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Composing Music: A New Approach [Plastic Comb]

William Russo , Jeffrey Ainis , David Stevenson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 32.21 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

Feb. 15 1988
Aimed at those who have some knowledge of music but not formal training in composition, this concise introduction to composing starts right in with a brief composition exercise, then proceeds step by step through a series of increasingly complex and challenging problems, gradually expanding the student's musical grammar.

"This is a wonderful book for anyone who is developing improvising skills or who would like a fun way to explore music."—Jim Stockford, Co-Evolution Quarterly

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Composing Music: A New Approach + Fundamentals Of Musical Composition + Principles of Orchestration
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational Nov. 25 2002
Format:Plastic Comb
This is one of the best "How to" books I have ever read on any subject.
It works on several levels. Even though it takes a "beginners" approach to introducing many topics, it doesn't shy away from "real" music. For example, even the first simple exercise contains something different - 5/4 time. A beginner will simultaneously learn the basics of chord progressions and melody writing, stripped down to the bare essentials, while delving into modern techniques like 12-tone rows and picture music.
The key to the book is the concept of restricting the musical palette by some simple rules, to prevent the budding composer being overwhelmed by the possibilities. Right from the first page, you are working on real composition examples.
Even though the book is not particularly aimed at computer music or sequencing, electronic music enthusiasts should find it useful. A lot of the minimalist techniques are ideal for sequencing. Plus, if your musical background is pretty basic, and you are looking to broaden it with a mix of traditional and contemporary techniques, this book should take you a long way.
By its very nature, a book like this can only touch on some areas. So you will probably want to supplement it with some other material if, for example, you want a bit more detail on counterpoint. Still, it manages to cover a huge amount of ground, with the most detail where it counts most - developing and harmonising melodies, and a very good section on writing music to lyrics (ie songwriting).
One last point - a lot of theory and composition books miss the mark with contemporary musicians because they approach the subject from the purely "classical" angle of cadence and resolution. This book is soundly classical in its approach to harmonisation and melodic development, but uses the comfortable pop/jazz approach to chord progressions, so it shouldn't lose any reader.
Highly recommended!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tool Box for Composers Jan. 14 2007
Format:Plastic Comb
The application of the tools presented in this book are up to the composer. Just as one does not teach sunsets to a painter, the author has not taught composers how to feel. This is not a book about lyrics either. But it does give aspiring musicians an incredible palate of tools to build compositions with in a straight forward hands on manner.

I have not found anything better for contemporary music of any genre. This is a classic both now, and for the future. Russo teaches us to understand the musical building blocks of the art and craft of making modern music. He does so by isolating each building block and focusing on it with intensity and clarity to give us an insight into both our own creative process, and the constructive creations of others. From the opening minimalist 5/4 beginnings that seem impossible until you stumble upon the masterpiece that used it, to the involved and complex structures that follow, confidence and skill build through the well organized and thoughtful exercises. It is basic enough for anyone with music reading skills to grasp, yet complex enough to challenge seasoned professionals. You can go through this book 5 or 10 times and get something new every time.

In conclusion, if you have read this far, then buy it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, logical, complete. Jan. 13 2004
Format:Plastic Comb
The book's author is clearly influenced by minimalism not only in his approach to music, but also to writing and music instruction. His clearly modal approach to both melody and harmony is presented in superbly logical and fluff-free sequence of explanations and exercises. Some of advanced chapters on topics such as mating lyrics with music or writing picture music are brilliant as well.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Solid fundamentals May 6 2002
By chord
Format:Plastic Comb
I'm a musician and songwriter with a degree and many years' experience. But when I took on a project to create an opera with a playwright friend I found that my theory was rusty -- and I was also venturing into types of composition I'd never done before. I wanted a good solid book that would help me review my long-ago theory classes and layout a framework that would help me structure my composition.
The book's been a very pleasant surprise. It's quite intermediate in level. If you're not comfortable with a lot of theory basics, it would be a hard place to start. Similarly, experienced composers looking for inspiration for new directions probably won't find it here (or not enough to make it worthwhile). However, especially for composers with some experience, the book is an valuable way to brush up on theory, begin to apply that theory to examples and exercises and try some new approaches to writing.
If that's the type of book you're looking for, I heartily recommend this title.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Start Here Sept. 24 2001
Format:Plastic Comb
Russo's book is the best place to begin if you're seriously interested in composing music. His methodology is straightforward, and his rules sensible. The exercises bear fruit both as a learning experience and a stimulus for original compositions. Russo assumes you understand some rudimentary musical theory, and I suppose most people picking up this book will have that knowledge. Where I found this book most useful is in writing long themes, which had always daunted me. Russo's method is transportable, and when inspiration is stymied, I find what I've learned from this book can tide me over.
One reviewer makes the point that this book doesn't tie all the exercises together into longer pieces, which is true, but that's a flaw that can be remidied by reading scores, and looking at structural examples of other composers.
I wish I'd found this book years ago.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Composing Music
It's just what I was looking for! The exercises dive you straight into composing music right away without discussing music theory too deeply. Read more
Published on July 3 2011 by A. Kirikopoulos
2.0 out of 5 stars fails to teach application of theoretical principles well
I see that most people have high ratings for this book, but I cannot give it more than 2 stars for several reasons. Read more
Published on May 24 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars A Piano Players Dream
Every keyboard player should buy this book. This book contains the most straightforward explanation of diatonic harmony in print. It can transform your keyboard playing.
Published on April 5 2002 by Ron Guffnett
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful approach
I found this book a wonderful text. I was afraid that it was going to start to simply, and it did. BUT, it was still a wonderful excercise. As are all. Read more
Published on July 16 2000 by Chris Severen
4.0 out of 5 stars On Composing Music
This book is full of small exercises for getting the beginnner to start composing. Covers most of the techniques a composer will want to know without giving you a headache. Read more
Published on June 4 2000 by Greg Turner
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENTway to get started--and keep going.
"Imagine that you have been captured by the Lorac, a warlike tribe ruled by Edrevol, who will spare you life only if you please him with the music you write for the Imperial... Read more
Published on March 2 2000 by Susan Tait
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