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Re: What do you think is necessary in order to have an excellent composition?

You might hate this because it sounds so simple but.... whatever feels good. Whatever sounds good. (I sometimes think only music professors care about the rest.)

And then, to make it stick, it helps if it's real - as in a real emotion connected to real life in some way. But sticking isn't always important. It just has to sound good. But you have a wider appeal if it sticks because then people tell their friends and your music becomes viral and then you can quit your job at Wendy's... or all the variations of Wendy's. (Not all jobs fall into the Wendy's category, btw.)

Innovation is nice when it sounds good. Dissonance is nice when it sounds good. Innovation and dissonance suck when they don't sound good. Odd, innovation and dissonance can become rules in themselves. Hence, some of the new 'avant guard' (sp?) music that sounds just like the stuff from100 years ago.

So, rules are for when you don't know what to do.

It's good to know the rules, like Picasso or Michaelangelo or Mozart or Coltrane or Charles Ives... but then it's good to throw them at the wall when they get in the way. I tend to like the music of folks who know the rules - from folk art skank delta blues rules to Bach - and then walk over them.

A good rule I try to use is, where does the music get boring? And it's like someone once told me about real estate - find the weak point and make that the strongest. But then there's Brian Eno who's found stickiness in repetition and what could be considered boredom. So that rule can be pitched too. That's just my personal rule that I feel uncomfortable pitching. I'm an old man and fairly traditional.

For that reason, I should probably pitch it. But sometimes I catch myself snoring when listening to long dramatic intros and five minute build ups. Again, it's so simple - it just has to SOUND good.

I personally love a good melody. A good melody with innovative chords moving under, innovative voicings, is my holy grail.

Great music is like great sex... and I won't go into the details here. But it's a good model for music creation.

It's so important to always remember the difference between art and artifice. That's one of my Maha Mantras. Along with the boredom thing. It keeps me spelunking.

But really, just like the rest of life, the only thing that counts is love (in this case, of the art). If it's there the world will beat a path to your door... at least eventually! It might be after you've become compost, but you gotta keep the faith in the love. If it's not there, job one is to find it!

Self knowledge is a great flashlight!

Thanks for asking,

richard sales
glassWing farm and studio
vancouver island, b.c.

On 21-Feb-07, at 8:57 AM, margaret noble wrote:

hello list,

this is yet another post about a research topic that i
am dying to know more about. of course, i can read
books by famous composers but i want to hear from
practicing composers about what they think makes a
great composition?

what is a great composition to you?

particular structures?

rise/build and climax?

elements of surprise?


tonal structures?

rhythmic structures?

depth and reverb?

frequency distribution?

quality of sound?

what else?

Margaret Noble
Audio Artist

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