Composition forms vital part of education

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 March, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 March, 1993, 12:00am

IT is now commonly accepted that music composition should form part of a balanced musical education, and that children should be encouraged to express themselves freely by inventing their own music.

Many people think one should have a good grasp of theory and notation, or be able to play an instrument well, before setting out upon creative expression. While it is true such skills may increase the power of invention, they do require a relatively longperiod of training.

On the other hand, if we define music simply as organised sounds, then any student could be encouraged to exercise their creative ability to structure interesting sounds and musical ideas into a real composition, in the same way that one organises and expresses thoughts in words and sentences when writing an essay.

One may begin by making a collection of sounds of everyday life. For example, the bark of a dog, the wailing siren of a fire engine, or even a dripping tap.

Or find out all the different kinds of sounds you can get from empty bottles or flower-pots of various sizes depending on how they are struck.

Try recording the sounds in an order which you think might create an unusual effect, repeating or varying the duration of certain sounds, interspersing the sounds with silence, contrasting a dense, loud, sound with a thin one and so on.

Another way to compose is to stimulate the musical imagination by visual imagery or pictures. A composer does not always have to put down on paper every detail about how the music should be re-created.

He or she might compose the basic materials or create sound pictures and give a set of instructions to enable the performers to turn the graphic images into a piece of music. Subjects which may be explored and developed might include a typhoon, a journey, or a ghost story.

Keep your ears open, be sensitive to sounds, and use your imagination. You may turn out to be a very fine composer! Mr Law is Head of Composition of the School of Music at the APA