Students listening to music streaming from a speaker or earphones ultimately miss the music’s dynamic contrast of sound and expression of emotion. However, music in a theater designed to balance acoustics can produce a unique experience.
Student composers from the School of Music are set to showcase their original pieces tonight in FAH 101, but some had the chance at a professional prepper Tuesday when the Florida Orchestra offered students a hands-on opportunity to hone their techniques, learn how professionals approach contemporary music and hear their music played by one of the region’s top orchestras.
Hours before Tuesday’s concert, orchestra members worked with six undergraduate composers to fix quirks and make final adjustments to songs.
Michael Timpson, a music composition professor, said the pieces that don’t work on stage can be just as valuable as pieces that do, because they allow students to learn from their mistakes.
“Contemporary classical music has hundreds of years of history, so many people associate it with the music of Beethoven,” Timpson said. “But in fact, it’s progressive, and its abstract culture uses pop eclectic influence. We urge our student composers to be diverse in tone and experiment with all kinds of music in their compositions.”
Andrew Hoy, a senior music composition major, wrote a five-minute movement titled “Layered Spectrum.”
The name comes from the buildup of instruments, which create a layered effect, and the mix of warm, bright, bold, hollow or cold sounds. He said he wrote his piece in modern style, in contrast to that of typical pop music, which is usually written in one key.
“When composing, you feel a strong connection to the music because it’s yours and you can go wherever you want with it,” Hoy said. “However, it’s tedious work, and a five-minute orchestra movement can take 100 hours.”
In general, students start writing compositions with a melodic theme or rhythmic idea and experiment with different textures — how many instruments and at what speed they are played — and tones. Much of the students’ music is sophisticated, so some listeners may not understand all the elements, but it can still be enjoyed because its purpose is to capture emotional moments of all sorts. For example, to express drunkenness, a composer could create a sense of dizziness by crafting rhythms to fall over each other or become choppy, Hoy said.
“Goodness, the music tonight was awesome!” said Andrea Mills, a freshman engineering major and one of the last students to leave Tuesday night’s performance. “I was not expecting to be thrilled by an orchestra, but I was satisfyingly dumbfounded and now I have a new respect for what the artists at USF do.”
Though the Florida Orchestra concert has passed, students can attend the USF Student Composers Showcase, which presents works written and performed by students, tonight at 8 in FAH 101.
Hoy has created a piece in the Student Composers Showcase and will be playing the piano. His song cycle, titled “All Things Beautiful,” is based on biblical passages from Ecclesiastes about seasons for love and for hate. He said he wrote the vocal lines specifically for the singer’s voice.
“I enjoy playing others’ works, but it is most gratifying to play something I created,” Hoy said. “At times it can be nerve-racking when other people perform your work because you don’t know if it’s going to be done they way it’s supposed to be.”
Hoy’s work will also be featured with that of other student composers at the SYCOM electronic music concert Monday at 8 p.m. in Theatre 2.