Composing an Original Symphony

For his Summer Fellows research, David Nolan composed an original Sonata Allegro movement of a Neo-Romantic symphony.  The piece is written for an array of instruments, he says, and features hints of atonality and non-diatonic music.

“Pantriadicism, modal scales, and quartal harmonies will be used to help guide my writing,” says Nolan 2014.  “I have based this work off of the Grimm Brothers short story Hansel and Gretel.  I hope to capture some of the themes and characterizations of the storyline in my music.”  Nolan is writing the music on a program called Sibelius 7 and the final composition is about eight minutes.  He’s been composing music since high school when he wrote for a string ensemble and chorus. At Ursinus, Nolan arranged pieces of music for the college a cappella group, the Bearitones.

“But this Summer Fellows project has undoubtedly been the hardest composition for me,” says Nolan, a double major in psychology and music. Writing in a non-diatonic, Neo-Romantic way is especially challenging, he says, because it is very different from the conventional types of music he’s used to hearing in Western culture.  “Think of an artist with 1000’s of colors and canvases to use,” he says. “To write for such a large and eclectic ensemble, it takes a lot of practice and patience because of the plethora of options and choices.”

After graduation, Nolan plans to become a choral conductor and continue to compose. He plays piano, violin and viola and is a lyric baritone. The president and music director of the UC Bearitones, Nolan says in his spare time he listens to Frank Sinatra and classical music.

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