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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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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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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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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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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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Discussion Starter · #23 · (Edited)
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.
Reminds me of composers writing opera and crafting arias for the great singers of the day. The best composers here, for example Handel never exploited the vocal bravura at the expense of drama (unlike numerous other Baroque composers who wrote spectacular arias to show off the singer rather than the character's emotional spirit). This together with the art of improvisation that many great composers of the past had a real knack for (thanks to that type of musical training in their early years that made improvisation all part and parcel) gave them a special creative zest that I think bring out that sensibility for composer, performer and audience.
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
Improvisation never went out of fashion for composers of course and is still a major part of a their arsenal today. The improvisation can be mental as well as physical.
These days it's fair to say that technology also plays a major role creatively speaking too.
I don't think it has completely vanished but I think it is less common. Mental improvisation is difficult to assess properly though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #29 · (Edited)
He was a pretty big cheese, a musician for the King, and he could play organisational politics, Leipzig was a major cultural hob and a huge metropolis, and the church at that time mattered much more than today. The idea that he was a modest church musician is utter nonsense.
He was a lower middle class man, never traveled outside of Germany, a musician for a small court in Köthen, lived in Leipzig with students and often had petty disputes with his employer. His later travel to see Frederick the Great was the most travel he did. Historical facts. You might like to read other biographies to compare.
 

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
Improvisation is huge, possibly bigger than ever before! Composers write structures for it, they write graphic and text scores to stimulate it.
I disagree but let's leave that for a different thread.
 

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Discussion Starter · #35 ·
None of the choices were right and there was no "something else". I think it is "sounds in the head" that drives composition.
"Sounds in the head" is exactly that creativity. So drives the "sounds in the head"? You might like to know that historically, many composers composed at the keyboard, for example Haydn...
 

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Discussion Starter · #37 ·
I think you are discussing about how they composed. I am talking about the creativity, what drives that creativity. Haydn composed more often at the piano, he knelt down and prayed before he did, often he also composed on sheet music as evidenced by some notes he wrote on the sheets. For most of his career as a senior musical servant to his Prince, I think what drove his creativity was to want to write great music for his Prince on the right occasion. That's what I am getting at.

With Mozart, it depends. If he composed an opera and a concert aria for a specific singer(s), then he knew the singers abilities well to want to write something special and of course not compromise the lyrics/libretto. Likewise if for friends who were virtuosos on the horn, basset horn (i.e. clarinet) or the piano and violin for himself, where he was the soloist. When he wrote for the church, he wanted to glorify God. Upon reading his letters, you will see this is the case.
 

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Discussion Starter · #39 ·
I really do not know the answer to this question.

We can guess but I think that 99% of us do know the answer to this question.

The answer would probably depend on the indiviual composer. There is no one size fit all answer.
It's alright, just state an opinion. That's why we have a topic to openly discuss and I am interested in your thoughts as you are a professional musician.
 

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Discussion Starter · #41 ·
So far, the poll suggests most members think it is driven by the composer's ego. This is interesting because I was not expecting this to lead. Most composers during the Baroque and Classical periods were humble musical servants.
 
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Discussion Starter · #52 ·
Composers are creative by nature, they write music because they must. Saint-Saens: "I write music as a tree produces fruit."

The examples you give are secondary motivations which might have meaning for the composer, but IMO, not necessary to the process of composing.
Yes, they are extremely creative by birth. What then do you think drives them with each composition in practical terms? There are may answers to this, so best with some examples.
 

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Discussion Starter · #53 ·
But composing is creativity, both the how and the what of it.

Religion is the only choice in your poll that is both external and internal. As mentioned before I see the other choices as purposes, motivators if you like. I don't see them as primary to driving creativity. In my opinion, what they drive is the "perspiration," more than the "inspiration," of composing. The "inspiration" is driven more from the musical imagination and from music heard previously. All of this might be attributed ultimately to religious sources, but still you need to put the musical "meat on the bone" to conceptualize creativity in music.
The musical inspiration is comes out of the head, the inspiration was evidenced at least for some composers who wrote in their own letters, were inspired by some source, for example a great libretto. Best to avoid romanticizing composers, which was what many Romantic composers' apparent idiom was. In reality, they had to craft their scores as much as any carpenter, for example with Brahms with overly "perfectionist". What was driving Brahms?
 

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Discussion Starter · #56 ·
There is a natural creative aspect of the mind that must remain wild and beyond command . This , for the artist , is consciously protected . The ways and means of doing that may make the creative one appear very eccentric .
This has been an interesting thread so far.

One of my points in creating this thread is to gauge perspectives. Perspectives that reveal which period one might be assuming (consciously or not). You post is interesting. I don't think early music, Baroque and Classical composers were "wild and beyond command" if I may guess what those terms might mean. Sometimes they were when they were dazzling audiences with bravura
and virtuosity. When I read "wild and beyond command", I usually take that as meaning say, with experimental music from the mid to late 20th century. You might be right in suggesting that this is an aspect of creativity, the spirit of the jungle can produce something different.
 

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Discussion Starter · #59 ·
Actually, some of those earlier composers were pretty wild. Haydn's revolutionary string quartets come to mind. Also Pergolesi, whose music created a sensation and more than a little controversy in his short life. And another composer seldom discussed here: Niccolo Paganini. He profoundly and permanently changed the way the violin was played, and the music composed for it.
"Wild" is rather a wild term to use to describe classical music. To me, "wild" is more along the extremities of experimentalism post 1950's, which nobody has yet expressed some thoughts on as far as drivers of creativity is concerned.
 
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