Quoting margaret noble <firstname.lastname@example.org>: > what is a great composition to you? To me, I enjoy works that appeal on all levels: physical, intellectual, and spritual. I find that when I return to great compositions, I can always find new things in them that I didn't catch before. > particular structures? Most great works exhibit some unifying element. It could be a motiv, a theme, or perhaps just a rhythmic motiv. Music without some kind of unifying elements tends to become amorphous and, well... to me just kind of boring. > rise/build and climax? Sometimes. Some great minimalist work achieves almost hypnotic effects and dramatic climaxes would be counter to the style. The "climax" idea is a romantic notion and suggests music that is dramatic and emotional. There are great works that are quite dramatic and others that are understated. > elements of surprise? I don't think surprise is very important. After all, the surprise only occurs on the first hearing. On subsequent listenings, it is no longer a surprise. Bruno Walter, when writing about the music of Mahler, said that the true test of art is that "after the newness and novelty wears off is there underlying beauty?" > predictability? Great comedians have written that, when delivering a routine, you don't want every line to get a laugh. I suppose the same holds for music -- every bar does NOT have to contain a something new. When the key, rhythm, motivs, etc... are completely unpredictable, the result becomes raucous at first and then just boring. Unpredictability is like "spice" -- a little here and there gives interest. Too much and the meal becomes unpalletable. > tonal structures? > rhythmic structures? > depth and reverb? > frequency distribution? I don't know if any of these qualities are indicators of greatness when it comes to compositions. > quality of sound? Many a great musician has "rocked the house" with crummy equipment but most of us would prefer to play in optimal conditions. A great sound system doesn't assure great music however great music will better reach its potential with a great sound system. > what else? Margaret, I wish I knew what makes a great composition. If I did, I'd be writing them! The best that I can do, as a composer, is to be true to myself and not try to be someone who I am not. I attempt to write music that will give moments of entertainment and inspiration to listeners. I have found that if I tell myself, "Today I am going to write a GREAT composition that will be A BIG ARTISTIC STATEMENT... that I completely shut down!" Nothing I write measures up to the grand cosmic statement I wish to make. Thus, I just compose stuff and don't worry about greatness.