Composing in my own style

I didn't write for years, to avoid traditional concepts of composition. I focused on performance which I love and can find no matter where I'm transplanted as my husband moved us for militaryservice, education, and jobs. I was encouraged to stay home with the kids, to go back to work, to get my masters, to teach in the schools ... but my dream to write was always there. It wasn't until last summer, after being laid off as a music teacher, I decided to plug in the cord, to write and learn how to use the technology to record music that reminded me of Hearts of Space. Playing flute on the recordings brought a great sense of satisfaction and fear at the same time. When asked for constructive comments from family and friends, I was told to turn up the hidden flute sound, that it should not be buried in the background, but instead featured.

 

So, my discussion topic is this: What is your style? How have you gathered sounds from your favorite composers? Are you using their genre or imitating an actual composition? Do you only have original ideas or is that even possible as we are all influenced by what we hear and read and feel? Do you like to have your music labeled? Are you writing to be market worthy? Are you expressing yourself or showing off your technique? Are you influenced by the listener? Family?

 

I'm still trying to write the perfect piece ... thank goodness I've got a long way to go as I keep writing, I can't stop ... I know its just around the corner ... It's exciting, like a new love interest.

 

Thanks for listening to my ramblings and look forward to your comments.

 

Cari

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Replies

  • I would say that my style is still forming. Their is definately some style markers that can be heard in my music, but they change as I learn and grow. Do I have original ideas? it depends are how we define original, because in a way yes I do, but are the completely original, no.

    As far as labels, whether you like them or not, they are necessary in order to allow your audience (who ever they my be) to find you. As far as marketing, as a concert composer I market myself so writing anything but what I express would be selling a false product, plus that rarely works out in the end. I am rarely influenced by my listener, unless I am writing something for a particular audience in mind. I try to express what I am wanting to hear in my music, and hope that other would like that too.

  • Excellent questions!!  I am very much a novice at the art of composition and if it weren't for my wife I probably wouldn't be doing any compositions at all.  About 4 years ago, I decided for our fifth wedding anniversary I was going to write her a song.

     

    So I worked on my guitar (which I can't play very well) and worked on a cheap little 61 key Yamaha synth and wrote her a piece of music with words and all.  It took me about 2 months to get everything arranged and I then found a recording studio to get it recorded in.  I'm very much a novice when it comes to guitar and piano so after about 10 hours of recording time I had a finished product that I, and more importantly she, was pleased with.  It was then that the studio owner introduced me to midi and how affordable it was to get into entry level recording at home.  I then realized that I had a lot of melodies floating around in my head that I wanted to get out.

     

    As far as style is concerned I can't figure out what style it is that I really have.  Each piece that I write tends to help me explore and try to develop my musical knowledge, mainly so that I can hopefully write more efficiently and better pieces of music as time goes on.  My current process is to start with a melody, either preconceived or discovered upon while playing on the keyboard, and then to try and develop chords around the melody.  There is less guess work now than when I first started though.

     

    As far as labeling my music your guess is as good as mine.  I think for right now the melodies tend to dictate the path of how a piece of music will end up.  Often times I like to have a title of the piece set in stone during the infancy stages of the music, that way I know better how to form and finish it.

     

    I think every one is trying to be marketable with there music, because in the end who wouldn't want to be able to write a piece of music that many will hear and hopefully enjoy and earn a living on.  My wife will always be supportive, but this forum is great because you get to have the ears of other composers to listen and critique. 

     

    For me personally, when I have written a piece of music that moves me the way Holst's St. Paul's Suite does, I think I will have written the perfect piece.

     

    Good luck with your writings.  There is a wealth of information here from all these composers.

     

     

  • I'm still a very young composer. I don't have quite a distinct style yet. But if i did i'd have to say it is somewhat "Tragic" "mournful" - sad kinds of words, but with this disturbing shimmer of hope.  As a person i'm not really tradgic or mournful... i'm judgmental and so maybe my music reflects how i judge myself.
  • I earn my living teaching music. I make no money with the music I write - in the sense that I could be called a professional composer. I have never found it important to develop a personal style. The only thing I'm aiming for is to develop as a composer over all. I've done music for computer games, punk rock, hard rock, I've composed some 15 songs to lyrics by my wife, right now I'm composing music for a wind band, the style of which is unlabeled. I also try to develop as an arranger for big-band, wind band and maybe full symphony orchestra, too.

    With this approach to music making I guess nothing very unique will appear on my scores, except melodic themes. If I analyse the wind band music I'm composing, the harmonies might resemble the music of Prokofjeff, free tonal music. The structures resemble traditional march music, but with an uneven number of bars. I guess there's a demand on some entertaining values in the music.

    Actually, my own prophile as a composer is how I understand the concept of post-modernism. To me, the post-modern era is the era, when we have completely lost the focus on one "state of the art" style. Instead we live in a world that more than ever enjoys the art of ancient composers and other art makers, as well as all diverging 20th century styles of art music, entertainment music and ethno music. One conductor put the words right when he complained about the audience of today. 100 years ago people would say: "Gee, I've never heard of this composer. Got to get ticket to this concert!" Now they say: "Gosh, I've never heard of  this composer. No use buying tickets." He was talking about contemporary "art" music, not main stream pop music.

    A rule that I'd like to follow as a composer would be something like: Know the rules of any style that your music might be similar to. Follow those rules or break them in a way that won't make you appear as a dabbler.

  • Dear Cari,

    IMHO, composing music is a personal healing and only for me and my journey. Once you make the conscience decision to go that route, then you are alone with your insecurities and fears. It is the de-energizing of these fears that is the seed for original self-expression. The funny thing is, everyone has their own journey and they will 'recognize' this as something familiar, that someone else is dealing with the same healing. And it is these road-side markers that they will gravitate to like moths to a flame. This is what happens when people say they like a piece of music but can't explain why.

     

    So, Cari, drink and smoke... turn up the music, click the record button, close your eyes and dance with your flute with no hesitations and no fear. Most of what you will hear will be you working out that fear. Then you will hear something... amazing. It won't be any style but your own. The more outlandish it is, the better it will be.. and you will have captured it on the tracks.  Sometimes this takes minutes, sometimes years, but it will happen. Regardless of how it turns out, it will be your bliss and if you have that, what else really matters. (Joseph Campbell).

     

    My 2 cents.

  • Dear Art,

     

    All good points and I tend to agree, although I feel that my self-expression is made of tiny pieces of experiences, good and bad, that taint all that I do. Sometimes I think it is the same song trying to get out, but different versions of it, depending on how I can free myself from the grip of the past. Then there are times I attempt to send a secret message through the music, surely someone will hear what I need to say.

     

    I live in my new world where vices are no longer welcome, the harshness of reality grinds into my soul. My flute is my only voice and I travel within fear ... and searching for connections, affirmations, reason for being ... the music allows for imagination to soar, a way out when trapped within. It is like an Escher painting, forever climbing the stairs; drawing the hand that is drawing the hand that is drawing the hand.

     

    Maybe its healing, but do I want to heal if the music I write is beautiful and touching? The beauty the pain is creating may be my purpose ... to produce sounds that comfort others ... maybe its to write for future generations to give them hope ... sometimes the music does not feel like my own, but something I cultivate from the universe ...

     

    Cari

    (the above rant was influenced partially from the Hearts of Space program I'm now listening to ...Raining #905)

     

  • Hi Tyler,

    Thanks for your response. It's interesting that you mentioned it would be a false product if it wasn't what you express. I guess what I'm finding is many composers talk about writing in all styles of music to sell  something, but I am caught in just expressing myself in a way that I find truest to my heart, which is new age style.

     

    Other interesting comments in this discussion. I have lots to think about - I'm never one to settle on one answer as the only way.

     

    Cari



    Tyler Hughes said:

    I would say that my style is still forming. Their is definately some style markers that can be heard in my music, but they change as I learn and grow. Do I have original ideas? it depends are how we define original, because in a way yes I do, but are the completely original, no.

    As far as labels, whether you like them or not, they are necessary in order to allow your audience (who ever they my be) to find you. As far as marketing, as a concert composer I market myself so writing anything but what I express would be selling a false product, plus that rarely works out in the end. I am rarely influenced by my listener, unless I am writing something for a particular audience in mind. I try to express what I am wanting to hear in my music, and hope that other would like that too.

  • I have arrived at what at least is the beginning of my own style. I don't know how much it will change as I develop as a composer. But the interesting thing, I think, is that when I listen to my very early compositions I can hear that same style in them, yet very immature and undeveloped. I have never really changed style, just refined it. The reason could be that I write from my heart, because I don't have enough theoretical knowledge to write from my head. I have often wished I had more theoretical knowledge since that would make it more easy to arrange the stuff.

     

    One part that I know is important in my music is that I have no pressure at all to write "new" music. I don't care if someone has done it before, as long as I have not done it. That means there is a much lower risk of getting stuck in a demanding need to be "new and interesting" every time. If *I* like - I'm happy!

  • I'm still working up the nerve to search for something very different from what I've been writing, which is more or less simply compositional 'self-instruction' put up as what might seem to be a 'finished' little production... I love Bach a lot, and it shows too much. Logical ideas and choices in composition have always impressed me a great deal, and I make the mistake too often of following the example, as best as I can, of what is the summit of that kind of approach, rather than daring to just go ahead and take a dive into new waters that might after all suit me just fine after I've acclimated. I do wonder about this a little bit, though, because I AM working on an avant-garde piece right now, wherein I'm trying to deliberately throw out the things I've always relied on, but...thus far, in my opinion, what it amounts to is a roughly 3 minute mound of musical doo-doo that I don't even think the pigs would eat. It's a hard thing, getting out of your comfort-zone, and the truth is, before I joined the forum, it had been a few years since I'd tried my hand at anything, let alone something completely different for me. I know this hasn't answered many of your questions, but my sweet little 7 year-old is demanding some attention right this very moment, which is another thing...
  • Another thing indeed! When the choice comes between being a innovative composer, pushing the borders of the musical frontiers, and being a familly man and a father - the familly man gets the upper hand every time! It's hard enough to come up with something seriously good, but to do it with the theme music from Bob the builder ringing in your ears is even harder ; )

    John Paul Smith said:
     I know this hasn't answered many of your questions, but my sweet little 7 year-old is demanding some attention right this very moment, which is another thing...
    Composing in my own style
    I didn't write for years, to avoid traditional concepts of composition. I focused on performance which I love and can find no matter where I'm transp…
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