Welcome to Glenn's Blog!

Here I will periodically post random thoughts and stories about what's going on in my life and the world around me. As if anyone cared. But seriously, you've found your way here, so hopefully you will enjoy at least some of what I have to say, even if you aren't entirely interested in it. At the least, it should be a good way to waste time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Compositional Insight

Well, since composing music is supposed to be my main thing, or at least the thing I've spent oodles and oodles of time at in order that I can receive pretty pieces of paper which are eventually framed and put up on a wall, it only seems fitting that I ramble on a bit about it.

Writing philosophies are more common, I guess, in literary circles. One mantra suggest that you should write what you know. Another suggests that a writer writes, always. I don't know who came up with those. They don't really apply to music composition, at least not exactly.

Reflecting back on my undergrad days, it seems that I wrote what I didn't know, or at least the idea was to try and write for as many different things as possible, in order to gain experience and knowledge at writing for different instruments and instrumentations. Compositions were thus more akin to exercises than to being 'works of art'. Looking back, I don't think that many of the things I wrote as an undergrad were very good. It was common for me to struggle over this project or that project, only to have it hastily rehearsed and performed, and then promptly tossed aside. Maybe that's all they were worth. Learning experiences.

That was over ten years ago.

Nowadays, I find that I judge the quality of my work by how often it gets put in front of real live people, in front of audiences. To me, having a piece that I slaved over for months performed only once in concert is a failure. Why put so much effort into it if that is the extent of its life?

Not that all of the pieces I've written as a graduate have been played more than once. Many have; but some were still failures as such. Of course, that's okay, one needs failures in order to succeed, I guess. And all of my failures have helped to make me a better composer, just as the successes have. But what is it that really makes a piece "successful"? Obviously that's a rather subjective topic.

For me anyway, I've had the same philosophy, more or less, since my undergraduate days. Each piece I write has two fundamental goals - to be interesting for the performer and to be interesting for the listener. I find that if I'm able to reach both of those lofty goals, the piece tends to be more successful. Of course there's lots of other little tidbits that go into each of those broad goals. I'm still learning some of them. But it's a good place to start.

No comments:

Post a Comment