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What Drives Creativity In Compositions?

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None of the choices were right and there was no "something else". I think it is "sounds in the head" that drives composition.
Music drives new music. There are a number of ways. Improvising obviously is one. A second way starts with hearing tones in the head, called audiation. (Let us distinguish between sound and tones because tones heard in the head don't necessarily come with a specific timbre.) Beethoven called himself a "tone-artist" (Tonkünstler), not a composer. The tone-artist may experience "radio head," that is music "playing" in the head all the time. That can become a basis for composing if the composer can reproduce the tones by playing or notating; it helps if the composer has absolute pitch or good relative pitch. Within the "radio stream," sometimes something striking or attractive or distinctive occurs, worth recording or jotting down, potentially the basic idea or important pattern in a composition. Through talent, training, and experience Richard Strauss was able to audiate highly complex contrapuntal and harmonic patterns -- his music demonstrates this. The danger of audiation (or improvising) is that the composer may simply reproduce something previously heard. However, if the composer is constantly "practising creativity" by working little musical exercises or ideas in certain styles (as Verdi did), the facility gained will reduce the likelihood of repeating other music.

A third way is more sound based, with the composer drawing on sounds heard or made, sometimes using music technology. I compose with the first two ways but not this way, although I have the relevant training and experience. It is best to hear from composers or others close to them as to how they compose. I know this poll is directed to the extra-musical factors which may "drive creativity" in the sense of steering composition towards a particular purpose or function. But that is secondary and of little worth if the main creative process of working with tones or sounds (also words, actions, or dance) does not produce excellent results.
 

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"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...
I don't see how you know that playing at the keyboard, etc. "drives" the sounds in a composer's head. It depends on what music you are referring to. An 8-voice polyphonic choral work would be difficult to compose at the piano. A piano sonata might well be written going back and forth from the piano to the desk. (Today's software can make composing at the piano more convenient.) As for composers of the past, Scriabin criticized Ravel for composing at the piano. But Scriabin was a top virtuoso who, having played difficult works for years, could probably have imagined complex piano figurations. Whereas Ravel was an indifferent pianist who would more likely work them out at the keyboard. It doesn't matter, the results are what matters. I don't know for sure, but my guess is that Haydn composed at the piano but Mozart seldom needed to.
 

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I think you are discussing about how they composed. I am talking about the creativity, what drives that creativity.
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.
 

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Very interesting. I think that might be applicable to myself. I find it very hard to expand without looking off and imitating others, and it might be a result of my own limitations in my 'radio head'. I'm thinking it's not a coincidence I also found it very difficult in school to write longer essays and stuff in English, and I'm not much of a conversationalist. I think from my technical background, I'm used to being reductive with equations, and it's getting in the way with the idea of music as communication or conversation or discourse.

I think this and Mike's post is very useful in nurturing that creativity, from those in the profession themselves, and I think it may help me to explore.
I wouldn't take anything in this thread as definitive concerning your own limitations. Obviously you have strong abilities in many areas, including composing in a way that differs from, say, the nineteenth century practices.
 

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Music drives new music. There are a number of ways. Improvising obviously is one. A second way starts with hearing tones in the head, called audiation. (Let us distinguish between sound and tones because tones heard in the head don't necessarily come with a specific timbre.) Beethoven called himself a "tone-artist" (Tonkünstler), not a composer. The tone-artist may experience "radio head," that is music "playing" in the head all the time. That can become a basis for composing if the composer can reproduce the tones by playing or notating; it helps if the composer has absolute pitch or good relative pitch. Within the "radio stream," sometimes something striking or attractive or distinctive occurs, worth recording or jotting down, potentially the basic idea or important pattern in a composition. Through talent, training, and experience Richard Strauss was able to audiate highly complex contrapuntal and harmonic patterns -- his music demonstrates this. The danger of audiation (or improvising) is that the composer may simply reproduce something previously heard. However, if the composer is constantly "practising creativity" by working little musical exercises or ideas in certain styles (as Verdi did), the facility gained will reduce the likelihood of repeating other music.

A third way is more sound based, with the composer drawing on sounds heard or made, sometimes using music technology. I compose with the first two ways but not this way, although I have the relevant training and experience. It is best to hear from composers or others close to them as to how they compose. I know this poll is directed to the extra-musical factors which may "drive creativity" in the sense of steering composition towards a particular purpose or function. But that is secondary and of little worth if the main creative process of working with tones or sounds (also words, actions, or dance) does not produce excellent results.
"Radio head" and "Audiation" corrections:

From additional checking after the above post #34, may I correct or clarify "radio head" and "audiation." "Radio head" is an informal expression I started to use based on my experience of a mental music stream, which is often "background" music like what comes from an electronic keyboard with automated accompaniments. It may include also melodies and harmonies that are more interesting; those ideas are what's relevant for composing. (The highly respected British group Radiohead got their name from the song "Radio Head" by The Talking Heads. In that song a man says his "radio head" receives amorous non-verbal communication from a woman. I don't know what "radio head" means for the group Radiohead.)

Audiation means a lot more than "hearing music in your head," although it includes that. The term "Audiation" was coined by the influential American music educator, theorist, and researcher Ed Gordon in 1975 (See "Audiation" on Wikipedia.) It refers to the comprehension and internal realization of music.
 
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