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Hey guys ! 

I would like to discuss with you about some of your approaches of composing on a specific angle, which i don't think has been discussed on this forum before. Please, correct me if i'm wrong, and forgive my spelling mistakes. As a french guy, i consider discussing with you a great way to improve my english and musical skills haha

As most of you are composers, amateurs and professionals, I'm trying to gather your philosophies of composing. A first step would be to know how you consider inspiration. I started writing (amateur) music only when inspiration would come, and I could stay several months without writing anything. Obviously it did not lead me to create a lot of songs. As a consequence i decided to take another approach : i would sit down with a guitar and my software and try new ideas for the next two hours. Something would come out of the session. It did work pretty well for me.

How do you consider these approaches ? Does "forcing" yourself or setting up a discipline such as allocating x hours a day only for composing, seem to be a positive and efficient approach for composing or would you say forcing yourself is killing the inner desire / passion and cannot lead to a great composition ? Would it lead to artificiality ?

Again, my question is more philosophy driven than just to get some tips because i do think this method works to write music and improve on this. But does art need to come out of you on its own or is it acceptable theoretically to "extract it from you" ? 

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Yo Ray, 1951 was a good year  lol   I'm the same age, tho' everyone I meet thinks

I'm in my early 50's. (I like to say I'm 50 w/ 15 yrs. experience at it)

Honesty is the only critique worth anything. It may not be what someone wants to hear,

and it may not necessarily be 'expert'. IMO no one really is. That doesn't mean that an

educated opinion has no merit.

When I first started here, I just wanted feedback.... good or bad, it would help me hone

the craft, so to speak, and aid my focus on where I could improve.
 If someone went so far as to say, dude, your music sucks and your mother is.......

I think it would be obvious that they had a problem, and that their critique was worthless.

But I wouldn't call the police and have them arrested, or complain to  management.

My problem is with the institution of the PC paradigm. That seems to me to be some

kind of pseudo-protectionism that only leads to censorship and in reality, to me, a way

for sissies to be bullies- if you know what I mean.

Positive and tactful are always preferred, but then again the is something to be said

for nitty-gritty.     Enjoy the holiday with friends and family if your celebrating .   Peace     RS

scapegoat said:

For the umpteenth time although I doubt other than a few souls will want to understand. When I'm critical or negative concerning others offerings here and in fact anywhere, it's not because I think I'm better than them. That I'm more knowledgeable. That I'm an expert! No, it's based on self criticism, as I have no illusions about my own shortcomings.
It is the proverbial 'red rag to a bull' when others seem unable or unwilling to admit they have any.
This bullying thing is a complete joke to me. I have in the industry I work in (outside of music) throughout the whole country I live in, absolute respect from all corners in that, I advise and tell it as it is in the best interests of those I'm dealing with. I never bullshit.

Can't help myself, it is who I am throughout my whole 65 years.
And when I'm wrong I learn from it.


Hello Pierre-Louis


Thank you for inviting us to give our take on the philosophy of music composition. In your very last sentence you use the word “art”. That is interesting in itself. And your question is even more interesting (and revealing):

You ask “does art need to come out of you on its own or is it acceptable theoretically to “extract it from you”?”

This question reveals that you contemplate the possibility that art that “comes out of you” spontaneously may be more valuable than art that is “extracted” from you. You are not sure whether it is “acceptable theoretically” to extract art from oneself. I can try to guess why you question this, but I would appreciate it if you would clarify it yourself. Is my guess (below) right or wrong? What is the real answer?

 My guess would be that you feel that art which is not ready to pour out spontaneously from the artist may not have reached its full term of gestation. It may be premature, under-developed, inadequate. This would mean that you view art creation as akin to:

    * The creation of an organism possessing life.

    * Primarily a product of the subconscious.

I agree, as many people would, that a piece of art possesses a coherence as a whole, as opposed to representing a collection of parts. Like a living organism, every part or organ exists for and is explained by the whole being. So also an art piece cannot be understood by examining its individual parts.

Artistic creativity consists of imagining the “whole” art piece in its uniqueness of character and meaning. That is a leap that cannot be reached by working diligently on each individual component part. If an art piece possesses a coherent and unique wholesome character, it is in my opinion new and innovative, regardless of whether or not the musical language and conventions used to build its component parts were invented in a previous century.

Conversely, it is possible to have novel, never before heard harmonies making up every part of a music piece, without having created anything like a new whole organism, without any meaningful new connection having been made between previously unconnected musical entities.

The notion of an artwork as a living organism is an old one – it was well articulated in the 19th century. Of course we cannot conclude that old ideas must be wrong. August Wilhelm Schlegel in Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature (1809-1811) wrote:

“Form is mechanical when it is imparted to any material through an external force, merely as an accidental addition, without reference to its character… Organic form, on the contrary, is innate; it unfolds itself from within, and reaches its determination simultaneously with the fullest development of the seed… In the fine arts, just as in the province of nature – the supreme artist – all genuine forms are organic.”

I think there’s merit to this old idea of analogy between an art piece and a whole self-sustaining organism. Arnold Schoenberg thought so too as his notion of musical idea (“Gedanke”) shared much in common with a living organism. In his writings about Gustav Mahler, Schoenberg wrote:

“Art does not depend upon the single component part alone; therefore, music does not depend upon the theme. For the work of art, like every living thing, is conceived as a whole – just like a child, whose arm or leg is not conceived separately. The inspiration is not the theme, but the whole work.”

Note the term “inspiration” used by Schoenberg above. In “Gedanke” (in the final essay no.10 “Principles of Construction”) he also wrote that art is not constructed mechanically, like a clock, for it resembles an organism in its vital unity. He wrote art cannot be built up in the manner that a bricklayer builds a wall, because in art the whole is prior to the parts and cannot be derived from (or understood as) the sum of its parts.

To create an art piece it seems fair to me to say the composer has not only to be a skilled craftsman capable of building every part of the composition but also must be an artist capable of imagining for the first time a new whole of unique character. It is this “whole” that justifies the existence of the crafted parts. The creation of the whole is no longer a craft. Or even a reflection of a “gift of talent” that merely amounts to superior skill or superior craft.

In my opinion, the wholesome coherence of a new art piece is the key element that defines it as ART. So to me the definition of an art piece shares elements with the very definition of living organism.

Thus the art piece injects new life into the world. As a new form of life, an art piece may provide for the first time a consciousness of something previously unknown or even previously nonexistent. It can lead to personal or social transformation. (Or it can encapsulate and embody pre-existing life in a way that now can reach people.)

So the role of the composer can go well beyond that of a highly learned and skilled craftsman who diligently writes new music. The composer can be an artist, a creator of new life. He or she can visit brand new (imagined, newly created) worlds and provide to us compositions that represent windows into these previously non-existent realities. Or they can be mere suggestive souvenirs from such travels.

These travels are often perilous psychologically or emotionally to the artist who we can view in a sense as a hero.

P.S. I am normally more inclined to read than to write. I'm a lazy writer and I would've much rather have waited for Olmnilnlolm to write something twice as intelligent in half the time it took me to write this. But since he's currently "on vacation" I decided to take a shot at this... now on to a late dinner...

It was O's "intelligence" that earned him that vacation.


This is a most erudite and informative addition to the discussion and entirely encapsulates my thoughts on the subject.

I don't believe for a moment that you're a lazy writer, nor do I think 'O' could have improved on this. Your writing is about the subject proper whereas to me 'O' always appears to be showing off - (maybe that's an unkind comment and actually reflects a failing in myself - but I can't help saying I enjoy CF more in his absence because he's so long winded about everything).

I hope you enjoyed your dinner.

.... or possibly his inability to adapt ?

Rodney Carlyle Money said:

It was O's "intelligence" that earned him that vacation.

I will second this Joseph, your post was very well put, and well presented.

You did not try to commandeer the thread nor 'one- up' anyone, and continued the

discussion in a sane and level headed way. I agree with much of what you stated,

especially the idea that 'art' is greater than the sum of it's parts.  Thanks for your

insights, I will re-read when I have more time.         RS

Stephen Lines said:


This is a most erudite and informative addition to the discussion and entirely encapsulates my thoughts on the subject.

I don't believe for a moment that you're a lazy writer, nor do I think 'O' could have improved on this. Your writing is about the subject proper whereas to me 'O' always appears to be showing off - (maybe that's an unkind comment and actually reflects a failing in myself - but I can't help saying I enjoy CF more in his absence because he's so long winded about everything).

I hope you enjoyed your dinner.

There is no grand philosophy for success at composing. And there never will be.

Individuals may find a formula that works in any secific genre, but is

that really art?  Repeating success ? This may just make you money,

like Lionel Richy and his

'hook' formula, where he would create and then build the piece around it, or

Keith Richards with his 'riffs'. This may be a form and contribute to art

but is it the same level, so to speak, of art ( creative inspiration vs. whatever)

that we are discussing. The 2 aspects seem to me to go hand in hand.

( knowledge and that undefinable aspect of intuitive creativity)

Bob, what is this dark cloud you cast on the forum?  Who should take a

vacation and why?  Please elaborate.                             RS

Bob, I would differentiate a general signature sound from 'a hook' as in a

catch phrase to build a 'tune' around, tho' I suppose that too could become

a signature of a sort. The thing is, it's all art to someone.     RS

Greetings Pierre,

I find that sitting down at the piano now and then, and forcing myself to come up with a melody works great. I may not be feeling anything at that time, but later the next day or next week, when I listen again, I may hear it in a different way, and start developing something out of it. I used to wait for inspiration, and would hardly compose anything for a long while.

Lately, I sit and record myself play for maybe up to an hour.  Later at another time I'll listen back to see if I like something that I want to develop.    Also, make every note count.

Hope this helps.

Very best,

Larry Elliott   

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