There’s no worse feeling for a composer than looking down at the blank page and getting an overwhelming feeling of “now what?”
It’s in trying to conquer that feeling that this project came into being.
Perhaps you’ve seen those little trays at convenience stores that say “Need a Penny? Take a Penny. Have a Penny? Leave a Penny.” That’s akin to how this project works. Here you’ll find germinal notions or broad concepts that could be taken in any number of directions. If you need something to get your mind moving, hopefully you can find it here. Or if you have such ideas yourself, hopefully you’ll share them for others.
To sum it all up:
If you have an idea, share it. If you need an idea, take one.
Note: Over the years, I’ve taken much impetus from Vincent Persichetti’s seminal “Twentieth Century Harmony.” The book is a gold mine of ideas and I’ve listed some of them here to get things started. The numbers in brackets refer to page numbers in the book.
-develop musical materials around particular intervals (“zones” of interval deployment; one phrase could explore seconds, the next fifths, etc.) 
-use lines of chained intervals contrapuntally, as you would with single melodic lines 
-explore modes of pentatonic scales or move to different types of pentatonic scales 
-compose a diatonic melody with whole tone harmony 
-allow a part to sing a pentatonic melody over a non-pentatonic chordal background 
-explore moving voices through various forms of 7th and 9th chord formations on the same root 
-write a passage of quiet, sustained tension with twelve note chords 
-harmonize a melody in four parts using a selected chord type only (e.g. dominant 7ths). Much contrary and oblique motion and several inversions should be used. 
-utilize a “zone” principle with quartal sonorities 
-write 3 part quartal harmony over a bass pedal point 
-variable melodic and harmonic content scheme: (pentatonic) melody and (quartal) harmony 
-harmonize a melody with triads in the upper voices and an added note in the bass 
-explore using three voice secundal chords in a variety of voicings (MM, Mm, mm) 
-write a piece in which diatonic, pentatonic, and chromatic clusters are used 
-intersperse polychordal textures with unison passages 
-employ mirror writing in the outer voices while the inner voices move freely 
-use chords as motives (designate “chord 1,” “chord 2,” “chord 3,” etc.; decide what sort of pattern in which to deploy them and ways in which this might be developed) 
-use perfect 5ths in coupled two part writing 
-write a piece in which the different voices follow different isorhythmic patterns 
-compose a piece in which isomelos and isorhythm are out of sync 
-write a piece utilizing pandiatonicism in which the diatonic center frequently shifts 
-compose an expressive sustained passage in chordal style in which all 7 diatonic tones are sounded in each chord 
-write a fast passage using simple chords that move so rapidly that they create a harmonically complex sound 
-deploy a florid ornamental dissonant line above simple tertian chords 
-use 3 rhythmic cells in free ordering. Accompanying lines should be based on these cells. Develop further in later phrases by inverting, changing voices, etc. 
-compose a quartet for flute, oboe, clarinet, and bassoon in which the bottom three play three different ostinatos while the flute sings a melody above 
-write a soft passage with a line doubled several octaves lower 
-compose a string quartet passage in which two ostinatos are used simultaneously 
-write a 3 voice canon. The top voice is the leading voice, the middle voice is in triple augmentation and starts concurrent with the leading voice and the lower voice follows at the tritone to the leading voice 
-plan a piano piece using a scheme like this: 
Form Pitch Content Texture
A two distant keys RH – single line; LH – broken chords
B two close keys RH – chords; LH – ostinato
A modified repetition with coda
Imagine how this scheme might be expanded upon.
-vivacious pandiatonic writing in the mixed chorus on a phrase from one of the Psalms 
-rich string harmony under a solo trumpet 
-weave a passage through tertian, quartal, secundal, polychordal, and compound harmony 
Now let’s add to this list! Help your fellow composers!
Check out the music I’ve written here!