model composition

As a young composer, were you forced to write in a certain style? Were you not allowed to write your own music first, but rather you were assigned a composer and had to write in that composer's style?

I never had to, although I did take a couple of counterpoint classes (and wrote my own catch canons). However, I know that some of my colleagues have had this model composition assignment passed onto them.

Why is this assigned? Could it be that the first stage of (Classical) education is learning grammar, the building blocks of a language? Do we need to break apart the grammar of a certain composer to see how he or she constructs a well-written piece? Is that why we study counterpoint? To learn how to create a good melody line and interweave it with other independent lines? And then, to solidify this knowledge, do we need to constantly imitate this grammar before we are entrusted with creating our own harmonies and melodies?

I tried to do some last-minute research on this matter, and I found a couple of dissertations about composition pedagogy online. One is An Approach to the Pedagogy of Beginning Music Composition: Teaching Understanding and Realization of the First Steps in Composing Musicby Vera D. Stanojevic and the other is Music Composition Pedagogy: A History, Philosophy and Guide by Benjamin John Williams.

Unfortunately, I haven't read them, although I plan to once my comprehensive exams are over. And one segment of my exam is to write a model composition in the style of late Debussy.

So…I may not be reading these dissertations or blogging or doing much of anything until they are over. Well, maybe stress about the premiere of my new orchestra piece, but that's it.

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