'finding one's voice'…?

This phrase has always hit me as somewhat foreign.  It makes more sense to me when applied to an instrumentalist… But for a composer, this idea sounds somewhat constricting.  What if one arrives 'at this voice'.  Does one then just hang onto it?  A lot of artist and composers seem to.  To make a niche that is all their own, is the goal it would seem…  Some composers/artists  have found great variety within their 'voice' ..and it seems to have not limited them at all… 

Yet this idea seems to have also limited some composers'/ artists' expressive scope..

Today we can fill ourselves with the vast historical record of what has been done, like no other time before…  Pour all these musical shapes and attendant responses deep into the psyche for a few decades… Who can say how the unconscious mixes it all up, and how it expresses it's fullness in our compositional creativity...

To me, each piece has a voice that wants to be released - if we are lucky -….. The parameters ('style') in which that happens - to me is quite fluid… and can shift radically from piece to piece.. And even within one piece one can imply many styles - that are going thru and around… 

Funny, it seems that Bowie - if he would've hung on to Ziggy Stardust -As his voice, we never would have gotten his great funk album "Young Americans', with the 'thin white duke' … Or his progressive side with "Station to Station"… to his breakdown album 'Aladdin Sane" - 'Breaking Glass'…to his minimalist heroic "Heroes" with Fripp and eno's colorful light display… to 'Scary Monsters' and 'Fashion' as social commentary thru acerbic wit and grit..

I guess Bowie comes to mind, in order to address this idea of 'identity' (voice) - and question if 'finding one's voice' is a good idea at all?

When Bernstein went Broadway, Koussevitzky - and many others thought ill of his decision.

Miles always wanted to do a rock album,,, but didn't...

Mozart's mass in C minor ( a Later work) sounds a lot like Bach.

Perhaps this is just semantics, and some identities have just greater scopes than others, and that is neither a good or a bad thing in and of itself. (?)

For me, (mostly) composition wasn't something about finding my voice - 'not sounding like another'…  but more that each piece Is its own voice…  (if it works) … and it may indeed sound like many others,  however much derivative (pejoratively or not) - is in the ear of the beholder...

Some random thoughts at the end of the day…  

 

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  • I had never heard Beethoven's 4th symphony live.  It has been a favorite for a long time.. My grandfather taught me piano at age 6… He had a large record collection, and would play music while we played checkers, backgammon and chess… I had a little cassette recorder, and held the microphone between the speakers of his magnavox pull down turntable - with speakers attached like wings… Everynight i went to bed, i had the tape player near my pillow…  

    I my early adolescence, i had loved Beethoven's 5th, then 6th , 9th, 7th and 3rd…… But then became curious what other symphonies i might like.. It was the start of me searching out material 'on my own'  - to become aquatinted with..  i wanted then to go thru all his symphonies to find maybe another favorite.. I stumbled on the 4th… I thought , 'Why is no one talking about this one!"… It became my favorite of his symphonies… 

    It has been maybe a decade since i have heard a recording of it… 

    I went to a concert saturday night, and had seats about 10 to 15 feet behind the conductor.. It was conducted ebulliently, and delicately… I shut my eyes, and waves came over me, (and i'll admit, tears did stream some).

    60 players playing their hearts out.. 

    The voice of this piece - so full of life, excitement, urgency, playfulness, and beauty, and severity,,,{and (radically) inventive} - especially in the context of previous european 'classical' music... dancing so invisibly 'alive' on the stage, and charged the very air.. Yes and i could ramble on suchly, but i just wanted to mention this because the experience was so dense, i was still reliving it the next day, even til now...

    It seemed to pierce the metaphorical membrane -- in so many ways...

    It made me think that - that feeling - is what has mostly attracted me to want to write music..  In my early writing (adolescence)   there would be a phrase, (sometimes only 3 notes) or a vibe, that i'll find striking in a piece, but felt the composer didn't take it where i would have wanted it to go…  This is how i got started writing.. These days it usually starts with an impression, which can come in the most unexpected places.. 

  • I have to admit, Joseph, those lyrics are OUTSTANDLINGly AMAZING, and I never understood them until now, even though I had heard the music and singing before.

    That's truly GREAT!!!

    [ I could hardly stop laughing ! ]

    Joseph Harry said:

    O-  Lyrics have been written for John William's music surpassing even the exceptional John Cage poetry you posted

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFDT2L5bPFI

    'finding one's voice'…?
    This phrase has always hit me as somewhat foreign.  It makes more sense to me when applied to an instrumentalist… But for a composer, this idea sound…
  • Joseph,

    Hilarious!

    (If i had seen that before my previous post, I wouldn't have mentioned 'Backgammon' ...

  • I'm listening to Beethoven's Fourth right now.  It'll take me several listens to take in, however.

  • Water Bear, I was going to suggest listening to Zinman conduct - i love his approach to Beethoven.. But that is not available on youtube.. 

    Here is a  is a fantastic version: (C. Kleiber)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3-jlAamGCE

    (Here is a brief interview with Zinman on his approach to Beethoven...

    He mentions that the 'cutoff point'  for him is the 3rd symphony --  "after which,  music was never the same".. And I would agree, except I would say that the 3rd is a warm up for the 'real' cutoff point - the 4th.. :) 

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-1d4UXaZjo

    Abbado's version:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxO7Ynh97L8

    Bernstein:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCfLVUeJVqQ

  • I guess to me that the thing is, each composer has his or her great strengths, and that, once they have found these out, it becomes an easy matter to write to those strengths pretty much as a matter of rote. And yet, of course, we have lots of examples of composers making deliberate breaks from their comfort zones, wherein a dissatisfaction has set in, and a need to prove to oneself that there is more in them than merely rehashing what has worked for them before. And if this is successful, well, then, as you've said, lo, and behold, all of a sudden therein lies a new voice, a bonus maybe unexpected, and an assurance for the composer that he can transcend himself after all, which must be an incredible satisfaction. 

  • It is really simple for me, there's no "finding", you already have one. These are things that you like (at this moment), you don't even have to compose to find your voice. I pointed out (at this moment), because through time those things will change (to a certain point), and not through finding but experiencing, otherwise, in that case, "finding" sound more like "forcing yourself", in my opinion.

    gregorio X said: 
    "What if one arrives 'at this voice'.  Does one then just hang onto it?  A lot of artist and composers seem to."

    Yes, because there is less chance to experience something diffrent or new, that you might like, when you're are older.

  • Using my composing partly as a means of trying to understand classical music from past eras I have composed romantic Lieder, classical string quartets and works in a baroque style but still I think I always sound very much alike. I believe that it is in a way my voice that comes through. Being a melodist melodies are my strenghts (I am first and foremost a singer by instrument) and I know what kind of singable melodies I like.
    What developes is my craftsmanship in terms of how I harmonize, how I structure musical form and how I write the different parts. Also my knowledge of the instruments and my ability to write larger forms and develope the melodies grow in time.
    But somehow the melodies stay the same.
    I think that might be true for many composers, only the melodies can sometimes be replaced by rythms or harmonies or soundscapes depending on who the composer is.
  • Rafał Żebrowski said:

    (...)

    gregorio X said: 
    "What if one arrives 'at this voice'.  Does one then just hang onto it?  A lot of artist and composers seem to."

    Yes, because there is less chance to experience something different or new, that you might like, when you're are older.

    Rafal,

    Assuming that you are quite a bit younger than I am, let me give you a piece of great news which, for some reason, seems to generally be kept a secret:

    The experiencing of new things and the personal inner evolution into new realms doesn't really stop.  For some people, it doesn't even slow down.  The idea that some young people may have about middle aged and older people, as beings who are stable and settled, is simply mistaken.  I hope you will believe me.  :-)

    'finding one's voice'…?
    This phrase has always hit me as somewhat foreign.  It makes more sense to me when applied to an instrumentalist… But for a composer, this idea sound…
  • 'speaking' of cage...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qWPCoayhjY 

    (How  does the commentary offered - highlighting the criticism - "the sound of chewing sand" affect the way one hears this piece… Is humor (if it indeed is, in  this context) a way of venting a 'sense of confusion'?

    We see also this attendant humor  w/ regard to a similar approach  to composition:

    (start at the 40 second mark)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MewcnFl_6Y

    - YouTube
    Enjoy the videos and music you love, upload original content, and share it all with friends, family, and the world on YouTube.
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