Why do you write music?

I'll go first. I like to make things—not to express myself, but because I want to understand how things work. By writing music, I get to see the layers underneath. How does a brain work? After decades of profound drinking and thinking, I realized that a score is mainly an inner dialogue put on paper. When I listen to Bach, I hear him talking to himself. Not that I'm as good as the old master, but I do have the same technique. It makes writing music easy, fast, and even automated.

Now that I'm getting old, I'm still curious, but writing music has also become a way to pass the time. It beats daytime TV, I can tell you that. To keep my brain active, I turned to programming and AI. That gave me quite a startle. Really, most people have no idea what storm lies ahead. A lot of people are going to be out of a job. In a perfect world, we would let the machines do all the work while we stay at home and do the fun stuff, but in this capitalistic world, it will probably lead to more poverty for the people—unless we pull the cart out of the barn and start oiling the guillotine.

So, that's it. I'm probably not the most sensitive person walking this dying earth. That's okay. I prefer to have other people deal with emotions while I think about what's really going on.


It would be nice to add some music to your reply.



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  • when I was a student, I told a friend --- probably while drunk -- that I would write a symphony by the age of 35. When I was 35, I suddenly remembered this foolish statement and got to work acquiring a keyboard with a rudimentary orchestra built in to help me achieve this aim. The result was so bad, I immediately wrote another one. For a couple of years or so, I found this new hobby quite fun but productivity tailed off considerably after that until later on and in particular after I stopped working full time and moved to Germany. Eventually I realised it was the only real way I could express myself and I began, particularity with the advent of decent virtual instruments to actually like the results enough to realise I was writing primarily because hardly any other living composers were writing the sort of music I actually liked listening to. So I had to go on. If a few other people also appreciate what I'm doing then so much the better.

    For me, music is almost entirely about self-expression. There are two kinds -- the autobiographical which applies to most of the abstract music, and the type expressing the feelings of others which can be found in my vocal music, especially the fairytales.

    • David, that's so funny! Writing a symphony to fulfil a vow made "under the influence"... wow!

      I remember as a high school student discovering the classics, Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, Nielsen, and having several symphonies sketched out in my mind already - no solid musical material, mind you, just general atmosphere - and of course I never wrote any of them. I composed mostly exercises at university, except for beginning the movement for string quartet that I only finished recently, 45 years later, and posted here. Since taking up composition again in late 2019, I never set out to write a symphony. The one I posted here was begun as an exercise in fugue writing for a set of variations I was working on - it took shape from the material rather than from a preconceived idea of mine. I think I work best from strictly musical ideas rather than from a formal plan.

      But why do I write music? I am not sure that I can put it fully into words. Sure, there is self-expression, but there is also the desire to hear music that interests me and that I would like to listen to, much as David said (I think). So I am largely writing for myself as the audience. Nothing that I've written so far is specifically autobiographical - though the String Quartet has an innocence-to-experience aspect to it that more or less is, though it's a pretty universal experience. My Symphony is entirely abstract and is really only concerned with musical processes, but the choice of musical language was inspired by the Age of Reason, something that feels like the antithesis of the times we're living in. Of course it also has an emotional side, but this is less what I feel personally than what I believe I should feel, if that makes sense. It's more an expression of philosophy than of personal feelings.


    • I was being slightly facetious when I said the works are autobiographical as this is only very loosely true.Although they tend to express the moods I felt at the time of writing -- which are pretty varied -- the hope is that they are a bit more universal than that. But of course that is for others to decide. On occasion, I do work on very specific motivic or other workings out or other formal plan but in general, what the music is about always takes precedence.


  • I write music because...

    ... well, it used to be because I had this orchestra playing in my head, and I wanted to capture at least some of it so that it's not lost forever. It all began when I first heard Beethoven's 6th symphony, the 4th movement of which was the very first thing I heard, which blew me out of the water and inspired me to wish to be a composer.

    I used to have this insatiable urge to create, to make something that wasn't spoonfed to me, to resist and reject the philosophy of push media that I had an ideological beef against.


    These days, however, I mainly compose because it's a non-harmful pastime which occasionally results in something that others might occasionally even like. Well, that, and the fact that my son has become one of the biggest fans of my music, which is quite a big motivation!

    Unfortunately, free time is hard to come by these days, and prices at the time shop have been skyrocketing, so I haven't been able to actually compose very much lately.

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