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A good lesson today, focusing on composition to begin with, followed by listening.

Start to think more carefully about which of this year’s composition tasks you are going to attempt. There is the opportunity for a local orchestra to perform your pieces, particularly if you are interested in the film task, A River’s Journey. It was good to hear some finished chord sequence, and I hope that from the quick demonstrations you can hear the potential for developing something quite simple into more interesting musical ideas. We then looked very briefly at Bruce Cole’s composition tips (he’s EDEXCEL’s chief examiner for composition), as he deals with the whole process from start to finish.

Having tried a chord sequence, the next step is to write a few bars (maybe up to 12/16) of two-part counterpoint. Click here to look at the brief example demonstrated in class, with a quick four-point guide on how to do it. You have to think both vertically and horizontally at the same time… That’s why it’s harder to do than a chord sequence.

We then listened to three more challenging pieces to place in terms of their historical context: Purcell’s Hear my Prayer, O Lord, full of complex eight-part counterpoint, and some quite challenging dissonance for 1683, Wagner’s Prelude from Tristan and Isolde, a piece which was so modern in 1859 when composed that from it sprang its own harmony – the ‘Tristan chord’ (I said that Stephen Fry was a Wagner nut!) and then the pseudo-Renaissance sounding (especially the opening) Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus, by the English composer, Vaughan Williams, written in 1939.

If you want to see a successful solution to last week’s chorale question, then click here, and this week’s harmony question is here.

Next week we will attempt our first 16 mark listening question on the Bach, but we’ll prepare before lunch and have a go after lunch. There’ll be more choral, and we’ll also talk about the Bach essays written this week.

Finally, if there are any problems with the homework, please get in touch. Have a good week!

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