17 May 2004


I always admired Ernest Bloch for a statement he made on his composition process:

I always write in ink.

I don't particularly like his music, but the skill required to compose in that manner is both impressive and terrifying to me. I'll always consider myself a hack or hobbyist as long as I am unable to compose completely away from an instrument.

Many composers write in that manner (Frank Zappa, for example), and having perfect pitch pretty much assures that you can do that. It's certainly no guarantee of quality or success, so why is it such a compelling concept?

For Bloch, the creative experiments that are part of composing a piece of music must have played out in his head. Whereas composing at the piano or even singing to compose locks you into your own technical limitations, writing "pure music" can eliminate such limitations.

A complement to this argument is the argument that to be a composer you should be skilled at one or more instruments. Without that skill, your compositions devolve into the least common denominator of your ability and thus your personal style is limited. This point doesn't mean that you must write technically difficult music. Only that you should have the option to write it so that your style can develop freely.

[ posted by sstrader on 17 May 2004 at 11:57:07 AM in Music ]