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This phrase has always hit me as somewhat foreign.  It makes more sense to me when applied to an instrumentalist… But for a composer, this idea sounds somewhat constricting.  What if one arrives 'at this voice'.  Does one then just hang onto it?  A lot of artist and composers seem to.  To make a niche that is all their own, is the goal it would seem…  Some composers/artists  have found great variety within their 'voice' ..and it seems to have not limited them at all… 

Yet this idea seems to have also limited some composers'/ artists' expressive scope..

Today we can fill ourselves with the vast historical record of what has been done, like no other time before…  Pour all these musical shapes and attendant responses deep into the psyche for a few decades… Who can say how the unconscious mixes it all up, and how it expresses it's fullness in our compositional creativity...

To me, each piece has a voice that wants to be released - if we are lucky -….. The parameters ('style') in which that happens - to me is quite fluid… and can shift radically from piece to piece.. And even within one piece one can imply many styles - that are going thru and around… 

Funny, it seems that Bowie - if he would've hung on to Ziggy Stardust -As his voice, we never would have gotten his great funk album "Young Americans', with the 'thin white duke' … Or his progressive side with "Station to Station"… to his breakdown album 'Aladdin Sane" - 'Breaking Glass'…to his minimalist heroic "Heroes" with Fripp and eno's colorful light display… to 'Scary Monsters' and 'Fashion' as social commentary thru acerbic wit and grit..

I guess Bowie comes to mind, in order to address this idea of 'identity' (voice) - and question if 'finding one's voice' is a good idea at all?

When Bernstein went Broadway, Koussevitzky - and many others thought ill of his decision.

Miles always wanted to do a rock album,,, but didn't...

Mozart's mass in C minor ( a Later work) sounds a lot like Bach.

Perhaps this is just semantics, and some identities have just greater scopes than others, and that is neither a good or a bad thing in and of itself. (?)

For me, (mostly) composition wasn't something about finding my voice - 'not sounding like another'…  but more that each piece Is its own voice…  (if it works) … and it may indeed sound like many others,  however much derivative (pejoratively or not) - is in the ear of the beholder...

Some random thoughts at the end of the day…  

 

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Gregorio,

I appreciate the thoughts you're expressing, and would like to throw in a few related "tweets".

Tweet #1:  When encountering a painter with a very consistent, identifiable signature style, I have often felt like they are painting different versions of the same piece over and over.  But in other cases, I feel it's a genuine undercurrent in the artist's work, and then I love it.

Tweet #2:  Every individual is multidimensional and multifaceted, why should the music s/he composes be otherwise on purpose, to fit a preconceived notion of unique personal signature?

Tweet #3:  For some composers, the self is more of a vessel through which music gets composed.  Why insist on focusing on the self, the signature personal style?  If it's genuine, let it be...

Tweet #4:  For other composers, a signature personal style is just there naturally in every piece that emerges, and is a genuine unique voice, while offering plenty of room for variety between pieces.  Why insist on avoiding that personal signature?  If it's genuine, let it be...

Tweet #5:  Maybe trying not to sound like anybody else is a bit like trying not to think about Aardvarks. 

Thank you Water Bear for your tweets… I am in total agreement.  (pink elephants notwithstanding:)

Like I said in another thread, I personally believe that composing is someone telling their story through music, and just as the life of a person, they grow and mature while learning and going through experiences.
I would like to share something also, my biggest composition failures have been my best way of growing as a composer. It's easy to blame the musicians, but then I go back and say, if I just placed it in a different key, had more measures of rests, voiced the chords differently, notatated it differently, it would've made a world of improvement.

Aardvards always learn from their mistakes and learn and grow.

Zebras on the other hand, are stuck with their stripes.

Personally, I feel I grow a bit with each with every composition.

I agree with ya Rodney, and as long as we realize how much we

can learn from our mistakes as from our successes, we sail.

I think the applicable term is.. honing ones craft           RS

I think all of these replies are great. It's important not to confuse "voice" with "style"--instead, I think Water Bear hit the nail on the head when she said it's an "undercurrent" in an artist's work.

For example, Richard Strauss's trademark Romantic theatricality comes through even in his Neoclassical and Expressionistic works--very different sounds and styles. Stravinsky famously changed style many times throughout his career, but there are certain threads that underlie his work and give it all a distinct Stravinsky sound. Even Arnold Schoenberg's early works (in a tonal, romantic idiom) have some of the same little quirks that help differentiate his later atonal works from those of his contemporaries.

In short, if composing is telling your unique story through music (as Rodney says), I think different aspects of that story can and will require different musical styles and ideas. But if you hone your craft and study a wide variety of music, whatever is unique about your story will come through in all of your work regardless.

I think you are putting to much stock into the idea of the voice being so unique. I thin it is important to find your own voice, but I don't think you have to reinvent the wheel. You will always have your influences that are heard in your music, its what you bring to the table (as little or as much as you can) that matters. I believe its also something you don't do consciously. You are already finding your own voice the more you compose. If you are not directly trying to mimic another composer, you are working on your own voice. 

The person who did the best job of finding "his own voice" in the 20th century was Harpo Marx.  

I would give second place to this woman:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a15xkowPEPg

Here are the lyrics:

hampart-zoum
dirouhi di questa terra
naprasno conscience et
arise!
nei boschi di conifere
could enter your heart non tanto how so? giovane g·b·k·u
chto nóvogo pokádzet
breath – la vie – breathe forth  brrrrrr
spokoínyoo vádznostyoo·z·
gde ona
i go haroostutiun
vidiel’a facilmente
e io sono per te
no other way dans l’espace so help
si juste
dvidzénya bistri
on pekrásen
idyot a·k·u
o·a·k·ho·a
sivayoot eternal loosin
omóo
poost ya the burning bush
will you give me to tell you?
odyodzke cinq not as a birth but as love
that shall continue
breaking the shell
far-removed
at rest  (dog barks)
obxvátit la vostra vita
khaytel nor could express

18

de ce qui suit k·s·w; o·a
gloobinoí più chiara
si ceci est cela cela est ceci
totalmente soi whom they sought to slay
to have the fruits gloire
j’écoute... à la vie...
leggermente snédznoi
p·k·t·d banalité k·o·e
in armonia
io posso amare totalmente solo to tak to syak
siranoosh o la verita
to povolótchet
qui lui sont intégrale
vóroo dai xot
kto dvidźenyax
a·m·o·a
senza morte
as well say that the sun is black
chto vzglyádom
zakríl’ a
like from like o tchom dze
avec des moyens typiques et suprêmes a·t·d·z·u
dapprima toujours est-il que ce mot d’une langue humaine g·l·n·t·b o-a
k·a·s lezvov t·o
the first sign:
nyet
as when he was when he was not
lo spazio
il canto b
mintchev
a call to la source possible
vellutato as a g·b·s·k·a

19 

 

You are already finding your own voice the more you compose. If you are not directly trying to mimic another composer, you are working on your own voice.

I think this is true.  And I'd go even one step farther:  I think it's possible to find your own voice EVEN WHILE trying to mimic another composer :-)



Tyler Hughes said:

I think you are putting to much stock into the idea of the voice being so unique. I thin it is important to find your own voice, but I don't think you have to reinvent the wheel. You will always have your influences that are heard in your music, its what you bring to the table (as little or as much as you can) that matters. I believe its also something you don't do consciously. You are already finding your own voice the more you compose. If you are not directly trying to mimic another composer, you are working on your own voice. 

O-  Lyrics have been written for John William's music surpassing even the exceptional John Cage poetry you posted

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFDT2L5bPFI

I had never heard Beethoven's 4th symphony live.  It has been a favorite for a long time.. My grandfather taught me piano at age 6… He had a large record collection, and would play music while we played checkers, backgammon and chess… I had a little cassette recorder, and held the microphone between the speakers of his magnavox pull down turntable - with speakers attached like wings… Everynight i went to bed, i had the tape player near my pillow…  

I my early adolescence, i had loved Beethoven's 5th, then 6th , 9th, 7th and 3rd…… But then became curious what other symphonies i might like.. It was the start of me searching out material 'on my own'  - to become aquatinted with..  i wanted then to go thru all his symphonies to find maybe another favorite.. I stumbled on the 4th… I thought , 'Why is no one talking about this one!"… It became my favorite of his symphonies… 

It has been maybe a decade since i have heard a recording of it… 

I went to a concert saturday night, and had seats about 10 to 15 feet behind the conductor.. It was conducted ebulliently, and delicately… I shut my eyes, and waves came over me, (and i'll admit, tears did stream some).

60 players playing their hearts out.. 

The voice of this piece - so full of life, excitement, urgency, playfulness, and beauty, and severity,,,{and (radically) inventive} - especially in the context of previous european 'classical' music... dancing so invisibly 'alive' on the stage, and charged the very air.. Yes and i could ramble on suchly, but i just wanted to mention this because the experience was so dense, i was still reliving it the next day, even til now...

It seemed to pierce the metaphorical membrane -- in so many ways...

It made me think that - that feeling - is what has mostly attracted me to want to write music..  In my early writing (adolescence)   there would be a phrase, (sometimes only 3 notes) or a vibe, that i'll find striking in a piece, but felt the composer didn't take it where i would have wanted it to go…  This is how i got started writing.. These days it usually starts with an impression, which can come in the most unexpected places.. 

I have to admit, Joseph, those lyrics are OUTSTANDLINGly AMAZING, and I never understood them until now, even though I had heard the music and singing before.

That's truly GREAT!!!

[ I could hardly stop laughing ! ]

Joseph Harry said:

O-  Lyrics have been written for John William's music surpassing even the exceptional John Cage poetry you posted

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFDT2L5bPFI

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