Teaching Applied Composition: towards a method of problem solving within the creative process
The teaching of composition is a centuries-old technique, refined by teaching composers and theorists and largely dependent upon a one-to-one mentor relationship. While music theory seeks to elucidate the materials, structure and (often) inspirational source behind a musical work, the teaching of composition happens largely in a private context, each teacher shaping their own approach to the transmission of materials, ideas and concepts, alongside the students’ own learning style and pace. This research attempts to codify a structural approach to the teaching of composition, from the meta-level of decisions made within the creative process. A focus on methods of problem solving, incorporation of pattern theories, development of musical accuracy and skill, alongside interpretative and aesthetic concerns, form the basis of this paper. This research attempts to show that, at a fundamental level, composition can be taught using more structured principles than available in the contemporary literature and practice.
Natalie Williams is an Australian-born composer and United States Permanent Resident. In 2015 her music was premiered internationally by ensembles including the Doric String Quartet (UK), the Pavel Haas Quartet (Czech Republic) and the Sydney Conservatorium Wind Symphony. Her works have been commissioned and performed by international ensembles, including the Atlanta Opera, Omaha Symphony, the Berkeley Symphony, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Musica Viva, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Adelaide Baroque, the Sydney Youth Orchestra, the Australian Youth Orchestra, Indiana University Chamber Orchestra, and the Plathner’s Eleven Chamber Ensemble (Germany).
Her music has been championed by performers and toured throughout Europe, Australia and the United States. Composition prizes include two-time winner of the Atlanta Opera Competition (2013 and 2015), winner of the Iron Composer competition (2010), and joint winner of the inaugural Schueler Awards for a new commission for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra (2007). She has received professional development grants from the Australasian Performing Rights Association, the British Music Society and the University of Sydney. Natalie has taught composition and music theory at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, the Hugh Hodgson School of Music at the University of Georgia, and the Faculty of Music at the Melbourne Conservatorium.