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Is there really such a thing as "inspiration" in composition ?

Do you think that there is such a thing as musical inspiration ?

Is it possible to hear inspiration in a piece of music, and which ones in particular ?

Have you ever felt that a piece of yours has developed more as a result of inspiration rather than conscious decision-making ?

Do you really think that inspiration comes from "up there" somewhere, or is it just neurological trick that our brains play with us from time to time ?

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I never thought of the distinction between the two - intuition and inspiration.

My way of understanding it is basically this: When we write music we sort of rearrange all the melodic and harmonic devices we have absorbed through our musical lives.

Out of the context of western harmony, it would be impossible for us to arrive at harmonic tricks that sound familiar and which please the ear.

The difficult thing is "finding" a melody which is at once original, but fits into a reconisable harmonic mould. It is when we achieve such that we (perhaps erroneously) believe we have been blessed by inspiration.
I know what you mean, but would a Kalahari Bushman be able to write a melody that includes leading note concept/ tone, the fourth degree of scale and an implied secondary dominant chord (eg F# in the melody in key of C) ? - to take an extreme example ?

And of course I'm comparing him with somebody like Paul Mccartney or Lionel Bart (Oliver) who write/ wrote by ear, not using notation but have been immersed in an aural culture that uses such devices.

But as you say - maybe that's another discussion.
I havent read every post on this thread, but I will say that I have had moments of great inspiration and then a lot of time struggling to work through non-inspiration, using technique and previous 'wins with inspiration' to sculpt something that wasnt inspiring. Often deadlines will do that to you. But some of my best works were written very quickly, one jazz quartet ballad I wrote in like 30 minutes, with nothing but pencil and paper, but it 'needed' to come out, and I was the messenger of something greater. And it is a very technical piece harmonically, with lots of dense hybrid chords, but it just came out and all I could do was push my pencil. And I only ever changed like 3 chords during the first reading with my quartet and no melodic changes. I wish I had access to a great jazz quartet because I would like to record it again, maybe when I get to Atlanta next month... Anyway that song was called "Utsukushi" and later a jazz vocalist loved it so much she wrote lyrics to it... but these moments of 'divine intervention' have been few and far between and I have relied on my technique and craft to create music that still feels inspired even when it was not written so
Thats too bad for you, I guess you have not experienced the divine inspiration yet. I hope you get to, its something from another world ;-)

It has nothing to do with speed, but rather ease and poignancy

Thomas Green said:
Some comments in this thread seem to be aligning inspiration with completing a composition quickly - when it just flows. I won't argue the point on that, it may well be a fair criterion for inspiration.
Having said that, I would make these remarks about it - firstly, the music which I've written most quickly has mostly not been as high a quality as music which I've been painstaking with. And when it has, it's usually because I've been writing well inside my "comfort zone." That is to say, I don't very often get a good result from writing something which is for me adventurous *and* having produced it quickly (although maybe it happens within sections of pieces). Just a thought.
Well I suppose its different for all types. But for me it was an overflow of emotion and music that I had to let my body become connected to the source and give in to it completely and then it happened so fast. No it wasnt my comfort zone of writing, even tho it was a small jazz ensemble, there were considerable complexities that I had never pushed for before and it just happened. My ear heard it and it all connected. Sure I have written much more complex music orchestrationally, but I dont equate orchestration density or complexity to necessarily be the thing. Anyhow, your summation of what 'inspired' means seems to me just a bit too academic, so I surmised that you have not yet experienced it, no offence intended

Thomas Green said:
"Thats too bad for you, I guess you have not experienced the divine inspiration yet."

You're entitled to your guess.
Lol easy there buckwheat, I might be belligerant (all too often), but I wasnt cutting you. I have no need to do so with words. ALL I was saying is that true ispiration comes from something different than what you had been talking about, in my opinion. Thats what I think ;-)

Its all 'hot air' as my good friend Ray would put it, since how do you have a rational discussion on an irrational event?
Everything (not only music composition or listening), raising deep subconscious feelings, is related to inspiration. We need then to ask what are feelings, what is sub-conscience, what is sixth sense etc. We indeed cannot explain all this by rational words. What is interesting, we can measure this, as it generates alpha-rhythms in our brain. These rhythms (7-12 Hz) are also automatically generated when we close our eyes. It is also interesting that some music passages physically implement these rhythms or contain related harmonics.
On the subject of not labouring to write a great piece of music, I remember hearing a quote from John Lennon that he thought that writing was learning how to "let go" and let the music "write itself".

Although adding the chords and thinking about the arrangement may involve much conscious thought, it is a strange/ magical fact that some of the best melodies have been arrived at by the creator "letting go" and being like a medium, frantically trying to catch that fleeting "great" tune on the page or in the cassette recorder/ pocket recording device.

I can't begin to explain how this happens, but I guess it may be the brain re-organising all the tunes in its subconscious into something new that makes sense.
For me there is a very real and large difference between inspirational moments or periods where the music comes through me as if I were a medium of some kind, and then the majority of the time which is using my brain to do what I know works and to still make something that is interesting and creative. To me it [inspired moments] is not an intellectual act, but a spiritual. And I am from a Catholic family so I have given up on religion long ago, so I mean this in the true sense of spirituality and not in the dogmatic religious sense. Sure the brain can tell us what notes to make next but when you gestalt do they really REALLY work in an inspired way? Maybe if you labor intensely they will end up sounding pretty good, but its still (in my opinion) not the same as when you get something that REALLY resonates on the highest of levels

Thomas Green said:
I can't begin to explain how this happens, but I guess it may be the brain re-organising all the tunes in its subconscious into something new that makes sense." Don't get me wrong, I know what you're talking about here. Knowing how to let go and let it flow is very important. I just wonder if this is a fairly normal thing. In a sense, this happens multiple times during the course of writing. You could say that every phrase, or every few notes just pop into your head, fairly unannounced. How they get there? Who knows. Maybe neurologists or something. I still maintain that the conscious, relatively deliberate work which happens after this is at least equally important, and in many cases makes or breaks the thing. But how much emphasis is on one or the other process no doubt depends on the individual.
You seem to be so caught up in what rules make up your world of cerebral music that you have no ability to see intent regardless of if its 'official' or not. I use the VERB gestalt as my own morphing of its context, to refer to the concept of backing up high above the myriad of complexities and to look down at the big picture. I really am beginning to not like you. A computer based media composer who claims Ravel sucked and Shostakovitch sucked. I think you should try and put away the anger at your own failures and try to love a little more, because in the end that's all that matters in this world, not placing yourself above other people of brilliant nature to self aggrandize and create a lofty position for yourself in your mind.

Adam Fergler said:
Hmmm... 'Medium of some kind'. This implies that the music is already in existence somewhere in the ether and that you're the lucky soul through which it chooses to hit a piece of manuscript paper. I'm not sure that's believable; not in terms of spirituality anyway. I know what you mean about those moments where everything seems to come together and you can get good stuff down on paper faster than you can think about it. However, I'd say that was a subconscious rather than a spiritual phenomenon. If you're writing in a certain style then there is music hanging around that you'll have heard and absorbed. It's probably that which is coming back out and through your pen. I wouldn't call it inspiration; I'd call it luck.

Oh, and 'Gestalt' is not a verb. I have no idea what gestalting would be. To give shape or form to an idea perhaps?
Gosh, what did I start here ?

I've read all the posts with interest.

I sort of know what Chris means, but maybe he puts it a bit strongly.

If you're new on a music site and you start proclaiming that Ravel is a poor orchestrator and that Shostakovich is over-rated, you are perhaps inviting people to think "who is this guy" and what are his credentials to pour scorn on some of the iconic figures of classical music ?

I like your debating style, but I have heard these sort of off hand dismissals of icons before. It's like the once fashionable view that Rachmaninov is over-indulgent goo.

Maybe these once esteemed icons have their faults, but you have to take a bow to anybody whose music has consistently filled concert halls for generations...before jumping to dismiss them out of hand.

And if you do, you're sort of sending out a message that says :

"I know more than all these people who have been for so long deceived by pap"
As I told you in a private message (check your chat bar), I removed your post, because it was completely off topic and only concerned with an obvious problem between you and I. Get back on topic, please, or I will continue to remove ;-)


Thomas Green said:
I sort of know what Chris means, but maybe he puts it a bit strongly."

I'd be careful about what you say about Chris, Adrian. The last post I left seems to have been removed - it was definitely there for a short while - and I can only assume that Chris performed this action.

Actually, this one will probably also be removed. I don't suppose he would be happy to leave it where it is and return the last one?

I fail to see the basis of this censorship.

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