In Part 3 of this series I would like to discuss my workflow when composing electroacoustic music using Logic Pro X. When I work in Logic, my compositional technique changes quite dramatically. In a way my technique is similar to putting together a collage. Instead of MIDI regions spanning the entire work, I keep individual phrases or seeds in their own smaller regions.
With this technique, the biggest advantage is moving stuff around! I am fascinated with space as a part of the language of music. Throughout my career I have had issues with having a good space/sound ratio. Phrases would be too close, chords would change too quickly, lines would all be the same length. It took me years to figure out that what I was perceiving as something being off was my adherence to equality between units in a work.
Atomic Cells for Ideas
Keeping small cells separate enables me to move things around and copy specific motives to other instruments without having to did into MIDI regions and grab just the right notes. It is also helpful because any automation data for that MIDI region is also movable and able to be copied.
Working in Broad Strokes
My most recent work has been a concept album that is entirely composed in Logic Pro X using various sample libraries (Vienna Symphonic Library, East West), and different synthesizer modules to create a more ambient texture-intensive musical experience. This style is quite conducive to dragging around bits of music since there isn’t a lot of complex counterpoint and voice interaction. With this type of work I am painting with broad strokes, so moving things left and right often produces interesting results!
The small regions also have a visual element helpful to me as a composer. The first image above demonstrates that they are mostly different lengths. This shows me immediately how long each phrase is, some being much longer than others. I am able to see easily which snippets might easily be inserted into a small space or fill a large one. The gray background makes it easy to see actual space with nothing. Having a good ratio is so important for balancing sound versus silence.
I’m clearly not going to be composing symphonies with complicated counterpoint easily with this workflow. This works best for the type of work described in this article.
Because Logic’s notation is not very good I use my Composer’s Sketchbook app to keep track of motives. This helps me maintain continuity throughout a work by having a go-to collection of pitch sets. For my current work I am using a limited number of pitch sets and motives for all movements on the album!