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Topic: How Did They Do It?!

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  1. #1

    How Did They Do It?!

    Thanks to MIDI, many of us who had always aspired to be composers now can be composers. But how did Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner, Mahler, Tchaikovsky and all the other tunesmiths of old manage without it? My theory is that there were orchestras for hire that would play through their stuff and if it made 'em cringe, they'd take it home and work on it some more. Or perhaps they used a real professional orchestra and kept revising and revising until it either sounded decent enough to start printing up programs and concert tickets or the orchestra stood up in unison and shouted "IT'S GOOD ENOUGH, LUDWIG, WE'LL PLAY IT!!!"

    I can't imagine what it was like to not know how my symphony was gonna sound before opening night. Any historians out there who can shed some light on this mystery?
    "The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese." -Steven Wright, comedian

  2. #2

    Re: How Did They Do It?!

    Imagination and memory.
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    http://reberclark.blogspot.com http://reberclark.bandcamp.com http://www.youtube.com/reberclark

  3. #3

    Re: How Did They Do It?!

    Three thoughts:

    - Most of them were very good piano players and certainly good enough to check their composition in regards to melody, harmony and balance.
    - They worked up their way by writing smaller forms like solo piano works and piano duets, then string trios, then string quartets, wind serenades, choir works, brass chorales etc. and made their experiences step by step. Maybe not in this order but you get the picture.
    - Commenting your first paragraph: Most here would be amazed how good their works would sound if given to great players opposed to sample libraries. In one way midi technology is a shortcut, in another way fiddling with it can be very distracting from the actual composition process.
    All your strings belong to me!
    www.strings-on-demand.com

  4. #4

    Re: How Did They Do It?!

    Perhaps they were all just very lucky ...
    Very best regards from Mike.

  5. #5

    Re: How Did They Do It?!

    Not an issue for historians. Musicians of that calibre then, as now, simply compose and hear everything in their heads. As reberclark above notes - imagination and memory.

    Get to work on training your ear. A good start is the "Hearing and Writing Music: Professional Training for Today's Musician" by Ron Gorow.
    Richard
    Hong Kong
    ---------------
    Sonar 8PE, EWQLSO, GPO4, M-tron, Omnisphere, & VSM.
    Fantom XR and Radias modules.

  6. #6

    Re: How Did They Do It?!

    Quote Originally Posted by RichardHK View Post
    Musicians of that calibre then, as now, simply compose and hear everything in their heads.
    I think training to that degree probably used to be more widespread than we might think. In fact I wonder if it wasn't expected of every high-born man.

    I know, for instance, that Gesualdo used to show his Madrigal scores to visitors, and challenge them to name a better composer - based on viewing alone.
    David

  7. #7

    Re: How Did They Do It?!

    Well, in Mozart's and Bach's case as many composer's of the time they were hired by Royalty and had court musicians available to play their works. It's been the 20th centuries unionized musicians and the lack of societal support that has made it hard for composers to fine affordable venues to present their works.

    Still, all and all, the ear and the mind are the composer's biggest strength or weakness. If you can't hear it before you write it or understand it than its the same as the computer statement: "Garbage IN - Garbage OUT".
    [Music is the Rhythm, Harmony and Breath of Life]
    "Music is music, and a note's a note" - Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong

    Rich

  8. #8

    Re: How Did They Do It?!

    Not sure how exactly they did it (though I have trouble believing they just did it all in their heads). I would love to be able to travel back in time and just sit in a corner and watch one of the composers work. Might eventually get dreadfully boring, but I bet one could learn quite a lot.

    Anyway, imagine all the would-be composers who simply weren't raised by musical parents, or with access to pianos, or could never get the money or social position to get one of their pieces played by an orchestra. If I was born in such times, I don't fear a lack of talent would prevent me from composing; it would be a lack of access to instruments and music teachers and orchestras... maybe I would've just bought a whistle and composed countless to-be-forgotten melodies with it...

    So I feel very fortunate to be composing in these times when I can at least somewhat "simulate" the orchestra sound, and connect with teachers and audiences through the Internet.

    Of course, I am also envious of our future generations, who will have the GPO-to-brain device, and will simply be able to think many wonders into existence...
    Sean Patrick Hannifin
    My MP3s | My Melody Generator | my album
    "serious music" ... as if the rest of us are just kidding

  9. #9

    Re: How Did They Do It?!

    Quote Originally Posted by RichardHK View Post
    Not an issue for historians. Musicians of that calibre then, as now, simply compose and hear everything in their heads. As reberclark above notes - imagination and memory.

    Get to work on training your ear. A good start is the "Hearing and Writing Music: Professional Training for Today's Musician" by Ron Gorow.
    I think reberclark & RichardHK are on the money. The goal of composers should be to hear compositions in their heads. Midi, samples & other music technologies are simply tools to help achieve this. Creativity is still the main ingredient in a good composition. Midi etc doesn't really help in that.

    +1 for "Hearing and Writing Music: Professional Training for Today's Musician" by Ron Gorow.

    Excellent book - highly recommended

  10. #10

    Re: How Did They Do It?!

    Thanks for you responses, everybody! I guess I'm blessed to be living in these modern times where I have a wealth of tools at my disposal to unleash the musical genius within. Otherwise, I'd probably be just a copyist or a typesetter...or an usher...or one of the unfortunate souls who has to bundle up and go outside in the middle of January and staple all those concert flyers to the lamposts.
    "The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese." -Steven Wright, comedian

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