Please- No Story Behind the Music!!

There should not be any story behind the music. A 'story' can change our perception of the music. The music should exist on its own. I don't want to hear that the composition was the result of the author's desperate desire to get a divorce or as a warm tribute to his or her pet kitten, or... A composition should touch on universal emotional reactions, not programs. The only exception might be 'multi-media' compositions, such as music/ballet, or music that is joined to lyrics.
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  • Sounds great Doug. Thanks for the lively conversation.
  • I admit- I made the statement, the directive, 'No Story Behind the Music', just as 'food for thought'. A musician friend of mine always complained about 'program music', as though it was a less valuable art form. It's just different- apples and oranges. I'd like to create videos that include my original music, and if I do that I'll probably insist that the music and imagery be considered as one piece, not to be separated.
  • I like to give the listener the freedom to experience what they experience, without spoon feeding their brain with something that I thought about while composing. As my work is largely in a live mode, I like to allow the listeners to choose a focus for the music. Then I use that focus for the composition. It becomes OUR music.
  • I'm not the Thought Police. Composers can create music any way they want. It's OK. I just think music that depends on a story, is weaker than music that can stand on its own. When a composer INFORMS me about the music, I find that the narrative directs me and I don't like being directed by a story. I love it when the music does everything. Its abstract qualities make me feel a certain way and there's a journey of moods and feelings along a timeline. I embrace the abstraction. Emotions that are induced via music, don't need some narrative. They are fine as a separate emotional experience that I only associate with the recording/composition.
  • I like *certain* commentary on a piece... like when I read that Eric Whitacre feels that the four measures illustrating the "never kissing" line of text for "A Boy and a Girl" "may be the truest notes" he's ever written... but don't give me the screenplay in your head, or a play-by-play of your compositional vision...
  • I think a series of moods, emotions, and abstract structure is enough. References to 'stories' only water down the power of the music. That's my opinion. If the music cannot stand on its own, it's weak.
  • Much like the back of a book, a story should be given to any piece. However, the blurb you give should never give any major details away.  In such a way, we can allow the listeners to form their own smaller details while giving them the main picture.
  • Beth, I know what you mean about creating a title for a composition. I like titles that are vague, like Composition #23, or abstract like 'Green and Yellow'. The title should just be a vague label for the music, so when someone says, I listened to Blue Fog, they just are referring to the sounds...
  • On giving titles to compositions, this is interesting as i rarely know what to call my pieces. Most of the titles are a mix of start date, initials and version number. I sort of feel like giving titles is a bit too sentimental or something! This makes it very complicated when trying to find a specific file though! Which is why my tracks have been called 'debut track' with a number. Not very catchy! I have started to name some as it is getting silly now-but i dont enjoy it!
  • I think that, like everything else in a piece of music, the ultimate decision should be up to the composer. Usually I agree--that a story behind the music can be a distraction from the listener's experience. There are sometimes situations though where a story can greatly enhance the meaning. Take, for example the old hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul" by Phillip Bliss. It is one thing to hear that piece and a listener can connect to it well by itself. But when you learn that he composed it in the midst of a monsoon on a ship while sailing to America, while at the same time sailing over the very spot in sea where his wife and children died in a previous ship wreck wreck. Knowing that background information greatly enhances the meaning.


    Another instance where background information is helpful is if the piece is composed in a more "modern language" that can sometimes be inaccessible to the audience. In that case it is often helpful to give information that the listener can use--if they wish--to help understand the piece. 


    Really, if you think about it, adding a title to a piece is almost the same thing as a "story": it is external information attached to the piece that adds meaning. But again--often I agree with you. It's when people harrangue during their stories about petting their cat and how they stayed up too late fighting the "a great struggle" to find just the right way to say what they wanted to say that stories feel overly vain and can get annoying.

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