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David Roche Blog 6:

Compositional Progression: Developing the Music for Briar Rose and Cinderella

In blog 5 - very futuristic sounding labelling for me – I detailed my work on the music for the Musicians of Bremmen as part of Hansel, Gedeon, and the Grimms’ Wood. That’s all going a little more positively now with some fresh ideas flowing. Talking of flowing, plenty of tea and coffee helps… and I’ve also had two separate lecturers over the course of my eight years in music school (crikey) recommend drinking a bottle of wine before, after, or during composing. While I’m sure that can be really helpful for some people, I’m definitely much worse at composing, playing, juggling, walking, talking, and playing videos games after a drink. Believe me, I am studious and have tried time and time again. All for the sake of knowledge.


Moving forward, this is the last of 3 blogs that look at what I would regard as the middle, or perhaps central part of the compositional process; chewing the fat, toying with ideas, and gently putting things in to place. The last of the three pieces I’d like to chat about relates to the princess themes that I am using. These princesses are Briar Rose and Cinderella.


Both characters pop up throughout Hansel, Gedeon, and the Grimms’ Wood and express extremely important ideas relating to independence and partnership, central themes of the show. In the past 2 blogs I’ve written a lot about how I hope to use canonic writing to work as a musical metaphor for the theme of relationships and at the moment I am currently re-writing the princess ideas that I have in order to make use of these canonic motifs and also weave in some of the earlier themes. Talking very, very briefly with Christopher Theofanidis over the summer, he mentioned how he peppers themes throughout his pieces after he has finished drafting them. This gives compositions a greater sense of unity, this is something I am gunning for in this project.


My original plan with the princess themes was to create something waltzy, dancing, and gentle. Briar Rose and Cinderella are always at or going to a party so I had to make sure I had something of this in their music. Both my original sketch and my second draft are waltzes, they even have the same rhythmic shape in their phrases (this is something I chat about in my Hijinx Odyssey blogs too – so make sure you check those out!). Both drafts have a dancing feel without being too extreme.


I was happy with both of these themes but I wasn’t sure that they evoked exactly what I wanted. They almost sounded like lullabies at points, which is fine for certain sections but not the main princess entries. They also didn’t musically explore the idea of relationships in a way that I felt was satisfying. At the moment I am working on using this material, splitting it in to two separate voices, and having them perform canonically. I am really sold on this idea of canons; it helps me to make the music less regular and more interesting, it conveys the idea that two or more voices are interacting, and it ties in neatly with the themes of the production. So, hopefully, this is where the future of this piece lies!


At the time of writing this piece I am also working on two other compositions; one for choir and one for a trio. In both of these I am putting my canonic writing to the test. Part of my compositional process involves writing a lot of music before committing to a final idea. I often find that, in my first few attempts at a piece, I chicken out and pick slightly easier developmental options. I want to be certain that I’m really supporting the actors on the stage, everything has to be correct, so I am making sure that I know what musical options are available before making my final choice.


There’s also a billion examples of canonic imitation in music from James Macmillan’s choral works, to Palestrina, to Turnage’s Canon Fever. It’s such an important musical device… and I am hoping it will really add something to Hansel, Gedeon, and the Grimms’ Wood!


With the production weekenders coming up I am hoping to make a few vlogs. So brace yourselves for my impending Youtube stardom. From composer to lifestyle blogger in 12 months!

HG rehearsal 05.jpg

I’m definitely much worse at composing, playing, juggling, walking, talking, and playing videos games after a drink.

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