CNMN > Projects > Young Composer Program

Contemporary Showcase Edmonton Society

  • Voice
  • Acoustic instruments
  • 13 to 18 years of age

A series of workshops over the course of 6 - 8 weeks.

  • Education

Young Composer Program


Young Com­pos­er Pro­gram – Con­tem­po­rary Show­case Edmonton

The Young Com­pos­er Pro­gram orga­nized by the Con­tem­po­rary Show­case Edmon­ton Soci­ety intro­duces stu­dents ages 12 and up to com­po­si­tion and assists stu­dents to devel­op their com­po­si­tion­al techniques.

This annu­al pro­gram is held in 4 sessions:

Ses­sion #1 (Group ses­sion of 2 hours)

The composer/clinician speaks about com­po­si­tion in the first hour.  These lec­tures have includ­ed anec­do­tal infor­ma­tion about how the clin­i­cian became inter­est­ed in com­po­si­tion them­selves, how they approach start­ing a piece, where they get their ideas, etc.  These ses­sions have also includ­ed dis­cus­sions of ele­ments of new music includ­ing analy­sis of scores, pre­sen­ta­tion of non-dia­ton­ic scales, and even sound walks.

The 2nd hour, held in a piano lab, gives the stu­dents a chance to start sketch­ing ideas or doing assign­ments giv­en by their clin­i­cian with the oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­cuss these ideas with the clin­i­cian as they begin to take shape.  Clin­i­cians have giv­en a vari­ety of start­ing assign­ments.  These include:

  • Intro­duc­ing a vari­ety of non-dia­ton­ic scales (includ­ing whole tone and octatonic)
  • Exper­i­ment­ing with 12-tone rows
  • Writ­ing a vari­a­tion on an orig­i­nal theme
  • Cre­at­ing one unit for an aleatoric box work to be per­formed collectively.
  • Cre­at­ing two dif­fer­ent tri­ads (avoid­ing the stan­dard tri­adic for­mu­la of stacked thirds) and devel­op­ing a vari­ety of ways to use the notes in dif­fer­ent reg­is­ters and groupings.
  • Cre­at­ing an over­all sketch for a piece by first map­ping out tonal char­ac­ter, dynam­ics, reg­is­ters, etc. and the approx­i­mate num­ber of bars for each section.

Ses­sion #2, 3 & 4 (Indi­vid­ual lessons for 30 min­utes each)

After a 2 week peri­od, the next 3 ses­sions are held week­ly.  Each stu­dent receives a half hour les­son with the clin­i­cian to dis­cuss how to devel­op their ideas into a full piece.  Stu­dents are encour­aged to attend oth­er stu­dents’ lessons for max­i­mum benefit.

After the 4th ses­sion, the pieces are most­ly fin­ished. Stu­dents then have 1 to 2 weeks to pol­ish their score and sub­mit it to the clin­i­cian for final comments.

Final Con­cert

A final con­cert is held about 3 weeks after the last class for the stu­dents to per­form their own compositions.

Stu­dents, espe­cial­ly at begin­ning stages, are encour­aged to do hand­writ­ten scores to gain prac­tice using their rudi­ments training.

Cre­at­ed Pieces from pre­vi­ous Young Com­pos­er Programs

Sam­ples below include Cat and Mouse (inspired by Brid­get the cat) and Evening Storm both by Jonathan Urschel – age 12; Waltz of the Wild by Ash­ley Kang – age 14; and MASS EXTINCTION! by Soin­tu Aal­to, age 16.

Jonathan’s clin­i­cian had the stu­dents exper­i­ment with 12 tone writ­ing as an exer­cise.  Jonathan’s Evening Storm was his com­plet­ed exer­cise and he chose to use 12 tone ele­ments in his main project, Cat and Mouse, also.  Jonathan did not have any pre­vi­ous writ­ing experience.

Ash­ley also had very lit­tle writ­ing expe­ri­ence and Waltz of the Wild was writ­ten in her first year of the program.

Soin­tu has been involved in the pro­gram for at least 3 years and has cho­sen to study com­po­si­tion seri­ous­ly through­out the year. The com­po­si­tion below, writ­ten dur­ing the 2020 pro­gram is the win­ner of the 2020 Louise MacPher­son Memo­r­i­al Ward. It embod­ies her rage at the num­ber of species present­ly becom­ing extinct and the silent tam-tam rep­re­sents those who stand by doing noth­ing to change the problem.

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