necessary time to learn this skill and do the required work (which should be noted IS labor intensive). Students can use this time to fix their own instruments or if they don't have, they can work on one of the school's instruments.
**Additionally, (upon prior approval) students can also use this time to bring in and work on other World Percussion instruments in need of repair. (Prior approval is required for this, in case of materials and tools that may be needed.)
Come and learn the art of Japanese ensemble drumming (taiko) from the co-founders of CalArts Hinotani Daiko, Wells Leng and Richard An. This is an intense class filled with lots of material, movement, history, songs and styles, covering both basic and advanced concepts. The class culminates in a final showcase where the students can show off what they've learned.
John Storie will present his class focusing on the details of planning and promoting a regional tour for any kind of musical ensemble. John will include information about booking clubs, concerts, school workshops, house concerts, and many other possible venues, and will focus on contracts, travel and accommodation plans, budgets, and other essential details for a successful tour.
Welcome to the dark side… of notation. What lurks in the shadows, exerting its spooky influence upon the music? In the first week of the course, the faculty will present and perform intriguing examples of historical and contemporary scores that engage with notation not only in terms of what is on the page but also what is not on the page. We will ask questions such as, what is specified? What is not specified but is assumed? What is left up to the performer? How, where and why does style emerge? How does this vary from composer to composer and from era to era? Then, in the second week of the class, students will present interpretations of scores or score excerpts. The music each person interprets will be tailored to their interests, spanning traditional repertoire, contemporary notation, text scores, graphic scores, etc. All instruments, methods of sound-making, and levels of ability welcome.
All professional voice users - singers, actors, announcers, teachers and others - depend on staying healthy for their livelihood. This seminar will explore the health of the voice from various perspectives - reaching optimal health conditions, maintaining good vocal habits, as well as understanding symptoms and how to distinguish between simple ailments, overuse and potentially more serious problems. An overview of the effects from a vast number of medications and remedies (vitamins, herbal, holistic, over the counter and prescription), and appliances that every singer should have in their arsenal will be discussed. The work will consist of four class sessions and a small research project. This course is open to all who have an interest in the health and well-being of their vocal instrument.
Schuetz composed these massive works in Dresden, published in 1619, after having returned from his first trip to Venice where he studied with Giovanni Gabrieli at St. Mark's Cathedral. The entire work is comprised of 26 settings of texts from the Book of Psalms, for multiple choirs of singers and players, arranged in a polychoric manner, inspired by the Venetian double and triple chorus models by Giovanni Gabrieli. The scoring is for eight and more voices and two groups of instrumentalists, so that in some pieces three and even four choirs can participate in polychoral settings.
The Charlie Haden/CalArts Artist in Residence for this year is MATT WILSON - this is a wonderful opportunity for our students and faculty to get to know Matt Wilson as a composer and improviser, and it is an honor to have him as this year's special guest. We'll play and discuss Matt's music and his compositional process as well as his approaches to improvisation. Matt will focus on several of his original compositions at each of the four meetings and we will distribute the music in advance to the students who register for the class.
This intensive will work on low brass specific skills based in traditional (and some non traditional) trombone ensemble repertoire. Students will meet for multiple rehearsals and the final rehearsal will be used as an informal concert. Music by Willian Byrd, Anton Bruckner, J.S. Bach, Adriana Holszky, and others will be explored.
Project is open to all types of trombone and tuba.
Uncanny Embodiments of the Self
A workshop on circuit bending toys, voice recorders, and instrument building. Aimed to explore identity, syncretism, creativity, and the interpretive capacities of voice embodiment. This space is directed to construct customized artefacts of aleatory sounds, which also contains the participants recorded voices to generate new works in the realms of sound art, improvised music, and installation using concepts of philosophy of Voice and Media as a conceptual frame of reference.
This course is facilitated by Voice Arts faculty Carmina Escobar, specialized in experimental voice, in collaboration with visiting Mexican visual/sound artist specialized in electronic media Juan José Rivas. http://www.juanjoserivas.info/
Juan José Rivas Visual/sound artist specialized in electronic media; he employs different techniques in order to make a speech from the translation, error, obstruction, and the interference inside artistic languages. He tries to define the impossible, to reveal the hidden, to articulate the unspeakable, and to evidence the truth as an instituted lie. These are some of the conceptual approaches he uses in his work. Juanjosé Rivas made a sound residence in Centre for Contemporary Creation Matadero in Madrid, Spain (2013); he was Fellow Program Development Cultural Projects and Joint Ventures 2013; beneficiary of the Board of Contemporary Art PAC 2012; He has twice received the grant from the Young Artists Program specializing in Multimedia, FONCA-CONACULTA 2005 and 2011. He was a member of the Council of Planning and Evaluation for the Festival of Electronic Arts and Video Transitio_MX 2010-2014. He currently teaches at the University CENTER, film, design, television and artistic director of the series of International concerts of Sound Art and Experimental Music VOLTA in Mexico City.
WRITING FOR BASSOONS
The bassoon is an unfamiliar instrument to many composers. Our goal is to change that.
We will cover standard bassoon techniques, range, timbre, what works and what does not. Plus we will cover in some detail the various contemporary techniques possible on the bassoon, and there are many.
Detailed explanations of each technique, how it is performed, how it sounds, and how to notate it, will be provided. Assignments for composers will be given. The teachers will review submitted assignments and offer feedback. The final class will offer performances of bassoon solo and duo works by the members of the class.
Brass players at CalArts love new music. In fact, we wish we got to play more of it. However, we understand the trepidation that can accompany writing for brass for the first (or second) time, especially at a school like CalArts where the musical possibilities are limitless. As such, I’m proud to introduce Writing for the Back Row, a course aimed at improving composer-performer relations and allowing composers to work on their brass chops in a comfortable, structured environment.
This course will draw on basic orchestrational techniques, but an explicit focus of ours will be creating experimental sound worlds for folks other than professionals at the top of their game. Composers will learn about working closely with individual performers and writing intentionally for these instruments at various ability levels. Ultimately, composing students will take with them increased brass writing abilities and a greater sense of professional courtesy when working with brass players, from clear, informed part writing to working with individual performers’ skill sets. They’ll also bring home a recording of their own work to study and use as they see fit. Brass-playing students will add nuance and insight to our discussions, explaining the intricacies of what works well or badly on their instruments, and will sight read composers' works at the end of the course.
The first two days of Writing for the Back Row will discuss the strengths and limitations of each of the instruments of the brass quintet: trumpet, horn, trombone, and tuba. Björn Gustafsson and the members of Phantom Brass, a student-run brass quartet at CalArts, have graciously committed to providing demonstrations of key concepts; each performer will spend about an hour with students to display techniques as we encounter them. Both traditional and extended techniques will be included in these discussions, as I hope to remind composers that it is possible to create diverse soundscapes at all skill levels and with ensembles of different skill sets.
The third day of the course will be entirely devoted to score presentation and part-writing; brass-specific topics discussed will include mute changes, amount of rests needed in chamber playing, and logistical concerns when writing for a reading session. Björn and the members of Phantom will likely weigh in on these issues and others to make students aware of part preferences for each instrument.
On the fourth and final day, composers will present works or excerpts of original music for brass quintet. These pieces will be up to two minutes in length. The five of us will record (using a field recorder or other portable device) our sight reading session and provide feedback to each composer. Our goal is to give each student a recording and useful critiques they can reference in their future pursuits when writing for brass.
Megan DeJarnett (MFA-2 Performer-Composer) will lead the course, with guest appearances by Darren Dvoracek, Evan Wendell, John Pisaro, And Björn Gustafsson (all CalArtians). Enrollment is open to anyone with a way to notate music and a desire to try their hand at writing for collegiate brass players. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns.
4 2-hour meetings, 0.5 credits
N.B.: Because the brass studio has offered their time to join this discussion, it would be best if the schedule for this class did not conflict with Matt Barbier’s course(s).