Finding a Clear Vision

Scoring "Candy"
Scoring music for “Candy,” a film from PAH FEST: Alma Mater 2013.


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?

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