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#1151665 - 02/22/07 11:59 AM Does creativity get better with age?
absent-minded professor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/13/07
Posts: 25
By this I mean musical creativity in composition, improvisation, making arrangements, depth of interpretation, etc.

Personally, I think so. I'm just starting to tap into my creative potential and I'm in my mid 30s. I heard the other day Brahms was 43 when he wrote his first symphony. Mozart on the other end of the spectrum, was 8, so perhaps everyone develops at different rates.
Imagination is more powerful than knowledge.

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#1151666 - 02/22/07 01:50 PM Re: Does creativity get better with age?
Steve Chandler Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2833
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Hi absent,

You've asked a great question, one that I'm going to use to touch on lots of aspects of what being a composer means. So fasten your seatbelts boys and girls I'm gonna RANT!

First let me respond to your question. I don't think the issue is one of creativity increasing with age. Any parent will tell you that kids can be amazingly creative. The issue is one of what satisfies. We get a lot of posts regarding "my first composition" or "my latest effort." Generally these are by students and they are nice little pieces (if stunningly unspectacular). These young people have fallen in love with the fruit of their creation because they haven't been composing long enough to develop perspective. Generally folks are supportive. I personally hesitate to be too positive because frankly I have higher standards and I strongly believe the impetus to compose should come from within and not be a way to garner external validation.

Here's what I consider the starting point for beginning to compose seriously. Complete familiarity with tonal theory, including study of formal structure and history. If you're a student who's wrestling with 4 part harmony exercises and the terms augmented sixth and secondary dominant are foreign to you I don't believe you're ready to compose seriously. That doesn't mean don't write at all, just don't expect others to be "wowed" by your work. Beyond that studying composition generally means becoming familiar and experimenting with extended harmonic techniques. I'm not suggesting everyone write atonal music, heck I don't compose atonal music, but familiarity with these and other "modern" harmonic techniques means you'll have more colors on your palette.

So what does all this mean with regard to absent's question. Composing takes a lot of learning and then a lot of doing (practice) to get to the point where you've developed your own unique voice. At that point you're just getting started, everything before was training, at that point you're at the starting line of the race of compositional life.

I mentioned earlier the concept of falling in love with the fruit of your creation. This is easy even for experienced composers. It's important to become your own worst critic. On this forum I have suggested (on a number of occasions) that practice composing variations is a very useful exercise. I haven't explained my concept as fully as I should so let me do so now.

It's easy to write 5 or 6 variations, these are the obvious ones (walking bass, embellished melody). Now think about Beethoven's Diabelli Variations. Beethoven took a mundane theme and wrote some variations, then wrote some more, and more. It may have seemed like he couldn't stop. He finished the piece with 32 variations. It isn't until you get past the obvious variations that you start to force yourself to go farther afield, then even farther afield. This is when you're starting to really be creative. One of my favorite pieces of my own music was a fairly youthful effort at variations, I wrote 20. When I listen to that piece I skip past the first 5 or so, they're boring, but then it gets good, then better, then magical. Just the doing of that exercise (and that's what it was) set my personal sights so much higher in terms of what degree of creativity I would accept for a work composed by me. My music was transformed from that time on and that was the starting line of my compositional race.

#1151667 - 02/22/07 03:32 PM Re: Does creativity get better with age?
Ted Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/03/02
Posts: 1522
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
With me, it was more a case of acquiring the confidence, regrettably not until my middle age, to simply make the sounds I enjoy and ignore "rights", "wrongs", "ought tos", theories, structures, traditions, what teachers say, what "experts" and famous people say, what's popular and what's not, the Western strait-jacket of musical notation ...... everything, just let it all go, it's all nonsense. The sound and its effect on my own brain is all that matters any more.

That's what happened to me. Whether or not it implies an increase in "creativity", whatever that word really means, I don't know. Not a very acceptable answer, I dare say, but it's the truth. Then again, I don't much like written composition, I'm a pretty rough pianist and almost certainly not a musician by any normal definition.
"It is inadvisable to decline a dinner invitation from a plump woman." - Fred Hollows

#1151668 - 02/22/07 04:33 PM Re: Does creativity get better with age?
Harmosis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/15/07
Posts: 308
Loc: California
If "age" means experience and practice, then, in general, I'd say yes (without strictly defining "creativity"). I would also agree with Mr. Chandler that composing variations is a good exercise.


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