For this week’s study I didn’t use any previously existing music as exemplar. Instead we sat down as a group and “performed” a couple of the most basic of John Stevens‘ Search and Reflect exercises, namely ‘1-2’ and ‘Sustain’.
Why? The object of this week’s compositional study was to write a piece of music using only one note and the source material simply doesn’t exist. These were the rules:
- A composition using only one note (one pitch).
- Multiple instances in any register.
- No drones or sustaining instruments.
- No drums or percussion.
- Mallets (vibes, marimba, xylophone, etc.).
- Acoustic guitar.
- Acoustic bass.
- Pizzicato strings.
Here’s my solution:
What is the point of this exercise, you may ask? Abbreviating, I think that:
- The sound of that note had better be pretty compelling.
- It becomes impossible to compose using any of the standard methods: 32-bar, 12-bar, verse-chorus-middle 8, canon, theme-and-variation, sonata form, serialism, additive, phase, modal, etc. Any attempt to fit a one-note composition into these pre-existing formulae or systems is doomed to failure because they all depend upon tonal movement.
- It highlights register, timbre, and rhythm as compositional tools.
- You need an idea.