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How do you compose?

How do you compose?
July 23, 2011, 08:47:20 AM
This is probably one of my favourite questions asked in the DLA interviews as it offers an insight into art in its moment of conception i.e. the need to communicate an ideal and how the artists attempts to create a coherent language for it.

If I were a composer I would start with deep thought around various aspects of my worldview and develop melodies which correspond emotionally to that. Start with the basic melody, and build a framework that helps carry it to the fullest extent. Though I think a lot of this process would be subconscious, it is a different approach to finding something which 'sounds cool' while jamming.

Re: How do you compose?
July 24, 2011, 02:59:23 AM
How do I compose?  Poorly.

If you're thinking about composing a piece, might I suggest narrowing the thematic domain from 'worldview' down to something more manageable.  Regardless, the act of composing is far more complicated than your suggestion implies.  Compositions are not built in such a straight forward way, at least not normally.

I also tend to think that composing should be left to people with a natural gift for it.

Re: How do you compose?
July 24, 2011, 11:35:43 AM
While I'm in "normal" mode, I write down concepts, ideas, and any "meta-composition" stuff which I might come up with.  Nowadays (as in, very recently, after a lot of frustration), I store this stuff and wait for when I come into "compositional mode", which is what I assume people mean when they talk about being "inspired".  Suddenly, music becomes incredibly easy to form - all of my best stuff has been composed during these periods, while a lot of the more forgettable/less important music has been composed during periods of "normality".  I've come to the conclusion that I shouldn't try to compose anything seriously unless I'm in the correct frame of mind, which comes around every few weeks and usually lasts anything from three days to a week.

As for the actual process of composition, I think of the general themes of what I'm trying to write and turn those into time signatures and tempos (e.g. battle = 6/8, relatively fast; mountains = 4/4, slow to mid).  I come up with some very basic drum patterns in my head, record those, and then start working on riffs and structure at the same time.  The structure usually comes from the concept unaltered, though sometimes I rearrange certain aspects of a song to change the flow of power.  It's just a matter of writing the music, tweaking the structure, and then altering the drum patterns to better fit what I'm writing.  Once everything's "written", I record it all through, fully, once, and then make any alterations necessary.  In the past, I've then considered that song done and dusted, but I'm now going to see if I can't improve songs after maybe a couple of weeks of not listening to them after creating them (never tried this technique before due to general impatience, so it might be interesting to see what comes of it).

I don't know about the "corresponding emotionally to [...] various aspects of my worldview" bit.  I tend to translate my "worldview" into stories, and then write music which would fit those stories almost like a soundtrack.  I find that the gulf between my own personal understanding of the world and the unseen forces which govern my very ability to compose is so vast that there'd be no point to try to directly convert my perspective into music - it would be an exercise in futility, for me.  Certainly, though, the "finding something which sounds cool" method is overrated - you can construct a shelter with more certainty than you can stumble across one in the wilderness.

Re: How do you compose?
July 24, 2011, 01:07:30 PM
I use a fairly wide variety of generative processes for creating musical material.  These include pure intuition, to modal improvisation, to algorithms which generate specific textures which are too difficult to create from intuition alone.  I then examine my material and decide which material has the particular qualities I am looking for for the piece I am composing.  Finally I experiment with the chosen material until I find a structure which naturally emerges.  I almost never determine a structure before I have all of my thematic material.

Usually by the time I finish a piece, it is completely different from what I imagined it would be to begin with.  I find it necessary to be flexible when composing and willing to bend to the needs of the music which emerges, rather than try to control it with precision.  In a way I try to let the music compose itself as much as possible, using my judgement to determine the best course for it to take as it develops. 

Re: How do you compose?
July 26, 2011, 12:35:31 PM
I don't know about the "corresponding emotionally to [...] various aspects of my worldview" bit.  I tend to translate my "worldview" into stories, and then write music which would fit those stories almost like a soundtrack.  I find that the gulf between my own personal understanding of the world and the unseen forces which govern my very ability to compose is so vast that there'd be no point to try to directly convert my perspective into music - it would be an exercise in futility, for me. 

The stories/themes could be components of a worldview. As with many things, art describes a largely intangible process of the world and of existence. It's also a matter of what constitutes the person and their worldview i.e. a spiritual/religious or philosophical perspective of the world corrolates better to art than the socio-political one, however I find the process is often too abstracted to easily put into words.


 the act of composing is far more complicated than your suggestion implies. Compositions are not built in such a straight forward way, at least not normally.

I also tend to think that composing should be left to people with a natural gift for it.

There are brilliant compositions which seem to be built out of simple elements i.e. Kraftwerk. And even great art created with a very limited musical/compositional knowledge (? Ildjarn, Beherit and probably others). I think the key to it being effective is its relevance to the listener and how they perceive the world. Much in the way that a good book must have relevant information to the topic at hand, so too must effective art have something relevant to say.


Re: How do you compose?
July 30, 2011, 02:36:31 PM
I do not compose, but an interesting way of writing music would be to encode the conclusion of the piece in the introduction. Emperor comes to mind with introductory riff/concluding riff in "Into the Infinity of Thoughts".  It sets up development for the rest of the track by serving as sort of a platform to work from, and when that riff is reiterated towards the end, we understand it in a different context. Of course, there are many details that would be necessary in order to make that riff's reintroduction meaningful.



Re: How do you compose?
July 30, 2011, 03:09:09 PM
I do not compose, but an interesting way of writing music would be to encode the conclusion of the piece in the introduction. Emperor comes to mind with introductory riff/concluding riff in "Into the Infinity of Thoughts".  It sets up development for the rest of the track by serving as sort of a platform to work from, and when that riff is reiterated towards the end, we understand it in a different context. Of course, there are many details that would be necessary in order to make that riff's reintroduction meaningful.

A huge amount of classical music uses this idea, but it's more of a compositional device than a method of composing.

Re: How do you compose?
July 30, 2011, 04:10:30 PM
I do not compose, but an interesting way of writing music would be to encode the conclusion of the piece in the introduction. Emperor comes to mind with introductory riff/concluding riff in "Into the Infinity of Thoughts".  It sets up development for the rest of the track by serving as sort of a platform to work from, and when that riff is reiterated towards the end, we understand it in a different context. Of course, there are many details that would be necessary in order to make that riff's reintroduction meaningful.

A huge amount of classical music uses this idea, but it's more of a compositional device than a method of composing.

The method could then be to think of single concepts that fit into a larger cycle or process (The seasons perhaps?).

Important riff to be used in reiteration (Lake) --> Allow a specific logical process to take shape via developments (Stream) --> Have that logic return back to its origin, but the context now creates larger meaning (Ocean).






Rot

Re: How do you compose?
August 08, 2011, 04:09:16 AM
Just start playing guitar until you come up with something that resonates with whatever stupid shit is going through your head then throw in a fuckton of more riffs and hope some idiot that listens to metal thinks they all flow within context of one another and be sure the last riff is completely different from the first so it creates the illusion of a conclusion.

Re: How do you compose?
August 08, 2011, 10:24:11 PM
be sure the last riff is completely different from the first so it creates the illusion of a conclusion.

HAHAHA, I almost always end up doing the complete opposite of this, making sure that the last section of a track recapitulates the first ("full-circle").  Recently, I'm breaking away from this kind of autistic retardation.

Re: How do you compose?
September 15, 2011, 10:24:50 AM
I never post here, but i skim through the board every once in a while. I think about  composition often, because in reality i'm not 100% sure myself how i compose, i have a theory tho. My take on composition as always been, idea, direction, and limitations. This is just standard for me, i've broken everything i'm about to type.


Lets talk about limitations first. What i mean by this is what instruments are you using, what style of music are you trying to make? My first instrument is bagpipes, been playing fo over a decade. When i compose on them i'm drastically limited to the type of sounds i can make. Before i write something i know what type of music i want it to be (march, reel, ect). Genres are much more defined and concrete with bagpipes than with metal. Guitar is alittle bit different because there is more freedom, but the same principles apply more or less. Its not something that is thought about much, but limitations in reality makes the music. Music without limitations is like white noise.

 Instrument mastery helps in that your ideas can be expressed properly. Theory is used naturally(play long enough you're going to find the patterns) , however it can also be used as a tool box. i.e. don't hear thirds in my head and try to figure it our on guitar,  i think thirds, then mathematically(for lack of a better term) put it together. Theory in improv is invaluable. The point to soloing to me has always been to connect imagination and theory.


Ok an idea, I'm not talking about lyrics, i'm talking about a musical idea, a starting point. Yeah i don't know. It makes sense that the idea has to be in context with your limitations. Other than that I can’t really comment.

This is a couple of riffs I put together in a one man project I did for no other reason than for boredom. This took maybe 2,3,4 hours, I can’t recall I was awake for over 48 hours. The writing took maybe 5 minutes. This is an example of an idea(guitar based), everything else was put together in relation to that idea. **Warning,  I don’t play drums, I can’t sing, I do both in this recording. I’m not some amazing musician wanting my dick sucked by anus members, I’m using this for no other reason than to make a point later on.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lENBvslU5lQ&feature=related

Direction and development is something I consider myself good at. More or less, I think about where I want to go, how I want to go there. Then I go there. Its like taking all the “ideas” and putting them together. Its easier for me to create something if It has a purpose. In mid development of a song, almost everything I write is for a purpose. When I’m writing for multiple instruments it’s easier because those instruments have a purpose, and I know what I want them to be in a larger scheme of things. Again how limitations help the creative process. Oh and edit the fuck out of it.

After the idea, this is how I developed those couple of riffs and added direction. This was done about a week later in about the same amount ot time. not done no where near from a perfect recording, but you can hear the contrast.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mt2WWxZIWTI&feature=related


I really think music is all about limitations. Maybe some would call it context.