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What Drives Creativity In Compositions?

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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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I voted for 'mostly the composer's ego', though I don't think 'ego' is exactly the right word. I think it might be 'personality', 'ambition' or 'personal aspirations' - a love of music that drives the creative artist to explore and find some original way to express what is in him or her.

If most people so far have voted for 'ego', it may be because it's the closest to 'personal drive' or whatever.
Religious composers are not being boastful if they recognise that they have talent and capability - remember the parable of the talents.

Obviously the religious artist may be inspired by religious considerations, and money may be a driving force too, and personal aspirations are likely to include wanting to leave an artistic legacy behind.

'Mostly' - well, who can measure?
 

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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.
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.
 

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like with every thing artistical, no artist can produce anything of value if he's no story to tell or a message to deliver... that said, although a music score is a literary piece by the nature of its narrative, music itself however is more akin to architecture, the edifice of which is to be put up so it does not collapse later on, even though looking that.
 

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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.
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.
 

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Whan I was an undergraduate we had a composer seminar where Vincent Persichetti was the guest composer. He was very approachable. I remember when some of us were having a plesant discussion with him and he mentioned how please he was when he recieved a royalty check from his publishers from the sale or rental of his music.
 

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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.
The two attitudes may not be mutually exclusive. Both Bach and Beethoven, like all creative artists, knew they had to subject their work to the judgment of the audience and needed its approval. Beethoven's egotism protected him from the occasional bad reviews and catcalls from the balcony, so he could push ahead in the way he believed was best. When someone told him they didn't understand his late string quartets, he replied those were for future generations, which is what he had to convince himself. He hesitated before entering the contest created by the publisher Diabelli to write variations on a simple theme, but then pursued it with near fanaticism.

Bach took a very different approach. He took a salary from a religious institution, a regular, full time employer, to write a lot of his music. His music was highly respected in his own time, but not the most popular. He looked to his religious faith, and no doubt his belief in and love for his family (something many of the most celebrated composers, Beethoven included, lacked) and other aspects of his life, for the courage to push on.

All artists need to find some source for the faith that what they think matters, and is worthy of their creative efforts, also will be something that matters to the audience. The musical traditions the composer learns so thoroughly, the technical skills he develops to such a high level, his own personal tastes an preferences, all are helpful, but all these combined still don't guarantee success with the audience.

Read the letters and essays of famous composers, you see the same expostulations of doubt, despair, faith and egotism. Much of the time, they seem to be reminding themselves, convincing themselves, or even arguing with themselves, about why they are doing what they are doing.
 

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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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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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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.
Pass. I don't think about this kind of thing much, since I assume composers, performers, classical musicians in general, are all motivated by the same thing I have been:

the ambition to create the kind of music they love and
the discipline to hone the skills to do so, and
the perseverance to continue despite the sacrifice and hardship a life in the arts can demand
 

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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 .
come on... a composer is no idiot, neither he should be insane... for writing a music piece is a serious business, especially if you intend creating a masterpiece.
 

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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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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.
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.
 

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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 .
come on... a composer is no idiot, neither he should be insane... for writing a music piece is a serious business, especially if you intend creating a masterpiece.
I'd argue that a composer's imagination has to be allowed to run free, sometimes go with the flow. This can be done coherently with a solid foundation of experience and technique to guide or underpin. Things come up during the process of composition that can alter the course of a piece and should not always be denied. The unexpected is often linked to inspired moments. Zhdanov is correct though imv for there is no point in having a great idea if one can't dress it up properly and present it correctly.
 

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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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