Author Topic: Why I am Not a Composer...  (Read 18137 times)

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snyprrr

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #80 on: June 14, 2009, 08:13:22 AM »
Karl's too busy burying that thread to compose anything this week! ;D

Online Brian

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #81 on: June 14, 2009, 08:31:59 AM »
I think the world could use some more of those (fragmentary symphonies, especially)  8)
I presume you have ordered the new Naxos disc containing seven minutes of the original Shostakovich Ninth! Or as my friend calls it, the "Symphony Number Eight and a Half."

karlhenning

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #82 on: June 14, 2009, 08:34:29 AM »
Karl's too busy burying that thread to compose anything this week! ;D

Practicing, practicing!

I presume you have ordered the new Naxos disc containing seven minutes of the original Shostakovich Ninth! Or as my friend calls it, the "Symphony Number Eight and a Half."

Not yet, but it's certainly in my ears' future.

Offline Cato

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #83 on: November 04, 2013, 03:34:05 PM »
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, but that 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.


I came across this by chance today, and thought I would "bump" it for the many new people who most probably have not seen it.

My artistic bent has always been twofold, since I also began writing stories in the First Grade and have never really stopped, although there were periods when I did not bother to write anything down for several years, and kept everything in my head.

As a writer I find it easier to hide behind the characters and even a pseudonym if necessary!  And as a writer who can also compose, my writing style (both in prose and poetry) is especially sensitive to musical considerations.  There have been a good number of times when I had the rhythm of a sentence in mind, before I had the words.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2013, 03:42:41 PM by Cato »
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Online Brian

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #84 on: November 04, 2013, 08:00:00 PM »
As a writer I find it easier to hide behind the characters and even a pseudonym if necessary!  And as a writer who can also compose, my writing style (both in prose and poetry) is especially sensitive to musical considerations.  There have been a good number of times when I had the rhythm of a sentence in mind, before I had the words.

Oh, absolutely! Many, many people have commented to me on the strength of the endings in my writing, and it is true: like a fugue, perhaps, ideas slip into my essays or stories slowly, and then build up to a dramatic finish. (Too slowly; my problem is keeping readers around for the fireworks.) The reason, usually, is that with endings I am especially sensitive to the rhythms necessary to really "drive" the point. The #1 piece of advice I find myself giving other writers is, "This sentence ends with a weak word. End the sentence with a word of emphasis." Words can be good endings if they fit rhythmically, from the stress of the syllables, or if the idea of the word represents the climax of your sentence's thought. Even better if the word represents the climax of the paragraph or even the piece.

Consider, from Alex Ross's The Rest is Noise, p. 332:
"Copland conjures a perfect American Sunday, like the one at the end of Ives's Three Places in New England, when the music of all peoples streams from the open doors of a white-steepled church that does not yet exist."

That sentence would not work, would not succeed, if you reversed the order of the last two words. Try it. Say it to yourself. It sounds overwritten, purple. But as written, it sounds majestic.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2013, 09:00:40 PM by Brian »

Offline Cato

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #85 on: November 05, 2013, 04:29:10 AM »
..., "This sentence ends with a weak word. End the sentence with a word of emphasis." Words can be good endings if they fit rhythmically, from the stress of the syllables, or if the idea of the word represents the climax of your sentence's thought. Even better if the word represents the climax of the paragraph or even the piece.

Consider, from Alex Ross's The Rest is Noise, p. 332:
"Copland conjures a perfect American Sunday, like the one at the end of Ives's Three Places in New England, when the music of all peoples streams from the open doors of a white-steepled church that does not yet exist."

That sentence would not work, would not succeed, if you reversed the order of the last two words. Try it. Say it to yourself. It sounds overwritten, purple. But as written, it sounds majestic.

Yes, a nice and subtle example!  In my most recent novel, the title chapters are the last words which end the chapter, e.g. "If the Sun Rose in the North," "Yearning Wrens in a Winter Window," and  "To Pierce a Spirit Immaterial, Fragile, and Doomed."

(In the last one, yes, a spirit is by definition "immaterial," but in the context of the entire sentence the redundancy works as an emphatic point. (Or so I believe!  My hardy band of readers had no complaints about it at least!)
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Offline petrarch

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #86 on: November 17, 2013, 02:16:41 PM »
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.

(...)

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.

I was reading something today that reminded me of this thread:

The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.
- Neil Gaiman
//p
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Offline jochanaan

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #87 on: November 20, 2013, 10:27:52 AM »
I suppose, Cato, that nothing in the intervening time since you wrote your OP has changed your mind.  Or have you perhaps begun to emulate Ives: insurance salesman/college professor by day, composer by night?

You're right that music, if done well, involves stripping our souls.  Physical nakedness is nothing by comparison!  (This is probably also why many people's greatest fear is public speech.)  But I think the world would be a better place if more of us were willing to strip our souls: others would see that they're not alone, and perhaps find the boldness to strip their own, bonds would be created, and just maybe a "critical mass" of mutual understanding would bring world peace... Yeah, it's a pipe dream.  But one that keeps me playing and hoping.
Imagination + discipline = creativity

Offline Cato

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #88 on: March 18, 2016, 03:53:40 AM »
Bump!  :o ???

I thought this topic might again be of interest, as I mentioned it under another topic (...SHOCK!) from Scots John.

And again, as I wrote yesterday under John's topic, the only composing I have done since then is the recent completion of a sketch for a work called Exaudi me, Domine for 9 voices, and about 15 years ago or so I adapted a section of the Joachim Raff Fifth Symphony for a Wedding March for organ: I composed a few bars (sort of Richard Strauss meets Raff) for a conclusion.

Nobody has seen the former except Karl Henning.   0:)  The latter was recorded by my brother for the bride (his sister-in-law), but since it is mainly Raff and not my work I have no trouble with it.
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #89 on: March 18, 2016, 04:03:17 AM »
The Exaudi has landed, but I've yet to focus attention upon it   :(
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His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline Cato

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #90 on: March 18, 2016, 04:58:41 AM »
The Exaudi has landed, but I've yet to focus attention upon it   :(

All in good time!  ;D   Many thanks for offering to examine it!

If anyone else wants to see it, I would need to send it by regular mail.  I just composed it on music paper, no computers or MIDI versions or anything.

No, I am not thinking of composing anything else.  In fact, with the Exaudi about 2/3 finished, I almost decided to stop, and in fact did stop for about two weeks, in the belief that it simply did not warrant my time.

But then I glanced through it one more time, and became rather enthused about the idea again, so I finished it.
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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

Offline Cato

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #91 on: December 11, 2016, 03:14:55 PM »
I'm very sorry to hear about it Cato, as I've been going through a lot of second-guessing  lately as a composer.
I don't know if it's the right place to say or not, but I'm struggling to find another solution to my circular reasoning as a composer.

I've been planning the past two years, that I'll be going to university to further my status as a composer to the professional realm. (which I'm still finishing applications for)
But I have come to the dilemma that I may be just a big egotistical, delusional pipe-dreamer.
I don't know what other composers views/perspectives are on themselves as composers but feel like I've hit a brick wall.

Music has always been the only truly important thing to me in life, composing music foremost than studying music, is a part of my identity. What do I often do when I'm not composing? (Or working at my job), that's right; listening to music.
In fact, I'll probably be listening to music after typing this.

I don't know how this post will cone across to people, but I feel like I've hit a big existential and creative block.

Trying to analyse myself in the bigger picture too and I don't know if I can rationalise pursuing being a composer. Are we all just kookoo crazy?  :'(

No, not even cuckoo crazy either! 8)

If you are not happy unless you are creating music, then by all means, get that music paper and smear it with ink!   8)

To be sure, making a living from it will be more than difficult.  This is why studying one's art and expanding one's experience - and analyzing that experience - will be most important for you.   If you consider yourself an autodidact and have the talent to be one, then you could teach yourself.  Study scores, scores, and more scores of the great composers!  Read books on music by Schoenberg, Berlioz, Rimsky-Korsakov, Walter Piston, and other composers.  Books by obscure composers like Tibor Serly and Avenir de Monfred may interest you as well.

Composing without a true background in the basics - and beyond - will keep you an amateur forever.



« Last Edit: December 11, 2016, 03:18:59 PM by Cato »
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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

Offline Cato

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #92 on: September 22, 2019, 04:37:23 AM »
Bump!  Several years have gone past since the last entry...and 12 years have gone past (!) since I started this!

What has happened to Mark G. Simon, Scots John, Luke Ottevanger et al. ?

Anyway, after writing to our GMG member and blossoming composer Mark McD and discussing some things, I thought I would "bump" this topic again.

Three works in the past years I have resurrected.

Here is the score for the Piano Trio (piano and 2 violins) New Year's Resolution:

http://www.mediafire.com/file/wnh1zexs3k2e9qv/New_Year%2527s_Resolution.pdf/file][url]http://www.mediafire.com/file/wnh1zexs3k2e9qv/New_Year%2527s_Resolution.pdf/file[/url]

And a MIDI "performance"! 

http://www.mediafire.com/file/y53ua1yug5by5cy/New_Year%2527s_Resolution_%25282%2529.mp3/file


My cantata Exaudi me for 9 voices, i.e. double SATB plus a solo soprano:

MIDI:

http://www.mediafire.com/file/db79ny3b2wqd4re/Exaudi_Me_%25283%2529.mp3/file

Score:

http://www.mediafire.com/file/bgm446csffvy8hy/Schulte_Exaudi_Me_with_keybd_-_2016-07-16_%25282%2529_%25281%2529_%25281%2529.pdf/file

And in a more traditional vein, an Organ Prelude (originally - in a bowdlerized form - used at our wedding over 40 years ago):

Score:

http://www.mediafire.com/file/oj2e2oj0yxfxs1j/Organ_Prelude_%25281978%2529.mp3/file

MIDI:

http://www.mediafire.com/file/oj2e2oj0yxfxs1j/Organ_Prelude_%25281978%2529.mp3/file

 
Many thanks for your time!
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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

Offline MarkMcD

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #93 on: September 22, 2019, 08:13:04 AM »
I recently pm'd Mr Cato with these thoughts, but I thought I might also post it here as it might be interesting to see what others feel about them.



I think that being a composer, whether professional, amateur, successful or not, is a state of ones being, and not something that one might choose to be or not to be, that is the question.  Like being an alcoholic or a drug addict, one might decide one day to no longer drink or to take the substances to which one is addicted and thereafter to never touch then again.  However, to say that one is now no longer an addict, is untrue, one will always be an addict, only now, one who has found a way to simply not feed the addiction.   Aye, there's the rub.  And, having listened to some of the work you sent me, you certainly are an addict! Lol.  That you indulge in mental composition from time to time, is both a great blessing and proof of my earlier statement.  Actually I'm quite jealous of that ability.  I can hear the next few bars and have a nebulous idea of where they might lead, but my process is much more chaotic I'm afraid.

On the subject of public disrobing, I think that having ones “soul” exposed to the general public, is perhaps a misconception on the part of the composer himself.  That moment of extreme privacy when listening to a performance of ones own work, in public, I can only imagine.  However, the public are not nor will ever be privy to the actual “soul” of the composer, only to what they imagine it to be, and each individuals perception will be unique.  They will no doubt feel emotional and suppose that they have seen the innermost intimacies of it's creator.  Some, who may have proclaimed themselves “critics”, might actually go on to explain in great detail, for the benefit of those who they presume are less informed than they are, what the composer was trying to say and what his/her motivations and intentions were for the piece.  This of course is all just self important supposition and ultimately, rubbish.  I would even go so far as to say that the composer himself would probably not be truly capable of expressing in words, exactly what the piece means to him.  If he could do that, then what was the point in writing it?  I'm reminded of something I read once, about an exhibition for a very promising new artist, at which many critics were in attendance.  A day later, all had written reviews with varying degrees of praise, analysis and conjecture.  It was revealed some time later that the artist was in fact a 2 year old elephant.  Alli lo dejo.

For me, the point of writing music, or to express oneself in any art form, is to excise something that cannot be expressed in any other way.  So to feel exposed in such a manner as a composer, whilst quite possibly being inevitable, and therefore “real” as far as he is concerned, is actually a false imagining that the public has seen your true face, when in fact, they have only seen whatever they wanted to see, and will never see what is truly ones “soul”.  That vista is reserved only for you and God, (and I'm not even convinced he exists)!

I am really glad though, that you have found other avenues to let your obvious creativity out, after all, to not let the public in is one thing, but to deny yourself the pleasure of creation when one has an undeniable talent for it, is unforgivable.

Offline Cato

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Re: Why I am Not a Composer...
« Reply #94 on: September 23, 2019, 04:18:36 AM »
I recently pm'd Mr Cato with these thoughts, but I thought I might also post it here as it might be interesting to see what others feel about them.



I think that being a composer, whether professional, amateur, successful or not, is a state of ones being, and not something that one might choose to be or not to be, that is the question.  Like being an alcoholic or a drug addict, one might decide one day to no longer drink or to take the substances to which one is addicted and thereafter to never touch then again.  However, to say that one is now no longer an addict, is untrue, one will always be an addict, only now, one who has found a way to simply not feed the addiction.   Aye, there's the rub.  And, having listened to some of the work you sent me, you certainly are an addict! Lol.  That you indulge in mental composition from time to time, is both a great blessing and proof of my earlier statement.  Actually I'm quite jealous of that ability.  I can hear the next few bars and have a nebulous idea of where they might lead, but my process is much more chaotic I'm afraid.

On the subject of public disrobing, I think that having ones “soul” exposed to the general public, is perhaps a misconception on the part of the composer himself.  That moment of extreme privacy when listening to a performance of ones own work, in public, I can only imagine.  However, the public are not nor will ever be privy to the actual “soul” of the composer, only to what they imagine it to be, and each individuals perception will be unique.  They will no doubt feel emotional and suppose that they have seen the innermost intimacies of it's creator.  Some, who may have proclaimed themselves “critics”, might actually go on to explain in great detail, for the benefit of those who they presume are less informed than they are, what the composer was trying to say and what his/her motivations and intentions were for the piece.  This of course is all just self important supposition and ultimately, rubbish.  I would even go so far as to say that the composer himself would probably not be truly capable of expressing in words, exactly what the piece means to him.  If he could do that, then what was the point in writing it?  I'm reminded of something I read once, about an exhibition for a very promising new artist, at which many critics were in attendance.  A day later, all had written reviews with varying degrees of praise, analysis and conjecture.  It was revealed some time later that the artist was in fact a 2 year old elephant.  Alli lo dejo.

For me, the point of writing music, or to express oneself in any art form, is to excise something that cannot be expressed in any other way.  So to feel exposed in such a manner as a composer, whilst quite possibly being inevitable, and therefore “real” as far as he is concerned, is actually a false imagining that the public has seen your true face, when in fact, they have only seen whatever they wanted to see, and will never see what is truly ones “soul”.  That vista is reserved only for you and God, (and I'm not even convinced he exists)!

I am really glad though, that you have found other avenues to let your obvious creativity out, after all, to not let the public in is one thing, but to deny yourself the pleasure of creation when one has an undeniable talent for it, is unforgivable.


Many thanks to Mark McD. for taking the time to write such a nice commentary here.

To be sure, I agree with the first highlighted section more today than I did in the early 1980's, when the very idea of having people infer things about the composer's psyche seemed ever more unpleasant, especially when the composer has a family, and when the composer himself finds his own work spiritually upsetting (e.g. the cantata Exaudi me).

Age, however, allows one to disregard many things!   0:)

40 years ago composing alone in a room - or writing stories - with a young family needing attention seemed to be the ultimate selfishness.  And I am positive that it would have been a very selfish and deleterious choice.  I am not the least upset about it. 

(Yes, I know about family-man and double-wived J.S. Bach.  Somehow he managed it, so good for him!)
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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