3. The Nyman project

The project for this unit

Work in this unit integrates performance, analysis, musicological research, aural skills development and composition. You will have the opportunity to work at a level that is appropriate to your experience and interests, to build on your existing knowledge, and to stretch your skills. You are also encouraged to have a go and to be proactive in your collaboration with others.

A scheme of work over 15 lessons, about half a term or 5 weeks (numbers of lessons approximate)

1. Begin to learn to play In Re Don Giovanni in a large group. (One lesson), Emphasis on integration of score as aid to aural and collaborative learning.

2. Separate into smaller groups of four to six players for rehearsing parts. (Two lessons). Emphasis on listening to recording continues, along with understanding how the score can help.

3. Researching and listening in small groups to Nyman works (one lesson)

4. Further group practice. (Two lessons)

5. Further listening, and composition of an original work, and adaptation of a short ground bass style section from an existing or known work. Composing ‘in the style of’, or adaptation. Emphasis on freedom of stylistic expression here. Flexibility of approach according to group needs. (Four lessons)

6. Rehearsals for group performances (two lessons)

7. Group performances, and recording and performance of compositions (two lessons)

8. Evaluation, reflection, playback and review of videos and recordings (one lesson)

Analysis and comparison review

The first 16 bar section of the ‘Catalogue Aria’ from the Opera Don Giovanni by W.A. Mozart aria forms the basis for Nyman’s work ‘In Re Don Giovanni’. We could describe Nyman’s process as a ‘deconstruction’ of this extract from Mozart’s aria.

Analyse the two compositions (Mozart’s ‘Catalogue Aria’ and Nyman’s ‘In Re Don Giovanni’) and compare them bar by bar.

Compare both score versions and recorded versions if you can.

How does the deconstruction work in practice?

  • What does Nyman start with?
  • What does he omit at first?
  • When the melody does appear, how is its relative placement in the texture different from the original?
  • How do minimalist compositional practices in this case connect with traditional compositional practices in classical music?

Analyse the chord sequence in Roman numerals terms: define each harmony in D major, as I vi ii V IV iii (You’ll find each of these harmonies used). Work out in each part which voices of each harmony occur (e.g. 3rd, 7th).

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