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How Do You Broaden Your Compositional Outlook?

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I think it is rather easy to become like a train as a composer, following the path or tracks one has created for oneself (or that have been laid down for one), more or less oblivious to what other composers are doing. Indeed, at some level that is essential; for in no other way would one be able to become a composer, an original composer, to forge one's own path as a composer. And yet, one can become too fixed in one's tracks, too much on autopilot as regards one's formula of composition. How then does one introduce novelty? (Or how does one develop, evolve, or progress as a composer?) I think the challenge would be to introduce novelty but not "novelty for the sake of novelty". How does one do that? Indeed, can one even do it deliberately? Perhaps the challenge is to find the right balance between novelty and a recognizable style. Or to unconsciously pursue novelty, to be upon a course of unconscious evolution along the path forged by one's compositional style. What are your thought and insights about this?

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You may be over thinking it a bit. Pretend that you are a runner. Will you get better by inventing new ways to run? No. You will excel by competing against runners who are faster than you. That's how it is in life and in music too. Associate yourself with those who are better than you. The rest will fall into place.

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I think everything tends to spring organically from basic problem solving.  One has a piano to play, so one starts composing for piano.  One has a musical friend and asks to bounce composing ideas off of them and they think it would be fun for you to write a duet they could play with you.  If they are a better performer than you, you take the opportunity to write them a more technically difficult part than you have been composing for yourself.  They have a concert coming up in the spring that's going to be a _____ concert.  "Write me something that will work with that style," they say, "and I'll pitch it to the rest of the group."  Given the time pressure, you opt to write a slow piece, since that means fewer notes to get on the page to fill the needed playing time, and to work with a form that has a repeat built into it for the same reason.  Several weeks of very late nights later, you are heartily sick of this piece, so when it's finished you start work on something that is its polar opposite:  different instruments, fast tempo, and since you are now worried that your last one was perhaps too simple, this one is filigreed up to the hilt.  

 

Every step along the way is a reaction to circumstance.  

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You may be over thinking it a bit. Pretend that you are a runner. Will you get better by inventing new ways to run? No. You will excel by competing against runners who are faster than you. That's how it is in life and in music too. Associate yourself with those who are better than you. The rest will fall into place.

 

I think the analogy with running does not really work, because composition is not a race we are involved in with fellow composers. Or it works only up to a point. Might you have a better analogy?

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No, not really. I could list a dozen analogies, but but each would apply because a discipline is a discipline is a discipline. That is, if your goal is to get better. The running analogy is pure because of the "absence" of art. But what is common among them all is that in order to improve you must associate yourself with people faster, smarter, more clever than you etc. etc. Would you agree with this? With respect, you're putting too fine a point on it. But if the goal was not to get better, but only to dance around the subject in an intellectual fashion, you could smoke a joint and have a late night dorm room session, and ponder the possibilities to no lasting effect. But I am a competitive person and I cannot imagine others not being the same as me. IF … they are serious about getting better.

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i think theory is the ultimate savior. (i refer to it as being almost supernatural). see (inspect) what you like in music, and think of other ways to accomplish it. "everything can be in a different way". for example these kids that make tracks replaced harmonic change with timbre change, or reverb change (thats crazy, although i personally predicted it a long time ago). theory predicted that one can use a change in speed of the track, which i havent heard yet, but it's a logicall path. theory can take you infinite distances.

 

the other option would be practice without any theorizing. this is more "natural", and thus you would need to speed it up in order to evolve. (just like nature shortened the lifespan of flowers so they could die faster and make way for new offsprings with genetic modifications, and thus adapt much quicker). this means instead of doing one piece just do 10 pieces, even if the other 9 are not that polished. that will make change(evolution) happen 10x faster.

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