Monday, June 17, 2013

Introducing The Diabelli Project

Even composers can have writer's block -- and that's exactly where I was a few years ago. After a long dry spell, I decided to do something about it. Ira Glass' talk on the Creative Process inspired me to get over my writer's block and start posting to this blog daily (that month-long experiment started in 2011 continues to this day). (click on images to enlarge)

 My first flash composition from 2011. You'll see a legible version
of this in next Monday's post.
I always enjoy attending our church services; the time before the service invites contemplative thought. One Sunday I had a modicum of inspiration, and scribbled the opening to a canon on the bulletin. It was the first thing I'd written in quite a while. The next Sunday I did it again, and over time it's become part of my Sunday worship routine.

It's starting to work. Without the pressures of needing to complete a work, or even worry overmuch about the quality of the piece, I find I can dash off little ideas on a regular basis. It's sort of the equivalent of flash fiction -- save that I don't complete the work because I don't want to limit myself to a 4-bar composition week after week.

Over the past 2 years, I've accumulated a lot of church bulletins with these little musical sketches on them. And it's been interesting to see how they've developed over time.

My most current offering. I went from pencil to pen
as I gained confidence.

The Diabelli Project

In 1819 the publisher and composer Anton Diabelli wrote a short theme that he sent out to all the leading composers of the day -- Franz Schubert, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, et al. -- to write a variation to be published in a collection. Ludwig van Beethoven took the idea and ran with it. His 33 Variations on a waltz by Anton Diabelli, Op. 120 is considered one of his masterworks.

So here's the deal. I'll be Diabelli, and you can be Beethoven (or Hummel, if you prefer). Each Monday I'll post one of my Sunday sketches. And you can use them as you wish. Write your own theme and variations, or fugue, or whatever. It doesn't have to be a classical work. Think there's a catchy melodic hook buried in there somewhere? Use it.

I just ask a few things:

1) If you use any of these sketches, just let me know.
2) If possible, please send me a recording or notated score.
3) Please credit me appropriately if you offer your work to the public

That's it! I'll post the first excerpt next Monday. And there's another personal challenge in this for me. I used to be a professional music copyist -- another skill I've neglected over the years. I'll be writing these sketches out by hand to bring back those chops. 


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