Part 1 - Project 2, Projects

Project 2 – Duets

Today I wrote “Bongos and Congas” a study, you guessed it, for Bongos and Congas. I wrote this study in 7/4 because I wanted to push beyond my comfort zone. I went with the ethic that if I have a longer bar I can have much longer and more complex phrasing. The only other piece I know in 7/4 is John Miles’ “Music” but I guess that says more about my lack of awareness of most other experimental/contemporary music.

As the study begins the congas accompany the bongos. They are only used to highlight the pitch changes in the bongo line. However, I then turned this around on the 5th beat of bar 2. This is where the conga then repeats the phrase highlighted in the bongo line written in beat 4 of bar 2 note for note. As the congas reach the end of the phrase I reduce the rhythm in the 4th beat of bar 3 as the congas return to accompany the bongos.

As we get to beat 7 of bar 3, the conga has returned to lead the study. This is where the original rhythm is inverted and then slightly altered as I introduce more semiquavers in beats 1 and 2 of bar 4. The bongos then accompany the congas with the same inverted version of the original rhythm, in beats 4-7 of bar 3.

In bar 5, I further develop the original rhythm by incorporating the further use of semi-quaver triplets (as seen in beats 2 and 3 of bar 5.) The conga then repeats the new rhythmic phrase in beat 3 of bar 5. Both lines then conclude the phrase with the same cadence in both bars 5 and 6.

When we get to bar 6 beat 2 we are back to the original rhythm, played by the conga. Once we get to beat 3, the bongos carry on playing the further developed inversion of the original rhythm. In bar 8 the further developed rhythm on the bongo line has finished by beat 2. It waits for the conga to finish its rhythm before they both conclude the study in unison.

Part 1 - Project 2, Projects

Project 2 – Duets


Today, I focused on my third small project for project 2. This study focuses on the idea of developing a rhythm one note at a time. I wrote the duet for cowbell and wood block because they have similar rhythmic capacities. This was ideal for what I wanted to do.

After hearing Derek Bourgeois serenade, I could not resist the idea of an 11/8 time signature. 11/8 helps to create a sense of catching the listener unaware. This can be used in many aspects of composition. For the sake of this project, however, I kept this as jokey and light hearted as possible. The reason that this can be used to catch a listener unaware that it can be used for an inconsistent grouping or sub-division of beats. In this study I have used 3 groupings of 3 quavers followed by a grouping of 2 quavers.

The cowbell initiates the composition with a simple but seemingly ambiguous rhythm. The listener does not yet know whether the grouping will be in a 2, 2, 2, 2, 3 pattern or a 3, 3, 3, 2 pattern. The rhythm is then echoed directly by the wooden block. Following this each instrument will take it in turns to develop the rhythm one note at a time.

By bar 3 we are aware of the pulse and the beat of the music, it’s clear that within it’s pulse are sub-divisions of the beat that are not quite symmetrical and consistent throughout the bar. This is how we know that the sub-divisions of the bar will work as 3, 3, 3, 2 grouping.

As each bar develops I gradually build the composition up to a phrase where each beat of the bar is filled and there is no daylight in the bar (no rests). I may find this a useful trick for building up interest as I develop and my compositions get more complex.

If I where to further develop the study , I would start experimenting with the sub-divisions of the bar, I would move the short beat (the beat worth 2 quavers) backwards or forwards until a full cycle had been completed. This is something I will experiment and develop later on in my study of composition. This could help me to expand a phrase or cut the phrase short.

Part 1 - Project 2, Projects

Project 2 – Duets

I wanted to experiment with working with the smallest and largest instruments in the percussion family. I had to analyse the actual functionality of these individual instruments to make the most out of their characters and utilise them to my advantage. As i chose to write for triangle and tam tam I have included in the next paragraph some of the characteristic traits of each of these contrasting  instruments.

The triangle is a rhythmically versatile instrument that can create various sounds depending on how it is used. In order to understand the different aspects of the triangle I listened to a composition from seven beats studio called “impalas shadow.” this piece of music demonstrates how versatile the triangle is. It illustrates how it can play more sophisticated and complex rhythmic figures and express some dynamics. It can also be used as a tool to highlight such aspects of rhythm as syncopation or it can highlight strong beats in the bar. Through choking the triangle you can play faster rhythms with better accuracy and clarity.

The tam-tam, on the other hand has limited rhythmic ability but a hugely proficient dynamic range. I used these strengths and weaknesses to counter-act each other in this jokey study.

In my study I have used various techniques such as call and response, choking and dynamic contrast to complete this project.

In the first two bars the triangle plays a rhythmic phrase. I punctuate the phrase with a crescendo on the tam tam. The following tam-tam part in the next bar is used to compliment the triangle as the triangle dies away. The tam-tam comes in on a weak beat (beat 2) this is so that it catches the listener by surprise. Following this I punctuated the next phrase, the same way as the first, finally drawing the phrase to an end with the tam tam.

Bars 5 and 8 add contrast to the piece. There are less notes, slower rhythms and much simpler techniques. I also subtly changed the way the instruments were used. The tam-tam finished the phrase in bar 5 but then it takes the lead, initiating what is, albeit a basic, call and response passage in bar 7. It then leads the crescendo in to the next section (bars 8-12.)

as the tam-tam crescendos in to bar 8 it starts the next section. The next section carries much more complex rhythms. As a result of this the triangle re-assumes the leading role. The tam tam is then used to highlight the off-beat rhythms where the triangle is choked until I invert the tam tam rhythm so it plays on the beats where the triangle is also ringing out. This then leads to a sombre ending to the study as the tam-tam dimminuendo leads to a very quiet and tranquil last note. The triangle, however, has the last word and carries the punch line of the study with the instruction “play at own leisure” as a fan of the triangle i use this study to describe the triangle as the smallest instrument with the biggest impact.

Part 1 - Project 2, Projects

Project 2 – duets

Today, I focused on writing a small study for two percussionists. These were for tenor and snare drum. I called it Rhythmic Mathematic. I wrote this study in 5/4 because I needed an odd number of beats to achieve what I wanted. Additionally when writing in 5/4 it means I can compose a more original phrasing that is slightly longer and possibly more complicated then any common time compositions.

The study starts with one rhythmic idea on one instrument (the snare). This phrase is then repeated on the third beat of bar 1. This sets in to motion my plan to cross – over the rhythms on the different lines. On the second beat of bar 2 I introduce the second rhythmic pattern on the snare part. The tenor drum repeats the first pattern on beat 4 of the second bar. It isn’t until bar 3 where the first cross over happens.

On beat 5 of the third bar the snare drum phase is completed by the  tenor drum that is starting its phrase (which is my second rhythmic figure composed in bar 2) the same happens on beat 2 of the fourth bar  as the tenor drum fills in the gap in the rhythm from the snare phrase. This also happens on beats 1 and 5 of the fifth bar it happens one final time on the 2nd beat of the last bar as the snare plays the 8th notes that is the start of the phrase for the tenor drum.

I accented the beats because I wanted to keep a strict 5 pulse as otherwise it would be difficult to hear there are 5 beats to a bar. The 3/5 bar helped me to shorten a phrase to bring the study to a final stop. It also allowed me to play both rhythms one final time.