Citation
Composing a piano trio (And Letting Go)

Material Information

Title:
Composing a piano trio (And Letting Go)
Creator:
Scaffitto, Pietro
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Cellos ( jstor )
Composers ( jstor )
Music appreciation ( jstor )
Music composition ( jstor )
Music education ( jstor )
Musical instruments ( jstor )
Musical modes ( jstor )
Piano trios ( jstor )
Tremolo ( jstor )
Wisdom ( jstor )
Composition (Music)
Piano
Piano Music
Piano trios
Genre:
Undergraduate Honors Thesis

Notes

Abstract:
I’m here discussing the compositional process behind one of my most successful pieces of music: a piano trio movement. This piece was a breakthrough because I’ve been finally able to let go of my ego, and the music flew naturally, effortlessly, and organically. I learned this from two books on art and philosophy. Furthermore, I have been able to let go of the demand to find only musical ideas conceived and born in my consciousness, without following external examples; I therefore let go of my pride, and I took some inspiration from another composer: Maurice Ravel. Finally, this music is the outcome of letting go of complete freedom, and total absence of constraint in composing: I limited my music to a pretty narrow material, and I found it immensely useful. ( en )
General Note:
Awarded Bachelor of Music; Graduated May 7, 2013 summa cum laude. Major: Music, Emphasis/Concentration: New World School of the Arts(NWSA)- Music Composition
General Note:
Advisor: Pietro Scaffitto
General Note:
College/School: College of Fine Arts

Record Information

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University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
Copyright Pietro Scaffitto. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.

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Pietro Scaffitto Highest Honors Thesis Composing a Piano Trio (And Letting Go) Composing was not an easy business for somebody like me: the blank staves of a music sheet looked like a bottomless well that I had to try to fill, somehow. My head would soon start speaking to me, disrupting th e flow of any music, and evaluating me in a subtle, negative way; the result was me erasing minutes, hours, days of hard work over and over, feeling unaccomplished, helpless, and utterly frustrated. Therefore, when I started writing my beloved Piano Trio ( number 1) 1 for my composition class with my teacher Dr. Ferdinando De Sena, I faced my demons again. This time I had few new arrows to my disposal. In fact, I forced myself into a narrower palette of musical material: I decided to make my own musical backg round by constructing a new scale that would have an interesting sonority to my ears: I therefore let go of complete freedom to find new ways of developing my ideas, a new approach to composition, and clear my mind. Furthermore, I felt for the first time t inspiration. This decision did not come about because I was afraid, or concerned, but because I was aware of the importance of model composing, which is common practice in Europe. I interpret thi letting go of the largely subconscious demand that I had set for me: to find all the music I needed in my capable mind and heart. I was therefore letting go of some form of pride. I started s earching. Last, but not least, I let go of my ego and I consequently accessed what 1 E xhibit A; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6xKswBA55g

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Pietro Scaffitto Highest Honors Thesis for, and the process was not painful, this time; it was a developmental process that was natural, and coherent. I felt that the music was telling me where to go, and it was spontaneously coming into existence. Looking back at those days more than a year ago I realize how deep I was influenced by a couple of books that I was reading back then. Thanks to them, I started to change the way I look at things, and the things I was looking at changed! I strongly believe that this last point is the most important one, when I examine the process that led me to compose one of my best compositio ns so far. Ultimately, I think that I composed very well largely because of extra musical components, and they affected everything else. More clearly, I am talking something that can be reduced to one verb only: sufficient anti achievements, a nd their actual application in my composition. When I decided to limit myself as far as actual musical material, I sat at the piano and I looked for a scale, or a mode, creating a new, and peculiar sonority. The first step that I took was to deprive the s cale of the third scale degree, and therefore stealing the central quality of the chord built on the tonic. That is to say that the center of the piece is not really defined in its own character, and therefore the whole piece has an uncertain quality to it Furthermore, I chose to use a perfect fourth from the tonic instead of the third scale degree, as it is always found in common practice; this way I achieved a suspended sound relatively to the tonic field. As a result, this sonority leaves an interesting impression en two notes): the tritone, and the major seventh. The first has a strong sense of dissonance and tension, which seems also

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Pietro Scaffitto Highest Honors Thesis to promise a resolution somewhere else; the second is one of the most characteristic sounds in the major scale, and it is also full of tension and dissonant character. By ombining the two pitches, and holding at the same time the natural second, and sixth from ambiguous, and almost promiscuous. It c reates a strong illusion without losing coherence completely, at the same time. In addition, another important characteristic of this scale is that it is symmetrical, according to its internal intervals, and I found this out after the fact. This quality gi ves a sonority to it, and to the piece, that reminded to more than one person Debussy, jazz music, and Messiaen. Now, the complete scale with its original pitches used in the piece, is made of the notes D, E, G, Ab, B, and C# 2 Moreover, another important passage consisted in transposing this material to the starting note B; that way I managed to create strong similarities and just a few significant differences at the same time. The new scale was made of the following pitches: B, C#, E, F, G, and A#. The f irst difference is the shift of the starting point a minor third down, which is an uncommon and interesting move, especially harmonically. Furthermore, the first new note that has been created through this procedure (the other notes are present in both tra nspositions) is set a tritone apart (F), while the second is a major seventh (A#): those tendency tones are so dear to my taste, and were on point, according to my new musical vista at the time! By looking back today, I have to admit that I was really able to exploit the nature of this scale, since the piece delivers the important characteristics that I described in detail referring to its simple musical building blocks: my music expresses here impressions of indeterminate feelings, bound by an underlying c ohesive coherence. As I anticipated, I also set my mind to experience some model composing; I soon started searching for something interesting, beautiful, and profound among all the different piano trios that I could put my hands on. After much listening and inquiring, I decided that 2 See exhibit B

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Pietro Scaffitto Highest Honors Thesis 3 was a wonderful model for me; I already started writing something at the piano, and on one hand the music was taking shape, while on the other it was already speaking to me. Then I listened to the first movement of that work, played by the Beaux Art trio 4 and I was immediately interested, so I kept on listening to it several times. In the meantime, I was listening to the other pieces that I was discovering little by little. Anyway, it became clear, after a while, that my music was going for similar musical impressions: they where coming from the same dimension of reality; they were speaking music is open and eth ereal; it seems to access a profundity that is almost painful, but it is: full of contradiction, love, and pain. An example of all this can be seen in the vi oloncello part at m. 5 of rehearsal number 1, where the cello sings at a pretty high register a bold and passionate melodic line that is imitated by the violin immediately after. Moreover, the adventurous, courageous and expressive gestures taught me how t o break the chains of technical limits, derived by the difficult handling of the means employed here. Examples can be found in the piano at rehearsal number 2, and at number 3, which displays an agile and effective use of arpeggios in both violin and violo ncello. In addition, what struck me was the great music written by Ravel for the cello at number 4, exploiting the lowest register of the instrument and introducing a marvelous moment of deepness and self worth that inspired me to write an important solo f or cello, in my own music 5 Finally, I learned from Ravel the recurrent use of motives and phrases such as those found in the opening of the piece, and at number 4. These musical components are traded, imitated, and played together by the three instruments and the effect of this is the creation of an organic 3 See exhibit C 4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYS1vzklPvg 5 See exhibit A at m. 63 and following

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Pietro Scaffitto Highest Honors Thesis conversation among the different personalities portrayed by the three musical actors involved. Having those three important voices holding the music together, one of the most difficult things to do i s to create a convincing, and carefully crafted whole that is capable of Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living th e Wisdom of the Tao 6 written and The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity 7 In the first book I found a spiritual wisdom that reaches down to ancient China: the original source was authored by Lao Tzu, more than 25 centuries ago. In additio n, Dr. Wayne Dyer profound at the same time, that conclusively grabbed me, chang ing many things in my life. For example, in its first pages Lao Tzu talks about the Tao as a mysterious source, in which the doorway to all understanding can be found. It is here, that Dr. Wayne Dyer starts to speak about letting go, and allow the Tao to r eveal its truth in silence, suppressing any judgement. Well, I did so even when I was trying to compose in front of my piano. I resisted to play, and I just waited, in silence. Little by little, I started hearing the music in my head, the sounds I wanted, then I started composing: what an amazing achievement! I was enjoying the wisdom of practicing the Tao, finding unity in it, and I was able to 8 composer who struggled over e very note, and now I was writing fluently, and happily! Moreover, I always felt that I needed to come up with something soon, given my slow rate of writing. It seemed a dog chasing its own tail. I was chasing my dreams, pressuring 6 Dyer, Wayne W. Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2007. Print. 7 Cameron, Julia. The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity New York: J.P. Tarcher /Putnam, 2002. Print. 8 Dyer 11

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Pietro Scaffitto Highest Honors Thesis myself, without even kno wing it. Anyone can imagine how I felt when I came across the 9 In here, the author stresses the word here. The author encourages to be open to all possibilities, like uncarved wood. It is easy to understand the importance of this words, and the impact they had on me. The happiness generated by this paradigm shift derived also from contentment, gratit ude, and awe for what is 10 ; I stopped pushing myself, and by doing so I achieved what I wanted! I cannot really stress enough the importance of the moment in which I started trusting the perfection of the Tao, from which all reality comes from, and that we can feel at any moment in the silence 11 ; that way this wonderful source started flowing, and the music really started working through me, in some way. Furthermore, I was 12 power (the T ao) unfold, and give birth to my art; I listened to her voice, and she revealed herself. I 13 I just realized that my activity was composing, find ing the music, and being creative. On the other hand, I was not living calmly my situation; I therefore started changing my thoughts, my feelings, and all my actions including composing. After a while, I realized that I did not need to come up with somethi ng: I just let the music reveal itself, and then I wrote it down; in some way it bared my uniqueness also, and became alive. You can imagine how that led to abandon a huge portion of my ego, and at times I felt that I left it all behind altogether. The cor e of my experience in writing this piano trio is centered in this practice of letting go of all this thoughts about what I ought to be to become a successful composer. This way of thinking had at the time impaired my musical 9 Dyer 69 10 Dyer 17 11 Dyer 53 12 Dyer 28 13 Dyer 122

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Pietro Scaffitto Highest Honors Thesis output, but one day I stumbled 14 A world opened to me when I did it, and my fingers started dancing, composing music as if it were one of the most delightful and natural things in the world. This experience led me, eventually, to feel gratitude for my improvements, which helped me to find the reasons to believe in my own worth. As Lao Tzu wrote: 15 So I followed, and the benefit of doing so were amazing i n their abundance, and influence. I finally improved my self esteem, I felt great, and I stopped chasing time, and ideas; I started looking at myself in a better life, and I trusted the fact that I was able to write wonderful music. That happened! At the same time I was reading Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao I was also reading The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. I originally picked this book for practical reasons, and to have insights on the natu re of being an artist. It was out of curiosity, and hope towards the legendary American pragmatism, that I started reading the first page. I was not let down because right away I hat creates our 16 Right after this sentence I understood the profound spiritual humus out of which 17 seeing the connection with my other book, that was inducing the reader to take the same path. I was finally convinced without any doubt of the connection, and the worth of the judge the work or yourself. You 18 I just experienced the benefits of these 14 Dyer 97 15 Dyer 116 16 Cameron, xiii 17 Ibid. 18 Cameron xv

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Pietro Scaffitto Highest Honors Thesis alive to me than that. For example, I have always had the same opinion expressed at page sometimes would not had actually minded to retire in a monastery and dedicate my life for a long while to my musical education; I felt the urge to go find Julia Cameron and hug her! Soon enough, though, my feelings for her grew into sheer love, when she quoted one of opera [Madama Butterfly] was dictated to me by God; I was merely instrumental in putting creativity in artists; it was just for me, the composer who struggles against the invisible wall created by his own internal, and judgmental voices. Instead, the author fosters what also 19 The reader can imagine how fruitful has the exposure to this book been; I had many good insights th at led me to reestablish the sense of identity, of power, possibility, connection, autonomy, and faith in myself, together with the source of all things. All that simply did it: shadows have been cast away, the veil was lift up, and the play has begun! Th rough this journey of ours throughout my compositional, and personal, process, the importance of the action of letting go of many thoughts emerges. In fact, the first demand that I abandoned was the false need for the total abundance of any musical materia l, which led me to confusion, and disoriented me; to a closer look, it was also hiding needed to fight and prove to be good without any help, or relying on exampl es of others; I realized therefore, that I was then punishing myself for not being born like J. S. Bach, or Beethoven, for example. Crazy, right? Especially because they have been through amuch o let go of my ego by learning, and internalizing important teachings that I found in books on spiritual and artistic 19 Cameron 22

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Pietro Scaffitto Highest Honors Thesis evolution; I centered myself, and this immediately influenced everything else. Looking back, now, it is easy to understand how the first t wo points are the actual outcome of the last one. I was happy to write about this wonderful experience of mine, and maybe this will work for somebody else; maybe I just helped other composers to acknowledge their greatness.

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Pietro Scaffitto Highest Honors Thesis Bibliog raphy: Dyer, Wayne W. Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2007. Print. Cameron, Julia. The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity New York: J.P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2002. Print.