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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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Why do I compose music?  I dunno... 'cos (1) I told myself I would when I was a teenager? 'cos (2) the orchestra in my head is always playing, and sometimes they happen to play something nice that I'd like to write down for posterity? 'cos, to be frank, (3) I can't stand most of existing music out there and would like to write something that I can tolerate listening to? 'cos (4) sometimes nice musical ideas occur to me, that please me so much that I'd like to share it with others? or maybe 'cos (5) it feels good to have created something, a piece of music to call my own?

Probably some combination of the above. Undecided on the relative importance of each, though.

You know I would! Btw, I've been composing just using the flugelhorn without any software this week and it's been kind of refreshing.

Bob Porter said:


Sure, exquisite torture. You know you would have to shoot yourself if you weren't composing.

Why do I compose? I believe music has the power to help people.
For me the process of composing is spiritual. Melodies comes very easy to me, sometimes it's just a matter of downloading them. The piece is more or less finished when it comes. Then starts the process of messing them up as little as possible, which is all I can hope to do. I always hum out of tune melodies into my phone and then try to decipher them after. Sometimes, more often than not actually, I find that the real melody have to be carefully excavated from my pathetic hummings. But even if the melody recording is several years old, as soon as I hear it, God downloads the original into my mind again.

I then move into the process of arranging four voices a a sort of fundament. I often use some kind of composer software, YouCompose is the favourite right now, just to speed things up. Composing is like riding a bike, it can be real hard if you do it slowly! After very careful work with harmonies and rhythm I then move into a notation app. I have recently started working with Sibelius. There the really hard work begins! To orchestrate, set dynamics and so forth is a craft that is very slow to me. I'm working on getting better so I can get more music finished quicker. I have far more melodies than I can actually turn into a finished piece.

I have no problem with pressure since I only compose for fun and don't have to make a deadline. But having all the time at your hands can be a hindrance too. I have nothing to keep me on my toes a lot of the time. I often listen to Mozart or Jean Phillipe Rameau to get inspiration and learn. The real eye opener for me was when I made a synth version of Mozarts symphony no 40. When I heard all the voices in familiar sounds (I'm a synth geek at heart) I thought "I can do that!" . Since then my hybrise has gotten slightly better : )

Very interesting discussion.  I can see people have vastly different ways of approaching this, and my own process has changed over the years too.  

When I started composing, I just tried fooling around on the piano and seeing what I liked and then writing that down.  Eventually, I began to tire of the limitations of writing in that way and noticed that I could come up with things in my head too, so I just started writing in my head more and more.  A couple years ago I noticed that the more I could keep the piece in my head without writing anything down, the more it would sound like I wanted it to when I did get around to writing it down and the easier the rest of the process would be for me, so I've been doing that more and more.  

So usually this is how it works (at least for larger pieces):

1. I come up with something.  I sketch and doodle, but it's usually pretty vague at this point.  

2. This is where most of the creating of the piece happens- I order things in ways that make sense to me, come up with how I want the piece to unfold and fill in as much detail as I can.  Things aren't necessarily crystal-clear at this point, but I have a good idea of what's going on.  

3. I go and write out the piece- sometimes first in short score, sometimes not.  This is where most of the detail that was missing earlier comes in, although there may be little finicky things that aren't present yet.  Sometimes I go back and make a second draft.  

4. Engraving- I typeset the piece onto Sibelius.  This is the final version and the last details emerge.  Then I go and clean up the score and do parts.  If I'm submitting to a reading or performance, I go off and print stuff.  

I think this gives a pretty good idea of my process.  If it's a smaller piece, some bits may get abbreviated or combined.  

As for what it means- I guess my hope is that I create something meaningful that's in dialogue with other pieces and contributes something new as well.  

Music is sublime art, yet composition is a science. Through its process we merge thought and emotion. 

Without inspiration, it is cold and decrepit. Without logic, it is stale. 

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