Using the Musical Tree and Musical Timeline in Your Composition

Entry Point

Identify a theme you would like to use for your composition. You are free to use the themes mentioned below. Place that idea on a musical tree and timeline. Place musical ideas, themes, words, motifs, and any other visual aspects onto the timeline, then shift into your method of composing.


  • Musical Tree
    This tree takes much from the family tree concept, and illuminates the vertical aspect of music making and the hierarchy of ideas within a composition. Content is the goal as well as establishing relationships between ideas. Counterpoint is key.
  • Musical Timeline
    The timeline incorporates your musical tree and places it in time, incorporating the horizontal aspect of music making. Duration and structure are key.

Exploring the Musical Tree and Musical Timeline in Sounds

Text and/or visuals: Sounds by Kandinsky:
Wassily Kandinsky’s Sounds– 38 poems interspersed among 12 color and 44 black and white woodcuts – was completed in 1912. He described the book as a "small example of synthetic work," adorning his poems with visual images and evoking a musical composition in the forms and colors of his woodcuts. He believed that such synthetic works were possible because of profound underlying connections among all art forms. That art in all its manifestations grows from the same deep roots, an underlying set of what he described as "enigmatic but exact laws of composition [that] are the same in all the arts." The book has no set order, and is rich with musical instructions, color, and prose.

Create your own story, reaction or world using Sounds as an inspiration point.
The original Sounds by Kandinsky and Paola's interpretation, can be found here:


You can hear Paola's piece Soundson her website:


Ordinary Hills comes from a larger multimedia work, Sounds, that I wrote for the group I direct and founded, VisionIntoArt. It is inspired by Kandinsky’s manuscript of woodcuts and prose by the same name from 1912. It is a meditation on the meaning and  implications of blue, red, black and white and is a multi-media song cycle with ten movements, or ‘adventures’. Ordinary Hills is a pastiche piece that employs opening and  closing sounds from a bird sanctuary in southern Arizona, improvisation from my  ensemble, and my own voice.

I decided to track and personify four colors in Kandinsky’s world: the romantic Blue, the  remote Scarlet, and the storytelling voice of Black and White (played by the Trinidadian  spoken word poet, Roger Bonair-Agard). Scarlet cannot see life or love, and thus is  unable to return Blue's adoration. Heartbroken, Blue dissolves into a wave, and Scarlet  sinks like a cloth into the ocean.

Ordinary Hills is the place described by Kandinsky where they first meet. Blue professes  his love to Scarlet (played in abstract by bassist Dave Phillips) while Scarlet responds  with a refrain from a Federico Garcia Lorca ode (which is sung and woven into an  improvisational fabric by Helga Davis).

Join composer Paola Prestini in the Musical Exchange Project Composing: Sing in an Interdisciplinary Voice (January 23 - March 2, 2012).


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Comment by Christopher Amos on February 2, 2012 at 6:28pm

See how Pamela is using the Kandinsky text and the concept of a musical timeline to develop her new composition.


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