My Composition Story
PART 2 : Germany
I was lying in my room in Kassel having lost my job and having bought a manuscript book I wrote this song Doubts about losing everything including my father. It's rather like an early verison of an Ed Sheeren song. If forget which. This was Op.5:
So that was written about 6 months before I entered music college at HfM Köln Standort Wuppertal (Cologne Music Conservatoire Wuppertal Campus) where my theory teacher was Professor Petra Obenaus who learned her trade in America at New England Conservatoire also present was my my music history and musicology teacher the former head of the Wuppertal Campus Professor Dr Lutz-Werner Hesse who was and is himself a prominent 20th Century composer. I passed all my theory and musicology papers for my countertenor degree there, all six of them with language of instruction German. What I learned from Obenaus was a simpler way of doing things with more structure than Andrew had provided me with at A Level. She taught me the history of how harmony had developed form day one with Hesse providing background for it in history class. We started with the ancient Greeks and Romans and what we think their music was like based on the echos in Byzantine and Eastern European Church Music. Form Octotonic to the first diatonic music the church modes. The history of plainsong and then advanced modulating plainsong in the work of Hildegard von Bingen and then the first multi part music of all time at Notre Dame Cathedral in the 13th century by the Monk Perotin within a generation this Notre Dame school had produced the first full setting of the mass by Guillhome de Marchaut. It's totally uninfluenced and wild to the modern ear as no harmonic rules existed. it does have an inherent and hypnotic beauty if you listen to it enough but it's very tough you have to really want to listen to it.
We covered the history of how the perfect cadence developed over 150 years. through Monteverdi and advanced diatonic and the emancipation fo the dissonance.
A lot of the German American rules for harmony are simpler and more effective for identifying good progressions for example the classic resolution of an augmented sixth chord is that the sharps go up and the flats down. This applies to most situations and comes from noticing these things in playing and singing in practical music.
My Theory Papers and Results
Language of instruction German. 6 theory term papers and 1 second study piano exam.
Renaissance 2 Part-Counterpoint Overall Grade 2.0
We examined counterpoint of the Renaissance using the standard rules and applied them to simple Early Germanic folk tunes such as Innsbrück ich muss dich lassen. It is the most beautiful folk song of the renaissance in my opinion. the ornamentation on the last phrase is just exquisite word painting. Singing it on a winter's night in a German church will bring a tear to your eye. Anyway I got a 2.0 for that particular exercise.
Harmony Overall Grade 3.0
1 4-Part Chorales
We revised 4 part chorales and wrote them communally as part of a group.for this I got a 2.7
19th Century German Functional Theory
Fiendish chordal analysis like Schumann and Brahms went through. Analysing very complicated progressions on paper. 2.0 (I only made one mistake that's Germany)
Doing more functional theory this time live as an interview and in German. Not only did you have to analyse the most fiendish progressions known to man but you also had to think in German at the same time. Not only that we had a few paradiddles to clap at the same time. 3.0
Forms Overall Grade 3.0
We went through all the classical forms again and wrote an exam on them in German.
General Music theory B Pass (On a straight Pass / Fail basis)
Ranges of instruments and singers mouth pieces acoustics and the physics of equal temperament in German. It's Gleichschwebende Temperatur by the way equal temperament etc.
Musicology Overall Grade 2.0
For this I did a 1.5 hr talk in German on the Operatic Reforms of Christoph Willibald Glück.
Aural Dictation Overall Grade 3.0
1 part atonal, and 2 part polyphonic and 4 part chorale dictation.
That was a major chunk of my training in harmony but we didn't do any significant composing just improvisation as a group using aspects of graphic notation.
I got those six and the piano exam but not the countertenor singing. I felt I was better at thoery didn't bother retaking the exam and went to cologne to follow in Dr Hesse's footsteps and do a degree in musicology with a view to becoming a composer. I felt I was better at that at that time.
My Composititons At HfM
There were two compostions of this era of significance and one further unfinished song and poem I wrote for someone to loop and rap over in 2010 called Mother Earth I still have the poem adn remember the tune I must finish it off sometime. Anyway, there was a song called Karolina for my friend and teacher Karolina Brachmann and a short piano piece called Anja's Birthday for my girlfriend Anja's Birthday. These I wrote out by hand in my notebook. I don't know why I wrote Karolina that song becuase I didn't fancy her nearly as much as Anja and she didn't fancy me either, but there you go. We did have extra aural lessons 121 together to pass my exam and we went out for one coffee and she came round for dinner and ran off with flatmate Vera that says something. She ended up saying I was a countertenor and that meant I was always going to be gay and sing out of tune! She was quite rude. Both songs are performed by me!