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What Drives Creativity In Compositions?

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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Reading much on the great composers written by scholars, the personal letters of composers and on journals, it is clear that creativity is driven differently from composer to composer. Best with some examples below, and before one starts to ask: "how do you define creativity", suffice to say that it exists and it is the "engine room" that drive great composers.

With Bach, his religion certainly drove his creativity. He believed music is there to glorify God in every note.

With Verdi, he was driven by drama and the human emotions in the libretto that needed to be expressed though music, to balance the operatic "agendas" of great opera houses, patrons and artistic success.

With Schoenberg, he wanted to abandon tonality which he saw as being totally exhausted by the early 20th century, and so he drilled into atonality for the sake of it. Schoenberg didn't write atonal music to want to glorify God, so using this example, you can see that creativity differed between composers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I honestly think the only driver is the composer himself/herself. If they have the talent, tools and will, it gets done.
Sure, let's assume all the great composers have talent. What then drove them?
 

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mostly the subject matter to be portrayed. Richard Strauss, for example, as he takes on the book 'Thus Spoke Zarathustra' goes with a presentation of this literary piece to its future readers; the overture represents not what is in the book but the book itself, this is a world premiere.

the music contains two themes. 1st represents the author proffering his book to the universe of readers. 2nd represents the reluctant reader:

1st theme melody calls - read. This. BOOK.

2nd theme replies - NO way!

the timpani - resentment.

1st theme second try - read. This. BOOK.

2nd theme (eyebrows raised) - you WHAT!

the timpani - resentment.

1st theme persists - read. This. BOOK.

2nd theme now gets it - all RIGHT! (then continues) I WILL GIVE. THIS BOOK A TRY.

1st theme (relaxed) - GOOD. Luck. on. that. etc.

and then the reader opens the book to read.



 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
You say that Bach was driven by god or suchlike but last time I spoke to him he told me that that in fact driven by lust for money and power and fame.
Most likely that's why he worked in a local church in Leipzig for twenty-seven years :p
 

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I'd argue creativity isn't to (and can not) impress large audiences, even though successful pieces have also been creative. The creative parts themselves are due to the ego, and the widely successful parts are from learning what past creatives did right.

When I compose for example, I sometimes may want to impress the requirements of the job, if that's making money or satisfying the writer's vision that's relatable to many people viewing. But on the other hand, I always feel a necessity to be creative and clever ie. to have my own voice. This often unprofitable necessity arises from what it means to compose. Composing means = being the composer yourself. To express your identity, directly or indirectly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I'd argue creativity isn't to impress large audiences, even though successful pieces have also been creative. This side-aspect of them is due to the ego.

When I compose for example, I sometimes may want to impress the requirements of the job, if that's making money or satisfying the writer's vision that's relatable to many people viewing. But on the other hand, I always feel a necessity to be creative and clever ie. to have my own voice. This necessity comes from what it means to compose, ie. Composing means = being the composer yourself. To express your identity, directly or indirectly.
So for you as a composer today it is about self-expression in a meaningful way to be an artist. Do you care about the audience? I don't mean this in a provocative way but is it entirely only about you? Ignore for a moment any monetary motives that might be part of the "job requirement" like you describe earlier.
 

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Composition isn't a highly altruistic field, as say, the most it can ever do to help is when it brings forth naturally creative people for the good of scientific discovery, ie. If someone creates something that doesn't work for anybody, we have learned more. Thus someone who's naturally creative will get into the artistic fields, such as Classical music, and have a natural advantage to influence the thinking people, like Bach had. But we can't expect them to know they will be successful at it, or if what they're doing is influential.

It may be hard for someone to limit creativity to 'what people will like,' because our knowledge of what people like comprises things already done, already outside the vision of creativity. So in my work, I try to strike a balance. To find what to be creative about.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Composition isn't a highly altruistic field, as say, the most it can ever do to help is when it brings forth naturally creative people for the good of scientific discovery, ie. If someone creates something that doesn't work for anybody, we have learned more. Thus someone who's naturally creative will get into the artistic fields, such as Classical music, and have a natural advantage to influence the thinking people, like Bach had. But we can't expect them to know they will be successful at it, or if what they're doing is influential.

It may be hard for someone to limit creativity to 'what people will like,' because our knowledge of what people like comprises things already done, already outside the vision of creativity. So in my work, I try to strike a balance. To find what to be creative about.
By trying to strike a balance, on what criteria or measure do you sense that balancing act is for your audience? Do you find it easier to strike that balance for yourself as an artist or for the audience? I hope you don't mind me asking but as you are a composer, it is worth discussing if it is alright with you.
 

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Sure, let's assume all the great composers have talent. What then drove them?
Emotions, the example of other composers, religion, literary works (i.e. Faust) money, audiences, a desire to challenge themselves...

Religion didn't motivate Janacek, and money did not motivate Schubert, but JS Bach and Donizetti were motivated in large part by God and money respectively.

However, I think the key ingredient is ego and recognition of one's own abilities. Without that, the great composers would have quailed.
 

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"Ego and recognition of one's own abilities" and the desire to expand them.

But also money. How many great works of music were commissions, or done for a particular benefactor? I'd say a good percentage.
 

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atonality for the sake of it
"For the sake of it"...

I cannot think of a more damaging way of viewing Schoenberg's legacy than to view his music as composed with the goal of satisfying some theoretical requirement, say atonality or serialism, for nothing more than the sake of it. As if he merely wrote his music as some abstract intellectual challenge to fulfill some structural-syntactical game for the sake of the theoretical requirement, and not to make art.

ArtMusic, you do realize that there is artistic expression in Schoenberg's music, and creating that artistic expression was his primary objective, as it was or is for many other composers. Schoenberg admittedly may not be widely popular among the wide classical music public, and unfortunately he may never will be - probably global warming or nuclear proliferation will kill us all before Schoenberg becomes popular. Hell, even without those existential threats to humanity he still wouldn't likely make it to popularity.

But for those listeners Schoenberg does reach, and we are (!) there, the value of Schoenberg is 100% in the music as sound, and the expressive and emotional journey it takes us along. He was able to provide a kind of highly lyrical, angular, stark, developmental, metrically complex, contrapuntal, emotional, overwhelmingly concentrated music. His music overflows with melodies, melodies unlike anyone wrote before. And THAT is what we value Schoenberg for.

The theory is important in the music's construction, and it's perhaps interesting to those who would be interested in theory, but the theory is NOT the point of Schoenberg, and there wouldn't be any value in the theory without the actual musical experience.

"For the sake of it"... as if Schoenberg's goal was to create atonality rather than to create music.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Emotions, the example of other composers, religion, literary works (i.e. Faust) money, audiences, a desire to challenge themselves...

Religion didn't motivate Janacek, and money did not motivate Schubert, but JS Bach and Donizetti were motivated in large part by God and money respectively.

However, I think the key ingredient is ego and recognition of one's own abilities. Without that, the great composers would have quailed.
By recognition of one's own abilities, do you mean self-recognition by the composer or by the audience? Many of the great composers had some sense of their own gifted abilities. It might be a greater challenge for them to receive that from the audience, however.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
"For the sake of it"...

I cannot think of a more damaging way of viewing Schoenberg's legacy than to view his music as composed with the goal of satisfying some theoretical requirement, say atonality or serialism, for nothing more than the sake of it. As if he merely wrote his music as some abstract intellectual challenge to fulfill some structural-syntactical game for the sake of the theoretical requirement, and not to make art.

ArtMusic, you do realize that there is artistic expression in Schoenberg's music, and creating that artistic expression was his primary objective, as it was or is for many other composers. Schoenberg admittedly may not be widely popular among the wide classical music public, and unfortunately he may never will be - probably global warming or nuclear proliferation will kill us all before Schoenberg becomes popular. Hell, even without those existential threats to humanity he still wouldn't likely make it to popularity.

But for those listeners Schoenberg does reach, and we are (!) there, the value of Schoenberg is 100% in the music as sound, and the expressive and emotional journey it takes us along. He was able to provide a kind of highly lyrical, angular, stark, developmental, metrically complex, contrapuntal, emotional, overwhelmingly concentrated music. His music overflows with melodies, melodies unlike anyone wrote before. And THAT is what we value Schoenberg for.

The theory is important in the music's construction, and it's perhaps interesting to those who would be interested in theory, but the theory is NOT the point of Schoenberg, and there wouldn't be any value in the theory without the actual musical experience.

"For the sake of it"... as if Schoenberg's goal was to create atonality rather than to create music.
Of course Schoenberg's goal was to create music. He wrote in almost every major genre. As I wrote in the first post, he saw tonality was virtually exhausted one hundred years ago and wanted to expand that by way of twelve tone. For Schoenberg, I think it was his drive to develop composed music beyond traditional tonal harmonies but making it purely based on or as much as possible, on the twelve tone, hence a new school (the Second Viennese School) as well. I cannot see why you would think this is a "damaging way" of viewing his legacy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·

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By trying to strike a balance, on what criteria or measure do you sense that balancing act is for your audience? Do you find it easier to strike that balance for yourself as an artist or for the audience? I hope you don't mind me asking but as you are a composer, it is worth discussing if it is alright with you.
As the years go by, this answer is reflected in my taste for composers. I want to appeal to people who can understand good music. Not say, repetitive contrapuntal scribblings that nobody in history wanted to compose years later. It's important to be partly involved in the tonal Classical culture today, as everyone has a larger group they can comprehend better in skill/knowledge.
 

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One important driver of creativity is the sense of adventure to be had, bought on by the desire to explore and exploit material. This requires an open and flexible approach. Another driver is limitation in the form of self-imposed restricted musical parameters.

Invention (idiomatic and musical) is also an important spur and driver for creativity and imv, its influence and effectiveness as a contributor to the creative act cannot be understated. Imagination too, the ability to mentally improvise without limitation - to musically fantasise, is a decisive factor. Sound/timbre and unusual combinations can instigate a work or spur a work on as can just one chord (Stravinsky Violin Concerto for example) or a short motif.

Jonathan Harvey in his book 'Music and Inspiration' also talks about imaginary audiences envisaged during composition. This can be from just one person to any amount of people. A composer may have a particular performer in mind whilst writing, one who's performance style and sound appeals to the composers sensibilities. If a work is commissioned then a whole range of factors and considerations come into creative play, from the practical to the aesthetic. Maxwell Davies in his 'Strathclyde' series of concertos has written for many players he knows very well and that personal connection will have informed and infused his creative choices.
 
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