Capturing Musical Inspiration and the Music Composing Process
Welcome back. The music composing process seems to be elusive and hard to nail down. But I believe it boils down to a few things. Finding inspiration and removing inhibition, capturing that inspiration, letting the subconscious go to work and then using the technical side of composing, or craft, to flesh it out. In the Part 1, we looked at finding inspiration and removing inhibition. In today’s article, we’ll look at capturing that inspiration and how the subconscious mind plays into it.
Become a Musical Cowboy
The way in which composers have captured their inspiration is endless. Some composers had the memory to capture their entire composition from start to finish in their mind first, and then commit it to paper. Now, claims like this can be exaggerated, and to be sure, Mozart (I know that’s who you were thinking of) did sketch some of his music.
But there are other composers too, that had similar concepts of creating the music entirely in their mind prior to writing.
Motifs Should Sprout Joyfully
Wagner for instance said of the “Ring des Nibelungen,” that “I am thrilled by the prospect of setting all this to music; as far as form is concerned, it is entirely finished within me, and I was never so much in agreement with myself about the musical execution as I am now with respect to this drama. I only require the important life incentive to reach the indispensable cheery mood whence the motifs should sprout joyfully.”
What Wagner is saying, is not that he composed every bit of the music, but the essence had completely taken shape, and all that was required was to put the themes down, and the rest would take care of itself.
How could Wagner make such a claim?
Well, there is one thing that all great composers have, that is absolutely vital to the capturing of the musical idea, and it’s called craft.
The Missing Composition Link – Craft
All of the great composers had great technical abilities with writing and understanding music. The were not just “fly by the seat of their pants,” composers. They had, for many years, studied harmony, counterpoint, melody and form. Many of them copied and rewrote famous works from the past.
Technical mastery is just as important as inspiration in the music composing process.
The Subconscious Music Composing Process
The main problem with trying to capture a concrete process of composing is that many of the steps, while usually present in most composers, do not happen in the same order. For instance, one may be inspired by something, but not capture the idea, instead letting it rest only within the sub-conscious.
Others may begin writing, trying to put out as much music as possible. This may lead in itself to further inspiration.
The same functions of the mind are accomplished however.
The subconscious is vital in the process of composing. Once an idea forms, most of the true composition – the part that creates that masterpieces – happens within our minds, outside of our control. If this were not the case, then it would be easy to come up with a strict theory of composition, that the mind could digest over time and would give you the recipe for great music.
Just Sit Back, Relax and Enjoy the Ride
So how do we put the ideas into our subconscious. This is the best part, we don’t have to. Our minds do it automatically. Your subconscious, inherent in the name, works without conscious effort. The goal once again, is to get out of its way. If you try too hard to come up with the “answer,” what will come out, is not something that has been truly digested by your mind.
Think of where you get your greatest ideas. It is normally in the shower, or waking up, or for me specifically, while running. This is because your mind is actively engaged in something else and doesn’t have time to worry about the right or wrong way to compose a phrase. And then all of a sudden, EUREKA! You have it.
One thing you’ll notice is that this is just like the initial inspiration. Once again, the process of composing is more like a figure-8, in which you can move in any direction back and forth, never really starting and never really ending.
Let me know about your experiences in capturing inspiration. What is your music composing process?
This is part two in a series on the music composing process. If you have not read part 1, I recommend bouncing to that and checking it out.