Inspiration is for amateurs

I heard my teacher say that to a student who hadn't completed his assignment (a composition in Dorian mode) for the umpteenth time and this time used 'no inspiration' as an excuse. Inspiration is for amateurs.

You need to be a member of composersforum to add comments!

Join composersforum

Email me when people reply –


  • I agree. Work for inspiration by making the conditions right for it to appear. Do that via technical/exploratory work and open ears.

  • Inspiration alone isn't enough, but neither is skill alone.

  • To me, it needs inspiration with the art of translating the emotional or quasi-emotional into a tangible result that can be communicated (even if to self alone, as if a mini catharsis - it's something you've got out of your system)

    Otherwise, what have you got? Procedure? 

    I'm proud to be an amateur, answerable to no one unless I agree to a commission!. I once enquired of a composer about becoming "professional". He said, "Don't turn a wonderful hobby into an awful job of work."

    • Personally I find the prospect of payment concentrates the mind beautifully, although what I really mean is "they have a recording budget! Nice! And I get whatever's left over"

      Tbf I've done some jobs for free or very little because the work being recorded was a sufficient payment, given my obsession with hearing my stuff played for real. I may be the worst businessman alive. 

    • Yep, nothing quite like a media music deadline to focus the mind, the succes of which sometimes determines whether one gets the real muso or the sampled one, the Moet or the Blue Nun. Your obsession is a healthy one Dave so long as there is something to eat on the table...wink

  • As someone once said (suitably rephrased),

    Skill without inspiration is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Inspiration without skill gives us modern art.


    • Once upon a time, composers, like goldsmiths or furniture makers, were simply craftsmen, and they took pride in that distinction. They referred to themselves as masters, but only when they had earned the title. Problems started when these craftsmen began to identify as artists. It did not result in better music. On the contrary. You can really suck as a composer and still be an "artist". Or put a few crooked lines on a canvas, as an artist.

      I call myself a craftsman... woman... Or is it craftsperson? Whatever. I'm a skilled and handy composer. That's good enough for me.

    • Haven't people, including other composers, been saying that other composers suck for centuries? Including composers now generally acknowledged as masters? Disliking current trends is a standing wave in the arts. Dislike everything, and save time :)

    • Whilst I accept that modernity in music can semingly  push boundaries too far,  the irony is that learning to become fluent in the musical language(s) and techniques of the last 100 years, composers have to study very hard to develop the skills and artistry required. I believe the learning curve to be a lot harder than acquiring fluency in common practice technique because of the 'expansion' of all aspects of music. Emancipation of rhythm, timbral opportunities arising from extended instrumental techniques, function and/or non-function, vertical democracy,  all of these components require a vast knowledge and skill base in order to manipulate them with meaning and the journey to acquiring such skill is an intensely profound one aesthetically and artistically.

      The last 100 years has produced works of great stature equal in depth and expression to any work from previous periods imo. 

    • Dead on.

      Those who've "pushed the boundaries" (as the platitude goes) tend to be of independent means - independent of earning from music, that is. 

      I had a brief involvement with college; chucked it. You can teach people the tools but you can't teach them to create. Forced to learn procedures like serial and dodecaphonic.and all the jargon just to make common sense and good taste difficult...simply so an institution has things to examine people on, was not for me. I ended up with a couple of private teachers empathetic to my aims and took my diploma externally. My real teachers, sadly, had passed away but I was most happy to receive their lessons.

      Said diploma declares I am qualified to teach musical composition.... a joke if ever.

This reply was deleted.

Topics by Tags

Monthly Archives