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What Drives Creativity In Compositions?

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One important driver of creativity is the sense of adventure to be had
lest we forget, that behind a masterpiece it is always craft in the first place, while 'creativity' is a vague term which cannot describe the process of a music being written, for when one writes a score - he then is like an architect, but not a reckless adventurer.
 

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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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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.
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.
 

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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.
Your saying where do composers get there inspiration from.

Like you've demonstrated its different for each person. Some have higher inspirations which leads them to create timeless beautiful compositions, others have lower self-seeking inspiration (I want to be different, I'm want to be cool) and end up producing something quite "different".
 

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Most likely that's why he worked in a local church in Leipzig for twenty-seven years :p
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.
 

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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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I don't think it has completely vanished but I think it is less common. Mental improvisation is difficult to assess properly though.
I believe you are mistaken about the decline of improvising by today's composers, it can be an essential exploratory tool that can often lead directly to worthwhile finds. Of the composers I know, they would certainly agree with me on this.
 

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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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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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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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"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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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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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.
 

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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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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.
Thanks for this interesting description of what fills the brain of a composer day and night. I've never heard the term "radio head," but I know too well what it is. Others have pointed out to me that I tend to go around humming; I used to sing, and vocalization is a natural function I now often do without realizing it. 99+% of it is improvisation, and if and when I notice it happening I may run to the piano and see what I can make of it. Sometimes what I make is beautiful, and sometimes not so good (and, with a shout-out to all those "total subjectivists" engaged in those endless debates, I'm pretty good at knowing when I've done something fine and when I've screwed up a perfectly good, or not very good, idea). Yesterday I played a long, long melody so interesting, expressive and cohesive that I wondered why I'm not rich and famous. Today, zilch.

I agree with Copland, who wrote that a composer is motivated not by an inner feeling but by an inward singing.
 
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