A woman's work: a music composition portfolio
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Music
The music composition portfolio consists of three major works and one song for female voices. Each is a self-contained work for different ensembles with individual form and extra-musical elements. When determining aspects of the structure and pitch organization, I used the circle and the idea of cycles in each work to unite the main body of compositions. Grab the Brass Ring is a single movement piece for orchestra. The instrumentation is for a standard orchestra comprising woodwind pairs with piccolo doubling, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, two percussionists and strings. The title relates to the practice of early twentieth-century carousel riders attempting to grab a ring out of the mouths of stationary animals in order to claim a free ride. The second work is a song cycle for a capella mixed choir, setting five poems by New Zealander Gary McCormick (b.1951) from his book Lost at Sea. The poems express a range of human experiences and emotions, in particular love, loss, grief, joy, pleasure and excitement. The cycle was composed with a choir of above average capability in mind. There is some division of parts throughout, mainly in the soprano and alto voices, and a short soprano solo passage in the second song Daughter. The third major work, a five-movement piano trio, Dedication to Hildegard, was composed as a musical timeline tracing Western music from the Middle Ages to the present day. It was composed in recognition of Hildegard von Bingen, widely regarded as the first female composer. (In fact, researchers have concluded there were other active composers, but Hildegard was the first woman to break with tradition and declare authorship). German born Hildegard (1098 - 1179) entered religious life at the age of eight. She was named prioress in 1136 and between 1148 and 1150 became abbess of an abbey she founded in Rupertsberg near Bingen on the Rhine, Germany. She composed plainchant using her own poems which were then sung as prayers by the nuns. I sketched a series of pieces, each one containing musical elements associated with a specific era, using Hildegard's name and a number system to devise some of the melodies and motifs in the work. Fede, Speranza, Amore (faith, hope, love) was written especially for Rosemary Turnbull and the Villa Maria College choir Con Brio. The setting is a three stanza poem by Italian writer Niccolò Tommaseo (1802 - 1874). The piece was written to celebrate the choir's planned trip to Rome in October 2006 and their success achieved in the 2006 National Secondary Schools' Choral Festival the Big Sing. I chose the text for its beautifully descriptive meaning of the three theological virtues faith, hope and love.