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 Post subject: Problems with recalling improvisations
PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 1:43 am 
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Joined: Sun Oct 28, 2007 11:43 pm
Posts: 281
I have a problem with composition:

Often, I find myself improvising something and recording it. Then, when I listen to it, I say to myself, "If only I could clean that up a bit, and write it down!"

Unfortunatly, that never happens. That's why so far, I only have a few pieces that I actually "composed", eg. pieces that I have a set score to.

Does anybody have any suggestions on how I could be able to recall something after I've played it?

I've provided an example of an improvisation: Which I did a few days ago around midnight for a friend, because she was bored and so was I.

Please note: I am looking to take something like this and drastically clean it up. I entertain no notions of this being a near-complete piece.

_________________
"This is death! This is death as this emanation of the female which leads to unification ... death and love ... this is the abyss." This is not music", said [Sabaneev] to him, "this is something else..." - "This is the Mysterium," he said softly.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 2:59 am 
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Music theory goes an awfully long way to providing a framework. If you can reduce something to its lowest common denominator, harmonically that is, there will be far less to memorize than if you approach it from this highly detailed state.

You must move from the harmonically general to the melodically specific. Vice versa is impossible, or at least extraordinarily impractical. Memorizing an improv would fall into this untenable category. Of course, you might not wish an attempt at completely reproducing an improv via pen and paper. That sort of melodic spontaneity can go away post haste if you overwork a piece.

Anyway, it definitely has potential, given proper focus.

Pete


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 Post subject: Re: Problems with recalling improvisations
PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 4:15 pm 
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Joined: Sun Nov 19, 2006 7:29 am
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Location: Bloomington, IN
I've had the same problem for well over a decade and have finally managed to improve the situation by writing something down that actually sounded the way I heard it in my head (see neighboring thread, "my first composition"). I don't totally know why it worked this time, but I'll tell you as much as I can about how I did it, and maybe that'll help.

In the past, and also recently, when I got an idea in my head I would sit down and play it out. If I had my wits sufficiently about me, I'd record it too -- at least the guts of it, so I wouldn't forget it, but usually a whole improvisation. Sometimes I'd go back later and write down precise minute-second marks where something particularly interesting happened, the idea being that when I someday actually composed something, I'd have a catalog of ideas at the ready. Of course, I didn't use it this time. This time, a couple ideas occurred to me -- as always, I have no idea where they came from -- and while I didn't immediately love them, experimenting showed that a lot could be done with them, and that was enough for me.

Once I decided to start on the piece, I carried around staff paper with me at all times. Most of the time I was thinking about the thematic material in an instrumental vacuum, doing pure reasoning about counterpoint and such without regard for who or how. Here and there inspiration would strike and I'd jot down a phrase or a few measures, as with recording improvisations, simply to make sure I didn't lose the idea forever. Eventually I had a bunch of scraps and a looming deadline, so I allowed the piano back into the equation -- but only partly. I would play what I had on paper so far, imagine what I would want to hear next, and improvise a few measures in that direction, usually uselessly, but after several tries something good enough would come out. Then I would play it a few more times to get it loaded into memory and get the heck away from that seductive instrument (otherwise I'd never stop improvising :-)) and sit at my desk to write it down. Then back to the piano to gradually feel my way forward, back to the desk to transcribe it, lather, rinse, repeat. (Actually, there wasn't a lot of showering near the deadline. :-p)

Improvising is relatively unconstrained. While composing, I kept in mind at all times my two themes, and tried to have at least one of them be expressed in every little improvisation. As a result, even though the piece is essentially a premeditated improvisation with stunted sonata-allegro aspirations, it gains some degree of coherence due to the eternally present thematic material. No matter what's going on, it's always related to something you've heard before.

I'm finding that there's a difference in the way I think about improvising depending on whether it's to blow off some steam or to add up to something more permanent. With the former, I don't want to pay too much attention to what I'm doing or why, and I don't want to stop for any reason; with the latter, there's no such thing as too much self-awareness, and I must constantly work to keep my freewheeling pianistic impulses under partial control. The former is more immediately satisfying, the latter more permanently so.

How well do you hear yourself during improvising? after? How are you on functional harmony? Like Pete said, that's a good mental shorthand, if you can hear yourself that way.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 8:43 pm 
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Thanks for the advice!

When I improvise, I can hear myself pretty well. Although, I will often start with something very short in my head, that has standard melodic and harmonic patterns to it, and then I just go from there. Often, my harmonies become very unconventional and complex, and my melody tends to dissappear into the overall blend. I do occasionally get some stuff remembered though...

For example, the first and third movements of my 1st piano sonata (An allegro in F Minor, and a funeral march in C Minor) are both pieces that I improvised, and have somehow been able to recall most of the original improvisation. Since then, I have merely touched up on them. The second movement, does have a general structure and pattern to it, but it is still improvised, nothing definate set in my head.

And then comes the issue of writing it down. I can't do it very well. I just find it very difficult to write my compositions down, and I don't know why. Although, I read somewhere that Chopin also found it difficult to write his music down, so maybe it's a common thing.

_________________
"This is death! This is death as this emanation of the female which leads to unification ... death and love ... this is the abyss." This is not music", said [Sabaneev] to him, "this is something else..." - "This is the Mysterium," he said softly.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 9:20 pm 
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Have you ever taken a college course in music theory and aural-skills/sight-singing?

If not, I highly recommend it! The info gleaned from it is infinitely useful. Spend a couple years doing some hardcore studies and you will emerge an entirely different animal. Of course comp classes would also be of great value, but if you're not a music major, I'd go for theory/aural-skills first.

These courses are heavy in ear training and part-writing, harmony. I could go on and on. Needless to say, writing skills benefit hugely from such training.

Let me know what you think.
Pete


(Change subject, OT)
Fidel Castro out of power, I just heard on the news. The end of an era... :shock:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 10:02 pm 
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Joined: Sun Oct 28, 2007 11:43 pm
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Unfortunatly, I'm not in college yet.

I do know how to sight read, years in chorus have taught me that, and I do have perfect pitch, etc.

I also learned basic musical theory from my piano teacher. However, sometimes I just don't feel like following those ideas. New harmonic ideas are something that I enjoy immensly. However, I tend to stop around the music of Schoenberg, as his music becomes more mathmatical, and loses all musical quality. (Although I adore the later atonal works of Scriabin!)

When I go to college, I do plan on majoring in the arts, but I just don't know in what.

Acting, singing, piano, composing, etc. all appeal to me. And I'm even not bad at a few of them...

I can't wait to take big college courses on this material. Until then, I suppose I have to content myself with my mediocre piano compositional output.

P.S. Castro's out of power??? Would I be correct in assuming that his brother Raul took over?

_________________
"This is death! This is death as this emanation of the female which leads to unification ... death and love ... this is the abyss." This is not music", said [Sabaneev] to him, "this is something else..." - "This is the Mysterium," he said softly.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 10:39 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jul 13, 2006 12:34 pm
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demonic_advent wrote:
Unfortunatly, I'm not in college yet.

I do know how to sight read, years in chorus have taught me that, and I do have perfect pitch, etc.

I also learned basic musical theory from my piano teacher. However, sometimes I just don't feel like following those ideas. New harmonic ideas are something that I enjoy immensly. However, I tend to stop around the music of Schoenberg, as his music becomes more mathmatical, and loses all musical quality. (Although I adore the later atonal works of Scriabin!)

When I go to college, I do plan on majoring in the arts, but I just don't know in what.

Acting, singing, piano, composing, etc. all appeal to me. And I'm even not bad at a few of them...

I can't wait to take big college courses on this material. Until then, I suppose I have to content myself with my mediocre piano compositional output.

P.S. Castro's out of power??? Would I be correct in assuming that his brother Raul took over?


Time is on your side! If I could make one more suggestion, as soon as you know what music textbooks you'll be using, buy them and read them casually. When the real course starts, the ice will be broken and stress will be eased a whole lot.

Good luck in all your artistic pursuits.

Pete

PS: I only heard a blurb about Castro, time will tell...


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