Style Studies - Orch I
Composition: Ph. D.
Please note: Student feedback is only available for courses prior to Spring 2021
- Salty Crickets Composers Collective. 09/01/2015 - present. Position : Member.
- Union of Composers of the Republic of Moldova. 08/15/2000 - present. Position : Member.
While at University of Utah, I have had the chance to expand my teaching experience and improve its quality. I have taught private composition, composition seminar, aural skills, music theory, Graduate review of music theory, counterpoint, and instrumentation. I will be teaching special topics in music theory in Spring of 2013.
Here I am going to write precisely about my teaching philosophy for the composition seminar that I have been teaching for four years. The ideas and approach presented below are similar to ones that I have used, and possibly will use in the future when teaching other courses.
The Composition Seminar is dedicated to undergraduate composers, but I realize that not necessarily all of my students are going to pursue a career in composition. For most of these students, this may be their first, and perhaps only, music composition course that they will take during their education. With that in mind, I have three main objectives for their learning experience: 1) to facilitate an appreciation for the art and science of music composition, 2) to provide fundamental knowledge of compositional techniques and ways for their practical application, and 3) to enhance their understanding of today’s music world. The way I actualize these objectives is by allowing the various aspects of who I am professionally and personally to synthesize as I take an active role in my students’ learning. My students not only see in me the teacher, but also the counselor who is sensitive to the context within which they learn, the composer who is aware of the current developments in music and shares his oppinions, but most of all, they see a person who is simply passionate about what he is doing.
I believe that all students have the ability to create, and if one decides to take a composition class, then he/she often has preconceived notions about the field of composition. As a teacher and a researcher, it is important for me to discover and develop in my students their unique creative features that would potentially set them apart from other composers, but also to provide students with a well-informed view of the field of composition that is often initially misunderstood. Right from the beginning of the course, I explain to my students that in order to write music a deep understanding of other related subjects is necessary. In explaining certain compositional techniques or the style of particular composer, I am also touching the subjects of musical form, harmony, counterpoint, history, orchestration, etc. Unlike in any music theory courses, in the composition seminar I teach my students how to apply the knowledge of music theory directly to their compositions. Each semester, every student in composition seminar is required to write at least eight short compositions using techniques learned in class.
Because I believe in an evolutionary process of music development, I build my syllabus chronologically starting from Classical music era and ending with the most recent discoveries in music composition. By explaining certain music systems within a historical period, I also emphasize the stylistic differences between representative composers. For example, both Tchaikovsky and Grieg represent the same historical period, and their compositional techniques are similar, but there is a big stylistic difference between them when approaching harmony, melody, form, etc.
When explaining a new composition technique, I always show my students more than one example of its practical realization, taken from universal music heritage. Theoretical explanations, which include listening and questioning, are followed by practical composition at the board involving all students. The combination of theory and practice usually leads to a qualitative result, but some students need special attention, and I am always glad to meet with my students in private for further clarifications.
I believe that the best learning process is a collaborative one between students and the instructor. It is my expectation that students not only learn from me and from each other, but that I learn from them as well. The format of the class session is not always the same. Besides the explanation of new material, I often dedicate the entire lesson to students’ homework especially their newly written compositions. Students get a unique chance to hear each others’ music, appreciate it, and provide criticism. During the class, students often perform their compositions, and at the end of each semester we put together a concert, made exclusively from newly written compositions, and players from other music areas who regularly help their peers.
I encourage my students to take their learning beyond the classroom, and I challenge them to broaden their minds by enhancing their awareness of culture, diversity, and individual differences. I am convinced that a composer must be open to any kind of innovation, not only in music but in all other art forms, especially in the 21st century.
In the past three years of teaching, I have come to find that the three objectives I have set as an instructor of a composition seminar course are ultimately what I would set regardless of the course I teach. My ultimate goal as an instructor is to essentially create a rippling effect in the lives of my students. Not only do I want them to gain concrete knowledge in music composition, but more importantly, I want them to apply the knowledge they have gained from their participation in my course to their own creative lives as musicians.
This is a practical class, emphasizing the knowledge and skills necessary for transcription of music with the instrumental resources available among the students at the School of Music. It should be helpful for any musician needing to provide music for ensemble, especially for music teachers in the public schools. It also covers the standard instrumental combinations discussed in most instrumentation or orchestration manuals. This semester will cover chapters 1 through 14 of the text. Workbook assignments will be given periodically. Additional materials will be posted on UOnline Blackboard class page. Areas of study will include specific characteristics of woodwinds, brass, percussion (both un-pitched and pitched), keyboards, plucked strings, bowed strings, and vocal with an emphasis on the instruments played by the students in the class. The main focus of the class is the study of instrumentation, which deals with the techniques of writing music for a specific instrument, including the limitations of the instrument, playing techniques and idiomatic handling of the instrument. But besides instrumentation, there will be orchestration projects assigned mostly as duos, trios, quartets and quintets. These assignments should serve as an introduction to the study of Orchestration, and a preparatory tool for the Orchestration class. FINAL PROJECT: The final will be an orchestration for the bigger ensemble of students’ choice (not more than 10 performers), requiring a formal score and complete set of parts. It will be read through and recorded. The study of instrumentation and orchestration is a fascinating lifelong endeavor. I hope this class will assist in sparking your creative imagination. I know it will assist in giving you the tools to quickly and efficiently create musical transcriptions and arrangements, of easy to moderate difficulty, for the instrumental and human resources that each of you may have at hand, whatever your musical path may be.