Have you ever wished J.S. Bach had created a fugue to be played with Fantasia in C Major, BWV 570 for organ solo? I have and decided to create one. I hope you will enjoy my fugue in C Major which is based on the opening pedal motive of Fantasia in C Major. Recorded on Hauptwerk Obervellach sample set. Dedicated to Rien Schalkwijk.
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Welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast 531!
Today's guest is Michael Calabris who is a Northeast Ohio-based composer, organist, harpsichordist, and clavichordist. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Music degree from the University of Akron and his Master of Music (Composition) from Cleveland State University. In January 2017, Michael’s composition Kyrie Eleison (for SATB Choir) was premiered by the Cleveland Chamber Choir, directed by Dr. Scott MacPherson. His string trio, Aria, was premiered by members of Cleveland’s NO EXIT New Music Ensemble in March 2018. Michael is currently completing Master of Music Performance degrees in both Organ and Harpsichord at Cleveland State University, where his instructors include Todd Wilson (organ) and Joela Jones (Harpsichord).
During his time as a graduate student at Cleveland State University, Michael has been the recipient of several academic awards, including the Bain Murray Award for Excellence in Music Composition and the Leonard and Joan Terr Ronis Memorial Scholarship.
On the podcast we talk about the importance of finding your own voice as an organist composer.
Listen to the conversation
Michael Calabris on SoundCloud and Steem
By Vidas Pinkevicius (get free updates of new posts here)
Wondering how to promote your pieces for organ that you composed yourself?
This is a very difficult task for the unknown composer because let's face it, not too many organists' first thought in the morning is "I wonder, if I'll meet some unknown composer today, get some new music from him, and start to play his music and promote him."
But a good idea for the public performance would be to include a few of your best original pieces among works of classical organ repertoire. It would be like saying "by the way, if you like this kind of music, I think you'll enjoy my compositions too."
Then you may find that some organists who'll hear you play will actually ask for your scores.
[Thanks to Irineo]
Welcome to the Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast #4!
Listen to the conversation
Today's guest is the Dutch composer Jan Karman and he shares with us his insights about his project in writing organ fugues based on the melodies of the Genevan Psalter. Also in this show Jan reveals his compositional process of writing fugues and gives inspiration and advice to students who would also like to compose fugues.
Enjoy this inspiring conversation and share your comments below.
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www.ganuenta.com - Jan Karman's website
Fugues on Genevant Psalter
Jan Karman's other compositions
Can composing something on paper help you to be a better improviser? This question is like asking, can writing be helpful to public speaking?
Of course it can and it will. In fact writing, language, composition, and improvisation have more things in common than it might seem at first.
If we agree that improvisation is the process of composing a piece of music at the moment of performance, than it really is very similar to the art of language in that writing extensively will help a person organize his or her ideas better and be better equipped for speaking in public. I'm not suggesting that by writing alone a person will become a great public speaker. No, there are 4 total skills that are involved here: reading, listening, writing, and speaking.
But there is more to it: just like no person can become a great public speaker without much reading, listening, writing, and speaking, then the art of improvisation will encompass similar 4 activities: sight-reading and understanding the music of others, listening to and understanding the music of others, composing your own music in writing, and composing your own music at the moment of performance (improvising).
So where to start? All starting points are equally valid.
One of the easiest ones to understand is this: choose a key and a meter, and create a 4 measure melody (question) starting on one of the 3 notes of the tonic chord of that key (1st, 3rd, or 5th scale degrees) and ending on one of the 3 notes of the dominant chord (5th, 7th, or 2nd scale degrees (in minor - raised 7th scale degree).
You can use the rhythms that are suitable for this meter. Start the answer like a question but end on the tonic note. You can also add a second voice by supplying the suitable notes that work on each beat with the melody and use the notes of the tonic, dominant, or subdominant (4th, 6th, and 1st scale degree) chords.
Here's my example of this process and a video.
[HT to John]
If that's your recurring thought, you are trying to solve the wrong problem.
If your organ improvisations or compositions suffer from the lack of creativity, the solution isn't to figure out some way to invent a lot of musical ideas, figures or more textures. Those are the solutions, based on the notion that what you doing isn't sufficient, isn't interesting and isn't inventive.
The challenge with this approach is that it is very difficult to control it. You can get tons of new ideas, find hundreds of figures in the pieces of other masters but the question is what are you going to do with them? Soon you will get lost in all the wealth of musical material that comes your way.
No, the solution lies in using the musical ideas that you already know and building something interesting out of them. If you only know one chord, that's plenty to start with. Go play with this chord in any key, in any intervalic relationship to find out which solution sounds worth remembering and which one - not so much.
When you do that, when you improvise for 10 minutes just using this chord (regardless if some part of your brain screams at you to stop), then little by little you will discover new interesting ideas and musical elements that you can put in your "bag of tricks".
No, it won't be a perfect sonata or a set of variations that gets listed on the top 10 most important pieces ever written. But yes, you can drammatically solve the problem of "more creativity" by mastering musical elements that you already know and controling them in a creative way.
Everyone is creative. In fact, we are too creative. More important is deciding to use the creativity you already have and share it with others.
Here is what you have to think about when you want to create something for the organ (either in writing or in improvisation):
1. Melody: 72 modes with 7 notes out of 12 tetrachords (more if we count special modes with 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10 notes).
2. Meter: 15 most common meters.
3. Rhythm: at least 20 different rhythm combinations in each of the meter.
4. Harmony: three-note chords (4 versions and their inversions), four-note chords (7 versions and their inversions), five-note chords (11 versions and their inversions).
5. Registration: 4 stop families and their combinations.
6. Texture: 1 layer (5 choices - solo voice, intervals, three-note chords, four-note chords, and five-note chords), 2 layers (20 choices), 3 layers (16 choices).
7. Form: Period, Simple Binary, Simple Ternary, Compound Binary, Compound Ternary, Variations, Rondo, Sonata, Rondo-Sonata etc.
If we multiply the numbers in each of the category with the number of versions in them, we get over 3 billion (with a B!) choices to make (and I most certainly missed some of the other things, such as octave range or variety of stops in pitch level).
With such a huge variety of choices, a lot of people feel rather lost. What can you do then?
Don't worry about these infinite possibilities. Just pick one element from each of these categories that you are familiar with and create something today.
1. Melody: natural major scale from C.
2. Meter: 2/4.
3. Rhythm: one quarter-note and two eighth-notes.
4. Harmony: three-note 1st inversion major chords.
5. Registration: Principal 8'.
6. Texture: 1 layer - three-note chords (in the treble octave played by the right hand).
7. Form: Period - 8 measures total (2 sentences of 4 measures each - question/answer style - start and end on the C note).
When completed, this exercise might look something like this:
Now it's your turn. Try it for yourself (and enter into a fascinating world of musical composition or improvisation).
Imagine that you have written an organ piece of about 24 measures long. This usually is about one page of music. You can now easily expand your piece into a larger composition while following my simple tips.
One of the simplest ways to expand your organ composition is to add a contrasting middle section. By contrasting I mean it should be different in one of the several most important musical elements: thematic material, keys, rhythms, harmony, texture, and registration.
So you can choose a different theme for your second section, a different type of rhythm, contrasting keys or different kind of chords. You can also use less or more voices and you can use different stop combinations.
Let's call this middle episode section B. Remember your original piece will be named section A. So if you compose section B from scratch, then you will have two contrasting sections or episodes - sections A and B.
In order to make your composition complete you can repeat this section A at the end. The first section A then will be called an exposition and B will be called a recapitulation. In order to make the B section more complete you can design it in the same way as you have composed the exposition.
In other words, it can also have 24 measures. These 24 measures can be divided into three parts each of eight measures long. If you want your section B to be more interesting, you can change the meter.
In addition, you can also make your melodies much more different than in section A. For example, if in section A there were many leaps, then in section B the melody could be composed more in a stepwise manner. Similarly if in exposition your melodic material included more steps than leaps, then in this middle section you can do the opposite.
Try to apply my tips in your organ composition and create this section B with recapitulation at the end. This way you will have a nice ternary ABA form.
If you have written a short organ piece about one page long, you can easily expand it into much longer piece. The way to do this is quite simple and I would like to share with you some tips on how to do it.
Let‘s assume you have written a piece which has a simple ternary ABA form. ABA form means that there are two short musical ideas and the first idea is repeated at the end as a capitulation. If one idea is about eight measures long, then your entire piece might be 24 measures long.
If you want to expand it into a more substantial organ piece, you can do a simple trick which is to transpose your entire composition to a new key. Most likely this key will be closely related to the home key. One of the most common transpositions you see is in the dominant key which is built on the 5th scale degree. So you only have to transpose your ABA piece a perfect fifth higher.
Sometimes you will run into problems of voice range while transposing. If this is the case, I would recommend you can switch soprano and tenor parts with one another. If your piece has only three voices (for example, the right hand, the left hand and the pedal part), then you can switch the right hand with the left hand part.
As you can see, your entire second section might be just a transposition of your first section but in a different key. In order to complete the piece, you can add a recapitulation of your original piece in a home key. So in reality, this also will be a piece in a ternary ABA form but on larger scale.
Apply my tips with your existing shorter organ compositions and you will see how they work very well in expanding your organ pieces.
By the way, do you want to learn my special powerful techniques which help me to master any piece of organ music up to 10 times faster? If so, download my organ practice guide "How to Master Any Organ Composition".
Or if you want to develop unbeatable organ sight-reading skills, check out my groundbreaking "Organ Sight-Reading Master Course".
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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