While Christopher Coppola visited the University of Redlands a few weeks back, one of the things that he mentioned in the PAH FEST kickoff was that he pushes his film students to have a very clear vision of what they want their projects to look like before they even start filming. As he talked to his students and us via Skype, I gained insight into how creatives often go through very similar challenges of creating a clear vision for their work whether or not there are numerous guidelines involved from the outset.
Currently, I am working on a piece for saxophone and string quartet, which has been commissioned by a friend of mine. One of the difficult parts of writing this piece other than challenges in orchestrating with saxophone is conceptualizing the dynamics of the ensemble. I don’t want it to appear to be a miniaturized concerto since the sax stands out so naturally; however, I do want the sax to be a feature within a chamber music setting. Since I am writing the piece in a relatively short amount of time, I not only need to produce music quickly but purposefully–I need to have a clear idea of how it develops, how it is paced, what timbres I want to use, and how it will sound in the setting it will be premiered in, to name a few.
There are a few strategies I have to achieve this:
- Describe the piece in words, as well as the character of the instruments.
- Describe and sketch climactic points in the piece.
- Identify motivic material and plot out the development of it.
- Describe and plot the development of timbre.
- Plot out the use of register and tessitura.
- Sketch out the harmonic palettes of various sections of the piece (particularly the ones focused on harmony more than counterpoint).
- Describe the texture in words and how it will evolve throughout the piece.
How do you develop a clear vision of your artwork in it’s beginning stages?