Want to try your hand and "Retro" Composing?

I became interested in composing when I first decided to
play the recorder in 1972. Not having access to enough
music to play,(and limited funds) I found it necessary to arrange and 
compose my own. I learned quite a bit from writing out choral and 
instrumental pieces from my school's library for my own use. 
Today, the same lessons can be learned from the sequencing of the 
music of the masters into MIDI files.

Besides copying scores and arranging, careful listening can reveal
many aspects of style and form. Performing the music is the
best way to absorb this kind of knowledge, but attending
concerts and listening to recordings can be just as helpful. 
The two Harnoncourt books listed below will give you a good
idea of what to listen for.

What *not* to do ?

I don't recommend anyone compose at a keyboard or
any other instrument. It's too easy to compose a
recorder concerto that will inadvertently sound
like a piano concerto. Composing with pencil
and paper (virtual or otherwise) will force you to
use parts of your cortex that may be bypassed as
you engage in "fantasy" at the keyboard. Of course,
if your intention is to compose a toccata or free form
piece, then go for it.

Suggested Reading For Baroque Composers

Some of the books listed below have been in my
library for many years and may no longer be in
print or could be in the "xth" reprint. My philosophy
has been to go to the source, or read what my favorite
composers read, whenever possible.

J.J. Quantz
"On Playing the Flute"
Schirmer Books
ISBN 0-02-870160-7

Not only about playing the flute, but also lots
of general info on what makes a good concerto,
sinfonia, quartet, etc. . 

J.P. Ramaeau
"Treatise on Harmony"
Dover Publications
ISBN 0-486-22461-9

Practical information about the fundamentals
of composing for the beginner. Once you get by all
the mathematical theories, the text is straightforward
and practical.

C. Palisca
"Baroque Music"
Prentice-Hall, Inc

This is a good source for understanding Baroque
musical forms.

Knud Jeppesen
"The Style of Palestrina And
the Dissonance"
Dover Press
ISBN 486-22386-8

The secrets behind Palestrina's exquisite
use of dissonance for expressive effect.

Knud Jeppesen
"Counterpoint-The Polyphonic
Vocal Style of the 16th Century"
Dover Press
ISBN 0-486-27036-X

This is a more nuts and bolts approach to
Palestrina style counterpoint.

Gioseffo Zarlino
"The Art of Counterpoint"
The Norton Library
ISBN 0-393-00833-9

Here is a translation of an important
treatise. It is of great interest to me
because of its influence on early composers.

Joseph Fux
"The Study of Counterpoint"
The Norton Library
ISBN 0-39300277 2

Fux's book replaced Zarlino's. Used by
all great composers from JS Bach to 

Adam Carse
"The History of Orchestration"
Dover Press
ISBN 0-486-21258-0

I hesitate to include this book since it shares
some of the same prejudices about early music as
many others I hear from on the Net, eg., the false evaluation
of early instruments as primitive, faulty "precursors" to the
more refined and perfect instruments of today. If anyone
else has a book to recommend on early orchestration, please
send the title to me.

Nikolaus Harnoncourt

"Baroque Music Today:
Music As Speech"

Amadeus Press
ISBN 0-931340-05-5


"The Musical Dialogue"
ISBN 0-031340-08

These two wonderful books are loaded with
information about the interpretation of
early music, the motivations behind the
composers to use certain figures and 
musical languages, orchestration, tempi,
form, and more. 

Thomas Morley
"A Plain and Easy Introduction To Practical Musick"

Walter Piston
Norton Press
ISBN 393 09737 4


ISBN 393 09728 5

Almost too perfunctory to be understood
right away, these books are still useful
if read carefully. All of the musical
examples are from well known pieces.

If you can't find any of these books at your local
library or bookstore, check at Powell's Bookstore
Web Pages. You can search their complete inventory and
order by credit card via secure form.