Composers' Forum

Music Composers Unite!

I started thinking about this today.  Successful song writing partnerships stretch back to Lennon/McCartney and I'm sure much further (Rodgers/Hammerstein comes to mind) but I can't think of any composing partnerships.  For instance, Mozart and Haydn getting together to work on a symphony...Does "serious" composition preclude any such "nonsense"?  Beyond a two person partnership however, I was thinking of "open source" composition, in the sense that Wikipedia is open source.  Of course, Wikipedia hasn't done that well at producing high quality output.  Would it all be doomed to failure?  And of course there would have to be some sort of frame, boundaries, parameters, whoever set those may be considered the "composer proper", although that role could in theory be filled by a group as well.


Does anyone know of any examples of successful open source compositions, or has anyone been involved in such a project?  I don't mean free improvisation or jazz, they are in the moment arts.  I am speaking of a group planned project, like the open source movies and such.

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Numerous indoor marching percussion scores are written by two people. Alan Keown and Brian Mudgett are my favorite combination.

@Allison: Cool, I never knew that!  I've been thinking, the Mozart Requiem was sort of a "collaboration", as it was finished by Salieri (I think) after Mozart died.  There have also been completions of Beethoven's 10th.  After the original author is dead he can no longer complain about your choices!


@Frederick:  I'll have to find out what the piece was, thanks for mentioning it.  One may get rid of the compromise aspect by making the process an assembly line of sorts:  One person comes up with the format, another writes the melody for a main theme, the next writes the secondary theme, another lays a harmonic framework, another writes string parts, etc.  This would in no way assure effectiveness however ;)


Here's a silly thread I found on another message board where a gaggle of writers "attempt" to collaborate on a piece...they're all just having a bit of fun with the idea, it's a fun read in any case.

the "F-A-E" sonata


Schumann, Brahms, and someone else.

Collaboration when it comes to contributing knowledge about some particular part is possible. For example, I want to write a flute sonata, but apart from the fact that I like it's sound, I don't know any technocal details about it, I'm a pianist. Then a flute player can kick in, take my written line for the flute, and advice, change and give it those specifics that would make it sound like a flute part, not just a melody line. 

But is this collaborated composing? I say no, as there were no musical elements contributed by the flutist- it was a "transcription" of shorts, keeping my idea as intact as possible.


In order to write together with someone I'd need to think in a way close to his. Think what would happen if I wrote bach style counterpoint and he wrote in an early 20th century style, I know it would be fun (or funny), but effective? I don't think so. 

And even if we did think in a similar way, melody is derived from harmony and vice versa. Most melodies carry a harmony within them, the harmony I though for them, and that is the most effective. How could someone else lay down the harmonic basis for it? 

And, say if I wrote down a progression and he wrote the melody, does that make for a true compositional contribution? (Speaking for myself) Progressions are driven from a melody one has in mind, laying another thing above it would remove the purpose and target of my harmony.

i dont know how this could happen. If you could find a way, then I can accept it and have fun with the proccess.

Tombo Rombo said:


@Frederick:  I'll have to find out what the piece was, thanks for mentioning it.  One may get rid of the compromise aspect by making the process an assembly line of sorts:  One person comes up with the format, another writes the melody for a main theme, the next writes the secondary theme, another lays a harmonic framework, another writes string parts, etc.  This would in no way assure effectiveness however ;)



I'm a composer, not a songwriter... I keep failing every time I try to collab with a songwriter. I cant picture 2 or more peopel "composing" together, lol...

I think the best example of collaborative work would be in jazz music. There is ranges from standard jazz tunes, where people are just improvising to the structure, to complete free improv. I don't see how the concept couldn't translate somehow to composing. Improv is just composing and performing at the same time.

With that being said. Something like a "Compositiopedia" would be tricky, because it is not real time. Someone would put down something, and then someone else goes back and erases it. But who knows. That could be interesting in its own right. It would probably cause a whole lot of compositions to be locked down because of fights being started though. :)

Fred, it was based on the yellow river cantata

In a way, every individual composition is a collective work.

Any composer is influenced by other music (not only music) and applies: music form developments explored and clarified by music theorists, virtuosic elements invented by great performers, instrument and register combinations explored by great orchestrators, harmony and notation developments invented by many musicians (not only composers) etc. Songs, ballets and movies with music are examples of collaboration with non-musicians.




I'd love to give this a try with someone. I don't know specifically about open source, as in like a wikipedia type article, but collaboration would be fun. If anyone would like to give it a try, we could set it up over google+ hangouts, or skype, someone could have a notation program open, sharing screens and then one person scribes for everyone else.

Let me know.

I tend to think of music as consisting of melody, harmony, rhythm, timbre, dynamics and structure. I would imagine it would work if two or three composers would write together something, if each of them focuses on one element. Say first guy creates three or four themes for a sonata form composition. He does the melody, so to speak. Next guy looks at them and tries to put harmony into them and maybe decides how they relate to each other. He decides what is the main theme and he decides the overall harmonic development of the composition. So he deals with harmony and structure. Next guy fills up the gaps between the themes with transition passages. More melody and harmony. This could be a good thing for young students, whose skills vary. They should learn from each other on their way to become independent composers.

The whole idea of teamwork would serve the individual composers involved. If you are a composer like Mussorgsky, you might need a good orchestrator like Rimsky-Korsakov or Ravel. But I guess the music history is full of composers, who mastered all parts of music making, composers who wouldn't have benefitted from teamworking. So I would say in general team composing won't give you better music.

Then of course we have this:


In movie score composition, Hans Zimmer has been collaborating with several other composers in his Remote Control Productions, such as Lorne Balfe, Ramin Djawadi, among others, although the credit went to Mr.Zimmer but these guys also contributed to the music for the movies. I think the idea of open source composition is quite interesting :)

It seems like this would be a very good exercise for teaching someone to compose. You have the master, and the student. As the student, you would be able to instill the master's composition process organically. As the master, you would have the added benefit of additional creative power from the student. On top of it, as the student you would get to have your name on the finished composition, which would probably help you out emotionally with a sense of accomplishment.

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