Posts Tagged ‘education’

Photo CC by Takuya Goro on Flickr

A self-help guide to becoming a composer

In the first part of this article, I talked about some of the problems with studying composition in academia, and I offered some alternative ways that composers might cultivate their craft more effectively (and probably less expensively too). Here, I’m providing a sort of Top 10 list of life lessons for composers. Realizing that you have no reason whatsoever to listen to my advice, I’m trying to couch this in terms of wisdom I have received from others or that I can back up somehow, with attribution when possible. This is by no means comprehensive, but these are definitely issues that I think every composer needs to internalize for themselves in one way or the other. (more…)

Photo CC by Takuya Goro on Flickr

The challenges of learning composition in academia

I’ve always said that I learned despite my education and not because of it, and after my master’s degree I decided to put my money where my mouth was and not pursue a PhD—much to my relief, the commissions and composing continued anyway. A few months ago I read a great article in Slate by William Pannapacker that really struck home for me. The basic premise was not that new: universities are making themselves irrelevant in the humanities, arts, and sciences. What was refreshing, however, was that this wasn’t an anti-intellectual rant, it was just an honest examination of what higher education as an institution is trying to do and how it thinks it should fit into society. So what if your goal is to be the best composer possible and to have your music heard by other people who are interested in similar types of music? Should you get a degree in composition? (more…)

Karl Friedrich Abel

I recently decided to try to encapsulate major lessons I learned from other composers’ music over the years into short one-liners. Sort of like the personality surveys that go around Facebook, but more about the musical personality of composers (perhaps my personality more than the people listed here). Anyway, this is what I came up with, in no particular order: (more…)

Photo CC by Nina Matthews on Flickr

Recently I discovered the amazingly addictive new website Quora, where people ask questions on certain themes. After a basic setup, I was instantly directed to a very intriguing question for me: Why do people study music theory? I argued that music theory helped performers make more informed interpretations. I also argued that composers were generally hindered by music theory, because it’s a retrospective discipline and composing is inherently forward-looking. Lots of people disagreed with me of course… Still, I’m going to advance the idea that if we want to create better composers (though I’m not sure we really do—the competition is already pretty fierce), we need to reduce the emphasis on music theory, increase the emphasis on general analysis skills and critical thinking, and make music history the cornerstone of musical education. (more…)

M.A. in Composition, University of California, San Diego
Composition study with Chinary Ung and Philippe Manoury.
B.Mus. in Composition, University of Toronto
(Additionally: Jazz Performance, 2002–2003)
Graduated with honours. Composition study with Chan Ka Nin, John Hawkins, and Alexander Rapoport; percussion study with Bob McLaren.
B.A. in Composition, University of Alberta
Composition study with Howard Bashaw; percussion study with Brian Jones. Transferred to the University of Toronto in 2002.
Music Diplomas in Composition and Jazz, Grant MacEwan College
Graduated with honours. Composition study with Gordon Nicholson; percussion study with Brian Thurgood.
May–Jun 2001
Composition and Folkloric Cuban Percussion Studies, Havana, Cuba
Composition: Guido López-Gavilán, Instituto Superior de Arte.
Batá drumming: Tony Urdaneto, Ballet Folklórico Nacional.
Rumba drumming: Raul González, Conjunto Clave y Guaguancó.