Composer Quest Olympics: Challenge Number 1

In August, I decided to partake in the Composer Quest Olympics Challenge. For Awhile now, I have been listening to Charlie McCarron’s insightful podcast called Composer Quest, while I build printers as a way to educate myself while working a  day job .  Charlie sometimes releases challenges to his listeners to create projects that he calls Composer Quests. Until now, I had been too intimidated to submit anything . Sadly, he is wrapping up the podcast, but as a last hurrah (in addition to his World Tour), he has devised this multi challenge Composer Quest inspired by the Olympics and Bryan Schumann’s thing a week challenge. I  chose to push myself to partake in all of the challenges in part because it is the last one (and thus my last chance to try it in real time), because I am trying to break my introverted habits of finding every excuse to not share my music with strangers (and avert the anxiety that comes with it) and  as a chance to get to know/ collaborate with fellow composers (and again get over some anxiety that comes with talking to strangers).

The first challenge was to pick a national anthem and arrange it in any way you choose.

After hours of listening to find the right one for me, I settled on Nepal’s National Anthem,”Sayaun Thunga Phool Ka” (Made of Hundreds of Flowers).

It is one of the more recently composed National anthems and, according to my Fiance, it has a bit of a Pirate flair to the melody. I chose it in part because I liked the melody and because I find the country’s history intriguing.

The Instrumentation I chose is  Flute, Trombone and Piano. I wanted to make it playable by real people and to represent the diversity of people that live in Nepal by picking an instrument from each family.

Arranging this anthem inspired me to do  bit of research on Nepal, so here I will leave you with a link to this fun Infograpic with a few interesting facts about the country.

Also, Charlie has graciously organized all of the participant’s pieces into free downloadable albums. I encourage you to listen to all of the compositions created for this event (not jut mine). You can listen to and download the first album here.

My Latest Expirament

Thanks to my composition inquisitor (aka teacher), I have been working on a piece completely unlike any other I have attempted as of yet. Scott challenged me to  abandon my usual frame of having a story to compose  and instead  write what is called a Visual-Spacial notation piece. Basically the piece does not have bar lines to designate strict meter subdivisions. Instead, it leaves it up to the performers to designate where the musical figure is to fit within where the designated time specifies. It calls for ordered improvisation with a demand for the group to play as an ensemble.  So far, the piece looks like this:

(Click picture for a larger view)

Composing this piece has forced me to think more freely about musical lines and textures and to consider multiple possibilities for the building blocks of a work.  Along the way, my teacher has had me looking at various scores with non-traditional notation by Cage, Varese and others I may not have picked up otherwise and we have discussed them in our lesson. Many Cagian  ideas such as indeterminacy have made it into this piece as a result. For example, I got the idea for how to break up the time by rolling dice except for the 30 second section, where I anticipate the performer to successfully make a sandwich with the ingredients already set (mainly because I timed this myself at home).

Other than the fact that I am using kitchen percussion and adding the humorous element of a musician making a sandwich for no other reason than to add improvised non- traditional sounds, this piece lacks a preconceived story and instead has its own underlying framework. Although I anticipate that the piece will sound “wonkey” if and when it is performed, I have enjoyed trying to think within this loose structure.