Arts & Culture / Mosaic / Music / May 25, 2011

Composing class hits high note

Music is not a passive listening experience for the five students enrolled in this term’s composition class (MUS 303). Rather, it is something they create themselves, from the notes up.

Led by Professor of Music Bruce Polay, sophomore Jake Hawrylak, juniors Chelsea Coventry and Zach Lawrence, senior Edward Davis and post-baccalaureate Pier Debes have spent the last term exploring different styles of composing music and putting together final pieces for a performance this Saturday.

“We talked about different approaches to writing music and looked at different composers,” Coventry said. “We put them together for our own way of writing music.”

The class looked at three different composers—Sergei Prokofiev, Bela Bartok and indeterminate composers—and examined their styles of composition, writing analytic papers in the process. While doing this, they were also composing on their own and would share their work with classmates every two weeks in order to receive feedback.

“It was kind of a mix of analysis and our own composition,” Coventry said.

Throughout the process, Coventry saw extensive changes in her style of composing.

“I’m maybe a little too structured—very measure by measure,” Coventry said. “Being in this class has maybe forced me to look at the overall piece … it’s really made my music evolve.”

Students in the class wrote pieces for a jazz combo, for saxophone and piano and for vocal ensembles. Coventry started out composing a piece for a string quartet but ended up writing a work for a cello choir. Coventry, who plays the cello herself, is looking forward to hearing the piece.

“It’s a little bit out there. It’s lots of kind of tense chords that go in ways you wouldn’t really expect,” said Coventry of her piece.

Coventry’s piece, along with works from each of the other composers, will be played at Saturday’s performance. Groups assisting in the performance include the Cherry Street Combo, the Knox Cello Choir and the Knox Chamber Singers.

The performance is Saturday (Reading Day) at 4 p.m. in Kresge Recital Hall.

Katy Sutcliffe

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