A composition making use of instrumental timbres
Here we explore extended playing techniques and the timbres that can be produced on various instruments. We learn how to reproduce these and then create a piece using these techniques. The result is an interesting and entertaining composition!
Goal and output
Exploring extended playing techniques and timbres on the students' own instruments and others' instruments, and using these as an element in a creative, improvisational process.
An improvised piece of music with a rich world of tonal colour.
Students need to bring their own instruments to class. Classroom instruments may also be used. If the group is large enough to form several groups of 3 to 8 students, then each sub-group must have its own room.
• Explore the concept of timbre, or tonal colour, and examine extended playing techniques by listening to contemporary pieces of music and by reading scores. Reference works may include: Penderecki: Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, or Saariaho: Noa Noa.
• Tell the students to ask their instrument teachers about extended playing techniques and how to produce them and to ask their teachers to instruct them how to perform them themselves.
• In structural awareness of music classes, students may demonstrate the timbres of their own instruments to the others by playing on their instruments themselves or using recordings.
• After the introductions, the students are to create a piece of music using a variety of timbres. The piece may be based on an image or a painting, a story or poem (whether an existing one or one made up on the spot), or any feeling or mood.
• Each section of the piece may be approached from a different angle: text, tonal colour, harmony, melody, rhythm, phrasing, counterpoint, mood, feeling.
• Extend the creating of the work over several lessons, 30 to 45 minutes at a time. Record the piece at the end of each lesson as a reference for next time.
• The recording is also useful for evaluating the timing and dramaturgy of the piece.
• You can guide the process by posing questions to the group to steer the creative process forward.
• The finished piece can be performed at a concert. It can also be recorded on audio and video, and the recording sent to students for watching at home.
Topics in the assignment
Detailed description of tools
Krzysztof Penderecki: Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima
Kaija Saariaho: Noa Noa
Students tend to be very receptive to instrumental timbres and find many of them to be good fun.
Many students have acquired a more positive outlook on contemporary music after playing their own instrument in unusual ways.
Instrument teachers have reported that some students have become more relaxed after exploring extended playing techniques.
Assignment suitable for further study