Compositional plan and refelction on “Classical Jazz”

For this assignment, I was asked to compose a piece, which should last for about three minutes and include the “Cyclic chord progression” at least four times. I was encouraged to work with a keyboard and other instruments I’ve used before, woodwinds and untuned percussion.

I was looking forward to be working with a piano, given that it is my main instrument. Initially, I decided to go for just the piano and the saxophone, but after I was about halfway through the piece, I added a drum kit as well, which is mainly just working in the background.

With the previous two Assignments, I struggled a bit, trying to find a start. Nevertheless, I also realised, that especially the piano often helped me to get over difficult passages, where I didn’t know how to continue a piece, or connect two parts of one. In order to find a good start for this last Assignment of the course, I therefore decided to improvise a short theme on the piano, which I then wrote down and continued to write electronically with Sibelius.

This first theme was only the first four bars of the piano-part, the following eight bars (bars 5-12)  I continued with Sibelius, creating a small “B-theme” within the first part of the piece. Those 12 bars I repeated in a varied way, using a seventh chord on the dominant E at the end, to fill my first cyclic chord progression.

As already mentioned, I was asked to make the piece last for around three minutes. Having set the pace in with I wanted the piece to be in, I tried to find out how much time, or how many bars I would need to fill this length. I did this by checking the duration of the first part I already had, which was around 50 seconds. My initial plan was,to write the piece in an A-B-A’ – form, having short passages between the parts, which would help to change the key signature. Having put the first part A at the end again (with a few extra seconds in case I would include a ritardando or a few extra bars), I had roughly 70 seconds for the centered “B” – part. Within the process of writing the piece though, I decided to make the passages between the parts a bit longer (about 20 seconds on each side of the middle part), which turned the form to “A-B-C-B’-A'” instead, and left me with 30 seconds to fill on the middle section.

I usually tend to go for key signatures, which have at least 1 flat or sharp, in this case though, given that I started on the piano, looking for the most uncomplicated way, I decided to stick with a-minor. In terms of the instruments, I only added the saxophone after having finished part A. I wasn’t quite sure initially, whether I would have liked something on top of the voice of the piano, but I was able to alternate those two voices most of the time. The drum-kit I only added really late, and only to be played in the background. The title of the piece “Classical Jazz”, came to my mind due to the middle-section being in a bit of a “Mozart-Stlye”, for this part I also paused the drum- kid, so that only the piano and the saxophone could be heard.

I also mentioned earlier, that the piece is supposed to have at least four rounds of a cyclic chord progressionI often interrupted cadences with the 6th chord, and also tried to find other ways to keep one section as long as possible in varied ways. Over the whole piece, I included the Cyclic chord  progression of I-IV-V-I (the perfect cadence) five times. The bars including them are the following :

  1.      Bars 22-25 (One chord per bar ) ,in a-minor

progr 1_0001


2. Bars 30 – 32 (Chords IV and V in one bar) ,in C-major

progr 2_0001


3. Bars 44-45 (chords  I-IV and V in one bar), in C-major

progr 3_0001


4. Bars 51-54 (one chord) per bar, in a-minor

progr 4_0001


5. Bars 83-87 (Chord V goes over two bars), in a-minor

progr 5_0001


Overall I really enjoyed writing this piece. I would generally say, that this was the assignment I had most fun writing so far.  I will try to keep the idea of starting compositions on the piano for the future, I thought that was incredibly helpful. There wasn’t a single bar where I had the feeling, that I didn’t know how to continue it. I also found it useful, to have time-wise quite a clearly structured base to start with.