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I find something extremely annoying when composing music and I'm just wondering if anyone else has the same problem! I don't even think there's really an answer to it, but, hey, you are all very intelligent people out there and may come up with some good advice! If not, then share my pain!

 

Whenever I'm writing a piece of music, I find that after a while I begin to think I've heard it before somewhere else. This doesn't really happen until very nearly completing it but it's very annoying as I lose all confidence in what I've just written and am tempted to leave it altogether. I guess this is happening because I'm listening to the work on my ipod all the time to work out my next moves to develop it and so it becomes (too!) familiar!

 

Does anyone else experience this? Of course getting people to listen to the work always helps - I keep asking my husband if he has heard it somewhere before but although he shares my passion for music, he has the memory of a little goldfish!

 

Hope your day has been filled with inspiration!

 

Beth Patterson

 

 

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I listen to pieces I work with on an ipod too. During the work of arranging I listen too the music many many times. Now, there is a lot of music out there and whatever you write it's bound to sound like something else. But if a melody sounds very obvious like some other melody I try to change it a bit to lead it in another direction. 

If a melody is any good it has that familiar sound over it. That does not always mean that you've stolen it but it's a sign that it's a logical melody.

I'm convinced that all music is spiritual, it has it's origin in the spiritual realm. So all music comes from God, and if my melody sounds a lot like your melody - Hey, His gorilla looks a lot like His chimpanzee too : )

Never stop and throw something away just because you think it sounds like something else, because it always does!

 

 

I think you've hit on something there - when music 'comes together' it can have that familiar sound. It's good to know I'm not the only one! I was listening to a discussion on the radio the other day about whether there is a limit to how many music compositions are possible using 5 notes - apparently a head of music department had calculated that over 1 million were possible - and that only includes music which is kind to the ear! Very encouraging!
I agree. Originality comes from within, not from the 12 available tones. And yet, the fear of not being original is something that hinders many composers. It can become a bit of a "Give me an new thing" drug too.

Fredrick zinos said:

 

Its very difficult to be completely original and originality is NOT a requirement for writing good music.

I had the privilege once of hearing the personal testimony of a composition professor at the University of Michigan about his encounter with George Crumb--a very famous post-avant garde composer (famous for "Macrocosmos" and "Black Angels"), and original as anyone will get out. Crumb apparently told him something to the effect of: "some the best material comes from 'misremembered musics'--those memories of music buried in the back of our minds heard long ago and far away and awake from ages of hibernation, only to be remembered not exactly as they were when we first encountered them". Take encouragement from that. The key word here being: MISremembered. ;) This would imply that perhaps the thought "I think I've heard this somewhere before" could be a very good thing. 

Fredrick zinos said:

Sure. It happens a lot I expect. I think that there are probably a couple of reasons for it.

1) You've recently heard something that sticks in your noggin and you unconsciously regurgitate it into whatever you are working on at the moment.

2) There are melodic or rhythmic or harmonic twists to what you are writing that, when you listen to the whole, seems to evoke some other music.

music.

True, but sometimes what you remember could be something you recently heard, and thus the melody could be similar to the one you heard. It could very well be seen as plagiarism by the original composer. It does happen, at least to me. I don't remember hearing a particular melody, and then I get "this amazing idea" and incorporate it into a piece, just to think "damn it, this is from this and that song!". This is a very annoying fenomenon, since it was not intentional in any way, and I have usually listened to the piece with the "stolen" melody incorporated in it way too many times to be able to do something different with it and still make it good. Maybe this is something you learn to control when you get more experienced, but this is a real problem for me.

Jonathan Metz said:
I had the privilege once of hearing the personal testimony of a composition professor at the University of Michigan about his encounter with George Crumb--a very famous post-avant garde composer (famous for "Macrocosmos" and "Black Angels"), and original as anyone will get out. Crumb apparently told him something to the effect of: "some the best material comes from 'misremembered musics'--those memories of music buried in the back of our minds heard long ago and far away and awake from ages of hibernation, only to be remembered not exactly as they were when we first encountered them". Take encouragement from that. The key word here being: MISremembered. ;) This would imply that perhaps the thought "I think I've heard this somewhere before" could be a very good thing. 

Fredrick zinos said:

Sure. It happens a lot I expect. I think that there are probably a couple of reasons for it.

1) You've recently heard something that sticks in your noggin and you unconsciously regurgitate it into whatever you are working on at the moment.

2) There are melodic or rhythmic or harmonic twists to what you are writing that, when you listen to the whole, seems to evoke some other music.

music.

If you have a long melody the problem is smaller than if you have a short melody. Sometimes I can have a couple of notes in a melody that I know is from something else, but I still want to use them because they fit the melody I'm writing. Then I have to lead those notes in a different direction to make them land in a different place and different feeling than the song they originally came from. If I have a very short melody that is much harder to do. You can mask a lot of that stuff in the arranging too.

As Stravinsky said 'A good composer doesn't borrow, he steals!'

I believe what he meant was this. Ideas that you pick up either intentionally or subconsciously you must make your own.

Music is all about context. How else could there be, especially in the realm of popular song, an endless stream of new material that all use a very limited palette of chord progressions and very similar melodic shapes? 

I must also say to Lennart, at the risk of going off topic, that the belief that music is spiritual and comes from (your) God doesn't really teach us anything. After all, it presumably means that all music, even bad music comes from the same source.

 

Anyway, as far as copyright law goes, as long as the melody is less than 8 notes long ( the bit that is 'lifted' from elsewhere) then you're safe.  Oh, and if the composer has been dead at least 70 years then ditto! LOL

Even "bad" music does comes from God. The only thing we can aim for when receiving our compositions is to mess them up as little as possible. Mozart messed his music up less than Black Sabbath did theirs, but their music had the same source. Now, I could discuss this with you for three weeks in a row, without a tea break, Michael, but this is not the place.

 

However, my Christian faith is such a fundamental part of my core being that I could not stop it from being obvious even if I tried, so I'm not gonna try.

 

If someone is interested in discussing such things with me, you can drop by my homepage at http://www.spaghettitrain.org and leave a comment, and we can keep the discussion out of Composers Forum.

 

I hope this is not offensive to anyone in here.

 

Michael Tauben said:


I must also say to Lennart, at the risk of going off topic, that the belief that music is spiritual and comes from (your) God doesn't really teach us anything. After all, it presumably means that all music, even bad music comes from the same source.

 

Anyway, as far as copyright law goes, as long as the melody is less than 8 notes long ( the bit that is 'lifted' from elsewhere) then you're safe.  Oh, and if the composer has been dead at least 70 years then ditto! LOL

Sorry for taking issue with your statements concerning spirituality and supernatural beings but my scepticism is such a fundamental part of my core being that I also couldn't stop myself.

I may just take you up on your offer to discuss the matter but I think we would both be better off developing our compositional craft.

Lennart Östman said:

 

However, my Christian faith is such a fundamental part of my core being that I could not stop it from being obvious even if I tried, so I'm not gonna try.

 

 

Michael Tauben said:


I must also say to Lennart, at the risk of going off topic, that the belief that music is spiritual and comes from (your) God doesn't really teach us anything. After all, it presumably means that all music, even bad music comes from the same source.

 

Anyway, as far as copyright law goes, as long as the melody is less than 8 notes long ( the bit that is 'lifted' from elsewhere) then you're safe.  Oh, and if the composer has been dead at least 70 years then ditto! LOL

No problem Michael : ) You're welcome to the train to discuss it. A friendly discussion is a good way to mold and develop our own concepts about a subject. Gives us a chance to verbalize our thoughts. Goes for music too!
Being original, or even just MORE original than MOST, in ANY art form has to be one of the very hardest things to achieve in this life, and maybe in music it is the hardest of all to pull off convincingly, considering that, at one time or another, 'everything has been done', and that we are bombarded daily by music probably far more than by any other art. Sometimes it's very hard to know from where we're picking and choosing !  But as long as you aren't outright plagiarizing, I wouldn't fret too much about it, even so. Consider all of what you hear, from every age and every source that moves you, potential paint for your canvas, and trust your brush to move in such ways that, by the by, you find you've produced something much closer to a self-portrait than a reproduction. However much it might seem to be something else to you, if you've done well in pouring your skill into your work, I honestly think, very much for the most part, you'll find your listeners responding to and praising the beauties brought forth by that, rather than carping about this or that influence. You already know that as a human being, by definition, there has never been any other just like you anywhere in the world. Really trust yourself to manifest that in your music, and I believe you will. And, finally, don't worry too much on those days when you really do need to start over. I'm pretty sure we ALL end up doing that far more than we'd care to admit !

I'm sorry. I don't mean to fill this discussion all by myself, but this is my chief pet subject! You touched something very important there John Paul. The quest for being original is a quest that can never succeed - untill you stop trying! What if someone has written the stuff I write before? I have never written it, so to me it's original! We can tryyyyy our hardest to come up with something new and we might just succeed. The question is, when we do come up with it - is it any good? New don't equal good. Let me say that again...New Don't Equal Good!.

 

If you're looking for your own voice John Paul, you'll find it by stop searching! When you don't care if it's "new" or "original" and just starts enjoying it, then you'll suddenly will have it.

 

This is a public declaration and a holy promise: I will now step down from my soapbox and leave this discussion to others!

 

John Paul Smith said:

Being original, or even just MORE original than MOST, in ANY art form has to be one of the very hardest things to achieve in this life, and maybe in music it is the hardest of all to pull off convincingly, considering that, at one time or another, 'everything has been done', and that we are bombarded daily by music probably far more than by any other art. Sometimes it's very hard to know from where we're picking and choosing !  But as long as you aren't outright plagiarizing, I wouldn't fret too much about it, even so. Consider all of what you hear, from every age and every source that moves you, potential paint for your canvas, and trust your brush to move in such ways that, by the by, you find you've produced something much closer to a self-portrait than a reproduction. However much it might seem to be something else to you, if you've done well in pouring your skill into your work, I honestly think, very much for the most part, you'll find your listeners responding to and praising the beauties brought forth by that, rather than carping about this or that influence. You already know that as a human being, by definition, there has never been any other just like you anywhere in the world. Really trust yourself to manifest that in your music, and I believe you will. And, finally, don't worry too much on those days when you really do need to start over. I'm pretty sure we ALL end up doing that far more than we'd care to admit !

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