Composers' Forum

Music Composers Unite!

Will there ever be another Bach/Beethoven? Will the siren call of Hollywood money dilute the talent pool, thereby eliminating that possibility?

Does anyone even want to be Bach/Beethoven? (Or even Gershwin, for that matter).

Pure compositional greatness largely divorced from 'soundtrack necessities' (like total time, bombast, cliche, etc)...orchestral music with structural power and beauty...classical formalism filled with real musical surprise and wonderment...is this all just a thing of the past?

Views: 465

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

I think the answer to all those questions (except the last), is no. 

And what makes you think no one is writing great orchestral music any more?

Would Bach have written soundtracks? I don't see why not. Doesn't make any difference anyway. 

Greatness always makes a difference. That's what people mean when they say they want to 'change the world'...changing the world is easy, given a world of constant motion (and thus constant change).

What isn't easy is meaningful, useful change. This is the charge of the great and the ultimate point of greatness.

Few are "great" (whatever that means) in their own time. Those that seek greatness, fail. Greatness is not something you earn and put on like a coat. It's more like it is graciously bestowed upon someone by others.

If, as a composer, one is trying to be great, then one is composing for the wrong reasons. Rather they should strive to compose the very best they can. Listeners will be the judge.

Want to change the world? Then end war and poverty. 

Talent, like water, flows towards money. All of the great long dead composers if breathing now, would be writing for the movies or television or for video game developers. As for changing the world, personally, I don't know anyone who is not a high school sophomore who has such an ambition. The important goal is not to change the world but to change our relationship to the world and there is only one way to do that. Money. No, you can't buy happiness, but you can rent it.

No.

Pure compositional greatness largely divorced from 'soundtrack necessities' (like total time, bombast, cliche, etc)...orchestral music with structural power and beauty...classical formalism filled with real musical surprise and wonderment...is this all just a thing of the past?

Josh, the 20th and 21st C in art music must have passed you by somewhat. There are many many recognised masters, some alive today, who are writing music that fulfils your requirements above. In the high echelons that Bach and Beethoven occupied, one immediately thinks of recent comparable genius like Boulez, Britten, Messiaen and a host of others. Inevitably a list of the greats in the last 100 or so years is a subjective one and you may not like their music, but their fluency, originality and vision in the art is comparable to Bach et al.

Film music does not have the corrupting power you suggest when it comes to the highest attainments in art music and to anyone who takes the craft of composition seriously enough to go beyond writing for immediate consumption. It never will because the compositional paradigm is different.

I deleted my earlier post where I was addressing the OP.

On re-reading the question and following reply I already come to the conclusion, this is yet another nonentity with nothing musical to offer us so they masquerade as an intellectual commentator.

Over the years they pop up mostly as the same idiots in different clothes (a quick check on the interweb tells a lot or..........nothing) go figure.

I was going to leave my single-word answer for brevity, but I find this attitude and supposition so incredibly dull, tiresome and short-sighted that brevity is abandoned.

This argument comes up here pretty regularly - generally the trifecta that a) older music is better b) music for media cannot be of equivalent worth c) the pursuit of money tarnishes the pursuit of pure composition. To all three I say, horseshit.

Perhaps you've heard 1% of all music ever recorded for soundtrack purposes. Maybe you've heard all of it. Sure, why not. It's more likely you've heard a relatively tiny amount and inferred the general argument from the specific case. But let's assume you've heard enough to state none of it contained "structural power and beauty...classical formalism filled with real musical surprise and wonderment". Fine, you like what you like; on issues of taste, that's your own concern.

However. Many of the most well-known and well-regarded pieces of classical music were commissions, or written for ballet and opera and stage, or for money, or based on the work of another composer. Do you think so much has changed in the industry? That 200 years ago music was written by rarefied angels free from the constraints of the world?

Writing great work that you are producing under mercenary conditions is commonplace. Film composers are generally not doing it just because they make money from it; it's because, for the lucky and dedicated ones, they get to write music coupled with film they find inspiring. This results in some of the greatest music I've ever heard, personally speaking, and this is certainly why one of my ambitions is to score a Star Wars, because I love the franchise. It represents to me one of the pinnacles of achievement. I want to score film.

And even if the scene you're scoring is the one where Supreme Leader Andjdsdfjklnss orders the attack on the Fggjgooo homeworld and everyone farts and gets their dick out, that doesn't mean the music cannot have power or cannot exist divorced; just as music written for ballet, opera and stage can and does exist entirely independent of the original context.

The argument is just tarted-up elitism, but then this is a composer forum and I should long ago have ceased being surprised.

Dave,

I just want to make clear that I was not denigrating film music. I meant that the reason for writing music outside of media is different because composing becomes an unbounded personal expression without stylistic, formal or practical restraint (other than the composers' own limiting functions) and inevitably, depending on the calibre of the composer (who may well be striving to achieve a work sui generis),  becomes more and more esoteric and inevitably elitist. (I hate that word too, but it is a reality when it comes to concert music). Of course, uniqueness is not limited to the concert world, but uniqueness in film music is generally speaking, still adhering to some familiar trait because it has to, this does not apply in the concert world anymore and this is the difference between the disciplines.

 I agree that film music at its best is high art, but I think there is the scent of an underlying truth to point c in your trifecta. I come to this conclusion from personal experience as I am now writing without a brief and to please no-one and finding the experience  liberating.  

It's not that money tarnishes the work of great film scorers, it does not because  the quality of the writers and the work they produce is obvious, but the discipline of media work does impose restrictions, technical restrictions that are anathema to the pursuit of a pure and absolute expression. (Mind you, you are right in that a lot of the great masterworks where commissions and arguably restricted in some sense, but I don't think there is enough parallel in this given the very specific and limiting conditions of film music).

These restrictions may well be the only difference between the 2 disciplines (film music and concert music) because the highest standards of artifice are needed for both, but the musical results are very, very different.

I suppose that all I'm saying is that the purist approach trumps the applied approach to my way of thinking and creating, but God almighty I wish I could write like Williams does in his cello concerto.

But aren't there restrictions in writing concert music also? Isn't there structure the composer has to work within? Mike, you are using the term "pure and absolute expression" to denote unbounded freedom that does not exist. The tonal composer must work within a key system. There needs to be a theme, development, counter theme, modulation and much more. If I say that I'm going to write a flute sonata, certain rules and formulas apply. If I'm going to write a love theme for film, seems to me that the same rules apply. I can't help but feel that it's the skill of the composer, concert or film, that is the limiting factor. There's a lot of bad music of both types out there.

I think you're trying to say something like that. You aren't putting the same negative connotation on "pure" and "applied" that I am. For me, every time I start putting notes on a page, my goal is the same, no matter the inspiration. How could my goal be anything else but to make every note count. To make everything I write be the purist expression of my soul. Otherwise, why bother. 

Oh, I was replying to the OP. I'd seen nothing distasteful in your reply! Sorry if that wasn't clear - and if I did disagree with you to such an extent I'd have been far more diffident, given my respect for you and all. I'm actually a little embarrassed to read back from your perspective as if I was ranting at you!

As far as c), there will doubtless exist composers who are forced into avenues they resent but must be complicit with for money, exposure or career progression. I've had to do that, though fortunately not much. Hence my qualification of "lucky and dedicated" - if you become sought after, the odds are you're employed to more or less compose what you would want to compose anyway, because it's your most passionate voice.

If I was given funds to record or perform my music and allowed to write what I wished, a lot of it would sound like "film music", more or less what I'm writing at the moment. Though obviously for composers who have different drives but are able to work in scoring whilst wanting to do other things, your point stands.

Mike Hewer said:

Dave,

I just want to make clear that I was not denigrating film music. I meant that the reason for writing music outside of media is different because composing becomes an unbounded personal expression without stylistic, formal or practical restraint (other than the composers' own limiting functions) and inevitably, depending on the calibre of the composer (who may well be striving to achieve a work sui generis),  becomes more and more esoteric and inevitably elitist. (I hate that word too, but it is a reality when it comes to concert music). Of course, uniqueness is not limited to the concert world, but uniqueness in film music is generally speaking, still adhering to some familiar trait because it has to, this does not apply in the concert world anymore and this is the difference between the disciplines.

 I agree that film music at its best is high art, but I think there is the scent of an underlying truth to point c in your trifecta. I come to this conclusion from personal experience as I am now writing without a brief and to please no-one and finding the experience  liberating.  

It's not that money tarnishes the work of great film scorers, it does not because  the quality of the writers and the work they produce is obvious, but the discipline of media work does impose restrictions, technical restrictions that are anathema to the pursuit of a pure and absolute expression. (Mind you, you are right in that a lot of the great masterworks where commissions and arguably restricted in some sense, but I don't think there is enough parallel in this given the very specific and limiting conditions of film music).

These restrictions may well be the only difference between the 2 disciplines (film music and concert music) because the highest standards of artifice are needed for both, but the musical results are very, very different.

I suppose that all I'm saying is that the purist approach trumps the applied approach to my way of thinking and creating, but God almighty I wish I could write like Williams does in his cello concerto.

All true Bob.

In the concert world of contemporary classical for want of a better term, none of those formulas really apply any more, hence my term 'unbounded'. BTW 'absolute' in my sense means music for musics' sake. 

So are there restrictions in the classical world, I'm not so sure. Your assuming that tonality underpins this and if it were the case, then yes certain formalities and niceties like themes and development are expected, but tonality is not a pre-requisite in the concert world any more and I guess that fact in itself opens up a chasm between media and concert writing as far as composition is concerned. Not that atonality isn't used in film, there are tons of examples of such, but it is used as a device more so than an expression....or is it a personal expression???

The 'unbounded freedom' refers to as much a freeing of the imagination as it does to a 12 tone way of thinking, where new rules can be made and broken according to the aesthetics of the creator and answerable only to him.

Reply to Discussion

RSS

© 2017   Created by Chris Merritt.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service