Music Technology and Music Composition for HSC – notation issues.

Not my usual type of blog post, but I thought this is important to share. 

Music at the HSC level can allow for students to select composition as an elective choice for both Music 1, 2 and extension courses. In Music 2 it is compulsory.

Composition is not easy and takes many months to finalise. Students agonise over composition probably more so than performance. Composition can vary greatly in styles and techniques. The use of notation and recording software enable many to composer like never before. The sounds are instant and the notation readily available for further editing.

HSC Composition

It is of interest to me how students can make use of contemporary composition and how they will go about notation of the composition. For Music 2 the requirement is a composition which fits the topic of ‘Music of the Last 25 years”. Music 1 requirements are so long as the composition fits into a topic form a list of choices. Very broad requirements but the devil is in the detail. Whatever is heard in the guide recording must be notated in the score. So this presents a conundrum of sorts for students who utilise technology and effects inside of software for their composition. I’m not referring to basic effects like compression and reverb (unless reverb used in a way such that it forms an integral part of the composition). Effects like filter sweeps and stutter. 

Logic Pro X

For example, the new version of Logic Pro X (10.5) had some major updates which allows music makers to write great compositions using electronic sounds. Some of the features are very contemporary. The issues is how to go about notation of these effects available to students who use Logic or other composition software. For example, Logic now has a Remix FX feature which allows for graphical input (touchpad) of things such as filter sweeps and effects like stutter, delay, reverse, DJ slow downs.

Listen to these examples. These are very modern techniques often found the int he “Future” category of music such as Future Bass.

Logic Pro X Remix FX plugin demonstration.

How are these effects then notated? I find this the sticking point for students. The composition sounds great but the notational aspects are daunting. We have to dig into the realm of creating a notation system of graphic to represent these sounds. For HSC composition, style and detail in the score is important. Everything heard in the composition needs to be notated.

Notation Issues?

However, in real life, remixes, techno music all modern genres of this ilk are generally not notated. They are just ‘realised’ as audio and streamed via whatever platform is bailable to them. These are no less of a composition. Think of Martin Garrix or Avvici. No notation there but great sounding music. Do they need a score to validate their music? If a student composes something along similar lines, but then needs to notate the effects or techniques, this becomes a mammoth task. 

I think the point of all this is that music technology is a great enabler for students to explore their creative ideas and realise a composition very quickly. Perhaps the difficulty is the HSC examination requirement of a score to validate the work. A portfolio is required for assessment and this forms a great part of the exploration and gathering of ideas. It could well serve as a major validation tool for composition where notation simply doesn’t exist.

I don’t know the answer to this, but it has defiantly made me think hard of recent years about how to notate these types of effects. I will endeavour to further explore notational ideas and research on music notation to assess whether there are ways to do this. 

Modern Art Music

Modern “art music” composers often devised their own systems of notation for ideas outside the realm of pitch, clefs and duration. Think Stockhausen, Penderecki and the like. Software like Sibelius allows composers to create notation symbols where none exist. I’m wondering if there is a particular school of thought or guidelines for the creation of notation and graphics for technology effects in music.

When I found out more, I will make further blog posts.

© Iteachpiano 2020

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