One of the reasons I take so long to write anything is that I frequently pause to listen to something by another composer I admire. I go away thinking, "How do I even dare to imagine myself among these geniuses"? (Just listened to Horowitz playing the Rach 3 - Stopped me cold). Does anybody else have this experience? How do you deal with it?

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  • Art,

    I have the same problem, with famous composers and with some composers that I hear on this forum.  I deal with it by knowing that over time I will improve from practice due to writing as much music as I can and learning as much as I can.  Writing less music is not the answer.  No matter what our level is, the great composer in us will come out due to experience and diligence.  Listening to other composers is part of learning.  I try to write music and read about composing as much as possible.  Even when I feel discouraged from my lack of knowledge and skill. 

  • Art, I have never once had this feeling, and IMO, no composer should. I do the best I can, try to better with each piece, and let the chips fall where they will. It is true that the vast majority of composers will never achieve success, but so what? I don't compose because I am trying to compete with Mozart, I compose because it's what I like to do.

  • My feeling is, well, "basically exactly" what Gav said, with a decent smattering of what Ronald said, in that there are some composers on here who can be pretty intimidating, if you ever stop to look at it like that. Always trying to improve, though, as much as I can mentally withstand.  

  • Art, I agree with Gav.  Most, if not all of us will not be a Mozart.  He was a rare prodigy.  A love for the art, I believe is in all of us or we would not be doing it in the first place.  I read somewhere along the lines that to become a composer that you must first believe in yourself.  There is that great composer inside that will come out from experience and diligence.  You may not go down into the history books, but you can write something that you can feel proud of.  It just takes time and practice.

  • Well, let's try this. Any time I hear somebody say, "I just write for myself", my pants-on-fire radar goes off. We post our music, we want people to listen to it and we want people to like it. At least I certainly do. If we lived in isolation with nothing but a instrument or a computer, would we still write?

  • Hi Art, I don't think anyone who has replied to your thread said "I just write for myself." Of course I want my music to be liked. That's human.

  • Sure. I did so for years and years, even after the Internet became a thing. I most definitely want people to be affected positively by my stuff, but at the same time I have not doubt whatsoever I'd keep on doing it, even if I knew no one else would ever hear it. I TRULY enjoy the work and the process for its own sake.

    Art Lowell said:

    Well, let's try this. Any time I hear somebody say, "I just write for myself", my pants-on-fire radar goes off. We post our music, we want people to listen to it and we want people to like it. At least I certainly do. If we lived in isolation with nothing but a instrument or a computer, would we still write?

    I Gotta Question For Other Composers
    One of the reasons I take so long to write anything is that I frequently pause to listen to something by another composer I admire. I go away thinkin…
  • Obviously, nobody here would say such a thing. There are times when I'm not getting any listens (it's like pulling teeth to even get people in my own family to listen), I'll be wondering why I bother, but not for long. It is a compulsion. Basically, I just like making pretty sounds. 

    Going back to the original thing, I think I do much better when I don't listen to the music of the masters for extended periods. I wrote the original thing after just listening to the Rach 3, and feeling pretty deflated having just heard the music of the Gods. 

  • In my childhood, I used to hate music, and even despise it. After I got inspired by the works of the masters, especially Beethoven's symphonies, I started composing -- because I was so inspired that I wanted to be a composer myself; but also because I didn't like a lot of music around me and felt determined to "do it better". Being an arrogant teenage prick at the time, I thought I knew better and therefore didn't give any heed to others' reactions to my music. What was important, was that it had to sound good to me. Because acceptance by others wasn't a consideration (at the time), I never felt like I had to compete with the masters; rather, I drew much of my inspiration from them. I would listen to Beethoven over and over to figure out what exactly he did that made that particular transition so moving, or what exactly he did with the harmony to make that tricky modulation that I couldn't quite pull off in the passage I was working on. In fact, I found that I had so many more ideas when I was continually listening to the works of the masters -- they put so many clever things into their works, big and small, that it serves as a virtually endless source of musical ideas that one could draw upon.

    Of course, later on I learned that working in a vacuum has its own dangers -- sometimes, I'm simply not the best judge of my own music, and sometimes I really needed somebody else to slap me in the face, so to speak, with the fact that my music was but a poor caricature of the work of the masters I thought I was imitating. I only came to terms with the fact that music has an audience much later on, and that was a rude awakening, so to speak, from my fool's paradise of music that pleases only me. It also opened my eyes, so to speak, to new dimensions in the works of the masters that I had been blissfully ignorant of, that cast well-known works in a blindingly new light. At such moments, I do get that sinking feeling of inferiority, that I would never be able to attain to that level of mastery over music.

    At such times, I find that the best solution is to just take a break from working on that piece for a little while, to clear one's mind, and then return to it later. Sometimes, I would feel that a particular aspect of my work seems to be inherently inferior and fundamentally wrong in comparison with the masters, and all progress would slam to a halt. But after taking some time off from that piece and not listening to it or thinking about it for a while, upon returning to it later I would often find that it wasn't that bad after all. Perhaps it's nowhere near the standard set by the masters, but it might have some redeeming qualities that make it worth completing, at the very least, even if it would end up being filed under the "good effort" category rather than the "masterpiece" category.

    Other times, I find that a particular piece is beyond saving, or requires a level of mastery well beyond my current abilities; then I just file it away in that dusty folder of incomplete works and move on to something new. It has actually happened on at least one occasion, that after I have gained more experience, upon revisiting an old, abandoned work I have been able to "resurrect it from the dead", so to speak, bringing my newly acquired skills to bear, to mold it into something passable, or perhaps even potentially good, where it was once thought unsalvageable.  So you never know. Even the worst possible work could serve as a source of motifs when that pernicious composer's block shows up. If you feel that a current work isn't going anywhere, perhaps the solution is to file it away for later. It may be that it just has to wait a little longer until you have gained more skill, and then it could become the seed of a future masterpiece.

  • Art, a thought, if you post a piece in Music Analysis and Critique and it doesn't get any responses, you might consider posting it in Suggestions Wanted and ask the question "why didn't this get any responses?" You might get some answers. Best -

    Art Lowell said:

    Obviously, nobody here would say such a thing. There are times when I'm not getting any listens (it's like pulling teeth to even get people in my own family to listen), I'll be wondering why I bother, but not for long. It is a compulsion. Basically, I just like making pretty sounds. 

    Going back to the original thing, I think I do much better when I don't listen to the music of the masters for extended periods. I wrote the original thing after just listening to the Rach 3, and feeling pretty deflated having just heard the music of the Gods. 

    I Gotta Question For Other Composers
    One of the reasons I take so long to write anything is that I frequently pause to listen to something by another composer I admire. I go away thinkin…
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