Extra-musical Effects: What are they and how can we use them?

Recently, my friend and fellow composer Sakari invited me to guest teach her class “YouTH Can Compose.”

For the focus on the class, we talked about Extra-musical effects and discussed how they can make their way into our compositions.

So, what are extra musical effects? The Definition that we came up with together was “Anything that isn’t the music itself that can influence our compositional decisions.”.

Some examples might be:

Elements from nature like wind or the sound of flowing water

People

Memories

Sound effects- like those in Cartoons

Places

Colors

And even in some cases music.

In the class I had them listen to Of Wizards and Dragons and we listed and discussed extra musical influences in the piece. Wind- which one student mentioned before we started listening- found its way into the enchanted forest section and was illustrated by windchimes for example.

Another Student mentioned that thinking about their family when they write helps them create. That is another Extra Musical influence for sure!

Tying into this insightful comment, I talked about how Bernard, who used to teach African Drumming as a way to bring people together and was a great human being, was added into the piece when Fredonia wanted to premier it. I added a Djembe part that was not there before to honor him.

We also watch and listened to Blob’s Adventure, a film that I scored and I talked a bit about the process of receiving the film with no sound and having to draw on extra musical influences to score it.

The Students observed some of my tricks of “Mickey Mousing” – for example using dissonance on brass instruments to sound like car horns, and using the bass drum and melody direction to imitate what was happening onscreen. I also showed them the part with the bicycle and explained how the Queen Song Bicycle influenced my decision to use a rock drum beat and repeated scales.

We discovered how we can use timbre and various instruments and their abilities as a tool to illustrate what we envision sonically.

For their project, I read a short story (I Wish I Were A Butterfly) and they each picked a character to write a theme around.

Their pieces illustrated the way insects flew by having the melody hover or flutter, or echoed ( in the case of the Frog and the Cricket echoing his ugly thoughts). The colors of laughter or mud were illustrated cleverly through timbre as well. Some drew on the illustrations themselves to create their pieces.

Overall, this was a great experience sharing this technique with these aspiring composers and I hope reading this helped spark some new ideas for you.

So, fellow composers, what are some extra musical effects that you can think of and how have they found their way into your music?

I’M TEACHING AT A MUSIC SUMMER CAMP!!!!!

EDIT: Due to the recent events in Minneapolis and the importance of allowing the voices that need to be heard in this moment to have the full attention they need , we have decided to postpone the camp . These specific classes may still happen whether through the camp or by my own offering in the future. Please stay tuned for updates and thank you for your understanding.

Hello Fellow Music friends and Fans,

I am excited to announce that I will be teaching some courses for a Summer Music Camp offered by Maestoso Music Studio. The best news is, that it is online so YOU- and/ or, your students/ children, can participate in real time, without having to leave your front door. There are lots of other quality courses to choose from, but these happen to be the three that I am excited to teach.

Session 1- June 8th- 30th

THE COMPOSER IS ALIVE!

This will be a listening and discussion based course where I will expose the participants to music they may or may not have heard before by LIVING COMPOSERS, written within the last 30 years, give or take, in several genres spanning from wind band and orchestra to jazz, and video game music. The purpose of this course is to open up the ears of the participants, expand their minds to musical possibilities and show them that composers are indeed real people who are alive and creating as we speak. We will discuss the pieces, how to find new music, and the class will conclude with a creative project

This class may include a meet and greet with a living composer- who is not me by the way- but you’ll have to participate to find out!

Age Range- 8th Grade – Young adult (though adults are welcome too)

When-Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2-3

Session 2 July

PRACTICAL THEORY

I will be teaching a bare bones introduction to music theory suitable for those who are curious about the world of theory and how to use it. I will also be sprinkling in some examples and instruction of how to use theory to improve your sight reading ability and learn parts of that solo on your own.

Some knowledge of theory is recommended but is not necessary for this course.

Age range- 8th Grade- Adult

When-Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2-3

Session 3 August

COMPOSE FOR YOU!

This will be a course for those looking to get their feet wet in the world of music composition and arranging. One class will be spent introducing the free software MUSE SCORE – though if you prefer to use another Music Notation Software, that is ok too. At the end of the course, each student will have composed a short solo for their instrument and a duet.

Some theory knowledge is necessary for this course. Might I recommend taking my Practical Theory course?

Age Range- 8th Grade- Adult

When-Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2-3

If you are interested in signing up for this course or any of the other courses in the Creativity Club Music Camp please follow this link.

I Can’t wait to see you there!!