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General Category => Composition Topic of the Month => Topic started by: SallyS on April 09, 2020, 06:09:12 AM

Title: When and how often do you compose?
Post by: SallyS on April 09, 2020, 06:09:12 AM
I was reading through various topics, and came across one from last year about female composers. Michel mentioned Rebecca Clarke... Who I hadn't come across before... So I've been listening to her wonderful works and reading up about her. She composed sporadically... And is quoted to have said
 'I can't do it unless it's the first thing I think of every morning when I wake and the last thing I think of every night before I go to sleep."
I must say that I identify with that. If I'm in the middle of a composition I have to start early and finish late. And even if I have things to do during the day my latest composition is churning away in my brain. I walk my dog.... And often solve compositional problems whilst I'm out there walking. I tend to have periods of time when all I can do is compose. And then.... when I finish a piece... I have to have a break.... allow my brain to rest a while. I'd be interested to hear how other composers feel.... So.... when and how often do you compose?
Title: Re: When and how often do you compose?
Post by: RJB54 on April 09, 2020, 11:40:13 AM
I compose whenever I have a few minutes to spare.

I still work so that takes up most of the day during the week. Before getting locked down I also spent at least 2 to 2 1/2 hours commuting. Then there's the tasks to do around the house.

The end result is that I can't set aside any specific block of time to compose. It's more, well I've got 20 minutes free so lets fire up Finale for a few minutes.

This is probably why my pieces tend to be a bit choppy and herky-jerky. I just about never have large blocks of time for sustained composition, just a few minutes here and there.

I do try to get some composing time in every day, though.
Title: Re: When and how often do you compose?
Post by: SallyS on April 09, 2020, 02:06:45 PM
That's great that you try to get some done every day. I never managed to do that when I was working. I imagine it's difficult though to get in to the flow.... when ideas get moving and then you're restricted by time. I've always felt the need for a big block of time in front of me so I can completely immerse myself. Good luck with it!! 😀
Title: Re: When and how often do you compose?
Post by: sandalwood on April 10, 2020, 10:25:55 AM
Thanks for the nice topic :). Being retired, I can devote long hours to music when I'm working on a piece.  Sometimes, generally when I'm happy with the progress, I can work uninterrupted for long periods. Other times, I need to take more frequent breaks and temporarily focus on something else (go make coffee, listen to something unrelated etc) so that I can return to work with fresh ears/mind. This may sometimes be related to escaping  the unpleasant feeling of failing to achieve good progress. Yes, the "first thing in the morning..." thing is not unfamiliar, at all. So is a period of rest/distraction for recuperation after a piece is finished or even after a particularly difficult section is finished. To complete the picture, it takes me forever to write even a short piece. :)
Title: Re: When and how often do you compose?
Post by: SallyS on April 11, 2020, 02:54:34 PM
That feeling of failing to make progress is difficult isn't it. I never know whether to battle away.... or to put it on hold. I've just been through it this last week.... two days on just one teeny weeny little bit.... no progress.... and all I seemed to be doing was messing it up more and more....But then finally on the third day it came together. So the battle worked this time.... but at other times I've just had to escape for a while and put it on the back burner. I feel lucky that I now have the time to devote those hours to my music.
Title: Re: When and how often do you compose?
Post by: mjf1947 on April 12, 2020, 10:33:57 AM
For me ...composing is similar to putting together a jig-saw puzzle.  I get the template of important pieces together and the each day I work a section .... and bit by piece through inspiration and trial and error the pieces fall into place. 

So each day I give a listen ... note things I like and dislike or sound "funky" and work those sections out.  I guess in this way I don't feel overwhelmed.  The ideas are there .... it's just a piece of architecture to build over time.

The patterns of notes .... melodies eventual complete the puzzle over time.  Visual structure, for me, is just as important as aural information.  Technical aspects ...harmony, leading voices etc .... fall into the over all structure as I move along.

The movement goes backwards and forwards as the ideas and overall structure take form.

Many listens and many tweaks ..... along the road.

So I look at the work everyday .... and something always catches my attention - it may be just one note - and leads me on.  I do not come ready with a preformed completion in my head.  It evolves over time.

Title: Re: When and how often do you compose?
Post by: Jerry Engelbach on April 12, 2020, 11:22:44 AM

Nice topic, Sally.

I compose whenever I have a challenge to do so.

That can be almost any kind of stimulus: inspiration from some source, even another's composition; learning something new and wanting to put it into practice; a deadline for a concert or other event.

For example, I recently finished six weeks writing a piano score to accompany a Chaplin film. Unfortunately, the event was cancelled because of Covid.

Title: Re: When and how often do you compose?
Post by: SallyS on April 14, 2020, 11:47:42 AM
So many comments I identify with!! I definitely need the stimulus... the first inspiration.. the impetus.... and as Jerry says.... That can be from a host of different sources. And somehow then when I get the skeleton of a piece, it is then like building work... The jigsaw as Mark says... piecing it all together. Once I'm at that stage though I can't let it go!!! It feels almost like a madness... I can't think of anything else... wherever I am or whatever I'm doing... it's there with me.... problem solving and ideas churning away in my head. I can't just leave it in the computer or on the manuscript paper.... it follows me wherever I go!! I guess that's why I have to take a break at times... otherwise I would go completely mad!! 😂
The Chaplin film score sounds interesting Jerry. Will it happen at some stage in the future?
Title: Re: When and how often do you compose?
Post by: mjw58 on April 14, 2020, 01:05:53 PM
 I compose as often as I can. Often in the weekends or when I come home from work. There is not always time to sit down and make music, but ideas often pop up in my head when Iím driving to and from work.

I really enjoy all the stages of writing music. From notating initial ideas, getting chord progressions sorted, the orchestration and finishing the score.
I used to spend much time trying to get a decent sound using a DAW, but I have put that aside for a while to concentrate more on the composing. Which in turn has led to an increase in number of compositions finished.

I now use sound libraries with Finale. Itís not perfect but itís 10 times better the what Finale produces. And I know in my head what itís supposed to sound like.  :) And I trust the publishers I send my music to do the same.

Title: Re: When and how often do you compose?
Post by: Jerry Engelbach on April 14, 2020, 04:11:26 PM
The Chaplin film score sounds interesting Jerry. Will it happen at some stage in the future?

Probably, although it looks like somewhat far in the future.
I'm thinking of recording it and putting it on YouTube. The problem is that my playing is passable live, but a recording is so unforgiving of even minor mistakes.
P.S. I share your obsessiveness when I'm caught up in a project. It affects my family life.
Title: Re: When and how often do you compose?
Post by: Michel.R.E on May 05, 2020, 02:52:48 PM
I tend to compose when I have a commission.
One of my requirements however is LOTS of sleep.
Composing is, for me, a profoundly intellectual pursuit. The emotion comes from my handling of the material. If I've dealt with it deftly, then the emotions I want to express should be there.

So when I'm fully rested is usually the time I compose most.
And like many here, I tend to work obsessively when I AM working on something, whether it be the actual creation/composition of a work, or the day-to-day tedium of cleaning up a score and preparing instrumental/orchestral parts.

I find that as I've aged, my composition rhythm seems to have slowed down a bit.
30 years ago, I was writing continuously, every single day.
Now, I find that I am more purposeful in my work, more regulated.

The last new things I wrote were the string quartet, the violin concerto, and the concerto for string quartet and orchestra.
But I've more or less worked on a single piece per year.
While that means my catalogue is relatively small, it also means I am more satisfied with what does end up at my publisher's.

Right now, other than preparing orchestral parts and cleaning up scores, I am working slowly on the opera commission. It's not a huge work, two singers, chamber orchestra, and around half an hour of music, so it's more or less equivalent to my 1st symphony as far as amount of work is concerned.
The only thing slowing down the work is that I am also writing the libretto.

I have two other pieces sort of sitting on my work table: a 2nd string quartet, and a piano concerto.
I know the former WILL get performed, and most likely many times. So that's a very exciting project.
The concerto, however, is still VERY much "in the air". The pianist involved in the commission (it's actually officially being commissioned by the conductor and orchestra) seems not to be as enthused by the project. Her attitude has sort of cooled my own enthusiasm for the project.

So chances are likely that I'll only be working on the opera for the next 9 months, and possibly getting a bit of sketching in on the string quartet. And that little/much composing is ample for me.
The opera is already going to be quite emotionally draining (the subject is VERY dark).
Title: Re: When and how often do you compose?
Post by: gogreen on May 12, 2020, 06:33:47 AM
Most often every day. But my composing varies from musing about melodies and which instruments would play it to working diligently hours on end at the computer on a score. In late February/early March, I was initially worried for me and my family about COVID-19 that I couldn't compose at all. I'm doing better now.