Form: The necklace and the State of the building

The analogy of the necklace

Until this moment you have been working vertically to understand voicing and instrumentation. Now it is time to learn about sound in time and work horizontally. Until now I used ‘Forms of story-telling structures to write music‘ over time, but that ended up in chaos. So I made up the following analogy to explain myself how I end up in this creative chaos all the time:

The analogy of the necklace helps me understand my problem and makes me understand why the structure used by Stephen Melillo works so much better when designing an understandable piece of music.

Three necklaces representing different composing styles.

My work in time has this problem of sounding like a hallway with a lot of doors that open and close one by one. Behind each door is a nice scene, but you never really get it, because the door is closed too fast and the next one is opening already. This give my listeners the feeling that they are listening to a conversation where everybody is interrupting each other with a different topic or a comedian who’s timing is too fast for the jokes to land naturally. This gives listeners the feeling to be continually overwhelmed by new information and to be too stupid to understand the music. A feeling of hurrying along is also there. This is why I invented the analogy of the necklace:

My work sounds like a necklace made by a small child: all the pearls are beautiful and shining and colorfull. But they are put together without any order or structure, so they wind up as a chaotic ugly necklace.

  • When you make a necklace and use all kinds of beautiful pearls, differing in size and color, the necklace in the end will be ugly.
  • When you choose the same pearls in different sizes, the necklace will look better. So if you write short different parts for the same choir, you might get away with abrupt changes of theme. (hear Willem de Zwijger).
  • When you choose the same size of pearls, but they have different colors, the necklace looks better. If you repeat the same theme with different choirs, you keep a sense of unity. On the other hand: If you do not develop a theme but repeat it over and over, the only thing you can do to make up for that is changing choirs and keep adding percussion to built tension.
  • When you choose pearls with the same color and size, you end up with a nice necklace, the pearls are beautiful but it is not art, it is pure craftmenship. There is no story, no discussion of a topic, no comedian at work. You can only wear this necklace on a dress with crazy prints. Compare this monotonous necklace with repetitive filmmusic that is impressing because of the quality of the percussion sound samples. It is only interesting to listen to because you are watching superman-action-fires.
Stephen Melillo wondering what I will be doing ….

State of the building

Stephen Melillo has a unique way of explaining how you can achieve more unity in your piece by using patterns of numbers. Any numbers will do. He uses just 3 notes, a small rhythm and a way to structure time through bar numbers using the Fibonacci series.

Let’s first understand the Fibonacci series:

Fibonacci series and the pineapple where Sponge Bob lives.

When we lay out the score of Stephen Melillo’s composition ‘David’ over a long paper trail we see the map of his music in time. I added colors for choirs, papers for themes, so we could see the music and find the moments where Fibonacci numbers influence the composition.

Explaining Thomas how I want to improve my work (in German).
Me, explaining my analysing fibonaci numbers goals ( in English)
  • This structure is based upon fibonaci numbers. Study this structure as explained by Stephen and the video’s you made. Analyse and conduct the pieces based upon this idea.
  • You can use the fibonaci numbers (or any numbercombination) directly as bar-numbers.
  • There are some additional numbers in Stephens work: holy numbers like 34, 40.
  • When using fybonaci numbers you can first design AA’BA and then alter the duration of the time spans by using the fybonaci numbers. There will be a content that is related and also a variation to overcome boredom. You can do this over and over again, placing phrases in new fibonaci numbercombinations.
  • Look for differences when compared with your own work (new thought through work and the old intuitive work).
  • Compare works from teachers with Stephen work, so you understand why there is a difference in quality. When you see it, you will not have to make that mistake yourself.
  • I found is that the structure I made up by making the harmonic rythm 2 times faster and slower gives people the feeling of confined, less creative music. You can see this really well when you add colors to the start of the theme of Thaleia. This does apparently not count as ‘something new and exiting’, it gives a feeling of confined creativity and boredom.
Me, explaning to myself how to analyse and compare my work with that of Stephen Melillo (in Dutch)
  • Writing for brass-band is an exercise in form: the piece must be really good in itself. There is no escape with choir changes to avoid boredom.
  • Writing for tuba/euphonium quartet is also an option to only work on stucture and contrast without the distraction of different choirs. It will be easier to get the piece played.
  • You can use 1 instrument that plays along to flip to another choir or part abruptly when you want this to happen. But only do this as a ‘purposeful’ and not as an ‘accident’.

Building a climax that feels as homecoming

Remember that a true climax comes from working backwards from the main idea put in the centre or at the end of the piece. A climax is a release from stress: a dissonance altering to a consonance. A climax can be piano, even a silence. The most important note can be a silence (Beethoven 5).

Me explaining myself how to set up a climax and reminding me of other insights.

A climax is often accompanied with percussion and a crescendo. This is where the conductor makes the difference in setting that up. This makes the conductor a bit of a composer too.

Developing an idea in theory:

  • Make a sequence
  • repeat
  • augment
  • diminution
  • rythm changes
  • mirror
  • inverse

This is an exercise, this is not composing. As a composer, you better sing to develop you idea.

By Anneloes Wolters


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