Arriving at Finchcocks with the late afternoon sun low in the sky, casting a warm glow on the sheep-scattered fields, puts in mind sweeping melodies and textures reminiscent of Elgar. What better place to find musical inspiration.
What did the weekend include?
This was the topic of our first composition session. Poetry, artwork, nature, people… there are many possible starting places, but somehow your intuition guides you to a focal point which sparks creation in that moment in time. It was exciting to see the variety of ideas produced by six people sitting around the Steinway on a Saturday morning.
From a homage to legendary Burt Bacharach to an exploration of rhythmic texture, to a cinematic soundtrack for the arrival of carriages up the Finchcocks driveway, we each chose our briefs for the weekend.
Nuts and Bolts
With his wealth of knowledge in music theory, David Hall guided us through harmonic structure, and demonstrated how simply writing down one note opens up a range of possibilities for where to go next.
Between group sessions we were able to set to, with manuscript paper and pencil to hand, find a piano and start experimenting. It was wonderful to have the luxury of time, away from day-to-day distractions, and see where your ear might take you.
One unanimous highlight of the weekend was learning about species counterpoint. It was surprisingly satisfying to be given a set of rules and figure out a solution to a musical puzzle. Playing through our different answers transported us back to the days of early music and the beginnings of composition. It was fascinating to see how the rules of counterpoint could be used systematically to develop our own compositions.
Towards the end of the course, we shared our final compositions with one another, discussing our processes and individual discoveries. See the videos below for some examples of end results!
What we learnt
We each came to Finchcocks with our own goals for the weekend and met different challenges. One participant was able to explore the use of complex piano techniques to develop the texture of their composition. Another wrote beautiful lyrics for a song and found a way to combine melody with harmonic structure in the style of Bacharach. Others experimented with rhythms, solving mathematical problems to create beautiful music.
As ever at Finchcocks, it was the sharing of ideas with like minded music-lovers which made this weekend so special. Personal growth in a supportive environment was the ultimate focus, and it led to wonderful music.