Lots of duets

May 15, 2007


In their third quarter of music theory, my students have been working on their midterm. This time, instead of an exam, they were assigned to arrange or compose three duets (one had to have a transposing instrument). The combinations were: flute and oboe; clarinet and alto sax; trumpet and trombone (or euphonium); violin, viola, or cello (pick any two); and alto sax with jazz bass.

Today we went through half of the pieces today. I edited and made suggestions on all of the conductor’s scores (!) and went through those changes with the student in front of the two performers. I stationed the students who don’t have experience sitting in ensembles to sit behind the performers and watch them write-in the changes I suggest, and then watch them play the part. Most of the students conducted their own pieces–great practice as the players are their classmates and friends. The rest of the class sat behind composer/arranger/conductor/student and me and followed along with the score or just listened.

The feedback for this kind of exercise is invaluable. Instrumentation and orchestration is an important part of a core music education for young musicians. it should be included in music theory classes whenever possible. Out of the 26 students in this class, only 3 are composition majors/composers, so I was happy for all the others to be able to have this experience. I was also quite proud of the original compositions that these (mostly) courageous Freshmen composed.

[Painting: Picasso “Three Musicians” (1921)]


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