- Does it take inspiration to make music that I will be personally satisfied with?
- If so, is there any way to seek this inspiration or come up with an inspiring idea?
- Would it be better to steer clear of inspiring ideas and become better at working with ok ideas to make them good technically?
"Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration."What exactly is inspiration? Here is part of what the current Wikipedia article has to say about it:
Inspiration refers to an unconscious burst of creativity in a literary, musical, or other artistic endeavour. Literally, the word means "breathed upon," and it has its origins in both Hellenism and Hebraism. Homer and Hesiod believed that inspiration derived from Gods such as the oracle of Delphi. Similarly, in the Ancient Norse religions, inspiration derives from the Gods. Inspiration is also a divine matter in Hebrew poetics. In the Book of Amos the prophet speaks of being overwhelmed by God's voice and compelled to speak. In Christianity, inspiration is a gift of the Holy Spirit.It seems that inspiration is often seen as something of a mystery. How do we get great ideas? Where do they come from? How do we create the circumstances under which inspiration can arise?
My take on this is that the feeling of being inspired is a wonderful thing, but it is fruitless to wait for 'inspired moments' in order to create something good. In essence, I agree with Edison on the relationship between inspiration and perspiration in the creative process.
Here's another question:
What does it mean if something comes easily to you?I can only answer for myself, and say that lots of times for me that answer is (b).
(a) You are inspired; or
(b) You are working within your comfort zone, not really trying anything you haven't done before.
Something I have said in class is that it helps to think of composition like a job. If you were a film music composer, and a director said, "we need x minutes of music for a chase scene, y minutes for a love scene, and z minutes for a scene where the protagonist is verging on madness... Oh, and we need all that in 24 hours!", you would probably get busy and write all that music as quickly as possible, knowing that if you failed to do so, or if the music wasn't very good, the director would find someone else to do the job.
In other words, you would work extremely hard (perspiration), and not sit around waiting/hoping for inspiration to magically appear. Deadlines often provide all the inspiration you need.
I find it helps to think of ALL composition projects that way. Some will end up being more personal than others — they will have more of you in them — but it is often easier to finish a composition if you think of it as a job that needs to be done, as opposed to, say, thinking of it as an opportunity to reveal your inner psyche through music.
And, by the way, all things you create will have at least some of your DNA in them, whether you are aiming to do this or not.
Perspicacity — defined by the Compact Oxford Dictionary as "having a ready insight into and understanding of things" — is part of the equation in this way: If you understand the potential of the musical materials with you are dealing, you are far more likely to compose something good than if such were not the case.
Understanding the potential of musical materials that you create, and knowing what to do with these ideas, are all part of the craft of musical composition. It is safe to say that no matter how inspired you are, you are not likely to compose something really good until you have a mastery of this craft. And again, the only way to gain such mastery is to work very hard at it.
I have written about ways in which this can be done in other blogs, most notably the entire nine-part series on Composition Issues that were the very first posts to this blog. I will paste the links to this series at the bottom of today's entry.
I will leave you for today with a provocative statement:
Good composers are good by virtue of the fact that they work hard; mediocre composers are not as good because they do not work as hard. If a composition is not considered to be very good, it probably indicates more about the composer's laziness than it does about talent or inspiration.Okay, have at it! What do you think?
1. Originality and Quality of Initial Musical Ideas
1.1. The quality of ideas may not matter very much in determining the quality of the complete composition that emerges from them; and
1.2. The degree to which these ideas are original may not matter very much.
2. How do you Develop Compositional Craft?
2.1. Study the music of others.
2.2. Compose as much as you can.
2.3. Invite (and be open to) criticism from others.
3. Understanding your Musical Idea
3.1. Live with it for a while.
3.2. What's it about?
3.3. Does it change character?
3.4. What is its function within the context of the piece?
3.5. Structural Analysis.
3.6. Harmonic (or Pitch, Scale, etc.) Analysis.
4. The Pros and Cons of Development
5. How to Extend or Develop Musical Materials; Specific Suggestions
6. Balancing the Old with the New, the Expected with the Unexpected
7. More Dichotomies to Ponder…
7.1. Less is more, vs. More is more.
7.2. Always leave them wanting more, vs. Give them what they want.
7.3. Don't treat the listener like an idiot, vs. There's a sucker born every minute.
7.4. There can be 'too much of a good thing,' vs. If you have a good idea, then stick with it!
7.5. The George Costanza approach.
8. I think my idea has run its course. Now what?
8.1. The three models for composers' roles.
8.2. Mastery or Mystery?
8.3. The value of a plan.
8.4. Getting stuck, and possible workarounds.
8.5. Don't obsess!
8.6. Challenges = Opportunities for inspired solutions!
9. Taking your inspiration from wherever you find it