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So, up until now I've mostly written in an overtly Classical style, and that was perfect style for me to learn and grow in over the years, owing to its relatively simple forms and my general preference for that era. However, I'm aware that writing in old styles is often perceived as stale, unoriginal and not innovative.

And so we come to present day and I feel like I am in a place where I can be more creative and take risks, but I'm at a bit of a loss as to where to go from here? As I see it, I could stick with the Classical and continue to develop that, or I could try out later styles. I just don't see how or why either of those options is better or more valid than the other!? 

The reason I say that is, despite the general bias against the idea of modem composers writing in decidedly old styles, personally, I think there is still much to be said about the inherent value of the work in and of itself. If the Jupiter symphony was released now by someone instead of WAM, would its modernity be a flaw? Simply put, I think that music can be good, even if it lacks originality. The fact is, people enjoy these old styles that many of us write in, and I feel that is worth the effort. 

However, despite my own personal belief that these works in old styles still have value, I can't ignore the fact that many people don't value such works in the same way and ultimately, I'm sure we all want others to value our music. 

So, this all just leave me confused as to what i should do next. I've started to move away from strictly Classical works with the beginnings of a little nature series, but I'm already starting another Classical piece. However, now, I'm questioning the value of it all? 

What do you think? I'd welcome the perspective of all, those who are in similar positions but also those who aren't 

Best, 

Dan

 

 

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Hey!

To be honest, I don't know if you should be pulling too much of your hair on this matter. To write in an older style is definately not a problem, and although some people will complain that what you are writing is "irrelevant", the same will happen on the other sound of the spectrum. Lot's of people will call more modern pieces just plain "noise", and at the end of the day it shouldn't really matter what other people say (pardon me for the cliche, but I just see it as a strategic approach). 

If you think your style will not be appreciated if you don't venture into newer refferences, just take a look at Alma Deutscher's youtube comments. It is just plain classic/romantic devotion. 

I guess the problem of composing in an older style lies in the fact that so that your "older" music get's picked up by people who appreciate this style, you must be REALLY good. If the Jupiter Symphony was written today, perhaps it would call quite a bit of attention to the composer, but fact is you would first need to be able to compose something as such to gather that much attention.

The opposite is also true. To cut through the noise of a lot of more modern music, you would have to write either extremely well-written 20th century music, or you'd have to write something very inovative, which isn't easy either.

I guess the only way forward is the one that calls your attention, the one that actually inspires you to compose something.

Best of luck,

Jean.

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2 hours ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

What's important is writing good music

 

This.

Really, I'm in the same situation as you (although I am a Romanticist rather than a Classicist).

The thing is that the vast majority of musicians I've spoken to prefer to go to a concert and listen to Mozart or Rachmaninoff than to go to see a world premiere of a new piece. Why else do orchestras continue to perform the old masterworks?

I still can't bring myself to write anything particularly contemporary, despite repeated exposure and professional composers introducing me to it.

7 hours ago, DanJTitchener said:

Simply put, I think that music can be good, even if it lacks originality.

Aaaaaaaaaaaargh you mentioned originality! The one word that compositional society imposes on us! Let me get this straight: the Oxford dictionary defines 'originality' as "the quality of being new and interesting in a way that is different from anything that has existed before." Are you directly plagiarising? No? It's original then.

That's my view on people who call us Classicists/Romanticists unoriginal.

The problem does not lie in our music - it lies in society and the general oppression of our music by those who write "music for the modern world."

Keep writing Classically, unless of course you decide to change your style. But remember, no one else can make that decision for you.

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8 hours ago, DanJTitchener said:

However, I'm aware that writing in old styles is often perceived as stale, unoriginal and not innovative.

I'd say a lot of modern music is also pretty stale. I can give you an actual example, a little anecdote from around 2009 or so when I visited the music conservatory in Leipzig (Germany.) I had a friend who studied composition there and he invited me to a concert from the composition classes (there were 2.) You'd think, lots of crazy stuff and "original" and all that, right? Well, I heard basically the same damn piece for like 40 minutes with different names attached. That's how stale that was. Save for a few pieces that were actually interesting to hear, the others were just new-complexity pastiches that were pretty boring. One of the teachers there was really into that and his students wrote just like him, or something, which is garbage and usually a pretty good sign the teacher isn't good. Keep in mind I didn't hear a normal triad in all that concert.

 

So, no, it's not so much a matter of style. The problem people are facing when they ask stuff like you're doing usually isn't something that you can fix by changing "style." What you need to do is actually experiment in every kind of style and technique, see what you like and what you don't like, and do it over and over until you get a good sense of those things so you can actually use them creatively. Experimenting is a key part of growing as a composer and basically everyone did that, as we can find a lot of experimental pieces from pretty much every composer historically, specially the old warhorses (Like Mozart's unfinished baroque suite, Beethoven and Mozart's fugues, Grieg/Schumann/Chopin/etc character pieces, etc.) The measure in which they were experimental varies, but that is always the same struggle we face as composers.

 

8 hours ago, DanJTitchener said:

However, despite my own personal belief that these works in old styles still have value, I can't ignore the fact that many people don't value such works in the same way and ultimately, I'm sure we all want others to value our music. 

The thing is, what adds value in my opinion is seeing INDIVIDUALITY in the thing you're writing. Seeing it ISN'T just some copy-paste of Beethoven's greatest hits, or something like that, but something that talks like its own person, with its own voice. It could be any kind of musical direction, but after enough time you do get a feel for what is just a theory exercise and what is something someone actually came up with that reflects who they are as a composer on a level deeper than just "I like classical music lol." The problem is that getting that level of control requires a lot of practice and hard work precisely exploring beyond your comfort zone. The bigger your toolbox the more you can be "yourself," when you write. That's the entire point of experimenting in music directions that aren't what you usually do or like, because composition techniques are agnostic to what kind of music you end up making with them.

 

I mean, it's perfectly possible to make tonal music with serialist techniques, or atonal music with functional harmony. The system is only a means to an end, and while it can shape what you write, it can't change who you are. You'll still have your own preferences no matter what kind of system you use and even if you change (grow) as you use different things, you're still you. That's what I mean with individuality. It's not originality, necessarily. I'm not really interested in the super avant-garde(is there really such a thing now?) but rather in what the composer can bring that is their own, no matter the kind of musical direction they have. You can't stop being yourself, even if you try to reinvent your "style," or try other things, you're still you and if you can focus on growing your perception and expanding your abilities, you'll be able to actually let that show throw your music, no matter what kind of music it is, and that to me is valuable and important.

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Well if you're writing in a stale style. (for arguments sake)
Consider this that you're probably working on things

that no one else is working on. And maybe one day that

sort of 'old style' will be the next hip thing. (or not)
 

Besides it's probably completely illusionary that what you're 

making is that far off from anything else. 

 

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17 hours ago, DanJTitchener said:

So, up until now I've mostly written in an overtly Classical style, and that was perfect style for me to learn and grow in over the years, owing to its relatively simple forms and my general preference for that era. However, I'm aware that writing in old styles is often perceived as stale, unoriginal and not innovative.

And so we come to present day and I feel like I am in a place where I can be more creative and take risks, but I'm at a bit of a loss as to where to go from here? As I see it, I could stick with the Classical and continue to develop that, or I could try out later styles. I just don't see how or why either of those options is better or more valid than the other!? 

The reason I say that is, despite the general bias against the idea of modem composers writing in decidedly old styles, personally, I think there is still much to be said about the inherent value of the work in and of itself. If the Jupiter symphony was released now by someone instead of WAM, would its modernity be a flaw? Simply put, I think that music can be good, even if it lacks originality. The fact is, people enjoy these old styles that many of us write in, and I feel that is worth the effort. 

However, despite my own personal belief that these works in old styles still have value, I can't ignore the fact that many people don't value such works in the same way and ultimately, I'm sure we all want others to value our music. 

So, this all just leave me confused as to what i should do next. I've started to move away from strictly Classical works with the beginnings of a little nature series, but I'm already starting another Classical piece. However, now, I'm questioning the value of it all? 

What do you think? I'd welcome the perspective of all, those who are in similar positions but also those who aren't 

Best, 

Dan

 

 

 

Hi Dan, I perfectly undestand you thoughts, because I'm a predominant classical composer and I have the same perception that many people see classical style as unoriginal. Of course I did some tries to compose in different styles, but with baroque and classical era is where I feel more confortable and natural.

Now I'm learning more counterpoint and the structure of the schemas of classical composing, because I have still a lot to learn in that style. 

I think one can be original writing in a 300 years old style, because your works will be your own interpretation of the style. So my tip is that you follow your own instinct and do the music you like and feel. 

Edited by Guillem82
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"Originality" is not actually an inherent virtue; what most people actually mean when they say "originality" is a "my signature style". Well, everyone has that provided you're not specifically trying to sound like another composer. 

Not that I am accusing OP of this — I have not heard his music — but it's my experience that a lot of the time, people try to use the fact that they're "original" and "different" to make up for the fact that they're not actually very good. Because then, you can make the argument that everyone who doesn't like it, simply "doesn't get it" or whatever. You see this a lot in "art music".

Schoenberg and his underlings were pretty original, what with the serialism and all. What do they have to show for it? A large body of work that is mostly ignored by the world and even fans of the technique admit can be "difficult to listen to".

A friend once told me about this conductor who told him what I think is probably one of the truest things I've ever heard about music: "The further that your music is from folk music, the less listenable, popular, and likeable it will be." 

The reason that hits so hard in regards to this topic is that inevitably, truly "original" pieces must eschew the aesthetics and techniques that — over many centuries — have come to be the norm because they are what most people find to be desirable qualities in music. Like it or not: The list is finite.

You will notice that the most-enduring classical pieces are either highly-similar to folk music of the day (Bartok literally made arrangements of them) and 20th Century pop music. Throughout the 20th Century, basically everyone was granted access to art music via recordings and post-war economic booms and guess what? Almost all of that deeply-original "art music" that was written over the least few hundred years went the way of the dodo. Why? Mostly, because most people didn't like it. Why? Because — and I know this will make a lot of people made, but it's the truth — most of it was never actually very good to start with.

So 

21 hours ago, DanJTitchener said:

The fact is, people enjoy these old styles that many of us write in, and I feel that is worth the effort.

 If people like what you're doing, you like what you're doing — then there is no need to be worried about how "original" you are.

But if you're getting bored with the classical style, just try doing another for a while. I've done everything from Metal to Pop, to Folk, to Romantic pieces to sad piano pieces.

It's only music — no need to make this $H!t stressful and complicated. 

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50 minutes ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

A large body of work that is mostly ignored by the world and even fans of the technique admit can be "difficult to listen to".

CITATION NEEDED, and in fact, you're not ignoring it yourself, even if you want to attack it, you still acknowledge its importance! How ironic eh?

 

But a great counter argument is this:

http://www.palestrant.com/babbitt.html

 

But for the lazy, I can quote the most relevant bit:

Quote

It often has been remarked that only in politics and the "arts" does the layman regard himself as an expert, with the right to have his opinion heard. In the realm of politics he knows that this right, in the form of a vote, is guaranteed by fiat. Comparably, in the realm of public music, the concertgoer is secure in the knowledge that the amenities of concert going protect his firmly stated "I didn't like it" from further scrutiny. Imagine, if you can, a layman chancing upon a lecture on "Pointwise Periodic Homeomorphisms." At the conclusion, he announces: "I didn't like it," Social conventions being what they are in such circles, someone might dare inquire: "Why not?" Under duress, our layman discloses precise reasons for his failure to enjoy himself; he found the hall chilly, the lecturer's voice unpleasant, and he was suffering the digestive aftermath of a poor dinner. His interlocutor understandably disqualifies these reasons as irrelevant to the content and value of the lecture, and the development of mathematics is left undisturbed.

 

If the concertgoer is at all versed in the ways of musical lifesmanship, he also will offer reasons for his "I didn't like it" - in the form of assertions that the work in question is "inexpressive," "undramatic," "lacking in poetry," etc., etc., tapping that store of vacuous equivalents hallowed by time for: "I don't like it, and I cannot or will not state why." The concertgoer's critical authority is established beyond the possibility of further inquiry. Certainly he is not responsible for the circumstance that musical discourse is a never-never land of semantic confusion, the last resting place of all those verbal and formal fallacies, those hoary dualisms that have been banished from rational discourse Perhaps he has read, in a widely consulted and respected book on the history of music, the following: "to call him (Tchaikovsky) the 'modern Russian Beethoven' is footless, Beethoven being patently neither modern nor Russian…" Or, the following, by an eminent "nonanalytic" philosopher: "The music of Lourie' is an ontological music... It is born in the singular roots of being, the nearest possible juncture of the soul and the spirit…"

 

How unexceptionable the verbal peccadilloes of the average concertgoer appear beside these masterful models. Or, perhaps, in search of "real" authority, he has acquired his critical vocabulary from the pronouncements of officially "eminent" composers, whose eminence, in turn, is founded largely upon just such assertions as the concertgoer has learned to regurgitate. This cycle is of slight moment in a world where circularity is one of the norms of criticism. Composers (and performers), wittingly or unwittingly assuming the character of "talented children" and "inspired idiots" generally ascribed to them, are singularly adept at the conversion of personal tastes into general principles. Music they do not like is "not music," composers whose music they do not like are "not composers"

 

Lots of people who don't know sh!t, think they do. Has anything about that changed since 1958? Not really! Will it ever? Not likely! Music can have much more meaning and purpose than just "it's pretty," but you can find hard to convince a layperson of this, if not impossible.

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1 hour ago, SSC said:

Lots of people who don't know sh!t, think they do. Has anything about that changed since 1958? Not really! Will it ever? Not likely! Music can have much more meaning and purpose than just "it's pretty," but you're not going to convince a layperson of this.

and you will never convince the dregs that actual value judgement regarding quality can be made and that "meaning" doesn't equate to "good". Usually, "meaning" is just florid "obscurantism" trying to pass off the inane as the sophisticated. But we've already been over this.

Check this out

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTv3ooScSMjzSbKlz09oR2

You may see blotches of color, but that's just because you're a layman. You lack the education to see the deeper meaning. If you had, you would see the reflections of our world and the human spirit within these brushstrokes.

 

 

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1 hour ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

You may see blotches of color, but that's just because you're a layman. You lack the education to see the deeper meaning. If you had, you would see the reflections of our world and the human spirit within these brushstrokes.

That's just your interpretation tho, I see a perfectly rendered 1962 Cadillac.

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I think the important thing is if you are writing or listening the music you truly appreciate and like.You‘ve said that you like classic music,then why don’t you just keep composing classic music and find another way to re-create it?Such as using some new elements or concepts from other kinds of art、finding a new creative process.Or maybe try to find a balance between the"old music"and the "new music".The new style doesn't mean"new music'',you don't have to be stressed in catching up with the "fashion".

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At first I regretted starting this discussion as it was a bit of a spur of the moment thing late in the evening, but I'm very glad that I did now, as it's been great to read everyone's' perspectives on the matter, so thanks alot! 🙂 

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