Must it be new?

To me, yes. Most of the music I hear on this site (I listen to everything posted) is in a neo-classical/neo-romantic/19th century-imitating/or new age vein. I've no interest in this music, so don't comment on such posts. I am only interested in music which does something new, which to me is the heart of what classical composition is about. I don't think this applies to band music composers, jazz, and rock, they have a tradition they are working from. But classical is different - it, I think is supposed to be about expanding the tradition/changing the tradition/doing something new. Also, I notice that many of the pieces on this site start out slowly. I guess the composers feel like a slow-build to something exciting is a good approach, but most of these pieces come across to me as just being turgid. I like to grab the listener from the first bar. For those who feel like their approach to music is a rejection of strange 20th century movements such as 12-tone music and aleatory stuff - I agree, tonality rocks, just not the tonality of the past - come up with something new in the tonality arena, it can be done in many ways I think. I'll suggest a composer on this site who I think is underappreciated, Ondib Olmnilnlolm, who experiments with sounds in a playful and experimental way. Best to you all -

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  • Well Gav i started serious composition work only 4 years ago - never had any schooling in composition.  Many have encouraged me to take studies therein and I have no intention because of the similar stories I hear from people like yourself.  I will carry on pushing my own boundaries and learning from experience and at times mistakes.

  • James, the best advice I can offer you as a former composition major who dropped out of an academic program is to listen to great music, listen to the sounds of the world around you, challenge yourself to expand what you listen to and compose your heart. It's clear to me you love composition and that is more important than all the training in the world.

  • Thanks for that Gav - you are spot on mate.

  • :)

  • Well guys, I feel a bit of "relief" when reading this :-) It's now about 3 years since I took my first piano lessons. A couple of weeks ago, I made my first 'composition'... proud that I was, I wanted my piano teacher to give me some feedback about what I've created (well I created piano things before and he was always very excited, but this was my try to something with more instruments, orchestra/mvoie sound). Nothing good about it: "when you compose, you need to follow a certain structure, ABABA whatever, explanations about 'counterpoint' 'you need to study music', 'you need to walk before you can run' blabla where thrown to my head... it was something different than I was used to hear, when only playing the piano :-) I don't care anyway, I just continue...because i'm having fun.

    For those who dropped out that academic program/composition... would you say that you didn't pick up anything there which is helping you these days whilst composing music? I mean, ok you had to go through the program, you didn't like it, you were bored maybe, it was against your ideas of creating music;... so taking classes back then wouldn't have had any effect in what you do these days whilst composing? OR maybe the things you've learned overthere did make sense at a certain point, you just 'adapted' those things to make it work for you today? (don't know if it's clear what i'm trying to ask?)

  • Dmitri, I did learn some things from my academic program. I learned music theory, about cadences and harmony and structure. All this was valuable and contributed to my ability as a composer. What I didn't learn was how to be a composer - despite that being my major. I suspect that every composer today must invent that on their own.

  • Very poor quality formal education it was, then... sonata form, heh.


    Gav Brown said:

    Formal education teaches you to imitate, not create. In my studies, we looked at sonata form, for example. Nothing could have been more boring to me than sonata form, it spoke nothing to me about our time, it was unconnected to the world we live in. Formal education reinforces the idea that continuing on with and expanding on the traditions of the past (such as the sonata) is still the way to go for serious composers.

    Must it be new?
    To me, yes. Most of the music I hear on this site (I listen to everything posted) is in a neo-classical/neo-romantic/19th century-imitating/or new ag…
  • This is pretty much exactly what I got from my music degree studies too. They can teach you some of the formal elements; cadences, key relationships, modulation etc and how to go about structuring a piece so it is pleasing to the ear, but you never really learn *how* to be a composer or what that really means. In my opinion this is something you can only get through the experience of writing your own pieces and learning from any feedback you might get from others listening to them. It's a process of growth and gradual refinement over time for everyone I think and you never really stop the learning process.

    Gav Brown said:

    Dmitri, I did learn some things from my academic program. I learned music theory, about cadences and harmony and structure. All this was valuable and contributed to my ability as a composer. What I didn't learn was how to be a composer - despite that being my major. I suspect that every composer today must invent that on their own.

    Must it be new?
    To me, yes. Most of the music I hear on this site (I listen to everything posted) is in a neo-classical/neo-romantic/19th century-imitating/or new ag…
  • In my opinion there is a difference between a 'soundtrack' and a 'composition'. Anyone with a computer can create a soundtrack.
    Having a word processor doesn't mean you can write poetry.

    Roses are red
    Violets are blue
    I love you lots
    And I hope that you love me lots too.

    Cliche ridden? Poor understanding and use of meter and rhyme? Unoriginal? In short, not very good? Ah yes but it expresses my feelings, Isn't that all that matters?
    The above poem is the equivalent of what some people do with their music software expecting it to be taken seriously.

    What composers need teachers, tutors or mentors for is not to tell them how to write or how not to write . It's to question what they do write. To make them justify their actions. To be objective and to try to make the student examine their reasons for each and every note.

    If I took my poem to my imaginary professor of poetry she/he might say- " Why did you extend the last line?" "Why did you use the imagery of flowers in the first two lines and then abandon imagery altogether for the second two?" "Why did you use assonance between the end of line two and line four as opposed to making them rhyme?

    If I do not have a good justification for these things other than "oh well , it sounded right to me", or " I couldn't think of anything better", then yes, I don't need any help, I can be a bad poet all by myself. If my poem touches the heart of it's dedicatee then my job is done. And I am a fully fledged poet in my own mind.

    If I do have a good reason for writing the poem as I did, my teacher may see what it is I am trying to do and suggest that what I thought I was doing has not come across as well as it should. I would then go away and think about it.

    Just stoking the fire a bit! :)

  • Stoke away Michael... although I do agree with you insofar as a good teacher will help you to be more objective and self-critical about your own work, which will in turn help you to pinpoint later in your career why certain things may or may not work when composing on your own. In the end however this still boils down to talking about critiquing of technique and how to be an objective critic of ones own work, this is also achieved in part by self discovery over time. 

    Finding yourself as a composer, that is, the finding of your own voice has very little to do with the technical methods you are talking about here. Even a great teacher can only take you so far. What they can't really do is help you to become your own person, to find that thing about your music that is identifiably personally you, you have to find that for yourself through endless experimentation and practise.

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