View Poll Results: Do Composers Now Have More Creative Artistic Freedom Than Ever?

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  • Yes, more or less

    15 78.95%
  • No, they have less freedom now

    2 10.53%
  • Unsure

    2 10.53%
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Thread: Do Composers Now Have More Creative Artistic Freedom Than Ever?

  1. #1
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    Default Do Composers Now Have More Creative Artistic Freedom Than Ever?

    I have been reading a lot about composers of the past, the long past. Things must have been hard for them from many viewpoints,

    - many had a job to do (literally, they were paid employees)
    - almost all had to be careful not to offend their employers (think Haydn)
    - many had to glorify their religion during times when there were religious wars and that the religious leaders/employers were effectively rulers as well (think Mozart's Salzburg situation)
    - society were generally conservative
    - etc.

    Whereas post 1950s say, composers have much, much more artistic freedom. The spirit of the free artist is one of the key defining aspects of modern art. Now I am not here to discuss which was/is better, but this is just to compare the amount of artistic freedom between them.

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    I even read that past composers had to be careful when they composed opera arias not to offend fans of leading opera singers on stage (i.e. lead singers in the one opera often had fans on each side and tried to boo the other side etc.) I don't think that happens now.

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    Read Kyle Gann's blog. Composers have to write what their paymasters want, or hustle, or work a day job, same as usual.

    We may even be at the nadir - from at least the Renaissance (madrigals) up through the generation born before World War II, there was a middle class sufficiently interested in sophisticated music that composers could make a living selling to them. Now there isn't, and what's worse, the patrons are no longer aristocrats or the church, but academics.

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    That's a very good point. What about music critics? I think they certainly at times can be "patron" like.

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    Depends on what you mean by "free". I'd say that composers have always been free, in one sense, to compose whatever they wanted. But of course, there are always societal and economic restrictions that limited that freedom (in more simple terms, this could be boiled down to "a guy's gotta eat"). Those restrictions are still there in society today. As a composer, you'll still end up composing stuff that you don't necessarily want to or that your heart's not necessarily in to make a living.

    In fact, compared to former times, I'd say there's even less job security as a composer these days in many ways. Lots of composers today are turning to completely non-music related careers to support themselves and relegating composition to a very passionate hobby.

    Then there's a more existential sense of the word freedom, as in a composer is only as free as the collective imagination of the society they are in. For example, Beethoven didn't have the "freedom" to write a twelve tone piece because something like that would not have (and very possibly could not have) entered his brain. In this sense, we still may be very limited in our composition abilities, but one could never know by how much. There could be a completely different realm of sound that we are unable to even hear that perhaps some alien race on a distant planet could.

    Maybe if we ever go full Star Trek our compositional abilities will expand exponentially based on the input of all those highly artistic aliens out there on planet Oblaoushu...or whatever.

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    Yes. I've never been in a more free environment for composition than my own university where the students were CONSISTENTLY making music opposite of what their teachers would make. VERY little imitation or pressure to. The advice that is exchanged is more philosophical than technical. Basically, as long as the student makes something "well done" as in, it's obvious how much work and effort they put into it, they will be embraced, no matter what. Whether or not anyone would listen or care about it on the public side of things, it's quite similar to the past. The public has always been suspicious of new music, that's not a new thing we're experiencing. Scheherezade was viewed with suspicion, also the Pathetique Symphony.
    Last edited by Huilunsoittaja; Jan-24-2016 at 22:51.
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  10. #7
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    Well, critics are artists and have their patrons too. Boileau worked for Louis XIV, Taruskin works for Berkeley.

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    Senior Member Blancrocher's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold in Columbia View Post
    Now there isn't, and what's worse, the patrons are no longer aristocrats or the church, but academics.
    When they're not professional musicians, of course, which are in many cases probably at least as discerning.

    Out of curiosity, can anybody recommend a good book about music patrons? On the basis of casual reading I have the impression that many of them are curious and interesting--musically obsessed--people. I can see a lot of ways the subject could be handled.
    Last edited by Blancrocher; Jan-24-2016 at 22:52.

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    None of the above.

    My SWAG is that it is about the same.
    It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious. And I am a very ingenious fellow

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    Senior Member Gaspard de la Nuit's Avatar
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    If you have a computer you can write whatever the hell you want, for whatever instruments, put the notes into a software (the full version of finale does cost about $600 or something, though), upload it to youtube and your music could be heard by lots of people.
    Last edited by Gaspard de la Nuit; Jan-24-2016 at 23:05.
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    And the free time in which to write it.

    Which is to say, if you had ham, and bread, and eggs, then you'd have a ham and egg sandwich.

  16. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Huilunsoittaja View Post
    Yes. I've never been in a more free environment for composition than my own university where the students were CONSISTENTLY making music opposite of what their teachers would make. VERY little imitation or pressure to. The advice that is exchanged is more philosophical than technical. Basically, as long as the student makes something "well done" as in, it's obvious how much work and effort they put into it, they will be embraced, no matter what. Whether or not anyone would listen or care about it on the public side of things, it's quite similar to the past. The public has always been suspicious of new music, that's not a new thing we're experiencing. Scheherezade was viewed with suspicion, also the Pathetique Symphony.
    You made an great point "more philosophical than technical" at the music schools. That certainly has a lot to do with it - the teaching too has changed.
    Last edited by ArtMusic; Jan-25-2016 at 00:03.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gaspard de la Nuit View Post
    If you have a computer you can write whatever the hell you want, for whatever instruments, put the notes into a software (the full version of finale does cost about $600 or something, though), upload it to youtube and your music could be heard by lots of people.
    It'll sound like crap though.

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    Bach is an excellent example of a composer of the past who had to defend his artistic rights, to fight for his artistic freedom.

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    I feel, as a composer, that I may have less freedom, but not for a concrete reason.

    It seems that the internet and how often I am on it breeds this kind of insecurity in my writing of music. Now I know there were a ton of composers in the past who were absolute perfectionists like Brahms, but I can't help but feel that because of the massive amount of music and playback I have access to, I will suffer from this overload of complications as a composer. Something about living in this age and writing music feels less "organic" than it might have a hundred years ago or so.

    Don't get me wrong, I am not longing to live in another time or anything. I just think that the whole information age seems to be a double edged sword. On one hand I have access to nearly limitless information and music and scores- on the other hand, the overload of it influences me to take it lightly.

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