For the May edition of our Second Saturdays composition workshop, we chose not to write from a prompt. It can often feel risky or intimidating to face the prospect of creating “something from nothing” – where to begin? It was precisely for this reason that we wanted to experiment with this process. Hyperscore shines when composers lead with an open mind, and can help to lower the barriers of “the blank page”. Composers of all experience can learn to trust their musical intuition with the tools of Hyperscore.
Using Hyperscore, we simply began by choosing an instrument set -folk band – and putting down some notes into a percussion window. We added one percussion instrument at a time, reacting to what we were hearing when we played it back. What does this instrument sound like? Do we want fast or slow notes, on the beat or off the beat? Most importantly, how does it feel to listen to it, and do we want it to feel different? We ended up with a steady, dense rhythm that was heavy on syncopation and evoked a slow, erratic march:
Next, we moved on to add some melodies. We agreed to start by creating a bass line riff that could repeat throughout the piece, forming a solid, catchy underpinning. Going through several iterations and asking each other what we heard and what we imagined was essential for the composition process. The bass developed into a two-instrument section, with one bouncy, quick motif complementing a swaying legato figure. After listening to them all together in a Sketch window, we made some edits to the melody windows so they would stand out and complement each other better and landed on our final versions:
Adding all three motives into the Sketch window, we decided to use the Classical harmonic mode and to experiment with creating regions of tension and release with the Harmony Line. Fine tuning these sections meant plenty of listening back, making slight changes, and then listening again.
We had rhythm, a bass line and a basic harmonic structure – now a piece was really starting to develop! It was time to bring in more melody. We created two variants on one melodic theme – a lightweight twinkling dance on a music box, and a half-speed repetition of the same theme, lower and more dramatic, on guitar:
We also decided to add an additional, more stripped down version of our main rhythm theme to add some variety and interest throughout the composition.
Weaving together all the elements in the Sketch window, making edits and additions following our intuitions and desires, we landed with a piece that had an uneven yet regimented feel. For us it was evocative of animated clocks ticking in and out of time. It reminded one of our participants of the classic tune “My Grandfather’s Clock”, after which we named the composition.
Listen to the final composition below, and watch the recording of the the full workshop, including our process of brainstorming and editing:
Photo of clocks courtesy of Andrew Seaman via Unsplash