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Topic: So as a composer I have been pondering

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  1. #1

    So as a composer I have been pondering

    So as a composer I have been pondering the following question; What should we being listening to? There are many pieces of music; composers and performers that I love to listen to, but is everything I like to listen to something that I should be listening to as a composer, id est are there pieces (and performers) that we should listen to to make us better composers, to broaden our compositional thinking and our ears versus pieces that we listen to for musical pleasure (however you chose to define musical pleasure)?

    That beginning said, what pieces and performers do you think one needs to listen to (and study) as part of a process of becoming a better composer? Or do all pieces and composers offer something that will help us grow as composers. Or should one shut one's self off from the musical world and only listen to the music in your head? Or is that the path of madness?

    Ed
    //
    // Ars longa, vita brevis
    // http://edosbear.blogspot.com/
    //

  2. #2

    Re: So as a composer I have been pondering

    As a composer, I listen to... some of just about everything.

    And that comment applies to both style and quality.

    Different styles expand the pallet.

    And you learn as much from great music [how to do it right] as you do from poor material [how not to do it at all].

    That last may sound a bit peculiar; but knowing what does NOT work is as valuable as knowing what DOES.

    David
    www.DavidSosnowski.com
    .

  3. #3
    Senior Member newmewzikboy's Avatar
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    Re: So as a composer I have been pondering

    I came to this question the other day in my own realization that I listen to just about everything, and tend to enjoy a great deal of pieces...too many to list here...all classical...

    But what is really surprising is that I don't listen to everything I have regularly. I tend to pick up a small handfull of pieces and listen to them over and over, and I do this everyday. I play the same pieces and never seem to get tired of these.

    What I have come to realize is that this tells you something about the kind of music probably you have in you and perhaps the kind of music you should focus your writing on..

    In other words, you might cerebrally think you want to write music X, and maybe feel some pressure to do so intellectually or by peer, but perhaps what we tend to listen to in core is the kind of music we have a natural inclination for.

    Im all for experimentation, if you want to break this mode and your chops. I already have done the experimentation, wrote in hundreds of styles...but I think I have discovered that all of that may not have been that helpful in staying grounded...

    anyway...thats just my opinion today...who knows where that leads...
    75,000th Post Winner on the Garritan Forum
    "Don't you wish you were me?"

  4. #4

    Re: So as a composer I have been pondering

    Mozart...

    No, really, to me that question seems like asking "what music should I be composing?"
    Sean Patrick Hannifin
    My MP3s | My Melody Generator | my album
    "serious music" ... as if the rest of us are just kidding

  5. #5

    Lightbulb Re: So as a composer I have been pondering

    Quote Originally Posted by SeanHannifin
    Mozart...

    No, really, to me that question seems like asking "what music should I be composing?"
    Bach... For pleasure, and you became a composer day after day...

    (...and yes Mozart, and yes alittle of everything, and yes you will find yourself listening more frequently to someting over and over, and it should be your natural style: because it should be an old one, just try to make it modern if possible).

    P.S....not so easy, it's a big challenge.

  6. #6

    Re: So as a composer I have been pondering

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Sharpe
    are there pieces (and performers) that we should listen to to make us better composers
    no, "listening" to music will not make you a better composer.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Sharpe
    to broaden our compositional thinking and our ears versus pieces that we listen to for musical pleasure
    yes, definately. Listening to music of others can help you gain insight into the larger form and a sense of structural rythme.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Sharpe
    what pieces and performers do you think one needs to listen to (and study) as part of a process of becoming a better composer? Or do all pieces and composers offer something that will help us grow as composers. Or should one shut one's self off from the musical world and only listen to the music in your head? Or is that the path of madness?
    Not all pieces you will listen to will offer the same insghts. I think that as you yourself grow and evolve as a composer, your taste in music slowly evolves along with you. Sometimes this means that music you thought was so wonderful 5 years ago suddenly seems a little vapid and superficial. Your critical senses evolve as well, allowing you to hear what faults might be present in a piece that you might not have noticed before.

    Obviously, studying "the masters" is a must. But what consists of "the masters"? It's all very personal and all very dependant on your own particular musical evolution. If you've only listened to Bach, Mozart and Les Miserables for the last 20 years, then you definately need to update your listening list.
    On the other hand, if you've been avidly listening to Strawinski, Bartok and Sondheim, then you may have a shorter road to take.

    As some people have said, listen to music that's in a style that attracts you. Sometimes, imitation is a wonderful means of learning technique.

    But to return to the first question of yours I quoted: the only thing that will make you a better composer is practice and technical guidance by a professional. Learn the basics.

  7. #7

    Re: So as a composer I have been pondering

    I agree with others..you gotta listen to everything. I personally don't think you should limit yourself to the kind of music that you want to write either, because you will hear things in other styles of music which will teach you, inspire you and motivate you to try new things in whatever style of music you're in to.

    I think its safe to say that we get inundated with all the pop and rock music we can possibly stand in one lifetime just by shopping in grocery stores and existing in society amongst other normal people that listen almost exclusively to pop/rock music. Don't get me wrong, its on my radio dial too. But the point is, i don't think you need to go out of your way to get more of it. you're probably already getting enough. if you hob nob with a bunch of classical people and never listen to pop/rock, then go buy a bunch of Rock albums and start trying to enjoy it.

    For me, I have been exposed to much pop/rock my whole life...and also traditional classical music up through the romantic period, and broadway musicals. so for me, the music that I am going out of my way to try to listen to at this stage of life is post-romantic onward... basically the atonal and increasingly dissonant music of the 20th century, to some degree the last part of the 19th century and current. Its hard to listen to some of it, But slowly I'm starting to hear the music in it.

    I think the answer to this question just really depends on you.
    "Music is a manifestation of the human spirit similar to a language. If we do not want such things to remain dead treasures, we must do our utmost to make the greatest number of people understand their secrets" -- Zoltan Kodaly

  8. #8

    Re: So as a composer I have been pondering

    Listen to everything!

    But listen with a critical ear. Active listening is the key. Background music is fine when you're dusting, but take the time to listen with no distractions, and think about the composer/songwriter's choices in the piece.

    There certainly is value in rock music, but not much in the way of what's on the radio. Radio hasn't cared about good music in 25 years. If you're interested in some really interesting rock, seek you out Doves, Spoon, Elbow, Sparklehorse, Eels, Flaming Lips, Built to Spill, and even Beck... some of the most unique and well-written rock music being created today.
    - Jamie Kowalski

    All Hands Music - Kowalski on the web
    The Ear Is Always Correct - Writings on composition

  9. #9

    Re: So as a composer I have been pondering

    I will be a little more specific and try to point out the pieces that I have been told to study by teachers past and present.

    I saw someone mention that listening was not nearly enough. One of the most important thing a composer must do is study scores. These can be viewed at University music libraries, and most should have recordings to accompany them.

    These are listed in no particular order and I know I will definately leave some things out.

    1. Bartok string quartets. Listen and study the scores to all six of these. They are works of pure genius and have some of the best examples of motivic development and exposition since Beethoven's 5th.

    2. Beethoven's 5th. Study the score.. every movement... and see how the simple four-note motive infects the entire work. Hint: It is largely a rhythmic motive.

    3. Hindemith Mathis Der Maler Hindemith is also one of the greats of the twentieth century.

    4. Schoenberg Pierrot Lunaire This is NOT 12-tone, but it is a little on the macabre side. and by a little, I mean a lot. It is also a good example of motivic development. It also is a good study on creating unique soundscapes through orchestration and unusual techniques. The voice employs the Sprechstimme technique which is "sing-speech", roguhly translated. The exact pitches are only hinted at. It creates a very eerie mood for the entire work. Also you might read the translation of the words, it is pretty warped. Good ole' Expressionism.

    5. Stravinsky Rite of Spring actually, all three of his ballets should be studied thoroughly as they are each totally different than the other. They are: The Firebird, Petroushka, and Rite of Spring. Stravinsky and Prokofiev were the foremost "neo-Classical" composers of the early 20th century and since a lot of people now seem to want to be Neo-classical Stravinsky influence and importance is growing.

    6. Bartok Music for Strings, Celeste, and Percussion This one is another study on Bartok's chromatic technique and his use of proportions. Check out the timing of lengthes of sections. If the performance is done correctly, at least one of the movements' climax falls exactly on the "golden proportion" or .62 (approx).

    7. Mahler symphonies can be studied for orchestration.

    8. Wagner and Strauss can be studied also for orchestration, plus Wagner's harmony which harkened the end of tonality as it was known up until that point. Tristan und Isolde, for example, never resolves. It just keep changing keys so in essence it is atonal.

    I can't think of anything else at the moment although there is tons more. To broaden your palette I recommend studying stuff you would never imagine. George Crumb, Stockhausen, etc. The odd stuff.
    Jess Hendricks
    DMA Student and Teaching Asst in Music Theory/ Composition at the University of Miami
    Personal Website

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