This composition is titled “Insanity”, where tension and anxiety in the piece is brought out through a variety of composition techniques learned in my MEP class. The composition is inspired from a horror computer game, “Don’t Starve Together”, focusing on the part where the main characters lose their sanity and turns murderous at night. Therefore, I also borrowed and made use of the game’s theme song, “Don’t Starve”, in my composition.
Fig. 1: Theme song of Don’t Starve, melody borrowed from bars 1-8
The tonality of the music centres on a combination of C Phrygian (C Db Eb F G Ab Bb C) and C Aeolian (C D Eb F G Ab Bb C) scales. This makes the music slightly eerie due to the natural minor scales creating dissonances at times. Chromaticism is also used to create more dissonance in the music, with special attention to parts where the chord progressions move to an unexpected Db major chord, due to the flattened second (Db) in the C Phrygian scale, and resolving the Db to a D natural, forming a less dissonant chord of G major. This helps to lead the music back to the tonic C minor chord.
I also explored a variety of rhythmic techniques to further create dissonances – interlocking rhythms, the displacement of certain rhythmic patterns, additive and divisive rhythms. For interlocking rhythms, I used 3 rhythmic patterns, layered them over one another, producing the interlocking effect of different rhythmic patterns. This is seen in bars 1-4. The rhythmic displacement aspect is also brought out by the Oboe when its rhythmic pattern is displaced by a crotchet beat. The change from crotchet to quavers to semiquavers in the second and fourth crotchet beat in the flute (bars 1-3) helps to produce an increasingly dense texture, driving the music forward. These rhythmic patterns are repeated over the piece either in full or fragments, till bar 18. The interlocking rhythms aim to bring out the distortion of the minds of the main characters.
There is also the use of additive and divisive rhythms in my composition (bars 9-13, 18-19, 26-29). When the time signature is changed to reduce the number of crotchet beats in a bar, it drives the music forward and brings out greater tension in the music. When the number of beats in a bar increases, it extends the music to make the music grander, especially at the ending. The music ends with a 4/4 time signature as I wanted the music to feel more complete, in which the detached quaver I used as the last note signifies the detached interlocking rhythms I used at the beginning of the composition.
Furthermore, I also explored the use of klangfarbenmelodie (colour melody – having a melody played by different instruments of different timbres/tone colours) in the composition (bars 5-8, 13-15), with slight melodic variation, rhythmic variation and adding of ornaments.
Finally, I explored the use of dynamic markings – crescendos and diminuendos (Bar 11-12) to express the swelling of noises coming from hiding predators or monsters, and also the characters becoming insane at night. I also used ornaments such as trills to introduce a more sinister and tense atmosphere, enhancing the mood especially during the louder and dramatic sections.
In conclusion, I have learnt how to write for the 3 woodwind instruments which I was previously unfamiliar with. I also learnt to portray the interaction between the instruments through the intertwining of melodic lines and imitative textures, as well as the interlocking rhythms between 3 instruments that are contrasting in timbre. Relating all these to my programme, I hope that the piece is able to illustrate the mysterious underworld and the ambiguity of it, evoking a sense of suspense and tension towards the main characters’ fate.
Rachel Aow (19-U2)