Author Topic: Intuitive composition  (Read 3014 times)

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Offline mikkeljs

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Intuitive composition
« on: June 23, 2009, 11:36:15 PM »
Half a year ago I realized after 2.5 years, that my theory about beauty was wrong or rather unreduced to its basics. I suddently became aware, that the Cage school, which I had known for 6 years, was supposed to be taken literally. I always thought it was a popular easy going philosofy compared to the german school. But the fact is that not untill half a year ago I understood that the beauty can be found anywhere, if one simply open up. Even if my previous ideas made any sence, they wouldn´t be the most reduced form of themself. I came to the conclusion that the good is the neutral, but not in a cold way. 

Since then I have completed a whole piano concerto, that was written entirely by intuition. I have furthermore come to the idea that any kind of analytical thought can be characterized as a delta observation. If you think the musical form with certain stations and processes, you haven´t grasped to imagine the complete developement in the particular frequence of imagination yet. My ideal became to write with no thoughts at all, but absolute conscious about everything!

Others who have ever composed a piece entirely by intuition?

I see it also as a vague term, since at times intuition can be regarded as both logical or emotional. But for me never unstabile! There is also several meanings I think, fx it is not the same to be in a situation, where you have to make your decision even if you feel uncomfortable, but there is also the flow of a light, which seems absolutely right to go with.
And what if you use plenty of math in your composition? Your fundament of composing a piece will always be intuitive, so is the mathematical music less intuitive than the other? I wouldn´t say so, unless one apply mathematical equations without control of it. In theory lessons we have made excercises in Messiaen style, and many of us simply created Messiaen-like math without thinking...just like when you do math in school! This is probably the only case, where the music can be said to be mathematical and not entirely intuitive.

It is still a big question for me, why we have an emotional impulse and rational impulse, that doesn´t seem to have the capacity for sharing data with eachother. If I look at the ocean, I cannot count all the waves during a split second, but my eye can get an experience of them. I tried an experiment, which was to transform this image into my rational consciousness, hoping to see a particular number of waves. It didn´t seem to work, no matter how relaxed I was trying to be. It confuses me, that we have two different sences connected to the same brain, same awareness, but without being able to transform the data from the one to the other completely.

Which makes me consider once again, if the rational thought is really absolutely useless? If we can possibly messure other data with this frequence of the brain, than the emotional and vice versa?

For my whole life I have kept saying that intuition was a lot more powerful than the logical, or should we rather say the rational, since for me intuition is most often more logical than anything else. Many years ago at a museum of modern art, someone told me, that the consciousness consists of 30 impulses pr second, while the subconsciousness is 12 millions. Im not sure if subconsciousness can be strictly defined as the center of intuition, but it was an interresting but yet rational thought.

Offline Cato

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Re: Intuitive composition
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2009, 06:32:05 AM »
Mikkeljs: To paraphrase Schoenberg, if it is not at at least partly intuitive, it is not art.

I am not exactly sure what you mean by a Piano Concerto "composed entirely by intuition."  Do you mean you did not consciously wonder at all about any part of it?  Did you never run three or four bars through your mind again and again to "hear" if it sounded "logical" according to the nature of the piece?

Mathematical aspects are ipso facto in every piece of music, whether the composer is conscious of it or not (usually not, although there are exceptions: Xenakis comes to mind of course. )

Rational thought is not absolutely useless while composing!  It prevents you from churning out a pastiche of Rimsky-Korsakov or worse, writing notes sounding like something smeared by Ferde Grofe!   :o
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Offline mikkeljs

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Re: Intuitive composition
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2009, 07:23:21 AM »
Mikkeljs: To paraphrase Schoenberg, if it is not at at least partly intuitive, it is not art.

I am not exactly sure what you mean by a Piano Concerto "composed entirely by intuition."  Do you mean you did not consciously wonder at all about any part of it?  Did you never run three or four bars through your mind again and again to "hear" if it sounded "logical" according to the nature of the piece?

Mathematical aspects are ipso facto in every piece of music, whether the composer is conscious of it or not (usually not, although there are exceptions: Xenakis comes to mind of course. )

Rational thought is not absolutely useless while composing!  It prevents you from churning out a pastiche of Rimsky-Korsakov or worse, writing notes sounding like something smeared by Ferde Grofe!   :o

When I started composing my piano concerto, I felt a spot of a musical idea and simply followed it slowly and made gradually decisions. I tried all the time to be absolutely aware of every corner of the piece, before making any new decisions, so therefore I have run through things slowly plenty of times.

But how can something be mathematical, if the composer isn´t aware of it? Isn´t math something about consciousness? You can still analyse my whole piano concerto by math.

I think the reason why many people, who claims to care only about the emotion, writes very over-stylistical, is that they are afraid to work with their own limitations. One could still work virtuosely with ones ability to imagine sounds, by theoretical knowledge. And that is all the thoughts that constantly blows your mind, like how big is the range of expression, what is the probability of some structure. Perhabs all theise thoughts can influence your creativity, but only on a state before the process of composition begins. But I can assure you that my piece doesn´t sound like Rimsky-Korsakov.  ;) 


secondwind

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Re: Intuitive composition
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2009, 07:51:30 AM »
Mikkeljs, your very interesting post about your creative process reminded me of a fascinating book I read in college (years ago), The Seamless Web: A New and Challenging Exploration of the Arts as the Expression of the Creator's Total Organism, by Stanley Burnshaw (1970).  In the introduction, Burnshaw writes:  "I shall be referring to two 'ways' of thinking: those that seem to be involuntary and those that seem to be brought into play by the will."  I think that Burnshaw's term "involuntary" means much the same thing as what you describe as "intuitive."  Although Burnshaw focuses primarily on the creative process in poetry, what he says may certainly be true also of composers. I'll quote a bit from his chapter titled "Composition: Collaboration" to give you a taste:

"Involuntariness" has been so marked in the foregoing discussion that the word itself seldom was called for.  At some point, however, its use is essential: no other phenomenon is significantly common to all reports of creativity with their differing manifestations and personal hosts.  "Involuntary" epitomizes the testimony of the philosophical positivist George Eliot and the mystic Blake; of the painter (Picasso), the composer (Mozart), the scientist (Poincare).  The novelist did her best writing when something "not herself" possessed her and made her feel "her own personality to be merely the instrument."  . . . Creativity arrives, it "simply comes".  It comes in the sudden flash that gave James The Ambassadors, in the fleeting vision that brought Stravinsky Le Sacre du Printemps, in the visible dance that resolved for the half-sleeping Kekule the atomic structure of the benzene ring.  And so on and so on.  It comes--and even the greatest artist cannot will its arrival.

A little later in the chapter, he quotes an account in Symonds' Shelley of Trelawney finding the poet alone in the wood near Pisa, holding in his hand a manuscript of one of his lyrics:

. . . a frightful scrawl, words smeared out with his fingers, and one upon another, over and over in tiers, and all run together. . . . On my observing this to him, he answered, 'When my brain gets heated with a thought, it soon boils, and throws off images and words faster than I can skim them off.  In the morning when cooled down, out of the rude sketch, as you justly call it, I shall attempt a drawing.'

Offline Cato

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Re: Intuitive composition
« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2009, 08:22:48 AM »

But how can something be mathematical, if the composer isn´t aware of it? Isn´t math something about consciousness? You can still analyse my whole piano concerto by math.

But I can assure you that my piece doesn´t sound like Rimsky-Korsakov.  ;) 



My emphasis.

I meant that Music is mathematical in its nature, a Pythagorean nature: In a sense, every aspect of nature is mathematical.

Mathematicians can also work by intuition!

Rimsky-Korsakov thanks you, I am sure!   0:)
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

greg

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Re: Intuitive composition
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2009, 11:04:59 AM »
This is the type of stuff I've thought about a lot. The only type of music making I do which I consider to be completely intuitive is when I go and just completely improvise with my instrument. If I do this for 20 or 30 minutes, there's never any repeating material (and if there is, it's not completely intuitive) and I usually go through various favorite idioms. I might start with very arhythmical, atonal, pointillistic, Boulez-type playing, ease into something more rhythmical, let a chord sound, go into something Mahlerian, with wide major modulations and suspended harmonies, go into something with some type of pattern I've though of, etc.

Then there's composing completely self-consciously, which is awful and should be avoided- thinking rationally stuff like, "maybe a major third would sound good- let's try it out."

In reality, the best way is to combine the strengths of intuition and rationality. The above sentence should be done more like "i hear this- let's see what interval has to be played for that."

I think there are two parts to making "good" music, whatever that is. You have the theory and the practice. Someone who can't play piano can be inspired, but can't transfer the inspiration to the piano because of lack of ability, or concrete knowledge (can't get the theory down). Then there's people who know tons and tons of music theory, but are always thought of as second rate composers because they never have the inspiration, or direction (can't get the practice down).

A composer also needs direction- it's possible that you can think of direction as many concrete musical ideas, or abstract feelings, that a composer experiments with. So, in a way, it's like a more advanced type of theory- maybe, music theory that hasn't been written about, but the composer discovers by himself.

Practice is mainly getting the time period where the composer gets into the state of mind to use these theoretical ideas to where they just flow from the subconscious. This can be a good or bad thing- if it's a good thing, say you're writing The Rite of Spring, don't stop!  ;D If it's bad, and you're writing something like Cato says "a pastiche of Rimsky-Korsakov", then it's definitely time to stop writing and start thinking about things like what direction you're going in, try to memorize your themes well until they become second-nature, etc.

Offline mikkeljs

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Re: Intuitive composition
« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2009, 11:31:05 AM »
Mikkeljs, your very interesting post about your creative process reminded me of a fascinating book I read in college (years ago), The Seamless Web: A New and Challenging Exploration of the Arts as the Expression of the Creator's Total Organism, by Stanley Burnshaw (1970).  In the introduction, Burnshaw writes:  "I shall be referring to two 'ways' of thinking: those that seem to be involuntary and those that seem to be brought into play by the will."  I think that Burnshaw's term "involuntary" means much the same thing as what you describe as "intuitive."  Although Burnshaw focuses primarily on the creative process in poetry, what he says may certainly be true also of composers. I'll quote a bit from his chapter titled "Composition: Collaboration" to give you a taste:

"Involuntariness" has been so marked in the foregoing discussion that the word itself seldom was called for.  At some point, however, its use is essential: no other phenomenon is significantly common to all reports of creativity with their differing manifestations and personal hosts.  "Involuntary" epitomizes the testimony of the philosophical positivist George Eliot and the mystic Blake; of the painter (Picasso), the composer (Mozart), the scientist (Poincare).  The novelist did her best writing when something "not herself" possessed her and made her feel "her own personality to be merely the instrument."  . . . Creativity arrives, it "simply comes".  It comes in the sudden flash that gave James The Ambassadors, in the fleeting vision that brought Stravinsky Le Sacre du Printemps, in the visible dance that resolved for the half-sleeping Kekule the atomic structure of the benzene ring.  And so on and so on.  It comes--and even the greatest artist cannot will its arrival.

A little later in the chapter, he quotes an account in Symonds' Shelley of Trelawney finding the poet alone in the wood near Pisa, holding in his hand a manuscript of one of his lyrics:

. . . a frightful scrawl, words smeared out with his fingers, and one upon another, over and over in tiers, and all run together. . . . On my observing this to him, he answered, 'When my brain gets heated with a thought, it soon boils, and throws off images and words faster than I can skim them off.  In the morning when cooled down, out of the rude sketch, as you justly call it, I shall attempt a drawing.'

I will remember the title of that book! I also feel, that I have discovered a joy for random sound, so that I feel ready for writing anything. And I have experienced, that a random take changes after a second into a deeply personal take, that reflect a part of myself, since the only decisions I can make are personal ones. In the beginning I tried to fight against the feeling of something personal, because I thought it was primitive, but learned to accept it.

I pushed my approach even more, when I kept some particular places in the music totally open, and allowed myself to let the very first thing I experienced be determining the element, and then afterwards I would explore it in its musical context. So I found myself sitting with a piece of modelling waks in my hands and there appeared something like a pattern in it, which I wrote down.

So it seems that the creative possession can also be evoked from theoretical knowledge about how to think, rational thoughts which everyone could get a hold on, and people who have never wanted to write anything could suddently see the world of inspiration in front of them. Since I have started opening my eyes for the world like this, I have got a much greater productivity. Before, I felt captured by the need of being able to describe everything 100% thematical, making the contrasting into thema, whereas now I have got more interrested in contrasts on their own. I realized that the thema is merely the meter of contrast, not opposite. It´s interresting how something can almost hold down the eternal vitality of inspiration.

« Last Edit: June 24, 2009, 11:41:17 AM by mikkeljs »

Offline jochanaan

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Re: Intuitive composition
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2009, 06:26:56 AM »
Is it random and intuitive?  Or is your subconscious mind grasping how things must go before your consciousness is ready to grasp?

One of the great things about music is the way it forces us to integrate our "left brain" and "right brain," our consciousness and unconscious, our intuitions and our logic.  As I improvise more, I'm constantly being surprised at how quickly even my conscious mind works under stimulus, and at how I get into a state where even "happy accidents" quickly integrate into what I and the other players are doing.  It may seem random, in fact it may BE random, but we humans have the astonishing ability to see patterns in randomness and incorporate them into our worldview.  And if the patterns the audience hears aren't what I intended--so much the better! :D
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Offline mikkeljs

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Re: Intuitive composition
« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2009, 06:52:31 AM »
Is it random and intuitive?  Or is your subconscious mind grasping how things must go before your consciousness is ready to grasp?


Good question! There has been a very few cases where I wrote something random, in the sence that I didn´t control but only decided, which is actually difficult. But then I became conscious about it later, because I want to be conscious about my work, since I´m the composer of it. If I let a computer decide random things, I would no longer be the composer.

I feel absolutely conscious about every corner of the piece, since all my not-random decisions have been done strictly as a part of the same piece, so I have to keep aware of everything...but I´m not able to explain much analytical about it, since I have avoided to describe it in language. So with intuition I mean still something conscious.   


Offline mikkeljs

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Re: Intuitive composition
« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2009, 10:38:09 AM »
It still remains a big question to me, how much we can sence at once compared to what we can sence in slices like thinking in motif and processes. I have hoped that imagination was totally unlimitted with the right sircumstances, but Im not sure. If not, probably math can work out something far beyond our imagination. What do you think? does math supply our sences? Does it supply a lot? Or not at all?

Offline jochanaan

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Re: Intuitive composition
« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2009, 12:12:54 PM »
It still remains a big question to me, how much we can sence at once compared to what we can sence in slices like thinking in motif and processes...
Who is "we?"  The average person?  Academically trained musicians?  Genius musicians like Mozart or Schoenberg or Cage or Glass?  Master improvisers such as Charlie Parker or Chick Corea?  It would seem there's a wide difference between what a Bach or a Coltrane might sense and what "the rest of us" would.

On the other hand, most of us can probably train ourselves to sense more.  Even a non-world-class musician like me can sense every line in things like the Brandenburg Concertos and the Beethoven symphonies, and it didn't take much more training to wrap my ears around Wagner or Varèse. 8)
Imagination + discipline = creativity

Offline mikkeljs

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Re: Intuitive composition
« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2009, 07:27:35 AM »
Who is "we?"  The average person?  Academically trained musicians?  Genius musicians like Mozart or Schoenberg or Cage or Glass?  Master improvisers such as Charlie Parker or Chick Corea?  It would seem there's a wide difference between what a Bach or a Coltrane might sense and what "the rest of us" would.

On the other hand, most of us can probably train ourselves to sense more.  Even a non-world-class musician like me can sense every line in things like the Brandenburg Concertos and the Beethoven symphonies, and it didn't take much more training to wrap my ears around Wagner or Varèse. 8)

Oh I didn´t thought about that. It seems like a very good point! Perhabs the answer to that question is quite individual and should be considered from ones single persons ability to work. Today was very frustrating day, I spent 4 hours practicing a particular bar from Chopins 2. Ballade (without using the piano). Yesterday I came to the conclusion that the best way was to avoid the piano completely and practice mentally only. But that was a bit too hasty conclusion, since I realized that my expectations about my memorizing was slightly too high this time. Usually I can practice for a week without touching a finger! But just not today. When I went to the piano afterwards my fingers slit some wrong keys, so I definetely should have going through the keys for at least 10minuttes before practicing mentally. So my statement about imagination being unlimitted was not qiute thrue...

It starts to make sence for me, that the greatest way to work is simply by using all kinds of tools and let them supply eachother whenever they can. It seems simple, but it has been necessary for me to search for the most potential. Perhabs I should try to observe my own limit trough different ways of thinking and doing. I already feel very confortable with the idea, that meditation combined with intuition works best for me, but I still want to know even more precisely what I can fx calculate with my amateur pocket math, and how to organize my practicing time.

I can imagine that many people especially non-musicians who have never even tried to meditate for a while, they must find it really hard to feel how to phrase or how to use their body or make some good work. Whereas I meditate like one hour pr day in average plus keeping searching for that inner peace and focus all day long when working. For 1.5 years I have been able to switch on a musical focus like pressing a buttom, and I can go and play a concert even after a year with no concerts, and still switch my whole brain capacity to the sound and ignore any nerves absolutely. Most of my friends are not able to play a concert and actually focus.  :o Because of nerves! So perhabs we are very different.

Still it bothers me not only what my potential is right now, but also what it can become with different kind of work. Composers work very different, as do pianists! Which famous composers are said to be the most talented? I think generelly it is the ones who work most intuitively.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2009, 07:29:29 AM by mikkeljs »

Offline jochanaan

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Re: Intuitive composition
« Reply #12 on: July 12, 2009, 12:03:13 PM »
...Which famous composers are said to be the most talented? I think generelly it is the ones who work most intuitively.
I can't quite agree with that.  The true musical geniuses--composers, conductors, players, or whatever--are those who have most successfully integrated their intuition with their logic, their "left and right brains" if you will, and even their bodies and spirits.

Here's a quasi-mathematical equation for you that I made up a few decades ago: "Imagination plus discipline equals creativity." :)
Imagination + discipline = creativity