Composing a Fanfare for Crew Dragon: Day 1

Sharing my work as it happens for this composition.

Assumed Audience: Anyone interested in the process of writing composed music.

I’m taking a week off, and in order to make this week off a true change of pace, I’m carefully avoiding doing any programming work. I’ll be back at it next week — for both my regular job and my side project — but this week, I’m just spending time with my family and writing a new piece of composed music. I figured it’d be fun (and probably interesting and illuminating to folks out there) if I published my work in progress, so that you can see and hear how it develops over the course of the week.

I decided to write something for the upcoming Crew Dragon Demo 2 launch: a historic moment in American space flight, as we return to sending astronauts to space on our own rockets from our own soil. It’s also a nice chance to stretch my muscles in a specific direction — rather than just flailing about for a direction to take the music, I have a focus and a sound to aim for: spaaaaace!

I spent today working at the piano, sketching out a variety of ideas — melodic motions, harmonies, variations on the above. It took me a good hour and a half just to knock the dust off: it’s been a good 3½ years since I wrote anything! At that point, I had the very first hints of what I think will actually become the guts of the piece, but the specifics — in melodic sequence and in rhythm — were all still frustratingly wrong. After almost four hours, I had a few ideas which were getting close — 

my musical notes mid-afternoon
my musical notes mid-afternoon

 — but it took another couple hours for them to gel into something I am actually reasonably pleased with as a starting point for the rest of the week.

At the end of the day, I came away with two related sketches. The first is in the mode of a fanfare; the second is more oriented toward a running melodic line to be developed. They’re riffing on the same underlying ideas, and I currently expect the first to be the opener and the second to be where the piece goes afterward.

the sketch of the fanfare
the sketch of the melodic line

Tomorrow, my plan is to spend an hour or two further fleshing out these ideas — especially in figuring out how I want to support the melodic lines harmonically, and how I might want to develop them — and then transfer them from my notebook into Dorico. Once I have them in the app, I’ll start the work of turning these ideas into an actual composition — developing the ideas, orchestrating them, and so on.

Hopefully I’ll be back tomorrow evening with another progress report and a bit more to show you!