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Emma Mills

Mr. Rick White

CP English 12
27 October 2015
Senior Project Research Paper
Composing a piece for one instrument let alone a full orchestra is not only a tremendous
amount of work to complete in less than a year, but is also intimidating to any musician of any
genre. So I decided to challenge my musical abilities by using my love for orchestral music and
my experience with cello and piano to compose a contemporary epic for a mini orchestra with
chosen musicians of alumni and current students of Santa Susana High School. My research
paper will incorporate my curiosity of psychology in terms of instrumental music. I will be
expressing what the meaning of music is, defining the difference of voice and tone, what our
emotional responses are to different types of music, the benefits of music to our health, and
ending on what to consider when composing a piece.
The Meaning of Music
What is music? Music is the art of bringing together different sounds and notes into a
pattern that is well-balanced with one another, and indulges the ear to something that people
constantly look for in music without knowing it, a melodious theme ( It
is something that has been here since the beginning of time, altering the course of human history
it is incredibly integral in our daily lives without us really knowing it at times. Think about it, the
average person listens to background music, and some even consecutively take classes every day
to become a better musician or historian ( Andrew M.). When listening to music, it is said that it

can conduct our emotions and thoughts in the moment and can affect our actions throughout the
day, whether in a positive or a negative sense (Joel Douek).
Throughout the years, different styles and genres have evolved from early classical
music, to jazz, rock, hip-hip, pop, and rap, all evoking different messages and a wide variety of
sounds that one could perceive differently from the other (How Music has Changed Over Time).
Classical music, which was prominent from 1750-1820 has a clean and clear tune and varies in
dynamics, which is the level of sound: loud or quiet (The Classical Period). The complete
opposite of the more melodical classical era, are genres such as pop and rap which are more
jagged in sound, and are vocalized by people using words to persuade a particular audience about
a topic (Davey D's Hip-Hop Corner). Music though, is meant to reach a certain audience and
evoke the composer's message through sound, voice, and tone.
The Difference Between Voice and Tone
In writing, it is so integral for a writer to find their voice, a personal and unique way of
communicating through ones writing to convey a message to their viewers, it is generally their
own style (Voice and Tone:Writing to Reflect Your Personality as Well as Your Message). When
finding ones voice in their art, they must find a distinctive way of how they view the world, how
they perceive their surroundings, a voice that is special and augments their message. A voice
must be fresh, new, and original (Chris Freese).
Even though it could be argued that voice and tone are one in the same, they are in fact
not. Tone generally is a reflection of the writers demeanor, mindset, and perspective on their art
(Voice and Tone:Writing to Reflect Your Personality as Well as Your Message). In writing, one
could say that examples of tone are excitement, anxiety, nervousness, happiness, or anger.
(Examples of Tone in a Story). What is interesting though is that this does not only apply to

writing an essay or a book, but also applies to composing music. Tone is vital when composing
because it shows the composers emotions and feelings (Music:Practice and Theory).
Tone colour is a term that is often used in music, it helps a listener to identify a sound as
being produced by a specific instrument and to differentiate between instruments of the same
type (Tone Color in Music: Definition & Explanation). An orchestra has four different
families of instruments: strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. If a person hears a cello
play which is part of the string family, and also hears a bassoon play which is part of the
woodwind family, that person could assume that even though these two instruments play in bass
clef (a lower register) they are obviously two different instruments because their tone quality is
different from one another (Instrument Families of the Orchestra:String, Woodwind, Brass,
Percussion). While tone colour is more technical and solely focuses on sound, tone is based on
emotions, and dynamics, and how a piece makes a viewer or listener feel (Whats the Difference
Between Tone, Timbre, and Texture).
Emotional Responses to Music
What one does not realize is that a persons emotional response when listening to a piece
of music has everything to do with tone and how the composer wants their music to be portrayed
(Dynamic Emotional and Neural Responses to Music Depend on Performance Expression and
Listener Experience). All music is emotional in some way, for example, if one listens to a slow
orchestral piece in a minor key, they might perceive it as sadness and therefore their emotional
response to listening to this piece will be feeling forlorn or having a sense of sadness. If one
listens to a piece of music with drums, trumpets, chimes and has an upbeat melody to it in a
major key, it will most likely be reviewed as happiness or excitement which will receive an

emotional response of happiness or excitement (Examples of Tone in a Story; How Music

Changes Your Mood).
Neural responses to the same musical piece was played two different ways to gain
emotional response from a group of people. The first time this piece was played, it was strictly
robotic, and developed no emotional responses during an fMRI scanning, but the second time,
the same piece was played with dimension, musical colour, and tone to it, resulting in responses
of arousal from the same group of people (Dynamic Emotional and Neural Responses to Music
Depend on Performance Expression and Listener Experience). In order to suck emotion out of
a piece being played, tone, voice, dynamics, key signature, and what instruments to use are
fundamental to discuss (Voice and Tone:Writing to Reflect Your Personality as Well as Your
Message). Otherwise, if these elements are not discussed, then the finished result will sound
mechanical, and in music, that is the last thing a musician or composer wants (Dynamic
Emotional and Neural Responses to Music Depend on Performance Expression and Listener
In a recent experiment on how music can alter moral judgements, a group of people
listened to two different types of music, heavy metal music which was perceived as noise
music which made listeners angry, and classical music which was quite soothing, caused
listeners to feel happy, calm, and kind. Later on in the day, the people who listened to the
Japanese music were more dangerous when driving like cutting people off or honking their
horns, and the people who listened to the classical music were more helpful and loving towards
others (How Music Can Alter Moral Judgments). If someone has an angry tone of voice and
shouts at a person, the outcome will be that the person will get angry as well and let it

unknowingly dictate their day and actions. People pick up on emotions in tone of voice, tone of
actions, and tone of music (Voice and Words Dont Match).
People go to music all the time when they are feeling sad, moody, angry to uplift their
gloom to happiness. The truth is, music makes people happy, definitely tunes that are soothing
because inside the human body, serotonin is a hormone which releases happiness and gives one a
general sense of well-being, and also flushes the body with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that
makes a person feel good about themselves (How Music Changes Your Mood).
How Music Improves Health
Relaxing music such as classical music, or even the sounds of nature and water, prevents
stress, blood pressure, increased heart rate, and anxiety in both genders (Nikki Rickard).
Listening to music has also been proven to take away the feelings of chronic pain, boosts the life
span in cancer patients, relieve depression in elderly people, and reduce stress for patients before
and after surgery (The Power of Music to Reduce Stress). Different sound tonality can give a
person a sense of motivation and is therefore inspirational to give one the strength to try harder
in their daily lives (Melissa Tyndall). When listening to music while studying, preferably
classical music because it better simulates the brain to improve ones memory. Children
remember better and learn more fluently when listening to classical music when growing up
when studying because it improves their applications to their education (Cheri Lucas). Not only
does listening to music help memory but playing a musical instrument improves the ability to
understand emotions, increasingly affects speech awareness for the better, and helps with the
performance of multi-tasking for developing brains (George Hicks).

To compose it is absolutely fundamental to understand musical grammar, musical

techniques, and how to read music efficiently. Musical theory is required to know before
composing an orchestral piece (How to Compose Music). Examples are being able to identify
major, minor, augmented, and diminished chords, being able to know when there is a cadence in
a piece and knowing what the dominant, subdominant, leading tone, and 7th chord are. An
aspiring composer must be able to harmonize and listen to a pitch knowing exactly how to
correlate another note with it so the piece sounds attractive (Music Theory Examples). Last but
not least, a composer needs to memorize and understand how all the instruments sound like, and
the types of clefs the instruments play in, such as bass clef, treble clef, and tenor clef to name a
few ( How Musical Instruments Work).
Once the fundamentals are understood, the composer needs to start to consider what
instruments to use for the melody, bassline, inner harmonizations and how to arrange it into a
piece that sounds professional, sophisticated, creative, and unique (Robert Maddocks).
Composing however, is not just technique, it is incredibly emotional as well. The composer
subconsciously incorporates the emotions that he or she might be experiencing in their lives in
their music (Joel Douek).
Application Conclusion
Throughout my high school experience I have composed several cello solos, and Ive
realized now that doing little compositions through the years have helped to prepare me for
composing this contemporary epic for an orchestra. The biggest problem that I think I will
encounter will be time management and handling what to compose and when to do it. The
difficulty with composing is that you need to have a melody and sounds in your head in order to
put it on paper, so I am a little worried that I might have writers block when I need to write the

most. I get together every week with my mentor who is also my cello and piano teacher, so she
helps give me advice theory wise and what ranges are appropriate for each instrument. By
spring, my composition will be finished, and I will need to start to schedule practices with the
orchestra and where to practice it. Near the end of the year, my goal is to conduct and perform
my composition with the orchestra in the Orchestra Spring Concert.

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