Inside the Community – Nathanael Iversen – My Process of Gathering Material
When starting a new piece, it is easy to be overwhelmed with what to do first. So, I break it down into lots of simple decisions that I make one at a time. I start with decisions that have no musical content like how long do I want it to be? What time signature will I use? How many measures will I have to write? I write all these things down in a text file. Now the piece is started. It is already taking shape.
So, now that I’ve warmed up, it is easy to keep going. I don’t ask for all the answers at once but make many small trips to the Creative Pool rather than one big one. It is always there, so I don’t have to get answers in big downloads. This makes it easy and fun.
Here are things that I make separate trips to the Creative Pool for:
- Feelings/emotions I want to explore
- Structure and form of the work
- Tonal center/scales/modes that might work well
- Techniques I want to work on in this piece
- Skills I want to practice in the mockup
- Instruments I want to explore writing for
- Improvements I can make to my Dorico or Cubase template
Often, I want to get a theme and 12-16 bars of melody. I’ll put a simple harmony underneath, mostly in whole notes. At this point, I have gathered enough materials and want to expand on some of these ideas using M.I.T.A. tools. There is free line writing, the Matrix of Triads, extended root tones, the Matrix of Triads with 3+3, and so much more. Often times, I end up having more musical material than I need. This makes me feel very confident when it comes to sketching, and I like that feeling of knowing I have enough.
I will do the same thing for other sections that need unique thematic content. Then I can plan and ask for the transitions between sections. I know where my themes start and stop, and what the roots are at the beginning and end. I can connect them with an RC, a modulation, a complex trip through Scale Pairs and Scale Reflections, 3+3 runs, a giant gong hit and a whoosh like the trailer composers do, or many other things. Often, I don’t gather the transitions at the beginning with the themes, but leave that to the development.
I will work on my thematic material so that it is all harmonized with whole/half notes, but I generally don’t work on all the inner lines at the gathering stage. I just want the structures in place, and to have the harmony sounding decent. In the sketch, I will start developing the lines, altering the harmony, etc. … but I don’t have to solve all the problems at once – that work can wait. This freedom makes gathering easier, and starting a new piece is hard enough, that I want all the easy I can get!
At this point, I have more than enough to sketch with confidence. That is roughly how I proceed with a new composition, but it doesn’t really explain the mechanics. Let’s next zoom in on just the process to get a theme for the piece. This will enable us to learn how to use the Creative Pool in a clear and simple way. This isn’t the only way I do it, but it will illustrate the general concepts of simplicity, ease, breaking hard problems into smaller ones, and so on.
All the best and see you next time,