Composition Activities

Baroque Music Composition Activities

The da capo aria

Compose your own da capo aria working first with words and then music.

  1. Think of a simple phrase which expresses an emotional thought. Add a second contrasting thought. Repeat the first thinking about how the second has changed or developed its meaning or emphasis. How differently can you say the repeat – what does your voice do with it?
  2. Using your words, devise a simple melody which is easy to remember. Add the second contrasting one. Try repeating the first remembering how you changed emphasis. Extend this so that musically you improvise or ornament the phrase, thinking of why it might be changing emotionally.
  3. You can try this in pairs too, so that one person takes each phrase.

Try this in different musical forms such as jazz improvisation.

Events Music

Handel was very aware of what was happening around him politically and some of his music was written to celebrate special events.

Judas Maccabaeus which tells the story of a biblical conqueror was dedicated to the Duke of Cumberland who had won the war against the Young Pretender Bonnie Prince Charlie. It was performed in 1747 and features the chorus ‘See the Conqu’ring Hero Comes’.

Music for the Royal Fireworks was written to celebrate peace with France at the end of the wars of the Austrian Succession. It was performed in Green Park amidst a backdrop of fireworks and a ceremonial building designed especially for the occasion. Handel scored the work for 24 oboes, nine horns, nine trumpets, three sets of timpani, 12 bassoons and a contrabassoon plus strings, which should have pleased the King, who was very keen to have ‘martial music’.

Other events music includes:

  • The Water Music
    Written to ‘appease’ George I
  • Birthday Ode
    To celebrate the birthday of Queen Anne
  • Coronation Anthems
    For the coronation of King George II

Compose your own piece for one of these events using existing words or writing your own when necessary. Try doing this in several different musical forms such as jazz, rap, pop etc.

(Teacher led) Figured Bass

Compose a piece thinking about the bass line first and then harmonising or making a melody on top. Divide the class into groups. Devise a simple bass line which one group can play or sing. Suggest that the next group try a series of notes which build up to a simple harmony that fits over the bass. This can be instrumental or vocal, but make sure this group is large enough to work with chords rather than unison blocks. Once the base is complete, the last group should try improvising a melody of top. This shows the basics of how the figured bass works.