For the 2016 AP Music Theory Final Project, each student in class will be creating a short, orchestral variation on a theme by English composer Edward Elgar. Elgar himself created a set of diverse variations on his theme in his composition, ENIGMA VARIATIONS. Learn more about the ENIGMA VARIATIONS:

BBC Radio 3 Program Notes
San Fransisco Symphony Program Notes

Elgar's ENIGMA VARIATIONS opens with his G minor theme, novel in many regards. CLICK HERE to see the theme. You'll want to download/print this to use when working on your variation.

The phrase structure is as follows:
6 measures (a) - full of rhythmic palindromes
4 measures (b) - major tonic to dominant, to set up the return of
6 measures (a') + 1 measure "Picardy 3rd" final chord

Examine the graphic analysis of the theme to see what features might be exploited in a variation:

Do you see the following?
  • Stepwise ascending bass line and plagal cadence to a Picardy 3rd in the "A" section
  • "A" section palindromic rhythm
  • 2-chord "B" section (I then V) "B" section simple rhythm (Ta, Ti-ti)
  • Return to the "A" section (like a D.C. al Fine)

RECORDINGS. Click below for two performances of versions of Elgar's ENIGMA VARIATIONS, one for piano and one for full orchestra.
Piano Version - Ashley Wass (many believe Ms. Wass's version is on the slow side!)
Orchestral Version - Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (more typical interpretation)

"Nimrod" (Edward Elgar) Analysis Paper Directions
Performance of Elgar's "Nimrod" movement (YouTube)

YOUR TASK: Create an original variation - scored for orchestra (see instrumentation below) - that musically portrays the character of someone, real or fictional. Your score must be typeset with Noteflight or Finale and turned in with "program notes" that explain 1) whom your variation portrays, and 2) the musical means by which you have fashioned the portrayal. Your program notes do not need to be any longer than a few paragraphs on a single page and may not be longer than 2 typed pages.

LENGTH: Your music must be at least as long as the original theme - 16 measures - but may be as much as twice as long (if you are so inspired). Your variation will be between 30 seconds and no longer than 2 minutes.

INSTRUMENTATION: The instruments for which you must score your variation is as follows: 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Bb Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 4 French Horns, 3 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, 1 Tuba, 1 Timpani, 2 Percussion (assigned to percussion instruments of your choice, i.e. Snare Drum, Bass Drum), String Section (Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola, Cello, Bass). NOTE: This instrumentation includes several "transposing instruments," clarinets in B flat (need to be written a major 2nd above concert pitch) and French horns in F (need to be written a Perfect 5th above concert pitch). The trumpets may be C Trumpets (meaning they can be notated in concert pitch) or trumpets in B flat (meaning they need to be notated a major 2nd above concert pitch). Also note that while there are 2-4 wind instrument parts (i.e. 2 clarinet parts, 3 trumpet parts, 4 French horn parts) which ca each play separate notes, you may also at times have them play in unison together for strength and emphasis. Use the following as a template for your score:
NOTEFLIGHT TEMPLATE FOR ENIGMA VARIATION (I suggest you make and save a copy of this template for yourself).

PROCESS: The process of creating an orchestral work differs for different composers. Many first create a "short score," that is, a piano version first that is later orchestrated. I recommend this process, but while you are notating your music for piano, make notes of the instruments that you "hear" eventually performing the various lines and parts. Then transfer the material to your full score. If you need help with transposing instruments, ask your instructor.

DUE DATE: Your final, completed score with program notes is due Tuesday, MAY 31. There will be no extensions so plan on turning in your project - in whatever state it is in - on this day. Turn in your score electronically - either Noteflight score shared with me or Finale score emailed to me - and your program notes as a Google doc shared with me.

GRADING RUBRIC: CLICK HERE to see the rubric that will be used to score your final project.

EXTRA CREDIT!! I will award 2 percentage points to your grade to anyone who follows the criteria of the Allentown Symphony Composition COntest and enters their Composer Competition. This involves filling out the entry form online and uploading your score and a MIDI sound file (which is easy to do if your score is in Noteflight or Finale. DETAILS HERE. You must do EVERYTHING before the end of class on Friday, June 3 to receive this grade bonus.