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How do you compose music?

What is your creative process like?

What does it mean to you to create a new piece of music?

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My "raison d' être".

Justifying my laziness, really. :-)

I compose mainly as a combination of craft and emotional outlet. I relaxe during composing and am able to let go of any disturbances in and around me.

My creative process generally starts with humming a melody or a melodic fragment (to a text which I have read over and over again, if I compose a song). I then due to years of musical training "hear" the underlining harmony by instinct and go on to create a meaningful bass-line. The development of the melody is generally worked out as a combination of improvisation and compositional craft. Once this is completed I fill in the gaps with additional parts, possibly counterpoint etc.

Then comes the editing process, where I have to add dynamics, tempo, articulation etc.

Except from the initial idea everything is a craft to me, which is very important, and that I cherish deeply.

To compose means a lot to me, even small pieces stay with me for days, weeks, sometimes even months and create a sense of pride for me.

To be creative and compose, write or do other creative things is in a way as important for me as food, air, love and sex.

As a pianist, every time I play, I compose. I improvise almost all the time. It's actually quite hard to stop. But, there's a certain zone I have to be in before real composition takes place. But that is indescribable. Then again, to take my best shot at it, my head has to be clear of all other things.

I agree 99% on those, especially the bold type. That's about it all for me too.

David Unger said:

 The development of the melody is generally worked out as a combination of improvisation and compositional craft. Once this is completed I fill in the gaps with additional parts, possibly counterpoint etc.

Then comes the editing process, where I have to add dynamics, tempo, articulation etc.

(not sure about this one-editing can start a little earlier as part of the conceiving process)

Except from the initial idea everything is a craft to me, which is very important, and that I cherish deeply.

To compose means a lot to me, even small pieces stay with me for days, weeks, sometimes even months and create a sense of pride for me.

To be creative and compose, write or do other creative things is in a way as important for me as food, air, love and sex.

Very true Bob, you have to have something to craft. I envy you for having the ability to let it happen. I am still very much a logical person drawing conclutions from what I force into being. It is the same whether I write music or poetry. I have to have a form to be able to create. With that said the form can still change during the process. My Allegretto posted here recently started out with what is now the A section as an ABA form. But since I thought it to short and incomplete it changed into a rondo adding the major section of what is now the B section. But this still needed more to make sense and so the minor section of the B came to be and the small ABA had turned into first an ABACA and then into an ABACDCABA form, that is a large ABA.
However all the way the forms were with me as a mould and as boundaries as well as empty space needed locical filling. This is very essential to my process, otherwise I would get nowhere.
But with that said I still envy your capability to create more in what seams like a flow. My emotions in my music are always put there (no matter how true they are) and carved out of the form and the crafting of the music.

Well, I suppose, every method is useful and legitimate if it works and fulfills the person working. So there are as many methods as composers. We are not saying anything new here, but the similarities and differences of approach are interesting and may prove didactic.

Out of all inventions in music though I still consider melodic invention (and its inherent rhythm) to be the most "miraculous", out of the blue in some sense, therefore I often say that everything can be taught in a music education frame/content apart from the skill to invent melodies.

The most strict set of rules about melodic writing is imo the "Palestrina school" but please don't blame him cause he did not write down any such rules. Even so, for all its restrictions I can still see a lot of lee way in trying to find something new in 16th century melodic language. The restrictions here are rather stylistic than purely melodic.

What do you say?

How do I compose music? All in my head first, then staff paper, then rendering in Cubase, then score in Finale.
What is the creative process like? The creative process is easy and almost fun. After I completed the piece in my head, I go to staff paper, and actual instruments to see if it works.
What does it mean to create a new piece of music? Relief when it's done. I will share something personal with all of you, you asked what is it like for you to compose? My honest answer is, " Pure hell!" I both love and hate music, I both love and hate my life, and I both love and hate being a composer. If I wasn't a composer I would be a better husband, a better father, a better son, a better friend, but all I think about is music and the sound that literally tortures me until I let it out. I sometimes wish that music was not in my life. How wonderful it must feel to not have to worry about accomplishing concrete dreams that beckon to live every day of my life. I am going to a party tonight, but all I want to do is finish my work, we need to clean the house but all I want to do is compose, wouldn't it be wonderful to go to the beach or mountains but all I want to do is lock myself in a closet for an entire month without the world and write the music that will not leave me the crap alone. I am one of those strange people who knows exactly the pieces I want to finish before I die, 2 ballets, one concerto featuring the trumpet, and the rest symphonies. I've been commissioned for the 2 ballets and trumpet concerto but "life" gets in the way, and all my hard work and efforts are meaningless unless some people see a paycheck because that's all that truly matters, right? My life would've been so much easier if music never possessed me with her poison. Ignorance is truly bliss. How wonderful my life would be if I was simply an engineer, with a fat salary, someone who could simply enjoy his family on the weekends without feeling the stress of comissions and dreams, and simply enjoying going out into the world enjoying nature and spending time with friends instead of saying to myself, "Are you going to actually finish these pieces before you die, and what are you doing wasting life trying to have meaningless fun?"

Even though the level of knowledge and experience of composition between us probably differs alot, I personally also feel that it is not only about the need and wish for composing certain pieces, it is also about the quality of the outlet. It was a great leap forward in my composing process to dare to compose for an ensemble I have always dreamed of (string quartet in my case) and to also actually complete the work, and although I am proud of my work at this very moment I still know that is far from as good as I would want a string quartet to be before I die. But no matter how far I advance and how much I can improve, I still am afraid that I might feel the same way many years ahead - that the compositions could probably have been a lot better in different ways. The works of Mendelsohn, Haydn, Ravel, Debussy, Bartok and Schubert (amongst others) in the genre will always bring me much more as I listen to them than any string quartet from my own hand, I think. And that is in a way what I fear most, and what gives me most anciety as a composer.

Rodney Carlyle Money said:

How do I compose music? All in my head first, then staff paper, then rendering in Cubase, then score in Finale.
What is the creative process like? The creative process is easy and almost fun. After I completed the piece in my head, I go to staff paper, and actual instruments to see if it works.
What does it mean to create a new piece of music? Relief when it's done. I will share something personal with all of you, you asked what is it like for you to compose? My honest answer is, " Pure hell!" I both love and hate music, I both love and hate my life, and I both love and hate being a composer. If I wasn't a composer I would be a better husband, a better father, a better son, a better friend, but all I think about is music and the sound that literally tortures me until I let it out. I sometimes wish that music was not in my life. How wonderful it must feel to not have to worry about accomplishing concrete dreams that beckon to live every day of my life. I am going to a party tonight, but all I want to do is finish my work, we need to clean the house but all I want to do is compose, wouldn't it be wonderful to go to the beach or mountains but all I want to do is lock myself in a closet for an entire month without the world and write the music that will not leave me the crap alone. I am one of those strange people who knows exactly the pieces I want to finish before I die, 2 ballets, one concerto featuring the trumpet, and the rest symphonies. I've been commissioned for the 2 ballets and trumpet concerto but "life" gets in the way, and all my hard work and efforts are meaningless unless some people see a paycheck because that's all that truly matters, right? My life would've been so much easier if music never possessed me with her poison. Ignorance is truly bliss. How wonderful my life would be if I was simply an engineer, with a fat salary, someone who could simply enjoy his family on the weekends without feeling the stress of comissions and dreams, and simply enjoying going out into the world enjoying nature and spending time with friends instead of saying to myself, "Are you going to actually finish these pieces before you die, and what are you doing wasting life trying to have meaningless fun?"
You don't need to compare yourself with any other composer dead or alive. if you write pieces that truly say who you are then you have succeeded.

How do I compose music? -- I have various sources. Sometimes a short motif or rhythm strikes me, and I play around with the idea in my head to see where it leads. Sometimes the orchestra in my head is playing in the background, and I just transcribe the passages that I like. This is the initial stage. Once I happen upon a good idea, which is defined as anything that's interesting enough that I'd "sing" it in my head over and over, then the very act of reviewing it repeatedly in my head also commences the process of refinement and development.  Being an improvisionist, I spontaneously refine the music each time I "replay" it in my head. Thus these little snippets grow and develop, and I begin to have a clearer idea of what it "should" be (or what I want it to be).

At a higher level, I also dream up grand plans and over-arching forms from time to time, and sometimes I take these intermediate snippets and play around with them in my head to figure out how they might fit together into a larger form. And of course, throughout the whole process I'm constantly refining and polishing the music, constantly tweaking little things, and sometimes rewriting larger passages, etc..

Sometime in the middle of this process, something develops far enough that it looks promising enough to be worth recording (for posterity, if nothing else), and I begin notating it and working with the notation. Usually once I start notating something it stands a higher chance of actually becoming a complete piece -- there are many little fragments and ideas in my head that have never been written down because they haven't developed into promising-enough forms yet. They remain as background ideas that I may draw from, from time to time, when I need material to complete an existing piece. The climactic passage in my Threnody, for example, has a section that derives from an idea that I've had since 2005/2006 but never fully developed.

As for "what does it mean to create a new piece of music"... I don't know if I've ever thought that much about this. Ever since being inspired to compose by Beethoven's 6th, I've always wanted to write my own pieces.  What I write is generally what I myself like to hear, which I hope at least somebody somewhere out there might also like to hear too.  There are some pieces I wrote (mostly incomplete, unfortunately) that have personal meaning to me, but most of what I'd consider as my more "successful" pieces are those that I wrote simply because I enjoyed it myself so much I felt like it ought to be written down. What do they all "mean" -- who knows?

Of course you are right Rodney, but tell that to my guts!

I am reminded of meeting Phil Smith the greatest trumpet player who ever lived in my personal opinion during a master class. In such a composer mindset I said to my fellow trumpet player Adam, " Isn't it depressing that we will never be as good as him?" He simply said, "No, it's exciting to see what we will become."

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