Author Topic: Why I am Not a Composer...  (Read 22172 times)

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Offline Cato

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Why I am Not a Composer...
« on: October 30, 2007, 03:50:18 AM »
I have mentioned throughout the years here that I used to compose music, usually with exotic scales, sometimes utilizing a quarter-tone system, but gave it up decades ago, and not without a little regret.  Somebody asked me why, and I said I would eventually respond, and today, while writing about Glazunov, I decided to clarify.

"Something in him holds him back" was Tchaikovsky's famous comment about Glazunov.

I could tell you that the hours needed alone for composition were not conducive to endearing me to my girlfriend and later my wife: she knew about my composing talent, but did not always comprehend it.

That is partially involved in giving up composition.

I could tell you that the frustration involved in dealing with musicians/professors/directors etc. was immense: promises of performances, promises and flattery, all leading nowhere.  (I could write a novel about the trials and terror of working with a certain famous and duplicitous tubist on a quarter-tone tuba concerto! But I digress!)

That is partially involved in giving up composition.

The realization that what interested me the most - microtonalism - was still going to be a tiny niche market, was always balanced by the hope of a breakthrough.  But that breakthrough never came, especially when I witnessed the rebirth of the neo-conservative movements of Minimalism and Neo-Romanticism.

That is partially involved in giving up composition.

But in the end here is what ended it: I realized that, when I heard my music, I did not want my personality, my soul, if you can abide the term, so openly exposed for public examination.  When the few performances occurred, I realized that the experience was so private, that I could not feel anything but embarrassment, as if I were confessing my sins over a loudspeaker.

My best friend at the time remarked, after hearing one of the quarter-tone works: "Okay, that will be evidence at your commitment hearing!"

He was only half joking!

"Something in him holds him back." 

In my case I turned away from the desire to compose because - oddly, when I finally succeeded in having a few things performed - I knew I did not want people to hear my music!

Probably the feeling is mutual in many cases!   8)

So I wonder if Glazunov and other second-rank composers were perhaps held back not by a lack of talent, but by an emotional reticence, which compelled them to compose only "surface pieces" and prevented them from creating e.g. a Schumann Second Symphony , or a  Mahler or Tchaikovsky Sixth Symphony.



« Last Edit: October 30, 2007, 03:53:13 AM by Cato »
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karlhenning

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2007, 03:52:26 AM »
Thank you for this illuminative post, Cato.  All most excellent insights.

Harry

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2007, 03:53:30 AM »
I protest calling Glazunov second rank. :)

karlhenning

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2007, 03:59:09 AM »
 ;D

Now, now, Harry, not all composers can be first rank!  If all composers are great, no composer is great.

Harry

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2007, 04:09:17 AM »
;D

Now, now, Harry, not all composers can be first rank!  If all composers are great, no composer is great.

Okay, no ranks then, everyone is equal, capital idea..........

karlhenning

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2007, 04:12:34 AM »
All composers equal, what a nonsensical idea, Harry.

Harry

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2007, 04:14:06 AM »
All composers equal, what a nonsensical idea, Harry.

Yes maybe to you, and all others, but I have a different philosophy Karl.

karlhenning

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2007, 04:17:40 AM »
Yes maybe to you, and all others, but I have a different philosophy Karl.

When someone like Haydn states that Mozart is the greatest composer he knows, the idea that 'all composers are equal' makes Haydn a gibbering idiot, doesn't it, Harry?

Harry

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2007, 04:24:00 AM »
Well, Karl, as I said, I have a different view on it, and if that makes me a gibbering idiot, so be it......
At the same time I will be wise, and not start a discussion about this, which is afterall my opinion, and therefore I think it better, not to go into details why I said what I think, if you agree with that....
So forget I have written what I think... :)

karlhenning

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2007, 04:29:02 AM »
Well, Karl, as I said, I have a different view on it, and if that makes me a gibbering idiot, so be it......
At the same time I will be wise, and not start a discussion about this, which is afterall my opinion, and therefore I think it better, not to go into details why I said what I think, if you agree with that....
So forget I have written what I think... :)

Now, Harry, my pointing out that Haydn was no gibbering idiot, does not imply that you, having a different opinion, are such an idiot.  I know you for no idiot.  But the idea that 'all composers are equal' is not tenable;  and as the example of Haydn reveals, no composer can pursue his craft if he honestly believed that such an 'equality' applied.

Saying that a listener is free to listen to whatever music he likes, is one thing;  taking that as a driver for "all composers are equal" is an insupportable leap.

Harry

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #10 on: October 30, 2007, 04:33:17 AM »
Now, Harry, my pointing out that Haydn was no gibbering idiot, does not imply that you, having a different opinion, are such an idiot.  I know you for no idiot.  But the idea that 'all composers are equal' is not tenable;  and as the example of Haydn reveals, no composer can pursue his craft if he honestly believed that such an 'equality' applied.

Saying that a listener is free to listen to whatever music he likes, is one thing;  taking that as a driver for "all composers are equal" is an insupportable leap.

If time allows, I will build up my argument in your language. I have since long a interesting discussion with my musical friends about this......

johnQpublic

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #11 on: October 30, 2007, 05:04:25 AM »
I could tell you that the hours needed alone for composition were not conducive to endearing me to my girlfriend and later my wife: she knew about my composing talent, but did not always comprehend it.

That's fairly typical of spouses/partners (like mine) who do not understand how an artist works.


I could tell you that the frustration involved in dealing with musicians/professors/directors etc. was immense: promises of performances, promises and flattery, all leading nowhere. 

All composers have their horror stories. Mine could fill a novellette atleast. 

The trick in the end is don't give up. Even if it means few performances and of them rarely good ones.

The good news is that you can resume your composing any time you really want to; so let the urge to write (that should always be lurking inside you) take over, even if the effort is brief and fleeting. You'll feel better for doing it.

lukeottevanger

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #12 on: October 30, 2007, 05:19:20 AM »
to return from discussion of Glazunov to the subject of Cato's post  ;D .... I have no time to write a detailed reply now, but I can relate to so much of what he is saying, especially that seemingly-paradoxical line which states:

'In my case I turned away from the desire to compose because - oddly, when I finally succeeded in having a few things performed - I knew I did not want people to hear my music!'

On its own that line looks like an open goal for those amongst us (especially, those who used to be amongst us) who want to believe that contemporary music doesn't care about the listener. But it's not as simple as it sounds, of course. I think what Cato is saying here is that music, when written with love and care, comes from a very deep place indeed, is dwelt on, pondered over with all the composer's attention and ability. In a very real sense it becomes an extension of the composer himself, and also in many cases a reflection of his own traits and tendencies. Releasing it to the world - to listeners who with one moment's listen (or less) can dismiss it, who are under no obligation to pay the attention to it that the composer's own efforts perhaps deserve - can be like putting the most vulnerable areas of yourself, as a person, up for criticism. Even listening to your own works esp. as sight-read through sketchily by others (which I suppose, on the above analogy roughly = the first impression you make on someone) can sometimes be as disconcerting and uncomfortable as listening to a recording of your own voice.

Personally I have concentrated very much on this aspect of composing, as I have discussed on my own thread - the music as true to the composer, as an extension of him. I've come to the conclusion that if somebody dislikes my music, music which I have spent a long time and much thought making as true to me as I can (or letting it be as true to me as it can be, free of external irrelevancies), then though it may well be equivalent to them saying they dislike an aspect of me myself, it is only so to the degree that I can't change my own personality even if I want to. IOW, if the music rings true, no one can really argue with it!

(Thankfully, though, I haven't had to put that to the test, as, by and large, my music has gone down fairly well so far  :) )

Larry Rinkel

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #13 on: October 30, 2007, 05:32:27 AM »
I protest calling Glazunov second rank. :)

I do as well. The statement is an insult to second-rank composers.

karlhenning

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #14 on: October 30, 2007, 05:42:22 AM »
:-)

PerfectWagnerite

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #15 on: October 30, 2007, 05:53:10 AM »
Of course something is holding Glazunoz back, that something is call talent. Tchaikovsky most likely didn't want to state the obvious that anyone with a shred of intelligence can see or hear.

greg

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #16 on: October 30, 2007, 05:56:19 AM »
couldn't you just write and not have your music performed? If the only fear is having other people listen, you could just listen yourself, right?

Harry

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #17 on: October 30, 2007, 05:59:43 AM »
I do as well. The statement is an insult to second-rank composers.

Thank you, for this very kind remark......

Harry

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #18 on: October 30, 2007, 06:02:39 AM »
Of course something is holding Glazunoz back, that something is call talent. Tchaikovsky most likely didn't want to state the obvious that anyone with a shred of intelligence can see or hear.

What Tchaikovsky likely didn't want to state or not, is a mystery for you and me........
So all people that like Glazunov are without shreds of intelligence?
My that is a intelligent conclusion.....

karlhenning

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #19 on: October 30, 2007, 06:09:42 AM »
If time allows, I will build up my argument in your language. I have since long a interesting discussion with my musical friends about this......

I look forward to it.  It is a robustly dynamic topic.  One of the obvious (I think) problems is the nature of comparing two great composers of different eras (how do we 'weigh' Bach and Brahms 'against' one another, when Brahms's music is partly informed by that of Bach?)  The problem of the nature of the 'equality' of all composers, while it may seem an attractive way to obviate the problems of comparison, is no less difficult.  But, as ever, Harry, you will have our interest.