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  Wandering off musically  Gary Green at 11:01 on 24 February 2008

I just wondered if, when others start out composing a piece of music, it actually ends up the way you intended? Obviously, if you are commissioned to write something it has to meet the brief, but do you find yourself wandering off musically sometimes if you are writing music for yourself? Or are you disciplined enough not to do this?
I'm just curious really about the way others work.
Thanks - Gary

  Re: Wandering off musically  JazzMan76 at 13:46 on 24 February 2008

I don't tend to wander. I write very strong melodies. and I have a definite starting point and finishing point.

I even have one piece of music that is only 8 bars entitled "Dinner at Eight".

  Re: Wandering off musically  Gary Green at 19:16 on 25 February 2008

Even though I tend to start with a melody (though not always) and that often remains unchanged whilst writing a piece of music, the choice of voices/instruments I use often changes before I get to the end and this subsequently changes the style.

  Re: Wandering off musically  JazzMan76 at 20:42 on 25 February 2008

oh ok I see I was coming from a stand point of someone who writes jazz and 32 bar tunes i.e. Cole Porter, Gershwin, Sammy Cahn

  Re: Wandering off musically  Gary Green at 18:05 on 28 February 2008

Here's a naive, but genuine question from someone who doesn't compose jazz pieces... Do you find that it restricts you when writing, or do you appreciate having those boundaries to keep to?

  Re: Wandering off musically  JazzMan76 at 20:18 on 28 February 2008

Well as a fellow composer I am sure that you know that music is a science and with any science there are certain standard rules. However, with this particular science and specifically with jazz, the possibilities are endless.

I have never found any kind of restrictions in my writing. I have a song that actually turned out to be 19 bars and I thought something was wrong with me(sounds like an awkward teen) I have one piece that is only eight bars and another that is 36.

Music can be just restrictive as it is open. And then you have some people who are constantly arguing as to what "jazz" really is. An argument that may have cost me a singing contest once. But that is another story....

  Re: Wandering off musically  scott_good at 16:06 on 13 March 2008

dear gary,

this is an interesting topic - thanks for bringing it up.

this is certainly not a black and white issue. on one hand, i think it is important to have a solid "pre-composition" stage. before all of the notes are put to paper, and the details are fully worked out, i feel it is important to have a strong plan. depending on the particular work, this could mean several things, such as fully developing melodic ideas and developing their variations, or perhaps thinking of a thorough harmonic structure. perhaps have a keen idea of how the rhythms and tempos will work out. the main point is to have a clear idea of the form and how these various elements will shape the direction of the composition.

however, it is entirely possible that some of these ideas will change during the compositional process - especially with large scale works. in a way, i consider this to be the improvised part of the writing. like a jazz performance, a work will have a clearly defined structure (head in the case of jazz), but, in performance, the outcome cannot be fully determined - it lives in the moment.

to sum up, spend time before "composing" to work out a clearly defined structure, and how the various elements (melody, harmony, rhythm, tempo, orchestration etc.) will define this structure. but, feel free to allow the music to travel to other places should the winds be blowing. but always with care. allow yourself time to ruminate on the wanderings, and if they will indeed serve to whole. i also think that composers can learn from writers in the sense that we should think of the composition as a first draft. allow some time to pass to clear the mind (a couple of weeks), then revisit your composition and do not feel afraid to change things should they seem awkward or distracting. the goal is to feel that every note in your work is necessary, and working in harmony with the others.

  Re: Wandering off musically  Gary Green at 11:18 on 22 March 2008

Jazzman & Scott,
Thanks for your thoughts on this. It's interesting to hear different viewpoints and learn from others.
Maybe part of my problem is the way that I put the music together now - I use a computer based set up with a sequencer, so I'm able to chop and change all the time and I hear the piece being put together, rather than when it's finished. Too much to tinker with. Maybe I'll try writing something on paper and then arranging it on the sequencer.
Generally I treat the first time I 'finish' a piece as a draft, despite the fact that I think it's finished at the time, because as Scott mentions you can go back to it later and think, this doesn't work, that should be changed, etc.