April music composition challenge - SchoolofComposition.com

April Composition Challenge: “Lifesaver”

Update: This challenge is now closed. View the results here: https://www.schoolofcomposition.com/april-composition-challenge-results/

I’m pleased to announce that this month’s composition challenge is a very special one. My friend and student, Max, asked if we could use this platform to write music dedicated to a very special person for her birthday. Before we get into the actual challenge, I’ll let him tell his story:

“At the end of June 2014, I became ill. At first, I believed I simply caught a cold. However, when after one week the fever didn’t pass, the mother of my girlfriend at that time – Barbara –  insisted that I get my blood checked out.

It turned out that I had what would normally be a simple infection but unfortunately, I’m part of the small percentage of people who get this disease with life-threatening complications such as enlargement of liver and spleen.

A week of weakness

Luckily, Barbara decided to keep me at the hospital. I couldn’t drink or eat and I could barely walk. I never, ever felt so weak.

In order to stay medicated, hydrated and have an intake of nutrients, they put me on a drip for three days as well as artificial nutrients. Things seemed to be getting better. I could eat, sleep and walk again. I was ready to get on with life.

However, the climax was yet to come…

Something was still wrong. My throat was unnaturally swollen. It was a Friday, and Barbara – being a very intuitive doctor – decided it would be better to get me to another hospital in the city to have a CT-scan performed before the weekend – just in case.

The doctors decided I needed a surgery – immediately. Due to my weakened immune system and my injured throat, bacteria invaded and caused a super-infection that led to another loosely spreading infection. This could have fatal consequences if untreated.

So there I was, about to have a surprise surgery, trying not to freak out and unable to do anything except surrender to the doctors.

When I woke up two hours later, she and my girlfriend stood beside me, slightly shocked and in disbelief but also relieved I was finally okay. Two weeks later I was able to leave hospital for good. While I was still weak and with a scar along my throat reminding me of this ordeal, I couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of gratitude for the wonderful people who stayed by my side.


Only some time later I actually learned how serious the situation was. My girlfriend told me how her mother experienced a few occasions in which she felt helpless in face of this infection, not knowing if she could save me.

What a brave woman! Whenever she came to visit me, she never betrayed any worries, despite knowing that it would have weighed on her heart for a long time to come if I didn’t make it – after all I was family.

With some distance from this event, I more and more feel this immense gratitude, knowing that I’m still here today because of those snap decisions she had to make. 

For a long time, I pondered how to express this in a personal way, something more than just plain words. I think music is the perfect medium to go beyond words and so the community that’s evolving around the School of Composition and the monthly challenges seems like the perfect platform.

I’d like to present Barbara with a collection of original pieces from many different composers. No matter which part of this story inspires you: the illness, the recovery, the gratitude.. compose about that. I will collect them all into an album and dedicate it to her, something like a “Lifesaver Suite” or so. 🙂 

Thank you for lending me your “voice” to speak directly to her beautiful heart.” 

Back to Matt:

So here are the musical guidelines for this month’s challenge. Since the person to whom this is dedicated is named ‘Barbara‘, we’re going to play with that name.

It just so happens that it’s a 7-letter word with the first three letters repeated (hint: repetition is a useful musical tool!) What’s really interesting is that it actually has just 3 unique letters, two of which (the B and A) are already musical notes.

Because of this, the music for this challenge should be based on ‘Barbara’. Assign any note you like to the letter ‘R’ and then use the whole name as the theme of your piece. For example, if I choose C sharp to represent the letter ‘R’, then my musical theme becomes:

Barbara motif for School of Composition.com Challenge

Or if I choose to represent the letter ‘R’ with the note F sharp, then my musical theme becomes:

Barbara motif for School of Composition.com Challenge

You may then treat this just like you would any other theme (that is, vary it, develop it, contrast it, break it down etc).

And so by the end of this challenge we’ll end up with a variety of similar themes based on ‘Barbara’. The compositions submitted will be compiled into an album, which Max will give Barbara herself as a surprise for her birthday in early Summer.

P.s. If you’re in the German tradition where the letter ‘B’ is the note B flat, please stick to ‘B natural’ anyway just for this challenge. Since the idea is to end up with related compositions that fit into an album, the letters ‘B’ and ‘A’ should be fixed as notes ‘B’ and ‘A’. 

Duration: Nothing is too long or too short for this one

InstrumentationAnything you like

Style: Anything you like

Deadline: 3rd May, 2018

To submit a piece, send me an email on matt@schoolofcomposition.com with the score and mp3 or leave a comment on our Facebook group.

If you’d like to upload your music to Soundcloud, Youtube or any other platform please link back to this page in the description.

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