Monday, December 5, 2011


For those of you that don’t know, I am unemployed right now, and have been since August. With my plethora of free time, I have decided to live my life the way I want to. I try to compose at least two hours every day, and with that try to practice piano at least an hour.

I am reading a biography about Brahms right now and came across a section that demonstrated a major difference between Brahms and Schumann; Schumann tended to depend on inspiration to write, while Brahms depended on the craft of writing.

One of my teachers in school talked about composing as a craft, and the concept was really foreign to me. I remember asking him what that meant, and he answered by telling me, “regardless of what style, instruments, or mood you are in, you should be able to write.”

Another teacher once told me that writing is my instrument, and I need to practice every day.

I hated these ideas at first! They seemed totally counterintuitive to the creative process, especially because you can not force creativity!

But slowly, as I began to write more and more, it hit me that composing isn’t always about creating, in fact it rarely is. It is often about structure, voicing, playability, editing, dissecting, pacing, cutting, rejecting, reworking, etc... When it comes down to it, composing has to be more than just inspiration, because so much of it can’t be handled by inspiration.

I think now that I am forcing myself to write everyday, regardless of how inspired I feel or how excited I am to work on a piece, my approach to writing has changed. I see the repetitive habits that “inspiration” submits, and the lack of problem solving skills that it brings to the table.

I think this is why a lot of bands can only make 2-3 good albums. A lot of song writers “wait for a song to come to them” and are “only inspired in the morning.” This mind set is lazy, and eventually stops working. A bands fresh new sound loses it’s shimmer, and the said band has to either find a new sound, or just keep doing the same thing over and over again. Unfortunately for a lot of bands the pursuit of a new sound is fruitless, and I would venture to say (in my unexperienced opinion) this is because of inspiration vs craft.

When I think about craft I think about a black smith: how he heats and bashes, and bashes! As composers we should work on our pieces with the same degree of ferociousness. And yet our tools must be even stronger! If a black smiths tools are weaker than his project, then the project and the tools will be ruined.

1 comment:

  1. Stephen King wrote something (I'm paraphrasing) about how if you wait for the muse to come to you, you're going to be waiting a long-ass time. The muse is a lazy jerk who's going to sit in his chair and watch television if you let him. You have to do the work and go to it. Even then he can be kind of an asshole, slinging self-doubt and lack of confidence at you like it's mud. But a bad day of composing is way, way better than a day where you don't compose at all. At least that's my philosophy (which I'm not following at all in my own writing right now).

    By the way I hate you.



    Just kidding.