Night Music - Spooky Duets Composing at Home (Young Instrumentalists) >

Compose a spooky duet inspired by Four Nocturnes (Night Music II) for violin and piano by George Crumb

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Night Music


Listen to the Four Nocturnes (Night Music II) for violin and piano by George Crumb. A Nocturne is a short piece of music about the night. As you listen, try to notice all the different sounds and ways of playing that are produced by the violin and piano. 

George Crumb said that in the piece he was trying to exploit various timbral resources of the instruments. This means finding and using the many different and interesting sounds the instrument can play.

For the violinist these effects include: harmonics, glissandi, tremolos and tapping on the wood of the instrument. For the pianist this includes, harmonics achieved by touching the strings, rapping on the metal crossbeams, and plucking the strings using either the fingertip or the fingernail.

What different and interesting sounds can you find on your instrument that might help you compose music about the night? In what ways does the music makes you think about the night? What kind of night is it?

Using ideas from the piece and your own ideas, create a mind map about what makes music describe the night - maybe a spooky night. Maybe you have thought about using silences, particular sounds, surprises....?

spooky mind map

Listen below to an excerpt from a spooky duet by BCMG Music Maze participants:

Your Turn!

In this composing activity you are going to create a spooky night time duet with a friend or partner. A duet is a piece of music for two people. 

Start by learning the notes below C F# G and Bb. If one of you plays an instrument in a different key or clef (trumpets, clarinets, saxophones, horns) look HERE for the correct notes. If you both play in the same key, use the notes below:

spooky notes 1Individually, start to play around with notes and improvise short melodies. It might help to start with just one note and then gradually add the other notes into your improvisation. It might also help if one you of you plays a drone (long note C) while the other improvises on top and then swap. 

Gradually move from improvising into composing a melody. Try adding some of the sounds and ideas from your mind map. If you would like to, you could write your melody down using traditional notation or the note names and graphic images to show they should be played. 

When you both have a melody you are happy with and comfortable playing, experiment with the ideas on THIS SHEET. This sheet explores the many different ways two people with different musical ideas can play together. As you try them out, make a note of the ones your like or sound interesting.

Spooky intervals:

A music interval describes the distance between two notes. Different intervals feel and sound very different and can create different atmospheres and emotions. Using the four notes you have learnt, play the intervals below with your friend or partner i.e. one person plays one note and the other person the second note at the same time. Then rank them in order of least spooky to most spooky

Night music spooky intervals2

NB if you have an instrument like the piano which play more than one note at a time you can explore the intervals with three and four notes to create chords. If not, just stick to the ones with two notes. The intervals can also be found HERE.

Composing your final piece:

Using some of the ideas you have explored in the Playing Together sheet, the Spooky Intervals activity and from your Mind Map, start to compose your duet. Think carefully how you are going to organise your ideas. The ways ideas are organised in a piece of music is called the structure.  Think about:

  • Who is playing what when
  • Maybe having a narrative that helps you to structure your ideas
  • How you might create a spooky atmosphere
  • How you might create suspense
  • How you might use dynamics and silence effectively
  • How you might add in your spooky sounds

If you would like to, notate your music using traditional or graphic notation.


Please send any music you create to