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Topic: Why do you compose?

  1. #1

    Why do you compose?

    Musicians create for a variety of reasons. Some write songs with a priority on emotional expression, others consider the intellectual / theoritical aspects to be most important, still others want to create "important" art relative to their genre. Of course, there's many other motivations as well, and I believe them all to be equally valid approaches.

    My particular background is that of a rock musician of the simplest order (I can play three chords in any key you like ) and by far, the emotional content of a song is my priority. How "good" or legitimate the music is from an analytical, intellectual or theoritical perspective is not a consideration in my efforts, only how it makes me feel.

    However, in a community centered on symphonic composition, I naturally see many more educated and well trained composers here than I would in your local, smoky biker bar. I was curious what angle you folks approached your compositions from. Is the theoretical aspect the most important to you? Or are you more interested in creating an artistic statement? Or, shocking as it might be to suggest, do some of you just write whatever feels good regardless of how theoretically/technically advanced it may or may not be? (You can use an alias if you like to protect your identity. )

    I'm very much enjoying the company of such well educated and talented musicians, and since it's a new experience for me, I'd love to hear what you folks each consider to be the priority when you sit down to compose.

    Remember, all answers are correct, and neatness counts.
    Christopher Duncan
    Author of
    Unite the Tribes and The Career Programmer

  2. #2

    Re: Why do you compose?


    I never really thought about it that much. I would say that the major reason is I write something that I'll enjoy hearing. But, I think at times I do write from an egocentric place, i.e. I try and write something that will impress people from a dificulty perspective. This generally will still fall under the heading of the first answer though.
    Then of course at times I write for money. All bets are off on that!

    I write totally based on sound. What theory I still have is so rusty it's useless.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2001

    Smile Re: Why do you compose?

    Because I was moved by something, nature, arts, something people said to me, or whaterver; and I wanted to do something about my moved heart. I was a script writer, so I used to write. Now I compose.

    Or because someone want me to write something.
    Kentaro Sato (Ken-P)

  4. #4

    Re: Why do you compose?

    I compose because I have a dream of being rich and famous!

    Actually, as has been said, I compose something I will enjoy listening too. It would be nice if I ever made money, or if anyone asked me to compose something, but for now, just for my own enjoyment.
    Sean Patrick Hannifin
    My MP3s | My Melody Generator | my album
    "serious music" ... as if the rest of us are just kidding

  5. #5

    Re: Why do you compose?

    So what importance do you guys place on how the music holds up when analyzed in terms of music theory? Is this aspect important to you, or a criteria that you feel is required in order for you to write "good music"? Or are you from the school of "if it sounds good, it is good", regardless of academic considerations?

    I've known a lot of people over the years who considered theoretical legitimacy paramount, and not coming from an intellectual background (other than grade through high school music classes), I have no point of reference on this.
    Christopher Duncan
    Author of
    Unite the Tribes and The Career Programmer

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Wilton, NH

    Re: Why do you compose?

    I think, therefore I am. I am, therefore I compose… Hmmm, I think it’s been done before.

    There is something about the act of creation, be it painting, writing or composing, that I can’t stay away from. Of all of them, I love composing the most – it is something I have to do. I will stop when I die and not a second sooner.

    I combine what I feel and what I hear with what I think. I don’t want to write just “ear-candy” – I want the listener (and the composer!) to have to think a little. Listening should never be a passive endeavor.

    As I get the theory and stuff down, I tend to not have to think about it – it just happens. That frees me to think about other things.

    I tend to like the music I write but I’m not to the point were I can write the music I like – as I grow in my composing skills I get closer to the music I really want to write.

    Am I rambling yet?

    As to your second question -

    Music doesn’t have to follow theory to be good and music that follows theory to the letter is not necessarily good (or computers would write the best music!). I have found that the more theory I know the more complex I can make my music and the closer I can get to what I hear in my head. Unless I’m in a passive listening mode I want some complexity in my music. Without theory it is often hard to add complexity in a meaningful fashion. A genius with a great ear can.

    Oh well, I think I am rambling now…

    BTW - Until I recently started studying (last year or 18 months) I had very little theory - a lot less than I thought I had! I usually don't analyse anything from a standpoint of theory...
    Trent P. McDonald

  7. #7

    Re: Why do you compose?

    Theory is only a tool in the composer's tool box. It tells them what the masters did for the most part. Mind you, when I say Theory I don't just mean common practice harmony. There are modes, modern harmony, pantonality, etc.

    The one aspect that unites music is the motive. It is the germ that infects the entire piece of music and I challenge anyone to find good music that doesn't have it.

    Why do I compose? I don't know. I was just always good at it.
    Jess Hendricks
    DMA Student and Teaching Asst in Music Theory/ Composition at the University of Miami
    Personal Website

  8. #8

    Smile Re: Why do you compose?

    I understand your feeling in front of some very esoteric discussion, but believe me Chris, a lot of people is more similar to you than you may suspect.

    Simply think to a kid, having in the hands his first guitar, and touching strings for the first time: how far seems to be the wonderful fingerpicking or the electric distorted solo of the rock music stars he loves...

    To follow emotions with your music you understand that a little bit of discipline and sacrifice is needed. If you don't, you will never be a musician, as frequently happen to kids that begin, but quickly stop studying music because of boring initial training...

    Well, for us classic composers it's the same (I played almost more rock than Bach to be honest, with the same pleasure, even if i consider Bach simply "the best").

    You feel a so strong emotion and actraction hearing educated music, and you don't find a way to reproduce the harmony and perfection of this style, without a deep study. Then you decide to go on with the knowledge accumulation necessary to translate your ideas in the form you love.

    After this common experience somebody may be IMO "deviated" by the "abuse" of theory, and then theory and mathematics and form became more important than the music and the emotion...I don't consider the result music at all.

    I wrote recently my first and only critic, and I did explain some technical reason after the request of a colleague.

    But the reason of the critic was only emotional. I feel someting dissonant, incorrect, and it disturbs the emotion and the pleasure for the perfection of the rest. Then i told "It's excellent, but I don't like a part..."

    When you say "I don't like..." of course it's emotion. I personally should never say "It's theorically not correct..." (if the matter of discussion is not academic or style oriented) to say that I dislike hearing something.

    Then theory is only a tool, as the first book of chord fingering over the guitar fret will maybe produce wonderful and natural rock ballads when the kid will be a star...

  9. #9

    Re: Why do you compose?

    The main reason for me is emotion. Music that I don't "feel" I usualy loose interest in strait away. Origionality is also a big factor. When I hear something that not only moves me, but does it in a new way (new musical techneques or whatever)...this is even better. This is what inspires me. When I make music that's what I aim for, but I dont always get there.

  10. #10

    Re: Why do you compose?

    Having started composing 35 years ago, I have the same desire to create masterpieces... pieces of music that are substantial and polished, enchanting, epic, beautful. My progress in that goal has been very slow and I don't know if I will ever make it. But it is fun trying and from time to time rewarding.


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