Trio – Voice, Piano. Percussion

As part of the First year course we were set the brief to compose for one of two trios. The two options were either a pieces for viola, clarinet and piano or voice, piano and percussion. I chose to go for the second option as writing for percussion is not something I have done before therefore it would push me more out of my comfort zone.

An initial workshop took place in mid November where the performers came in and demonstrated all the different techniques that they could use. This was a really helpful starting point for me as I was unaware of how to compose for the different types of percussion before this. Each performer also told us the best way to notate music for them which was very beneficial as when it came to performing the music there was little confusion with what I wanted it to sound like.

Part of this set task was that our notation had to be perfect and highly detailed. To test this on the day of the concert all composers were not allows into the rehearsals. This was because the tutor wanted all of the work to be as detailed as possible so that the performers would not need to ask any questions. I found this to be quite difficult but it has been highly beneficial for me to be put in this situation as it meant that the quality level of my notation has increased significantly.

I started the process for this composition by researching the different stages of plan growth as nature has a big impact on my life. I chose to split my score into the separate eight stages (each is labelled in the score). I found that this helped me to create a set structure of the piece. As having a strong structure is something I often struggle with it was beneficial for me to plan this so thoroughly before starting to compose.

My next step was to decided how I wanted each part to represent the growth of a plant. I started this by working with the vocal line first, initially decided that I wanted them to physically show the growth of the plant by having them start on the floor as a ball and grow up as the piece developed. However after a second workshop to go through ideas with the performers I decided to change this to just being the vocalists hands showing the physical growth of a plant. I kept the vocal line the same throughout by having a gradual movement across the singers range to represent the outward visual growth of a plant. For example the growth of leaves or petals.

For the percussion I want it to be in shorter bursts to represent the quick growth of plants over night. We were given a large range of percussive instruments to choose from. I decided to work with the claves and woodblock because they both have a natural tone to them due to their material. This meant that I chose to have the percussion come in and out of sections in short passages.

The final stage for me was to compose for the piano part. I worked with the idea that the piano represented the constant growth of a plant. Therefore I used gradual changes in rhythm to show where most growth would take place in the plant. I think that this was very effective throughout the piece as it successfully gave the effect of gradual on-going development.

Catherine Mole · Growth