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  Modal Composition  JackBandit at 02:04 on 08 April 2009

When using musical modes for composition, where should one even start?
Should they be used just like, say, the major and minor scales?

  Re: Modal Composition  IanTipping at 13:31 on 08 April 2009

My advice would be to select a mode and then just noodle around in nothing but that mode on whatever instrument you fancy for some time (may be even several days if it feels really odd to you initially). After a while, you should find your imagination occupying the mode's soundworld quite comfortably. At that point, step away from the instrument and let your mind wander through the possiblities the mode's particular character suggests to you. Hopefully, compositional ideas will start coming to you fairly quickly. I think it's probably unwise to compose modally without getting your mind into that mode's soundworld first - as with all composition, if you can't hear it, don't write it (In my experience, this is particularly true with the modes of the major scale - it's all too easy to find yourself subconsciously making the root of the parent major scale the fulcrum of your ideas, and when that happens, it destroys the whole point of modal writing!)

  Re: Modal Composition  MartinY at 16:14 on 09 April 2009

Ian's advice of practising 'pure' modal compositions is very good. One of the things about most of the modes is the flatted leading note which makes the dominant chord minor. This was exploited to a large extent in early 20th century music in free composition but it gives it a 'modal' flavour.

Extended modes, where every note of the chromatic scale is part of some mode of the tonic was used much in the mid 20th century, (e.g. Benjamin Britten, Messiaen). An analysis using extended modes is often the explanation for 'bitonal' passages, rather than 2 keys at once. The pure modes create their own atmosphere but in a long piece extended modes are probably a good way of maintaining contrast, new moods, and musical interest.........