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Creative people in general have my utmost respect; people that create a short story, a novel or a piece of music out of NOTHING.

It just blows my mind, probably because I am not creative at all, at least not in an artistical way.

I understand how a rock band can sit down together and write a song. The one guy has a riff, the other has a beat, and the bass player has a bass line. The song grows, and develops. It is still impressive, but how can a classical composer, one single individual, create a symphonie?? He writes all the parts for all the instruments, ALONE. How can he just imagine what the one part for one instrument sound like, let alone a myriad of instruments all together?
 

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When you actually sit down and write something original for full orchestra, as I have, your appreciation and respect for the great and even lesser composers expands without limit. Just the physical act of writing all those notes down on paper is a monumental feat, much less something really good. I can barely write something original that goes for three to five minutes. When I compare my trivial work to something like a Mahler 7th, Dvorak 8th or Prokofieff 5th I just feel like a non-entity. I study scores from Brahms, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky with nothing less than awe. Can you imagine the kind of brain that could write down all of The Ring? It is indeed amazing. Of course, the great composers didn't have Twitter, Netflix, or the NFL competing for their time.
 

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It is I think possible to break this down a little, at least traditionally and sometimes from a modern perspective. If one reads music and can write down what is in one's head, the way is clear for writing melodies and rhythms using simple forms, then including harmony, counterpoint (multiple voices), and more complex forms, composing in different textures and for various instruments and combinations up to the full orchestra. Studying and learning scores is essential. It helps to have absolute pitch or reliable relative pitch, fine motor control for rhythms, play a multiple-voice instrument like piano and/or be a skilled use of notation, sequencing, and recording computer software. Setting text for single or multiple voices, composing for dance, opera, and film are further extensions. All this takes years to absorb, though some prodigies develop more quickly; Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours for high-level skills gives a rough idea. mhaub is right - the actual physical labour is very demanding although strategic use of the computer can save time. It's a bunch of small steps, not one big step. I'm not saying the above is the only way; there are many ways of composing and becoming a composer. Also, I'm not saying the above steps will let you become another Mahler or Debussy -- their level would take considerably more time to describe.
 

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... the actual physical labour is very demanding although strategic use of the computer can save time.
Yes it certainly can, but the great composers didn't have computers. They didn't even have Xerox copiers! So let's say you're Mahler and you're putting on a performance of the 7th.There's something like 45 individual parts. Some are quite short (Mandolin, Guitar). Some very long: the First Violin parts is 43 pages. Lets say there are 12 violinists in the orchestra: someone had to hand-copy that first violin part 6 times. And so it goes. Think of the manpower needed. Mahler of course didn't do it himself, he had copyists. And once the work was engraved and published it was over. But dang!

I have a theory that I can't prove, but I believe it firmly. The act of putting pen or pencil to paper and manually writing - be it music or words - forces you to slow down and really think about what you're doing. There's a brain-eye-hand connection that is somehow short-circuited when the computer comes out. There once was an experiment done at some big university where the students in some classes were only allowed to take notes by hand - the old-fashioned way. In other classes the students did it the new way: typing into a laptop. When exam time came the results were readily apparent and startling. The students using pencil and paper did significantly better than the computer users. too often nowadays I see music written by people on computer that just stinks. Everything is wrong. The computer made it too easy. The brains turn off and you get crap. But boy, when Finale came out some 30 years ago I was first in line and gladly tossed out my pens, ink, rulers, knives and other tools of the trade.
 

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Yes, now consider that Schubert and Mozart wrote over 1,000 works by their early 30s, Beethoven wrote his latter works completely deaf, and Wagner spent 27 years dripping ink onto parchment to create the Ring Cycle. :oops:
 

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I totally agree about having respect for composers. Many people don't fully grasp the idea that someone made up the music they love. Nowadays, when talking about "music" in a mainstream format, they discuss the lyrics only. This leads to the annoying aspect of music streaming services that call everything a "song". Many seem to thing that a song is 'just there' for some great performer to sing. Without the composer there would be nothing for them to perform. More specifically, in classical, people do tend to revere the composer, rightly I think. I have a master's in music, but I'm astonished by the creative ability of composers from any period to create something that can come "alive" of the written page with emotional force and beauty.
 

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Yes it certainly can, but the great composers didn't have computers. They didn't even have Xerox copiers! So let's say you're Mahler and you're putting on a performance of the 7th.There's something like 45 individual parts. Some are quite short (Mandolin, Guitar). Some very long: the First Violin parts is 43 pages. Lets say there are 12 violinists in the orchestra: someone had to hand-copy that first violin part 6 times. And so it goes. Think of the manpower needed. Mahler of course didn't do it himself, he had copyists. And once the work was engraved and published it was over. But dang!

I have a theory that I can't prove, but I believe it firmly. The act of putting pen or pencil to paper and manually writing - be it music or words - forces you to slow down and really think about what you're doing. There's a brain-eye-hand connection that is somehow short-circuited when the computer comes out. There once was an experiment done at some big university where the students in some classes were only allowed to take notes by hand - the old-fashioned way. In other classes the students did it the new way: typing into a laptop. When exam time came the results were readily apparent and startling. The students using pencil and paper did significantly better than the computer users. too often nowadays I see music written by people on computer that just stinks. Everything is wrong. The computer made it too easy. The brains turn off and you get crap. But boy, when Finale came out some 30 years ago I was first in line and gladly tossed out my pens, ink, rulers, knives and other tools of the trade.
I remember that when Finale came out in 1988 it was described in a computer magazine as the most complicated piece of commercial software ever. Of course it and comparable programs revolutionized the creation of musical scores. Personally I prefer to see them as tools for the final version of publication-quality scores and parts rather than as a vehicle for direct composing of classical music (not referring here to pop music sequencers etc.). I still compose a draft by hand because for me no issue of a technological nature should come between between what you imagine and what you write. That's my practice but I wouldn't criticize others for composing differently -- in fact I'd be interested in hearing what other composers do.
 

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I remember that when Finale came out in 1988 it was described in a computer magazine as the most complicated piece of commercial software ever. Of course it and comparable programs revolutionized the creation of musical scores. Personally I prefer to see them as tools for the final version of publication-quality scores and parts rather than as a vehicle for direct composing of classical music (not referring here to pop music sequencers etc.). I still compose a draft by hand because for me no issue of a technological nature should come between between what you imagine and what you write. That's my practice but I wouldn't criticize others for composing differently -- in fact I'd be interested in hearing what other composers do.
An example:

I composed a piano piece for myself to perform. I conceived the origal melody in my head and then figured out the chordal structures on the piano. Then I went to the computer and using the mouse put every note in its place. Then I printed the score and tried to play it. There was a lot of unpianistic places which I then corrected. Making the piece more pianistically idiomatic also enhanced the piece. There were unnecessary octaves and doublings and too thick textures.

So the program is just a tool. I am aware that it is easy to overorchestrate and over-elaborate using the mouse. I ask myself: ”Is this performable? Is there enough focus? Is there any room for an error and for example a slightly wrong tempo? Is there room for the concert hall to have a lot a echo?”

So I will make corrections to the printed score and really put effort behind the ”critical edition”.
 

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The technology has progressed well beyond being just a tool in my experience.
I've always been pencil, paper and mostly rubber man in my composing, so much so that I had custom 38 stave ms printed on good quality paper that measures almost 60cm X 40cm. Like you guys above, I preferred to keep the craft and art of composing pure and simple. However, in the last year or so, my workflow has changed considerably and for the better imo.

I bought a Surface Studio touch screen and digital stylus which has utterly transformed the way I work. The screen is large, crystal clear and with good palm rejection. One can easily display a full score on it without resorting to an absurdly small resolution. and so Sibelius works a treat, especially with the stylus pen. The screen also comes on a hinge system that allows me to work on it from almost any angle. I input from a digital piano keyboard and have become as fluent as I was with a pencil. I also purchased what is called a surface dial - basically a programmable wheel that I've customised with many shortcuts.

It's a win all round as there is no need for paper manuscript any more, not even for sketching as I use more software called StaffPad which also uses a digital stylus for input. That did take a little getting used to but once the quirks of pen input where understood it became second nature. I can even split the screen to show the sketchpad and the full score. Composing via direct input to Sibelius with a pen and piano keyboard also knocks out the chore of having to digitise the paper score after composing.

Oh and one more added benefit, my workspace is not smothered in tiny bits of rubber anymore... :)

Here's a demo of the Surface Studio with Staffpad, I couldn't find something that demonstrates it with Sibelius.

 

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Yes it certainly can, but the great composers didn't have computers. They didn't even have Xerox copiers! So let's say you're Mahler and you're putting on a performance of the 7th.There's something like 45 individual parts. Some are quite short (Mandolin, Guitar). Some very long: the First Violin parts is 43 pages. Lets say there are 12 violinists in the orchestra: someone had to hand-copy that first violin part 6 times. And so it goes. Think of the manpower needed. Mahler of course didn't do it himself, he had copyists. And once the work was engraved and published it was over. But dang!

I have a theory that I can't prove, but I believe it firmly. The act of putting pen or pencil to paper and manually writing - be it music or words - forces you to slow down and really think about what you're doing. There's a brain-eye-hand connection that is somehow short-circuited when the computer comes out. There once was an experiment done at some big university where the students in some classes were only allowed to take notes by hand - the old-fashioned way. In other classes the students did it the new way: typing into a laptop. When exam time came the results were readily apparent and startling. The students using pencil and paper did significantly better than the computer users. too often nowadays I see music written by people on computer that just stinks. Everything is wrong. The computer made it too easy. The brains turn off and you get crap. But boy, when Finale came out some 30 years ago I was first in line and gladly tossed out my pens, ink, rulers, knives and other tools of the trade.
I’ve never entirely bought into the theory that actually writing with pencil and paper necessarily helps you focus better. I start with a concept of what I’m trying to achieve (unless it’s vocal music which simply writes itself according to the exact emotional message of the text). It’s not uncommon to have a reference work most commonly because it expresses something similar to what I’m looking for or sometimes it’s more technical. The music is often in my head (or even a dream) but playing on the keyboard can help refine the melody or harmony. Although I compose mainly by ear, I need the score to see what I’ve been doing and how it fits together. And now with ever better virtual instruments you are getting an idea of what it can sound like too. Incidentally, I use Dorico
 

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Even more impressive was before computers allowed creating all parts for the composer to hear. They had nothing but a pencil/pen, manuscript paper and a piano.
Pfftt. Bach scorned musicians who composed at the keyboard as "Klavier-Ritter" ("keyboard knights") and demanded his students compose entirely from their own heads onto the paper.
 

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Pfftt. Bach scorned musicians who composed at the keyboard as "Klavier-Ritter" ("keyboard knights") and demanded his students compose entirely from their own heads onto the paper.
It belittles great composers who make such demands on others. They make an ideal of their own methods.

There is one Finnish composer who claims that everything should be heard in the composers head. Well, even Mahler made changes to his scores after hearing them live.

What is more important: the ego and methods of a composer, or the results?

I can play music in my head but that is just one of my methods. I cannot claim to be able to hear a full orchestral polyphonic tutti in all the details and tone colours simultaneously.
 

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Bach or Stravinsky then? Waehnen is right, it's the result that matters. The compositional process is largely mental irrespective of the means by which the sound is heard and it is those inner aesthetics of the composer and how they use material that we buy into, not the means by which the sound was found imo.
 

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Pfftt. Bach scorned musicians who composed at the keyboard as "Klavier-Ritter" ("keyboard knights") and demanded his students compose entirely from their own heads onto the paper.
Wagner composed at the piano, in a trial and error process (that he was somewhat ashamed of). But that's probably why he was able to write music so ahead of his time harmonically. Bach wrote great music, but he strictly "colored within the lines", and never pushed the boundaries of music in the way that "messy" composers like Beethoven and Wagner did. Beethoven banged away at the keys even long after he went deaf.
 

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I have never written music, and never will, but what I have done is design and build large scale software products which I don't think are that much different. One particular system software tool is now around 130,000 lines of code (notes) of which I have been responsible for about 2/3 of it and have guided the other third. Looking at it now it is hard to imagine how it was done, certainly not by having it completely laid out in my mind at the start. The general concept was there from which some of the sections were defined (sketches), these were each partly fleshed out in no particular order until it started to look like it would work as intended (short score). Next each of the sections was elaborated to make it work as intended (scored movements), after which they were put together to be sure that everything made logical and functional sense. At this point it was time for a someone to try using the software and give feedback (the first rehearsals) which triggered changes, fixes, more testing, more feedback, etc., until it went to the first real customer (performance), Becca's software symphony #1in C! But even then it was probably only 13,000 lines, the rest got added over time as needs and ideas developed. What comes next, a new idea, new development ... software symphony #2 in C#.

What always amuses me is when I've been demonstrating the product at some conference/exhibition and someone (invariably young) comes up to us and says something like 'ohh so what, I could write that tonight in my spare time.'
 
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