A NEW book by James MacMillan and Jennifer Martin titled Creative Composition for the Classroom is a particularly welcome development, as it hopes to demystify what composition is, how it works, and how it can be taught.
MacMillan is probably a household name for anyone high in the Catholic Church or simply passionate about classical music.
Martin is a creative powerhouse, deserving of many accolades for his diverse work across Scotland.
The couple have been friends and colleagues for a long time; However, their recent motivation is due to their joint direction of Cumnock Tryst, a music festival based in the home of the great Keir Hardie.
While many festivals suggest they are “a festival like no other”, this is certainly the case for Cumnock Tryst who has managed to celebrate local brass bands, connect with pit villages and farming communities, as well. than to commission and promote Ayrshire composers.
Although the concerts are the most public element, most of the locally made connections have been made through numerous outreach programs, many of which have focused on composition – making this new release an almost inevitable compilation of their expertise. , their knowledge and their enthusiasm for the subject.
The 11 chapters cover a wide variety and elements that a young composer (or young at heart) will need to consider.
Why compose? is a simple rationale for why composing is such a laudable endeavor.
Covering simple justifications like including composing in the curriculum, as well as more esoteric elements like how composing can be such a wonderful way to express feelings that can just be hard to describe.
He then asks teachers a simple question: How do you make the classroom appropriate? And why is this advantageous.
These concerns are answered short and simple, but the rest of the book goes into depth on how composition can fuel musical learning and how musical learning can nourish composition.
The second chapter shows how wild and different music can be – and this is one of the overall strengths of the book – no idiom is privileged, no style is privileged, all valued and have a way in which an aspiring composer or an enthusiastic student can explore.
The follow-up prompts and the consideration of the discussion are also very enlightening, as they do not favor ‘pure music’ or ’emotional music’ – both are taken into account – and a boost is given to l Importance of communicating if emotion / ideas are needed. to present to an audience.
Let’s create! is the largest and most insightful chapter, because it does not present the germ of the composition as a divine inspiration or a deep intellectual mathematical equation. On the contrary, he can just start by playing with musical ideas.
Developing ideas can be turned into a game of taking something simple as a basic rhythm and playing with it, exploring it and turning it into something elaborate or even original.
After a wonderful exploration of how rhythm alone can be explored and developed, pitch is introduced, then timbre, before finally thinking about how harmony and rhythm can communicate to give dialogue.
It explains the steps of what to take into account to get started – what are you writing about? Who is it for? Is it a fast creature? Etc.
So, if a composer wishes to write a piece about an important event, prompts such as “Was this a sad or a happy event?” Help the aspiring composer think about how he tries to make the music reflect his idea.
Diagrams and musical examples are really well thought out and go a long way in giving a young composer the tools to consider directing his ideas and later showing how those initial ideas can be developed into something more decorative and curious. .
It reminded me of the libretto from WMA Music in Post-War Britain where he describes music education as a process of building on the curiosity of the individual.
Finally, we have a how-to guide that demystifies composition and shows that it’s a business anyone can do if they have the time to give it a try.
While I am not writing this as a book review, but rather as a reflection of the book, I still cannot recommend it enough.
Hope teachers understand this, but also hope people who are curious what the composition might look like. It’s accessible and it breaks it down into wonderfully manageable steps.
Now that the hard part of trying to figure out how songwriting works has a good solution, we can go back to difficult struggles like getting the government to actually value an art form that benefits humanity.