Eric Whitacre’s short composition exercise

Last night I thought I’d try a short composition challenge that composer Eric Whitacre mentions in a video interview titled ‘It’s Not a Failure, It’s An Invitation’. In it, he says that the requirements for this exercise are to write a piece that is:
– Less than 60 seconds long
– Contains only 4 tones (in my case Eb, F, Gb and Bb)
– It must be finished in one night
And what came out was this short tale of woe on the piano.

It’s an unusual task, as simple as it seems, and can force an ephemeral mood or thought to be presented in a confident and complete manner. I remember doing tasks such as these during my education, but I recommend all musicians of all ages and levels to regularly try such exercises that push one’s creativity into a tiny little box. I can reflect on the minutiae of the piece – where it goes wrong and where it goes right – and learn something about my abilities that I might not have otherwise. Good things can come in small packages.

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