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Developing a modular approach to music

By James Saunders


The commentary deals with the two principal areas of my compositional work from 1996-\ud 2003: short pieces and modularity. Taking a survey of compositional durations as a starting point,\ud assumptions related to duration are discussed in the context of extremely long and short pieces by\ud Feldman, Jliat, Webern and Werder. The effect of duration on form, structure, listening and the\ud practicalities of performance is considered in relation to memory and our perception of duration,\ud suggesting a range of possible solutions to the problem of composing short pieces. These issues are\ud examined in the context of my own work in composing short pieces (1996-2000), leading to a\ud consideration of an effective performance practice and the transition to the use of short pieces as\ud modules in a larger compositional framework.\ud \ud \ud The consequent development of a fully modular approach to music is contextualised through\ud an examination of modular theory in a manufacturing context, leading to analysis of a range of\ud examples of modular and open form work in literature, visual art and music. Differences between\ud open and closed forms of modularity are explored along with the effect of a modular approach on\ud creative work. These theoretical and practical issues are discussed in relation to my modular\ud composition #[unassigned] (2000- ), surveying its development from groups of short pieces. The\ud compositional method is explained, examining the creation of a modular interface and types of\ud modules and their re-use, through examples of existing versions

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