Sunday, September 6, 2015

Rhetoric in the Real World: A Drumline Director Shares his process

Welcome to the 2nd edition of my Rhetoric in the Real World series.  This time I'm bringing to you a percussion advisor's take on writing music.  Read on to find out how he used the concepts of the rhetorical situation while composing. 

If you missed my first post you can check it out HERE.

Here are Tim Hampton's responses:

1.  What type of composition did you create?

[I] Wrote a cadence for a high school drumline.

2.  Audience:  Did you consider who your audience was?  Who was your audience?  How did that impact your choices?

The audience is spectators at a high school football game, especially the parents of the kids performing, their peers, and other kids in the marching band and the opposing marching band.

3.  Purpose:  When you began what was your purpose?  How did your purpose influence your choices when creating your work?

I had three main purposes:
1. Write a piece that sounded good, was fun to listen to, and grooved (i.e. was easy to march to).
2. Write a piece that was challenging to play and idiomatic, giving the students in the drumline a chance to hone their skills as drummers.
3. Write a piece that was developmentally appropriate for high school drummers, hard enough to be challenging but not so hard they would have too much trouble learning it.

4. What is the subject matter of your piece?  Does it take a stance on the subject?  If so what?  How did you portray that in your work?

The piece uses Brazilian rhythms that I am interested in as a musician. As a white American working with Brazilian rhythms outside of the originally intended orchestration, I felt it wouldn't be possible or particularly helpful to worry about authenticity. I just used elements I liked in conjunction with traditional rudimental marching percussion elements. It doesn't take a stance on anything, it's utilitarian.

5.  Strategy/Genre: What strategy did you use to compose this piece?  What genre do you consider it?  Why did you choose this strategy/genre instead of another?

I started with material traditional to another ensemble and adapted it for the ensemble I was using. I chose this strategy of writing because I write many cadences, and I like some place to start from instead of just writing wholly original material in the style of a cadence. I'm under time constraints, and this takes less time. I also think it ends up more interesting to listen to. I suppose the genre is a drumline cadence. I used this genre because it is the only one available for the ensemble I was writing for and the piece needed to be useful. I wasn't getting paid to stretch boundaries or be radical. Also, since it was to be used for education as well as performance, I thought the students needed to learn the traditional ways of playing first at this point in their development as musicians.

6.  Media/Design: What about the media/design of your piece?  What elements add to your work?

I used traditional media, a drumline of tonal bass drums, snare drums, tenor drums, and cymbals. I used no additional elements.

7.  What area do you start with when creating?  Audience? Purpose? Genre? etc.

I start with purpose-educate and entertain.

8.  In your field are there other words you'd use to describe these categories?  What are they?

There aren't really "genres" in marching band. The genre is innate to the ensemble. The music played can be inspired by any other style of music, but it is always in the context of marching band, with it's given instrumentation, musical structures, style, tempos, and time constraints.

My takeaways....

I think it is telling that in this professional position Tim has to focus on his purpose first.  I think that when you are creating for a job or a class you often need to start with purpose rather than just writing or composing what you feel like for fun. 

It's also important for students to see that sometimes they can choose genre, and sometimes the genre is already chosen for them because it is so innate to their situation.

I'm going to have to pop up to the high school some Friday night so I can hear this cadence in action!

If you'd like to be a part of this series let me know by emailing me at missfuller at gmail dot com!

Thanks for reading!

Thanks for reading! 

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