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What Drives Creativity In Compositions?

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If to try to look at the whole picture of european Renaissance, we have the flourish of ideas, arts, reformations, counter-reformation, industrial booming, trades, the answer has its root in all historical climaxes like Renaissance. The immediate ambient influences a lot on individual artists, if there is a strong atmosphere of innovation, many innovative artists will appear, exchanging ideas, experiences, competing each other, learning from one another. On individual terms, it is the inner quality of humanity, ethics, devotion contribute to the unique creativity of each composer.
 
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Intending to create a masterpiece ? Yes , many do that .
many would do that if did not think necessary to go insane, get inspiration, start hearing voices in the head, and seek the audiences favor like a nazi leader, beforehand, instead of study well and then write music well.

music is a technology, a composer is a technologist, and if he studied well, then he writes music well and, if gets lucky, will produce a masterpiece.

craziness may come later, as a result of burnout, however its never too late, so do not worry, create a couple of masterpieces or so, then on to the mad house.
 

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I have recently read some interviews of composers where they state that their motivations for composing are the deadlines imposed on them when they except a commission.

One of them was John Corigliano. He stated that composing was a very difficult process for him and the only way he can complete a large scale work is through a commission.
 

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Was tonality really 'virtually exhausted,' or was he just not capable of writing great tonal music? Tonal music is nowhere near exhaustion, except perhaps in his limited thinking. Yes, Schoenberg had an interesting new idea (and turned it into a great career, including even getting a building named after himself at UCLA), but his twelve tone and other ultra-atonal 'music' has long since run its course and has become virtually exhausted. Most people don't like twelve tone and its ilk and never will. Time to move on. There is a vast amount of truly great music that will fill the concert halls that is waiting to be written by someone with the ability - and with the courage to ignore [the narrow minded and lacking in composing ability] academia and other critics.


But the quote "There is still plenty of good music to be written in C Major" was also attributed to Schoenberg. Schoenberg was an incredibly gifted tonal composer (same goes for Berg and Webern) who just wanted to try something different as he knew it would open up a new dimension of musical expression and thinking.

However, I do understand where you're coming from and agree to a certain extent. I'm reminded of a contemporary composer named Herman Beeftink who writes in a very tonal idiom and doesn't reinvent the wheel whatsoever, but is still very touching and inventive nonetheless. I feel like's able to do this because he's a film composer as a day job and writes the music he really wants on the side for fun. He'll cash some checks writing for Hollywood and pornos (according to his IMDB page) and then make incredibly tasteful and skillful, albeit not groundbreaking music like this on the side:


I think if he were a career art music composer, he would be scoffed at for writing music like this. Academics would say (in a haughty, affected transatlantic accent): "Why are you writing in such a trite, hackneyed tonal idiom? Have you nothing original to say?". Being a career art music composer forces one to have to make a grand original statement and in a way be forced to write music that is purely postmodern and avant-garde, 'cause it's a dog eat dog world. Don't get me wrong, I love avant-garde music and contemporary music, but I feel like in a way thr current climate promotes its own rigid thinking and sticks composers in an avant-garde box. But I'm not a part of that realm or industry, so this is mainly conjecture on my part
 

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Discussion Starter · #85 · (Edited)
I have recently read some interviews of composers where they state that their motivations for composing are the deadlines imposed on them when they except a commission.

One of them was John Corigliano. He stated that composing was a very difficult process for him and the only way he can complete a large scale work is through a commission.
I'm not attacking Corigliano here, so don't get me wrong. Reading your post, it sounds like he is a procrastinator. Hitting a deadline to force oneself to complete a composition is quite lame. If he needs more time, then reset the commission or he should have some idea how long it would ideally take to finish something.
 

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I think it might be a mistake to only blame conservatories/academics for any adherence by todays composers to music beyond tonality. There is of course peer pressure and a zeitgeist, but there always has been but good composers will always want to explore and search, to creatively probe their own boundaries and prejudices regardless of any creative 'politics'. Composing is after all an individual and personal pursuit - a journey - and part of that is a natural inclination, imperative even, to develop regardless of opinion from listeners or peers..

Many aural vistas have been opened up in the last 100 years or so and the pluralism in styles is quite exciting I find.
 

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Discussion Starter · #88 ·
No it's not, far from it in fact. It can be a huge psychological and creative spur.
I don't doubt it can be but it just sounds lame; of all things to drive the composer's "psychological and creative spur", it's a commercial deadline.
 

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I don't doubt it can be but it just sounds lame; of all things to drive the composer's "psychological and creative spur", it's a commercial deadline.
Anything commercial about a deadline does not necessarily equate to cheapening the quality of a work. Bach had to hit deadlines, so did any composer of Opera or any composer ever commissioned. A deadline is better than lounging around in a silk dressing gown, lolling around with hand on forehead in a scented room awaiting the muse. It only sounds lame perhaps to a layperson, most pros will understand what a boon (and admittedly perhaps a terrifying ride), a deadline of any sort can be.
Most will also understand that simply just waiting for a tune to pop into one's head is time wasted.
 

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I think it might be a mistake to only blame conservatories/academics for any adherence by todays composers to music beyond tonality. There is of course peer pressure and a zeitgeist, but there always has been but good composers will always want to explore and search, to creatively probe their own boundaries and prejudices regardless of any creative 'politics'. Composing is after all an individual and personal pursuit - a journey - and part of that is a natural inclination, imperative even, to develop regardless of opinion from listeners or peers..

Many aural vistas have been opened up in the last 100 years or so and the pluralism in styles is quite exciting I find.
I agree with this too which is why my personal feelings are sorta caught in between. Thanks to the inventiveness and creativity of contemporary composers, several beautiful aural vistas have been opened up, to reiterate what you've said. It's not just interesting because of the pure novelty of it (which is why a lot of people narrow mindedly dismiss AV-G out of hand, though I'll admit it plays a small part) but because it's genuinely great music.

However, I still think a lot of AV-G alienates a general audience. I think there's a way for composers to connect to audiences more without being an Eric Whitacre or an Alma Deutscher. Which I'm sure is already being done too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #91 ·
Anything commercial about a deadline does not necessarily equate to cheapening the quality of a work. Bach had to hit deadlines, so did any composer of Opera or any composer ever commissioned. A deadline is better than lounging around in a silk dressing gown, lolling around with hand on forehead in a scented room awaiting the muse. It only sounds lame perhaps to a layperson, most pros will understand what a boon (and admittedly perhaps a terrifying ride), a deadline of any sort can be.
Most will also understand that simply just waiting for a tune to pop into one's head is time wasted.
You need to appreciate the difference in history. Bach was employed by his masters and churches to produce music; vast amounts of music, and his creativity was ever so strong to write church cantatas every Sunday for service. Baroque composers were ever so prolific in part because that was their job, "when next week comes, we want a new composition" almost like a factory churning out goods. Times are now different. Today, composers are approached by commission to write something. John Corigliano, currently 83 years old, has about one hundred compositions to his name, averaging out one or two compositions per year assuming he started writing at age about 20. All the time in the world, yet so little output?
 

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You need to appreciate the difference in history. Bach was employed by his masters and churches to produce music; vast amounts of music, and his creativity was ever so strong to write church cantatas every Sunday for service. Baroque composers were ever so prolific in part because that was their job, "when next week comes, we want a new composition" almost like a factory churning out goods. Times are now different. Today, composers are approached by commission to write something. John Corigliano, currently 83 years old, has about one hundred compositions to his name, averaging out one or two compositions per year assuming he started writing at age about 20. All the time in the world, yet so little output?
Comparing circumstance and output is pointless and means nothing.
 

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Anything commercial about a deadline does not necessarily equate to cheapening the quality of a work. Bach had to hit deadlines, so did any composer of Opera or any composer ever commissioned. A deadline is better than lounging around in a silk dressing gown, lolling around with hand on forehead in a scented room awaiting the muse. It only sounds lame perhaps to a layperson, most pros will understand what a boon (and admittedly perhaps a terrifying ride), a deadline of any sort can be.
Most will also understand that simply just waiting for a tune to pop into one's head is time wasted.
Not only are deadlines beneficial and sometimes crucial, discipline about working habits is even more important. It was once explained to me that sitting idle while waiting for an idea allows the "machinery to rust."

Any artist or composer, writer, etc. needs to have a daily routine where they confront the empty page/canvas. Even if you only write one sentence or four bar phrase it is important to work everyday, to force yourself to spend significant time to this craft. Then on the day when you do receive a good idea, you're "in shape" with your skills honed to a fine edge and are better capable to get the most out of the idea.

Just like performers practice daily, so too creators need to work a few hours everyday.
 

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You need to appreciate the difference in history. Bach was employed by his masters and churches to produce music; vast amounts of music, and his creativity was ever so strong to write church cantatas every Sunday for service. Baroque composers were ever so prolific in part because that was their job, "when next week comes, we want a new composition" almost like a factory churning out goods. Times are now different. Today, composers are approached by commission to write something. John Corigliano, currently 83 years old, has about one hundred compositions to his name, averaging out one or two compositions per year assuming he started writing at age about 20. All the time in the world, yet so little output?
personally I don't judge composers by quantity of works produced. Actually, considering the amount of music available for a listener that is absolutely impossible to listen in a lifetime, I think it would be better (for the perspective of a listener) if they would produce few important works instead of a endless amount of music.
 

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Was tonality really 'virtually exhausted,' or was he just not capable of writing great tonal music?
Each is entitled to his own opinion, but to me it's pretty obvious that both of those are untrue.

I don't doubt it can be but it just sounds lame; of all things to drive the composer's "psychological and creative spur", it's a commercial deadline.
Ravel's Introduction and Allegro was written in the shadow of a looming deadline, as it had to be finished before he left on a cruise; Rossini, one of the most notorious procrastinators, had to hand manuscript pages of his operas out the window as he wrote them so they could be copied and distributed for rehearsal. After his biggest hit, William Tell, he promptly retired, and only wrote the occasional small piece after that.
 

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With Bach, his religion certainly drove his creativity. He believed music is there to glorify God in every note.
I had to select "I hate ArtMusic's polls" because I'm really starting to. Why do you think Bach or the other composers you mention needed something special to "drive" their creativity? Did it not occur to you that the sheer joy of creating beautiful art might be a main motivation for most composers? Apparently not, since you left this most obvious choice out of your list.
 

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I had to select "I hate ArtMusic's polls" because I'm really starting to. Why do you think Bach or the other composers you mention needed something special to "drive" their creativity? Did it not occur to you that the sheer joy of creating beautiful art might be a main motivation for most composers? Apparently not, since you left this most obvious choice out of your list.
It is no novel insight on my part, and probably an understatement, to say that that to excel at nearly any job, it helps to love doing what you're doing.
 

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For most mortals classical music is hard work.

Even as a performer one has to force himself into the practice room. I only know of a handful of musicians who enjoy locking themselves in a room and spending hours practicing scales.

It takes years of practicing just to get good enough to play in an amateur group.

The payoff is playing a great concert or a composer hearing one of their works premiered.

The journey is a lot of blood, sweat and tears.
 

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The inspiration for many composers can be very mundane.

This reminds me of an old Beethoven joke.

Beethoven was in his studio trying to compose. He had hit a wall and could not think of anything for the symphony he was trying to write.

His cleaning lady entered his to studio to tidy up. When she saw she was interrupting his work she apologized and said she would come back later.

Beethoven told her to go ahead and tidy up. He had hit a composer's block and could not think of how to start his new symphony. Maybe her presence might inspire him.

She responded, "Me? Inspire the great Beethoven? You have got to be kidding. Ha, Ha, Ha, Haaaa."
 

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For most mortals classical music is hard work.

Even as a performer one has to force himself into the practice room. I only know of a handful of musicians who enjoy locking themselves in a room and spending hours practicing scales.

It takes years of practicing just to get good enough to play in an amateur group.

The payoff is playing a great concert or a composer hearing one of their works premiered.

The journey is a lot of blood, sweat and tears.
Yes. Even just playing an instrument on the highest professional level is a hard, full time, lifetime job. Talented musicians who mainly are composers, conductors, teachers, administrators, academics, or instrument makers (not all makers are expert in playing the instruments they make, but many are), almost never play on quite the same level as full time players, though many aren't too far off, and no doubt would play on that level if they worked on it full time.
 
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