Clusters as a starting point for composing and improvising
An introduction to the concept of clusters, using reference works. Then we create an original piece based on clusters or use clusters as a basis for improvisation.
Goal and output
Introducing the concept of a cluster and how it is notated.
A collective composition or improvisation consisting of clusters.
• Define the concept 'cluster'.
• Have the students sing or play clusters that you have written out (on their own instruments, classroom instruments and/or keyboards).
• Have the students work alone or in pairs to create clusters, notate them and then play and/or sing them together.
• Listen, while looking at the score, for instance to Penderecki's Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima and analyse the clusters used.
• When the analysis is completed, have the students work in pairs or small groups to create a graphic score for a collectively created composition that contains clusters. The students are then to perform the piece based on the score.
• When creating the graphic score, consider the properties of the clusters, for example:
- how wide is the cluster?
- in which register is the cluster?
- what is the tonal colour of the cluster? are there many colours involved?
- how do we move from one cluster to the next? (glissando, clean break, stepwise movement, one pitch at a time?)
- what is the dynamic?
- what happens within the cluster? (semitone or tone to neighbouring pitches; small leap upwards; small leap downwards; large leap upwards to a different register; large leap downwards to a different register?)
• Perform the piece and record it. The students may fine-tune it and make changes, and render the notation in the score more precise.
Topics in the assignment
Listen for example to Krzysztof Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima.
Assignment suitable for further study