Attached below is my final Jazz Composition, created based on the chords of the renowned Stella by Starlight tune.
*Note that the composition is to be played in the swing rhythm (this is because the version of Finale that I have does not allow this when being played)
After completing the ternary composition, we transitioned into composing Jazz.Comparatively, I think this task was much more difficult to do than the previous one, probably because I’ve had more experience with classical style music than jazz? However, I believe that I did a fair job at this project, looking back at the two-week process. I will first address the points of the actual composition, then talk more about the process.
When composing this type of genre songs, true Jazz musicians will know the importance of the 7-3 resolution is. Before this unit, I’ve only ever heard about this concept but never actually understood it. Now, I understand that it’s a way of playing Jazz to highlight the changes of chords throughout the piece in between bars. In this piece, I would say that I demonstrated substantial use of guide tones. This is because I have followed all the mandatory guide tones provided in the task sheet, though I have not used this resolution in any other place. An example would be bars 1-2 and 2-3. In bar 1-2, I followed the instructions of ending the measure with D (7th of Emin7b5 chord) and starting bar 2 with C#(3rd of A7b9 chord). Yet for bar 2-3, because there were no guidelines, I chose the ending (F) and starting notes (Eb) of the corresponding bars which were not guide tones. Theoretically, this shouldn’t sound too good, as if I was just putting random notes without any reference to the chords. However, I think it is because the given guide tones were spread out in the piece, thus although the tune might sound off track at certain times, those guide tones brought the song back into track. Also, it might be because I’ve chosen to use chord tones most of the times in the song so there was a connection with the piano chords.
I had substantial use of digital patterns and chord tones throughout the piece. I wouldn’t say that I’ve used a lot of digital patterns. Though, I did keep chord tones in my mind when composing the piece, therefore I am confident in saying that my song does include mostly chord tones. For instance, in the first three bars, 5/7, 6/8 and 5/7 tones were chord tones respectively. I wasn’t paying a lot of attention in using digital patterns because I felt that the mood of my song was not suitable for them. When I tried incorporating digital patterns (1235, 1253 etc.) into the composition, it was very protruding than the other phrases of the piece. I’ve taken a little twist to this project as compared to jazz solos that are heard from famous musicians. It is seen that in this composition, there is a relatively low number of rests and the notes are constantly flowing and moving up and down the register, unlike the slow, swinging feel of other solos. The tempo of the song is set at a rather fast pace and the rhythms include all sorts of combinations. Therefore, I neglected the usage of digital patterns as I thought it would halt the feeling created in other sections of the piece. What I said above describes the digital patterns provided by the task sheet, I did generate a few arpeggios based on the chords like in bar 28 and 29, the first beat of measure 28 is four descending eighth notes (B♮, G, Ab, F) for G7b9 chord and measure 29 has the same rhythm with (Eb, C, Bb, Gb) chord Cdim7.
I think this composition has demonstrated excellent rhythmic interest. Firstly, there is a mixture of many different types of rhythm. Examples would be the repeating sets of a sixteenth, eighth, sixteenth and eighth note, the triplets, as well as sets of four eighth/sixteenth notes. I have included a wide range of rhythms in the composition, the most prominent being the two sixteenth and eighth notes, evident in bars 5, 22, 23, 25 and many more. I introduced this rhythm at the beginning of the song and reinforced it at the end by repeating it multiple times. Triplets were also used in this piece, most obvious in bar 21. The majority of the note values are eighth notes as I wanted this to be a fast-paced composition. I’ve included a small amount of syncopation which can be seen in bars 12, 20, 22, 23 etc. These were added to build on to the jazz feeling of the song due to the notes being played off the down beats. In bar 24, I marked “ad lib” on top of three sets of sixteenth notes. This was because I felt that jazz compositions should have components of improvisation so I composed this to allow the player to use his/her own interpretations of the song to deliver this phrase. I placed a decrescendo there to suggest that the dynamics should be similar to this in that bar, however it is up to the flutist who makes the ultimate decision. There isn’t a specific melody in the piece, but I guess that’s how jazz is suppose to work…? The notes range from the lowest to highest register on the flute and contain a variety of conjunct and disjunct notes. I think the overall tune of this piece is composed quite well because it doesn’t sound dull (like I thought it might be at the beginning) with many repeated notes.
Regarding the playability of the song, I think that this piece is absolutely playable with some practice. It may require a certain level of skill, however it is not too extreme. The highest note in the song is the high register D and the lowest note is the low register D. This song would probably require fast fingers as there are a few areas with sixteenth notes that are quite fast. Other than this, I believe that it shouldn’t be too hard to play. For the fast notes, I also added slurs so that the player doesn’t need to double tongue! 🙂 To facilitate the musician in conveying the song in a more particular style, I’ve indicated performance directions on the score. The piano part only has the dynamic markings “pp” as it only plays the chord so it doesn’t need to be played loudly, whereas the flute part has various articulation and dynamic markings. I didn’t include as many directions as in the ternary composition as I feel that jazz compositions should remain quite uniform throughout, therefore I mainly used slurs and at times staccato.
In this final version, I’ve made many improvements from my draft. Firstly, I’ve changed the rhythm of the first few bars from eighth and sixteenth notes to only eighth notes. In the draft, I did this because I wanted the composition to sound like it was played in a swinging style (since Finale is not capable of playing this), so I changed the value of the notes based on this. I believed doing so also made playing the piece much easier when sightreading! <– This suggestion was given by Mr. Otoole. Then, to address Mikayla’s comment of adding a more distinct melody, I took away the number of notes in each bar to make the melody of the flute less messy and more apparent. An example of this would be in bar 6 and bar 27. In response of Yubin’s comment, I added the performance directions such as dynamics and articulation to the piece for this final version. For commenter 084373, I made the rhythm of a sixteenth, eighth, sixteenth, eighth note more notable by adding slurs to it and dynamic changes to make its existence more outstanding.
I think the areas of improvement would definitely learning to incorporate more rests into the piece. I recognize the lack of rests in the composition which makes the song sound crowded/ not enough space to breath. Also, if we were going to do this project again, I would certainly consider using more longer valued notes. I would improve the current creation by trying to use more of the 7-3 resolution to make the piece flow even better.
Overall, I’ve learned a lot from this jazz unit. After all, this is probably only my second or third official experience with jazz music (the first time was at summer music camps). I can’t deny but admit that I am now comfortable in teaching others on the basic fundamentals of the genre of jazz, which I could not do prior to this project. I liked how we were given the chords and only required to compose the flute solo because if I was asked to design the chords too, I probably would not be able to complete the task. Throughout this activity, I was able to effectively use my PJ to make progress – I posted my composition on my iFolio and received feedbacks on improvements. Instead of approaching a peer in real life to ask them for comments on my creation, my blog acted as an online platform to record down constructive criticism on how to further develop. Through commenting on others’ blogs, I also saw the pros and cons of their composition and could apply it in my final version.